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What's all the talk about?

 3:12 am on Feb 24, 2001 (gmt 0)

Iím going to suggest we discuss themes. I have been researching themes and gathering data and information for a year now and I would really like us to discuss this in one forum. I ran a search (which I must compliment Brett on) and found many discussions where themes come in. Iím going to follow my comments here with a list of some of those discussion references. To start it off everyone should read Brettís tremendous information found at:


I suggest reading Brettís introductory information for theme engines to have an understanding and then take a leap with me into the ĒÖit just makes senseÖĒ part..

I think themes can open our work up to SO instead of SEO. Themes can open the search opportunities for optimizers from the limited ďengineĒ positioning. Themes can give optimizers a chance to create a foundation for their clients. A themed site can be easier to maintain, easier to track, easier to fine-tune plus they just make sense. I love to theme sites. Thatís really the most interesting part of my work. Themes and vortals. Iíd like to discuss vortals at some point, in relation to search optimization and themes.

Is anyone else game for this? We can run or own themes research discussion. Iíll tip it off with links to previous discussions. Run a search for themes and youíll see just how many times the topic comes up. This is especially true for Alta Vista discussions. Iím just going to pull out some of my favorites.

For discussion purposes we should also come to terms with the term and create a definition for it. What does the term themes mean to you? ďThemeĒ in my mind is the basis from which the site is developed. There is one unifying term that brings all the various parts together. Itís the hub and the hallway. Or at least it should be. Itís as simple as the simple rule Ö to link one page to another it must be a part of the page itís linking tooís theme. One page should be able to bring all the parts together and thatís the main theme from which all the complimentary sub themes follow.

How do themes work for you and how are you optimizing your themed sites? I think the more we know and help each other with themes, the stronger we all become. The competition becomes different. I think marketing and optimizing for themes opens a whole new market for searchers as well we optimizers. Small to mid size nitch businesses I think benefit most from theme optimization approach.

I have so many theme related questions still to find answers to and theories to develop. Whatís good though is if Yahoo pulls another Inktomi type split again someday with Google, I imagine a well themed client positioned across the board wonít feel the bump quite so severally as those who are following traditional engine optimization strategies.

Iím not saying we all have to theme our sites or that engines are drawing from that source for their rankings. I am suggesting that creating a site based on a theme theory may open a new avenue for placement and new avenues for searchers to find you while at the same time helping to build the sites link popularity and presence. I can spend hours on that topic alone.

I hope this isnít dull or taking up too much space. Please add some feedback here, at least in reference to the following discussions, which names only a few of the available.





 4:35 pm on Feb 26, 2001 (gmt 0)

I've always thought of themes as pyramids. You put your main general topic at the top and then support it with subtopics in the next level down. The support those subtopics with subtopics in the third level down etc.


 6:04 pm on Feb 26, 2001 (gmt 0)

>For discussion purposes we should also come to terms with the term and create a definition for it.

theme (thm) n. [dictionary.com]
1.A topic of discourse or discussion.
2.A subject of artistic representation.
3.An implicit or recurrent idea; a motif: a theme of powerlessness that runs through the diary; a party with a tropical island theme.

There are 2 situations that come to mind, the existing site vs. a whole new site.

Some questions that I ask my clients about their web-site in order to determine their needs of high search engine rankings. Also this will help me in understanding their website promotion as a whole.

How important is achieving a high search engine ranking?
If their web-site is a small part of your total marketing program and you have a strong brand name recognition, search engine ranking may not be critical. If you plan to use your web-site as a significant portion of your marketing efforts, ranking may have top priority.

What are your keywords?
Keywords are the words that they use to lead visitors to your site. Keywords would generally include your company name, brand name, and any other words specific to your company or product. Keywords should also reflect the mind-set of your customers, their needs and opinions, and how they would search for the products and services that you offer.

What is your sites theme
To determine your sites "theme" we must first understand the content within its pages. Most sites content displays detailed information about their products/services as well as company information. Analyzing the all the text from every page we can compile a list of words that are relevant to their site.

