In part 1 and part 2 of our series on search engine optimisation we have concentrated mostly on the code that makes up a website. This blog post will be more concerned with content and the design of your website.
The copy on each page of your website is a very important tool for helping search engines to understand the page and your website as a whole.
First an foremost, your copy should be written for humans.
This seems obvious really but many people write content with only search engines in mind and this can have a negative effect on your search engine rankings. Google for example is getting more and more intelligent at understand relevant copy as opposed to copy riddled with keywords. Furthermore, if your copy does not read well then can you really expect your customers to read it? If a potential customer is put off by illegible copy then you are likely to loose their custom. As well as this, the bounce rate (how quickly a user leaves a page) will increase, search engines will notice this and assume that your website is not relevant.
You should definitely try to incorporate keyword phrases into your pages but don't shoe horn them in. Copy should flow and read naturally; if a keyword phrase doesn't makes sense in the context of it's surrounding text then it's not worth having it there. I would certainly recommend no more than five keyword phrases in the copy of each page. These phrases generally shouldn't be repeated too much, if a search engine thinks that you are putting them in for the sake of it then it could have negative effects.
One misconception with search engines is that they scan the whole of your page and note all of your copy, unfortunately this isn't true. If you have a rather long page then the search engine will likely give up before it reaches the end. With this in mind, if you have a particularly long page then it can be worth splitting it in two. If you do this then it's critical that you make it as obvious as possible that page 1 follows on to page 2, you don't want to loose business because a customer has not seen the right information. Google recommends around 250 to 300 words per page but a judgement call has to be made by you when compromising between what a search engine and a potential customer finds relevant.
Getting visitors to your website is one thing, keeping them there is something else.
Your website might be as optimised for search engines as it can be but you must never forget that the purpose of your website is to attract customers, either current or potential. If your website looks awful then it is likely that your customers will be turned off and will leave your site as quickly as they came to it. If customers quickly leave your site then not only have you lost their custom but your bounce rate will increase. As mentioned earlier in the article, search engines look to your bounce rate to determine if your site or page is relevant or not.
Design is very subjective but a modern, clean interface will always help to keep customers on your site and potentially acquire your product or service. Just because something is technically possible doesn't mean that you should have it on your site. Do you really need that ugly clock in the header or those garish logos at the side?
Things such as font, font colour, font size, etc. should remain constant throughout your site as should general page layout. If your main navigation is at the top on the home page but at the side on your 'about' page then you are making it difficult for your customers to navigate your site.
Over time more and more things are usually added to a website, if your site has become disjointed and overly complicated to navigate then perhaps it's time for a fresh approach.