9 Tips for Building a Search Friendly Website

Our host today is Suzanne Vara. If you're interested in getting in front of the readers of Site Sketch 101, check out our guest posting invitation here.


Creating a website solution that fits the needs of the company while meeting or exceeding the expectations of search engines and users is challenging.  The first steps in understanding how to build a search engine friendly site is to design a site for the user first and the search engines second.

The search engines crawl and match your site/pages with search terms that the users need to have their problem solved and/or find value in the content. Design a site that is an extension of your corporate identity, is easily navigated and speaks to your target in their terms. Sites that are easy to navigate increase the user experience and promote repeat visits.

9 Tips For Building A Search Friendly Site

  1. URL’s. Simple, user-friendly, relevant and structured URL’s describe the page to the search engines and users, are easily found and easily linked by other external pages.
  2. Title Tags. Create unique and precise title tags for each page. The title tags are an indication to the search engines and users what the content on the page is about.  Each page is unique in its content and needs to be showcased.  Pages that contain the same title tag are confusing to the search engine spiders and also to readers thereby increasing the click-off rates.
  3. Meta Descriptions. As with title tags, each page needs its own meta description. The meta descriptions need to contain keywords as the snippet beneath your page title in the search results many times is pulled from the meta description.  Create sentences or a combination of words that accurately describes the page.
  4. Paragraph Headers. Headers are the H1 to H6 tags that stand above the paragraphs or at the top of the page to tell what is to come below. An outline of sorts. Not all H1 to H6 need to be used.  Good rule: use headers if the content immediately beneath warrants an introduction.
  5. Navigation. The navigation needs to be created in a manner that makes sense and guides users through the pages.  Be sure to have the most important pages in the navigation bar and pages that support the main page in the sub-menu. Take time to go through the navigation to make sure that it makes sense and users will go through the site in the sequence desired.
  6. Content. Content should be the main focus of the site and properly maintained.  The saying that content is king holds true as content that is not updated or additional pages added to support the main page goes stale and the the search limit the frequency to which they crawl and index the pages.  Feed them fresh new content through new pages or a blog.  Keep the search engines coming back as well as users.
  7. Internal Links. Search engines navigate through your site via pages and links. Users seeking content that matches their query will visit the other pages that are linked to the page that was provided in their search results when seeking further information, clarification or navigating through to purchase. Each page on your website should be reachable through one link.
  8. Anchor Text. Anchor text is one of the most important SEO factors due to the weight on the quality and quantity of the external links. The anchor text that is associated with links to your site provides topic authority for matched search terms. The most common mistake is having a sentence “For more information, click here” as the hyperlinked “click here” becomes the anchor text. Link to the most relevant word(s) that describes the content/topic on the page being linked to.
  9. Images. Avoid an overabundance of images as they are not as easily read despite having the text element in the Alt tag.  Of course this is unavoidable when it comes to products however be sure to ALT tag each image and have a precise description of the image.

Group Reflection

Websites that are created with the end user in mind while paying close attention to the optimization and how it affects their rankings will garner greater results whether optimizing for Bing or Google.

Keyword research and remaining in tune to the industry terms as well as terms searched by users is crucial in obtaining higher rankings for terms that have ranked on pages 2 and 3.   The better the content, the more sites that will trust it and want to link to it thus telling the search engines that the page is the authority and ensuring higher rankings.  The higher the rankings, the more visitors and the more visitors, the increase in sales.

Photo Credit: Curiouslee


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37 Vibrant Comments

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  1. March 15, 2010

    Tom | Build That List said:

    That is pretty much all you need to know for on page SEO, if you are doing that and getting some good backlinks coming in you should start ranking well. (but that really depends on how competitive the keyword you’re targeting is)
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: Finding the Perfect Temperature For Your Mailing List =-.

    • March 15, 2010

      Suzanne Vara said:


      Yes the difficulty of the keyword is where a lot of people get hung up but also one part that is not always discussed is the matching of the keywords to search phrases. Rankings for phrases are extremely valuable as they are about as close to an exact match as you can get. People generally do not search in one word terms, they use a combination of words or phrases as they are looking for answers.

      This is something that I have been thinking about more and more and adding to the mix considering where the target is as it relates to their buying process. This maybe a bit too micromanaging but yet the goal of optimizing is getting found, then providing a solution/answer for them and then capturing them and asking them to want more.

