SEO Design and Organic Site Structure

Ah, finally a session I know something about. Let’s get going.

Todd Friesen is our fearless moderator this time around. He’s just a little hungover. But the panel looks ready. Here they are. Mark Jackson, President / CEO, VIZION Interactive, Inc., Lyndsay Walker, WestJet / Lyndseo, Paul Bruemmer, Red Door Interactive, Alan K’necht, K’nechtology Inc.

Mark Jackson is first. He begins with the Golden Rule of site building. You want the site to succeed on all levels.

He’s covering Keyword Research, competitive analysis and content.

Keyword Research: Most people don’t do it well. They start with the just most popular term. You need to learn your audience. Target words that matter to them. Don’t’ get your words from the CEO, get them from your users. Once you’ve developed that list, then go back and decide relevancy. Put it in a spreadsheet so you can figure out what your words really are.

Know who you are and be real. Don’t go after words that you don’t have a shot in hell of getting. Know what it will take to compete and then build for success. Make sure that you have content to support your rankings.

Organize yourself and develop a process.

Search engine friendly design does not mean that the sites have to be ugly.

  • Avoid JavaScript, Flash, Image navigations.
  • Allow space for content
  • Use images reasonably
  • Include “alt” and “title” attributes in images [Uh, I disagree on the Title attribute. Worthless. But definitely use your alt attributes smartly.]
  • Static URLs are preferred

Have a reason for what you’re doing.

He’s showing TripAdvisor as a good example. Um, there are a lot of links on the page. Can’t we get some nice tasty regular content? Heh, someone in the audience agrees.

[black screen] = what your site looks like to the engines.

He just saw a site that was built to be SE friendly…with a flash intro and entirely an image on the homepage. Nice.

Write content that is engaging to readn and conducive to you SEO strategy.
Use opportunies for internal linking (too often people get obessed with external links and forget internal-
Avoid marketing fluff. Call it what it really is not what your marketing team “brands” it to be.
Blogs are great for the long tail words.

Do your research before you get into your design and make sure you’re using it. Design for usability and SEO, almost in that order.

Todd says Nike is a perfect example. They rank great for footware and not running shoes because they never use the word.

Alan K’necht wishes us all a Happy Chanukah. Yay!

He’s talking about linear design. You’ve done your information architecture now you’re ready to put it into code. Preferably XHTML with CSS. He talks about the problem of tables. [see the table trick for how we solved that in the ‘bad old days’.]

SEO a linear approach. You place the candles on from right to left and light them left to right on a menorah.

Search engines care about words, words, words. They also care bout the position of the words. They value things at the top more than the bottom. That means you should be putting words first.

Separate the content from the presentation. Organize content logically. Use CSS to position graphics logically. Give the search engines the words in the code first then use CSS to show the users a pretty page.

Newspapers use a linear presentation. Headlines come first. They contain important words. Where are their links? At the end, when you’re done with the article and ready to move on.

Important elements much come first. Ensure these elements contain your targeted keyword phrases.

Put graphical non-essential items lower down in the code.

Stick JavaScript at the end or off page and just include it.

Use Firefox with the developer plugin. Turn off CSS and look at results. How far down does the engine have to go before it gets to the content. You should get to content FIRST. Not navigation first. Decide what’s important. What should be seen first?

Make your site “search engine usable.”

Lyndsay Walker is next. WestJet is a low cost Canadian airline. 70 percent of their bookings come through the Web site.

Design for your visitors, she says. Remember what you want them to do on your site. Are you focused on brand, on content? What is going to make it for them? You need to have a clear navigation for users and for search engines.

AVOID FLASH. She doesn’t think that can be said enough. There’s so much you can do with XHTML and style sheets that can mimic flash. The same can be said of images vs text. Nothing is going to beat fresh content.

Divs are your friend.

Use your stats. You have so much data. Learn from it, discover what people are looking for, where they’re going.

When you’re designing, test everything in Firefox. If you design for IE, it’ll look great and then it’ll fail in Firefox. Design for the compliant browser and then tweak for IE. It’s weird and non-standard. Keep in mind mobile design as well. It’s not an IE world anymore.

