Optimizing Dynamic Pages - Part II

Sep 17


Dale Goetsch

Dale Goetsch

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... Dynamic Pages - Part IIThe Widget Queen ... have the world's finest ... of widgets. You created the world's best widget website. You have no ... checked in the searc


Optimizing Dynamic Pages - Part IIThe Widget Queen RevisitedYou 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,Optimizing Dynamic Pages - Part II Articles even though all your competitors' sites do. Perhaps the search engine robots cannot get to your pages to index them.Search Engine RobotsSearch 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 likeblue widgetsor the slight variation 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 ways?The Painful SolutionOne 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 likeblue widgets style 1blue widgets style 2red widgets style 1red widgets style 2new widgets style 1new widgets style 2The 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 database. A Better SolutionA 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:Blue Widgets style 1< itle> 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 GoThere 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 addresseshttp://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=blue+widgetsIn 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 likehttp://www.mycompany.com/catalog.html?item=widget&color=blue&model=1that 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 thishref="http://www.mycompany.com/catalog.html?item=widget&color=blue&model=1">blue widgets style 1Put 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 DoorUsing 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.# # #Dale Goetsch is the Technical Consultant for Search Innovation Marketing (http://www.searchinnovation.com), a Search Engine Promotion company serving small businesses and non-profits. He has over twelve years experience in software development. Along with programming in Perl, JavaScript, ASP and VB, he is a technical writer and editor, with an emphasis on making technical subjects accessible to non-technical readers.Copyright © 2003 Search Innovation Marketing. All Rights Reserved.Permission to reprint this article is granted as long as all text above this line is included in its entirety. We would also appreciate your notifying us when you reprint it: please send a note to reprint@searchinnovation.com.