Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: serenata-ga ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: serenata-ga
Category: Business and Money
Asked by: nigel_colledge-ga
List Price: $200.00
Posted: 20 Mar 2004 11:35 PST
Expires: 19 Apr 2004 12:35 PDT
Question ID: 318683
I wish to continue with the following thread but would like to pay more money.

Please log me back with serenata-ga as I have had better advice than I
have had in the last five years of web development

Request for Question Clarification by serenata-ga on 20 Mar 2004 14:32 PST
Hi Nigel ~

I am reposting the pertinent parts of your question as listed below -
and merely add your own site, which we have been working on. Your main
site is


===  Your Further question (as posted) ==============

Hi Serenata!

For the last five years I have been floundering around picking up a
bit of infomation here and another bit there a lot of which
conflicted, you have no idea how grateful I am for your advice it all
makes complete sense to me at long last the message is keep it
straightforward and simple!

All the software I have bought that checks metatags etc seem to be a
complete waste of time.

If you look at me web site again you will see that I have carried out
all of your recommended changes, I got round the problem of me wanting
links including the word insurance by creating image files with the
text I required.

If you spot anything I have missed please let me know, but, hopefully,
my web site will now be indexed on Google.

There is another matter that I really would like your advice on and
that is about 70 web sites I have on different servers scattered all
over the world.  Each one contains content pages all linking back to but not interlinking.   MSN certainly seems to
like them at the moment as I am listed at number one position in the
world for van insurance on this link   Every web site has
different content pages (although recently I hold my hands up to
spamming by putting all the pages on all 70 servers, these have now
been removed).

What I would like to know is if the contiuued use of the 70 web sites
likely to affect my politioning with Gogle and any rules that apply to
such sites.

Another couple of web sites you could look at are


This last web site does interlink to and   So it would be useful
to have your comments on this.

After what I have learnt from you in the last few days these content
pages need tidying up as well.

Once again, many thanks for your help.

Nigel Colledge

==== My response to the above =============

I have closed out the other question, reposted the important parts
above so we have references all together in one place.

Now give me some time to examine all the other sites you mention and
organize my answer for you. I'll use this "Request for Clarification"
if I have questions I need you to answer (that's what it is *really*
intended for).

Note, if I don't have a question, you probably won't get another
'notice' til I have answered this question. Do not panic, I am working
on getting you the answers to your questions, including links to
authoritative resources and some suggestions which will help.

Thanks again,
Subject: Re: serenata-ga
Answered By: serenata-ga on 22 Mar 2004 09:05 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
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,

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
there is one heck of a lot of Javascript to wade through before a
search engine can get to the real content of your pages.

While the javascript you are using makes some pretty "eye candy", it
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
quite possible your visitors are browsing with Java and/or javascript
disabled. In other words, they are NOT seeing what you intended.

If you haven't done so, you can link to your javascript in the same
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

Some discussions on javascript and linking to it can be found on the
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
the competition,

     "* 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
from them).

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,, the
only reason for a lot of the text on that page can only be to spam the
search engines.

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
wasn't spamming.

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
Insurance site.

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
subject matter.

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
      Lynx would. If fancy features such as Javascript, ...
      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]
   - ://

3. Accessibility

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
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.

Establishing Links

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
Google's index.

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.


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 - - 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.

Search terms

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.

Warm regards,

Request for Answer Clarification by nigel_colledge-ga on 22 Mar 2004 10:30 PST
Hi Serenata!

Wow!   Quite a bit of reading and I am juxt going out for the evening,
but there is one question I would like to ask at this stage do you
know of someone who would re-design my web site for me to meet Google
standards, it strikes me that the person who originally designed the
web site for me did not know a lot about the correct design?


Nigel Colledge

Clarification of Answer by serenata-ga on 23 Mar 2004 04:08 PST
Hi Nigel ~

Of course, in some browsers, I didn't notice any difference with your
"navigation" buttons ... as not all javascript codes show in all

I notice you used a graphic for navigation, with the word 'insurance'
on each button. That could easily be accomplished using CSS, and then
you'd not have to rely on the speed of your visitors' load.

There is also a rather large gap between the main text and your left
side navigation.

So far as the search engines go, it's always easier to get to the
content without having to wade through javascript, but the look is a
bit skewed now.

As for the contacting you, it is against policy for Google Answers
Researchers to do that, I'm sorry.


Request for Answer Clarification by nigel_colledge-ga on 23 Mar 2004 05:09 PST
Hi Sereanta!

Sorry that you can't do the rework for me but can you suggest any one
who can do the job for me?

I am in the midst of removing all the links from the secondary web
sites, if in fact Google have banned links to my main web site how do
I remove that ban?


Nigel Colledge

Request for Answer Clarification by nigel_colledge-ga on 24 Mar 2004 03:06 PST
Hi Serenata!

I have now removed all the links that were spamming my web site, can
you please advise who I write to at Google to ask them very nicely if
they would please reconsider reinstating my web site and the backward
links - there are many from other sources than web sites that were
under my control.

Thanks for all your help, I guess I will have to search around for
someone to redesign my web site to comply with Google, but I do feel
that I am a lot better educated on the likes and dislikes of search
engines thanks to your help.


Nigel Colledge

Clarification of Answer by serenata-ga on 24 Mar 2004 06:47 PST
I'm always reluctant to recommend designers, because of things don't
work out, it seems a reflection on me.

Having said that, there are two firms I have never regretted
recommending, as I know and greatly respect their key people, and they
are cognizant of marketing, SEO and design principles.

The first is Shirley Kaiser of SK Designs,

The second is Grantastic Designs - and Shari Thurow is a principal
with Grantastic. She is one of the people I quoted in my answer, and
she is considered one of the 'gurus' in SEO.

They are knowledgeable, insightful and possess good "web smarts".

Hope this helps,

nigel_colledge-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $100.00
Excellent advice, thanks

Subject: Re: serenata-ga
From: serenata-ga on 25 Mar 2004 14:14 PST
Hello Nigel ~

I want to thank you for the rating, and especially for the generous
tip. That was such a very nice surprise, and I can't begin to tell you
how tickled I was.

Best of luck to you,


Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy