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SEO Design – Web Pages Are People Too

If you are involved with SEO (search engine optimization) at all, you have heard something about web page design and how it relates to the ranking of your web site. Terms such as “user-friendly” and “search engine friendly” are used to instruct those who deal directly with web page design that the most important criterion in optimizing a page from an SEO perspective is that the page is friendly. Wait. Is the design supposed to be people friendly or search engine friendly?

The best answer to this question is wrapped in another seo design - web pages are people tooquestion: Who is a web page actually written for? No more wrappings are necessary. Web pages are written and designed with people in mind to convey information about a subject in text or visual form. As important as search engines and SEO has become over the last few years, web pages are not meant for computers to “read” or understand. The vaunted search engine has shifted the focus from people to machines when it comes to web page design.

If this answer does not satisfy you because for many people and businesses, the bottom line is not elegant design but the bottom line – profit. There are many nice looking web sites that do not generate one cent of income or profit for the owner. Taking a hard line from a business perspective and directing people to landing pages and calls-to-action is the road to travel because where there is an Internet road there is almost certainly to be traffic that can be redirected to your website. People want to buy things and SEO will help them do that.

Both these positions appear to be correct and hard to attack because while people read web pages, most of the Internet today is about profit. Profit that enables things like free email, millions of videos, and being able to shop until your Internet connection drops you off. The ability to find anything online has been made possible by the ubiquitous search engine. Use Google to find Amazon, then use Amazon’s search engine to find what you are looking for. But computers do not buy products and services. People do.

That brings us to the point of simply having to admit that web pages are people too. Whether in the basic design structure or SEO process, the optimized page is one that is easy to read and navigate for the reader, while simultaneously being “crawler friendly” for our chosen search engines. This article is not intended to go into the intricacies of web page design, so a few examples of how ignoring this human-machine point of commonality will illustrate the point.

Using Adobe’s Flash software is often not recommended because search engines have a difficult time navigating through it and in some cases simply cannot read its existence. So if a company has invested significant time and resources in creating a Flash video that brilliantly highlights the major features of a product or service, it should be discarded because it will degrade the SEO process? Here is an example of where SEO should take second place to the people who access the web page. A middle ground likely can be arrived at but in the end it is people first.

Creating web pages with application software such as Dreamweaver or Adobe Muse is often discouraged because while the software allows design of the page with virtually no coding knowledge or experience, the scripts generate a significant amount of unnecessary code that slows up a search engine’s crawl through the page. This is an example where SEO wins over the people factor. Why? The visitor to the web page will see the same design elements and content regardless of what is underneath the hood of the web page. In most cases, cleaning up the code will greatly improve crawl speed, making the web site more efficient to navigate for both the person and the machine.

Achieving the maximum optimization for any single web page is a matter of carefully examining each page element and text, and deciding which are the critical elements for the visitor who lands on the page. When possible, defer to the machine to raise the web page and web site rankings. But never lose sight of the fact that people and machines need to work together for everyone’s benefit.

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