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Keep Your Web Site Design Simple for Better SEO Results

When it comes to designing your Web site, the old adage KISS is good advice: "Keep It Simple, Sweetie." For the best SEO results, make your Web site as straightforward and easy to navigate as possible. Make sure the links and instructions are clear and not horribly complicated. Also, be aware of how much Flash you are using. Adobe Flash is a multimedia program that allows you to place animation on your Web site. There are many major companies out there with big shiny Web sites that contain lots of complicated and cool-looking Flash. But here’s a secret about those sites: a search engine can’t read them.

A search engine is basically deaf, dumb, and blind. It cannot see what the viewer sees; it can only read the code. It can’t read a page like a person reads it (yet). The search engines are trying to emulate what a person will see and react to, but technology isn’t there yet, and they have to make do with reading the code.

Although a human can read this, a search engine robot can’t.
Although a human can read this, a search engine robot can’t.

Web sites built entirely in Flash generally don’t have searchable content. A search engine, being blind, deaf, and dumb, can’t see the Flash animations that describe all the cool things the Web site has to offer because all they can see is the Flash plug-in in the HTML code. Look at the above figure, for example. It’s got some well-designed Flash, but a search spider can’t see any of it, so it can’t read any of the keywords or follow any of the links on the site. The capabilities of the search engines and of this technology are evolving rapidly. You may one day see Flash become as spiderable as text, but that day hasn't arrived yet.

That's not to say that your Web site can't contain Flash, but make sure there’s readable content that goes along with it. A few Flash movies on the page is a good thing for user experience, provided they are relevant and are accompanied by a reasonable amount of companion text. Also, make sure that the Flash is not too complicated for the page, or for the user. Some sites create mini applications using Flash and include them on their Web sites. If that’s your site, don’t miss an opportunity to pull good text content out of the application to include on your pages, as well. For instance, if your Flash contains instructions on how to use it within the Flash itself, grab that text and make it part of the text on the page. Also, if you use Flash, place a description of the Flash content in the actual text of the page. That makes it easier for the user to understand, and a search engine spider can read it and use it in your ranking. It’s a win/win situation.

Google is committed to clean, user-friendly design.
Google is committed to clean, user-friendly design.

Keeping the content on your page simple and easy to navigate not only helps you get better rankings, but it also means that your user has a much better experience and will return to your site again. Follow this general rule: If it looks cool but is a pain in the rear to use, users won’t use it. The above figure is a great example of a simple, easy-to-use Web site.

Google’s home page is clean, simple, doesn’t have any extraneous clutter, and is pretty self-explanatory when it comes to what the page does. The less you have to explain to your users, the better. Of course, Google doesn't have to worry about ranking for anything, but that doesn't mean their simple and clean design ethic can't work for you, too. Ask yourself if you are putting only what you need onto a page and avoid the tendency to cram in just one more thing.

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