Home Page Search Engine Preferences
Posted 22 October 2007 - 09:15 AM
The reason I'm asking is I know I can build in some randomness to the home pages of some of our ecommerce sites if I thought this would help.
Posted 22 October 2007 - 09:28 AM
Old stuff that doesn't change too much or too frequently that gives people a feel for the personality of the site, and a glimpse of what makes them unique while providing some stability.
New stuff that might change, perhaps not every time someone visits the site, but enough so that visitors see that there's a sign of life, of a desire to interact with their visitors.
The new stuff might be weekly specials, it might be company news, or industry news, or links to new articles on the pages of the site.
If possible, show some of both the old and the new on the front page, above the fold, so that return visitors recognize the site from the older stuff that doesn't change as frequently, and are engaged by the newer stuff so that they recognize that they should return on a regular basis.
I don't like the idea of making changes that appear too frequently, like dynamically showing links to different products, and different parts of the site every time that someone comes to visit. There are two reasons for that.
The first is that I want search engines to follow those links, and if they change at each visit, the search engine might ignore them as transient links that are here and then gone (like ads rather than pages of some lasting value).
The second is that people who see the links might be doing research on products or services, or comparing them to others at other sites, and if those links disappear when they return, it may be less likely that they will search for them.
For the older and more stable content, making some changes, but more slowly, can be a good thing too. For instance, seasonal changes or changes that reflect a new direction or changes that recognize shifts within an industry can be a good idea.
Posted 22 October 2007 - 03:53 PM
Posted 22 October 2007 - 10:01 PM
I'm trying to figure out what the search engines prefer to see in a home page.
At the risk of sounding all goodie-two shoes, I think that's the wrong way to go about figuring out how you're going to use your home page. We're not talking about just any page here. It's your online business card, the look and feel of your branding. It expresses your character, the who, what and why of what your company site stands for.
"Design for your users" again sounds very goodie-two shoes. But it's hard to ignore when you're talking about an online business. See, the concession you make to the search engines can increase traffic -- but what if that same concession lowers conversions? Increases the number of bounces? Discourages people to link?
To put that into perspective I find an ex absurdo example useful. Assume for a moment that based on our collective expertise we've come to the conclusion that adding pop ups, something intensely detested by users, is really what search engines prefer to see on a home page. You can see the level of annoyance you would give your actual human users -- and the possible effect it would have on your business, increased search engine traffic or not.
Gaming the system
Another aspect to your question is that we need to read it as "I'm trying to figure out what the search engines currently prefer to see in a home page".
Changes happen with regularity. New ideas are being tested here and there, then rolled back into the main results only to be readjusted and changed upon.
To fine-tune your home page to search engines you need to stay on top of what the search engines want. That's a drain on your resources right there. The funny thing is, as shown above, that what is good for the search engines isn't always ultimately right for the humans as well. This means less visitors or less visitor retention, less links -- and that we know is something the search engines take to heart as a down vote... So by going at the system head-on you might actually be shooting yourself in the foot.
Testing the system
Of course I can understand if you still want to have as accurate a view of what the search engines like in a home page or not. That's nothing more than being thorough and professional.
What I would do is a find a word or phrase which when used as a search has a small to very small result set. Then setup two domains. Make them as alike as possible but for how the home page is done. Let it run for a while while doing regular spot check searches. Which one is coming out on top? Then try to answer the question "why"? Is it the fact that this content changes more often or is it that the word "widget" appeared more frequently on the home page while that content changed? Is it that this content is more static or is it because a certain meaning of the main search is corrobated by the context?
Sideswiping the system
But how about bypassing the search engines by going over their head directly to the user?
Imagine doing something with or to your home page that would make it linkable, link-loving, link-addictive. No! Wilder! Imagine something that would make it the talk of the town, the buzz of the net, the "wow!" of the week...
Customers would email their friends "you gotta see this!". Marketing blogs would link to the site, pointing to it as an example of fine work. Tech heads would link to it sideways, saying "see, this is how you could do that". And all those links together, in turn, would make the search engines fall deeply and swooningly in love with your home page, sighing "this is precisely the home page I was looking for -- where have you been all my cycles?!"
Posted 22 October 2007 - 10:15 PM
Let your visitors tell you what works best. I know you asked about what search engines prefer and this is not the expected answer. I am betting that if you try this your rankings will rise - as long as you have some content to back up your homepage.
Edited by EGOL, 22 October 2007 - 10:18 PM.
Posted 23 October 2007 - 07:37 PM
I do suspect that the search engine algorithms have changed because of blogs, where they see new content always being moved to the top. With CMS it's easy to go with a daily updated home page but I might try to add some randomness into a section of the home page of a ecommerce site.
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