Hello Nigel ~
If your van insurance site is any indication of what your "70 other
sites" are like, you are still tremendously over-optimized. While it
may have worked before - it isn't going to work in the future, because
the main search engines are looking for the most relevant content in
response to a searcher's queries, and NOT sites which have learned how
to 'game' the system by loading a page with virtually worthless
Before we get into your other sites, let's take a good look at the
original, "main" site you asked about, www.wizardinsurance.com.
By the very nature of this question, principles and concepts of good
website design come into play. We'll address some issues as they are
encountered, and overall issues, such as accessibility and usability,
in a section of this answer regarding design.
Wizard Insurance Main Site
Here's what your visitor (and search engines) see:
1. Overall Impression
The site loads fast, but the blue color with white type is difficult
to read. The area with the "meat", that is those darker blue boxes,
has extremely small type that are really difficult for anyone to read,
especially with resolutions set at 1024 or higher (in other words,
about half your visitors).
The menu size is easy enough to read, but the white on that lighter
blue background can be VERY hard to read.
Do it yourself web designers (as well as some "professional"
designers) assume that everyone uses the same browser, set at the same
resolutions, colors, brightness, etc., that they use. Not so.
The easiest on the eyes is a slightly off-white (slightly) background
with black text. And making sure the text is large enough to be read
easily by the greatest majority of your viewers. Blue is always a
good, "authoritative" color to use, especially in financial and
insurance fields; however you could make better use of them as accent
colors, instead of the color of your background. There's a reason the
"big guys" use dark text on light background. Making it easy on the
visitor is one of them.
You should have the important parts of your website showing first, and
it is certainly not unexpected to have a left hand menu. Current
design also utilizes a 'menu' bar across the top when it is feasible
to do so. In this case, it really is overkill, since each of those
topics is also covered in the menu down the side. There are more
topics on the left hand side than can reasonably be included in a
navigation bar, so why waste that space with some graphic navigation?
It would be better served with your logo and a ** relevant ** and
descriptive page title.
There is also confusion between the "home" graphic button and the
"home" link to the right ... they go to two different pages. This is
confusing for your visitor, and could be considered 'misleading' by
search engines. The "home" page is expected to be the site's landing
page, and having two 'home' pages defeats the purpose.
The overall impression is that you sell insurance all over the world.
If you are selling in the UK only, then say so, and don't give a false
impression you are world-wide.
It's not hard to determine that the 'insurance' from the link of the
Canadian and USA flag graphics are affiliate links. The first
practical question is why is this the first thing your visitor
logically encounters after he gets beyond the top row of navigation
graphics? I think you have unknowingly given them a place of
importance you don't really want them to have.
If they are affiliate links, say so (but elsewhere on the page -
preferably "below the fold", if not, at least in its own small box in
a less prominent place) and clearly state why you recommend those two
sites. It's never a great idea to offer your visitors links OFF the
site right off the bat.
2. Search Engine Optimization
You've done a remarkable job of cutting down on bloated keyword
metatags, and I see you've given your pages a different title. You
might want to put the type of insurance as the first word in your
title tags, instead of Wizard Insurance first ... word it something
like "Travel Insurance from Wizard Insurance" After all, the page's
subject is 'travel insurance', right?
Taking the same page, travel insurance, you can safely expand on your
description tag by talking about your various types of coverage (ie.,
single, annual, long stay, group, etc.) within a complete sentence or
two within that description tag. That is NOT spamming the search
engines, but is good search engine optimization and the one place you
can add something without getting in trouble. The key is keep it
brief. Try to stay within a line or two which could be 'borrowed' by
any search engine to describe what each page is about.
3. Getting search engines to the content
The source I see is, of course, the page rendered by your server. But
search engine can get to the real content of your pages.
means nothing but a chance to choke a search engine or stop it cold
with a misplaced semi-colon or forgetting a quotation mark, it is also
disabled. In other words, they are NOT seeing what you intended.
manner you link to style sheets. The advantages are that it
tremendously reduces the file size of each page on the server, and it
enables you to make site-wide changes if you choose with one fell
Evolt.Org site here,
or Net Objects Workbench site here,
4. Tightening Up that Menu
Every item on your menu uses the word 'insurance', which adds to the
use of the word in context on your page.
If you haven't done so, I would first recommend you use a server side
include (SSI) menu, so if you do change the content, you can do every
page with one change; and I would recommend heading that menu column
in such a way that you only use the word 'insurance' once, such as
"Wizard Insurance offers the following insurance coverage", and then
list the subject matter. Save those 'key words' for the content where
it does you more good, and where you won't be spamming the page by
using the word "insurance" too many times.