How to determine a theme
With the list of terms extracted from the sites content we can then drill down to a theme. First, by removing all of the "stop words" we create a list of marketable words to work with.
First we have to compare words that are synonyms and decide witch ones are being search with at the search engines, and remove then ones that are not.
We can also remove words that are common to each other in nature of definition.
We then need to categorize the words that are left and group them in categories that I have predefined from sites that use categories.

Once we have determined the "themes" I can then build multiple sites each one targeting a single category.

By using this technique I can create more effective and relevant sites for the client and the search engine users.

The idea of creating a pyramid scheme is very similar to what I'm talking about.


  • baseball (main site)
  • baseball teams (site 4)
  • American league (site 3)
  • American league East (site 2)
  • American league west (site 1)

    The idea of themes are great for everyone the SE's get an optmized site for each specific topic and the user get a more relevant return.

    Athough my determination of themes still need improvment it's a fairly effective way to understand a site over all concept.

    >create a definition for it
    A specific topic within the over all concept.

  • Brett_Tabke

     11:30 pm on Mar 20, 2001 (gmt 0)
    Thanks for the thread Debra. I've started on a reply to this about a dozen times. I always try to read the first message, make a reply, and then read the rest of the replies after the face (helps keep things on topic). However, I couldn't get going on this one until I read Oils short but sweet response. After that, I couldn't stop thinking about it. There is so much here, it was hard to know where to begin. (also posted over at search engine world)
    > I've always thought of themes as pyramids
    Not only is it a good analogy Oil, but an inspiration as well.
    Theme Pyramid
    # Seo Value
    Site Structure (sub content categories)
    No value
    Main Site Root Index Page
    Low value
    Primary single kw's
    On index pages
    (hallway pages)
    Sub Topic A
    Sub Topic B
    Sub Topic C
    Sub Topic D
    Medium value
    Secondary 1-2 word kw's
    (doorway pages)
    kw a1
    kw a2
    kw b1
    kw b2
    kw c1
    kw c2
    kw d1
    kw d2
    High value
    2-3 word kw phrases
    on high content pages
    kw a1a
    kw a1b
    kw a2a
    kw a2b
    kw b1a
    kw b1b
    kw b2a
    kw b2b
    kw c1a
    kw c1b
    kw c2a
    kw c2b
    kw d1a
    kw d1b
    kw d2a
    kw d2b
    2-4 word kw phrases
    on prime targeted pages
    The whole Themes theory is to look at the site as a whole and compartmentalize it. Start with broad content (1 keyword) and work your way down to the specific keywords you want to target. Then link to the topics above and below, but not across, to reinforce the pages with link text and insite link popularity.

    Level 1 : Index Page

    It may be a shock to some, but the index page has very little SEO rankings value. They rarely rank well -- you will rarely get them to rank well -- there is very little that you can do to change it's ranking. The best you can hope for is if a couple good directory listings come through a engine or two may take notice of your root page. A well ranking root index page is the exception rather than the rule. When one does rank well, it is usually as a result of external off-the-page factors.
    If that is the case, then your best course of action for the index page, is to focus it towards the users, usability, and speed. Users that hit the home page are sniffing around for other content, not your home page. Don't try to make it something it isn't. It is a beatified site map - *sniff* - deal with it. I think there is no greater challenge in the SEO industry today, than getting a client over the "I want my home page top ten under my keywords" myth.
    (tip: I find it helpful to meditate with "I'm not CNN" as a mantra)
    The index page has two limited SEO roles: 1) as a pretty picture for directory editors reviewing your site, and 2) as spider food to lead to your sub content.
    Try to link to as much deep content on your index page as possible - yes I know - it is a tall order. However; spiders like first level content. If it is linked off your root page, then many se's will tend to follow at least those links or rank those linked pages higher.

    Level 2

    Your prime top phrases. These are what are traditionally thought of as hallway pages. They won't necessarily be high traffic pages that you'll want user footsteps on, but are main SEO pages. Try to link to as much on topic deep content as possible. For example: if your site is about cars, and your first subtopic is about engines, then try to link to topics that target (two cycle engines, v6 engines, turbo engines, 5liter engines, rotary engines, engine theory, combustion engines). Stick to all the topic content that is related to engines only. Don't try to cross link with tires or air bags (think vertical).
    The level two pages present good opportunity to define any subsection or subsite content you have. As mentioned, try to stay as close to topic with all your links off these pages. They have pretty good SEO value - not great rankings value, but they help define your sites sub-themes and major keywords. Try to link to topics above and below this subtopic, but not to other subtopics.

