SEO and Website Design

When you commission a designer to build you a new website, it’s really up to you to make sure they design your new website with SEO in mind. Here’s some tips. CHRIS THOMAS

By Chris Thomas

Chris Thomas

As they say, a great looking website is no guarantee of success.

If potential customers can’t find your website because you’ve compromised its chances of a good search engine rank, you’ll need to resort to expensive Pay Per Click and affiliate marketing campaigns for the life of the design.

When you commission a designer to build you a new website, it’s really up to you to make sure they design your new website with SEO in mind. Obviously design and usability is the designer’s job; they want to make your new site look as beautiful as possible for humans. But sometimes designers (and I should also mention developers) overlook how a search engine might respond.

You can have your cake and eat it too, so let’s look at the elements involved in website design that really matter to search engines.

Textual content

I often see designers create quite ‘image heavy’ designs, particularly on home pages.

Remember, search engines can’t ‘see’ or ‘read’ images, so we need to give a search engine some text to hang their hat on. While you can use image ‘alt tags’ to populate text onto an image heavy site, search engines place less weight on them, so it’s not a genuine workaround.

Search Engines typically need a minimum of 350 words per page to get a clear ‘relevance picture’ of the theme for each and every page in your website. Search engines like key phrases in headings, body text and links (in the form of anchor text).

Technology – flash

Just as search engines struggle with images, they also struggle with flash.

At the moment, search engine robots can’t access and index content from flash files. I would be very wary of a home page (or indeed an entire website) presented solely by a flash file, if you want to rank well.

Technology – javascript

If you don’t have a sitemap, search engine robots need to follow links within your site (and from other websites) in order to index all your website pages.

Search engine robots are unable to follow javascript links (which are often a feature of drop down animated menu systems for example). If your designer recommends using javascript based navigation, ask if it’s possible to use a CSS driven navigation system instead.

Site Structure

I have mentioned this before in a previous blog , but when you’re developing your sitemap, dedicate some thought to keyword research for each directory name and file name. Designers often build your sitemap with quite uninspiring directory names like

I often use the example of Seek Learning as one of Australia’s best overall websites in terms of design, usability and search engine optimisation.

Seek Learning’s site structure is something to behold, it’s obvious they had significant input from a SEO specialist during the sitemap creation phase of the project. Given that Google does place importance on keywords is directory and file names, it’s vital you do too!

Next Thursday and Friday I’m attending the Search Marketing Expo in Sydney , so I’ll report back to you on some of the latest trends and idea’s coming from Google and other industry leaders!


SEO tips

Chris Thomas heads Reseo a search engine optimisation company which specialises in setting up and maintaining Google AdWords campaigns, Affiliate Programs and Search Engine Optimisation campaigns for a range of corporate clients.

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Wayne Densley from writes: Interesting article Chris, I have just had my company’s web page redesigned and am extremely happy with it, but I have no idea if it is optimised for SEO! I presume it is, but I’m not sure. Here’s hoping!



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