Making Your Website Search Engine Friendly
by Ryan Allis
First, let me mention that some of these may be a bit complex for less experienced website developers. If you do not understand a section, do not worry, just move on. The crucial aspects you must know are to not use frames, to not keyword spam, and to have text links on every one of your pages.
Well, here is what you should avoid.
1. Do not use image maps without accompanying text links
Image maps are simply images or graphics in which different parts of the image is linked to a different page. Often many horizontal or vertical navigation bars are simply images (buttons) that take you to another section of your site when clicked. There is nothing wrong with having images that are also links. However, if you do, you must make sure you also have text links on each of your pages (especially your home page) to each of the sections on your site.
You see, as I explained above, search engines collect their data through spiders. When a spider comes to your website it first loads your robots.txt file if you have one. The robots.txt file can be used to tell a spider which, if any, sections and/or pages on your website it should stay away from. Once the spider finished with your robots.txt file, it will most likely move onto your home page. From there it will traverse your website and index all of the pages it finds (with a maximum of a few dozen, usually). The problem is, however, that the spider cannot "see" images, only text. It can only move to another page if there is a text link to another page. Therefore, if all your links are within images, it will not know the rest of your website exists and simply move on to the next site in its endless list.
As you can see, it is crucial to have text links to each main section of your website on every one of your pages.
2. Do not use drop down menus without accompanying text links
On the same topic, spiders are also unable to follow the links are in 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 text links somewhere else on your pages.
3. Do not use frames
A cardinal sin in the world of search engines in using frames. Frames became popular a few years ago because they enable website developers to easily change content displayed on a site across all of the pages by changing only one document. Since then, however, website development programs such as Dreamweaver have provided the ability to use templates coding such as server side includes and global variables have enabled more developers to change uniform features (such as design, navigation bars, or text footers) by only changing one document.
However, some website owners have persisted in using frames. This will be detrimental to their search engine efforts. You see, frames start with a frameset. The frameset is simply code that tells the browser which two, or more, HTML files to display in the browser. The problem comes from the fact that the search engines are able to read the code in the frameset, but are unable to follow the code to the actual frames (the HTML files). This causes the frameset pages to receive very poor rankings.
If you must use frames, be sure to put optimized pages within the <noframes> tag on each frameset page. However, managing this will be very time consuming if you have more than a few pages. My best advice to you is to simply not use frames.
4. Do not use dynamic content on pages you want to be indexed
Dynamic content, or pages that are generated on the fly from data in a database, can cause significant problems for the search engines spiders, and in turn, cause your site to be penalized and your dynamic content to not be indexed at all.
Dynamic content is generally only used by larger sites or experienced developed. So if you have no clue what dynamic content is or how to use databases on your website you should have no cause for concern. Dynamic content can usually be spotted by looking for the ? or & symbol in a page name or a .pl, .cgi, .php, or .asp page ending.
There is no inherent problem in using dynamic content. What you must avoid is using dynamic content on pages you wish to optimize for the search engines. Also, if you are using dynamic content be sure you create a robots.txt file on your server in which you tell spiders to refrain from indexing this area of your site.
The reason search engines have problem with dynamic content is rather quite simple. Again, they are simply mindless spiders that follow text links. Since dynamic pages really are not "there", but rather created on the fly depending on what parameters are placed in the address a spider could potentially become trapped in a large database driven page. It would have to index the entire database and would be stuck in a loop until it did so, potentially crashing the site it was on. For this reason, most search engines have disabled the ability to index dynamic content. Google is the only engine that will index dynamic content; although it will only index the few pages before it force stops the loop and moves on.
The reason I mention this information on dynamic content is that there are quite a few very technically adept people out there who are able to create wonderful database driven websites but do not learn about the marketing side until later. If you are one of these persons, simply make static copies of the dynamic pages that you will be optimizing and be sure to restrict the spiders through your robots.txt file.
6. Do not put optimized content deeper than three levels
Search engines typically only index the top three levels of any site. A level is simply a directory. For example if the address of a page is http://www.gardentips.com/garden/tips/growing/roses/info.html it will most likely not be indexed by the search engines as it was buried five levels deep. If you wanted the page to be indexed it would need to be located at something like http://www.gardentips.com/roses/info.html. Try to keep your navigation structure as flat as possible when creating your optimized pages.
7. Do not keyword spam
Keyword spamming, or spamdexing, was once a commonly known 'trick' to increase keyword frequency and relevancy and in turn obtain a better search engine ranking on targeted keywords. Search engines caught on to this rather quickly, however, and now may penalize or even ban a site that attempts to keyword spam.
The strategy is simply repeating keywords over and over at the top, bottom, or margins of a page usually in very small (font size=1 or headline <H6>) type. Often this text would be made to be the same color as the background so that the visitor would not see it at all.
An example of keyword spamming could look like this:
<font size="1" color="ffffff">garden tips gardening landscaping garden tips gardening landscaping garden tips gardening landscaping garden tips gardening landscaping garden tips gardening landscaping garden tips gardening landscaping garden tips gardening landscaping garden tips gardening landscaping</font>
The hexadecimal code FFFFFF will make this text white. Assuming the background of the page is white, the text will not be visible to the reader.
This strategy simply does not work any longer and as mentioned may get your site banned from the search engines. Do not do it.
It is however, surely good to have high keyword prominence and frequency. So instead of doing the above, you could try inserting a keyword-rich paragraph near the top of your page such as this:
Come learn about landscaping and gardening in our garden tips section. If you have ever wanted to have great landscaping in your yard or a wonderful garden you'll not want to miss these garden tips.
These two sentences have all your targeted keywords multiple times without the risk of being penalized. Further, you have use one of your targeted keyword phrases in a link, further increasing your prominence and relevancy.
As a review, here are the seven things to avoid doing in order to make your site and pages search engine friendly:
Do not use image maps without accompanying text links
Ryan P. Allis is the author of Zero To One Million, a guide to building a company to $1 million in sales. He is the founder of zeromillion.com. Ryan is also the CEO of Broadwick Corp., a provider of the permission-based e-mail marketing software and CEO of Virante, Inc., a web marketing and search engine optimization firm. Ryan is an economics major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he is a Blanchard Scholar.
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