Navigation is the Key to Maintaining Relevance - Stevie Tee

Headsmacking Tips – 002 – Navigation is the Key to Maintaining Relevance

If you have been building websites for any length of time then you have probably have a basic grasp of the 2 fundamentals of search engine optimisation. Popularity and Relevancy.

Popularity is related to the nature of off-site SEO and deals with garnering links to your website, signalling to the search engines that you are popular and they should take the time to get to know you better. Gathering links is a difficult science and not always one that you have control over, but (sorry to disappoint) I won’t be covering that here – maybe in a future post. This post is about the aspects of SEO you do have control over. Onsite SEO.

If you are struggling to get traffic to your site then the first thing you should do, before you try to build links, is look at your site through the eyes of a search engine spider. This means preparing your browser by disabling cookies and javascript. You can do this relatively easily on all the major browsers. I recommend this simply because a search engine spider isnt always well equipped to deal with pages that are accessible via Javascript Links, or to open pages that require the setting of a cookie to access. If you have any pages like this then the chances are you have a robot trap that needs sorting out.

In addition to this you should get yourself a copy of firefox. There are many reasons to use firefox not least of which is the firebug web developer addon, but for SEO auditing you should install the user-agent switcher which will hilight any differences between the the site you see and the site google sees when you switch your user-agent to google-bot (you can also switch between different versions of Internet explorer, or the iphone browser; useful for identifying compatibility issues if you a designing a new layout).

Following these these basic tips should hilight any coding issues which would prevent the bots from navigating it correctly. You can have the most relevant page on the internet for you given topic, but if the search engines can’t access it then you might as well be selling condoms in a monastery.

Having said that – how is your relevancy? To stand a better chance of ranking for a given keyword or phrase then your page has to be relevant. Too often people will forego relevance for links, which are definitely important, but if you have a page of relevant content with properly written title tags and judicious use of header tags as well as alt tags on your images then the search engines are at least going to be know what your page is about, which will give you a fighting chance when it comes to ranking for the long tail search engine queries.

Seomoz demonstrate this much better than I can here. You can see simple page layout with the most optimised use of the title tag, header tags, images and of course keyword density.

Finally but probably most important of all the onsite factors is the structure of your website itself. How easy is it to navigate and how many clicks away from the home page is your important content. Every website should have well designed global navigation – now the bigger the website the hard this becomes, but ultimately the ‘money’ pages should be accessible from every page on your site via a maximum of 3 clicks.

How do you do this? Well take a look at Amazon. They make excellent use of categories on their website, and each category can be accessed by each and every other page on the site. These category pages act as hubs in their own right and clever structure and linking from these hubs means that the bulk of the content that is important to the customer is never more than a few clicks away.

This is designing for the user as well the spider and it works well. There is little point in writing a killer blog post which people are going to want to read if, once its disappeared off the front page they can’t find it. Proper categorisation is key to allowing the spiders to know that your content is still important and that you website visitors can still find it.

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