We have just launched a new website for one of first ever clients, we first starting working with Craig Freeman back in 2004 and we first developed a site for them back then. We have now developed a brand new website for them based on the new branding and we think it looks great. The company is a firm of specialist dental accountants who mostly work with dentists, however they do also take on other business type clients and they are in fact our accountants and have been since we incorporated the company. More recently they have worked with a wide variety of clients whist growing their business in terms of the dental accountancy services. We of course thoroughly recommend these guys as accountants, particularly if you are looking for an accountant in the Cardiff area.

Take a look at the new website here.. Specialist Dental Accountants

“Flash”, the mere mention of the word will have most website SEO professionals running for the hills. Flash sites can look great if done correctly but appearance and user experience should never come as a detriment to onsite SEO, especially for business websites.

Why? Let’s explore....

What is Flash and why do website designers use it?

Flash is a software component used by designers to produce dynamic, interactive websites or site components. The use of flash can have a stunning impact on your visitors. Here is a great example of flash in practice: www.agencynet.com. A flash website on this scale is very time consuming to develop and thus very costly, however there are literally millions of very poor examples of flash on the Internet and that is because these have been done quickly and thus on the cheap.

Flash is often used to display artistic ideas or high quality images, or even to show off multimedia talents, and this is common amongst design agencies and photography web sites.

So what’s the Problem?

The overriding problem is this: it looks great to you and me, but to the search engines these sites are all but invisible. Search robots find it very difficult to index flash sites and although there have been recent improvements; flash sites still fail to compete effectively with HTML sites. Search engines work by scanning information on the web, storing it, and retrieving the best match to meet user queries. Search engines are designed to process text wrapped in tags. The title, headings, paragraphs and links in standard HTML provides structural meaning, which helps search engines understand the importance of the elements on your page.

Whilst the search engines try their best to extract links and text contained in Flash objects, the process is far from perfect, so if your website being found on the internet is important to your business then Flash presents a major problem.

So I think we get the idea, unless you simply don’t care about your website being found on the Internet, Flash should be avoided. However, if you are determined to use Flash elements or have a Flash website which you can’t readily change, then here are some possible solutions:

1. Make use of <noscript> tags

The <noscript> tags can act as an alternative to your Flash allowing you to add some optimised and indexable content. Within the tags you can add header tags which give the search engines something meaningful to crawl. This isn’t cloaking! Think of <noscript> as the Flash equivalent of your <alt> tags.

2. Make maximum use of metadata

Although search engines pay little attention to meta tags these days, if you have a flash file on a page it is essential you make best use of your meta tags. Optimise them as you would for an HTML page.

3. Provide Flash free alternative pages

Provide an HTML only page in conjunction with your flash page, thereby allowing users to access your content even if they cannot view the flash image. This is more labour intensive, but at least your content will be indexable whilst users get the full impact of your flash.

4. Above all else

Don’t do cheap Flash, understand that good looking Flash takes time and can be rather expensive, so do it properly, don’t let a cheap and awful Flash site represent your business online.

So, the verdict...

Search engines are still a long way from indexing Flash efficiently enough for such sites to compete with HTML sites, but if you absolutely have to optimise a Flash website, then the steps mentioned above will help you achieve a far higher ranking.

For further information on any aspect of website design, or for an exceptionally designed e-commerce website which encapsulates a user friendly experience with all the most up to date SEO techniques, contact Designer Websites.

What is SEO Hosting?

Hosting a website is relatively simple but so many website design companies get this so wrong!

Simply publishing a website from a web server is child’s play but hosting the website in a manner that the search engines deem appropriate and optimised requires a little more effort.

Search Engines HATE duplicated content

The search engines have made it quite apparent and even openly declared that they heavily penalise sites offering duplicated content, unfortunately many website owners are unaware that they actually have this problem due to their hosting provider. Here are a few tips:

Does your website display for http://www.yoursite.com and http://yoursite.com ?

Your website should always direct to one or the other and NEVER both. For example if you go to http://designer-websites.co.uk you will see that it redirects you properly to http://www.designer-websites.co.uk

If you allow the website to be shown for both addresses then your website content is effectively available as 2 websites, which will almost certainly incur a penalty from the search engines.

Also redirecting the domain appropriately from one to the other needs to be done correctly, many companies attempt this and get it wrong. The redirecting needs to be completed as what’s called a ‘301 redirect’, which simply tells the search engines that it is a permanent redirect. Again a mistake with this usually forces a ‘302 redirect’, which again will likely incur further penalties.

Do you have multiple domains?

If so do you allow your main website to be displayed at these domains? Many companies make this mistake or have been ill-advised about this subject. As with the point above your main website should only ever be displayed for 1 domain; you can have multiple domains redirecting to your primary domain but it MUST be done as a ‘301 redirect’ so that the content of the website is not displayed for multiple domains, otherwise your site will incur yet more penalties.

Your website MUST handle errors appropriately

The search engines need your website to handle errors properly so that it does not index broken links, but also to ensure that your website offers its users appropriate navigation through your website. Here are a few tips:

Does your website display an appropriate error page for incorrectly entered web addresses or broken links?

If you go to any of the following you will see an appropriate error page:

  • www.designer-websites.co.uk/gobledegook
  • www.designer-websites.co.uk/blahblah.htm
  • www.designer-websites.co.uk/nopagehere.aspx
  • www.designer-websites.co.uk/blahblah.html
  • www.designer-websites.co.uk/nopagehere.php

When an error occurs not only do you want to offer assistance to your website users and direct them back to the main site but you NEED to prevent the search engines from creating indexed pages for non-existent pages. If you are appropriately handling the errors you will be completing a ‘301 redirect’ to your error handling page, which informs the search engines that they should not index that page.

There are many types of errors that can occur when hosting a website; these MUST be handled appropriately so as not to incur further penalties.

Search engines love fast, reliable and professional dedicated hosting

The quicker your website downloads the better it is for the end user (client) and also the better for the search engine spiders. Search engines index website pages by sending spiders to your website to scan the content and report that back to their indexing servers. When these spiders visit your website they have a limited time to get what they need, if your website takes a long time to load then the spiders may never index all of your website content. So you need a website that can serve that content quickly and respond to the users and spiders very quickly, thus a powerful web server is required with a large amount of bandwidth and processing power.

Hosting can be very cheap, some companies offer hosting for as little as £5 per month, but this usually offered on a bulk shared hosting server ,potentially hosting thousands of websites, all competing for the bandwidth and processing power. However there is one MASSIVE drawback with cheap hosting solutions.. who do you think these scam sites, porn sites, illegal gambling sites etc. use for hosting, more expensive dedicated hosting or cheap-as-possible solutions? Usually these sites are only around for a couple of months before being banned, so what do you think happens to your site if it is sharing a server with these types of sites? Yes.. outright bans on the IP Address of the server or at the very least more penalties.

Cheap hosting solutions don’t include backups and disaster recovery. Cheap hosting solutions don’t allow proper handling of domains, errors and redirecting.

If you are serious about your business and really want search engine optimisation you should not use cheap hosting solutions; it could be the most detrimental decision you make.

Search engines prefer URL rewriting

URL rewriting is simply changing a website URL from something like “www.designer-websites.co.uk/myfantasticwebsitedesign.aspx” to something like www.designer-websites.co.uk/website-design. There are 2 reasons we would do this:

  1. It is easier to remember for regular users of the website (search engines like this)
  2. It allows the website to utilise keywords for your business

As with all technical aspects of hosting, this type of URL rewriting is often implemented incorrectly. You need to ensure once again that this is done as a ‘301 redirect’ (permanent).

Testing proper redirecting methods

If you want to test your website to check if it’s utilising proper techniques for redirecting and URL Rewriting you can do so here: http://www.seoconsultants.com/tools/headers.asp

Final piece of advice

The search engines simply want to provide a good service to their clients (search engine users) and want to push the best websites onto these clients. They are not really interested in your business on an individual basis, after all your website is not their primary concern, their goal is simple, when someone types “website design in Cardiff” into their search engine they want to show them the most appropriate results wherever possible. As business owners we know how valuable the top spots in these search engines are, thus we simply must adhere to the guidelines and preferences of the search engines and hope that they pick our sites to display for the appropriate searches.

There are many other technical issues with professional hosting versus cheap hosting but that is beyond the scope of this document; maybe we’ll post more on that subject soon.

Designer Websites provide a free review for business websites, during which we examine your hosting solution and domain handling techniques. If you would like take us up on this no obligation offer contact us today.