      .-= My Latest Blog Post: Small Business Marketing: Butt Prints vs Foot Prints =-.

  2. March 15, 2010

    Lee Ka Hoong said:

    All the tips have been discussed several times on the web, but it’s good to recall them again as sometimes we might forget the basic of the search engine optimization.


  3. March 15, 2010

    Robyn from Sam's Web Guide said:

    Great tips Suzanne,

    Search friendliness and usability should be kept in mind during the design process. I’ve tried to design for both at the same time which saves me on the overall development time.
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: Microsoft’s New Courier Tablet Video Demo =-.

    • March 15, 2010

      Suzanne Vara said:


      I can tell you that I have met with so many clients or potential clients that have tried to do one without the other and as you know it is not a pleasant experience. A functional design that is user friendly and easily navigated is a big part of the equation here. It is not always about the pretty site as yes I like to look at sites that are nice but if I cannot find what I am looking for, it can be the best site ever, I am leaving it.

      The optimization and content marketing aspect is the other part of the equation and they all have to work together. These are not stand alones. Some sites do have to give a bit on design to accommodate functionality (seen a lot with large product volume retail sites) but remembering that it is about the user experience and not the glitz and glamor goes a long way.

      .-= My Latest Blog Post: Small Business Marketing: Butt Prints vs Foot Prints =-.

  4. March 15, 2010

    Dave Doolin | Website In A Weekend said:

    I agree with Tom, if people made a sincere effort to implement this way for pages they want ranked, it would cover most of the on-page they need.

    Interesting use of internal linking, Nick.
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: A Simple Guide To WordPress Theme Installation =-.

    • March 15, 2010

      Dave Doolin | Website In A Weekend said:

      Suzanne! Still, nice use of internal linking in the anchor text paragraph, with fewer in other paragraphs.
      .-= My Latest Blog Post: A Simple Guide To WordPress Theme Installation =-.

      • March 15, 2010

        Suzanne Vara said:


        Thanks! Optimization has been written about over and over again as has keeping design in mind. In the spirit of brevity and consideration of people’s time, it is always good to link to previous articles to show how it all ties together, especially as a guest blogger. The audience is a mix of your readers but the bulk will be the readers of the blog’s main author. Optimization on the surface may see like ok do this and this but really it is a process that involves many factors that just cannot be covered in 1 post.

        .-= My Latest Blog Post: Small Business Marketing: Butt Prints vs Foot Prints =-.

  5. March 15, 2010

    Amberly | Web Designer said:

    Great tips as I am currently making revisions to my website. I will keep your suggestions in mind. Good Job.

  6. March 16, 2010

    Web Design Cheltenham said:

    Hi Suzanne, great article. I’d probably add to that. We get a lot of people who come to us with duplicate sites. For example, the have http://www.widget.co.uk and http://widget.co.uk 301 redirecting these sorts out the duplicates. Also 301 redirecting the http://www.widget.co.uk to http://www.widget.co.uk/home.asp or whatever also removes another duplicate. Can be a little tricky as 301’s need doing differtly depending if the site is in PHP, ASP, HTML etc. There are some good guides online though.

    • March 16, 2010

      Suzanne Vara said:

      Great addition as the www and straight url are dups and many forget that part. Permanent redirects (301) are no treat but like you said there are some great online tools that are available. This also makes me think of checking and fixing broken links are they stop the spiders in their tracks.

      Thanks so much for bring this to the attention of readers as it is very important.
      .-= My Latest Blog Post: Small Business Marketing: How to Create Core Keyword Phrases =-.

  7. March 16, 2010

    poch said:

    A very simple post yet very helpful.
    Bravo Suzanne!

  8. March 17, 2010

    Reza Winandar said:

    I agree with this post, being number one in Google doesn’t mean that your site will receive a lot of traffic. People will looking for the most relevant sites by reading the header and the title tag.
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: This is blog is now Do Follow =-.

  9. March 19, 2010

    Anne Moss said:

    Good basic guide for newbies. In fact, IMO this is pretty much all you have to be worried about when it comes to on-page SEO.
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: Why Smart Phones Are Dumb (And How They’ll Get Smarter) =-.

  10. March 19, 2010

    Dennis Edell said:

    Navigation – where is the sub-menu?
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: UPDATED: Theme Customization Part 3 – Banner Advertising NOT for Sale! =-.

