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Improving Findability Through Web Standards

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You put a lot of effort into building a website, but it's time down the drain unless the site ultimately connects with people. In this series, Aarron Walter teaches easy techniques for getting the attention of both search engines and users.
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Whether you’re a professional in the web design industry or an independent, building sites for yourself, everyone publishing on the Web has the same goal in mind: We want the things we plan, design, and build to connect with people. But, in reality, we probably find ourselves diligently working with noses down, paying little attention to how we’ll make those connections.

Findability—the discipline that helps users to find and reconnect with the things they seek—is all about building connections with your audience. Through findability, you can help users to do three things:

  • Discover your website.
  • Find the content they seek inside your website.
  • Rediscover your content later on.

The way that you build your sites greatly influences the findability of your content. If you’ve ever taken a speech class or gotten in a heated discussion, you’ve learned that the way you communicate is just as important as what you’re saying (sometimes even more important). That rule is also true when communicating on the Web. The markup you use to deliver your online messages can affect how well a search engine can index and discern meaning in your content. Markup can even make content portable, so that when your audience discovers it they can move it with a single click to a location where it’ll be easy to find again.

The Connection Between Web Standards and Findability

Following web standards best practices is a big part of building findable content. Web standards and findability complement each other perfectly. Many of the best practices that standards encourage also help to ensure that your content is accessible and meaningful to search engine spiders.

The bridge between standards and findability is broad, with five key connections:

  • Semantic markup is machine-readable and search engine–friendly.
  • Accessibility makes content legible for search engines.
  • Progressive enhancement removes search engine roadblocks (JavaScript, AJAX, Flash).
  • Decreased code can speed up indexing.
  • Microformats make content re-discoverable.
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