HTML v PHP facts
HTML v PHP facts
cVanci Associates

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HTML v PHP:  The SEO conundrum.

While the web may be built upon HTML pages, PHP sites still play an important role in database driven sites.

A HTML site contains hard copy pages written inuniversally used HTML code.  As these are physically real pages with real content unique to each page, they are easily scanned by search engines and sitemaps of all the pages on a site can be built.  A site with HTML pages can be accessed by any search engine, which is vital if you rely upon SEO to get your site and pages ranked.

PHP sites on the other hand, dynamically produce pages. None of the pages or their content actually exists on the site.  Each time a visitor comes to the site a new PHP page is created 'on the fly'.  This is ideal for say shopping sites with hundreds or thousands of products, as the entire site can then be database driven, serving up product information on the fly to each enquiry.  Can you imagine building hundreds of thousands of HTML pages for each product?  In this case it’s far easier to use a database containing product information and automatically serve PHP pages on the fly dependent upon the visitor’s enquiry.

As far as SEO is concerned though, PHP driven sites should only be used where dynamic content is a necessity.  Never design a traditional site using PHP, always use HTML.

The reason is very simple. With a dynamic PHP site there are no real content pages for a search engine to get its teeth into and analyse.  Each page generated is temporary and the content varies constantly. So it’s very difficult for a search engine to collect valuable SEO information and rank a page.  And of course, with a dynamic site there is no hard copy sitemap, so the search engine has no index to how many pages or what they are about.
Furthermore, search engines are naturally dubious about PHP driven sites.  This is due to the fact that each day millions of 'spam' pages are automatically served by PHP scripted sites, often using WordPress clones.  Spam pages are made just to swamp search engines and fool them into believing the pages have real content, whereas in fact the pages are just full of rubbish but surrounded by adverts that the site owner makes money from each time a visitor clicks on one, either by accident or out of shear frustration.  It’s very easy with PHP scripting to make a site that 'appears' to have thousands of pages each with unique content about a particular topic.  This technique is called 'Black Hat' and doing it will get your site penalised or banned by the search engines. But unfortunately, every day millions of such spam pages are created by hundreds of thousands of spam websites in attempt to grab a piece of the multibillion dollar online affiliate advertising business.

If you are setting up a shop with many products that have changeable specifications, then use a database and PHP driven site.  The same applies for wordpress type blog sites, forums and the like. But if your site, as most are, is about a few products or based upon fixed content and subjects, then use HTML.  Otherwise not only will a lot of search engines ignore it, but the likes of Google etc will automatically put it into the 'dubious' category unless it’s a well established and aged domain name of repute.

To put into street prospective.  If you want to walk down a street invisible to everyone except selected people, use a PHP cape.  If however you want to be seen by everyone or even stand out from the crowd, wear HTML.  As most of us want to achieve the later, dressing in PHP would be committing commercial suicide.

Another disadvantage to PHP driven sites is that you cannot make individually targeted pages.  As each PHP page is dynamically created, a common set of templates must be used.  This means that each page is very similar, not just in visual layout, but more importantly in the generated code used.  As it’s this code that a search engine will get its statistical information from, each page will look too identical and may not get indexed or very poorly ranked. With on the fly template driven sites, you don’t have the ability to make differing 'alt' tags and 'title' tags etc; as well as difficulties with all other meta tagging and SEO fine tuning. In a nutshell, a HTML site is search engine friendly, while a PHP site is not. So if it’s a site that you want at the top of Google don’t use PHP.

One last concern with PHP driven sites is security.  Most PHP scripts have vulnerabilities. If you are generating pages automatically on site with each visitor, scripts have to be opened, run and changes saved to the server.  This means altering the standard access permissions to allow constant re-writing to occur to various files on the server. Over the years, thousands if not millions of PHP scripted sites have been ‘hacked’ either for gain or more commonly, just for the fun of it by some bored hacker sat in their bedroom 24/7.  It stands to reason that if you are running programmes on a server with open permissions to some files your site could be at risk.
PHP, Blogs, forums and Wordpress type generated sites are particularly prone to such hacking attacks.
Unlike HTML where there are not usually any such permissions needed to run most sites and there is no script or programme running to hack into.

Written by Eduardo C-Vanci
Copyright 2007



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