Optimizing dynamic pages (Part 2)
September 15, 2003
The Widget Queen Revisited
You have the world's finest collection of widgets. You created the world's
best widget website. You have no traffic.
You checked in the search engines and find that your site does not appear
at all, even though all your competitors' sites do. Perhaps the search
engine robots cannot get to your pages to index them.
Search Engine Robots
Search engine robots are simple creatures. They can "read"
text to add to their databases, and they can follow "normal"
links--those links that are coded to look like
<a href="bluewidgets.html">blue widgets</a>
or the slight variation
<a href="bluewidgets.html><img src="bluewidget.gif"></a>
That's it. Search engine robots cannot select items from lists; search
engine robots cannot type text into boxes; search engine robots cannot
click "submit" buttons. That means that no matter how important
our dynamically-generated page of blue widgets is, if the only way to
access that page is to select it from a list or click on a button, the
robot will never be able to visit it. That, in turn, means that it will
never appear in the search engine results.
So how do you get your dynamic information to show up in non-dynamic
The Painful Solution
One of the reasons that dynamic pages exist is because of the difficulty
involved in constantly updating -- adding and deleting -- pages from your
site, based on which widgets you are offering this season. If you have
a separate page for each make and model of widget, each of those pages
can be spidered. They can all be reached through links that look like
<a href="bluewidget-1.html">blue widgets style 1</a>
<a href="bluewidget-2.html">blue widgets style 2</a>
<a href="redwidget-1.html">red widgets style 1</a>
<a href="redwidget-2.html">red widgets style 2</a>
<a href="newwidget-1.html">new widgets style 1</a>
<a href="newwidget-2.html">new widgets style 2</a>
The bad news here, of course, is that you now have to create all of those
pages. This loses the benefit of drawing the widget information from a
A Better Solution
A better solution is to create only a "shell" of each page,
and then to dynamically populate the page from our database. By creating
a "real" file, you can assign a fixed URL, but still use the
database to fill-in the page, using any of various server-side techniques
(HTML server-side includes, Perl, Active Server Pages, Java Server Pages,
PHP, etc.). A simple page like this might suffice:
<title>Blue Widgets style 1</title>
Save this page as "bluewidget-1.html" and you're good to go,
assuming that "myscript.pl" will actually return the content
you want for the body of the page. True, you will have a discrete page
for each item in your inventory, but at least you only need to hard-code
the bare-bones of that page.
Another Way To Go
There is yet another way to go. This method does not require creating
dozens of static pages, or of having to include exotic scripts in your
web pages. It also may not work for all search engines!
Some search engine robots just will not follow links that include a "querystring"
as part of the URL. You have seen a querystring if you have ever looked
at the URL of a page of search results in Google. For example, if you
look for "blue widgets" on Google, not only do you get page
after page of blue widgets, you also see that these pages have very complicated-looking
In this address, everything after the question mark ("?") is
a querystring. This is used to pass additional information to the web
server. While some search engines can follow a complicated address like
this, many simply will not follow such a link. That means that if you
use a URL like
that the robot may not be able to follow it. This is bad.
On the other hand, an increasing number of search engine robots will
follow such links. Usually, links like this are created "on the fly"
by filling-out forms and clicking a "submit" button, but that
doesn't have to be the case. You can grab that address, querystring and
all, and put it into a "normal" link, like this
widgets style 1</a>
Put several of these on a page and the search engine robot can now visit
your dynamic pages from links that require no button-clicking. Remember
that not all robots will follow these links, so your mileage may vary.
As long as the link to the page exists in a form that does not require
human intervention to get to it (pulldown menus, search results, form
submits, etc) then a bot will follow it.
Widgets Out The Door
Using any of these methods will help search engine robots to find the
dynamic pages on your site. This means that the important content on those
pages is more likely to be included in the search engine databases, and
that people will be better able to find you. That, of course, means that
the Widget Queen will reign supreme, knowing that widget customers the
world over will now be able to find you and buy your widgets.
|About the author
Dale Goetsch is the Technical Consultant for Search Innovation Marketing
a Search Engine Promotion company serving small businesses and non-profits.
He has over twelve years experience in software development. Along
writer and editor, with an emphasis on making technical subjects accessible
to non-technical readers.
Copyright © 2002-2004 Search Innovation Marketing. http://www.searchinnovation.com
All Rights Reserved.
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