a Search Engine Friendly Website - by Jim Gilbert
(written for a NetSuccess Publication)
Among the many reasons for having a website should be the objective of making sure potential customers can find
your site when using the search engines and searching for the types of services or products your company offers.
Having and stating this objective is easy and admirable, but do you really understand what it takes to achieve
There are numerous requirements to meeting this objective. Many are technical, require hard and tedious work,
and are too complicated to cover in one article. But, one of the requirements can be covered fairly easily --
and it is probably the "most important" of the bunch!
Make your site search engine friendly! If it's not, all other optimization techniques are useless!
There are generally two extremes of site friendliness:
1) The most search engine friendly sites are generally the "ugliest" sites to view, but few would find this type
of site acceptable by today's standards.
2) The least friendly sites are usually the visually appealing and graphic sites built with the latest in tools
So how does one build a search engine friendly site and still get a visually appealing site utilizing the latest
in technology? Simple... It's a matter of avoiding known problem areas of search engines as you construct a site that looks and
functions as it should. With that in mind, remember the following during your site design and build process.
1. Do not use drop down menus without accompanying text links (in other words, if you use dropdown, dynamic looking menus they must be done with CSS and standard list links so they are fully CRAWLABLE by the search engines)
(programs that find and scan pages on the internet) are unable to follow the links in these drop down menus. If
you use a drop down menu so the user can select which section of your site to go to next, be sure to also use
standard text links somewhere else on your pages or use one of the newer CSS/list based link methods -- It comes down to this: The links must be FULLY CRAWLABLE by the search engines or it's not search engine friendly.
2. Avoid using image maps without accompanying text links
Image maps are simply graphics in which different parts of the graphic are linked to different pages. Using
images as links is fine. However, if you do so, you may also need to have text links on your pages to each of the
sections on your site. This is especially true on home pages.
3. Add a simple text link site map if you must use drop down menus or image maps
It is still best to avoid drop down menus systems and image maps. But if you find that you must use them, add a
simple text link based site map. Because of their simplicity, the search engine spiders crawl and effectively
index all pages listed in a site map.
4. Do not use frames in your site
Frames became popular a few years back because they enable web site developers to easily change content on web
sites. Since then, however, website development software has improved and frames are no longer necessary. Frames
are set up with standard HTML tags (the <frameset> set), but the search engine spiders are unable to follow the
frameset code to the actual pages that are displayed.
5. Do not use dynamic content unnecessarily on pages you want to be indexed
Dynamic content (pages generated on the fly from data in a database) can cause significant problems for the
search engines spiders and decrease the chance that the search engines find, index and rank all your site's
pages. In many cases (such as in shopping carts) dynamic content is useful, but use it only when necessary.
The search engines have improved in their ability to spider dynamic content. For example
this dynamic link
could not be spidered by the engines until late 2004. Today dynamic links are less of a problem, but the engines may still encounter problems with links such as
header area, make sure it follows the important header information such as the Title, Meta Description and Meta
7. Do not put your important pages too "deep" in your site.
By important pages we mean pages that you plan to optimize to achieve rankings for particular keyword phrases.
Search engines effectively index and properly credit the top three levels of any site. A level is simply a
directory. For example this address of the page information.html is five (5) levels
deep: www.mydomain.com/doctors/texas/houston/east/information.html. This is
two (2) levels too deep.
8. Every page you expect to be indexed MUST have enough text (not image based text) on it to keep the search engines happy. At a minimum, let's say 100-200 words.
9. Avoid re-directs and re-writes. Use them ONLY when necessary.
This is especially true when rebuilding websites. Actually you NEVER want to rename pages -- I mean URLs period. The perfect world is that you can rebuild and have none of your old pages renamed. However, if renaming cannot be avoided use proper 301 re-directs on a page to page level.
10. Do not try to fool the search engines with unethical tactics - they consider this very unfriendly
A few years back you could use any variety of unethical techniques to influence the search
engines ranking of your site - THOSE DAYS ARE GONE! The search engines have become much more sophisticated and technically able to
detect these tactics and if they find this type of "spamming" on a site, they are
likely to penalize rankings and capable of banning the site
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