In order to address the various strengths that a web site holds, we must be able to first define how large that web site is, not only in number of pages - but content as well.
Identifying Large Web Sites
For the purpose of this article, we will consider a web site to be large when it has 300 pages (or more) available to users. While 300 pages may seem like a lot at first glance, this number most likely seems small to those who are actively involved within the industry.
More important than the actual number of pages, is the level and diversity of content offered to users and accessing spiders. Simply stated, large web sites contain enough information to fill an entire book found on any bookstore shelf. Because there is so much information, the concentration of topical interest becomes quite wide as opposed to being restricted solely to a niche market of users.
Strengths of Large Web Sites
With a large web site, one of the most important factors in a successful optimization campaign - content - is certainly taken care of. Beyond that, here are some more factors to watch for to ensure the most visibility from the engines:
Avoid Query String URLs
Since large web sites are typically database driven, it is important to avoid the use of any query strings. Query strings contain a "?" within the URL, and are used to assign values to variables as they are passed through the location and HTTP request. Some search engines, like Google for example, can and will index query string URL's, but based on history - they do not index these URLs as willingly as those that appear to be static. If you cannot develop something in house to deliver database driven contents easily without the use of query strings, seek out the help of third party applications for your servers.
Keep Large Sites Flat - (Never exceeding three layers of depth)
Knowing that themed web sites produce more traffic from the engines, many industry professionals have published their research of themes and effects from developing within a themed architecture. Following that lead, our independent research has concluded that working within 3 layers is as deep as any themed site should become.
While having more layers does not invoke any direct penalization or other detrimental effect, it has been shown that fewer pages are indexed beyond the third layer of a themed web site.
For those focused on Google in particular, it has also been found that the further down into a themed site you travel, a lower PageRank value is assigned. It is not uncommon to see a home page with PR7, second tier of PR 6, and third layer of PR 5. To avoid this from continuing down the line, stick to three layers in your themes.
Ability to Use Elaborate Themes
As alluded to above, the creative use of themes can be used to devise elaborate schemes that contain information that covers entire topical categories within a domain name. By having a more elaborately themed site, the engines' focus and attention should become constant - along with the search engine referrals.
In short, do not be afraid to use the level of content and information available to develop a creative and elaborate theme structure. By approaching things a bit differently then the rest, you may end up obtaining more attention to key areas of your site - leaving your competition lower in the ranks.
Internal Link Popularity
If you have a large web site, then you also have a lot of internal link popularity real estate to work with. With hundreds of pages indexed regularly, a simple text based navigation system can make or break your most important pages and the attention distributed to them.
If the main navigation system uses anything aside from simple link text, then immediately implement a text navigation system as soon as possible. Once you have done that, be sure to create text for the links within that navigation system that match the targeted page's keyword focus. Repeat that step for all of your links, but do not make the link text difficult for your users. If you sell "widgets", you are doing more harm than good trying to consistently link back to your homepage as "widgets". Set a theme to your site, and consistently use a linking structure in simple text. If you have 300 pages on your site, all of which have the same link structure, you are easily focusing attention to those links.
Play by Google's Rules and Build PageRank
Google is a large search engine, and based on its user base and partnerships - you never want to cross the line of ethical optimization. Too often, those who attempt optimization are not familiar enough with the rules to know what is, and what is not, ethically accepted. Optimizing ethically is useful for any sized web sites, but it is more important for a larger site looking to rank within Google, because the potential to build and retain high levels of PageRank are greatly increased.
Using the Open Directory Project ("ODP")
A larger web site, regardless of topic - is more likely to obtain multiple listings within higher categories in the ODP. These listings are sought after by the industry insiders for their high regard and influence within Google and other search engines pulling from the ODP's index.
August 12, 2002
Eric Lander is currently working as an executive manager at The First Listings Marketing Group, an SEO firm located in Taunton Massachusetts. With over 8 years of professional optimization experience, Eric continues to focus his work on client based optimization and educating them on search related marketing. For more information on Eric, please see his professional blog at www.ericlander.com.
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