Search Engine Friendly Design - The Splash Page
We have already discussed flash movie splash pages but they are not the only way splash pages are made. A splash page is typically the first page of the site that contains a logo sometimes accompained by an animated gif or flash movie along with (if you're lucky) the company name and a link to enter the actual site.
If you know anything about how search engines work you'll know they will hate splash pages because they want html text. If you know anything about the way web users think you'll know they hate splash pages because they want information NOW, not in 30 seconds after the splash page has finally loaded and they can finally click the "enter" or "skip intro" button to get into the site.
So why do site owners still use splash pages? Because a lot of them see their web site as an extension of their printed brochure and want it to have the same pretty cover. They simply miss the essential differences of offline vs. online - time, patience and choice:
- Time: Offline, time is not so much of an issue but online it is everything, especially for those not using unmetered or broadband access.
- Patience: No one online has any patience. No matter how long they will spend reading a book, catalogue or brochure offline, when they are online they want to get to the heart of the matter immediately.
- Choice: In the offline world, they may have 2 or 3 catalogues laying around to choose from but online there are millions. If yours doesn't give them what they want within seconds they'll be off to find another one that will. Why should they wait for your non-informative splash page to load when there are hundreds of other sites in the same industry willing to give them information immediately without making them pay for it in time and Internet call charges.
So KILL the splash page.
Now, for the sorry few who can't kill the splash page, there are ways to make it more search engine friendly. The best workaround is to add at least one paragraph of very keyword rich text with text links to the relevant inner pages of the site, saving the user at least one extra click and providing them and the engines with some information. Some is always better than none.
If the splash page is a flash movie the above won't be possible unless the designer has put the text inside a txt, html or xml file. Another option is to only use part of the page for the flash movie and have the rest of the page done in normal html with html text. Here's an example of a search engine friendly flash splash page.
If all else fails, put the splash page within a frameset and make full use of the noframes section by adding 3 or more paragraphs of keyword rich text. This will certainly help the engines index the site (although it's not as good as having the text on an actual visible page) but the human visitor will still have to deal with the splash page - poor things.
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