When Design Isn’t Compatible with SEO

There has been a constant battle between web designers and SEOs over the years. Designer people want to convey the import of the website and to make it look good. That’s cool. We all want great-looking sites. But some sites, though they may look great, suck for SEO.stained glass design

One of the theme-types that design folks and their customers love are the front page sliders. I have one on MagnaSites.com, and it rotates posts I’ve made there about SEO, email marketing, local search, and other topics.  Each of those posts are excerpted, and the excerpts can be seen by spiders. But not all sliders do this. And the bad news is Google doesn’t quite like sliders, or at least their spiders don’t.

It’s not because they’re considered to be Web spam, but more because spiders have trouble seeing the real content in your website. If you notice the MagnaSites slider has a snippet of content, which describes the post inside the blog. But some sliders are strictly image based. They’re nice and all, but they could hurt your search positions.

One way to find out if your slider is good or bad is to visit Lynx viewer. This site shows you how search spiders see your website, and you may be surprised to find your content waaaaay down on the page because the slider is taking up more space and signifying nothing. This isn’t good. Remember how we talked about ads obstructing content when above the fold? It’s kind of the same principle.

Remember to Complete ALT tags

Spiders can’t tell what pictures are, anyway, no matter whether they’re in sliders or on the page. They can see your ALT tags, though, and why it’s so important to have them.

An ALT tag is the text description of an image. When you post an image, the code looks like this: <img src=”http://yourdomain.com/image.jpg”> That’s a bare image. When you add an ALT tag (alternate title), it looks like this:  <img src=”http://yourdomain.com/image.jpg” alt=”monkey”>. Of course, if you tag an image that way, it had better BE a monkey. Google doesn’t like keyword-stuffed ALT tags, either, so if you can use a keyword in your tag, do so, but it had better make sense.

When you add an image to WordPress, it gives you the option of filling in the ALT tag, so be sure you do it. It’s the second line under the image:

EMD hell

WordPress has even been nice enough to give an example.

But back to what spiders see.

If you have a slider, and you can see content when you go to the Lynx viewer, you should be OK. But if all you’re seeing are images without content, you should make doubly certain that ALT tags are applied. If you can’t do that, or if the slider doesn’t show content with the image, you may want to reconsider your theme.  Or, if you have a website, consider moving the slider to the side. (I like Fade Slideshow, which is open source — meaning free —  and really easy to add to your HTML, BTW.)

The moral of the story is: Design might be wonderful, but if your designer isn’t creating your website with search engines in mind, you’re going to have problems getting traffic down the road. Be sure that if you hire a company to create your website for you, they know their stuff and make search priority #1!