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How To Maximize Optimization through Minimizing Roadblocks
By Eric Lander - January 30, 2002

Search engine optimization and search engine positioning are both applied services that will enable an optimized web site to out perform its competitors on popular search engines. These services and subsequent values can almost sell themselves, as it is obvious that any growing business or organization looking to succeed online will need them.

But how do the legitimate optimization companies remain goal oriented, while not over-analyzing or wasting money, and still satisfy the client? They can achieve everything and still make money through minimizing the roadblocks that can interfere with the healthy progression of an optimization campaign.

There are a few categories of elements that can easily lend a hand in delaying or preventing maximum optimization and results. Those elements are:

• Internet Technology
• Keywords & Phrases
• HTML Validity and Coding Organization

While the above list seems to be all beneficial to an optimization campaign – there are specifics that should be avoided. Those specific roadblocks will be broken down and analyzed, for the sake of this article.

Internet Technology
There is an excellent web site up and online, ready to impress any potential client who can find their way to it. Using Flash to make an impression at first, JavaScript and frames are used to simplify navigation before tying the user into an integrated database. Yes, this site can serve up just about anything and do so impressively…

Too bad that it is likely to be one of the most hidden pages on the Internet.

It has been documented, time and time again that while visually impressive (when used sparingly anyways) the following list of applied Internet technologies are detrimental to an optimization campaign:

- Flash:
Flash is an excellent tool to integrate vector based animation within the display and page formatting of any site – as long as it is done so sparingly and simply. While Flash was originally created to offer a bit of multimedia to Internet users without the long wait of raster-based images and animations – designers who use Flash have simply gone too far – sometimes creating sites that exceed a 600K original download. Not too bad if you don’t mind having site visitors on an AOL or similar dial up wait about 2 minutes for the page to load… And as an added bonus, 90% of the major search engines out there cannot even begin to see what exists within that Flash media.

Simply stated, an SEO and usability dead end.

If your client wants to use Flash within their site, then offer to use it sparingly where other more text-enriched content is available both to users and search engines. The ranking changes should speak for themselves beyond that point.

- Frames:
With all the optimization in the world condensed within a <noframes> tag, a site can still only go so far. There is little value in having a search engine pick up and begin listing a framed page within its SERPS even for the most popular key words and phrases. Why? Well, once Joe User is delivered to the page, how do they get somewhere else?

Not through the missing navigation system that should appear, that’s for sure!

In nearly 90% of the cases in which frames are used, they could be easily avoided. Rather than optimizing a framed site inside out, results can be achieves much more easily by rebuilding the pages that utilize frames with a solid table structure. If you look at how complex some portal sites are (MSN, Excite, and others come to mind specifically) then it is obvious that very complex sites can be designed, built, and coded correctly without the use of frames.

By creating a solid table-based page, more elements such as graphics and other links become much more easily optimized. If a site that you are optimizing uses Frames, strongly suggest converting it solely to keep their impression of optimization more impressive.

- JavaScript:
JavaScript is great because it can offer noticeable increases within usability and functionality to the user. Some though, can be downright distracting. The worst part for an optimization specialist, is that links hidden behind java script can go right by the search engine spiders without their values (and their links) being recorded. The result is less pages within the site being indexed, and subsequently, lowers rankings.

If a client requires the use of java script within a site, to handle forms or complete navigation systems – then move that scripting to an external file with the .js extension, and embed that within the HTML formatting. This will create easily managed scripting and will also not confuse the engines when they come in to review everything on the page (Spidering, crawling, etc.).


- Dynamic Pages:
Dynamic pages are a great way to keep things simple and let a served up database do the work. But, search engines are aware of the massive work required to index and rank every page out there hidden behind query strings, and do not choose to spider them. As a result, most information that is available to users becomes unavailable to the search engines – and consequently unavailable to those searching the engines.

When dynamic pages are required, try to implement as little query strings as possible. Query strings are URL’s that include values to variables to the queried script. Sound confusing? An example would be:

domain.com/xyz.asp?value=product&id=345

The information in bold, is considered the query string – and as a result of all the possibilities out there, the engines simply will not follow them. It is important to note though, that clever use of dynamic pages can be used to hide query strings just as long as the web serving software powering the site is sophisticated enough.


Keywords and Phrases
In the SEO world, keywords and phrase are obviously what it is all about. Unfortunately, clients can easily develop a tendency to over personalize things. It is not uncommon to have a client tell you that they want to be found for their searches containing their latest marketing slogan, company name, or even the names of the executives. While you could optimize for those phrases, realistically – optimization is being applied to help make their site work harder for their business.

To apply an example, consider a site that sells cars for a dealership called “Lee Monds”. Their tag line is “You can’t buy a lemon at Lee Monds!”. And, they come to you wanting to optimize their site and be found for their tag line as well as for “Lee Monds”. Yes, it could be done, and done so easily. But, even with #1 rankings across the boards for those words and phrases, no one will come into the site.

Using database systems like wordtracker.com or even Overture’s keyword selection tool – highly searched for phrases and keywords could be applied. In Lee Mond’s case, “used car sales” would be an excellent place to start along with keywords relative to the dealerships geographic location. Again, this is just an example.

HTML Validity and Coding Organization
Search engines are beginning to realize that some of the site’s they have sent off a large number of users to, cannot be easily seen because of HTML incompatibility with commonly used web browsers. As optimization specialists, the tendency to worry less about the overall page develops quickly as we hone our efforts in on the most rewarding elements of HTML design and configuration.

It is important, now more than ever, to spend a bit extra time using validation software to help refine both the amount of code needed to display the site as well as minimize the HTML code that can cause errors with some browsers or software platforms. Google for example, has been one engine in particular that is rumored to prioritize rankings for sites of value within content as well as smaller more simplified pages.

It is believed that the algorithms for the true search engines may continue to change in the same trend that Google is rumored to have implemented. The results of a clean and optimized page will help the engines to retain repeated use from their visitors – and deliver them to more structured and viewable content.

Conclusions…
Successful optimization will rely on so many factors that an endless amount of research could be conducted. By sticking to some basics though, and avoiding some of the significant roadblocks outlined within this article, a lot can be gained by simplifying things for the users and engines, and making sites appear more prominently for your clients.