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Optimizing Your Web Site for the Search Engines Using CSS and Javascript

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Two of the greatest techniques to come along for web site
refinement are cascading style sheets (CSS) and javascript
navigational menus. In this article, I want to show you how to
use both of these to ease the strain of site maintenance while
defending against at least two problems with using javascript
menus.

CSS can make web site maintenance much easier by consolidating a
site's style and appearance attributes into one central file
which can be edited alone and yet affect the look of the entire
site. Just as wonderful, one javascript file can accomplish a
similar effect with your site's navigational menu by making it
available to every page on your site through a single line of
code per page linking that page to the javascript file. By
removing all this CSS style and javascript code into two
separate files, you will clean up your web pages' textual
content, thus making it easier for search engine spiders to
crawl and index your site and more effectively rank it according
to your actual textual content. These are definitely two
techniques worth implementing.

Here are the examples to show you how this is done. First,
here's how your web page incorporating both the CSS and the
navigational menu javascript file should look:

<HTML>

<HEAD>

<TITLE>Your Page Name</TITLE>

<LINK TYPE="text/css" MEDIA="Screen" REL="stylesheet"
HREF="http://www.yourdomain.com/your_css_file.css">

</HEAD>

<BODY>

<DIV ID="center">

<H1>Your Page Name</H1>

Your page's textual content goes here....
</DIV>

<DIV ID="left">

Your navigational menu is inserted here from your javascript
file using the following line of code. See the next example for
sample code for the navigational menu javascript file.

<SCRIPT LANGUAGE="javascript" TYPE="text/javascript"
SRC="http://www.yourdomain.com/your_nav_menu_file.js">
</SCRIPT>

</DIV>

</BODY>

</HTML>




Now, here's how your navigational menu javascript file should
look:


<!--
document.write('<a
href="http://www.yourdomain.com/your_web_file1.html">Page
One</a>'); <BR>

document.write('<a
href="http://www.yourdomain.com/your_web_file2.html">Page
Two</a>'); <BR>
-->

You can add as many menu items as you need, so you get the
picture.




Finally, here's the part of the code in your CSS file which
gives your site the table-like look without the
high-maintenance, cluttered effect of the HTML TABLE code:




...other CSS code, such as font style, etc., can precede the
following segment.


The #left and #center blocks of code below correspond to the
left and center columns on your web page. You can also add a
#right and #top column and section, respectively, if you so
desire.



#left

{ position: absolute;

top: 0px;

left: 0px;

width: 220px;

padding: 10px;

margin: 5px;

background-color: #f2f2f2;

}



#center

{ top: 0px;

margin-left: 230px;

padding: 10px;

}


Hopefully, those examples give you a fairly good idea of the
benefit of using these two powerful practices. For more about
using CSS, I can recommend downloading the sample chapters
from Dan Shafer's book, HTML Utopia: Designing Without Tables
Using CSS
, at SitePoint.com.



Besides these two optimization techniques, however, we're also
hearing about all kinds of ways to optimize our web sites for
the search engines these days. The competition for those
coveted top placements is fierce, for sure. We've heard all
about how important it is to have good, pertinent content in the
textual portion of our pages, how effective it can be to include
our site's keywords within the alternate attributes (i.e,
ALT="keyword") of our image tags, and how valuable a link
to/from a high traffic, like-minded web site can be. All this
is certainly true and well worth the effort to make our web
pages rank higher in the search engines, but with all this
improvement to web site maintenance, what is the downside?
Well, take note, so you can say you saw it here first.



I've detected two pesky problems in this web page wonderland.
One is the absence of navigational links for search engine
spiders to follow, and the other is the possibility of
javascript-disabled web browsers. That's right; as fabulous as
it is to store our navigational menu in one javascript file for
easier updating, it removes all the key links from our start
page so the search engine spiders have no other pages left to
index on our site, and javascript-disabled web browsers can't
see a menu at all! What's a webmaster to do? Well, here's how
I decided to handle it.



I put my navigational menu with its various links to all my
site's other pages on two key pages: the start page and the site
map page. This way, when the search engine spiders come
calling, they can follow every link from my navigational menu to
every other page on my site, and, at least, javascript-disabled
web browsers will still have a menu to follow. The same is true
of my site map page. For all the rest of my pages, however, I
decided to leave intact the line of code calling the javascript
file containing my navigational menu in order to take advantage
of its centralization benefits. The more pages I add to my site
over time, the more beneficial this approach will be, too. I
see it as having the best of both worlds: easy site maintenance
and search engine optimization.

So, if you want to lighten your web site maintenance load while
keeping your site optimized for the search engines, I recommend
using CSS to consolidate your site's style attributes, to
include a tableless, yet table-like, appearance and the
centralization of a single javascript file containing your
navigational menu. Just don't remove your navigational links
from your start and site map pages.

You can visit either of my two web sites at

http://webmarketersguide.com
or

http://www.parsonplace.com

to see how I've done this. You're welcome to email me anytime at info@parsonplace.com with any questions or comments.

About the Author

Michael L. White is an Internet entrepreneur who currently manages two web sites: The Web Marketer's Guide http://webmarketersguide.com, which provides resources for Internet entrepreneurs to create, market, and manage a small business on the Internet, and Parson Place http://www.parsonplace.com, which has a more personal bent. Both have
subscription-only newsletters to keep you well abreast of news and information.

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