  11. March 30, 2010

    Will Mason said:

    Nice work Suzanne!

    Basics maybe “basic”, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get easily forgotten.

    Love the refresher.

    BTW, in pint 6, you have a double “the”. Probably wont effect your SEO, but I thought I’d point it out!.

  12. March 31, 2010

    Mattheous @ Menu Musings said:

    This is such a helpful post (as always)!

    But where is the submenu? Do you mean a dropdown menu?

    What so you think of having the most importan categoris used by a blog in the header navigation menu? Such as the normal links (Home, About, Blog, Archives, etc) and also the categories.

  13. April 26, 2010

    Perth Massage said:

    Thanks Nicholas, yet another article that is simple and informative. Keep up the Great Work 🙂
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: If you register your site for free at =-.

  14. May 17, 2010

    Vinish Parikh said:

    Good info for beginners like me it will really help me in increasing the search ranking
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: Differences between Bill of exchange and Promissory note =-.

  15. June 7, 2010

    San Luis Obispo Search Engine Optimization said:

    Great post. This is help me with the SEO services I provide for my clients. Thanks!

  16. September 25, 2010

    Rob said:

    I’m pretty sure a lot of newbies will benefit from these tips. The way it was explained is really concise and organized. That way it is very easy for beginners to understand the terms of web building one at a time,and they won’t easily get bored because it was a brief one… Great Job Suzanne! Managed Hosting Canada

  17. October 2, 2010

    Sensitive Designs said:

    Nice post.. i saw most of the front-end developers are not aware of H1 Tags.

  18. October 14, 2010

    Gran Canaria said:

    One thing that I might add (as a suggestion) in the 7th point is that you also might use nofolow links in some of the internal pages. For instance, if one has some low priority pages (about, contact, disclaimer…) you might use a nofollow link to those. With this, you prevent the “spilling” of your PR(pagerank) over the pages that are not really targeted for traffic, but still something you need.

  19. October 27, 2010

    Murugappan said:

    Well written post. I’d add the 10th point – not to use URL shorteners here.

  20. November 3, 2010

    Steve Karagioules said:

    Suzanne, great post. This is exactly what I tell clients – that is that their site needs to be a delicate balance between user experience and search engine optimization. Not an easy task, but if you work close enough with your client, you can help them build a site that looks great and meets SEO needs.

  21. November 12, 2010

    Steve Karagioules said:

    Suzanne, awesome advice. It is great to see that these are the same prinicples we preach whenever we sit down with a client who wants to build a new site and optimize it or simply optimize and existing site. The principles of SEO are tried and true.

  22. December 7, 2010

    Joel Libava said:


    Thanks a lot for the tips!

    Do you have any more?

    The Franchise King®

  23. April 8, 2011

    Ryan said:

    Those are definitely good SEO tips for sure.

    Honestly though, I’ve found that professional services like http://thesearchsubmitter.com and others do the best job of SEO and search engine submission and building backlinks.

  24. June 4, 2011

    3ds max said:

    Nice tips for SEO as usual from sitesketsh101, Thank you

  25. July 18, 2011

    Stjepan said:

    I’m just curious, what about HTML5 and new tags that the standard introduces, do you have any experience with it?

  26. July 22, 2011

    David said:

    “Each page on your website should be reachable through one link”. Hopefully this means a single URL rather than one location (e.g. main nav). Otherwise you’d have no serendipitous browsing or calls to action.

  27. October 12, 2011

    Brian Kinkade said:

    All true, and I really love that phrase “user first, search engine second”. Users like simple website designs where they can easily see things and everything is in order, we really don’t need fancy looking sites to enjoy one. Also our SEO should be focused on getting specific traffic that we want.

  28. October 26, 2011

    Alizya said:

    Although these tips are not a new knowledge for anyperson who related with the field of web designing and seo, but I appreciate your way of describing which is awesome and even a newbie can understand how to create search engine friendly site through these tips.

  29. September 23, 2012

    principles of marketing said:

    Great content and thoroughly enjoying your site. Keep up the great work.

  30. October 30, 2012

    video's,youtube videos said:

    Thank you, I’ve recently been searching for information about this topic for a long time and yours is the greatest I’ve found out till now. But, what about the bottom line? Are you certain concerning the supply?|What i do not understood is if truth be told how you’re no longer really a lot more neatly-liked than you might be now. You’re very intelligent.