Search Engines vs. Database-Driven Websites – Optimizing PHP

    May 21, 2003

Dear Jim

I have a question regarding a e commerce site using PHP extensions vs. html. That is, I have seen at this SEO site that there might be an issue with search engines being able to crawl this kind of a site, since these are javascript sites I think there might be reason to worry, is it true? What should I do?

P.S. we recently purchased a template that we saw advertised thru an seo letter, a great idea, but if it cuts off all possibilities of being found & indexed it defeats the main benefit of being on the web.

The information you read at that SEO site is somewhat outdated but may still be accurate depending on a number of factors.

Most up-to-date spiders will now parse through the extraneous characters, (“&”, “?” and “=”) commonly used in data-retrieval strings in PHP and other database driven websites. In actuallity, they have always been able to but in the past they had been programmed to avoid database driven sites that might change more frequently than the search engine listings were updated. As bandwidth costs have come down and the importance of the surviving search engines has increased, search engine spiders travel the web and update their databases much more frequently than they did in previous years. Today, most search tools change their listings subtly from day to day as opposed to week by week and can even perceive when changes have been made to specific sites within their databases and respider accordingly. Google and AlltheWeb are both known to be able to perceive changes to a site in their databases and visit quickly thereafter. As items and quantities in databases are subject to sudden change, search engines did not like listing them as they would more often than not present different information than the search engine said they would. Now that the engines are updating much more frequently, they are allowing their spiders to move past those extraneious symbols.

The trick is in being as well catalogued and sorted as possible. Make specific categories for items in your stock and make unique pages in your site to market them. You can have links to the database and ordering system from these uniqueproduct pages. That way you’ll also have a bit more real-estate to work with and an extra magnet to draw spiders to the products.

Most search engine spiders can also read text and links coded into JAVA enabled navigation tools such as specialized drop down menus.

I am not familier with the template you bought, however, most templates I’ve worked with have been no problem for optimization. The template is like a canvass with the underpainting already done or a cement foundation you can build a house on. The content comes from you and your products. If you are involved in an affiliate program, I really recommend writing a substancial amount of your own content for your website(s). The problem with affiliate templates is the massive amount of repetition out there. Your own words and content will make your site unique, even if the foundation comes from a template factory.

Thanks for the questions.
Hope the answers help,
Jim Hedger

Jim Hedger is the SEO Manager of StepForth Search Engine Placement Inc. Based in Victoria, BC, Canada, StepForth is the result of the consolidation of BraveArt Website Management, Promotion Experts, and Phoenix Creative Works, and has provided professional search engine placement and management services since 1997. Tel – 250-385-1190 Toll Free – 877-385-5526 Fax – 250-385-1198