Eight Rules to Make Users and Search Engines Love your Website

Every year when major league baseball spring training comes around, sports reporters huddle around the managers and ask them what their plans are. The managers always say the same thing: they’re going to start by going over the fundamentals. Whether you’re experienced or inexperienced in web design, it’s always a good idea to review the fundamentals. With that in mind, we’re going to hit the eight fundamental rules to make your website user and search engine friendly.

Rule #1: Give your Pages Great Title Tags.

Every page on your site has a title tag. They appear at the top of browser windows. How many pages have you seen where the title is “Welcome”? Not a good idea. Work your most important keywords or keyword phrases into each title tag on your site. Search engine web crawlers use this to help rank your content within search results.

Rule #2: Communicate your Content.

Tell your visitors what you’re all about quickly. Write headlines that are direct. Don’t try to be too clever. Internet users are an impatient bunch. If they don’t find what they need on your site quickly, you’ll practically hear their clicks as they move on to the next site. Put your headlines at the top and give them compelling reasons to stay on your site. Also, as with your title tags, try to use important keywords in your headlines.

Rule #3: Make your Pages Easy to Read.

Okay, we’ve established that your visitors are a restless crew; they’re always ready to move on. Break up the text on your site into bite-sized chunks: tasty and easily digestible. Make good use of subheads and bullet lists. Website visitors are scanners. Be certain they can easily scan your pages so they can then focus in on what is relevant to them. Don’t use fancy type in your articles. It’s too hard to read.

Rule #4: Make your Intentions Obvious.

Will a first time visitor to your site immediately understand what it’s all about? Again, don’t try to be too clever. Make your headlines, graphics and links work together so new users can easily find the features they are interested in and navigate to the areas of your site where they need to be.

Rule #5: Divorce Text from Graphics.

Even if you love using Photoshop, don’t marry your text to your graphics and images. Search engines can’t read text that you have transformed into a jpeg or gif and therefore it won’t help your search engine optimization.

Rule #6: Keep it Simple and Intuitive.

Make website navigation easy for your visitors. If you’re selling something or offering downloads, make sure the process is simple and streamlined. If you have to write complicated instructions for each step of the process, visitors are going to bail out on you. Have an honest friend try out your site and give you frank criticism.

Rule #7: Provide Value.

Why should someone use your site? Give visitors a good reason to spend time on your webpages. You might offer a free newsletter or e-book. If you have an e-commerce site, why is yours superior? Persuade visitors on the value of your site. If you do, you’ll have a repeat customer.

Rule #8: Use HTML Links.

All the major search engines send their crawlers out to find webpages. They discover new webpages by following links on pages that are already in their databases. They’ll find new pages on your site if you provide HTML links to those pages. Typically they are unable to follow Flash or Javascript based links.

Here’s one final tip for you. Over time your website will grow. If you’re doing your job and finding some success, you will certainly add pages and sections to your site. As you do, make sure your site still conforms to these eight fundamental rules so your site continues to be user and search engine friendly.

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