Visibility to Search Engines: A comparison between text-based and Graphics-based hyperlinks on e-Commerce websites.

Ngindana, M.W. & Weideman, M.

Proceedings of the 6th Annual Conference on WWW Applications. 1-3 September. Johannesburg, South Africa.

Ngindana, M.W. & Weideman, M. 2004. Visibility to Search Engines: A comparison between text-based and Graphics-based hyperlinks on e-Commerce websites. Proceedings of the 6th Annual Conference on WWW Applications. 1-3 September. Johannesburg, South Africa. Online:

A literature search has indicated that most website developers and designers first build a website and later concern themselves about "searchability" and "visibility". Some companies spend large amounts of money on a website which cannot be indexed by search engines, is rejected by directory editors and is invisible to search engines. The primary objective of this research project is to compare and report on the effect on website visibility of text-based versus graphic-based web page navigation schemes. The method employed in this project will be to develop two e-Commerce based website with the same functionality, contents and keywords, but different navigation schemes. One will embed all hyperlinks in text-phrases only, while the other will use graphic images of buttons, arrows and other navigational aids for hypertext links. Both websites will be submitted to the same search engines at the same time. A period of two months will be allowed to ensure that spiders will have had enough time to visit and index both sites. An industry standard web ranking program as well as advanced counters will be used to monitor how the two sites feature in the rankings, and if they appear in the indices of search engines. Graphs and other results as well as text-based report produced by the ranking program and the counters will be used to compare results. Based on a literature survey, it is expected that the text-based website will achieve higher rankings than the graphics based one. The result will provide a clear path to commercial and other website designers in terms of navigational element design. These results will provide a foundation to the construction of a best practice guide for commercial website designer. Although the human website browser finds a certain amount of graphical aids conducive to easier navigation, search engine crawlers find these same graphic aids impossible to index. A balance has to be found between these two extreme to please both the human and the crawler. It is believed that this research project will provide website designers with guidance on achieving that balance.
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