Site critique of the day:

I decided to practice what I preach and to share my knowledge of what I have learn about best practices in web development and web marketing over the past seven years. So, here is my attempt to write a few paragraphs a day by studying a random website and analyzing its shortcomings.

The choice of the site is, of course, not completely random – the gentleman who used to successfully run WAMMO (Washington Area Macromedia Organization), has just moved to a new company, PerformTech, so I am trying to put myself in his position and to predict what he would have to do to improve their website. By the way, since my message on the WAMMO forum suggesting to discuss search engine optimization at a WAMMO meeting, somebody has removed the meta name=”GENERATOR” content=”Microsoft FrontPage 4.0″ line which was adorning the front page’s code earlier today.

My focus today is search engine optimization. I have no idea if this company relies on search engine marketing, but looking at the way they treat their website, it seems they do not care if anyone can find them through a search engine. However, the following analysis should be helpful to them:

First, the front page title:
No page title or “Untitled document” (Untitled Document) is not the best way of introducing a company on the web. If a search engine were to index the page, the search result would show “Untitled document” as the page title – not very appealing! To illustrate, try making a search for performtech on google.com and the result is:

Untitled Document
Description: Computer company based in Alexandria, VA. designing and producing high impact technology solutions…
Category: Regional > North America > … > Business and Economy > Computers
www.performtech.com/ – 2k – Cached – Similar pages

The site description that the Open Directory has listed for PerformTech would be a good starting material for writing a descent page title. Putting something as simple as “PerformTech – high impact technology solutions for commercial and government clients” would be a good beginning (although cutting the marketing lingo would be beneficial but this goes into the copywriting realm and today we care only about the poor search engine spider!)

Second, the text links:
The front page has a nice logo with nice albeit generic tagline “Capturing knowledge” (how about releasing the knowledge after its captured :-). It also offers two options – for the high bandwidth and low bandwidth versions of the website – presented through an image map: one of the links would open, through a JavaScript function, a new browser window for the Flash version of the site.

This is all cool, but the problem is that the majority of search engine spiders do not read image maps. They are not much better about reading JavaScripts either. On top of it all, the site does not have alternative text for the images used on its front page (not very good in terms of usability and accessibility).

Since the search engine spiders are able to follow only text links, to see the site through the eyes of a search engine spiders, either try to select the text on the page and then copy and paste it into a text editor (if there is nothing to paste, then it is all graphics), or disable the JavaScript and kill the images (what is left is a big rectangural broken image which will not lead you to any other page, whether you click on it or not).

No wonder, then, the site is not indexed – the search engine robot cannot go beyond the front page (unless introduced to the site front some other site pointing to an internal page). If you go to Google and make a search for link:www.performtech.com you will see only 3 pages linking to PerformTech’s front page, and none of them from within the site:

Mayo-Wells Media Workshop
1220 L St NW PMB 290 Washington DC 20005 1 + 2 0 2 – 6 6 7 – 4 9 4 8.
Provider of quality Web Development, Multimedia Consulting, and …
www.mwmw.com/ – 6k – Cached – Similar pages

Potential Employers
In an effort to provide our students and graduates practical experience and hopefully
employment, we are creating a list of companies who may be interested in …
it.gse.gmu.edu/internships.shtml – 34k – Cached – Similar pages

Scrap Files Can Tear You Up
Scrap Files Can Tear You Up Wednesday, 10 May 2000 Last updated Sunday,
9 July 2000 What if there were a type of file that could …
www.pc-help.org/security/scrap.htm – 29k – Cached – Similar pages

What this means, from a point of view of the search engine spider, is that the PerformTech site is actually a single page with no unique content that can be of value to somebody searching the web and to which only three other pages have linked.

The only reason a search for PerformTech generates any result is because the site was listed on the Open Directory and because others used the word “performtech” in their webpage copy. Of course, one could continue with the analysis of the rest of the site but this should be enough for a free report 🙂

Books I am reading today:

  • Search Engine Visibility — good general overview of the best practices of search engine optimization, although some of the technical information is a big too low-level for my liking. Good read if you do not want to spend weeks reading all detailed articles on www.searchengineswatch.com; it has a companion website. Reading the book will inspire you to follow some of the good advise; however, if you still feel that you are not getting it, or your website is still not showing up high on the search engine rankings, contact me!
  • Google Hacks — a great book on a great subject; even just the webmaster pages are worth the price! Highly recommended! Reading it will instill even more respect for the engineering team at Google!

Books I finished reading over the weekend:

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