    Level 3

    This is into some traditional quality content and the line from this level to level 4/5 can be fuzzy - it is just a question of depth. These are usually thought of as doorway pages to one degree or another. Most of these pages should be linked off your home page. They often have great one or two keyword phrase ranking value. They can be tough to get ranked well because these will often be very competitive keywords.
    For example, if your your third level topics are about "internal combustion engines", then target keywords such as (v6 engines, v8 engines, rotary engines, wankle engines, turbo v6 engines, etc).

    Level 4

    Like level 3, these are more broad but quality content pages you try to target bigger keywords with and use as loss leaders to your base quality content. For example, if your fourth level sub topic is "six cylinder engines", then link to content on your site and offsite that targets those related keywords: (slant six, inline six, straight six, v-six, v6 theory, turbo charging a v6...etc). Don't try to link to talk about tires, clutches, air bags, or any other non-engine talk in the other level 2 categories. Stick to linking with topics above and below in this level.

    Level 5

    Your money pages. Some site may not need to go this deep. This is your base level site content that you use for search engine food and what your users are really after. Link to all pages above or across in the same category.
    Ok, so what does a site look like that uses the above? Here is an example pretty close to home:
    Theme Keyword Pyramid
    # Seo Value
    Site Structure
    (sub content categories)
    No value
    Low value Primary single kw's On index pages (pseudo hallways)
    The Search Engine World
    The SEO World
    The Webmaster World
    Local Talk
    Medium value Secondary 1-2 word kw's
    Spider ID
    High value 2-3 word kw phrases on high content pages
    1px gfx
    SE Status
    Cloak Sales
    Jenny Bot
    Money 2-4 word kw phrases on ultra targeted pages
    If we had a flat message model where individual messages were available, that would be level 5. And that, as they say, is that...
    Discussions about Themes at WebmasterWorld:
    External Related Search Engine Theme Articles:


     11:52 pm on Mar 20, 2001 (gmt 0)

    ::bookmark page for future site planning::


     12:25 am on Mar 21, 2001 (gmt 0)

    Bookmark is right. Gee Brett, thanks for joining the party. Now I have tons more to think about. This is why I love this place :)

    Give me some time to digest.


     11:05 pm on Mar 21, 2001 (gmt 0)

    Brett, you're my hero. No, you're more like my teacher.

    You've obviously worked your butt off learning all of this useful information.

    You do a fabulous job of sharing it in an organized, easy-to-understand manner.

    And you're kind enough to share it:)

    (Just thought you earned the right to have some sunshine blown up.....sorry if this is embarrassing for you.)


     12:01 pm on Mar 23, 2001 (gmt 0)

    </lurk> My first post. Brett dude, this is the most intense board I have ever seen. You should do a newsletter of just the good posts like this one. This one and that post by Airs is information I'd not seen anywhere. I'd read everything on themes and was confused how to go about building my new sites, but that chart above is a road map I can follow. Thanks dude.

    Let me salvage something ontopic. Do you build the site with the same directory structure as the chart table lists above? Is it the first level is root and then you do a second level as another word in the url as the directory filename? Do you get the keyword value out of the URLs that way too?



     4:51 pm on Mar 23, 2001 (gmt 0)

    Welcome Elgin, good to have you here. "Intense" is just the right word. And thank you for bringing up the issue of directories - very pertinent to this discussion.


     6:41 pm on Mar 23, 2001 (gmt 0)

    he does run a newsletter ;)



     6:51 pm on Mar 23, 2001 (gmt 0)

    Welcome to WmW Elgin23

    </lurk> is what we like to encourage here.
    It does make it more FUN.


     4:33 am on Mar 25, 2001 (gmt 0)

    Not only a great post, but nice use of graphics to make a point. In text forums like this, we sometime forget that we can use color and other html tricks to make a point.


     5:53 am on Mar 25, 2001 (gmt 0)

    Has anyone done a systematic little experiment to test the difference between how sites rank if they are "stand alone" as opposed to being part of a well-themed site?


