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Is your site "Static HTML" or highly scripted

I joined a startup some time ago and my primary responsibility has been to develop the website.  The development tool I use is Delphi.  It creates a ISAPI dll which can be used with Apache and IIS.  While I am sure there are ways it could have been written to follow more "conventional" web writing standards (i.e. physical html files), the way I have done it relies heavily on scripting compiled into the dll.  There are no physical html files; the dll generates everything on the fly.  It would be like writing the site in php.

We recently hired a SEO company.  They have stressed the need to have access to our server so they may be able to update "optimized" pages.  I have explained to them that it is mostly scripted and that they would have to provide the html.  I in turn would make the necessary changes in the source code.

My question is, is my situation common or unheard of??  I get the sense from the SEO company that ALL sites consist of static html files laying around in folders on a server.

Like I said, there are probably ways I could have written it, still using Delphi, to better use static html files (and better suit myself as I could make better use of design tools such as DreamWeaver).  But I am a programmer by training.  And to me it doesn't matter how the html is created as long as it is  syntactically correct.


Thursday, August 28, 2008
Content Management Systems (CMS) is getting used more and more, where the data either resides in database bases or files written in special purpose template languages.  It is rare that content is part of a program.  The conventional wisdom is that you want to make the content editable by non-programmers (marketing, designers, or as in your case SEO specialists).

Allan Wind Send private email
Thursday, August 28, 2008
No, it's very common to have highly scripted html, and any SEO expert should be familiar with that.  Take any blogging or CMS platform, for instance - most are template-driven, but dynamically-generated.
D. Lambert Send private email
Friday, August 29, 2008
if you use template files it should be easy

templates give you the benefit of using something like dreamweaver to create the page

your scripting engine (delphi in this case), would load the template, replace any (variable placeholders) and display it to the user (like smarty templates in php)

other benefits are separation of logic and presentation

what you have done is not wrong, but if i was in your shoes, i would get sick of updating the pages all the time as the seo require. when i could give them the templates, they could alter them, with no input from myself and the site is done with minimal intervention from yourself.
Friday, August 29, 2008

Maintaining static html is a pain, but you can make your dynamic pages look like static HTML.

Like this example from

Note that they also have put the title in the <title> tag and added metainformation:
<meta name="description" content="CEO Eric Schmidt tells Bloomberg that Google thinks its arguments are strong that the partnership with its rival doesn't post antitrust problems. Read this blog post by Stephen Shankland on News - Digital Media." />

<meta name="keywords" content="Yahoo, Google, advertising, search, antitrust, Eric Schmidt," />

Tov Are Jacobsen Send private email
Friday, August 29, 2008
>> I have explained to them that it is mostly scripted and that they would have to provide the html.  I in turn would make the necessary changes in the source code.

Can you not just generate all of your pages and give them so they can change whatever they need to change and then you synchronize them with your program?
Goran Burcevski Send private email
Friday, August 29, 2008
Sure, you could probably find a way to synthesize a static site, and then work to incorporate their changes, or they could see the benefits of a dynamic site - namely, once they decide what changes to make, you can effect that in one or two places and know for a fact that it's going to come out correctly in the web site.

At the risk of sounding cynical here, are they being paid by the job or by the hour, 'cause one of those options strongly encourages them to make static changes in a few hundred (or thousand) static web pages.
D. Lambert Send private email
Friday, August 29, 2008
The original poster's situation is uncommon but not unheard of. Unfortunately, there's a bigger problem as Lambert hinted at.

The company probably negotiated SEO services without consulting the original poster or other members of the technical staff. Depending on the particular circumstances, he might not have any choice in the matter. If I decided I wanted e-commerce capabilities in my web site by next Friday, and contractor A guarantees he can do it by then without messing up the rest of the site, I'm not going to look favorably on my IT guy's attempt to protect me from myself.

I would suggest documenting your concerns in detail and filing copies with various managers in your chain of command. Then let it go and don't worry about it. If the vendor screws up, make it absolutely clear that its the vendor's responsibility to fix it. If they still point fingers at you, politely remind them that you were never consulted at the beginning of the process, and you did in fact tell them that it wouldn't work once you heard about it. (Be respectful and polite though.)

As for the original poster's original question, I've seen static, highly scripted, templated, quite a few different ways of doing it all with their own pros and cons. Whether one method is appropriate or not depends on that business' particular needs and I'd never auto-blame a developer for picking Delphi if that's what worked for him.
Friday, August 29, 2008
TheDavid, you are a CYA ninja!

As a side note, a lot of SEO people hate CMS systems because they produce wonky URLs. 

On our own site, the page where we talk about our use of looks like:

but we use a url rewriter to make

redirect to

So to the outside world, we can use a relatively friendly URL, but the CMS still gets the right content.
Brian Send private email
Friday, September 05, 2008
If I happened to be a search engine, which I'm not but if I were, I doubt I'd bother indexing a page generated on the fly if I could detect that had occurred.

The other problem is duplicate content, where the same page is seen differently by different viewers (logged in, not logged in, arrived via page A or page B etc) Search engines hate that stuff too.

Bottom line there's a reason your company hired someone who knows about SEO - because your site desperately needs it.

You need to find some way of rendering each page into plain and static html, regardless of how it's arrived at, with different urls for each variation.

Forums, CMS and all that can be great from the user's point of view, once actually working properly, but are a nightmare when it comes to search indexing.

Before sticking to your guns and washing your hands of it all, consider what your company wants the website for. For most it's a matter of visitors, who usually arrive via search engine. Bottom line if I were CEO of the company I'd be a lot more interested in the views of the SEO specialist than that of the guy who built the poorly performing website. In fact I could be talked into scrapping the current site completely, and it's staff, and starting again with a SE optimised site.

Not saying they'll do that or that they should but it seems to me the onus is on you to deliver the goods rather than complaining that the marketing people are making life difficult.

Adam Send private email
Saturday, September 06, 2008
A strong Delphi advocate writing here: I just absolutely love Delphi --- for workstation development. That said, it has almost no place in web development today. It's just not "interoperable". It doesn't talk to anything else. There are two big camps in web development - the LAMP and PHP camp, and the ASP/ASP.NET camp. There's little middle ground or room for innovation in this regard today.

The OP's web site *really* needs to be moved over to a standard CMS system like Drupal or similar.

I can see two possible approaches:

1) Give the SEO company access to the Delphi based tools and provide basic instruction. If the Delphi platform is so great, then this should be simple to offload, right? So see if they (the SEO people) are willing to maintain the links, etc using the in-house tools. (If the web site has to be maintained by modifying the Delphi code itself, then the OP needs to be flogged! ;) )

2) Use a spider to generate every single page that is possible from the current live site. Then allow the SEO ninjas to edit the HTML copies. Afterward, diff the modified HTML and fold those changes back into the original site data.

Otherwise, the OP will look pretty bad from this. It's all amount the money.
Bored Bystander Send private email
Friday, September 12, 2008

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