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How to do portal pages

In previous articles we have discussed the importance of being well placed in the search engines. We have discussed items such as the fact that ninety-five percent of the surfers find the sites they visit by querying the six major search engines. We have also discussed the fact that if your site does not appear in the first twenty to thirty results, it may as well not be there.

The problem that many of us have run into is each of the six major search engines use slightly different algorithms to determine placement. A web page that place high in one search engine may be relegated to obscurity in the others.

So is it possible to write one page that will place highly for all of your keywords? I believe that the answer is no. Then is there no hope of being well placed for more than one keyword or phrase at a time? I believe the answer to this question is also a resounding no! Good placement with multiple keywords can be achieved through the use of portal pages.

Portal pages are pages that are designed to place well in the search engine for a keyword or phrase. They can also be optimized for one particular search engine. These pages then provide links into the substance of your web site.

Now before someone accuses me of spamming the search engines, let me make it clear that I am still talking about pages of value and substance. The pages I am advocating are merely optimized to give the page its best chance at good placement. It is essentially having a customized entry page for each search engine and keyword or phrase.

So how do you go about making a portal page?

The primary thing to keep in mind is this is the first page your visitor will see. The portal page must follow all of the principles of any other well designed page. It must be interesting, eye catching and contain copy that compels the visitor to continue through the rest of your site. With these items in mind, we will now discuss techniques more specific to portal pages.

First, decide what keyword or phrase you are optimizing the portal page for. The process of creating portal pages is an iterative one, there will be at least one page for every keyword. The variable item in the process will be the keyword for which the page is being optimized.

Create portal pages in directories that utilize the target keyword or phrase. Name the file utilizing the keyword in the name. Consider placing portal pages on other servers than the one hosting the main website. They will have different IP addresses and will be indexed separately but will still bring visitors to the intended site. Do NOT flood the Web with portal pages. This is clearly spamming and should result in the target site being penalized.

Next, the HEAD information must be optimized. This is accomplished through the use of META tags. For this discussion, I will cover the description, keywords, robots and title tags.

  • Description tag: the description META Tag is used by Alta Vista, HotBot, InfoSeek and Web Crawler as the description text for your listing. Ideally, the Description META Tag should contain five to fifteen words but not exceed 1000 characters. Be as descriptive as possible within these constraints. To boost your relevancy, use your keywords, always ensuring that your description remains readable.

  • Keywords tag: place the targeted keyword or phrase in the keywords tag. Add the plural form of the keyword, use the keyword in a phrase. Keep your keywords tag to eight words or less. Do NOT create a long list of keywords.

  • Robots tag: the robots tag can specify whether or not to index this page and also to index pages linked to this one. Always use the content="index,follow" tag.

  • Title tag: title tags are critical in search engine placement algorithms. The title tag should contain at five to ten good, descriptive words and not exceed 200 characters. Within these parameters, the targeted keyword should be used, preferably as the first word of the title. Keep in mind Alta Vista, Excite, HotBot, InfoSeek, Lycos and Web Crawler use the title tag as the title text for the web site listing.

Begin the copy with a heading tag. Within this headline, use the targeted keyword or phrase. Plan to put between two hundred and five hundred words of copy on the portal page. Some search engines are imposing a spam penalty for pages with less than one hundred words. Sprinkle the keyword or phrase liberally throughout the copy. Make sure the copy is coherent and compelling. Do NOT simply repeat your keywords over and over. Avoid using words written in the same color as the background. These technique guarantees the portal page will be evaluated as spam by the search engine.

In general, avoid background images and image maps for portal pages. If there are graphics on the page, be sure to use alt tags. The alt tag text should contain the targeted keyword or phrase. Use complete sentences and a different sentence for each tag. Some search engines will also read comment tags. This is an opportunity to use the keyword or phrase thereby increasing the density and relevance. As with the alt tags, use complete sentences and a different sentence in each comment.

Include two or three links to logical starting places within the site on the portal page. A page with one link is triggers the spam penalty in some search engines.

Avoid items that do not add content to be indexed. These items include banners, counters, cgi, Java or JavaScript. Do NOT use the refresh tag. This will, without exception, trigger the search engines spam penalty.

Portal pages are a controversial subject, some say they are spam while others believe they are smart web site promotion. Ultimately, every webmaster will have to decide for themselves. Abuse of portal pages is certainly spamming. Used correctly and in moderation, portal pages can be a valuable tool to improve a web site's placement.

About the author
Copyright 1998, 2003 Tony L. Callahan All Rights Reserved
Tony L. Callahan, is a successful Internet Promotions Consultant with more than twenty years of industry experience and is president of his own Internet marketing company, Link-Promote. He also publishes Web-Links Monthly, a newsletter full of tips, tricks, tools and techniques for successful web site promotions. To subscribe, send e-mail to: Web-Links-subscribe@topica.com. For an online archive of Tony's articles available for reprint, visit: http://www.link-promote.com/articles

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