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Let me tackle a really good issue that sagerock raised: "What could we do for you, to ultimately make a better web site? What can we do to make our industry a friend of your industry?" I'll take a stab with a piece of low-level advice and something a little bigger.
Here's a piece of concrete advice that's pretty common-sense. Make sure that every page on your site can be reached from text (and ideally static) links. If you can't browse your entire site in a text browser like Lynx, you're probably losing several spiders. Googlebot can crawl through some weird stuff, but not every spider can. Make it easy on users (and spiders) to navigate your site.
As far as how we can all get along better, ask yourself this question before you try something new: "Is this going to help my users?" Google really does want to return the best site for users--it's that simple. If you go back to basics, pretend to be a user, and try to make that experience better than any other site, your site will gain traffic on its own. At some point, I'll try to post some more specific guidelines, but the "is this good for users?" test is a good start.
Look at the response here from 'webmasters, SEO's etc' to a search engine which communicates, even 'unofficially, with one section of its' users!
We are, in effect, unpaid advocates or enemies of a search resource - all dependent on how we are treated as 'customers' or 'distributors' of their services. In this respect we are no different to any satisfied or disgruntled 'customer'.
What riles me is the apparent short-sightedness of some engines (GoTo, Yahoo) spring to mind, who seem to want to exclude their 'trade distributors' (ie. us) from their services all because they can't see they can service both markets (distributors and 'end users') with a different offer and marketing mix. This is particularly the case with those who now offer PFP or 'Express Review' services.
We could be (are?) worth a lot to them, particularly if times are about to get tight.
I again applaud Google and Fast for their contributions in this forum - hopefuly others are watching the response to this and will finally learn to work with those who are legitimate partners to their resource (and not 'spammers') and not against us.
Extensive use of Flash (or any other non-indexable media) should not be seen as a barrier to good search engine positioning -after all, it is quite feasible (and not particularly labour intensive) to create html for indexing purposes, then link the pages to your Flash content for visitors.
So long as the html is on-topic, I can't see how anyone could reasonably complain about this approach (I use it on a couple of well ranked sites and it has never caused me problems).
True, Flash is a headache at present, but there are ways round any problem.
Many webmasters in this community sell certain products and they know they truly have some of the best products in the world. They know if they help surfers looking for widgets find their sites, they will be happy with what they find and buy their products. They know this from past experience because of high sales conversion rates at their site.
So they optimize specific pages on their site for surfers to find their products in Google. They study the keyword densities and other factors that rank high and they trade links with copius numbers of related, and some not-so-related, sites to raise their link popularity. They even cross-link with other related sites they own. Some people go further and stuff hidden keywords and invisible links on their page, and even serve the Google spider a keyword-stuffed page different than they serve other visitors.
The results of their optimization efforts are that hundreds of surfers looking for their specific products find the optimized pages ranking high in the Google SERP's. They click on these links and find exactly what they are looking for. They say "wow! Google sure is a good search engine. I found these great products right away."
My point is that most of this community's professional optimization efforts are good for the user, and therefore good for Google. So why are we often chased down like a bunch of criminal and our sites penalized for these efforts?
- And SE's are website distributors. The communication happening here is excellent, lets be careful to cooperate and develop this relationship.
Thanks for your last post GoogleGuy. Keep em coming.
The web is moving on, like any other medium and you can take you pick as to if you think that is a good thing both for the medium and the user, but it is moving on.
To say that all sites should be fully compatible with Lynx automatically assumes that ALL searchers (as this is being used as a required standard) merely require information, plain and simple.
I believe this is not the case.
Without lapsing into wider 'branding' issues, we all buy, gain information etc. based on factors other than the gaining of pure 'information'. The web as a modern medium should contain text only, information-based sites as well as highly branded, Java only, Flash, Video streaming etc. sites. Offering a comprehensive choice equal to the requirements and expectations of the searcher.
IMHO if the indexing potential all sites are judged by the 'Lynx standard' ultimately SE's will be used only by those seeking 'pure text' information and will be left behind.
I am surprised Google say this as they do seem to lead the way in indexing asp, images, PDF's and, I think, framesets.
I wonder if this is Google company policy or GoogleGuy's personal, and valued, opinion and preference?
ps. The problem I can see with using a few HTML pages with a primarily Flash site is that I was under the impression that some engines required 'substantial pages' to index the site?
I've always felt that a compromise could be reached between SEs and SEOs and the relevance issue should surely be the key one. It is both in our clients and the SEs interests that search engine results are satisfying the users needs. As a profession which (however else you want to describe it) 'manipulates' (I call it 'modification of') page code in order to get higher rankings we try and adhere to (and take advantage of) the methods used by each search engine to position results. Now the million $ question is can we do this in a way that compliments the way search engines want to serve results or are we always going to be in conflict - with search engines wanting to keep their SERPs 'pure' and us seeking to 'influence' them?
