April 7th, 2009

Improve usability & SEO for your website

by sage island

Usability is one of the most important (and often overlooked) elements of search engine optimization. If your website is designed for the end user, you’ll reap the benefits in your search engine rankings and your customers will be more likely to interact with your website in the way that you desire.

Keep these usability best practices in mind as you design your website to ensure a good user experience and better search engine results:


  • Include a clear navigation bar that links to every page on your website and appears consistently on each page.
  • Link to pages on your website internally throughout the copy using relevant, keyword-rich anchor text.
  • Use breadcrumbs to show users where they are and where they came from.


  • File sizes for your pages should ideally be smaller than 200KB to optimize loading time and search engine crawling.
  • Place copy in the first 100KB to ensure that your keyword-rich content is being crawled and indexed.
  • Keep pages as close to the root as possible. Users and search engines should be able to reach each page on your site from the homepage in two clicks or less.
  • Utilize permanent 301 redirects for known deleted pages to land users on a similar page and maintain links.
  • Use a custom 404 page to redirect users and search engines that have reached a page that no longer exists on your site back to the most useful content on your site.


  • Don’t use fancy fonts for your body copy. Simple fonts, preferably sans serif, are easiest on the eyes and most likely to display properly on all browsers.
  • Write clear, concise content for each page. Web users get overwhelmed with huge blocks of text, so limit the amount of text on each page.
  • Break up large blocks of text into bite-sized pieces with headers.


  • Keep your on-page code as clean as possible by moving JavaScript and style sheets into external files.
  • Use animation and Flash sparingly. Too much animation can be distracting for users, and while search engines are getting better at indexing Flash, it’s not perfect yet.


  • Focus on one page at a time in your optimization, and optimize it for no more than three highly relevant keywords. This will tell users and search engines what the page is about quickly and easily.

Finally, be sure to test run usability tests with several user types likely to visit your site to catch problems that normal users may encounter. Be sure to run tests on all of the major browsers (Internet Explorer 7 & 8, Firefox, and Safari). What works on one browser may not work on another.