While an interesting website design might pick you out from the crowd, the importance of a carefully structured, content-rich website should not be forgotten. You’re website may look magnificent and your products or services may be unbeatable, but in the end it all comes down to whether people are actually finding and landing on your website. This is where some compromise may be needed, since content and carefully structured navigation, which may not complement certain designs, are hugely important players in determining your website’s search engine ranking.
Website Structure and Content
It is most important to plan ahead and create a well organised, clear structure to your website and its pages.
The home page is the most important page and is given the most weight by search engines. Often people leave the home page as a pretty picture or as some interesting design, which is nice, but this page is crying out for content. Google needs to know what your site is about and what keywords to rank your website for and it uses your homepage as a major indicator for this. Therefore, even if it might interfere with your pretty design, a bit of content is well worth not forgotten.
Before creating your website you should decide what your main categories are and what your sub-categories are. Once you have decided on your main categories you can produce a clear main menu with a separate page for each of your main categories. Each category should have its own page in order to make it clear and easy for the public as well as for web crawlers. If a category has its own page then this page can start to rank highly in Google as well as your home page, since it has its own unique and focussed content.
Content is King?
Yes content is King when it comes to SEO. Google algorithms and web crawlers look at content and links; for all they know you’re website could be a beautiful piece of art or an unpleasant looking piece of dribble. Whichever one, it doesn’t make a difference to them and the search engine ranking they decide to give your website. On each page some well written unique content is greatly favoured by search engines. If you can write this content while bearing keywords you’d like to rank for in mind, then all the better.
Footer and Sidebars
There is some debate over whether links in your footer are seen negatively or positively by Google, particularly since the Penguin update. Things to avoid include things like having a great list of links in the footer since this might be seen as a bit spammy by Google and they may not like it. It is mainly footer links from external sources that Google might see as spammy, so using your own footer to link to important internal website pages may by all means be a good idea.
Sidebars may be used in a similar fashion to footers, although often sidebars may include more dynamic content and links. These might include links to blog posts or recent news, or perhaps social media profiles.
Remember each pages sidebar and footer does not need to be exactly the same, and search engines might well like a bit of variation and dynamism here.
Titles and Metas
In order to optimise your website for Google, each of your pages should have its own unique page title. This title should include one or two keywords describing accurately what that page is about. However don’t get carried away, all too often you see page titles that seem to go on forever. Keep your titles short and to the point. Filling these titles with never-ending lists of keywords is the definition of spammy.
Beware the meta keywords tag. This was very useful a long time ago but nowadays, after persistent and irrelevant keyword stuffing in the past, this tag no longer carries any weight and might as well be ignored.
Fond of Design and unhappy with content?
For those of you who feel they need a very eye-catching design which a lot of content is not compatible with, you are faced with a challenge when it comes to rankings. However all is not lost.
What you might try doing is perhaps starting off with a content-rich site while keeping design on the side-line. After your site has become recognised by Google, and has started to receive high traffic and numerous backlinks, then you could think about bringing in more design while sacrificing some content. Once your website has high traffic flow, and frequent fresh backlinks, then Google starts to give your website more weight and you don’t need to rely on content so much.
Having said this, content cannot be forgotten altogether, and removing content should always be treated with care and changing website rankings monitored closely.
To sum up…
While everyone likes a pretty looking website, in order to show this off, you need traffic first and this means favour from Google algorithms which unfortunately don’t know what’s pretty and what’s not. Never forget a good bit of well-written unique content on each of your pages accompanied by representative page titles and a clear website structure. Creating external links is the next step but this job can be made so much easier if you’ve invested a little bit of thought and time into your on-page SEO.