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E-Marketing Performance Blog

Search Engine Ranking Killers

When building a site, there are many wonderful things that you can do to make your site more appealing to the viewer, however, many of these bells and whistles are in direct conflict with what would make a site search engine friendly. The search engine ranking killers below are some of the worst things you can do when building a site if you wish to achieve top search engine placement.

Splash Pages
Many sites have what are called “splash pages”. A splash page is usually a page that contains little more than a graphic or animation directing the viewer to “click here to enter” your site. Wow, what a waste of a page. Did you know that in regard to search engine placement, your home page (the first page that opens when you type in your URL) is your single most important page on your site? That’s right, and if your first page is a splash page, you have eliminated over 50% of your potential top rankings. How? When a search engine spider visits your site it assumes that your home page will provide the viewer (and the search engine) with the important search terms for your site by way of helpful user information.

A splash page tells the search engines absolutely nothing about your site, or why the viewer would be interested in “entering here” to view what is inside. You might have a fancy animation or even text laid out in a nice flash file, but search engines cannot “read” these files, therefore your home page looks blank. Also, keep in mind that the more clicks viewers are forced to perform to navigate your site, the more likely you are to lose them. Bottom line: If you have a splash page, lose it or lose sales!

When it comes to web site development, building a framed site can save hours to development time. Frames are great to create a navigational consistency and ease of adding new pages into the navigational structure. I love frames, but there is one problem: the search engines don’t. Even with all the advances within the search engines, many of them cannot follow framed links. When a search engine spider visits a framed site it can only see the content located within the tag, which is usually a line that says “If you can read this then your browser does not support frames.” This is not true for all search engines, but why eliminate portions of your audience when you can easily build a no-frame site.

One workaround to framed pages is to include keyword rich text and navigation within that tag, but before doing that, you will want to make sure that each individual html file can act as a standalone page. How do you know? Go to your framed site and right-click on a link, choose “open in new window.” If the page that opens does not tell the viewer the name of the site, where to navigate or how to make contact, then this is not a standalone page. The danger with frames is that even if the search engine finds ways to index other pages on your site, the pages it finds are usually not standalone pages and are therefore useless to the viewer.

Flash Sites
Sites being created in flash are on the rise. Flash is cool. It’s fancy. It’s advanced. Unfortunately it is also un-viewable by the search engines. Search engines read text, not text in flash, not text in images, just real text. You can test to see if your text is search engine viewable, or if it is in an image, by trying to highlight it. If you can highlight individual words, you have real text. If you cannot highlight or can highlight only blocks of words then your text is not viewable by the search engines.

I’ll let you in on another secret, viewers like to read text! They do. Animations are cool and all, but when it comes to finding out why they should buy your product or service, text trumps flash every time. You can also keep in mind that using flash animations within a standard page is perfectly acceptable for search engines, as long as the flash animation does not replace the content of the page.

No Home Page Text
Speaking of text, many sites don’t use enough (or any) text on their home pages. Again, your home page is your single most important page on your site. When a search engine visits your home page, it wants to read. It wants to be told what is important about your site and glean your search terms from the home page text. If there is no text then there is nothing for the search engine to read. Increase your chances of generating top search engine listings by adding a couple of keyword rich paragraphs to your home page. Don’t worry about “messing with the look” of the page. Most people want to read something on your home page that will entice them to click further. Seeing a perfectly formatted page with a few buttons does not provide the assurances that they have found what they were searching for.

Improperly Optimized Title / Description
If I had a dollar for every site I’ve seen that has no description or a title that reads “home page”, I would have a nicely padded wallet! Ever perform a search on the search engines and see a site top the list titled “home page” with no follow up description? If you have it is very, very rare, and even then, did you click on it? You need to be sure your titles and descriptions are properly optimized with appropriate keyword usage. Titles and description may not hold as much relevance as body text to a search engine, but most engines use the title and description when displaying search results. How compelled will shoppers be to click on “home page” when the site ranked right below yours tells them that it contains exactly what you were looking for?

Dynamically Driven Sites
Many sites today are dynamically driven utilizing databases for their products. While this isn’t a complete search engine rankings killer, it can be if you do not implement your database properly. Currently, most search engines will not follow links that pull information from a database. There are several reasons for this but it is primarily because database driven sites can pull up virtually endless possibilities and cause the search engine spiders to be caught in an endless loop. This has caused many search engine servers to crash.

Another reason is that many database driven sites us a “?” in the URL string, which is considered a stop character. Search engines are unable to index these types of URLs. So what do you do? First, there are ways to create database driven sites without using the stop character. Have your webmaster do the research and find ways to create your database URLs without the stop character. Another option is to submit individual pages through a search engine’s Pay-For-Inclusion program. The search engine will spider these submitted pages, and evaluate them for ranking placement. Sometimes you just can’t get away from database driven sites, but when you must use them, do the research and build the site with search engine friendliness in mind.

Java and Flash Navigation
Many sites use clever looking flash or java navigation to move you from page to page. Aside from Java rollovers, search engines cannot follow these navigational links. Drop down menus or highlighting menu bars at the top of the screen are generally un-navigable by the search engines. If you use these types of navigation be sure you include text links at the bottom of your pages for the search engines to follow.

I talk to many people who visit our sites looking for top search engine placement, who are unwilling to have their site optimized for the search engines. There is always a reason why: don’t want to pay for the extra webmaster hours, or it conflicts with the site design, or the site has already met committee approval and we don’t want to make changes, and so on. What they fail to understand is that without optimization to remove those search engine killers a site is virtually dead to the search engines.

The internet is no longer new and competition is growing for the top search engine positions. The businesses that ARE optimizing their sites, and ARE removing the search engine ranking killers, and ARE striving to make their sites as search engine friendly as possible, ARE the ones who are going to come out on top.

The bottom line is that if you are not willing to optimize, and unwilling to remove the search engine ranking killers from your site, there is little that any promotion company can do for you other than maintain your pay-per-click listings on Overture. And that is as sensible as renting a car each day because you don’t want to hassle with financing!

Stoney G deGeyter

Stoney deGeyter is the author of The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!. He is the founder and CEO of Pole Position Marketing, a web presence optimization firm whose pit crew has been velocitizing websites since 1998. In his free time Stoney gets involved in community services and ministries with his “bride enjoy” and his children. Read Stoney’s full bio.

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