How to Avoid Shooting Yourself in the SEO


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Fifteen Tips to Improve SEO on Sitecore Sites - June 23, 2013

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  • •Wildcard nodes seem like an interesting error handling approach. I could imagine using that to try a 'We couldn't find that, but perhaps you'd like...' approach.
    •Google has a URL parameter tool on Webmaster tools... I'll have to check that out!
    •Going to check out the SEO-Friendly URL module and Jungle Torch module. They seem promising.
    • MozBar and Open Site Explorer are great resources.
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How to Avoid Shooting Yourself in the SEO

  1. 1. How to Avoid Shooting Yourself in the SEO Fifteen Tips to Improve SEO on Sitecore Sites June 23, 2013 1
  2. 2. Sitecore Enterprise Web CMS • Popular .NET Web Content Management System for mid-to-large organizations • Provides friendly tools for non-technical Content Authors and Marketers • Can be customized and extended to meet almost any conceivable business need 2
  3. 3. Why SEO is Important Search Engine Optimization (SEO) • Getting listed on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) • Getting more traffic from listings on search engines • Getting your content recognized as the authority • What search engines consider most relevant to users • Search engines rank authority pages higher Why Search Engine Optimization is Done • Search engines need to determine relevance • What the page is about • How the page would be useful • SEO helps the engines understand content context 3
  4. 4. Things that Hurt SEO • Signs of a neglected or abandoned site • Having too many broken links on a page • Having too many HTML errors • Missing Alt Text for images • Substantially similar content on the same site • Having a country code top level domain • Helps site rank for that particular country • Limits the site’s ability to rank globally 4
  5. 5. Static URLs are Better for SEO URLs can be static or dynamic • Dynamic URLs contain a question mark • Static - • Dynamic - Use static URLs over dynamic URLs for SEO • Static URLs typically rank better in search engines • Search engines are slower to index dynamic pages • Static URLs also appear more friendly to users 5
  6. 6. Using Sitecore Wildcard Nodes Wildcard Node • A node in the Content Tree that matches all requests for the given level if the item is not found on that level • URL parameters can be passed without query strings • Used to create friendly URLs for external content • Content is not in the Content Tree • Query strings do not have to be used to access it How to create Wildcard Nodes • Place a * node below a node • Node accepts all URLs for items not found at that level • Parse the URL for the data 6
  7. 7. Handling URL Parameters for SEO Google provides a Parameter Handling Tool • Used to tell Google how to handle URL parameters • Used to reduce impact of duplicate content on SEO • Useful when query strings cannot be avoided • Available on the Webmaster Tools Dashboard 7
  8. 8. Why Duplicate Content is Bad Duplicate content • Identical or nearly identical content on… • Multiple pages of a site • Pages on different sites • URL variations pointing to the same page Impact of duplicate content • Search engines try to index pages with distinct info • Links to the page contain multiple URLs • Popularity of the page can get divided across URLs • Page ranking of all the pages can be reduced • This can hinder pages' performance in SERPs 8
  9. 9. How Google Handles Duplicates When Google detects duplicate content • Google groups the duplicate URLs into a cluster • Google selects one URL to represent the cluster • Google consolidates the link popularity to that URL When Google doesn’t detect duplicate content • Google cannot consolidate the link popularity • This can dilute the ranking by splitting it across URLs 9
  10. 10. How Duplicate Content Occurs Sitecore Content Tree items • Content items are copied with little or no editing • Cloned items are created and used • Alias items are created and used • Campaign items are created and used for tracking • Multiple layouts are used to display the same content • Web, print, and mobile layouts, etc. URLs • Multiple domain names are bound to the same site • Links to a page contain formatting variations 10
