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19 common mistakes that prevent your Web site from showing up on search engines

19 common mistakes that prevent your Web site from showing up on search engines

Many webmasters have the problem that their Web site is not listed in search engines at all. There can be a variety of reasons that your Web site doesn't show up on search engines. 

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Reason #1: You are using frames.

Many search engines have problems with frames. They often only index the frameset page and not the individual frames that contain the actual content. Unfortunately, the frameset page usually doesn't have META tags, title and enough content (text) to obtain a listing on a search engine.

The best solution to this problem would be to avoid frames. Usability guru Jakob Nielsen counts frames as one of the top ten mistakes in Web design:

If you really must use frames, consider the following points:

1. Add a description of your Web site in the <noframes> area so that search engines can index that text. There you should also add a link to the homepage.

2. When a search engine indexes a frame page outside of the frameset, the visitor can be left stranded and unable to link into your site. So your individual frame pages should always contain a link back into your site.

3. Add some JavaScript to force frame pages into the frameset. This prevents visitors from inadvertently accessing an orphaned Web page. You can use the following JavaScript snippet:

if (top.location.href == self.location) {
top.location.href = "URL of your frame file";
} offers a very good introduction to frames:

Reason #2: You are using a lot of pictures on your Web site but very little text

Search engines need text to index your Web site. They cannot know what's written on your GIF or JPEG images. If you use a lot of images on your Web site, you should also create some Web pages that have a lot of text.

Some Web site promotion consultants will tell you to create so-called doorway pages. A doorway page is a Web page that contains plain text and a link to your main Web page. On that doorway page, you should describe the content of your Web site in many sentences that contain many keywords that are important for your Web site.

However, some search engines only lists Web pages if at least one remote Web page is linking to it. In that case, a doorway page will not work. Don't use doorway pages for search engine spamming! Only use doorways that have something to do with the content of your Web pages.

Note that many search engines already ignore doorway pages. For that reason, try to give your real Web site as much content (text) as possible. Fresh, continuously updated content is one of the best ways to ensure that your visitors will return again and again.

Here are 3 tips for building and distributing your content:

1. Build one page of quality content per day. Write timely, topical articles with about 250-500 words. If you aren't sure what you can write about, look in your log files which search phrases have been used to come to your site. Or use Overture's keyword suggestion tool at

and find the core set of keywords for your topic area. Those are your subject starters.

2. Stay abreast of developments in your sector. If the big site "ABC" is coming out with product "XYZ" in autumn, then write about the product or the product sector in general and have it ready in June so that search engines can index it early. For example, all the Nintendo GameCube sites you can find in Google today - those have been submitted 3-4 months ago.

3. Syndicate your content (along with your name and Web site URL)! Other webmasters will gladly incorporate your articles into their Web sites. Just search for "syndicate your articles", "syndicate your content" and "submit your article" on Google.

Reason #3: The submitted Web page is only a redirection.

If the Web page you submit contains a redirection to another Web site, most search engines will skip your Web site completely. Do not submit a redirection Web page.

Many webmasters tried to cheat search engines with redirection pages in the past. The search engines companies discovered that and they decided to totally skip Web pages with redirections.

Submit a real Web page that contains the product description visible to the reader.

Sometimes, you have old Web pages listed on search engines and you want them to redirect to the new Web site. There are several ways to do it:

1. You can implement a server side redirect on the old Web page, using the 301 Moved Permanently error message. This will redirect users to the new Web site, but also tells the search engines that this page has moved permanently. Some search engines will drop the page from their index, and some will eventually replace the old page with the new one without hurting your rankings.

2. You can use the META Refresh tag on the old Web page, for example <META HTTP-EQUIV=Refresh CONTENT="5; URL="> tells the browser to load 5 seconds after the current document has finished loading. However, some old Web browsers don't support that tag, and some search engines penalize pages that use a refresh of a few seconds or less (more about this in our search engine ranking report, see ).

3. Instead of the META Refresh tag, you can also use JavaScript to load a new document:


Note that some search engines also don't like that kind of redirection.

4. You can also delete the old Web page and create a custom 404 error page. This ensures that visitors will be redirected to the new site if they click on a broken link or enter an incorrect URL. The 404 error page should contain a link to your home page and to the primary sections of your Web site.

To move to a new Web site and to keep your old search engine rankings, I recommend using method 1.

Reason #4: You have submitted your Web site too often.

If you submit your Web site more often than once a month, most search engines will consider that spamming and they will skip your site.

Spamming does not work with search engines. Most likely, it will backfire to you. More and more search engines are able to detect spam attempts and penalize or ban your page from their listings.

Sites that spam search engines degrade the value of search engine listings. As the problem grows, these sites may face the same backlash that spam mail generates. The content of most Web pages ought to be enough for search engines to determine relevancy without webmasters having to resort to repeating keywords for no reason other than to try and "beat" other Web pages. The stakes will simply keep rising, and users will also begin to hate sites that undertake these measures.

Submit your Web site to search engines and wait for 4 weeks. Then search for the URL of your site. If the search engine cannot find your site, submit your URL again.

How you can check if your Web site has been indexed:

How often you should resubmit your Web pages?

Reason #5: You overuse keywords on your Web site.

Many search engines fear to be spammed if you overuse keywords on your Web site. Do not repeat your keywords too often in your meta tags or in the body of your Web pages.

Nobody knows the magic number for the search engines but a paragraph such as the one below is not a good idea:

"Ebooks are great. I love ebooks. I've read hundreds of ebooks. You can learn much from ebooks. On my Web site you can find tons of free ebooks. When you subscribe to my newsletter on ebooks, you get two additional free ebooks."

Some years ago, you may have obtained a top ranking for the keyword "ebooks", but today the search engines will quickly ignore such nonsense and probably write it off as "spamming". It could even cause the engine spider to skip your Web site completely.

Unfortunately, search engines do not indicate on their help pages the maximum allowed number of repetitions. Some webmasters suspect this to be three, some say six. There's no way of knowing until you are penalised.

Further webmaster discussion about keywords:

Reason #6: Text in the background color of the web

"Color can kill your ranking!" Some Web designers, in order to get high rankings in the search engines, try to make their Web pages as keyword-rich as possible. They try to spam search engines by repeating keywords in the same color as the background color to make the text invisible to browsers and search engine spiders.

However, almost all search engines already know that trick. They will penalize or even blacklist your Web page if they determine that your page is trying to unfairly misrepresent its actual content. This tactic is commonly referred to as "spamming the search engines" or "spamdexing".

Unfortunately, the problem is that the search engines may end up penalizing Web sites which did not intend to use the hidden text trick. For example, suppose you have a Web page with a black background and a table in that page with a white background. Now suppose that you've added some black text in that table. This text will be visible to your human visitors, so in fact, the text isn't hidden. However, the
search engines can interpret this to be hidden text because they overlook the table background color.

I recommend going through all your Web pages and make sure that you haven't inadvertently made any such mistake.

And, by the way, search engines also catch on using a slightly different color than the background color to hide words, so don't use that trick.

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