Backus - I'll put in my 2c on flash. (I guess it applies to some other formats also)
If your client has gone down the road of making a site entirely in Flash, then the advice that they received when initially creating the site was either flawed or ignored. (I've seen both)
One key thing about search engines is that indexing must be automated - otherwise its a directory - and will have teams of reviewers. Though not an expert on the SWF format I guess automated indexing of the content is either impossible or extremely difficult. Also there are all the side issues of; will the surfer's browser support the plugin, where to link into to - if a site has good content it may only be reachable after wading through endless presentations. I avoid flash based sites due to this - though occasionally I'll do a swanky sales presentation for opt in users - eg. "view our sales pitch here"
Practical advice for you on this particular project - charge your client a lot more :) Build a parallel site that mirrors all the content in plain old searchable indexable html and link to the flash version for those that have it.
In this case IMHO the mistake is your client's and trying to get the search engines (or even google) to solve this mistake is just not realistic - no offense :)
So lets be nice to GoogleGuy and hopefully we'll have an open and responsive channel to some of the best inside advice on the net :)
Welcome GoogleGuy - thanks for dropping by - I hope we see you on a regular basis :)
As for se's, there is zero they can do to support Flash. Certainly we don't want to go back to giving weight to unseen text on the page. SE'e are based on the text of the web. In that sense, a flash site really isn't a traditional web site. The big thing a flash site can do, is get listed in a directory engine like Yahoo or the ODP. After that, nontraditional sites will have to persue nontraditional means of site promotion.
A suggestion if I may;
there is much speculation about the mechanics and poilicies of Google to be found in the WmW forums - resulting from a great deal of hard work and research to which my peers and I allude. In doing so, conclusions are naturally drawn and theories are developed. However, sophisticated and fast-changing SE's such as Google can sometimes lead us down the wrong track, and our assumptions are not always correct.
I would be grateful if you could explode some of the myths about Google relating to our SEO efforts. There must be a vast number of misconceptions - you cleared one up earlier concerning the link between adwords and ranking. You must have heard of dozens more examples.
This would seem to me the best way forward IMHO - hopefully somthing you could do for us without crossing the 'line' - and it would be a much appreciated token reward for our collective research efforts.
Itís great that you are here at WebMaster World. I have to say that I am very happy with the way that Google is working for me, don't go changing TOO much!
As far as the flash thing goes, it would be good if this format was able to be spidered, but I have my doubts that this is possible. As far as Backus' comments go, I can see his frustration there, but there are quite a few issues to think about RE: flash.
1. "Professional" - I think you will find that Flash DOES NOT = professional for most sites. Sure, the text looks a bit smoother, but so what? I find the best uses of flash are in entertainment (cartoon animation and games)
2. Not everyone is on super fast connections atm. Do you know how frustrating it is trying to download some flash site only to find itís not what you are looking for?
3. Be wary of believing what your "stats" (customer polls?) tell you, these things are notoriously unreliable. Ppl will tell you they want animation, and then complain or leave when they have to sit for 10 mins downloading and watching a flash presentation intro.
4. There are also MANY issues with regards to accessibility with flash. It is imposable to resize text, people using wap canít see the site, people using text readers cannot ďhearĒ the site etc. Html rocks for these things.
I would always discourage my website customers from using flash only sites. The way to go (IMHO) is START with plain html, optimised for search engines, then add style sheets, gif and jpgs and then, as icing on the cake, flash, video and audio IF it is needed. All embedded in html. Don't use flash for text and then expect ANY search engines to take any notice at the moment.
Hope this isnít too OT. If you look, you will find loads of info on the net for pros/ cons with flash. Try other forums here or [alistapart.com...]
Im curious about some statements you make..
"...Checking with stats, our target audience does not want to see a text homepage, they want to see a professional animated intro about the company..."
How can you tell that from your stats? This totally mystifies me. Please let us know what stats package you are using or we will have to assume you have mystic powers!
Secondly, why do users want to see a flash animation, and not just informative text? I can see how some could make an argument that some animated stuff (flash or otherwise) can make a site look professional, but is that what the users are looking for?
"...Whether you like it or not, Flash is the future..."
Why? Weve seen technologies rise and fall very quickly in the 5 or so years that the Web has become mainstream. I rarely, only a few times, see a Flash site adding finctionality to the user any better than text. The basic building block of the Web is hyperlinked text, and that is not subject to proprietary ownership nor bloated web viewers needs to view all the new hi techo things..