  11. 11. URL Variations Variations that can occur in links to a page • Lowercase vs. mixed case • Www vs. no www • Trailing slash vs. no trailing slash • Language embedding vs. no embedding (localization) • URL parameters vs. no parameters (campaign tracking) URL variations are treated as duplicate content 11
  12. 12. What is a Canonical Page? Canonical pages • Identify a page as the primary page over others • Useful when a site contains duplicate content • Multiple pages with (nearly) identical content • Multiple layouts used for the same content • Multiple URLs used to load the same page 12
  13. 13. What is a Canonical Tag? Canonical tags • Used when pages contain duplicate content • Specifies the canonical page • Format: <link rel="canonical" href="http://primary-url> • Add to primary as well as secondary pages • Prevents search engines from picking a primary page • Supports duplicate content within a single domain • Supports pages across different sub-domain URLs • Does not support pages in different domain URLs 13
  14. 14. DNS Mistakes that Hurt SEO DNS domain name mistakes • Don’t bind multiple generic domains to the primary site • Don’t bind your primary site using a wildcard for all names • DNS Admins can get requests to add new names for a site • Each name that connects to the site can dilute the SEO for all Content-related mistakes • Avoid creating multiple pages with duplicate content • Avoid varying the format of URLs on a site • Don’t let the search engines decide which page is primary 14
  15. 15. Other DNS Mistakes for SEO Development sites for developers • Can contain an out-of-date copy of site content • Should not be accessible over the Internet • Should not have a binding to a public DNS name Content management sites for content authors • Can contain unapproved and unpublished content • Can have a separate IP address • Can be mapped to the master database for website • Should not have a binding to a public DNS name 15
  16. 16. How to Set Up DNS for SEO Using multiple DNS domain names for a live site • Bind a single generic domain name to the live site • Bind top-level country domain names to the live site • Create a second empty IIS site • Bind all other generic domain names to second site • Use the HTTP Redirect in IIS to set a 301 redirect • Select the second empty site in IIS • Open the HTTP Redirect tool in the IIS section • Add the primary URL in the Redirect text box • Set the status code to 301 16
  17. 17. Setting Up DNS for Localization Try to use top level domains for localization • Get country specific domain names for each language version • Use for French, not • Use for German, not Sites in top-level domains have distinct SERPS • Search Engines use an initial link for the root of the site to crawl the site in a particular language • No session is needed to remember the language • Each page has a unique URL in the different languages because the domain name is unique 17
  18. 18. Geotargeting for SEO For country-coded top-level domains • Sites are already associated with a geographic region For generic top-level domains (.com, .org, etc.) • Use Webmaster Tools to set geographic targets • You can target users in a particular geographic location • Targets help determine how site appears on SERPs 18
  19. 19. What to Ask Your DNS Admin Identify DNS names that point to your live site • Find the ones with no binding to your site • Add a binding for it to a secondary site that redirects • Alternatively, request the DNS name be removed Identify DNS names that don’t point to your live site • Find the ones that display duplicate content • Create a 301 redirect to the real site or • Use a robots.txt file to prevent indexing of the site • Old links to the site will continue to work • Search engines will list only the real site 19
  20. 20. Staging Mistakes that Reduce SEO Duplicate content on a staging site • A separate staging site can exist for Sitecore sites • The staging site points to a copy of the web database • A DNS Address record can exist for the staging site • This DNS Address record may not be restricted • The binding for the staging site uses the DNS record • Search bots view the two sites as duplicate content • There is no robots.txt file at the root of the staging site • SEO can be reduced for the primary Live site 20
  21. 21. Setting up Staging Sites for SEO There are good reasons to have a staging site • Authors can test content changes before going live • Admins can troubleshoot publishing issues Set up your staging site without hurting SEO • Do one or more of the following… • Add a Robots.txt file to the root of the staging site • Restrict access with NTFS and Windows Authentication • Restrict access with IP Address restrictions • Allow DNS name resolution only on corporate network 21
