Target visitors or search engines?
By Vanessa Fox |
Wed, 24 Jan 2007
Last Friday afternoon, I was able to catch the end of the Blog Business Summit
in Seattle. At the session called "Blogging and SEO Strategies," John Battelle
brought up a good point. He said that as a writer, he doesn't want to
have to think about all of this search engine optimization stuff. Dave Taylor
had just been talking about order of words in title tags and keyword density and using hyphens
rather than underscores
We agree, which is why you'll find that the main point in our webmaster guidelines
is to make sites for visitors, not for search engines. Visitor-friendly
design makes for search engine friendly design as well. The team at
Google webmaster central talks a lot with site owners who care a lot
about the details of how Google crawls and indexes sites (hyphens and
underscores included), but many site owners out there are just
concerned with building great sites. The good news is that the
guidelines and tips about how Google crawls and indexes sites come down
to wanting great content for our search results.
In the spirit of John Battelle's point, here's a recap of some quick tips for ensuring your site is friendly for visitors.
Make good use of page titles
This is true of the main heading on the page itself, but is also true of the title that appears in the browser's title bar.
possible, ensure each page has a unique title that describes the page
well. For instance, if your site is for your store "Buffy's House of
Sofas", a visitor may want to bookmark your home page and the order
page for your red, fluffy sofa. If all of your pages have the same
title: "Wecome to my site!", then a visitor will have trouble finding
your site again in the bookmarks. However, if your home page has the
title "Buffy's House of Sofas" and your red sofa page has the title
"Buffy's red fluffy sofa", then visitors can glance at the title to see
what it's about and can easily find it in the bookmarks later. And if
your visitors are anything like me, they may have several browser tabs
open and appreciate descriptive titles for easier navigation.
simple tip for visitors helps search engines too. Search engines index
pages based on the words contained in them, and including descriptive
titles helps search engines know what the pages are about. And search
engines often use a page's title in the search results. "Welcome to my
site" may not entice searchers to click on your site in the results
quite so much as "Buffy's House of Sofas".
Write with words
flash, and other multimedia make for pretty web pages, but make sure
your core messages are in text or use ALT text to provide textual
descriptions of your multimedia. This is great for search engines,
which are based on text: searchers enter search queries as word, after
all. But it's also great for visitors, who may have images or Flash
turned off in their browsers or might be using screen readers or mobile
devices. You can also provide HTML versions of your multimedia-based
pages (if you do that, be sure to block the multimedia versions from
being indexed using a robots.txt file
Make sure the text you're talking about is in your content
may not read your web site linearly like they would a newspaper article
or book. Visitors may follow links from elsewhere on the web to any of
your pages. Make sure that they have context for any page they're on.
On your order page, don't just write "order now!" Write something like
"Order your fluffy red sofa now!" But write it for people who will be
reading your site. Don't try to cram as many words in as possible,
thinking search engines can index more words that way. Think of your
visitors. What are they going to be searching for? Is your site full of
industry jargon when they'll be searching for you with more informal
As I wrote in that guest post
on Matt Cutts' blog when I talked about hyphens and underscores:
You know what your site?s about, so it may seem completely obvious to
you when you look at your home page. But ask someone else to take a
look and don?t tell them anything about the site. What do they think
your site is about?
Consider this text:
have hundreds of workshops and classes available. You can choose the
workshop that is right for you. Spend an hour or a week in our relaxing
Will this site show up
for searches for [cooking classes] or [wine tasting workshops] or even
[classes in Seattle]? It may not be as obvious to visitors (and search
engine bots) what your page is about as you think.
those same lines, does your content use words that people are searching
for? Does your site text say ?check out our homes for sale? when people
are searching for [real estate in Boston]?
Make sure your pages are accessible
know -- this post was supposed to be about writing content, not
technical details. But visitors can't read your site if they can't
access it. If the network is down or your server returns errors when
someone tries to access the pages of your site, it's not just search
engines who will have trouble. Fortunately, webmaster tools
makes it easy. We'll let you know if we've had any trouble accessing
any of the pages. We tell you the specific page we couldn't access and
the exact error we got. These problems aren't always easy to fix, but
we try to make them easy to find.