The Search Light Newsletter
The Search Light Newsletter
  Guiding your site to the top of the search engines... | 29 September 2005 - Vol 5 Issue #7  

In this issue...

Turn Harmful 404 Error Pages Into Helpful 301 Redirects

FAQ1: Why Isn't Yahoo Indexing All My Pages?

FAQ2: Where can I find lists of European search engines?

FAQ 3: How can I improve my ROI from Google AdSense?

Send Kalena Your Search Engine Question!



Turn Harmful 404 Error Pages Into Helpful 301 Redirects

 
By Tony Simpson

It's a fact, Page Not Found, known as a 404 error, can harm your website Ranking with Search Engines as well as being a turn-off for visitors.
 
A search engine that repeatedly gets a 404 error will de-list the page from its index. Too many 404 error pages on your website and its ranking with the search engines will suffer.
 
Visitors are always just one click away from clicking to another search and another website. Present them with a page not found 404 error and these days they'll not stick around long enough to search for your missing page.
 
How Many 404 Error Pages Do You Have Right Now on Your Website?
 
Unless you check your web stat error logs regularly you'll never know just how many 404 error pages your site has. Even if you don't have a single 404 error right now, I can absolutely guarantee you'll get them.
 
How Can I Avoid 404 Error Pages?
 
The simple answer is you can't, a 404 error can not be avoided.
 
* They happen when you rename a page.
 
* They happen if you delete a page.
 
* They happen if you change the page file extension i.e. htm to html or php.
 
*They happen if you move a page to another location.
 
*They happen if other sites link to pages which don't exist.
 
*They happen if visitors have bookmarked pages that no longer exist.
 
*They happen if visitors mistype a URL.
 
How is a 301 Redirect Helpful?
 
A 301 redirect enable you to send you visitor or the search engine to any replacement page you specify. A 301 redirect is also important because it's what's known as a permanent redirect. A permanent redirect is the one preferred by search engines so they are the only ones you should use if you want your website to be search engine friendly.

How Do I Setup a 301 Redirect?
 
Basically there are two ways to setup a search engine friendly redirect. One is by directly modifying what's known as the .htaccess file found in the root directory of your website where your web pages are stored.
 
The second way is to use a software redirect script. The advantage of using a redirect script is that you can setup and maintain any number of 301 redirect 's through a control panel.
 
You can also do very clever and helpful things that will make your website even more friendly to visitors and the search engines, but more of that in the 2nd Part of this article.
 
Setting Up a 301 Redirect Manually
 
First let's deal with modifying the .htaccess file to setup a redirect manually just so you know what's required. Then I'll tell you a much simpler way to do this and a whole lot more.
 
First you must find the .htaccess file on your web server. There could be more than one, but you need to locate the one in the same directory as your web pages.
 
On some web hosts the .htaccess file is hidden, it's there but you just can't see it listed when you FTP to your host. On most web servers it's visible, so I'm only going to deal with the visible file. Download the .htaccess file as ASCII not Binary to your PC then open it with a text editor like Notepad or Textpad, not Word.
 
In the .htaccess file, type the following line but substituting your locations for the missing and replacement files shown in [] brackets, excluding the brackets.
 
Redirect 301 [relative URL of missing file] [complete URL of replacement file ]
 
For example:
 
Redirect 301 /directory/discover.html http://yourdomain.com/adventure.html
 
For every other redirect required you must add a new line of code to the .htaccess file then FTP to upload it as an ASCII file back to the same location you downloaded it from.
 
If all this sounds quite complicated, you'd be right, it can be, but life gets a whole lot easier in the 2nd part of this article Setting Up a 301 Redirect with Redirect Script Software. [Look out for Part 2 of Tony's article next issue]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ <> Copyright 2005 by Tony Simpson. Tony advises on the use of automation in website design, promotion and optimization via his site Web Page Add Ons. <> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 



 
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Search engine optimization (SEO) can seem like a daunting topic if you are trying to understand it. Just how do you optimize your web site so that it will appear above millions of others in search results when your potential customers type in search queries?
 
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   Greetings Readers!

It's been an interesting month. Keyword Champion Dan Thies freaked me out the other day when he told me one of my domains had a "dupe content problem" in Google. "Wha wha WHAAAAAAT?", I shrieked. Dan then calmly pointed me to his blog post about the Dupe Domain Indexing Dilemma and explained that both the www version of my site and the version without the www were being indexed by Google, potentially attracting a duplicate content penalty and certainly diluting my hard-earned link popularity. Turned out I was competing with my own site for rankings!
 
