Search Engine Optimization Demystified - Part 3
Search Engine Optimization Demystified
Part 3 - Road Blocks to Search Engines
In the first part of this series Search
Engine Optimization Demystified - Part One, we examined the
players in the search engine optimization game. Understanding the
industry helps us to see through the hype and separate the actual
workings of the search engines from the mythology popularized by those
looking to make a quick buck off of SEO services.
In the second part of the series Search
Engine Optimization Demystified - Part Two, we looked at how
the search engines see your web site. We went through ranking, indexing
and the rules to follow to get the best results for excellent natural
search engine results.
In this, the third article in this series I will
explain how search engines can be prevented from ever getting to your
site and how they can be restricted from parts of your web site through
bad web development practices. This results in poor search engine
ranking and low natural search traffic levels.
There are ways that the informed webmaster can intentionally instruct
search engine robots not to index a web site. There are some good
reasons to do this. For example, we have a client who only serves the
government on construction projects and only uses his web site as an
addendum to his bids. He does not want the general public finding his
site since answering calls from the public would be a nuisance.
We added this Meta tag to the code of his site:
It does what it looks like it does; it instructs the search engine
\"robots\" not to index this page or follow the links from it.
Now before you get paranoid - I have never seen
this done maliciously, but if you have a robots meta tag on your site
it should say:
Since search engines assume this to be the default setting, it is not
really necessary to have this tag on your site.
There are also meta tags that can tell the search
engines what kind of content to expect on this web site. This may
reduce traffic intentionally, for instance: < META NAME
This tag is used by search engines to filter search results for people
who set their search preferences to exclude explicit content.
You can see the META tags that have been used on
your web site by looking at the source code of the site through your
browser. For example, with Internet Explorer choose \"Source\" from the
\"View\" menu. The meta tags will be in the top part of the file
tags - if you hit the
tag you\'ve gone too far.
A frame set is a set of web pages coded so that parts of your screen
show content from different files. This used to be an easy way for an
amateur to place a navigation bar on all of the pages of a site. Frame
sets are not used by professional webmasters anymore due to the
negative impact they have with search engines. Since frame sets first
came out in the mid-1990\'s, coding has evolved to the point where
webmasters can develop web sites faster and more easily without the
need for frame sets.
The first page of the site is the most heavily
weighted page by search engines. Weighting is done according to various
factors, including the amount of relevant text on the page. Since the
first page of a frame set is just a set of code instructions to the
browser on how to find and use the files for the next page, what a
frame set does is to \"demote\" all of the pages in a site to one level
down in the page hierarchy. Search engines use the page hierarchy to
determine the importance of the page within your web site. If your
first page has no content on it, it will rank poorly, and if all other
pages are secondary to the first page they will be ranked even lower.
A typical frame set page looks something like this
in the code view:
As you can see there is absolutely nothing in the way of actual words
in the page that may be indexed by the search engines. You can
understand now why utilizing a frame set would depress your search
In addition, search engines like to follow a nice
set of hierarchical links in order to index the content of the site.
While your menu with all of your links may be contained in frame1.html
in the code view above, you are making the search engine go that extra
step to find that menu. As we already mentioned, this is effectively
how the frame set knocks everything down one level and makes the search
engine jump through an extra hoop to get to your content. Search
engines expect us as site owners to jump through extra hoops to appease
them - they don\'t like it at all when the tables are turned and will
rank your site accordingly.
Media-Rich Home Pages
Media-rich home pages contain Flash, images, video and other multimedia
files as the primary content. If you only remember one thing about
search engines, remember this: search engines can only read text.
Search engines cannot read images or text written
on images. They cannot read text inside of Flash movies or understand
voiceover commentary from a video. Pdfs are often encoded as jpeg
images and cannot be read by search engines when saved in this format.
Search engines can only read text contained in HTML and in meta tags
(which are specifically written for search engines).
One common misuse of Flash is the \"Splash\" or
\"Landing\" page. This is a page that is just a picture or movie with
only an \"Enter Here\" link on it. Since search engines cannot read the
content of an image or Flash movie, this page looks blank to them. If
the \"Enter Here\" link is also coded inside the Flash movie the search
engines cannot see the link and will not be able to get to any of the
pages inside your site regardless of whether they employ Flash or HTML.
