Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Optimisation according to Google, plus legal compliance

In addition to complying with laws, directives and official standards (Companies Act, Disability Discrimination / Equality Act, EU Cookie* and Marketing / Advertising Standards) website designers should give consideration to guidelines from the leading search engine, Google.

Ultimately, the responsibility is with website owners to ensure compliance with laws and understand the basics of SEO. Search Engine Optimisation is a wide-ranging term that is generally accepted to mean optimised code and content plus link-building to raise awareness and popularity of your website.

Google is not so much King as benevolent dictator. Like it or loathe it, complying with Google's Webmaster Guidelines is the best way for sustainable results in the longer term. Some explanations relating to the design, content and technical sections this link are below:
  • 'sitemap' does not refer to a site map page within the website but a file 'sitemap.xml' that is created and stored on the server, with details of your website pages for search engines to follow; 
  • in addition to a navigation menu, important pages should have a text link from within the content; 
  • every image should have a descriptive 'alt' tag and <title> in the code - you can see these when you hover over images - which are useful for search engines and comply with the DDA/Equality Act; 
  • 'dynamic' pages are often found on database-driven sites, such as shopping sites, or websites with presentation scripts. (Ironically, Google's Webmaster Guidelines page uses a url that it warns against!) 
  • unless your website is abundant with features such as Flash animations and scripts, using a Lynx browser is not common practice. However, websites should be tested in all popular browsers: Internet Explorer (IE9 & IE8 but IE7 use is declining), Firefox, Google Chrome and Safari - gaining ground as iPad use increases. Testing websites for compatibility on iPhones and Android mobile browsers covers most of the cellphone users;  
  • 'robots.txt' may not be necessary for all websites, especially if yours is a static html website with no surprises, but a search engine expects to see it so it can be included as a default; 
  • content management systems (CMS) such as Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal and countless proprietary offerings are designed to make it easier for non-technical users to update their own content. (This is a whole other topic!) - Make sure that your designer uses 'friendly urls'; 
  • site performance speed improvement tips: resize/re-render/optimise images (in other words, make them smaller) and, if possible, load main content before animations and scripts. 
*please visit ico.org.uk and search for latest info, as their page links keep changing - thanks to Anna Gryshko for pointing this out.

Meanwhile, if you'd like a well designed website or optimisation for your current website ...
(holding page for new website) Approved by Browsers

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