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14 Dec

What’s the best website layout for search engine optimisation (SEO)


In this article I’ll look at the best layout and design elements for SEO. The most important factor in designing a webpage layout is usability. Remember if the user experience isn’t right, your site won’t convert and it will probably have a high bounce rate, this in turn will negatively affect your search engine rankings.

As you’re reading this blog you probably have a bit of understanding about HTML/CSS and how to carry out the keyword research necessary to target competitive and transactional keywords.

Remember that Google states that about 80% of all searches are made using long tail phrase that is, searches outside primary or single word keywords.

For the purpose of this article I’m going to focus on one of the most competitive SEO sectors: Debt Management. Where the keywords are as followings:

  • Primary Keyword: Debt Management
  • Secondary Keyword: Debt Management Services
  • Tertiary Keyword: Bankruptcy Debt Management Services

What are the most important onsite elements of SEO?

  • Page Slug (page URL)
  • Page Title
  • H1 Tag

The importance of the page URL should not be underestimated. The page itself should have your primary keyword, secondary and tertiary keywords are then found in either the pages parent or children. notice that the page slug is the primary keyword Debt Management, but also that it appears under the section Debt Services, this allows for better user experience because the user can move between Debt Services and benefits SEO as it combines more keywords in an information silo.

Creating the Best <head> for SEO

Title Tag

Your title tag should have your primary keyword as close to the start of the title as possible, this is the first thing the search engine sees, importantly this acts as an advertising function for your site in the search engines as it’s displayed as the link on most search engine listings, you should therefore have a look at what other people are doing and try to make the copy as appealing as possible. Although you need to get your keyword in there don’t neglect your brand, the more searches your website appears in the more people will start to recognize your brand, this is equally important for SEO. Your page title should be no more than 80 characters long as this is the approximate cut off for most search engines.

In the case of our Debt Management Page the title tag may look like this:

Debt Management Services | Call The Best Debt Men we’ve helped 1000’s

We get our primary and secondary keywords in there as well as the brand and whilst doing that the title also includes an informative call to action to try and improve the Click Through Rate in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page).

Description Tag

The description tag is perhaps the most important chance you get to sell the web page you’re working on. Most search engines use the description tag for the snippet in the results (the snippet is the bit of copy that appears under the link on Google).

You’ve got to get your keywords in there as well, as they will be highlighted in bold, but getting the message right will ultimately improve the way your site is used and the conversions you get. Your description should be around 150 – 160 characters long as this will form the basis of the snippet displayed in the search engines, anything longer will be cut off.

Our Debt Management website want people to fill complete a “Debt Test” so they can capture some of their visitors information. The Description Tag may look like this:

Complete the Debt Test; find out the best debt management services solution for your debt problem. Contact the Debt management Services experts now!

How to set out website layouts for SEO

It’s important that the navigation and the breadcrumb sit below the main page content in the XHTML code whilst visually appearing above, this is achieved using CSS and absolute positing – this lets the search engine know that the H1 tag and the body content is the most important aspect of your site, remember a search engine can only read text so make sure you make it as easy for the search engines spiders as possible.

How to use heading and highlighting tags

As discussed above no matter where the H1 tag appears visually it should be positioned as high up the page as possible in the XHTML so search engines recognize this as being one of the most important factors of the webpage.

The H1 tag should be used to target the primary keyword, the H1 is very potent when determining how relevant the page is to the carried out search. The H2 tags will be used to target secondary and tertiary key phrases.

It’s also worth using the bold <strong> tag (don’t use <b>) – search engines like it when elements of the text are highlighted – if you think it’s important enough to highlight then it must be worth dealing weighting.

Remember above all to keep usability in mind when you are optimizing your website in this way. If you think you are doing something that only benefits the search engines then don’t do it, ultimately the search engines will change their algorithm and punish you.

Is Content still King?

Yes, Yes, Yes. More so than ever. With Bing and the new Google algorithms coming into effect we see a return to the weight being placed on content, you’re site has to genuinely do what it’s supposed and say all the right things, it’s got to be well written, with the user in mind. Bullet points and headings are great, anything you can think of that allows your user to quickly work out what your page is all about without having to trawl through masses of text.

The optimum page size is 500-3000 words (or 2000 to 20,000 characters) – generally speaking the more words you have on the page the more likely you are to get those occasional accidental matches that make up so much of the long tail key phrase searches.

Keyword Density

You need to make sure you’re getting your keywords in there as well, you should aim for about 1 keyword in every 20 words (5%) – although whatever you do, don’t sacrifice your sales pitch for the sake of lacing the content with keywords. If your keyword density starts to get to around 8% search engines may activate their spam filters for the page in question.

What’s the best way to name images for SEO?

When adding images to your website think of how you can get your primary keywords into the following areas:

  • Image name
  • Alt tag
  • Title attribute

If we were looking at the html for our debt management page it might look something like this:

<img scr=”images/debt-management.jpg” alt=Debt Management” title=”Debt Management” width=”300px” height=”120px” />

That goes for the logo as well, it’s on every page, so make sure you’ve named as effectively as possible.

