Last week, I wrote a post entitled: Ten Reasons Prospects Hate Your Website.  While it is important what people think about your site, you have another group of visitors you need to attract and engage on your small business website – Search Engines.  Unfortunately, unlike people who generally respond the same way, there is a lot of conflicting information on the web about SEO and SEM, and the rules seem to change daily.

As an Indianapolis web design firm, we work with small business owners to improve their websites.  These are the type of things we keep in mind:
  1. Too much flash – Or worse yet, an entire site built in flash.  A once popular designer’s toy, flash tools create visual interest to a site.  They are however; losing popularity as visitors become tired of the time they take to load and are frustrated by the fact flash animation isn’t visible on their iPhone.   But this list is about search engines, and unfortunately search engines can’t watch the video or see clever effects.    Our recommendation: Reduce or eliminate flash completely.
  2. Unlabeled pictures – Web crawlers are getting smarter, and they have limited ability to “see” images, but why make them guess.  When you add an image be sure to name it correctly, with keywords/phrases (image1.jpg is not a good idea).  Be sure to include an <alt> tag and description. Supporting text such as a caption or description, explanation near, below or somewhere beside the image further clarify what it is.
  3. Duplicate content – Search engines see this as a way to “game” the system.   If you share content from other websites don’t simply lift the entire article.  Your content will have more value if you pull just a segment and add your own unique spin.
  4. Frame-based site structureUntil a few years ago, many websites were built with frames.  The box structure organizes information on the page, but makes it difficult for a search engine to figure out what is the most important content.   Cascading style sheets (CSS) provide a search engine friendly alternative, helping the search engine “see” what is most important.  (This is just one of the many reasons we enjoy working with WordPress)
  5. Repetitive page titles and meta tags – (See note above) Meta tags and page titles are the bait which lure search engines.   If every page on your site has the same page titles and tags, the engines will be less likely to take a closer look.   It is fine to have similar phases, but every page has a reason for its existence.  Use page titles to identify the unique reason
  6. No page titles, slugs or headers – A worse offense then repeating titles, is having none at all.   This is your opportunity to lead engines through your website in an organized manner, making sure they notice the most important information.
  7. Too many key words –  More is not better!  When it comes to attracting the attention of search engines, adding in a large number of semi-relevant key words will actually lower your search engine rankings.  Instead of stuffing each page to capacity, use your blog to create lots of pages, and vary the key words by page.
  8. Irrelevant tags or key words- If you want to win search, it is not enough to title a page Small Business Marketing and use the term in key words and tags.  Your content must contain the exact key phrase or Google will deem your key words and tags irrelevant.
  9. Old content – Just like people, search engines get bored.  As search engines crawl your site, they look for new content.  If they find it, they are more likely to return again and again.   If you are neglecting your site, so will Google.
  10. You don’t look good on all browsers – Ok, so this is more a “people” then a search engine issue, but I already had 10 items on that list.   The days of Internet Explorer dominance are long gone.  As of August 2010, Firefox held 45.8 percent of the browser market, Internet Explorer had fallen to 30.7 percent and Chrome was climbing with 17 percent. Safari with 3.5 percent and Opera with 2.3 percent made up the balance.  Each of theses browsers will display your website slightly differently.  Be sure you test design and function on all of them before you launch.

As you read the list you may think winning the attention of search engines is about “gaming” the system.  It isn’t.  It is about content.  To attract people and search engines write smart, relevant content and everything else will fall into to place.

Want to know who your website measures up?   Give us a call!