Making Dynamic and E-Commerce Sites Search Engine Friendly

Many dynamic and e-commerce web sites are unwittingly part of the Invisible web, but there are several strategies for making them more search engine friendly.

A special report from the Search Engine Strategies 2002 Conference, August 12-14, San Jose, CA.

Sure, it's easy to talk about meta tags and copy writing techniques when you have a static Web site. But what can companies with database and e-commerce sites do? "Search engines can crawl dynamic sites, said Detlev Johnson, filling in for Mikkel deMib Svendson, CTO of RedZoneGlobal Denmark. "They just don't want to."

Before you tell your CEO that his expensive Web site should "thrown out" however, there are some efforts that can yield your dynamic site some visibility in the search engines.

First, think "static" pages. Manipulate the URL strings and links because database characters (#&*!%) are "spider traps" as Johnson pointed out. These characters indicate database-generated pages and will keep search engines spiders from going any further into the site. Search engines get "stuck" in these sites, so they have been programmed to detect and then ignore dynamic pages.

Laura Thieme, president of Bizresearch, noted a few design difficulties with template sites such as a Yahoo Store. Yahoo does enable merchants to allow search engines to index the merchant's Yahoo store home page, category and product pages with each of the major search engines, by simply checking off a couple of options in the site promotion area. However, Thieme called attention to two challenges regarding customization capabilities. It is not easy to customize the layout for sites where merchandising is important. Nor is it easy to integrate the back end portion of the site with other customized business applications. Thieme recommended in the site design having a home page, category pages that are part of the main navigational elements, and product pages that can be linked to a shopping cart, such as a Yahoo Store (for e-commerce sites).

Another option is to create information pages that sit on top of static URLs. These content-rich pages can contain deep links into the dynamic site. Be careful in building these external pages however; theme-based pages (i.e. product or category specific) may garner search engine rankings, but building excessive static pages to "trick" search engines may result in a banning of these domains (see The Spam Police review for more information on what may be considered spam).

Second, use inclusion programs offered by search engines. Several search engines, including AltaVista, Ask Jeeves/Teoma, Inktomi, LookSmart and Lycos/FAST provide large companies the option to provide an XML feed of their database links for inclusion. The fee is based on a cost-per-click rate.

Yaron Galai, COO of Quigo, mentioned that Quigo offers the automated extraction of database-driven URLs, extraction of relevant meta data and creation of XML feeds, acting as a gateway for any search engine feed program. If your company has a dynamic site but does not have enough links to meet the search engine's minimum or would like assistance with this process, consider going through an inclusion partner such as Quigo, Position Tech or Inceptor.

Finally, consider putting your products and content into a shopping engine. Rob Goldman, senior vice president of DealTime, discussed some benefits of being part of a shopping network. The shopping search engine is designed to crawl the data which may be "uncrawlable" by general search engines - so this data is easily found by customers on the site. Plus, shopping networks (such as DealTime) are syndicated broadly through portal relationships and strategic partnerships with large traffic sites. DealTime, for example, powers the shopping channels for AltaVista, Lycos, and Excite, so once your site has been crawled by DealTime, it can be seen all across the Web.

A shopping engine doesn't need to be a replacement of your current Web site and search engine marketing efforts. But it can be. Or, it can be a complement to your overall online marketing strategy.

Dynamic sites need a different search engine marketing strategy than do static sites. If outsourcing is an option for your organization, ask search engine marketing firms what strategy they recommend for your company. Also ask how they proceed with the execution and tracking.

Any company considering a site redesign needs to take into consideration their search engine marketing strategy before they build their next generation Web site. Pre-planning can boost successful search engine visibility from site launch which will save substantial time and money long-term.

The Search Engine Spam Police, Part 1
SearchDay, May 29, 2002
"We hate spam!" Representatives of LookSmart and the Open Directory Project offer guidelines and advice for webmasters to avoid the wrath of editors and get successfully listed in these crucial web directories.

The Search Engine Spam Police, Part 2
SearchDay, May 30, 2002
Representatives from major search engines reveal the details of their spam detection and management policies, including email addresses for reporting suspected abuse.

Catherine Seda is editor of, a B2B Web site focused on search engine advertising, and author of Increase Your Sales with Search Engine Advertising.

Search Engine Forums Spotlight

PageRank by judicial decree? SearchKing sues Google
LawMemers get in on the action and elicit a response from SearchKing, Inc. CEO Bob Massa.

Google sued over page ranking
The "News for Nerds" crowd's comments.

Google sued over site ranking
Search Engine Forums at JimWorld
If you just can't get enough of this topic.

The benefits of the Yahoo SERP changes
Webmaster World Search Engine Forums
"On one hand, many who paid for BizEx are still miffed, but there is a growing realization that Yahoo may have ultimately done us a favor."

Google toolbar update
Webmaster World Search Engine Forums
"You can find a couple somewhat new features under toolbar options and then clicking on experimental features."

How does dmoz control editor bias?
Open Directory Public Forum
"Being an editor is a privilege, not a right, so if someone abuses the privilege it's swiftly taken away from them. There are a lot of editors though, and we can't watch all of them all the time, so tips like yours are very welcome."

Salesman moved site from #3 to #1 on AltaVista before my eyes
Webmaster World Search Engine Forums
"Boy I love these type of companies. This slight of hand stuff makes the Three Card Monte people look honest by comparison."

Search Engine Forums Spotlight courtesy Search Engine Guide

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