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Optimizing a site’s architecture frequently involves tinkering with variables that also affect usability
and the overall user perception of your site. When we encounter such situations, we alert you to why
these certain choices were made. Chapter 5, “Duplicate Content,” highlights a typical problem with
breadcrumbs and presents some potential solutions. Sometimes we find that SEO enhancements run
counter to usability. Likewise, not all designs that are user friendly are search engine friendly. Either
way, a compromise must be struck to satisfy both kinds of visitors — users and search engines.
SEO Cannot Be an Afterthought
One common misconception is that search engine optimization efforts can be made after a web site is
launched. This is frequently incorrect. Whenever possible, a web site can and should be designed to be
search engine friendly as a fundamental concern.
Unfortunately, when a preexisting web site is designed in a way that poses problems for search engines,
search engine optimization can become a much larger task. If a web site has to be redesigned, or partially
redesigned, the migration process frequently necessitates special technical considerations. For example,
old URLs must be
properly
redirected to new ones with similar relevant content.
The majority of this book documents best practices for design from scratch as well as how to mitigate
redesign problems and concerns. The rest is dedicated to discretionary enhancements.
Communicating Architectural Decisions
The aforementioned scenario regarding URL migration is a perfect example of how the technical team
and marketing team must communicate. The programmer must be instructed to add the proper redirects
to the web application. Otherwise existing search rankings may be hopelessly lost forever. Marketers
must know that such measures must be taken in the first place.
In a world where organic rankings contribute to the bottom line, a one-line redirect command in a web
server configuration file may be much more important than one may think. This particular topic, URL
migration, is discussed in Chapter 4.
Architectural Minutiae Can Make or Break You
So you now understand that small mistakes in implementation can be quite insidious. Another common
example would be the use of JavaScript-based navigation, and failing to provide an HTML-based alter-
native. Spiders would be lost, because they, for the most part, do not interpret JavaScript.
The search engine spider is “the third browser.” Many organizations will painstakingly test the effi-
cacy and usability of a design in Internet Explorer and Firefox with dedicated QA teams.
Unfortunately,
many fall short by neglecting to design and test for the spider.
Perhaps this is because you have to design in
the abstract for the spider; we don’t have a Google spider at our disposal after all; and we can’t inter-
view it afterward with regard to what it thought of our “usability.” However, that does not make its
assessment any less important.
The Spider Simulator tool located at
http://www.seochat.com/seo-tools/spider-simulator/
shows you the contents of a web page from the perspective of a hypothetical search engine. The tool is
very simplistic, but if you’re new to SEO, using it can be an enlightening experience.
5
Chapter 1: You: Programmer and Search Engine Marketer
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