Here is another round of questions submitted to me during a Website Architecture webinar I gave a couple months back. I wasn't able to answer most of these questions before or during the presentation so I've been answering them in this Q&A series. You can check out Parts one, two, three, four, five , six and seven. This post covers questions regarding session IDs, repetitive vs. duplicate content, robots.txt files, navigation text, and maintaining link juice after a site re-design. Let's get to it.

If someone cuts and pastes a session ID and emails to someone, do they pick up from the original session or start a new one?
-- Kate

That's a great question and one I didn't know the answer to... until just now. I put this to the test and came to a definitive conclusion, but that conclusion is only as good as the site I was working on. I suppose it's entirely possible for every site, or CMS system, to at differently. But we'll go ahead and conclude that this test is indicative of most sites that use session IDs, and hope it holds true for all. (If someone has a more definitive answer on this I'd love to hear it.)

So here's what I did. In FireFox I found a site that I knew uses session ID. I copied one of the URLs that carried a session ID in it, and then proceeded to add a product to the shopping cart. I then opened up another browser (Internet Explorer) and pasted the URL in the address bar.

At first glance, the product I added to the shopping cart was still there. But, as soon as I clicked a link I was given a completely new session ID and the shopping cart was cleared.

I then tried to do the reverse, copy the session ID from Internet Explorer, added a product to the cart and then pasted the URL over in my session in FireFox. Because I had already established my own session in FireFox the new session ID has no effect. My original product remained in the shopping, not the one I added over in Internet Explorer.

So to answer your question, it appears that sending a session ID in a link will not give that other person your session, other than briefly and before they click any links.

In reference to repetitive content through a site, is it ok to have the company name as part of the page title on every webpage throughout the site?
-- Kirk

I'd say that there is a clear distinction to the search engines from repetitive content and duplicate content. It's natural to be repetitive about many things. Some clear examples are company names (not just in title tags,) taglines, special offers, navigational element, calls to action, etc.

It's actually pretty common to include your company name in all your title tags. It's great for branding purposes. Most SEOs will tell you to put your company name at the end, rather than front, of the title tag, but there is no reason why it can't be there. The only problem would be is if you use the same, duplicate, title tag throughout your site.

Just remember that a little repetition can be good, but duplication rarely ever is.

Would not having a robot.txt file hurt ranking of a website?
-- Dianne

It shouldn't. You're in more danger of having improperly constructed robots.txt file than none at all. But that's not to say that it won't at some unknown point in the future. If the search engines ever decide that by not finding a robots.txt file then they should conclude that they are not given permission to spider the site then this will effectively block them from spidering your pages.

One thing to keep in mind is that the search engines almost always look for this file when they visit. By not finding it they are given a page not found error. Uploading a generic, all access, robots.txt file will ensure that they don't get this error and don't misinterpret that to mean something it doesn't.

To create an all-access robots.txt file just use the following:

User-agent: *

How do search engines read the keywords incorporated into CSS navigation bars/main menus or images?
-- Sharyn

If you're using CSS for your navigation then chances are that the navigation links are all pure HTML text. The CSS is only responsible for how that navigation displays. So in this case, the search engines have no issues with reading the navigation link text because it's there on the page just like everything else.

Ive seen cases where, when using JavaScript for site navigation, that the actual text for the navigation links is in the .js file instead of on the page. This creates a problem for search engines and in these cases the engines are usually not able to grab the text or follow the actual links.

As for images, since the search engines can't read the images they have to rely on the ALT text in the image tag. For all navigation images you should include the words that are in the image in the ALT attribute as well.

How do you redesign a web site without abandoning the "juice" already attained?
-- Scott

The best thing you can do is the ensure that all the file names and page/sub-directory locations remain true to the original version. That means you can't reorganize your site structure, can't rename file names, and can't switch to a different programming language that requires the file extensions to change.

This, of course, isn't always possible with site re-designs and upgrades so the next best solution is to 301 redirect all your old site pages to the new site pages. After a few months the search engines will start passing the link juice from the old pages through to the new pages and nothing will be lost. Going this route, just be sure to never drop the 301 redirects. As long as someone, somewhere, links to an old page, you want that juice to flow to the new page.

June 30, 2008

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


Wow, you've milked the webinar experience for an amazing amount of good content.

but of course! Unfortunately, the teet on this one is just about dry. :)

With regard to session IDs working from different browsers or computers, this is actually a known way of cracking a website, called session hijacking.

The idea is that an attacker somehow gets hold of a session ID from one computer and then uses it from their computer, thus gaining access to the web application as-if they were the original user. It is very hard to create a system that is completely secure against this attack, but most web applications avoid obvious problems. Simple techniques to make it harder to hijack a session include using cookies, recording the user agent and IP address associated with a session, generating a new session ID for every page transition and putting timeouts on inactive sessions.

Anyway, if you email someone a link with a session ID in it, and it resumes the session, then you've just found a security hole.

@ Anthony. Thanks for that info. I've never been a fan of session IDs but I never knew there were security issues associated with them. Thanks for the heads up.

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Search Engine Guide > Stoney deGeyter > Website Architecture Questions Answered, Part VIII