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I am aware that using the data base approach is more suited to vast product lines, and have had also been advised that itís a bit quicker than a static site. I am however concerned about the fact that SEs canít read any of the data because there is no page for it to crawl..
As the SE can read the static pages I am assuming it should help improve ranking as the Spider will have access to the product information that would include keywords. BUTÖ. I have also been told that the spider will only crawl the first 100 characters of the page which would mean it isnít accessing the additional information therefore giving no ranking benefit and taking out any advantage that I know of for static over dynamic database.
I am loath to follow any route that will discount any legitimate method for an SE to access keywords and have no reason to prefer one method above another apart from the SE friendly aspect.
Any suggestions on which side of the fence is best?
I'm not at all a SE person. There are some other forums at this site where people know this stuff cold. For what it's worth, however, I think you should create the site that's easiest for you to create, because your worries are mostly unfounded.
First off, the SE can and will crawl your dynamic pages. It won't crawl your database, but as long as there is a link that creates a page based on the contents of the database, the SE (at least Googel and All The Web) will index it. This is true whether you have urls
If you use url rewriting to create "SE-friendly" URLs, the SE will not be able to tell that you are using dynamic pages.
Second, there is no way to tell whether dynamic pages are file-based (i.e. in PHP using include or require) or DB-based. It's all parsed before any data is sent, so it's not a matter of DB vs static pages, but dynamic versus static. Personally, I can't imagine doing even a small site with totally static pages - I like to be able to change one small file or make one small change to the DB, upload and have it propagate through the entire site. Much easier. Some people prefer to create dynamic pages and then write script or use wget or something to output all possible pages as static pages and then upload them. Too much work for me, but it might work for you.
Spider will have access to the product information that would include keywords
This has nothing to do with whether or not the page is static or dynamic. You can have a "keywords" field in your DB and generate dynamic pages with all the same meta tags you would for a static page.
I have also been told that the spider will only crawl the first 100 characters of the page
This can't be true, since this usually would not even result in the spider crawling and indexing *any* content whatsoever. I know that some long (dynamic, database-driven) pages that I have done have been crawled *way* down the page. I don't know what the limit is, but it seems to be way more than a solid screenful. I'm sure lots of people in the SE forums can give you some real solid info.
There are a lot of other issues to consider - maintainability, scalability and so on, but you have to decide how best to manage these. I'm not saying you should or shouldn't use dynamic pages, but SE rankings should not determine your choice.
I hope that helps
Tools: do you have them? do you know how to use them? Like PHP, ASP, MySQL, etc.
Even for static sites, including files with PHP makes life a lot easier. So if you have the tools and know how to use them, then do!
If you are concerned about Search Engines, then what you must do is carefuly consider how they work so your design will be easily accesible to them, and this goes for Static AND Dynamic sites. Finally, it is the same thing.
In my opinion, today, most sites are dynamic (even Flash sites can be dynamic!) in one way or another.
Sometimes because content and user-interaction demands it, sometimes because it is easier to let clients/customers update and modify their content without having to wait for us to do it.
I would say content and purpose are two great keys to determine if your site is more dynamic than static or viceversa.
Hope this helps.