Designing your website to be search engine friendly - part 4
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.
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 bbc.co.uk 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 bbc.co.uk is one website, and that it is the website of the BBC.
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.