5. What Do You Want your Visitor To Do?
It appears to me that you want your visitors to contact you for a
quote on insurance coverage.
If this is the case, make it EASY for him to do so. Do NOT make your
visitor click more than once for information and a quote. In other
words, instead of clicking to go from your short descriptions to
another page and THEN clicking to obtain a quote, make sure every one
of those short descriptions offers a direct line to a quote. The
purpose is to make it as easy as possible for your visitor to do what
you want him to do. With every click you lose visitors.
Summary for Wizard Insurance Site
Google emphasizes designing your site for your visitor, not for search
engines. The funny part is, those who incorporate the principle that
less is more and do so don't fluctuate as much as Google tweaks its
search engine algorithms.
You have a full line (or appear to have a full line) of insurance, and
there is no reason to over optimize your page. Instead, present your
information in a straight forward manner that contains *relevant*
content, and you should do pretty well.
As I stated before, "penalty" may be a harsh word, but those sites
which don't try to game the system and present their content in a
logical fashion that is user friendly seem to be working their way UP
in SERPs rankings, while those who overdid it seem to be getting
pushed further down. Google recommends that you ask yourself if you
would really go to all that trouble if you weren't trying to beat out
"* Make pages for users, not for search engines. Don't
deceive your users, or present different content to
search engines than you display to users.
* Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine
rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you'd feel
comfortable explaining what you've done to a website
that competes with you. Another useful test is to ask,
"Does this help my users? Would I do this if search
engines didn't exist?"" [From Google's Quality
Guidelines - Basic principles]
There really is no substitute for good basic design principles, rich
content and links to your site to help you gain a better ranking in
You are in a competitive field, so you may have to work a bit harder
than a site dedicated to left-handed cat jugglers. But it can be done,
and done right. And the basics are still that if its good for Google,
it's good for the other search engines. People prefer Google because
it delivers relevant results. Make sure you not only have the
relevancy for each individual page, but that you don't overdo it, and
you'll start to notice improvements.
Software for Checking Metatags, Etc.
You said, "All the software I have bought that checks metatags etc
seem to be a complete waste of time."
Don't use them. They are against Google's Terms of Service,
and Google's Advice for Webmasters,
"Don't use unauthorized computer programs to submit pages,
check rankings, etc. Such programs consume computing
resources and violate our terms of service. Google does
not recommend the use of products such as WebPosition
Gold? that send automatic or programmatic queries to
About Those 70 Other Sites
Nigel, all those sites, if they are similar to your Van Insurance
site, are really over-optimized again.
First of all, the sheer number of sites, 70, is rather stunning. It
can be argued that the only reason those sites exist is to point back
to your main site (even though you aren't linking to the main site
It does seem to make some sense to have some sites dedicated
specifically to one type of insurance, but taking a look at the Van
insurance page, www.wizard-van-insurance.com/Van_Insurance.htm, the
only reason for a lot of the text on that page can only be to spam the
For instance, just under the logo is this centered text:
"Car Insurance | Caravan Insurance | Cheap Car insurance|
Cheap Motor Insurance | Classic car insurance | ... etc."
Then two 'sections' one that says you can 'buy' online, yet links back
to the main Wizard Insurance quote page,
Your choices are to either take these sites down entirely and use a
301 redirect (the equivalent of "parking" your domain), pointing to
the appropriate page on the Wizard Insurance page, or to make these
sites entirely unique and self-contained, with but a single, logical
link to your main site. (Such as, "for other types of insurance
coverage, visit our main site, Wizard Insurance")
Then take out all those phrases which do you no good, deal with the
page or site's purpose entirely within that site, including your
quote, etc., and don't try to share the sites. Since you already cover
van insurance on the Wizard Insurance site, and since search engines
deliver PAGES, not entire sites, the subject is adequately covered
anyway in the 'van' directory on the main site.
This can only be seen as spamming, and it isn't too hard for Google or
anyone to discover this is more or less a 'doorway' page via the
subject 'van insurance' to your main site. It isn't too hard to
determine who owns those 70 other sites - indeed, it may be the reason
your site has recently dropped in its ranking.
You certainly do NOT need 70 other domains of your own pointing to
your main site. It would be hard to defend a claim by anyone that this
Some Other Questionable Practices
For the heck of it, it wasn't too hard to discover these sites, all
related to Wizard Insurance in some manner:
* Chapterhouse Direct
- Chapterhouse Direct - For Britain's Best Quotes!
* Wizard Home Insurance
* Wizard Design (Wizard Insurance)
* Wizard Insurance UK (bad design, by the way)
* ABC Insurance
Suffice it to say that if I can discover them with a simple search,
Google and the other major search engines can find them, too. Since no
search engine wants to include pages which are trying to spam or game
the system, whether intentional or through some very bad advice of
so-called search engine specialists, this doesn't help you.
