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SEARCH ENGINE OPT. -- Dynamic Sites and Search Engines

 

Search Engines

Search engines very quickly return a list of sites that fit the criteria that you have submitted. This is possible because they have loaded vast quantities of web pages or extracts into their high speed databases. It is their database and not the internet that each search traverses each time you submit your search criteria. Most of the visitors to your website will be delivered there by the search engines, so it is important that their robots are able to navigate your site. These robots have names (e.g. Googlebot, msnbot, Zealbot, Yahoo-MMCrawler, FAST-WebCrawler). It is important that you welcome them to most, if not all, of  your website.

 

Dynamic Sites

Many people believe that dynamic websites won’t do well in search engines without creating mirror sites with static content. That is not entirely correct. There is plenty you can do to promote the actual pages within a dynamic site.  Here are some ideas…

 

Frames

It’s no secret that I am not a fan of framed sites. They make it easy for the webmaster to design a navigation scheme, but they make it difficult for search engines to index your site. Frames are also much more difficult for handicapped people to use (see issue one). Some search engines are beginning to add support to framed sites, but their ability to handle framed sites is weak at best.

Part of the solution to this problem is to use the "no frames" section of the index page. Many HTML editors often put in that section, "Your browser does not support frames." That is the only text search engines can see on that page. Simply taking the text and links from the front page and putting it in this "no frames" section will give the search engines much more to go on for indexing the site. Remember to keep this updated as the main page changes. But don't be tempted to use spamming techniques in this instance. People won't see this text, but search engines will easily spot an overly dense keyword ratio and may boot the site off the index permanently.

 

Heavy JavaScript

Javascript is a great way to add interactivity to a website. Those of you who attend the class I taught learned how to make a javascript menu system that greatly reduces the amount of work to maintain a large site. Remember that search engines do not read javascript links, so you need a page with all the links on it for the search engines to follow. This type of page is often called a “site map” and you should provide a physical link on the main page to the site map.

The search engine robots can't read javascript, rollover buttons, interactive date scripts, banners and the like. This code is typically in the head section of a web page. This pushes down all the text in the code of the page. Since search engines are only looking for text and links, text that is higher in the code is more valuable in the search engine's eyes. Consequently, the text that you worked so hard on is given less merit than the javascript at the head of the page. The solution here is to create external javascript files. The javascript menu solution from the class is a great example of how to do this.

 

Flash Intros Flash Sites

I really discourage the use of Flash intro pages or Flash navigation schemes. If you must use flash, do something cool and unique. Maybe an evangelistic presentation, the story of salvation or something like that. Use a more static page for your main page so you will do better in the search engines.

If you have a Flash intro or use Flash within your site, the robots are not reading or indexing these pages at all. The solution to this problem is, unfortunately, not a simple one (unless you simply stop using Flash). When using Flash, you do have to create a static site or static doorway for submission to the engines. Make sure this static site or the doorways are rich in content rich and create and offer value to Web searchers. Unfortunately, the best page within a site to rank well is always going to be the site's home page. So the unfortunate part comes when a home page is a Flash intro. But using effective static pages will significantly help get the site registered online.

 

Few In-Coming Links

Search engines look at how many related sites are linking to your site and vise versa. If you don’t have sites linking to you, you won’t do well in the ratings. There is no easy or simple way to fix this problem. The only solution is to take the time to get your site listed in the directories and to establish valuable link exchanges. This often means calling and e-mailing site owners and webmasters, but it's worth the time.

 

Dynamic URLs

Most churches do not have dynamic URLs, so this won’t apply to most of you. But just in case, dynamic sites are convenient for running shopping carts and quickly updating and customizing content, and many sites are entirely designed within dynamic URLs. Unfortunately, search engines don't read URLs that have non-alphanumeric characters in them (Such as &, +, %, $, ?). Nor can some engines read .asp pages. The solution to this problem is to change the names of your URLs. This can be done by creating scripts on the server that modify how the server calls or "serves up" dynamic pages.

 

Primary Author:  Bill Aumack