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An Intro to SEO - Chapter 5- Hidden traffic and lost opportunities

I came, I saw, I went somewhere else

So, you have read the last few chapters, re-written all your pages and you are now getting first / second page rankings on the main search engines. It might be tempting to stop there , go down the pub and brag to all your friends, but wait, you could still be loosing out.

Have you ever clicked on a link only to find you get the extremely annoying 404 error - Page not found ? Some of us edit the address on our browsers to reveal just the domain name and try again but most of us would click the back button and try the next site. This could have been a paying customer trying to get on your site and it might be some time before they try your site again. Unless you regularly scrutinise your log files, you will never know about the lost traffic and most hit counters will only show successful accesses to pages.

This error could be caused by a failure of your web server but there is a good chance that the link refers to a page on your site that has been deleted. If you are not short of web space the trick is not to delete unused pages but to to re-write them so they re-direct visitors to the nearest index page. You visitor might not get to see the page they expected but at least they will still be on your site where they might find another page that takes their fancy.

Here is a simple re-direction page. Most robots will ignore the contents but will follow the links. When a visitor hits this page they will be re-directed to the index page one second later. The magic is done on line 4.

  <!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 3.2 Final //EN">
  <META HTTP-EQUIV="refresh" CONTENT="1;URL=index.htm">
  <H1> This page is not being used </H1>
  <H2> <A HREF="index.htm">If nothing happens, click here</A> </H2>

Feel free to use, re-write or generally hack this example for your own site. There are other ways to achieve the same thing with the .htaccess file, more on that later.

Many people on the net are in a hurry - they are after something specific and don't have the time to visit every site that is listed. If they like the look of your sites title and description there is a good chance they will click on the link and wait for your site to appear. It has been estimated that most people will wait no more then ten seconds for something to appear on their screens. Few people will care that it is not your fault, that the net might be slow because of heavy traffic or because your web server is having a bad time. They will simply assume your site is dead and move on. The way to reduce the chance of this happening is to make the entry pages as lean as you can. This is a bad place to put loads of large pictures, Flash animations or unrelated clutter.

Tables are a neat way to control the layout of a page, but the average browser can't display a table until it knows the size of all its internal components, it can't know that until it has loaded them all in. If you are using pictures inside tables, you can help this process by including the width and height tags, like so :-

  <IMG SRC="image.gif" WIDTH="468" HEIGHT="60" ALT="Juicy keywords relevant to this page">

Another thing to bear in mind is portability - the ability for your site to viewed by the largest possible audience. Not every one will be using high end PCs and not every one will be using Internet Explorer, Mozilla, Opera or Netscape. There is an increasing number of people using mobile devices or WebTV devices to surf the net, its a sure bet these wont have the latest version of Flash or Java installed.

Intro | Chapter 4 | Chapter 6

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