Website Design Lesson 3
Website Content and Structure - Basic Good Practices
In this section we look at some basic concepts to consider when thinking about your domain name choice and we hope that you have read Lesson 1 before this section (if you need to!). We will be looking at:
what is website content?
Why you need to think about content being more than just text and images.
getting the right site structure
The importance of having particular pages and areas on your site for more than just design.
The impact of content on ranking
Why does content affect ranking and even whether your site is indexed at all?
Website Content and Structure- the Basics.
So, let’s just get one thing straight here. This lesson is not about writing content – that will come later – but rather it’s about the importance of content with regards to the structure of your site and things you need to consider about content before actually releasing your site to the great WWW. If you have just come straight to this lesson, then I urge you to read the information that comes before this HERE.
Content is the cornerstone of your website. It is the ‘thing’ that holds everything together. Yet in this lesson I am not talking about just the text you have but everything that makes up your site – articles, posts and pages and anything else you are thinking of adding such as images. Try to think about them as building blocks – things you are going to need before your site is up and running fully.
Sure – you can build your website now if you want – think about the WWW +1, buy that domain and hosting and then crack on! But what I am saying is I am sure that you can wait just a little bit longer – even if you build your site then maybe not submit it for indexing (if you know how) before considering some very important things first.
Website Content and Site Structure in more detail
So, when I ask “do you know what a structure of a website should look like?” You’re going to look at me with a bit of disgust and walk away because “obviously” you know…right? Probably wrong. Take a look at this site – what do you see? REALLY what do you see? Think beyond the text and look behind the site if you would. You will see particular pages – the about me, the privacy page at the bottom of the screen and so on. You will see that the Lesson Page is linked in the menu and the lessons structure in a canonical fashion (one after the other in a step formation) to lead you to the lessons page then particular lessons. You see – there is so much more going on than just the text and it’s all there for a reason. Let me explain.
The big search engines have particular algorithms that will determine your ranking within the search engine pages. Now these are highly secret, and no one knows what they are but people can ensure they have good practice standards when creating and maintaining websites. This is something that I will go into much more detail later in the lessons but it is something that is key to you understanding why your website needs to be structure in a particular way.
Google and Bing Good Content Practices
Let’s say for the sake of argument that you visit a bad website that has no information on it and the sole purpose is to get you to enter some information on the ‘landing’ page (the first page you come to) and no more. Do you think the visitor is going to like that? Nope. So do you think that is what Google or Bing want landing on their front pages (or at all)? No. Now, you will get the odd website that makes it to page 1 that is badly structured and poor in design, but they usually don’t last long.
So you can see, in a basic way, that you need particular pages to be at least considered not just in the short term by the major search engines. However, some may argue that this is not the case but I say stay on the side of caution and start your journey in the proper way. Or don’t!
You can even go to Google and Bing and see their polices on content or even ask in the forums for advice – you will make mistakes for sure but there is always some expert to help out!
Search Engine Sandbox – Truth or Myth?
Again, not going into detail here but wanted to bring this up as you may come across this term, for example, Google Sandbox. To some it’s a myth and to others it’s a true representation of what happens to new (and sometimes existing) sites. In essence it refers to your site being in a ‘sandbox’ for a period of time before being allowed in the search engine index or indeed ranking at all. No – I am making you aware of it in case it happens to you, but it could be for many reasons – you need time and patience to get you site ranking! That can be weeks, months and even over a year – depending on what you content is about and that all important structure. For example, if this site has one page that is a few hundred words and no help to anyone then why on earth should it rank at all?
You need to think about your site as a living thing. It needs energy, feeding – fresh content and information that the visitor will find useful! Again – content writing will be discussed in a later lesson but for now just try and add information that is well written, unique (never, ever copy content!) and what you know.
So the Structure of the Site in Terms of Content is Important?
Ah yes – let’s get back to that! Here is what you should have as a minimum when starting your site:
This should tell the world what you are about and look easy to understand as so as the person lands on the page. People will just leave (called bounce) your site straight away, never to return, if the home page or page they land on is poor. Don’t over complicate it but make sure the visitor knows exactly who you are as soon as they get there. Have a decent logo and ensure the visitor can get around your site easily from the Home page (or any other page for that matter!).
