Search engines like Bing or Google utilize algorithms that analyze websites for a myriad of characteristics to determine rankings for a given search term. The substance of your content has massive sway on how visible a link to your web pages will be within search engine results. The algorithms for Google and other search engines take into account the freshness of content, content relevance, number of backlinks to a page, as well as the reputability of the sites that link to your page, among other things. These factors are all vital ingredients in a proper SEO strategy, and have long been the primary focus of SEO consultants and firms. However, the content and backlinks for your website are not the only thing that matters. The design and layout of your web pages matters, too.
We will start this discussion by considering how what appears on the initial portion of a web page effects search engine result rankings for that page. Next, we will consider how the various page elements can factor or not factor into rankings. Finally, we will talk about the importance of effecting users’ duration of visit on your website.
Just last year, Google came out with a new algorithm change that factored in accessibility of content on a web page. They cited complaints by Internet browser users who did not like having to scroll down a page a ways before they could read or access content. Keeping things “above the fold,” as the initial scope of the web page that is visible is called, can now help your site to rank better in Google results pages. So, it has become important to look at how your design layout will appear. You may want to consider that the “fold” can cut off at different points on different devices. Certainly it will appear differently on a small mobile device than it would on a full-size desktop computer. It can help to push advertising to the side and bottom margins, or to work content around advertising or images. Try to get your most important information, including what you sell or could do for customers, above the fold. As long as you don’t bombard the portion of your page that appears above the fold with excessive advertisements, you ought to not be too worried about this algorithm parameter.
To one degree or another, the search engines for Yahoo!, Bing, and Google all involve analysis of page elements. They are able to focus on unique elements more than sidebars, footers, or headers that may be common across an entire domain or type of site. This makes looking to what you include in unique page elements (typically the body of text that is normally at the center of a page) more important. In other words, your pages will be most highly optimized as you include your most important keywords and phrases in the portions that search engines most focus on. As you consider the layout of your page, it may be wise to look in-depth at how algorithms parse various typical web page segments.
The page relevance for keywords that bring visitors to your website is an important facet of search engine algorithms. Page relevance can be influenced by the length of time that a visitor stays on a website. So, you ought to analyze what you include in your content and the layout of your page to encourage lengthier visits. Consider unique content in plentiful supply, internal links that discourage seeking information from anywhere outside your site, and other ways you might keep visitors’ attention.
While we talk so much in the search engine optimization industry about content, layout can be an important factor for companies with a website to consider, too.