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Site Architecture Optimizing Tips

Site Architecture Tips The manner in which you design the structure or architecture of your website can have a profound impact on the process of optimizing your website. Usually a poor architecture will keep search engine spiders from accessing parts or all of your website or from determining what it is about. By incorporating proper site architecture you're ensuring that you're not erecting any obstacles which might keep search engine spiders from effectively and completely spidering your site. In addition, site architecture can also be used to advance your search engine rankings.

Flash

Flash can be a visually stunning way in which to design a website. Unfortunately it also presents major challenges when trying to optimize a website for high rankings. None of the search engines can effectively spider Flash websites. In the end, using Flash as a primary design will negatively effect a sites rankings. One can attempt to mitigate that by using a few tactics. The first is to use the title tag. The second is to use the noscript tag. The final strategy is perhaps the soundest and that is to build an alternate site based in HTML for the search engines to spider.

Java

Java is another programming language which can be used for website design. It allows sites the ability to offer a phenomenal amount of interactivity. It also presents problems for search engine spiders. Stay away from Java for site content or links which need to be spidered for ranking purposes.

Frames

Many older websites are designed with frames. Frames allow persistent menus or page areas to remain the same across multiple pages. Unfortunately, there are also issues to effective spidering of websites designed with frames. Because it sometimes presents problems you should stay away from utilizing a frames design. If you currently have one, think about switching to a non-framed design. In fact, you can accomplish the same goals using server side includes (ssi) and cascading style sheets (css) without any of the negative effects. One mitigating tactic if you must use frames is to use the noframes tag.

Cookies

If your site requires visitors to accept a cookie to view the site then it will not get spidered. Search engine crawlers cannot accept cookies. If you want certain pages in your site spidered you'll have to remove the cookie requirement. There are advanced techniques which provide a workaround to a required cookie. However, they are beyond the scope of this introduction.

Javascript

Javascript is sometimes used when linking to pages within a website. Often this is done to utilize mouse events or drop down menus. If your links are in javascript format, many of the search engines will not be able to follow them. That means those pages you link to will not be included in those search engine results. Google is able to read javascript links provided the javascript is not in an external file. In the future it is likely that all major search engines will be able to read javascript links, whether located on page or in an external file. However, for today it is best to use plain HTML. If you absolutely want to continue using javascript links, there are ways to ensure that those links are followed by the search engines. The first is to list the links in the noscript tag.

         Example:
          <noscript>Put all of your links in here.</noscript>

The second way to ensure your javascript links will be followed is to include a footer menu which is purely HTML. A final method is to use a sitemap which links to all of your pages with plain HTML. A drawback of just using the sitemap is that the links will appear to be two clicks from the home page. That gives them the appearance of being of less importance.

Variables

If a web pages has multiple variables in its address it can present problems for some search engines when they attempt to spider it. For instance, "http://www.example.com?eng=1&color=red&size=14&type=wid" contains four variables. Ideally, you'll want to limit the number of variables in your web page addresses. If you limit the variables to three you should be okay in the major engines. Google does, at times, include pages with more than three variables. One technique you can utilize if you have multiple variables is url rewriting. Url rewriting is implemented differently depending on whether your web host uses Apache or IIS. Either way, what you'll do is take a website address like the one above and rewrite it so the search engine spider sees it as if it doesn't include any variables. You can also utilize tactical directory and file naming when using url rewrite.

         Example:
          http://www.example.com?eng=1&color=red&size=14&type=wid
             becomes
          http://www.example.com/widget/red/engraved/size-14.html

Session Id's

Session id's within a web address also present an obstacle to effective spidering. For instance a page with the following address may have trouble being spidered, "http://www.example.com?sid=887838". Search engine spiders might interpret the "sid" variable as an indication that you're employing session id's and not spider the page. You'll want to make sure you don't require these or strip them out of pages where they're required.

Robots.txt

Robots.txt is a file which is uploaded to the root directory of your website. It instructs spiders which pages not to visit on your website. If you have an error in this file it may be impeding a spider from viewing one or more pages of your site.

Directory & File Naming

An effective architecture optimizing tactic is to utilize chosen keywords in the name of a file and/or directory. Currently, when using multiple keywords they should be separated with a dash. For example, you might name a page whose keyword is "blue flying widget", blue-flying-widget.html. You could further put it in a directory named "widget". The entire web page address would then look like: "http://www.example.com/widget/blue-flying-widget.html".


Some of the most clever spammers work with site architecture to manipulate search engine rankings. One of the techniques they use is called cloaking. Cloaking is providing search engine spiders one set of pages and regular visitors another. Spammers know that a spider is visiting based on certain tell-tale signs. When it identifies a spider, it serves up keyword rich pages which then rank highly for targeted keywords. If a human were to see these pages they would often look like gibberish. However, real visitors never do see those pages. When real visitors arrive, they see different pages all of which appear normal. Cloaking is one of the most serious violations of search engine guidelines. When uncovered it will almost certainly lead to removal of the website from the engines.

When designing or examining your website's architecture you'll want to make sure that you haven't erected any roadblocks to efficient search engine spidering. By keeping in mind the above, you'll be better prepared to build or alter your site to allow search engine spiders easy access and increase your search engine rankings.