What’s Popping Up at the Exploratorium?
Lowell Robinson of the Exploratorium, San Francisco’s museum of science, art, and human percep-
tion,had a problem:how to display interactive video and Flash content on the museum’s Science
of Gardening website (
).Most of this rich, interactive
content was built within separate pop-up windows.Lowell and his team knew that this could
wreak havoc on their search engine listings.
Their primary concern was not that the search engines would have trouble indexing the pages,
but rather that the pages
be indexed and site visitors would click directly to the pop-up
content—in a full browser window rather than a mini-pop-up window—without entering the
“After putting hundreds of hours into producing this rich content, we didn’t want the search
engines to index our pop-up windows as stand-alone web pages with no way to click to the par-
ent website and none of our branding or credits displayed.”
The Science of Gardening team came up with a clever solution:The web developer placed a
piece of code that identifies the referring URL,on the pop-up windows. Now visitors who are already
viewing the Science of Gardening website see the regular pop-up (see the left screen shot below),
while surfers coming in from search engines or other links see the Flash or video content wrapped in a
proper branding package,with easy access to the rest of the site (see the right screen capture below).
While some less-than-ethical SEOs may use a sniffer to trick the search engines and confuse site
visitors (a technique called cloaking), this is one example of using a sniffer to
rather than deceive them.
Lowell’s team learned an important lesson:You can’t always control how people arrive at your
website! If you have a website with significant content displayed in pop-up windows or within
frames,be sure to check how they look as stand-alone pages and make sure that you are com-
fortable with them being potential entry points into your site. If you aren’t, follow the Explorato-
rium’s lead and take steps to make those windows shine! (Full disclosure: Lowell is the beloved
husband of one of the authors, and yeah, he got a little free advice on this project.)
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