The Benefits of Ugly SEO
SEO is, essentially, an exercise in efficiency. Much of what we do hinges on the ease of access of both the user and the multitude of crawlers that establish how “good” or “quick” a site is to use. This, one would think, couldn’t gel with an ugly site experience, what with tonnes of widgets, pictures and links plastered all over a site’s front page, usually there to stall load times and try a user’s patience, while giving the designer a chance to bask in their own glory. However, there’s many ways in which ugly SEO can greatly benefit a site, and it’s right now my job here to show you some methods I’ve seen that benefit SEO that could be thought of at the cost of the user. Implemented well can give SEO’ers and users something to think about.
Scrap the flash
Dull, I’m sure you’ll agree. (Sorry Jon, you might want to work on that font) but something that can be easily analysed by all varieties of crawlers. This is not so for a majority of older sites, and especially when designers are on board, then things can get a little tricky.
Now, Flash is especially relevant today: the proliferation of mobile devices that can’t utilise flash have likely set back older websites who feature much of it. I wouldn’t be very surprised if I’d heard of sites losing rank over overt flash use, so try to minimise the amount of flash or java on your website.
Unfortunately (for some) our friends at Google deem use of images vital to relevancy, although of course they can’t quite distinguish between what we see and what they’re told we’re seeing. Regardless, stripping your site down to composite (?) linear elements can give a great boost to both usability and crawlability (a word I’ve just coined.) A great example of this is gov.uk, who use the simplest fonts, colours and designs, while providing useful and concise information. It may seem dull, but there’s little better.
I’m a big fan of this concept that I had recently discovered over here on SEW, which is essentially to create the biggest footer known to man, an internal-linking-site-map-all-within-a-footer, if you will. I’ve borrowed the image, but I hope it’s a tactic that will be prosper over the next year or so.
It’s a link to everything, on every page. Although I’m sure creating the correct canonical tags and links must be something of a business when you begin, having a clearly established article footer not only makes for sophisticated crawls, but (I believe) makes for great usability. If YouTube implemented such a strategy on their sidebar they may finally show the second of eight parts in a video series, rather than the third and sixth. Hierarchy is a vital thing to implement correctly, and this is one way of siphoning the user down the correct path, while also giving them the option to find more information without asinine and frequently incorrect ‘Like this, read more in these three articles’.
We often see buildings with exposed panels or parts, which in a way make for a more aesthetically pleasing (if revealing) object. But could websites benefit from this approach? Implemented well, I think exposed SEO can make a website both a better user experience, and richer when speaking of metrics.