Saturday, March 31, 2007

not-so-smart practice

I was looking for a cycle rack for my wife's Smart car - so used a search engine to see if any were available online. One site that was near the top of the returns was carbox.co.uk. However, I could find no reference to Smart within the site - even the search facility returned pages for 'generic' cycle racks rather than one for the Smart. Now at this point your run-of-the-mill user would have probably [certainly?] have gone back to the search results and clicked onto other pages. But given what I do for a living I looked into this a bit closer. One thing that I thought odd was that the 'home' page was returned by the search engine, so I looked for 'smart car cycle rack' in the source code. The meta tags 'keywords' listed nearly 200 terms [in itself, not a good piece of search engine optimization] - but not Smart. So I did an ctrl+f search on the page - and low and behold, there is was in some text. But why didn't I see it on the page? The answer was that there was a whole load of 'hidden' text - that is, white text on a white background - which simply shows in the user's browser as a blank page. See picture below to see how the text shows up only when hi-lighted.



Now this is poor web design in that there is a lot of blank space at the bottom of the page. It is also generally recognized to be poor search engine optimization as the search engines [should] penalize the practice. And yet it seems to have worked in this case? Ho hum.

Oh and while I'm at it ... each carbox page features an ad for the web site's developer - internetagency - something I would never allow a developer to do [unless they gave me the site for nothing]. In this case, of course, it simply identifies the folk guilty of poor web design practice.

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