SEO-ing Georgie Barlow: Technology Choice

The leaning tower of Pisa, despite all it’s beauty, is, as a result of its foundation, still fundamentally flawed. It requires a huge amount of expertise to keep it standing. Similar rules apply in SEO but where the foundation is the technology platform the site is built on.

A SEO campaign built on a poor foundation can still produce results. A case in point is the numerous examples of Flash-based (an animation technology beloved of the graphic design school of web design) sites ranking well.

The optimisation of these types of site is possible, but just a lot more difficult. We have proved this with an Attacat client recently who now ranks in top position for their main and competitive phrase, despite having a site that is anything but search engine friendly.

Being “friendly” essentially means allowing the search engine spiders (programs that “crawl” the web going from link to link looking for new and updated pages) to access as much of your site content as possible.

Some common mistakes:

  • Rendering text as images – designers may be tempted to gain a greater degree of control of the look of text by displaying it as images, particularly for key SEO elements such as headings and navigation.
  • Drop down menus – spiders are essentially very primitive web browsers and struggle with content displayed dynamically, of which this is just one example.
  • Lack of individual page addresses – have you seen sites where all pages have the same address (url)? This makes life difficult for spiders as they see lots of different content on the same address. At best it means you will only get one page listed. This raises one key point – SEO is not just about your home page, every page on your site contributes to rankings.
  • Requiring Registration – any information hidden behind a login screen or requires user interaction to view it will be invisible to spiders.

Whilst designing search engine friendly pages is not that difficult, for the non-techy, it can be quite difficult to determine whether your site is friendly or not. One simple way of getting an appropriate site is to choose a designer who is hot on accessibility.

Accessibility is in essence, the ability of a site to be used by a disabled user (which also includes groups such as the partially sighted and the merely hungover). If you are working with a designer that is really into this (rather than just paying lip service to it) you can be assured that you will be getting a site that a search engine optimiser can really work with.

For the Georgie Barlow project, we chose Blogger as our technology platform. This is free software allowing any reasonably competent computer user to set-up a website quickly and very easily. The blog format (essentially an online diary with the ability for others to add comments) will not suit every business, although arguably it could be a main site for any consultant and indeed many other businesses.

Blogger is owned by Google, so you would hope that the technology is search engine friendly. Whilst not entirely perfect (in my humble opinion anyway!) it really isn’t bad. The following features make it attractive from an SEO standpoint:

  1. All primary navigation (the menus) are text based;
  2. All text is rendered as text;
  3. Every page has a unique and permanent url (i.e. page address – this allows the sub pages to be indexed);
  4. The code quality is relatively high for a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) web design package;
  5. The ability to easily edit content and control most features of the page without technical expertise provides great flexibility for SEO.

As with most things that really work for SEO, it also hits the more important button of being straight forward to use (from a surfer and webmaster’s perspective).

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