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Hack 90. Clean Up for a Google Visit

Before you submit your site to Google, make sure that you've cleaned it up to make the most of your indexing.

You clean up your house when you have important guests over, right? If you want visitors, Google's crawler is one of the most important guests that your site will ever have. A high Google ranking can lead to incredible numbers of referrals, both from Google's main site and from sites that have search powered by Google.

To make the most of your listing, step back and look at your site. By making some adjustments, you can make your site both more Google-friendly and more visitor-friendly.

  • If you must use a splash page, have a text link from it.

    If I had a dollar for every time I went to the front page of a site and saw no way to navigate besides a Flash movie, I'd be able to nap for a living. Google doesn't index Flash files, so unless you have some kind of text link on your splash page (a "Skip This Movie" link, for example, that leads into the heart of your site), you're not giving Google's crawler anything to work with. You're also making it difficult for surfers who don't have Flash or are visually impaired.

  • Make sure your internal links work.

    Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn't it? Make sure your internal page links work so the Google crawler can get to all your site's pages. You'll also want to make sure that your visitors can navigate.

  • Check your title tags.

    There are few things sadder than getting a page of search results and finding "Insert Your Title Here" as the title for some of them, although not quite as bad is getting results for the same domain and seeing the exact same title tag over and over and over and over.

    Look. Google makes it possible to search just the title tags in its index. Further, the title tags are easy to read on Google's search results and are an easy way for a surfer to quickly get an idea of what a page is all about. If you're not making the most of your title tag, you're missing out on a lot of attention to your site.

    The perfect title tag, to me, says something specific about the page it heads, and is readable to both spiders and surfers. That means you don't stuff it with as many keywords as you can. Make it a readable sentence, or—and I've found this useful for some pages—make it a question.

  • Check your META tags.

    Google sometimes relies on META tags for a site description when there's a lot of navigation code that wouldn't make sense to a human searcher. I'm not crazy about META tags, but I'd make sure that at least the front page of my web site had a description and keyword META tag set, especially if my site relied heavily on code-based navigation (like from JavaScript).

  • Check your ALT tags.

    Do you use a lot of graphics on your pages? Do you have ALT tags for them so that visually impaired surfers and the Google spider can figure out what those graphics are? If you have a splash page with nothing but graphics on it, do you have ALT tags on all those graphics so that a Google spider can get some idea of the content? ALT tags are perhaps the most neglected aspect of a web site. Make sure yours are set up.

    By the way, just because ALT tags are a good idea, don't go crazy. You don't have to explain in your ALT tags that a list bullet is a list bullet. You can just mark it with an asterisk.

  • Check your frames.

    If you use frames, you might be missing out on some indexing. Google recommends you that read Danny Sullivan's article, "Search Engines and Frames," at Be sure that Google can either handle your frame setup or that you've created an alternative way for Google to visit, such as using the NOFRAMES tag.

  • Consider your dynamic pages.

    Google says they "limit the number and amount of dynamic pages" they index. Are you using dynamic pages? Do you have to?

  • Consider how often you update your content.

    There is some evidence that Google indexes popular pages with frequently updated content more often. How often do you update the content on your front page?

  • Make sure you have a robots.txt file if you need one.

    If you want Google to index your site in a particular way, make sure you've got a robots.txt file for the Google spider to refer to. You can learn more about robots.txt in general at

  • If you don't want Google to cache your pages, you can add a line to every page that you don't want cached.

    Add this line to the <HEAD> section of your page:


    This will tell all robots that archive content, including engines like Daypop and Gigablast, not to cache your page. If you want to exclude just the Google spider from caching your page, use this line:


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