     7:01 pm on Mar 27, 2001 (gmt 0)

    Well, I was hoping someone else would jump in with some impartial info for you physics. I know you math types always want hard data - but that is in short public supply in the SEO world.

    I do know that a themed site using vertical keyword reinforcement ranks better on Google, Altavista, and Excite if you can get in. Google without fail loves a verticle themed site - it is magic. Alta does too, but you've got to be able to get enough pages in. Excite is pot luck.


     2:25 pm on Mar 28, 2001 (gmt 0)


    Thanks. I think I will go ahead and conduct a little test and see what happens. If anyone has any advice on how to do this sort of thing that would be great. In any case ... we'll see.


     3:44 am on Mar 29, 2001 (gmt 0)

    WOW, I've been praying for a visual of a themes schemata with concrete illustrations for a year now. Thank you Brett. Is the pyrmaid all within one domain or are subdomains used to separate the sub topics?

    Do I dare ask if you will be drawing us a picture of how additional domains get connected to this theme pyramid?


     4:58 am on Mar 29, 2001 (gmt 0)

    jilla, for a look at directory and subdomain structures, take a look at the themed canonical vortal [webmasterworld.com]as defined by Debra (paynt).


     5:29 pm on Mar 29, 2001 (gmt 0)

    Thanks Marcia. It looks like subdomains win out over subdirectories if I understood that thread.

    Can someone clarify level 5 of Brett's pyramid? I was confused if it would mean that the phrase pages look like this:

    1) putting up walls
    2) vertical themes
    3) internet day theme

    OR if Brett meant this as examples of focused pages on level 5:

    1) Discussions about themes at webmaster world (and on that page have the links)

    2) Related




     6:11 pm on Mar 29, 2001 (gmt 0)

    notes: apologies for a couple of typo's and spelling errors in my post above. Since it includes some embedded raw html, it is near impossible to edit at this point. There are no special allowances for html on the board and I just wedged in all those tables. We almost lost the thread when I tried to edit it before.

    I also hope this thread is displaying ok for everyone since I discovered a couple of table errors.

    Subdomains: Yes subdomains is the current thinking, however don't discount the value of a good directory name and filename.

    Additional inbound links are all on topic and used to reinforce the keyword. Make sure any inbound links you control from subdomains include the target pages keyword.

    eg: Altavista [webmasterworld.com]

    Yes, I try not to cross pollute keywords when it is possible and stick to linking to pages above and below. That can be difficult and not workable when you consider menu's from every page that lead to topic headings. Just try to have that target pages keywords in the link text.


     9:29 pm on Mar 29, 2001 (gmt 0)

    I think the one thing holding back a total understanding of this topic is a visio-induced mapping of how the SE's spiders and algorithims are being used with their networking systems.. and... sadly.. enough time.

    Thanks to bookmarks all is well though... Although, would it be too much to ask for some spell checking next time Brett? Thanks for saving hours of working research.


     9:59 pm on Mar 29, 2001 (gmt 0)

    Serious question... Has anyone done research on the whole SE indexing of dynamic pages?

    Many of our clients request SEO Optimization (at a price!) however they also own template, ASP, and queery-strung sites... And rumor has it that this isn't good.

    Experiences? Articles? Any assistance?



     10:21 pm on Mar 29, 2001 (gmt 0)

    Brett, I would like to compliment you on the extremely nice job you have done presenting this information. It was very helpful to me.


     12:07 am on Mar 30, 2001 (gmt 0)

    Eric_Lander, welcome to WebmasterWorld. Are you saying that you have opportunities to do SEO for potential clients' dynamically generated sites, and you're looking for information on how the themes/directory/infrastructure issue relates to the optimization of that type of site?

    Edited by: Marcia


     1:40 am on Mar 30, 2001 (gmt 0)

    No, BT, NOT the spell-checker! You remember what happened last time.

    Eric, as for SEO and dynamic content, here are a few related threads on that:


     2:30 pm on Mar 30, 2001 (gmt 0)

    I am starting a new topic for this discussion [webmasterworld.com] as it seemingly deviates from Brett's original points...



     5:04 am on Apr 6, 2001 (gmt 0)

    Continued in Part 2 [webmasterworld.com]

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