December 2001 Newsletter
***** Quote for the Month:
On websites that look like brochures: "Even without dynamic content, a small company can provide a lot of information on static pages, whereas some snazzy sites run visitors through a 20-minute Flash presentation and impart no information at all."
***** The 4specs Perspective
Want a FREE 10x20 booth at the CSI and AIA trade shows? Want eight FREE pages in the 2002 Sweets catalog?
You probably would grab these free offers. Yet, many companies ignore an even more important free source of interested users. We know manufacturers that routinely get 500-1000 visitors per MONTH from search engines. It would be impossible to meet 6,000 -12,000 people in your free booth in 3 days. Over the year it is easy on the Internet.
Our next few newsletters will focus on search engines and how you can increase the number of free users sent to your website. 4specs has been designed so it is search engine friendly. 4specs averages 1,800 user sessions per workday and receives, for FREE, more than 600 people per DAY from just 2 search engines. We could never afford to pay for the advertising required to generate this type of traffic.
Search engines should send you 30-50% of your daily users. Some marketing people still do not have any website statistics and do not know what is happening on their website. (See the Website Statistics articles.)
Because of their web design, some websites actually discourage search engines. Their web designers apparently want to play with the newest technology and provide a dynamic, database-drived website. They do not understand that this technology discourages search engines. This costs your company future sales. Your competitors get the free inquiries and perhaps the project specifications your sales reps were working hard to obtain.
Use two resources to use to evaluate your website's performance, your competitor's performance and places to advertise:
1. The Google toolbar tells you the page rank of your pages and pages you visit. 4specs has a moderately high page rank of 6. Several manufacturers have page ranks of 0, indicating a major problem in that Google is probably not sending their website many visitors. More about page ranks in future newsletters. Check out your page rank by installing the Google toolbar. Pages and websites with a low page rank may not even be indexed by Google.
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2. Alexia provides important information about websites, including number of links pointing in and average traffic ranking in terms of all websites. Lower is better. New York Times has an average traffic ranking of 232. Yahoo is 8 and Google is 4.
Here are some of the ways you can make your website more search friendly. I have used this Google page as a resource for this newsletter, and it has additional information:
1. Do not change page names during redesigns, or redirect inquiries to the new pages. 4specs has been able to maintain stable page names for the past five years.
This requires thinking out the future of your website, including page names. When you change a page name, search engines will send visitors to a 404 - Page Missing. If you have a permanent redirect, a 301 Permanent Move Code will redirect the search engines and users with bookmarks to the new page. You need to track 404 errors and either send them to a special page or redirect the 404 errors to the correct page. (Website log analysis programs are important because they will show all the 404 missing page referrals and show where to redirects are needed.)
2. Do not use frames. While many designers think they are pretty and useful, search engines cannot link to the interior page within a frame. Just do not use frames.
3. Do not use splash pages or doorways. Doorways are pages created just for search engines and not available from other webpages. Quoting from Google: "We want to point users to content pages, not to doorways or splash screens."
4. Don't use drop down boxes. Generally the search engines cannot follow the links. In addition, I find drop down boxes are difficult to use as you cannot visualize where the options are leading.
5. Use static pages for at least your key pages. While Google and other search engines can index dynamic pages, there are several problems. Quoting from Google: "...because our web crawler can easily overwhelm and crash sites serving dynamic content, we limit the amount of dynamic pages we index. Also, Google does not follow queries. A query generally includes a ? and is typically in this form:
On this month's link check, we discovered one manufacturer had redirected 6 of their company's operating company websites to the corporate website. While that alone is not a problem, the new URL uses a ? to determine which page to display. I suspect that this company's search engine results will be terrible starting in January. One of their companies I looked at has a Google page rank of 0 with the new page name. This is like changing phone numbers and not directing people to the new number.
6. Do not use Flash - many website are using flash for their entire website. Search engines cannot read the text in the flash image and will not provide access to important pages on your website.
Remember, architects are going to your website for design information, anything that gets in the way of that information transfer may cost you a sale.
Search engines are important. Architects and engineers are going to the Internet for information. We all recognize the value of having your products in the plans and specifications as it can create a future sale. While you may not understand this complete newsletter, it can be a topic of discussion with your web designers, IT department or search engine consultants.
Publisher - 4specs