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An Intro to SEO - Chapter 4 - The Problem with web design tools

If at first you don't succeed - blame somebody else

Like all craftsmen, web designers need tools to create their pages, these come in two main types, HTML code editors and WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) in each case the ultimate goal is to create an HTML file for you to upload to your server. As we will see, not all HTML files are created equally.

With HTML editors, you create your page by typing in the HTML code directly. This requires good knowledge of HTML and a fair bit of patience. The advantage here is that you have some control as to how the page is coded, how the search engine robots see it and the pages will be relatively fast to load.

WYSIWYG editors allow you to precisely layout your page by dragging and dropping text and pictures onto your page and the editor creates the HTML code to achieve that layout. These by their nature are easy to use and don't require any technical skill but there is a price to pay, the HTML code they create is far from ideal. In some extreme cases the HTML is so badly formed it would be ignored by most search engine robots and would be very slow to load.

And there some WYSIWYG editors that commit the most evil sin off all, they render all text as images. Not only does this make the HTML code many times bigger and slower than necessary it also means that the text is virtually invisible to any robot trying to analyse the page.

If that wasn't bad enough, some use meaningless sequentially numbered file names for pages, folders and images leaving the search engine robots with even less to get their teeth into. If you are using a WYSIWYG editor, you have a few choices :-

  1. Don't ! get a normal HTML editor or even a standard text editor and learn a bit of HTML. We use GEdit or KATE (on Linux or BSD) or NotePad (on Windows) to hand-code most our pages.

  2. Get lots of other sites to link to yours.

  3. Get a decent WYSIWYG editor. We never use these, but DreamWeaver seems to be the best from what we have heard so far.

  4. Force your site higher up the list buy paying. Many search engines will allow you to do this and there are quite a few Pay-per-click services around too like Google's AdWords.

  5. Accept the fact that even though your site looks nice, few people will get to see it.

Consider this small piece of HTML from one of our sites. The first thing to notice is the order of the first few tags - DocType, Title, Description and Keywords.

  <!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 3.2 Final //EN">
  <TITLE>Katie sings the blues - Home page</TITLE>
  <META NAME="description" CONTENT="Female vocalist, Katie Bradley sings the blues">
  <META NAME="keywords" CONTENT="katie, kate, bradley, music, sings, singing, blues, folk">
  <META HTTP-EQUIV="robots" CONTENT="index,follow">
  <META HTTP-EQUIV="revisit-after" CONTENT="14 days">
  </HEAD><BODY BGCOLOR="#000000" TEXT="#66AAFF" LINK="#0000FF" VLINK="#0000FF">
  <FONT SIZE="5"><B>Katie Sings the Blues</B></FONT>
  <!-- Snip -->

Most robots would expect to find the meta tags in that order. A few robots might even ignore the entire page or even your entire site if the meta tags are not coded properly. Also notice the <META HTTP-EQUIV...> tags, these give you some control over the robots activity when they visit your site. You can do much the same thing with the robots.txt file.

Intro | Chapter 3 | Chapter 5

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