Practical Ecommerce

Tech Support: May 2006

What is “keyword density” and how does it affect me?

Keyword density is a phrase that is used to describe how relevant a keyword “topic” is to text on a web page. Keyword density is measured in much the same way that normal density is measured- by comparing the number of times a keyword or phrase occurs in a document relative to the total number of words in the document. The resulting value for keyword density is a percentage, and highly ranked sites tend to have at least a 2-3% keyword density for the key search words or phrases. To check the keyword density of your pages, use the free keyword density analyzer available from Search Engine World.

Can search engines like Google, Yahoo! and MSN index Flash content?

The topic of whether or not search engine spiders can access and index Macromedia Flash content, or content inside of a .swf file, has been a hotly debated subject. The simple answer is yes, the major search engines like Google, Yahoo! and MSN all say that their spiders can access and index content inside a Flash file. However, that can be misleading, and the truth is that even though they can index Flash files, they are not indexed as efficiently as HTML files. Consider that some Flash sites consist of either one .swf file or of multiple .swf files that are indexed via the loadMovie() function in Flash.

The site that consists of one single flash file will have diluted keyword value and relevance since the entire site’s information is contained in one place. Alternatively, an HTML website would have the same information broken into many discrete pages, each being highly relevant to a specific topic. For this reason, even though the spiders can index the Flash content, a full site contained in one .swf file will not be as effective in the search engines as its HTML counterpart.

Alternatively, many designers break up Flash sites into multiple .swf files so that each one contains discrete, relevant information. While this should theoretically improve the indexing, there is much debate (and no solid evidence) that the search engines can recognize and follow the loadMovie() command in a Flash file, which is akin to a hyperlink in an HTML document in that it leads the search engine spiders to more content. The usual conclusion is that despite their ability to index Flash files, search engines index HTML documents more thoroughly and efficiently, and the resulting search rankings will reflect that.

What are cookies, and how do they work?

Cookies are small text files that are placed on your computer by a website that you have visited. These small text files are used to store information that generally enhances the user experience. For example, a website that requires you to log in to access certain content may give you the option of remembering your login information for you. Selecting this option tells the web server to store your login information in a cookie on your computer. The next time you return, this information is pulled from the cookie and you are automatically logged in. Generally, cookies are used to store information about preferences, customizable options, or login information.

Cookies have received a bit of a bad reputation in the past, based primarily in a lack of understanding combined with the fear of hackers and identity thieves. In reality, cookies generally store only tiny bits of information, and typically not sensitive information. In addition, cookies can only be read by the website that created them, meaning that there is no concern about your login or personal information from one website being accessed by another. It simply cannot happen. However, cookies can be placed on your computer from sites that you did not navigate to, such as in the case of many online advertisers. Most browsers have a security setting that allows to you dictate that you browser only accept cookies from sites you navigate to. This will prevent any extraneous cookies from being created on your machine that are not pertinent to the sites you visit.

What is the difference between 128-bit and 256-bit encryption?

Encryption is the process of securing information that is sent over the Internet using a code that scrambles (encrypts) and descrambles (decrypts) the data, typically based on prime numbers and called a “key”. The length of that key in bits will be either 128- bit encryption or 256-bit encryption. A 256-bit encryption key is stronger than a 128-bit encryption key, but how much stronger?

First, it is important to understand what a bit is. A bit is a single value, and can be either a 1 or a 0. In the case of 128-bit encryption the length of the cipher would be 128 bits long, which mathematically means that there are 2128 possible combinations, or about 3.4 x 1038. This is an awful lot of combinations, which is what makes it nearly impossible to crack the security encryption. However, as computers get faster the number of bits required to ensure secure encryption needs to be raised. Currently, the strongest level of protection you can get in an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate is 256-bit, which equates to 2256 combinations or about 1.5 x 1077 possible combinations. As you can see, even though it is twice the number of bits, the encryption is exponentially stronger.

Brian Getting

Brian Getting

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