Gateway Pages Versus Great Content
Teacher: Bob McElwain
Gateway pages are called by many names. Bridge, doorway, entry, and portal pages, to name a few. Their purpose is to trick search engine spiders into believing the page is highly relevant for a given keyword, and thus warrants a high position on the list offered to the searcher. At best such pages suggest a lack of ethics. At worst, they will bite you badly in two ways.
First, can you really expect a page of randomly generated prose with frequent repetition of the keyword, "green apples," to grab visitor attention? Suppose you have discovered the magic formula (which does not exist). And suppose you have a #1 position on some search engine for this keyword.
If a visitor clicks this listing and hits this unreadable page, what will happen? If all you want is hits, you have another. I personally do not want visitors silly enough to click from such a page into my site. They will only waste my time, resources, and bandwidth.
Second, all the "bright" people advocating such pages are missing a key point. Those running search engines are at least as bright. And there are whole bunches of them seeking to automate the presentation of listings in a manner that brings the most relevant pages to the top upon a visitor's keyword entry.
Not long ago, a popular trick was to overload a page with keywords printed in a small font in white on a white background. Try that now, and most search engines will penalize you mightily.
In the not-too-distant future, gateway pages by whatever name are going to be eliminated. Robots are getting smarter, quickly. Search engines are struggling even now to find ways to discard such pages. It will happen. Sites dependent upon top listings generated in such fashion are going to wonder what hit them.
The Best Approach
If you are in business on the Web and have taken a longer view which includes staying in business, growing it, and so forth, forget this kind of thing. There is a much better way, one that will be effective however the search engines change the algorithms that drive their bots.
What Are The Bots Looking For?
They want to return links to information of use to those who search. The better a search engine is in delivering relevant information to requests, the more popular they will be with surfers. And the more popular they are, the greater their income. End of story.
Thus your task is to offer great content. Then present it in a way spiders can follow now and in the future.
Search Engine Secrets Don't Exist
People argue incessantly about the rules used by one search engine versus another. It is pointless debate. I read everything I can find about search engines. Not a day goes by but what one expert contradicts another regards a given rule. No matter how much research one may have done with a given search engine, the number of cases examined will be so small compared to the total as to be mathematically insignificant. The conclusions have equal weight.
The Web is in constant flux. The rate of change is increasing rapidly. It seems just the other day that InfoSeek was a major player, possibly destined to become the leader in this power game. Just now, AltaVista is the leader. It makes sense to take them very seriously. But to build pages for AltaVista and ignore others is silly, if not downright foolish. I can't say, and neither can you, where AltaVista will be even two years from now. Sure, we can guess, but we can not know.
What Will Remain Constant
Regardless of the results of the battle between search engines, what surfers want is information. The one that can most consistently provide a great set of relevant listings will become top dog. Those who manage these search engines not only know this, but are driven by it.
Great Content Wins
While it is true that information about native Blue Oaks in California is of importance to far fewer people than are clues to improving reading skills among children, there is room for both contents. With few exceptions, the search engines want as comprehensive a reference to all information available as possible.
Building Great Content
Suppose you have created a site through which you sell Hawaiian music on tapes and CDs. Consider the following.
One can add endlessly to a list such as the above. Now consider the popular tourist attractions, and, of course, the music related to each. This list may not be endless, but it is lengthy. And don't forget the beach lovers, the surfing crowd, and those who snorkel and dive.
Pick The Best Keyword And Go
Pick a topic of interest to your visitors. Then from your list of targeted keywords, select 1 to 3 to feature as you write the content.
For notes on developing a great keyword set, send any email to email@example.com
For suggestions about writing a content page, send any email to firstname.lastname@example.org
When the page is finished, submit it to the major search engines. (I use AltaVista, Excite, HotBot (Inktomi), and Lycos.) Then be sure it is an integral part of your site so that when spiders visit, those to which you did not specifically submit will find it.
It may be helpful to check later to see how the page ranks. But this is a tedious and time consuming chore. For one thing, it may take two months or more before the listing shows up. And there are lots of places to check. Web Position does a good job in this, but it's not free. Even with such software, I question the use of time.
I ignore rankings. The better plan to me is to use this time to write another page or to get on to something else useful in promoting my business.
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