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FAQ

  1. do search engines spider the "alt" text in images?
  2. can a search engine follow the links in an image map?
  3. what about Flash animation?
  4. does it matter how long it takes for a page to download?
  5. does the actual design effect chances of getting listed?
  6. are frames really bad for search engine listings?
  7. are splash pages really bad for listings?
  8. what about dynamically generated pages (i.e. from databases)?
  9. what about doorway pages?

do search engines spider the "alt" text in images?

  • In most cases, no
  • However, Google and Lycos do
  • Don't gratuitously put in keywords into the "alt" tag
    • The alt text has to describe the image so it still makes sense to users who have graphics switched off in their browser
    • Directories will penalise if not

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can a search engine follow the links in an image map?

  • Sometimes - don't rely on it though
  • Provide hyper links and navigation in an alternative format as well

what about Flash animation?

  • Search engines can't spider Flash sites at the moment
  • Directories will also penalise the use of Flash if it takes too long to download
    • Yahoo won't list Flash only sites
  • Try putting just parts of the site in Flash
  • Don't use a browser plug-in re-direct - provide a button for the user to choose the html or flash version of your site
    • Good usability
    • Re-directs are often considered spam by search engines
    • Can check your site stats for percentage of users choosing which version
      • Scrap the Flash version if people aren't choosing it

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does it matter how long it takes for a page to download?

  • Yes
  • Figures from Yahoo and LookSmart state within 8 seconds on a 28kbps modem

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does the actual design effect chances of getting listed?

  • Maybe
  • The over use of graphics can have a detrimental effect on download time (see above)
  • Text rich sites get listed more highly than graphic heavy
    • Simply because the search engine can index text and links
  • Using JavaScript can prevent the search engine spidering the site
    • Put it in a separate file
  • Using layers which contain links / content can prevent this content getting indexed
  • The site needs to be:
    • Readable (no small fonts)
    • Have intuitive navigation
    • Consistent in layout and design
    • Quick to download
  • Information should be "above the fold"
    • i.e. near the top of the page

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are frames really bad for search engine listings?

  • Mostly yes
  • Search engines can't spider a frameset
  • Even if you successfully manage to get listed, the spider will eventually return to the site and index pages such as the navigation frame on its own
  • Even if your pages get listed, the search engine won't always put the frameset back together correctly
    • Looks unprofessional
    • Is useless to a user if they click on a single page out of the frameset from the list of sites a search engine displays
  • Getting rid of frames always improves ranking
  • If you really have to use frames, use the <noframes> tag properly

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are splash pages really bad for listings?

  • Yes
  • The home page may be the only page indexed and often ranks higher than other pages
  • Some search engines and directories won't list site if it has a splash entry page (e.g. Northern Light)

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what about dynamically generated pages (i.e. from databases)?

  • Search engines can't spider urls with special characters in them (? % = " etc)
  • Test your pages by removing everything after the special character, if the page still displays - OK for search engines

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what about doorway pages?

  • These are pages created specifically for each search engine spider, based on what is known about that spider
  • Often keyword heavy
  • Require an extra click from the user
  • Can be considered spam

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