Put your relationships up front so your visitors know. This has two
advantages, the first being that it will help with brand awareness,
and the second is it builds trust in your visitors. If you're related,
say so, and state the specific manner. You may even find that some of
those other sites may rank higher than Wizard's, but at least you
won't get shot down if some competitor discovers it and complains
about "underhanded tactics" or that you are spamming.
Wizard Life insurance
I can see where a site devoted exclusively to life insurance would be
beneficial. As stated above, dedicate the site entirely to the matter
of life insurance itself, and make it a totally self-contained site.
As it is, there is more text in the form of links, etc., than there is
about life insurance, and the links go back to the main Wizard
Use one link, referring generally to "other insurance", and dedicate
this site to everything necessary to get a quote or purchase a life
insurance policy, or use a 301 redirect for the site to Wizard
Insurance. The choice is yours, but as it stands now, this is just
another 'doorway' page to Wizard, which will get you penalized.
Design-wise, it is very difficult to read any content against that
background. I've discussed design above, and if you decide to keep
this site, at least make it easy on your visitors to read.
Wizard Mortgage Insurance and the others
The same information about the Life Insurance site is applicable here.
HTML - Back to Basics
Shari Thurow, one of the leading authorities in web design and search
engine optimization (and author of the book "Search Engine
Visibility"), recently made the following observation with regard to
"Clean HTML is absolutely imperative for search engine
indexing. Browsers are extremely forgiving when it comes
to displaying pages with "unclean" HTML (unclosed tags,
no quotation marks, etc.). Search engine spiders are
not so forgiving. Even something as simple as a missing
quotation mark on the <.a href="page.html"> can cause a
spider to not index text or a link." (See: Link Exchange
Digest, July 3, 2003, "Clean HTML")
She explained how errors in HTML can affect your ability to be
indexed, and ultimately, ranked.
Taking a look at your various sites, there are some important items
missing and some which should be added to make your site
1. DOCTYPE Declaration
DOCTYPES are essential to the proper rendering and functioning of web
documents in compliant browsers. It is also essential for the search
engines to understand and follow the coding contained on your pages.
DOCTYPE is explained and discussed further in "A List Apart",
and in Web Design Group's article, "Choosing a DOCtype",
You do not have a DOCTYPE Declaration and you should add one to every
page on your site.
After all is said and done, the basic reason for a DOCTYPE Declaration
comes down to the fact that if you don't have one, most browsers will
continue using the declaration from the last page visited.
While Mozilla and Firebird will render a page in "quirks mode" (which
applies to Microsoft's proprietary browser, and also to its extremely
proprietary Front Page, with its bloated code, etc., Opera doesn't.
Your pages look a bit different in different browsers, including
Internet Explorer 6.x and Internet Explorer 5.x.
The DOCTYPE Declaration explains to browsers what interpretation to
use for the Front Page coding, and how to present it. Without it,
you're at the mercy of browsers and settings in a very unfavorable
2. Title and Alt Tags
Put those title and alt tags to work for you! Use key word rich words
in both. Instead of repeating the name of the site first thing in
every page's title, use a dozen or so descriptive words (terms you
would like to be found under) first in your page titles.
Use the alt attribute within your image tags wisely. That is, you can
use it to emphasize key words, but only so far as they apply to the
Google recommends using a text only browser, which will give you a
very sobering look at your site (and what it looks like, to some
degree, to search engine crawlers):
"Use a text browser such as Lynx to examine your site,
because most search engine spiders see your site much as
keep you from seeing all of your site in a text browser,
then search engine spiders may have trouble crawling
your site." [From Google's Technical Guidelines]
I am sure you do not wish to appear insensitive to accessibility issues.
In the US, there are some standards for accessibility. In the UK, they
make recommendations as well.
You might want to run each page of your site through Bobby, which will
give you a full context report of any portions of your site which do
not meet the minimum recommended standards. If you make all the
corrections suggested, it will greatly enhance any search engine's
ability to crawl your website as well.
The Bobby analysis page can be found here:
4. Design - Nesting Tables Within Tables
Some of your designs have extensive nesting of tables within tables. I
am not a CSS purist, and often use tables for placement for my design
clients, but there are better ways than nesting tables within tables
An effective method is 'stacking' tables, that is the use of multiple
tables with no perceptible break between any two to achieve the look
you want. The benefits are an easier to 'read' and crawl site for
search engines. For visitors who use browsers which may not render the
contents til they encounter the closing tags, it shows *some* content
within a very short amount of time, even if it takes a bit longer for
the whole page to load.