  22. 22. How SEO Mistakes Can Occur A company decides to revamp their web site • Old site continues to run • New site is created over time with no robots.txt file • There are public DNS records for both sites A company wants to test a version upgrade • Old site is copied as-is with configuration settings • Upgrade is applied to copy of site and tested over time A company wants to keep their old site around • Robots.txt file is not added to old site • Default redirects in IIS (302s) are used instead of 301s <Your scenario here> 22
  23. 23. Using Robots.txt to Help SEO Robots.txt • Plain text file • Add to the root folder of the site • Reduces indexing of duplicate content by search bots • Can prevent indexing of specific folders or paths • Can prevent indexing of entire site How to prevent indexing of a site User-agent: * Disallow: / 23
  24. 24. Using a Sitemap to Improve SEO What is a Sitemap? • Lists a hierarchy of the site pages you want indexed • Helps search engines discover canonical pages Guidelines for Sitemaps • Add a Sitemaps file to the root of your site • Periodically submit a Sitemap to all search engines • Use the Sitemap protocol so all search engines can use it • Specify your preferred URL for pages in your Sitemap • Identify the location of your Sitemap file in robots.txt 24
  25. 25. Redirect Mistakes that Reduce SEO Types of redirects • 301 indicates “Moved Permanently” • 302 indicates “Moved Temporarily or Found” • 307 indicates “Temporary Redirect” The three biggest redirect mistakes for SEO • 302 Redirects are used • 307 Redirects are used • 301 Redirects are not used Our next slide explains why… 25
  26. 26. Link Juice Marketing term for "online ranking power“ • The quantity and quality of inbound links to a page • One of the primary factors that determines rankings How Link Juice is affected by redirects • 302 redirects forward almost no link juice • 307 redirects forward almost no link juice • 301 redirects forward 90-99% of link juice 26
  27. 27. When to Create a Redirect Redirects are useful when… • A page of content is moved on your site • You want an old link to work on your new site • You want the link juice from an old link to be transferred to the new location of the content • You want the link juice from multiple domain names transferred to a single site name • You don’t mind if visitors type and is displayed in their address bar 27
  28. 28. The URL Rewrite Tool Microsoft add-on for IIS 7 • Permits Web admins to replace and redirect URLs • Rules are configured in IIS and saved to web.config • URLs can be more search engine friendly • Supports many types of redirects, including 301s • Supports regular expressions in addition to wildcards • Hint: Use regular expressions (regex) over wildcards 28
  29. 29. Benefits of the URL Rewrite Tool The URL Rewrite tool is very powerful • Should be installed on “Live” Sitecore server • Enables admins & webmasters to support redirects • Helps avoid binding non-primary generic domains to secondary site and use 301 redirects (Slide #16) • Create a “Use Canonical Hostname” rule in URL Rewrite tool instead (see next slide for details) 29
  30. 30. The ‘Use Canonical Name’ Rule A rule created in the URL Rewrite tool • Install the URL Rewrite Tool add-on for IIS 7 • Bind all domain names and wildcards to the main site • Create a rule named “Use Canonical Name” • Add all secondary generic domain names as conditions • Set the Logical Grouping to “Match Any” • Create a permanent redirect to your preferred URL • See examples on the next three slides 30
  31. 31. ‘Use Canonical Name’ Example Example 1 – Top of URL Rewrite Window 31
  32. 32. ‘Use Canonical Name’ Example Example 2 – Bottom of URL Rewrite Window 32
  33. 33. ‘Use Canonical Name’ Example Example 3 – Resulting Rule in Web.config File <rule name="Use Canonical Name" stopProcessing="true"> <match url="(.*)" /> <conditions logicalGrouping="MatchAny“ trackAllCaptures="false"> <add input="{HTTP_HOST}" pattern="(.*)" /> <add input="{HTTP_HOST}" pattern="(.*)" /> </conditions> <action type="Redirect" url="{tolower:{R:1}}" /> </rule> 33
  34. 34. Improving SEO with Internal Links SEO guidelines for internal links on Sitecore sites • Use consistent URL formats for all internal links • Use the toolbar to configure links in Rich Text • Avoid adding markup for URLs manually • Use General Links over Rich Text to create links • Use Clones when displaying duplicate content • Review Broken Links Report and fix broken links 34
