Video 25: Seeing Your Website The Way a Search Engine Does
Hi, it’s Aaron Kassover from AgentMethods. Now, I’ve often mentioned that search engines don’t see websites the way we do and that effectively you can think of a search engine as being blind. They don’t see color. They don’t see pictures. They don’t see sort of spatial relationships in webpage. Instead, they have to look at the text, the content or how the content is organized in web page to make sense of it to decide how they’re going to rank that page compared to others in the web.
I want to show you a very simple trick today to sort of mimic the way search engines look at your website and to use this information to sort of making decision about your content and your organization to make sure your site is structured properly. Let’s first take a look at my website. You can see here the design, which you’re probably getting familiar with because I keep using it as an example, but the pictures, the layout. Now, what I’m going to do is I’m using Firefox right now. In Firefox, if you go to the View menu under Page Style, you’ll see there’s an option to go Basic Page Style or No Page Style. What this does is it turns off the CSS file or the cascading style sheet. It essentially turns off the styles of the page. When I turn this off, we now just see the plain text as it’s structured in my HTML document.
You can see the name of the site, tag line, the navigation, and if we click through, you’ll find that on the page, now we have all the different sub choices, and then just really all of the content. You can see it’s fairly well-organized. You can see the breadcrumb navigation, the header is bold and enlarged, and each section’s header is bolded. Links are clear defined. Images that appear, appear in the bottom. It’s just sort of a really – while it doesn’t have the same design, it is a very clean and simple page still. So we can click through and look at some other pages. If you are a search engine looking at this, you have a good sense of even though you can’t see structurally how this page is organized, you can still see just from the content what’s the header, what’s a section header, what’s a link, what’s important, and what’s not because it’s all organized in a very straight-forward fashion.
*Now let’s look at a different site and my apologies to the site owners. This is a site that, at first glance, it looks great. It’s got a lot of things moving, a lot of flash. We click through and there are some really nice looking quote forms that appear here. But let’s just go and do the same test. We’re going to turn off the styles, and so we lose the style and this is what we have got. There’s no content on the pages. If we click through, you’re going to see just the navigation. There’s no text here. There’s nothing for search engine to index the pages and you can change, except for this embedded frame that has the quote form, and that goes through all the pages of the site. There is really nothing to index here. Even if the site looks great with the styles turned on, once you turn the styles off, you lose all the content, you lose all of the sort of structure, and so search engines don’t really have much to go off of. *
*And here’s the third site. Also it looks really good, but when I go and do the same test – we’ll turn off styles – you’ll see that we lose that sense of hierarchy. We really can’t tell what’s where, and so as we click through the site, pieces of the pages are just sort of stuck in different places. There isn’t a clear sense of what’s navigation and what’s a header, what’s content, unless you use that sort of spatial or visual representation. *
So from a search engine’s standpoint, they really can’t tell hierarchically what the content of this page is and so it doesn’t give them good clues on how to index a page. I recommend just taking a few minutes going into your site. If you are using Firefox, you go to View, pick Page Styles, then select No Page Styles to turn off styles. If you’re using Internet Explorer or if you’re using Chrome or Safari, there are plug-ins that allow you to do this, as well. Just see how your site looks without the styles turned on to get a sense of what the search engines are seeing when they’re indexing your site.
That’s what I have for today. I’ll have more tomorrow. Thank you.