Thursday, February 14, 2008

Lovely to Look at, but Rarely Seen

by Pamela Upshur

Intentionally launching a Web site that can't be found by any of the major search engines could hardly be the goal of any Web site owner. That would be akin to opening a mail-order business and not sending out a catalog, or opening a store and not publishing your phone number or address. On the Internet, the major search engines are the equivalent of the Yellow Pages, and the listings on search engines are just as valuable for garnering new business. No matter how pretty and interactive your company's new Web site is, if it can't be found in one or more of the major search engines, then you might as well have put a billboard in the woods.

Pages with frames, scripts, tables, and lots of graphics present special problems to Web site publishers and search engines. With frame-enhanced Web pages, the main document usually contains only references to the files that a browser loads into each frame. With scripts, the code is often located at the top of the code for the Web page in the place of the all-important descriptive text. With graphics-intensive pages, room for text on the page is limited.

Although some search engines are smart enough to understand and properly handle frame-enhanced pages, scripts and graphics-intensive pages, such search engines are more the exception than the rule. Fortunately, you can get your Web page noticed without eliminating frames, scripts, or your wonderful graphics. One way or you to do this is through use of META tags. However, there are a few element-specific tricks that you may want to consider as well, including:

  • Dealing with frame issues

  • Dealing with scripts

  • Managing your tables

  • Keeping graphics under control

  • Handling Problems with Frames

    Frames present a bit of a challenge for many search engines. When you create a Web site based on frames, you define a frameset and frames. The frameset specifies the location and dimension of each frame. However, some search engines are unable to see past the frameset page, meaning that they cannot locate the associate frame pages. At this point, the rest of your Web site become effectively invisible to the search engines.

    One way to deal with frames is to always remember to include a NOFRAMES tag. Using this tag, you can specify text that search engines and visitors with old browsers can see. The NOFRAMES tag allows browsers and search engines that can't understand frames to display other text so the page doesn't become a dead end.

    Working Around Scripts

    Embedding large scripts into your Web pages presents another problem for search engines. Since most people place their scripts at the top of their Web pages, the script pushes the content for the rest of the Web page down. Unfortunately, many search engines don't scan your entire page when indexing your Web site. This can result in the search engines missing out on most of your Web page's content.

    One way to deal with this issue is to move your scripts, when possible, further down in your Web pages. Another option to consider is to externalize your scripts and call them from within your HTML Web pages.

    Preventing Problems with Your Tables

    Tables present search engines with similar obstacle to that presented by scripts. Tables are pushed further down from seach engine's point of view, potentially pushing your content out of view. The best way to deal with this situation is to try and move your tables further down in your pages and make sure that, where possible, your tables include references to your keywords and phrases.

    Working Around Your Graphics and Image Maps

    As if frames, scripts, and tables weren't enough, search engines also have trouble with graphics. From a search engine's point of view, the only thing that matters on your Web pages is text. Graphics are ignored. You can create stunning Web pages that present all sorts of information in the form of graphics and search engines won't see a bit of it.

    Graphics also take time to load. They take even longer for people that visit your Web site using a dial-up connection. Many visitors will leave your Web site if it takes too long for your graphics to load. To prevent this from happening, try keeping the total size of your main page and any other high-level pages below 50KB.

    Consider the importance of balancing presentation with content when you are designing your Web pages, because it is the text-based content that search engines see and use to rate the relevancy of your Web pages. One way to help mitigate the effectiveness of graphics is to always supply a descriptive ALT tag that includes your keyword phrases for every graphic on your Web pages. This way, search engines will be able to read and index alternative information regarding the content of your Web pages.

    If you make use of image maps as a navigation tool for providing access to your Web pages, you are presenting another problem for search engines. Once again, the search engine won't be able to view links that you have established via your image map and therefore will not be able to locate and index your other Web pages. One good way of working around this problem is to provide a text-based set of links to your Web pages at the bottom of each of your Web pages. The text links don't need to be anything fancy. The important thing is to give search engines a way to find your other Web pages.

    One other technique that you may want to consider is to create a site map for your Web site and to submit the site map to each search engine along with your main Web pages. By creating and submitting a site map, you ensure that the search engines will be able to locate every page on your Web site.

    The Bottom Line: Keep It User Friendly

    Search engines are content hungry and hard to impress with awesome graphics. Your Web site will be most search engine friendly if its pages are most user friendly.

    If your site includes enough alternative text that a blind person hearing about your site can understand its content, your site is understandable to search engines.

    With this in mind, make every effort to ensure that your site is easy to navigate and easy to read. If you design a site that is appealing to the eye and accessible on all types of connections, you will find that it is attractive to search engines.

    About the Author

    Pamela Upshur is the owner of Upshur Creative.

    Upshur Creative combines fresh, contemporary, fully functional turnkey websites with the best PHP scripts and databases to create the largest and most comprehensive turnkey collection for entrepreneurs.

    Visit her site at: Turnkey Home Based Business