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Is Your Website Impeding Your SEO?

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As the Web has evolved, websites have become diverse, particularly in how they are constructed. A wide variety of programming languages and design techniques are now used to build websites.

Some of those coding and design techniques are detrimental to search-engine positioning. And if your website uses any of them, it's probably time to build a new website, or at least rebuild in a format that is better suited for search-engine positioning.

The following can be problematic:

  • Websites coded in a database format
  • Websites built with "dirty" code
  • Websites built almost exclusively in images or Flash

Websites Coded in a Database Format

Several programming languages make heavy use of databases in the construction of website pages: .PHP, .ASP, .JSP, and .CFM (ColdFusion). There are others, but these are the popular ones, especially for those built with content management systems (CMS). Another popular one is Joomla.

Just because your website is built with one of these programming languages doesn't automatically mean it is doomed in terms of search-engine positioning. It just depends on whether the programmer who built the website knew how to code it with SEO in mind.

The biggest problem with database-driven websites is that often they inhibit search engine optimization (SEO) of individual pages of the website. In the case of a plastic surgeon's website, for instance, instead of having one page for each procedure or practice area, the website will have only one page or file, and it will dynamically update to fill in the content appropriate for every subject.

For example, rather than having one fill for breast augmentation and one file for tummy tuck, such as this:


The website will have something like this:


Note that in the second case the file for both breast augmentation and tummy tuck is "index.php." It simply has a variable that indicates which content the page should pull from the database.

This means that the SEO specialist has only one page to optimize for all of the procedures, which in turn means that the search engines won't see a page that is focused on one set of keyword phrases.

Websites built with "dirty" code

In the early days of the Internet, websites were extremely simple. They were built almost exclusively in text. Occasionally, there would be a need for a table to display some data. Then websites grew more complex, and the table code was repurposed to build more intricate designs, which made the code complicated and bulky.

The problem only got worse with time, and the addition of interactive elements such as rollover buttons and dropdown navigation menus necessitated the addition of lengthy, advanced programming such as JavaScript. The result was very bulky Web pages, and it made the search engines' job more difficult because their indexing program would have to weed through the extraneous code to get to the actual text of the website.

Since then, another way of building websites has emerged. The style of coding is called CSS (cascading style sheets). With CSS, the amount of code needed to build a website is greatly reduced, at least when done properly. In the Web marketing world, we call this "clean" code.

Clean code makes it easier on the search engines to spider (crawl and index) the pages of the website, and it makes it easier for designers to make updates.

Websites built almost exclusively in images or Flash

The search engines don't have eyes. Most of them are not human-edited. The search engines can only count the keywords on a page. But if the website doesn't have actual text because it is built primarily in images or Flash, the search engines can't "see" the keywords

For example, when you look at this website, you'll see that the homepage is built entirely in Flash (a Web animation program). Google has improved its ability to read Flash files, but they still cannot be optimized effectively. Note that even the address is an image: You can't highlight it with your cursor. And in this example, the homepage is built in HTML, but there isn't much keyword-rich text for the search engines to see.

Your website's homepage is the most important page of the site. It's where your site makes its first impression with the search engines. Therefore, it's important to present the site with informative text that both the search engines and people can use.

* * *

If your website suffers from any of these problems, it's time to make a change. It may be costly, but the cost of not showing up on the search engines is far greater.

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Jonathan Fashbaugh is president of Concerto Internet Marketing ( Reach him by phone, at 970-672-1212, or via his website's contact form.

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  • by Jennifer Saunders Tue Aug 11, 2009 via web

    This article came at just the right time. I'm trying to explain to my client why he should invest in new site design. Now I can send this to him!

  • by Jessie Burkhardt Mon Aug 17, 2009 via web

    Are there any tags you can put on homepage images that search engines can see and read? I love my homepage, but I'm afraid it is all images and no text (besides the navigation bar).

  • by Heidi Cool Tue Aug 18, 2009 via web

    Great points. Technology can really make a difference. While some database and content management systems fail, others like Wordpress can make it easier to implement SEO by customizing page titles and descriptions. I also recently wrote two articles on this topic, one is about using semantic html and the other covers some of the more specific problems regarding Flash.

    Jessie, the semantic html article may help you. Basically you want to make sure you use the alt attribute within all of your images, but if you can find other ways to add plain text to your content it will be a big help.

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