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How to Organize your Web Site for Better SEO

Did you know that you can affect your search engine rankings by changing the layout of your website? Many people tend to think only in terms of keywords when discussing SEO (Search Engine Optimization), but in fact, the actual optimization includes much more than just adding a few keywords to your META tags.

In order to understand why this is so, it’s important to understand how search engines work. Most search engines use “spiders” to find web pages. These spiders “crawl” pages, following links from one page to another and finding keywords on different pages. (That is, of course, a simplified version of what actually goes on in the electronic world, but it’s close enough for our purposes.) Having lots of other people link to your pages (having lots of backlinks) is an important part of getting your website to rank high with search engines. But what about the links on your own website, from one page to another?

If you have pages on your website that are hard to access, then you make it more difficult for spiders to crawl your pages. Webpages that can’t be easily accessed may not be indexed at all, and a valuable SEO opportunity is lost.

How can you ensure that your website is laid out to make it as crawlable as possible? Your search engine optimizer can probably do this for you. But if you plan to do it yourself, remember the two main principles of search engine-friendly layout: each page must be easily accessible to spiders, and each page must be navigiationally easy on web surfers.

You should ensure that several different pages link to each page. The more ways there are to get to each page from other pages, the more likely it is that spiders will be able to get to each page.

At the same time, you don’t want to include a link to every page in your website on every page in your website. This makes for cluttered navigation that’s hard on real people. It won’t do you any good to rank #1 in every single search engine if the actual people you’re trying to attract are put off by your cluttered and confusing navigation.

This is where a site map can come in handy. A site map is basically a single page that has a link to every other page in your website. It can be a user-friendly page, with links separated by categories and arranged alphabetically, or it can be nothing more than a list, the links and nothing else. Really, it only depends on how much time you want to spend keeping it updated.

The site map has the advantage of making it possible for spiders to crawl every page. You should include a very small link to the site map at the bottom of every page on your website. Doing this will ensure that the spiders always have somewhere to go.

When possible, try to lay out your website so that pages link directly to related pages. Again, your search engine optimizer can do this for you if you aren’t sure how to best place your links so that they lead spiders naturally and easily through your site. But this is certain: the better your layout and the better your links, the more traffic you’ll get—and the more visitors you’ll keep.

By Keesa Renee DuPre

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