Google ‘Design & Content Guidelines’: Part 8

In this segment on ‘Google’s Design and Content Guidelines,’ we will be chatting about dynamic pages and ensuring that they can be found by search engines.

Google Design and Content Guideline #8: “If you decide to use dynamic pages (i.e., the URL contains a “?” character), be aware that not every search engine spider crawls dynamic pages as well as static pages. It helps to keep the parameters short and the number of them few.”

First and foremost, if your website only has static pages, this guideline does not apply to you.

Static pages are web pages that only display information found in a pre-formatted file, such as pages written in HTML.  If your web page relies on a database for some of its information, it is a dynamic page.  Dynamic pages are automatically created from PHP or another technology, and generally have a “?” in the URL.

Search engine bots are able to index dynamic web pages; but they take longer to find than static pages.  Although search engines are evolving to become friendlier towards dynamic pages, there are a few ways to ensure that the bots find your dynamic pages.

First, rewriting dynamic page URLs with large parameters into more user-friendly versions is a good idea.  Parameters are something like “OrderBy=avail” or “&PropType=”, are found in the page’s URL, and are designed to input the visitor’s request.  Simplifying web page URLs allows the bots to find them more easily.

Second, by limiting the parameters on your dynamic web page URLS to only 1 or 2 per URL, it will increase your chances that the search engine bots will find the web pages.

Third, it is possible to create static copies of your dynamic web pages.  This is a slightly more advanced technique, which involves “telling” the search engine that the static web page is a copy through the use of a robot.txt file.  A Google search on this topic will lead you to more information about how to do that.

Lastly, consider using mod_rewrite, which allows you to create rules for rewriting URLs on the fly, be they static or dynamic.  This means you can present simple, clean, easy to read  and SEO-friendly URLs that are easily read by search engines and visitors alike.

Mod_rewrite is becoming more commonplace among the better Content Management Systems (CMS) out there and is the best solution for those that don’t have the time or tech-savvy to do it manually.

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