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Old 10-28-2004   #1
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Successful Site Architecture - Live from SES Sweden 2004

The first session of the morning I have attended was a basic one, but I wanted to hear some of the speakers, the session is named Successful Site Architecture.

Alan Perkins was first up and he went through many of the common issues with Web sites that are not search friendly. Navigation issues, URL issues, domain issues, JavaScript and others. Very good summary.

Shari Thurow was next up and she will go through specific examples, as opposed to overall conceptual issues. She then discusses what she will discuss; your Web site directory, site nav, URL, types of pages, the page and some linkage. She then goes over what is the root level of a site, the search spiders look for your homepage or robot.txt file first. Exclude test pages in your robot.txt file, exclude scripts (cgi, java, etc.) and pop up windows, exclude redundant content pages. She then gets into the basics of the URL, and defines which URLs are the most search friendly and which are the least. She then goes over which pages are the most important to optimize, i.e. no need to optimize a privacy page but it is important to optimize category pages and product pages. She goes over the 404 page and discusses why Apple's 404 page, she loves it from a usability purpose. Then moves on to why a site map is so important and tells the audience that having short descriptions about what is found within each section under the link, as oppose to just having a link. Now she is discussing the breadcrumb trail, but keep in mind, she is showing screen shots of real sites - so this information is being communicated clearly (I think). Cross linking pages internally is very important, and using the correct anchor text relevant to the page is as important, she shows examples of a good way and bad way to do this.

Ask Jeeves, Michael Palka gives his quick presentation about the basics. And then Magnus Sandburg said hello and said will answer some Q & A.


Q & A:
Q: Any good tools for keywords?
A: Action Outline is what Chris Sherman uses.

We got off on a dynamic content question string of question, but that is covered in a different session.

Then moved onto a discussion about optimizing pages versus optimizing sites. Any questions on that, feel free to ask below.

Q: Tables versus CSS?
A: Google said tables are not better then CSS for ranking purposes. Shari Thurow agrees, but she takes the usability spin on it.

Last edited by rustybrick : 10-28-2004 at 04:19 AM.
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Old 10-28-2004   #2
Adam C
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rustybrick
Q: Tables versus CSS?
A: Google said tables are not better then CSS for ranking purposes. Shari Thurow agrees, but she takes the usability spin on it.
But is CSS better than tables?
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Old 10-28-2004   #3
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If I was on the panel, I would have said yes. Then I would have explained that if you use CSS, you can position the text towards to the top of the source code. When you use tables, often you have header info, navigation info, and other non-page specific content at the 'tippy top' of the source code. If you use CSS-P, you can place what ever you want in what ever order you want in the source code. CSS allows you to place the relevant page content at the top of the page, as oppose to making the engine dig deeper into your source code.
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Old 10-28-2004   #4
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Did the panel not go into it then?
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Old 10-28-2004   #5
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Did the panel not go into it then?
Yup, I think so, unless I missed something. I reported what I heard.
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Old 10-28-2004   #6
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I would tend to agree with what you said, though hadn't heard anyone saying before that tables might be better than a CSS positioned web-page.

That said, however, the number of badly coded sites I see ranking (particularly on Yahoo) is huge.

Am starting to question my CSS obsession.
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Old 10-30-2004   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam C
But is CSS better than tables?
There are lots of reasons why better:

1. As Rusty pointed out positioning... but would look at this from top down & bottom up:

a. Top down: descriprtion snippets favor first occur of keyphrase which are often nav bars that reads > home > about us > query keyphrase > policy > support > contact us - not too beneficial for ranking, nor appealing for search users to entic the click. Often nav bar appear top & left and good quality text copy "perfect" for snippets are further down the page. Thus a push down.

b. Bottom up: the normally "on page" title does not appear "precisely" page top e.g. <h1><h1> where a "bot" view would nornal see some version of body text for nav links links. Thus a pull up.

2. less code blot. As table are not that good at precise positioning "you often need lots". eComm carts often have 100 tables to ensure propure formating... even comparable number of divs is a lot less redundant chararcters.

3. W3C Compliancy far easier per totality of website as a major chuck of on page code is now off page and often, change 1 file changes all.

4. image button (graphic text) vs image buttons (text links) without losing graphical appeal. While you can do this with tables... formating nightmare.

5. Exceptionally useful for Flash, Shockwave websites, or Javascript sites, etc. with negative layers and a behind text versions. With visitors that have these formats disabled - they still have avaliable page content. Also not need to have two nav trees (like: Flash click here or html click here) plus bots that have difficulty crawling these dynamic versions -- no problem!

6. fluid designs are easier

7. keeps non-savvy people from copying your techniques.

8. lots of additional spam functionality if that's your game!

Last edited by fathom : 10-30-2004 at 06:44 PM.
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Old 11-01-2004   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rustybrick
We got off on a dynamic content question string of question, but that is covered in a different session.
I thought that was a good question that fell somewhere in between "Successful Site Architecture" and "Dynamic Web Sites".

The question went something like this: "You tell us not to use dynamic content but dynamic content is everywhere. All the content management systems use dynamic content and it's the future of the Web. Aren't you just giving advice that works well in theory but not in practise?"

The answer was to recognise the difference between dynamic URLs and dynamic content. Dynamic content is created on-the-fly and doesn't exist on the server in the form in which it is delivered to the Web browser. Dynamic content can be served up under a dynamic URL or a static URL. Serving dynamic content under a static URL helps encourage both search engines and people to link to that content. A dynamic URL, OTOH, is simply a URL containing certain characters, such as a "?".

Nobody was saying not to use dynamic content. However, it helps to be aware of the problems that dynamic content may cause. These problems are chiefly:

1) The same content seen at lots of different URLs
2) Lots of different content seen at the same URL (within a single indexing cycle)
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Old 11-01-2004   #9
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Firstly, I hate the quirks and cross-browser differences with CSS - but use it all the time 'cause I love the final result, tidy code, clean fast loading pages, and better text positioning in the source code.

Quote:
However, it helps to be aware of the problems that dynamic content may cause. These problems are chiefly:

1) The same content seen at lots of different URLs
2) Lots of different content seen at the same URL (within a single indexing cycle)
I'd add to this the inherent danger of spider traps that large sites usinig dynamic content can unwittingly fall into. Endless Dynamic URLs that look different to the bots and keep churning up slightly different pages. Bots' don't like wasting their time and are relucant to come back just to do the same thing next time round.

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Old 11-01-2004   #10
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Originally Posted by scolling
I'd add to this the inherent danger of spider traps that large sites usinig dynamic content can unwittingly fall into. Endless Dynamic URLs that look different to the bots and keep churning up slightly different pages. Bots' don't like wasting their time and are relucant to come back just to do the same thing next time round.
Yep, that's "The same content at different URLs".
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Old 11-02-2004   #11
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Originally Posted by fathom
There are lots of reasons why better...
Honestly, I'm the last person that needs convincing of CSS's clout for doing all these wonderful things.

My main (and recent) concern is that the tidy code I'm producing doesn't help me rank any better than the clunky table based designs I used to churn out. If I have a choice of spending 5 times as long coding a site simply for my peace of mind and little/no SEO benefit I'll have to think about whether to bother.
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Old 11-02-2004   #12
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I basically agree on all the good arguments for using CSS. However, in real life you will most often not see any difference in rankings if you test a well coded tables site against CSS version of the same site. In other words, if you are using simple table structures today you probably won't jump up in rankings just because you shift to CSS. It's not a magic bullet. However, if you are using very complex table structures, especially ones that push the most important content way down the code you may want to consider moving to CSS. I've seen table strucures so extremely complex that it was a question of the spiders actually getting all the way down to the real content... or not.

Having said that, I do believe most sites will benifit in the long run from using more CSS and less tables. I just don't think you should re-code your entire tables-site just to gain better rankings. You may gain more visibility spending the same resources on other things
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Old 11-02-2004   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam C
Honestly, I'm the last person that needs convincing of CSS's clout for doing all these wonderful things.

My main (and recent) concern is that the tidy code I'm producing doesn't help me rank any better than the clunky table based designs I used to churn out. If I have a choice of spending 5 times as long coding a site simply for my peace of mind and little/no SEO benefit I'll have to think about whether to bother.
All other things being equal - "it does help you rank better".

All other things "not equal" - you are quite correct.
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