Does Optimising for search engines mean stifling creativity
is a still a perception amongst many non-SEO savvy professionals that optimising for
the search engines means stifling creativity, stuffing a page full of keywords
and creating a number of irrelevant and useless pages for the purposes of
gaming the search engines. However modern day SEO is a different game - and there is more considerations to SEO now than ever before.
With more and more organisations turning to SEO in order to drive greater
volumes of searchers to their websites, ticking the SEO boxes is becoming more
and more important and the role of on-page within the various search engine
algorithms will always play an important part in ultimately determining
relevancy. Even the simplest of changes to a page can drive a site from 800 to
300, however given the lack of traction that low in the search engines one
ultimately has to determine your objectives and priorities when determining
what level of interaction to deploy within a website.
One such issue always revolves around the use of technologies such as Flash and
more recently Ajax. There are however clever uses of these technologies
littered around the internet from organisations as diverse as insurance (visually appealing) to home study
companies (great use of Ajax whilst still being SEO friendly), highlighting that one can utilise these technologies
without necessarily impacting on the visibility of the site. In these
situations compromise is often key, and establishing early priorities can often
result in less heartache down the line.
That said, the issue of flash is always contentious. Google in particular has
made significant strides in its indexation of technologies such as Flash, to a
point where content such assets can now be indexed. However much like putting
bubbles in wine doesn't make it champagne, just because a file can be indexed
does not make it search engine optimised. SEO and Design have one significant
thing in common. Good design, usability and SEO all need to be built in from
the very start, strongly rooted into every aspect of the website in a true
symbiotic relationship. In order for either to work effectively both requirements
should be considered in order to ensure that one aspect is not compromised at
the expense of the other.
There are certain SEO criteria which are fundamental, and should always be
considered during the development process. Page Structure, Navigation (and
Contextual linkage), and content are all essentials and should be considered
givens, however there is no reason why any design shouldn't be able to work
around such briefs and incorporate a visually stimulating yet effective
website. Key aspects of the website should always be considered with search
engines in mind no matter whether or not SEO is a primary consideration, in
particular navigation (and the context thereof), page content, and url/page
structure. Visual stimulation such as flash elements can easily be integrated,
however not at the expense of good navigation or usability.
To develop a cohesive strategy that utilises both, ask yourself
- Is your brand name a common generic one - If your brand name a common generic
name, this could suggest that brand visibility is not a given, and as such
optimisation will need to be a consideration.
- What is the goal of your website? Who is the target audience. Are they likely
to be existing clients is the primary function new customer acquisition - If you
are targeting existing customers they are likely to already be targetable via
other means such as E-mail, ATL, and BTL.
- Are you undertaking any other activity, or are you relying on organic search
as a primary traffic acquisition channel. Are you undertaking any other
marketing activity? - If the web is your only channel of traffic, all your
boxes in terms of optimisation should be ticked.
- How closely does your website have to reflect other brand collateral? - Such
guidelines may mean certain visual features need to be included.
- Is your website a support vehicle to an existing sales force - or is the
website your sales force
There is no reason why good design and good SEO shouldn't be able cohabit side
by side. However it is a case of finding that balance, without compromising
either the potential convertibility and impact of the site, nor its potential
in terms of competing effectively on your chosen keywords.