One of your main tasks when optimising a website for the Search Engines is to ensure that the robots they send to ‘spider’ (or ‘crawl’) your website can find their way around easily and can make sense of your site pages. If Google can’t discern a sensible structure and hierarchy for your pages, then it will assume that users cannot either, and you will not be considered a user-friendly resource. It may also miss some of your content, and content is a very important tool in listing well.
Here are some fairly basic steps to ensure your content makes sense and is easily spidered…
Pre-Plan Your Site Structure
Don’t just start creating pages, sit down with a notepad (virtual or real!) and write out the core pages and areas of your site. Then decide how they slot together. ‘History’ and ‘Team’ for example may come under ‘About Us’, especially if you have quite a few other pages. If you have a larger eCommerce shop a good structure becomes even more important, as you don’t want users or Google to have to struggle to find your products.
Standardise Your Site Navigation
People can still sometimes make the mistake of changing their navigation links (left or top) on some pages. People by nature looks for patterns in order to speed things up – if they get used to your navigation structure and then you move it, they will get lost, slow down, and get frustrated. As will the Search Engines.
Make Your Navigation Readable
Search Engines can’t see an image – their robots can only read text. So text links make a lot more sense to them, because they read the link text (such as ‘contact us’) and build a good picture of what the page they are going to is for.
Create an HTML Sitemap Page
This page should list all of the other pages on your site (or main pages, categories and sub-categories only if your site is huge) to give both users and Search Engine robots an index to help them understand your site.
Create an XML Sitemap File
This is a file many Search Engines will hunt for and read for an up to date account of all the pages on your site, you can specify the priority of pages and when you last updated them. You can then submit this to Google and get their feedback through Google Webmaster Tools. This is particularly helpful if your site is large or new, or both, and if you are adding content very often and want to ensure the Search Engines know the second those fresh pages are available.
For the most part, as long as your website is well organised and user-friendly it will also be well optimised. Throwing in some of the less obvious things such as text navigation and XML sitemap files will ensure the Search Engines can travel smoothly and quickly through your pages, and will list you higher for it.