Search Engine Placement Checklist

From Net Atlantic

An oft-requested article here at Net Atlantic is how to get your site a high listing on search engines. Here's some information that you should find useful if your site is not receiving much traffic. If you answer 'yes' to any one of the following questions then you may well have some work to do. A description of exactly what you should do follows the questions.

1. Your Web Site is free hosted

Free host sites can play havoc with search engines. Most of these Free-host sites place advertising banners at the top of your pages, and use a script that rotates the banners in a continuous 'scrolling' sequence. These scripts can prevent successful indexing of your site content by the search engines and can significantly impact on your search rankings.

If you're serious about your web site, you should have your own domain name, hosted with a good web host. Domain name and web hosting costs have dropped significantly, making it affordable for any business.

2. Your web site uses navigation Frames

Navigation frames present a 'closed door' to search engines unless they are properly prepared. You must provide a navigation path from your home page (preferably) into all of your main framed pages that contain your text content. Some search engines will then index the main content page without the navigation frames, so you must have a link from each content page that restores the framed section of the page. This gets rather complicated at this point, so if you require the full text on this explanation, contact us.

Do not skip over the frames issue because it is 'too hard'. You must prepare your frames properly or be prepared to sit at the bottom of the search engine heap forever! As a minimum you must always include a 'noframes' page with descriptive text and links into your main site.

3. Your web site uses Macromedia Flash Software

Macromedia Flash is a great 'visual impact' tool that allows you to create stunning animated graphics and text displays without creating excessively large file sizes. You must however remember that search engines cannot read the text within a Flash 'Movie' or within any other image files like GIF's or JPEG's. So if your designer has chosen to create animated sequences that also contain text, then that text is invisible to the search engines. Also, Flash can be used to create navigation links between pages. When this is the case you should create duplicate 'hidden' navigation links in regular HTML.

Be wary about a particular foible with Flash - in some cases it creates text within comment tags that it loads into the HTML on the page containing the Flash movie. In most cases this text should be removed by the designer, as it can cause problems with search engines.

4. Your site has hyperlinks or navigation buttons that use Java

Many search engines will not be able to follow the navigation link if it is embedded in a script. This can shut-off whole sections of your site from the search engines, rendering your important descriptive pages un-indexable. We have seen some sites containing 100 or more pages where only the index page could be crawled by the search engines.

The simple solution is to create duplicate links from your home page to all key content pages of your site, using hidden navigation if you prefer. Also. cross-link your content pages one to another, this will give you a better chance of having more pages indexed.

5. Your pages redirect viewers to another page on your site or another web site

Some sites use the Meta 'Refresh' Tag for legitimate reasons to redirect viewers as required. Search engines in some cases will penalize you for using refresh tags. If you must use them, set the refresh time to 16 seconds or more. If this is not practical then add a 'robot exclusion' tag to the origin page, and create a hidden navigation link from the origin page to the destination page. The robot exclusion tag looks like this <meta name="ROBOTS" content="NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW"> and the meta refresh tag looks like this <meta http-equiv="Refresh" content="0;URL=http://www.another domain.com/path/filename.html">

6. Your web site uses a URL redirection script

Don't fall for this one. Get yourself a sensible domain name and have it hosted with a reputable hosting company that does not use redirection unless you request it.

7. Your Pages are Dynamically Generated

Dynamically generated pages are those which are created "on the fly", usually with the use of server side functions. Web pages which are dynamically generated often include shopping carts, database web pages, and visitor guestbooks.

Some search engines cannot read information with dynamically generated pages. Worst is using CGI or an executable program that generates pages. ASP pages can be read in most cases but are difficult to optimize due to changing content. Try to create as many static (normal) HTML pages as you can, for example an 'about-us' page, or 'info' page should always be created with .htm or .html extensions.

These are some of the key issues that could be impeding your progress with the search engines. Once you have checked all of the above points and made sure that you do not have any of these on your web site, your site will do better on the search engines.