Making a Search Engine Friendly Website

Search engines see websites much differently than humans. As mentioned in my free hostel marketing ebook earch engine crawlers can't effectively see Flash content, JavaScript, or text that is embedded within images.

It can be helpful to take a look at your website through the eyes of a search engine to see if there are any issues that search engines might be encountering. There are several ways to get a "search engine view" of your site; the easiest way is with SEO-Browser.com. Here is a partial screenshot of the SEO-Browser.com homepage:

seo-browser.com screenshot

Here is a screenshot of what the HostelManagement.com homepage looks like through SEO-Browser.com:

a screenshot of hostelmanagement.com viewed through seo-browser.com

Notice that the image of the dorm beds on the home page is replaced with the alt text from the HTML code.

For example, here is the human view of the dorm bed on the front page—Google can't see the image:

Screenshot of the dorm beds on the hostelmanagement.com home page

There is alt text inside the HTML tag that loads the image. Search engines can't see the image, but they can get some information about the image both from the alt text and the filename. The HTML code for that image looks like this:

<img src="/files/hostel-dorm-beds.png" alt="Dorm beds at a hostel" />

Here is how SEO-Browser.com sees the image:

hostelmanagement.com image view

Flash and JavaScript Are Virtually Invisible

Try viewing a Flash site through SEO-Browser.com and take a look at what search engines see. Here is a great 100% Flash website: http://www.icelandsocks.com/. It looks great to humans, but it's invisible to search engines.

[NOTE: they may not be trying to rank in search engines. It's more of a viral-media site. I'm just using it as an example because it's a great 100% Flash website with content that is invisible to search engines.]

100% Flash Site — Human View:

This is what humans see:

flash website screenshot

100% Flash Site — Search Engine View:

Search engines can't see the images of socks or read the text on the home page. The main information Google sees on the page is this:

flash web site search engine view

What to Look For

Some things to look for when examining your site through a tool like SEO-Browser.com are:

  • Do your images have good filenames and alt text?
  • Do you see links to other pages on your site? If you don't see the links to other pages they might have been coded in JavaScript or Flash. A hostel's website should be completely usable even when JavaScript and Flash are turned off. You can rank a Flash site in search engines, but it's more complicated.
  • Does the text that you see have good placement of keywords? You don't have to stuff your pages with keywords, but if the keywords don't appear on your page at all, you probably won't rank for them.
  • Do you see a lot of weird characters or unexpected "garbage"? Take a closer look at the HTML code and see what the problem might be.
  • Do the blue links have descriptive text? The text in a link tells search engines what the linked-to page is about. Having good descriptive link text on internal and external links is important. You don't have to stuff keywords, but just be descriptive.

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