Some web sites are written entirely in Flash and
are not accessible to search engines as is. There are a few ways around
the Flash barrier, like creating an HTML version of the site with meta
tags and using additional navigation links in HTML. But why place a
barrier to search engines on your site in the first place? We recommend
using Flash for decorative purposes. We recommend that it only be used
in such a way that if it were removed, search engines would still have
everything necessary to index the site correctly.
To test your site\'s accessibility to search
engines check if you can copy and paste the text from the web browser
to your text editor. If the text is written in HTML you will be able to
do this. If you can\'t, it is likely that search engines will not be
able to read this text. A site done entirely in Flash or with images is
usually the result of a company web development effort driven primarily
by graphic design personnel with little or no input from web
development professionals. If you are developing a website for business
rather than for a movie, an event, or an art exhibit, you are better
off listening to the advice of web development professionals who are
trained in SEO concepts for maximum ROI through better search engine
Other Landing Pages
A landing page may not be media rich, but may have very little content
on it in order to \"direct\" users to a specific location on the site.
In Canada we often see landing pages directing users to click on links
for either French or English versions of the site. This can be avoided
by using scripts that detect the default language of the browser and
direct the user to their preferred language without the need for them
to click a link. Using language specific web site addresses is another
good practice. Alternatively put the link to the choice of language on
every page of the site in the navigation. This allows users to switch
languages from any page on the site. This is important once you realize
that search engines often display internal pages rather than the home
page of a site on their search result pages. Well optimized web sites
avoid low content landing pages.
Dynamic Content and Menus
Search engines cannot read text that is dynamically created when a
visitor asks for it. A search engine will follow all of the links it
can see on a web site. But a search engine will not type in search
terms in a \"search box\" to see what other content you have in your
database. If you have a database driven web site you must have \"hard
coded\" links to the data that the search engine can follow, or much of
your web site will be not be indexed.
Search engines cannot read text embedded in
something (like choose from a drop down list of options) to get to new
content. Therefore, most of the drop-down type navigation bars you see
at the top of web sites are actually barriers to search engines. Unless
a search engine spider sees an actual coded link you will lose them.
This is actually the most common barrier we will see on a website
because inexperienced web design personnel are unaware of the fact that
search engines cannot read scripted menus.
usually also less human user-friendly due to the fact that they
difficult to manually operate, and they provide no navigational
reference point since the drop down \'snaps back up\' disappearing as
soon as it is clicked. While there are again various methods to \"get
around\" this obstacle, these are stop-gap measures that can and should
Remove the road blocks!
As we have seen, there are many web site design practices commonly in
use today that put up barriers to search engines. The more experience
your webmaster has in SEO the less likely they are to engage in
practices that can confuse or mislead search engine spiders. But you,
as a web site owner, must make it clear to the developer of your site
that SEO is important to you. SEO is time consuming and requires
training. Unless you request a search engine friendly web site - and
pay for one - you are not likely to get one. If you have any of the
above barriers in place on your site, we encourage you to give us a
call today to find out how we can get you out of the search engine
quagmire that you are likely in.
By Candace Carter, Back2Front - The Web Site
People. December 2009
Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/seo-articles/
About the Author
Candace Carter is an artist, web designer,
computer programmer, entrepreneur, writer, and public speaker. Candace
was educated in Fine Art and Agriculture at the University of Guelph
and in Computer Programming at the University of Ryerson. She worked in
web development for high-tech firms Sun Microsystems, MCI-WorldCom, and
Tucows until the high-tech meltdown in 2001.
Candace launched Back2Front - The Web Site People with a partner in
2002. Leveraging the power of the Internet, Back2Front's growing team
of web designers and developers work on-line, reducing environmental
impact by eliminating the need for a daily commute. Back2Front is one
of the most successful web site management companies in the GTA,
providing long-term, fully managed web site services for a large roster
of business clientele. Candace credits Back2Front’s success to an
innovative business model of providing unlimited service for a flat,
per-page fee. Candace is an accomplished public speaker, with a
friendly and knowledgeable style. Candace is a passionate crusader for
excellence and value and it shows in her lively presentations. Candace
is an expert in human/computer user interface, web design, and search
engine optimization. The Back2Front team continuously conducts
research, testing, and development that keep the company and Candace at
the top of their field.