5. Robots.txt and other metatags
You've done a commendable job of getting rid of a lot of the useless
metatags which bloat file size and add nothing of value to a web page.
The incidental sites you mentioned, though, still need to be optimized
if you want to maintain them, instead of permanently redirecting them
to the appropriate pages of the Wizard Insurance website.
Presuming to direct revisits after 'x' amount of time is considered
arrogant - but that is also part of the built-in tags you end up with
using Front Page. I realize some people swear it is a great design
tool, but real designers wouldn't touch it, or would spend a great
deal of time deleting all that proprietary code bloat it foists upon
the unwary user.
Less really is more when it comes to good and effective website design.
As I previously mentioned, Google's PageRank is based on the number of
pages which link to your site. You will also have to establish
relevant links TO your site in order to be included and rank well in
There are many practical ways of establishing links which are
beneficial to you in your endeavor to get respectable position
placement on search engines. These methods may take time, but they
also help in establishing credibility and help with your page rank.
Approach like-minded or complementary businesses about linking to your
site (with a reciprocal link from your own). This works without
harming search engine positioning or page rank.
A WORD OF WARNING:
Google specifically warns "Don't participate in link schemes designed
to increase your site's ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid
links to web spammers or "bad neighborhoods" on the web as your own
ranking may be affected adversely by those links." (See Google's
Quality Guidelines - Basic principles)
It stands to reason that what's good for Google, currently ranked as
the number one search engine is good rule to follow for other search
Articles on Link Popularity
Some excellent articles on how to establish the right kind of links
are available in Traffick's "Ten Steps to Building Links to Your
Site", Craig Fifield - 5/3/2002
Search Engine Watch's "Google PageRank Lunacy" by Mike Grehan, March, 2004,
and his "Link Equity Explained", available in PDF,
"Link Building Is Important", which discusses link building from A to
Z and also provides a good reference page with linking resources.
The information contained in the above articles offer suggestions
which can be easily adapted for use on any website without resorting
to link farms. The differences in "good links" and those which may be
harmful are discussed, and the articles offer simple ways to get
started to the kind of linking search engines prefer.
Links from your own sites to your own sites can only be seen as
spamming. You might seriously want to shut down some of those sites
(the choice will depend on traffic and other factors), but keep that
in mind as you are making those decisions.
Important Google Links For Your Reference
I am including important links from Google's site. This information
will help you understand Google's goals and responsibility to the web
searcher (and not the webmaster or site owner).
Webmasters who follow the guidelines and avoid Google's "Thou shalt
nots" usually have no problem getting listed and showing up under the
search terms they desire.
* Google Today (absolutely the best information you
can read about the "how and why" of Google's results
* How Do I Get My Site Listed on Google?
* My Web Pages Are Not Currently Listed (a good 'primer'
on how and why Google works so well)
* PageRank Information (covers both Google's PageRank and
* Webmaster Guidelines (contains both the dos and don'ts)
* Google Facts & Fiction (can you buy your way to a
high ranking in Google?)
* Search Engine Optimizers (some good advice on what to look
for if you're going to hire a Search Engine Optimizer)
* Frequently Asked Questions (pretty much what it says, but
definitely worth wading through)
* Remove Content from Google's Index (just in case you feel
a burning need to start all over again)
Other Sources of Information
There is also good information from many of the top search engine
optimization experts, such as
* Detlev Johnson, Search Engine Guide
* Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Watch
* Jill Whalen, High Rankings
* Shari Thurow, Web Pro News (and quoted all over the Internet)
who all have columns or newsletters to which you can subscribe and
keep abreast of the best way to use good content for better
positioning in search engine results.
In addition, Webmaster World - http://www.webmasterworld.com/ - has
discussion boards on most of the search engines. While some of the
discussions are anecdotal and/or questions for information, there is
usually enough discussion to keep abreast of what seems to be
There is an entire section devoted to Google at:
It never hurts to keep track of the discussions; but remember, trying
to optimize for search engines only is like trying to hit a moving
target. You'll notice among the more experienced contributors to the
discussions - plus the SEO experts listed above - that there really is
no substitute for content, relevant links and good HTML.
Whether intentional or not, there are enough signs to indicate some
serious 'spamming', which the search engines are just going to
penalize in the form of dropped rankings.
You appear to have a good business going for you, and by tightening up
your websites and giving thought to content, design, and legitimate
links from sites other than your own, it can only be of help to you.
In addition to specific searches we mentioned in this and the previous
question, I relied on resources and information I regularly use in my
day to day business as a web designer and consultant.
I know this is probably more information than you expected, but
utilizing the information to your advantage will help.