Designing your website to be search engine friendly - part 4

 by Martin Belam, 22 February 2006

Providing context on every page

The third design approach I want to outline is to always provide your users with context on whatever page they are on. The reasoning behind the importance of this? Search Engines don't always take users to the front door.

A well optimised site will have deep content pages that rank well for their specific content - however a visitor landing in the middle of a site via a search engine without context may not have an optimum user experience. This is particularly important for multi-page articles, like this one.

An example of one way to accomplish this can be found on the BBC's site. Each article on the BBC History site has a prominent design feature, which places the user in the context of the article. They all carry the title and author, but there is a box-out area with sub-headings for the section and navigation to individual pages.

The BBC History site with contextual article box-outs

A similar effect is achieved on currybetdotnet articles by having forward, back and front page navigation at the top and tail of each page of an article, along with two contextual aids at the foot of each page. During articles a box-out at the bottom of the pages encourages users to click-through to the next page by explaining what they will find next, and below this an additional box-out section explains that this is an article by Martin Belam, and offers further navigational choices around the currybetdotnet site.

When we talk about giving the visitor who has parachuted into the site via search some context we also need to consider branding and global navigation. For example every page on carries the BBC global navigation toolbar, which carries links through to prominent BBC services like TV and Radio, as well as being an access point for the site wide A-Z Index, and providing a consistent place to access the site's search facility. This acts as one of the 'glue' elements that conveys to the user that is one website, and that it is the website of the BBC.

Every BBC page additionally carries links to the site's Terms & Conditions, privacy policy, copyright information, BBC logo and links to contact the BBC. The overall aim, which has developed during the lifetime of the BBC's online services, is that nobody should arrive at any page on with a doubt that they have reached the BBC's website. Beyond that every page is provided with links to meet legal obligations, and the tools to provide a navigational route back to the major portals of the site.

Whilst techniques like this will not improve the search ranking of your site on their own, they are useful in retaining user interest in the site once visitors have arrived via search, an important factor in driving repeat visits and increased reach.

Continue to find out about the impact of frames on search engine friendliness, and to find out why every page on your site should be considered a landing page.

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