About Me/Us Page
This needs to showcase who you are, what your site is offering or what you are wanting to show others. It’s no different to any other ‘about me’ page and there are tons out there on the WWW for you to get some inspiration from but make sure this page is friendly and approachable.
So this is where you will have your real content. For example, my inner pages are the tutorials – the lessons. My other page is the FAQ Page. If you want to rank for these pages then you need to make sure they are unique – only written by you – and make sense to the visitor. As a minimum you should be looking at 600-1000 plus words for each page and I always try and reach nearer to 3000 words. This is where most people fail because they don’t know their subject that well or can’t be bothered to put in the work. Trust me – put in the work from the beginning and you will get those visitors and the rankings at some point. Not straight away but hopefully in the future! That’s why my Lesson 1 – WWW +1 – focuses on the Why Who What and When of web design as everything you want to achieve needs to be in sync – you need to focus and have a plan.
You will notice if you are reading this lesson in the early stages of this site that I have no Blog or Posts link on the menu. This is because I have not written any yet! You see my own plan is to focus first on the lessons – all 12 of them – and then write my blog from that point on. Why? Because my ‘pages’ are my cornerstone of the site. They are linked to my YouTube videos and need to grow at the same time.
Pages to me, and Google/Bing, are extremely important to get the site up and running. But the posts (or Blog) can be really an exciting time to write. You see the pages are focused firmly on the lessons at this point but the posts I write later can be anything I want to write about as long as they are still focused on web design, building and SEO! I really like writing blog posts as they can be about something techie that has happened in the news that day and a real opportunity to share my opinions (or that of others).
That’s how I see the differences between Pages and Posts – others may see them in a different way and once you are ready to build your site and have more experience then you will also have your own take on them!
Privacy Policies and Other Policies and Terms and Conditions
This is very important. You need to have policies on your site and especially so if you are collecting information. These are legally required to inform people of your intent – even when collecting humble email addresses although may also differ from country to country too depending on your regions laws.
The good news is there are apps and examples of such polices to help you with these – again something that will be discussed in later lessons but please do be aware of these from the start!
Before such a lesson is written, if you are going to be using WordPress then you can search the plugins section for help with these (there are plenty of free ones!). You will notice mine are always available in the footer (bottom of the page) so that they are visible to any search engines to make sure I am complying with those good practices I mentioned earlier.
Are Images Content?
Sure! Anything you put on your site, from images to videos, is content. You need to add images to make your site and content more interesting but not too many as they can also slow down your site too. Again, in later lessons we will be looking at SEO and the importance of making sure you images are correctly labelled.
This is especially important if you are a business as people need to be able to get in contact! Again, I don’t have one yet (as of 26/04/2020) but will be adding one soon for you to look at. If you’re a business with premises that are public then the contact page is where you need to have your business details of course. Be careful to ensure your privacy is maintained though and you are not sharing information you don’t want others to know! Consider the use of a Captcha when adding you ‘email me’ contact box otherwise your inbox will be filled with spam! Again – I will be going into this in more detail but try to think about that at this early stage – what do you want your contact page to look like?
There are lots of pages you can add depending on your website focus. Such as a FAQ page like mine, a services page, a products page and so on. You can build those when you have got the basics as mentioned above and you will be doing so as your business grows.
So you need to ensure that you have your business address on all pages – usually in the footer – which we will look at in a later lesson regarding SEO. It’s very important that this address matches all your other addresses in the same format – such as using the correct postal/zip code and street names – the search engines like consultancy!
So, Content Structure is VERY Important?
Oh yes. Not just to make your site look ‘nice but for your visitors to engage and for the big search engines to take notice of you!
You can see why I wanted to share this information with you in Lesson 3. We have not even got to the start of building a website yet but you can see that knowing and understanding, your content structure is very important and there is so much more to it too but this is a minimum requirement if you want to start on the good foot. Again – if you have not started you site or even if you have, think about what you want your site to look like but make sure you have the basic pages that are expected of you in the first place.
Don’t set yourself up to fail – set yourself up to succeed.
Be Fab – Be You – Be Creative