Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Be Consistent With Link URLs

When setting up links always use the same URL.

What does that mean? I can hear some of you say, "Of course I'm not going to use different URLs for the same link."

There are a number of different ways the same URL can be written. Let's look at the URL for a home page, for example the page at:

The above is an absolute link. Links from other pages in the root directory can be relative, such as:


And a link from a subfolder can be: ../index.html

These are relative links, meaning that they are relative to the page on which they are located.

Absolute links for a home page also have a number of valid variations:

Google has suggested that all links to a page should have the exact same URL. Even internal links should be written as absolute links, using the exact same URL as you use for links from external sources. That way their spider will not classify ../index.html, and as three different pages.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Site Navigation and Consistency

This past week I started working on a client’s BtoB web site that was slowly disappearing from Google. About a year ago they had upgraded the site to a new design, including a new navigation system. One of the key objectives of the new navigation system was that it be consistent throughout the web site. One of the major problems with this site was that consistency.

The top level navigation is a series of tabs. The tabs are in a single graphic with an image map providing the links. I’m not particularly fond of using image maps, but they have their place when used correctly. The problem in this case was that there was no ALT text. Each link in an image map should have ALT text describing the destination of the link. The ALT text is useful to both the visitor and search engine spiders

To be consistent, the links under each tab used the same link text for all products. The result is link text with generic words such as: description, benefits, supplies and support. It is exactly the same for every product. While a visitor will read the page title and understand what description the link leads to, a search spider just sees the word “description”. This does not help achieve the objective of having the product page (the description page) rank high in the search results. To help acvhieve high rankings the product name should be a part of the link text, such as:

Widget Description
Widget Supplies
Widget Support

The web site sells a variety of products. As a result, the amount and type of information for each product varies. The “Overview” tab had four subcategories: Description, Supplies, Specifications and Ordering. For many products there were important pages that did not fit one of these categories such as: cost comparisons, testimonials and information about options. Links to these pages were buried under a Miscellaneous tab.

When there is information that is important in helping the customer make a purchasing decision, that information needs to be up front, visible and easy to access. In this case, having the flexibility to add a fifth and six link under the “Overview” tab will make information that is a part of the purchasing decision noticeable and easy to access.

Summary: Having consistency in a web site navigation system is important, but don’t let the goal of constancy override the main objective of the page--that of generating leads or bringing in sales.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Some Links Are Bad Links

Links are touted as the way to higher search rankings. But not all links are good links.

Broken Links: Whenever I look at a web site, one of the first things I do is to check for broken links--and I always find them. Broken links on your web site drive away visitors. They need to be found and fixed. My current favorite utility for identifying broken links is Xenu Link Sleuth.

What about broken links that used to go to your web site from other web sites? These are links that other webmasters felt were valuable to have, but which are doing nothing to help you. How do you find links on other web sites? Use search commands such as "" and "allinanchor:yourbusinessname". When you find a broken link contact the webmaster for the site with the broken link. Let them know about the broken link, and provide the correct link and link text.

Even when a link to your web site is not broken, it still may not be of value. The link text is critial. Search engines use link text to determine relevancy of the page the link points to. Link text such as "Click Here" is very common, and essentially useless. Also link text unrelated to the topic of the page is generally not helpful. Politely contact the webmaster of the site with the link text you'd like to see changed and ask them to change the link text to wording that will be more usedful to you and their visitors. You should, of course, provide some suggested text.