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While doing some client research I came across the Leeds United website. As I am not a footie fan, my SEO spidey senses kicked in instead so I noticed they had a splash page with relatively mundane and commercial messages on it. I started to ponder how much these 'splash pages' dilute SEO efforts and PageRank so went and had a bit of a dig in the information sand pit of the web.
So, firstly, a splash page, also known as a "pre-home page," is the "welcome page" of a site and as such can have a number of different uses. These range from choosing your language, to confirming you are over 18, to redirecting you to another site or simply grabbing your attention with a giant graphic or interactive flash animation. Research has found that 25% of users claim they leave a site straight after seeing the splash page because of pure annoyance.
So apart from annoying users with a pointless entry page, slow loading and often time-wasting advertisements, why are splash pages bad for SEO? Where a splash page isn't essential to the user experience there are a number of SEO experts out there who believe they can have negative effects on your sites find-ability and rankings.
SEO practitioners believe that splash pages contribute negatively to a "dilution effect". This is the idea that every link between search engine and content has a certain degradation factor to it when passing your PageRank on to your homepage. So by having an introductory page (splash page) you're actually intercepting the link to your homepage and only transferring part of that PageRank value to the actual content.
A large amount of your PR will go to anchor texts that have no relevancy to your site's product or service such as "Skip Intro", "Choose Language" and "Click to Enter".
Splash pages often don’t provide content and may stop spiders from crawling through the main site content. This could result in
search engines not only ranking the site lower because they consider it a less important source but also not caching other
pages, particularly for a new site.
Search engine spiders require text content and links to find and understand each page. With flash movies and images the crawler cannot do its job. While the search engines are working to resolve the uncrawlable flash issue it is still important to provide keyword-rich content on a landing page. But be careful adding content behind a splash page because if it's done improperly or without thought you can be penalized for 'spamdexing' by the search engine.
Splash pages often contain site redirects which can reduce the chances of being indexed as a search engine's key goal is to get a user to the source of a site's information as quickly as possible (the home page). Very few splash pages are cross-linked and this can make the search engine think this is the most important page of the site, often leading to an uncached or ignored home page and site map.
Search engines applaud new, fresh and constantly updated content therefore by having a splash page that rarely (if ever) changes, the search engine may presume you don’t update your website a lot and as a result will start to index you less regularly.
Danny Sullivan of SearchEngineWatch.com says of splash pages:
"Basically, the most important page in your site is your home page. Search engines have tended to give it a slightly higher ranking boost. It may be the first page of a new site to get indexed. It's also the page people tend to link to the most. If there's no text, then the search engines have nothing to index - sort of like handing out a blank business card. So the splash page represents a wasted opportunity."
Some examples of splash pages for you to ponder their SEO potential: