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Optimizing Dynamic Pages - Part II

By Dale Goetsch
Posted Tuesday, June 29, 2004

The Widget Queen Revisited
You have the world's finest collection of widgets. You created the world's best
widget website. You have no traffic.

You checked in the search engines and find that your site does not appear at
all, even though all your competitors' sites do. Perhaps the search engine
robots cannot get to your pages to index them.

Search Engine Robots
Search engine robots are simple creatures. They can "read" text to add to their
databases, and they can follow "normal" links--those links that are coded to
look like

blue widgets

or the slight variation

That's it. Search engine robots cannot select items from lists; search engine
robots cannot type text into boxes; search engine robots cannot click "submit"
buttons. That means that no matter how important our dynamically-generated page
of blue widgets is, if the only way to access that page is to select it from a
list or click on a button, the robot will never be able to visit it. That, in
turn, means that it will never appear in the search engine results.

So how do you get your dynamic information to show up in non-dynamic ways?

The Painful Solution
One of the reasons that dynamic pages exist is because of the difficulty
involved in constantly updating -- adding and deleting -- pages from your site,
based on which widgets you are offering this season. If you have a separate page
for each make and model of widget, each of those pages can be spidered. They can
all be reached through links that look like

blue widgets style 1
blue widgets style 2
red widgets style 1
red widgets style 2
new widgets style 1
new widgets style 2

The bad news here, of course, is that you now have to create all of those pages.
This loses the benefit of drawing the widget information from a database.

A Better Solution
A better solution is to create only a "shell" of each page, and then to
dynamically populate the page from our database. By creating a "real" file, you
can assign a fixed URL, but still use the database to fill-in the page, using
any of various server-side techniques (HTML server-side includes, Perl, Active
Server Pages, Java Server Pages, PHP, etc.). A simple page like this might

Save this page as "bluewidget-1.html" and you're good to go, assuming that
"" will actually return the content you want for the body of the
page. True, you will have a discrete page for each item in your inventory, but
at least you only need to hard-code the bare-bones of that page.

Another Way To Go
There is yet another way to go. This method does not require creating dozens of
static pages, or of having to include exotic scripts in your web pages. It also
may not work for all search engines!

Some search engine robots just will not follow links that include a
"querystring" as part of the URL. You have seen a querystring if you have ever
looked at the URL of a page of search results in Google. For example, if you
look for "blue widgets" on Google, not only do you get page after page of blue
widgets, you also see that these pages have very complicated-looking addresses


In this address, everything after the question mark ("?") is a querystring. This
is used to pass additional information to the web server. While some search
engines can follow a complicated address like this, many simply will not follow
such a link. That means that if you use a URL like


that the robot may not be able to follow it. This is bad.

On the other hand, an increasing number of search engine robots will follow such
links. Usually, links like this are created "on the fly" by filling-out forms
and clicking a "submit" button, but that doesn't have to be the case. You can
grab that address, querystring and all, and put it into a "normal" link, like

widgets style 1)

Put several of these on a page and the search engine robot can now visit your
dynamic pages from links that require no button-clicking. Remember that not all
robots will follow these links, so your mileage may vary.

As long as the link to the page exists in a form that does not require human
intervention to get to it (pulldown menus, search results, form submits, etc)
then a bot will follow it.

Widgets Out The Door
Using any of these methods will help search engine robots to find the dynamic
pages on your site. This means that the important content on those pages is more
likely to be included in the search engine databases, and that people will be
better able to find you. That, of course, means that the Widget Queen will reign
supreme, knowing that widget customers the world over will now be able to find
you and buy your widgets.

Copyright © 2003 Search Innovation Marketing. All Rights Reserved.

Permission to reprint this article is granted as long as all text above this
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About the Author
Dale Goetsch is the Technical Consultant for Search Innovation Marketing
(, a Search Engine Promotion company serving
small businesses and non-profits. He has over twelve years experience in
software development. Along with programming in Perl, JavaScript, ASP and VB, he
is a technical writer and editor, with an emphasis on making technical subjects
accessible to non-technical readers.


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