Thursday, April 06, 2006

Is your web site invisible to search engines?

I just reviewed a web site for a client that is completely invisible on the Internet.

While there are several hundred links to the site (measured by Google, Yahoo and MSN), none of these major search engines have indexed a single page of the site, which means the site will not come up in a search for anything - except perhaps the domain name.

If you want a quick check to see if the search engines have indexed your pages you can check it out with our free search engine visibility analysis tool here:
Free search engine visibility analysis tool

After you have run the report take a look at the search engine saturation score. This is the number of pages that each of the search engines have indexed. If it is zero - then you have a problem. The site I am looking at today has that problem.

The site in question today has a good amount of information on it, and could do very well in the search engines if it was properly structured. The structure as it stands now, however, is difficult to use from a user perspective, and impossible to index by the search engines. The indexing problem is caused by use of dynamic URL's like this:

The bolded part of the URL above is what is known as a robot "stop". Once the search engines sees this dynamic URL structure it just stops and doesn't follow the link.

The moral? Before you spend any time thinking about search engine optimization you first need to make sure that your site is built in such a way that the search engines can actually see it.
So what if my site is indexed by the search engines?
Well that's great. Now you can optimize. The site I looked at today had not been optimized for search engines at all. The meta tags are incorrect and there is no use of proper title or headline tags. A good search engine optimization program on this site will make a huge difference to the search engine visibility.

My recommendations for the badly built site:

Phase One:

First and foremost, the site structure needs to be fixed for the search engines and the users. This can be done with existing content and new HTML while preserving many aspects of the existing design. The entire site should be re-built in search engine friendly manner. Once this is done, the new search engine visibility can be used as a benchmark for a phase two rebuild for a much better site.

Products required:
- Search engine optimization
- Site re-development in search friendly html (priced per page, standard web design fees)
- WebTrends integration. Basic is included in SEO package, advanced configuration includes training and configuring web trends to understand the site structure so reports can be viewed on most interesting key performance indicators for the site.

Phase Two:
Redesign look and feel of web site. (May or may not include a complete rebranding)
Write new content, edit, revise and update existing content.
Update existing web site templates build in phase one, and modify and add new content as created in phase two.
Create whitepapers, etc for downloads and other sign in forms to collect contact information.

This two phased approach is my best recommendation on taking an old site with a lot of good content and making it quickly visible, and then measuring and building on that visibility. Step two would focus on making the site a selling web site, and converting those visitors to leads.

Learn more about our search engine optimization services here:
Agito Internet Marketing. A Toronto search engine optimization company

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