You have a great looking website, stimulating content, excellent inbound links, the site has been doing really well and you’ve had the edge on your competitors. Suddenly you find the website slipping down the search engine ladder for no good reason. Nothing has really changed with your competitors except for a few minor alterations – What went wrong?
Old Technology: Depreciated Code
A largely overlooked factor of search engine optimisation strategy is the coding of a website. If a site is using old and out-dated code it can have a detrimental effect on the overall appearance of a site. The importance of re-coding a website cannot be disregarded.
Recently at Sonet Digital we made the decision to re-design the entire website, the new site will go live sometime in March 2006, in the meantime we opted for a recoding of the existing site. Several issues prompted us to take this stance including: a small drop in our own rankings, and wanting to make the website W3C standard compliant.
We could see no reason why we should have dropped considering our content was more up to date than most of our competitors. Somehow we had either ‘tripped a filter’, or just got caught up in the grind of a search engines latest algorithm – it happens to the best of us.
Another reason for coding was to make our website more accessible. This should be first on the list for any site owner. After all, it only makes for good business ethics to be accessible. By not having an inaccessible website you are locking out an important sector of the market.
We recoded the entire website to XHTML and replaced all tables with divs. We then tweaked the content and images and brought the site to W3C validation, including WAI, Level AAA, XHTML, CSS compliancy. (This is 2005).
Within 48 hours our site started to climb again in the search engines. By dropping the tables we had created a clear path through our content, and made life easier for the search engine ‘bots’. And more importantly, our site was cross-browser friendly working with the top browsers such as Internet Explorer, Opera, Firefox and Safari – this meant that it was also working smoothly for screen readers. Call it coincidence but it does seem we have many good content sites with clean coding taking more and more of the top positions.
With reaching these standards we now have a site that works perfectly well on mobile Smartphones, as well. Google has recently announced that it will index websites for its new small mobile search engine, though note this will be only for sites that have no tables and that are XHTML compliant. These sites have a better chance of ranking high and being viewed by all visitors to the mobile web.
Mobile web design and optimisation is another path we have explored and are now making in-roads to bring this into our product portfolio. Like any good technology it progresses and evolves and the web is the perfect example of this. Coding becomes obsolete after a while and what was once a well written validated coding can become undone over a period of time with updates to content, constant search engine tweaking and optimisation.
A good search engine optimisation strategy should always include a thorough look at the current coding in a website. So, making the necessary adjustments to the code, or requesting to redevelop the client’s current website for these purposes should be encouraged.
SEO is a lot more than pointing a stream of links and writing content for the site. The absolute re-working of the content, coding adjustments, image manipulation, and meta-data should and does play a strong role in search campaigns. By validating and keeping your code up-to-date, not only are you giving yourself the edge over your competitors but it also lightens your work load later on, and simplifies the process of any future tweaking to the site.