The problem lies in server configuration. Most servers are designed to show both versions of a web site to searchers, but this can cause some search engines (including Google) to index and treat both versions as separate sites - ouch! The solution? Implementing a 301 permanent redirect in your .htaccess file. Choose a default domain version and redirect the other version to it. The full redirect code is available from Dan's blog post above, but be warned, it WILL break any Front Page CGI scripts and corrupt FP extensions unless you add the additional code below:
 
-------------------
# -FrontPage-
RewriteEngine on
Options +ExecCGI
-------------------
 
It all ended happily, after much grunting and FP extension breaking, I managed to implement the redirect and resolve the issue. Thanks Dan! Could YOUR site suffer from the Dupe Domain Indexing Dilemma? To check, go to Google.com and type in a search for both versions of your domain by using the "site" query: "site:http://www.yoursite.com" and "site:http://yoursite.com". If you see a different number of pages from each version listed, you've got DDID! Get that .htaccess entry in ASAP.
 
Speaking of technical issues, this month's feature article by Tony Simpson explains how to convert 404 Errors into traffic-saving 301 redirects. Look out for Part 2 of Tony's article next month.

Enjoy this issue and remember to visit the Search Engine Advice Column daily to check out my answers to frequently asked questions about search engines. You can even submit one of your own!
 
Till next time - wishing you high rankings...

  • FAQ1: Why Isn't Yahoo Indexing All My Pages?
  •    Dear Kalena...
     
    My site is 6 months old and I've just gotten out of the Google sandbox for certain terms. But I can't get anywhere with Yahoo. In March they indexed 45 of my (then) 75 pages. Now, only my homepage is indexed out of my 116 pages. I've written to them; they've been crawling my site but nothing has changed so far. What has happened? I'm much too dumb to use a lot of tricks (cloaking etc), my content is quite unique, no one could consider my site spammy and yet...
     
    Jeanne
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Dear Jeanne
     
    I've checked and you're right. Yahoo appears to only have your home page listed. Because you have actually had multiple pages listed in Yahoo and now they're gone, I'd have a hard think about what you have changed about your site since then. For example:
     
    1) Have you changed your robots.txt file?
    2) Have you changed your directory structure?
    3) Have you changed your navigation or linking structure?
    4) Have you ended a major PPC advertising campaign?
    5) Have you recently participated in a link scheme?
    6) Have you had your site optimized recently?
    7) Have you changed hosts or IP addresses recently?
     
    Any of these things may have triggered the issue but I'd need to know more detail. I can't see any immediate problem with your code or site, but I only had time for a quick glance. You've got over 100 other sites linking to you, according to Yahoo.
     
    One thing I did notice is that your site is not included in the Yahoo! Directory. Some people swear that Yahoo Directory submission is well worth the USD299 as they claim it impacts the regular indexing of their site and sends them more traffic because many people search the directory categories.
     
    You could also try Yahoo's other submission options ranging from their free Add URL to paid inclusion via XML feed. Also consider using their pay per click service if you want immediate traffic and are willing to pay for it.
     

  • FAQ2: Where can I find lists of European search engines?
  •    Dear Kalena...
     
    I have a client that is trying to target particular European countries with his travel websites. I have optimized the sites for keyphrases and now I want to submit them to all the search engines I can find in the countries he targets. Do you know where I can find reliable lists of European search engines?
     
    Not in Europe
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Hello PPC Newbie
     
    Dear "Not in Europe",
     
    You won't need to submit to the spidering search engines like Google or MSN, as they should have already indexed the various sites and will show the relevant domain version to searchers in those countries. But you might want to consider submitting the regional domains to the Yahoo Directory via paid submission. Also, try to submit the sites to as many relevant directories and niche travel sites in those countries as possible. Below are some good sources to start with:
     
    - List of Worldwide Search Engines and Directories
    - Pandia Powersearch
    - Internet Search Engine Database
    - Search Engine Guide Search Engines Directory
     
    Before submitting, you might also like to read my articles:
     
    How to Submit Your Site to Search Engines
     
    How to Submit Your Site to Directories
     

  • FAQ 3: How can I improve my ROI from Google AdSense?
  •    Dear Kalena...
     
    I have been using AdSense ads on my site for about a year now and have only achieved a very modest income from them. Could you have a look at my site and tell me what I'm doing wrong? How I can improve things to encourage more clicks?
     
    AdSense Dummy
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Dear AdSense Dummy
     
    I don't give free site consultations because I charge clients for this service. But I can point you towards a couple of AdSense resource sites I stumbled upon this week:
     
    How to Boost Your AdSense Revenue
     
    Google AdSense Tips, Tricks and Secrets
     

  • Send Kalena Your Search Engine Question!
  •   Gobsmacked by Google? Mad at MSN? Got a burning question about search engines in general?
     
    Email me your question and it might feature in my Search Engine Advice Column or the next issue of The Search Light.
     
    I regret I can't give personal replies, but anonymous submissions are welcome.


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