Landing pages are key. You can design a fantastic home page but that’s not all of your content. People will land on the site in other places–

Must haves:

  • Title tag – has to be unique
  • Meta Description – shows in the SERPs. Make it worth it and unique to the page. Target it to the specifics of the page.
  • Header tags – Put the emphasis on the most important words
  • Strong code to content ratio – are you all about
  • Externalize JavaScript and CSS – you don’t need it on the page
  • DIVs vs Table – Structure with DIVs!
  • Don’t forget to use your keywords – your content is useless if it doesn’t use your keywords
  • Links – don’t forget internal linking.

She shows a couple of pages from her sites to demonstrate what she’s been talking about. Lots of emphasis on text.

Don’t publish before you’re ready. Have a test site. Your test pages shouldn’t be on your live site before they’re done.

…she’s going to sing a song. Apparently they sing it on WestJet flights. Nice!

Paul Bruemmer’s turn.

He gives a little bit of his background but that’s all on his bio so you can check it out there.

They’ve had success with Flash pockets. They can use Flash in pockets and still rank organically.

His organic site structure:

  • Server configuration – pain points: robots.txt, redirects, 404s, internal broken links, duplicate content, dedicated IP address, Alias URL, transfer of keywords
  • Web Site Architecture — pay attention to inclusion ratio, directory structure and naming conventions, internal linking structure, dynamic and persistent URLs, Site Maps (HTML), privacy statement [He’s got a graphic here for how you silo. Somewhere around here, I have a similar one, I’ll see if I can’t find it.]
  • Content Generation — you have to be equal to or better than your competitors [wow, I’m having déjà vu]. Think about content promotion while you’re generating it.
  • Content Optimization — See Lyndsay’s must haves.
  • Natural Link Profile — Make sure that your links look natural. You’re in a neighborhood and you want to be in a good one.

Your deep link profile is your ratio of your links to subpages in comparison to your links to homepages overall.

Additional considerations: Feeds, Paid search, Local Search/Mobile search. Staff – hire good people and make sure they’re all on board. Training = Quick Wins. Training your staff, obviously great. When you train your clients, their accounts will do better. [As you know, we TOTALLY agree.]


Just completed a redesign. We have a form on every page, is that bad duplicate content and what can we do if it is?

[My answer: It’s not probably but iFrame it.]

Lyndsay: Probably not a problem, put it lower in the code if you can.

Multiple URLs due to tracking–how do you avoid duplicate content?

[301 if you need the link pop. Meta Robots or Robots.txt out if you don’t.]

Todd: You’re getting links to duplicate content, then you need to 301 everything to one canonical page.

Paul: If you can even find all those pages. You might have to just write it off.

Todd: You should know who your partners are and be able to manage the redirects.

Lots of duplicate content questions. That session was yesterday, dudes.

Alan: You can build a brand as an aggregator and get links that way without original content.

Mobile search–do the mobile browsers render top to bottom?

Alan: Blackberry doesn’t ready your style sheets so yeah, it just gives it to you linearly. [Boy do I know it.] Linear design gives you benefits in mobile.

Paul: and both have very good sites.

Localization of domain extensions. Value of sub domains

You can specify in Google which countries you’re targeting.

Subdomains are good for getting more SERP real estate.

How much has theming helped your site?

Whoo, Paul and the question asker both give props to Bruce for being their mentors in siloing. You may have noticed that we have just a couple articles on that subject.

What’s spam?

Lyndsay: Ask yourself, is it good for the user? At the end of the day, that’s the point.

Todd: The internet is not an equal opportunity world. TripAdvisor can get away with more. BMW can. There’s no absolute line.

Why don’t Flash sites work and why do people build them?

Alan: You can charge more to build Flash sites.
Paul: There are ways to use Flash appropriately.
Todd: Nike is one of the top 25 brands in the world. You can’t convince them that their site shouldn’t be in Flash. It’s who they want to be. If you’re going full Flash, have unique URLs. Cloak if you’re doing full Flash. Serve the exact same content to engines and cloak the other.
Alan: But if you’re not a Nike, you have a problem. They rank on links. Have a Flash alternative. If they have Flash, give them one thing. If not give them the alternative.
Paul: Look at Forecast Earth on if you’re planning on doing videos. They do a great job and they’re ranking.
Alan: Make sure you’re using all the fields for your videos — title, meta data.

Susan Esparza is former managing editor at Bruce Clay Inc., and has written extensively for clients and internal publications. Along with Bruce Clay, she is co-author of the first edition of Search Engine Optimization All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies.

See Susan's author page for links to connect on social media.

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3 Replies to “SEO Design and Organic Site Structure”

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