What I like about Google is that it has gone back to the basics of the Web. The WWW was designed as a communication medium, not an advertising medium, and that is a major cause of the dot com failures of late.
At heart the Web was designed to allow readers to link automatically to other related material via hyperlinking and citation. That is the heart of the Web. To have an algo that gives an advantage to those sites that are truly hperlinked on the Web, both inwards and outwards, builds on the competitive advantage of the Web over other publishing methods.
Plug ins, graphics, java, all are distrations and the results of traditional advertisers trying to exploit the Web without understanding how it really works, and are secondary to the basic building blocks of the Web.
Google has recognised that, resulting in excellent relevance.
(edited by: chiyo at 1:34 pm (gmt) on Oct. 9, 2001
I think the single most important concern certainly of myself and of others is too make sure a site is simply navigated and works for the grater good or majority of potential searchers, hence taking in all the browser variables that exist and the differences in download times around the world. Any complexity i add to a site is purely with the searcher in view.
Hence, i use none proprietry languages, which are universal to most degrees, and low graphic downloads, i always use text links, as well as graphical, for enabled browsers. At any point in the design or modyfication, i allow myself to forget my own knowledges, and try get back to when i first used the net, and i find invariable it is extremly successful, and Google seems to love it, because its simple for the user and easy for the crawlers.
I have a question that maybe you can clear up. We have had our Google Adwords removed as of yesterday, with this reason given: "Due to the claims made on your site, we are unable to run your ad for Search Engine Optimization at this time."
I would appreciate it if you could clear this up as we make no claims that would be offensive to Google. We do not claim to manipulate results or perform any type of cloaking. The main thing that we promote is full-optimization......content-optimization.
Could you please clear this up.
Doing what is best for the user is something everyone in the development industry needs to keep a close eye on. For one reason or another, I'm not sure that result is always produced. However, so many clients are requiring a much higher return on investment for their development project than they did even 6 months ago. I'm seeing many development companies now taking a very hard look at building marketing strategies into the overall development. The answer they are coming up with primarily is email marketing. They are still missing the search engine friendly design structure, from what I've seen. I think it's simply an awareness issue more than a flagrant disregard. (btw, this design format is not only good for search engines, it's also excellent for people with disabilities - a segment of the market people are often missing.)
If I could ask you to speak on the ability of reporting positions back to our clients, that would help a great deal. Even as we speak I'm running a report for a client. Clearly this is a drain on your resources. Northern Light went as far as banning all reporting for Web Position Gold. Is there a solution that would work well for everyone?
Thank you, once again, for your contributions.
2nd, as for the "Flash only" question...I had several pages of all flash were not ranking at all, so I added text headings and a few other small text comments and links, and now despite the fact that the majority of these pages are flash- they all rank (and quite well) in Google. Might that work for some of you?
Andrew, this is referring to the fact that you can't place a Google Adwords ad, if you're site (for SEO) claims you can manipulate Google. While this may or may not be the case here, it is one of the reasons there have been a decrease in the number of ads for these services...
And, you'll notice Google has their own ad for SEO. Goto used to, but they don't any more (probably didn't pay, because people wanting Google rankings can't pay Goto to get them).
Hope that makes sense...I guess their perspective is that, if they let everybody claim they could manipulate Google, then if the company didn't, it would be false advertising :) And if they let people run those ads, to make it not false advertising, Google would have to let themselves be manipulated ;) I could be wrong here...
"...We have to show working diagrams for the product our client sells. Informative text is there, but working designs must be too..."
Agreed, flash could be a great app for showing working diagrams, I thought you were saying people wanted to see an animated logo!
No need to make the whole site flash though and depend on that for navigation too.
Hope all the questions didn't scare you too much. I surggest that you collect them in groups and then anwser one group at the time.
It's great that you will spend time with us and if we can help any, please don't hesitate to let us know
My take on the Flash vs. Text issue: 1) Google is farther down the path of working with sites with somewhat inadequate text due to the linkage/PageRank factors in the algo. Off-page criteria play a big role. 2) I think that creative technical solutions on the part of the web designer will always be of great importance, and that we can't rely totally on SE technology to handle all possible issues. The fact that your viewers prefer to see just an abstract painting of an apple rather than a block of text about apples is great, but we can't expect the search engines to be psychic.
What we can hope for is that Google and other SEs provide an avenue for text content presentation that doesn't run afoul of spam filters - be it NOFRAMES content, text delivered based on user agent or IP, etc. The challenge, of course, is sorting out the legitimate users from the spammers and abusers.
It would be great to know when spidering/ updates are going to take place as this would enable webmasters to meet the deadline and get the new content up before being indexed.
As a continuation of this, a page on google with info on updates/ indexing algos etc would be fantastic.