Avoid Blinding the Search Engine Spiders

Last week I was asked to consult with a design firm. One of our new clients was using a design firm to build their new site. I was asked to provide some advice when designing for search engine optimization. At Big Oak we are not SEO Nazis who insist everything must be HTML text and the site must be visually lifeless. Far from it. I was a web designer not to many years ago so I am very sensitive to outside influences giving direction to your design, especially when your artistic integrity is being put at risk. After all, most design shops are trying to build a impressive portfolio and “search engine people” appear to be the enemy of design to some.

With this in mind I submitted some things to be wary of, but didn’t need to be avoided. I explained that the idea is to let the search engines know what your page is about and you have to have some text for the spiders to read in order to do that. So these items can be added, with moderation and strategically, but remember to think like a spider when you do.

Graphical text: Spiders can’t read graphic text and and I would prefer to use HTML text for all text, but headlines can be enhanced through graphics so using graphic text is okay, but be sure you are using the title and alt tags with these images. Wrap it in a H1 tag if that is warranted for a heading.

Images: Obviously spiders can’t read images whether they are text images or otherwise. Our main concern is an all image page. All images means no text, which means no traffic. Images are okay, even for navigation as long as you are using a sitemap and text navigation in the footer. Of course all images should have alt tags and title tags as referenced above in an earlier post.

Flash Animation: This may be news to some of you, but the spiders don’t read Flash and although you can add some context to your Flash through programming, I would never rely on that entirely. Instead use Flash as an enhancer and let the site speak through body text on the page.

If you do decide to create an entirely Flash site (may the SEO gods be with you) then be sure to create an alternate HTML version for the spiders and for those of us who prefer good ol’ HTML sites.

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