In Part I of this series (6 Questions to Ask that Will Help You Determine Whether Your Website is Search Engine Friendly) I discussed the need to make your website search engine friendly before you try to do Search Engine Optimization. I think this is a necessity even when you have no budget for actual professional SEO, simply because search engine friendliness is possible and beneficial for any website budget. It only requires some awareness when the site is being developed and the cooperation of your website developer.
In Part II of the series I discussed the need for a sitemap and search engine friendly URLs.
In this final installment I will be discussing questions 5 and 6 of our original topic, and both are discussed also by Google in their instructions for making your website “Google Friendly.”
Question 5 – Does your site have a substantial amount of relevant text on the home page?
Search engines are text-greedy. They have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into discovering, indexing, organizing, and analyzing textual content. Sure they also put a ton into image and video search, but text still is the locomotive that drives their engine. So are you giving them text that will help them get a bead on your site? If not, you’re definitely not showing them a friendly face.
Take a look at your home page. Remove the images. Google recommends looking at your browser in Lynx, which is a text-only browser; what a nightmare. I think the most recent version of Lynx was created when Eisenhower was president. Easier: Use Google Chrome and browse your website with images disabled (at least for this, Firefox is much more difficult to configure). Now try to figure out what your website is about. Can you do it? Is there enough textual content without the aid of images to help the search engines determine what your home page is relevant to? If not, you need to figure out a way to beef up your textual content. Doing so will go a long way toward making it more welcoming to Google.
Here’s an example for you. Note the images-on/images-off difference for Venus Clothing (who somehow bagged the very desirable name venus.com). Note the screen capture below with images off. There’s virtually nothing there!
Question 6 – Does your site hide key information in graphics?
This is related to question 5, but a bit different. Graphics can get you into trouble in a couple of ways with the search engines. One is by slowing down your page load time (see question 2 of this series). But additionally lots of companies make the mistake of putting their name, phone number, even their address into a pretty graphic that someone created using Photoshop and then dropped into their webpage.
Look at the examples above for Venus Fashion. Even their company name is missing except for a small copyright notice at the bottom of the page.
While your browser is still in text-only mode (see above for instructions), see if you can find key navigational information or key company information. If you can’t, turn images back on and see if it suddenly shows up. It’s ok to leave key information embedded in images and graphics, but it’s not OK if that’s the only way it appears. For example, if your company phone number is part of a beautiful image, fine. Just make sure that you have it somewhere else on the page as text.
Well, I hope this has been helpful to you in making your website friendlier when Google or Bing come knocking…or rather, crawling. If you want to go deeper into this topic, you can take a look at this guide from Moz, however when I looked at their article I found it, frankly, overwhelming. As a business person I usually need immediate steps that I can take now, rather than a dense theoretical guide that I’ll get to in that distant and hazy future that never comes.
And for you SEO professionals who might be reading this, if you have run into other Search Engine Unfriendly stuff that business can and should watch out for without a huge investment of money, please leave it in the comments.
As usual, if you found this useful, please do me a favor and give it a Like, a +1, or a Tweet.
Ross Barefoot is the Chief Technology Officer at Horizon Web Marketing. In his work with Horizon Ross brings 35 years of small business management experience, 25 years programming experience, 20 years web development experience, and 13 years experience as a professional SEO. Ross is also currently a certified SEO trainer with the Search Engine Academy and serves on its board of directors.