Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Problems With Being Dynamic

While we’re on the topic of things to avoid, let’s talk about dynamic content.

Dynamic content in this case refers to pages that don’t exist until the information for the page is pulled from a database. Dynamic content pages usually include a question mark in the URL, such as:

In the above example the dynamicpage.php can display information about a variety of products. The “?product=55” code tells the web page to get the information for product “55” from the database and display that information.

The URLs for dynamic pages can be very long. For example, Google search result pages are dynamic pages. Here is the Google URL for the search results for “dynamic pages”:

The problem with dynamic pages is that the search engines may not know how to handle the information to the right of the question mark. Some dynamic pages may get indexed, others may not. Some may be seen as duplicate content and dropped from the search listings, others may not be seen at all. Search engines, and in particular Google, have been improving how they handle dynamic pages, but there are still problems.

If you do have a database driven web site, and you want information from your dynamic pages to show up in organic search results, there are several things you can do.

• Create static pages that present the information from your most important dynamic pages. I’ve done this using custom software I wrote to automatically create static pages directly from the database. It has given excellent results.

• Instead of creating pages based on the database, create unique static pages that serve to “introduce” the content in the database. For example, if you are selling dog collars and the dynamic pages show the specific information about 10 dog collars—create a static page about dog collars in general. Discuss topics such as how to find the right size collar, safety, and the importance of dog licenses. All of this excellent dog collar related information will help this page rank high. Dog owners can then follow the links into your dynamic pages.

• Avoid the use of the variable name “ID” in your dynamic pages. Google is able to index some dynamic pages, but the variable name “ID” seems to give Google problems.

• Limit the number of variables in the URL. The fewer the number of variables, the easier it is for search engines to understand.

• Submit your dynamic pages to services such as Froogle. With Froogle you create a feed that provides Froogle with the information about the page, including the dynamic URL. (Froogle is Google’s online shopping comparison service. Froogle search results are shown at the top of many Google search results.)

• Purchase Google Adwords and Overture PPC ads that directly link to the pages with products you want to promote.

• Have a good site map that will lead people, and search engines, directly to your dynamic pages. Don’t rely on search spiders following URLs created by on-page code. The spiders will never see those URLs. Provide hard-coded URLs in a location that is easy to find, preferable on a page (site map) in the root folder.


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