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Search Engine Friendly

Frames are becoming a way of the past what with the use of DIV layers and the slow onset of incredibly flexible AJAX coding. The long and the short of it is that if you have Frames on your website then you are starting off at a disadvantaged position that cannot be truly search engine friendly no matter what you do. There are, however, some remedial fixes that will tie you over until you can redesign your site; yes I said redesign. The fix that I recommend is to use a noframes tag whereby you place another version of your web page inside of your framed page. This 'backup' page is what the search engines will view; here you can place relevant content and navigational elements so that the search engines can at least navigate portions of your site that are (hopefully) not framed. There was a big brouhaha that Flash had become search engine indexable and you no longer had to worry about its search engine issues.

Frankly, I have not seen the fruits of this 'improvement' to a respectable degree yet so I still consider it a kiss of death for websites designed solely in Flash. If you have a Flash-only website then I recommend one of these two options; one is to design an html version of your website and make the home page of your website html rather than Flash where you can then allow users to choose between html or Flash. The second option is to redesign the site so that it mixes both html and flash together. For example, this might mean implementing Flash amidst content on an HTML page as you would an image. I realize there are certain limitations to this option but if you can create a slick site in this manner then you will have the best of both worlds; clean search engine friendly content along with an interactive, multimedia feel.

Just remember that the majority of relevant text should be in HTML format for the search engines to index. Unfriendly dynamic URL’s are a common side effect of using a Content Management System that is not designed with search engine rankings kept in mind. Here are some examples of some unfriendly URL’s. Sample 1: http://www.mydomain.com/myproducts.php&354=prod333&subproduct These URLs are problematic because a search engine may consider these addresses too complex to spider. Why too complex? Suffice it to say that the more complex the URL, the higher the chance that a search engine robot will consider the content too dynamic to read; it changes too often to be valuable to a search engine. The way around these types of URLs is actually not so difficult; it may only require a small investment of time and money. The 'time' will be required when researching which URL fix is right for your system.

The money may be required to pay a programmer to implement and test the new URLs. Here are how the URLs might look once they are fixed to be search engine friendly. Sample Fixed: http://www.mydomain.com/myproducts/354/prod333/subproduct/ These URLs are better because they do not include the extraneous characters that are so telltale on dynamic websites. In addition, the URLs are designed to appear like normal website directories when in fact they are dynamic URLs. It is vital that you minimize the length of the URLs that you use. Search engines may stop crawling a website if there appear to be too many subdirectories. The samples above show fixed URLs that have about as many subdirectories as I would allow (4). Are the menus on your website spiderable? If not you may be hiding major areas of your website from search engine spiders and missing out on additional search engine rankings.

The fact is there are very few menus out there that a search engine will have a problem following, but there are definitely some worth avoiding. For instance do not use a JavaScript Jump Menu (example) as the core mode of navigation of your website; search engines cannot index this type of menu. Also be careful of Flash menus, they look slick but they will impede the progress of a search engine spider especially if they are the only means of navigation within your site. The ideal menu would be text based and each text link would include the keywords you are targeting on the destination page. Setting up a menu with this much forethought requires that you determine the layout and content for your site before web design begins. Once you have a clear picture of the content for each page you can then research the keywords that are best to target per webpage. This essential keyword research can be done in house easily enough using systems-like keyword research tools that provide you with a glimpse into how your customers think by showing how many searches there are per month (or year) for a particular term. Remember, almost every page within your site has a very real opportunity to gain a top ranking; all you need to do is ensure that the design, content and site structure is optimized. Ensuring that the menu is carefully thought out and designed is a crucial step for top rankings. Finally, if you are at all uncertain whether your menu is search engine friendly then be certain to back it up with a text menu in the footer of your page using the same keyword targeting principles noted above.

A simple text menu may be less than desirable for you; in this case I recommend DHTML menus. These menus use text but in a manner that is quite appealing and very search engine friendly. Sitemaps can dramatically help the visibility of your website by allowing search engine spiders easy access to all of the pages in your site. Place a link to the sitemap on every page within your site to ensure easy access no matter where a search engine or user enters your site. Just having a sitemap will help but how you build your sitemap will also play a role in how well the search engines catalogue it. For example, if you have a twenty-page website it would be ideal to create a sitemap where each page is represented by a title along with a short description. Ultimately, the page may be a bit long but it will have content that the search engines like to index and it will boost the relevance of the linked pages because the titles will accurately represent the content. So in effect, you will now have more than just a sitemap; you will have a table of contents for your site that has the potential of getting a ranking and provides an extra boost to the ranking worthiness of each page. Search engine robots read a webpage from the top of the source code (the programming that made your page – see "view source" in your browser) all the way to the bottom.


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