Wherever possible an image should be linked through to a relevant section or event to a section of the text on that page using a named anchor link.

What’s the best way to set up navigation for SEO?

The most important links on your website are the navigation links, that because they are site-wide and therefore appear on every page. This allows the link juice to flow from one page to the next – it tells the search engine that these are the most important pages to you and your visitor.

It’s essential that the page slugs used in your navigation use the relevant keywords, I’d also suggest using keywords in your title attributes for all links, especially in the navigation, this aids user experience and accessibility, it also gives you another place to put the keywords on the page.

For example our debt management navigation might look like this;

<ul id=”mainnav”>
<li><a href”/index” title=”The Best Debt Men”>Home</a>
<li><a href”/debt-services” title=”Debt Management Services”>Debt Services</a>
<li><a href”/contact-us” title=”Contact The Best Debt Men”>Contact us</a>

Why use a breadcrumb for SEO?

Most people know that a breadcrumb improves usability, especially when we’re talking about an ecommerce website design and build. It also provides a really good way to cross link sections and create virtual silos passing link juice between pages that are ranked highly.

Why use a footer for SEO?

A footer is useful because most users will lose the top site-wide navigation by the time they’ve scrolled to the bottom of the page. It allows you to get links into pages that are important to the site that aren’t as essential for the user experience, such as privacy policy, T&Cs, sitemap page etc.

Quick links appear to be a great feature for usability, they put fewer clicks in the way of visitor to find pages that don’t sit in the top level navigation, but which visitors often visit and find useful, however by selecting the right pages you can build up a greater internal link density for those pages.

How to create an effective linking structure

As well as using a breadcrumb trail and site-wide navigation elements such as the top level navigation and the footer navigation, it’s also important to select keywords and phrases from the body text and link them to the relevant page. Be sure to use pages that are ranked highly using keywords and phrases that are relevant to the content of both sections and which you’d like to be ranked for.

SEO and Usability

Designing, building and optimizing your website has 2 main aims:

  • Driving traffic to your website
  • Converting visitors into an action

Getting the site right at the start is crucial to driving more people to your site, by optimizing your site you add not only to the SEO impact, but also to the usability of site, this is ultimately why a search engine would rank you highly.

It’s not the end of the story though. You can do everything right onsite and still not get to the top of the rankings, the next job is link flow sculpting, off site optimization, link buying, writing some great new pages of content and much more. However, that being said this will give you a good start to building a website that will perform well in the search engines.

11 Responses to “What’s the best website layout for search engine optimisation (SEO)”

  1. Steve Adey

    Your comments are great but what about those who use on-line website hosting systems and are not html literate?

  2. Simon

    There is only so much you can do with an off the shelf package – bespoke is always the way to go in my opinion, that way you can get exactly what you need and you can change it whenever you want to without relying on the system you buy.

    Let me know if you need any more information – I’d be happy to get one of our guys to have a look at the site for you.

  3. Paul

    Agree about the navigation links but is there an optimum level as i am sure in the past i have hit google filters by over doing the amount of navigation links on one particular site?

  4. Simon

    Hi Paul,

    I think Google suggest no more than about 100 links on a page – although I think that’s probably a far too many – I also think it’s better to keep the majority of your links in the footer, I have a feeling that Google expects to see a load of links in the footer for usability and doesn’t punish the other on page links because of them.

  5. Matt Raynes

    Fantastic advice, and with the use of IBP I came across this site as a potential link exchange partner. I have just completed a website for a debt management company, I’m now doing all I can to push it to the top of google. Advice like yours is invaluable for people taking SEO seriously. And for those who pretend to know it inside out take note of the above advice as subbing out work to foreign fields want be washing with google for much longer as link farms and irrelevant links are losing credibility. Keep up the good work true SEO pros.

  6. Sue

    Got a question on the url that you might be able to add some insight into. If the site url is for example would you then call a secondary page or

    Reason i ask is that tried it both ways and still not sure what is the most successful!

    Kind Regards

  7. Simon

    I’d probably go for the second option as you already know that everything on the site should be about reviews – it’s good to get the keywords in there but don’t overdo it.

  8. Eric H


    You’ve nailed it bang on. And especially with the new Google Panda Update (which I’m sure you’re aware of), content is even more important. I heard Google is wanting to see longer articles (1000 words and above). Looks like the standard 500 word article is out of the picture.


  9. Peter

    The navigation structure is vital and as you have confirmed can make a big difference to both page rank and search position as well of course as usability. As a recent experiment i trialled reducing navigation links on home page by 80% replacing them with a sitemap at the top. Result a severe drop off in search positions for many keywords. Will now be re-adding navigation links for key pages in the main menu.

  10. Vincent

    Simple but very good post! Onsite optimization is the first step to a good SEO campain.

  11. john marks

    A good SEO depends on the subject of the website! There is no “general rule” in reality.

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