Author: Mark Birkett
Designing a website - Consider your audience:
The next step toward the creation of your new website is to consider what type of website you want to create and by whom you intend it to be viewed.
With any of these goals, what you really need is a website that:
As we've already mentioned, this article will assume you are aiming at creating a business / commercial website. We'll also assume you want the website to be found easily by your potential customers. So let's consider the first of the requirements above - 'easy to find' - a little more closely.
If your ultimate aim is to be found easily in search engines, like Google, then you simply must incorporate search engine optimisation (SEO) principles right from the start of your web design. Surprisingly, there are many 'professional' web design companies who completely miss this vital step. They often worry about search engine performance after their design has been completed instead of beforehand. The phrase "cart before horse" springs to mind.
Don't make that mistake yourself
Before you design your new business website you must consider SEO first. There is little point in creating a stunning business website that no-one can ever find. So you must spend time understanding how search engines work, why keyphrase research is so important and why inbound links matter.
Each of these requirements are perfectly logical when you think about them;
Imagine you're a supermarket manager, responsible for telling new customers where products are in your (very large) supermarket.
Clearly, you'd need to have some sort of stock control system in place. You'd then need to know which aisles contained which types of products. You'd need to know which shelf on those aisles particular products were displayed on. You'd also need to know which products were popular so you could order more for your customers when needed. And each of those products would need to be labelled clearly so that you could keep track of them electronically.
A search engine works in exactly the same way
Without similar methods of organisation and structuring, and without clear 'labelling' on them, the millions and millions of web pages on the World Wide Web would be next to impossible for search engines to find, index and provide as results when a customer searched for them.
Now, we already know that all websites display their information using HTML. Without getting overly complicated about it at this stage, HTML is the source code that tells the visitor's browser how to display the web page and elements within it.
You can see this source code on any website, usually by right-clicking in your favourite browser and choosing 'View Source' or similar. On doing so, a (very basic) HTML web page's source code would look something like this:
You can see that the page title 'Cheap Widgets' sits between the opening <title> and closing </title> tags.
In this example, we have chosen the phrase 'Cheap Widgets'. But was this wise? For sure, our imaginary company Cheap Widgets Ltd do sell cheap widgets, but is this the right phrase to optimise the pages for? Is this the phrase people are actually using to find our type of products or services?
The answer to this question lies in a some vital research. With careful use of Google's free Keywords Tool or Wordtracker's £50/month Keyword Tool we may find that the phrase 'Fabulous Widgets' only attracts, say, two hundred searches per month in Google when twenty thousand searches a month might be being made for the phrase "Cheap Widgets".
And if both phrases are relevant to what we offer, then the latter is clearly the best one to optimise for. If we don't, we might end up optimising for phrases that carry only relatively low levels of potential traffic, leaving the much more 'efficient' phrases completely wasted.
So, if there is a phrase that is relevant to what you do and which has lots of (potential) customers searching for it, then that's at least one of the phrases your pages should be optimised for.
But what does this mean?
In addition to placing the efficient phrases in the source-code <title> tags, you should also have an accurate description of the page content in the <description> tag. This is what will appear in readable form in any search engine results so it should be clear, concise and contain the researched phrase at least once, as shown here:
Optimise your images with relevant phrases:
In much the same way, any images should also be described for the benefit of search engines. Without a textual description, Google cannot 'see' what the image actually is and cannot therefore index it.
In the example below, you can see the image description in both the alt and the title selectors:
But that's not yet the whole picture...
Each page should also contain the keyphrases you've carefully researched within the visible text at around 3-4% 'keyword density'. More than that and you'll appear to be 'keyword stuffing' - risking a penalty for cheating from Google. Less than that and you'll be failing to provide the 'clues' Google needs. In other words, if you have a 100-word text article, then around 3-4 of the words should be the phrase or phrases you've researched. A 300-word article would need 9-12 researched phrases included and so on.
"This is a very interesting article all about widgets. Many people are fascinated by them; as evidenced when cheap ‘celebrity’ widgets present themselves as the ideal dinner-party topic. With some effort, you might even find your knowledge of them widening your social circle. And there is much more to the subject than first meets the eye, much to the surprise of many, cheap widgets have distinctive characters. Some quite likeable, others less so but they always leave an impression. It all depends on your openness to the little creatures. We say, take a widget a day and keep misery at bay".
OK, we admit, it's not the most fascinating or well-written article, but it does contain roughly 100 words, of which four or five are our carefully researched phrases. That is the approximate 'keyphrase density' you should be aiming at.
With practice, you'll find that if your articles make 'difficult' reading, you've probably overdone the keyphrase density. The trick is to write content 'from the heart' first, with all the passion you may well have for the subject matter, and then go through it again looking for opportunities to add in your researched phrases without disrupting the article's overall impact.
Once that optimisation task is complete, and your textual content at roughly the right density, search engines will have all the information they need to index your website pages. The pages can then be delivered in the Search Engine Results Pages ('SERPS') whenever anyone searches for your type of products or services.
The most important point here is; don't try to guess which key phrases people are using to find your types of products and services, research them. You can then optimise your web pages for the phrases people are actually typing in as search queries. Your website then appears in the results pages, increasing the chances that such 'hot leads' will become your customer.
Now that we have examined the importance of 'on-page' optimisation, let's look at 'off-page optimisation'; arguably even more important...