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Dynamic Dilemma          Print the current page
by Brian D. Chmielewski

Welcome valued subscriber. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to read this first article. I am convinced you will find exceptional utility in the marketing tip that you are about to read.

As the introductory paragraph illustrates, personalization is often difficult. With a large subscriber base, it is impossible to communicate an email message individually to each one of you without having more specific information. For example, associating your name, title and web site focus to your email address, would make crafting a message to singly address you and offer an exclusive set of benefits more practical. This one-to-one marketing advantage drives the trend towards personalization and should be an important consideration of your evolving web site.

There is no doubt that marketing via the Web is a powerful tool. Those who know how to target, personalize and offer creative and fresh content experience significantly better results than most. Marketing professionals stress the importance of words like direct, reachable, targeted, objectify, and quantify. Their basic tenet is to communicate the right message to the right audience in language that they understand. And yet, a web site must be evolving, it must contain fresh content and aesthetics - a unique environment for your visitors to cultivate their interests. And so originated dynamic or active server pages(ASP's).

ASP's use cutting edge technology to easily integrate the information provided by database, messaging, directory and file servers, presenting updated information each time a page is revisited. Software such as Allaire's ColdFusion has become popular for creating ASP's. This is a spectacular method for automating site freshness, but dynamic web pages cannot be indexed by the major search engines.

Why are Dynamic Pages not Indexed?
Simply put, dynamic pages are like templates. Each time you activate the template, it requests information from the server, based on a set of preferences designed by the site to fill in the blanks. Search engine result pages are perfect examples of dynamically created pages. A search for "computer" in one week will return a different page than a search for the same keyword the next week. The reasons for this are complex, depending on changing search engine technology and web sites that desire the keyword "computer". You can see dynamic pages in action at Allaire's web site.

ASP's are likened to spam and redirect practices, since the rules for what information a dynamic template hosts can be manipulated by the site publisher based on the identity of the visitor. In many instances, publishers were displaying one version of a web page to a search engine spider or editorial researcher and another (same URL) page to other visitors. This dubious design secured choice keyword placement for a site publisher who's content was not appropriate for that category, resulting in the elimination of ASP indexing altogether. Even if a defense mechanism existed to police dynamic submissions, the indexing of them would add millions of new page entries to the databases of engines that vary only minutely in content, thus giving an advantage to the sites that employed this technology.

The Best of Both Worlds
Success with both dynamic page personalization and web site optimization for search engines requires balance. Think about the pages in your web site from a hierarchical perspective. Unless you have a well-known brand name like Microsoft, do not implement dynamic design in the pages that fall near the top of your framework. Spiders index your site starting with your index.html or default.html page, scanning the links found there first. Since pages at the top of the hierarchy typically contain a broader spectrum of information, with the potential for more links to allow site visitor several avenues to navigate to, you want these pages indexable, thus static. If you choose to employ dynamic pages at this stage, be certain that a spider has the opportunity to index an alternate page that contains corollary keywords, links and META tags.

Recognized by their .cfm or .asp tags, the major engines will not index web pages that contain the '?' in the link. To a spider, this indicates that the server used certain variables in developing the page's content. It is possible to have static pages that contain the .cfm or .asp suffix in the URL, but that page also faces discrimination, with only Infoseek presently embracing it for indexing.

By developing a qualified navigation structure on your top pages, you can create a sense of personalization. Well-defined linking navigation permits you to harmoniously match segments of your data with the visitor. For instance, a top-level page containing qualifying links for employees, press, first time visitors and clients, offers the opportunity to present uniquely tailored information to each segment of your audience. Extending a link to each member of your target audience promotes personalized communication without deteriorating indexing potential in the engines.

We have assumed that you want your site indexed in the major search engines in as many appropriate positions as possible and have illustrated a method for balancing dynamic pages with obtaining a strong search portal presence. To drive traffic directly to dynamic pages, you will need to expose them via alternative methods.

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