  35. 35. Improving SEO with Link Manager Sitecore’s Link Manager settings • Located in the web.config file or a custom config file Guidelines for Link Manager settings • Set Lowercase URLs to True • Set Add Aspx Extension to False • Set Always Include Server URL to True • Set Language Embedding to Always for multi-lingual sites • Set Language Location to File Path for multi-lingual sites • Set Shorten URLs to True for Content Trees with multiple sites Additional guidelines for SEO • Configure IIS to pass all requests to ASP.NET • Add a trailing slash to the URL when appropriate 35
  36. 36. Use File Paths to Embed Languages Link Manager supports two types of embedding • Query Strings • Parameter sets the language in a session variable • Search engines cannot read session variables • File Paths • A session-less solution • Allows multiple languages in the same domain Use file paths over query strings 36
  37. 37. Sitecore Shared Source for SEO SEO-Friendly URL module • Enables SEO-friendly URLs for Sitecore items • Implements a custom link provider & item resolver Jungle Torch module • A SEO reporting and inbound marketing tool • Useful for social network analysis Both are available from 37
  38. 38. MOZ Tools for SEO MozBar • A free SEO-Toolbar for Firefox or Chrome • Displays relevant SEO metrics as you surf the Web • Available from Open Site Explorer • A free tool that uses the Mozscape web index to analyze links • Supports analyzing up to 10k links to any site or page • Available from 38
  39. 39. Tools To Locate Duplicate Content Duplicate Content Tool • Performs a series of SEO checks on submitted URLs • Xenu • Scans site links and returns a table of all available URLs • Google Webmaster Tools • Reports site’s duplicate titles and meta descriptions • 39
  40. 40. Duplicate Content Tool Checks • WWW/NonWWW Header checks if site returns a 301 redirect from www to non-www or vice versa • Google Cache checks if site has issues with www vs. non www in Google’s Cache • Similarity checks if site has pages omitted from Google for being too similar in the top 1000 results • Default Page checks if site appears to have redirected or standardized on either the / or /index.{ext} • 404 checks if site correctly returns 404 errors for pages that do not exist • PageRank Dispersion compares page rankings for the www and non-www versions of the site to verify they are same 40
  41. 41. In Summary 1. Use consistent URL formats and minimize similar content 2. Minimize the use of cloned items and alias items in Sitecore 3. Use static URLs over dynamic URLs and avoid query strings 4. Clean up broken links and HTML validation errors 5. Add canonical tags to pages with duplicate content 6. Specify canonical URLs in a Sitemap and submit it to search engines 7. Use Google Webmaster tools to specify your preferred domain 8. Analyze your site bindings and compare them with your DNS records 9. Bind only your primary DNS domain(s) to your live site 10. Bind generic DNS domains to a second site that redirects to live site 11. Use 301 redirects instead of 302 or 307 redirects 12. Use top-level domains for localization, not subdomains or folders 13. Block public DNS resolution for all development and staging sites 14. Add a robots.txt file to all development and staging sites 15. Configure your Sitecore Link Manager settings for SEO 41
  42. 42. Caveat Emptor There are many ways to manage SEO for Sitecore sites • Skilled developers can provide other solutions • Review your SEO needs with your Sitecore partner • Review proposed changes with all stakeholders • Implement new configurations on a test system first This presentation is intended to be academic • To enhance public knowledge of SEO issues • To promote a better understanding of SEO Author cannot guarantee accuracy or fitness for your site • Author makes no representations or warranties • Author disclaims any liability if you act on this information 42
  43. 43. More Topics from TIC All Sitecore-related SlideShares from TIC How to Assure Success for a New Sitecore Site (full slide deck) Implementing Routine Sitecore Maintenance Performance Tips for Sitecore Mobile Users Sitecore 7 – New Features for Users Sitecore Performance Tips for Visitor Engagement Troubleshooting Sitecore Performance 43
  44. 44. The Inside Corner, Inc. • The Inside Corner, Inc. (TIC) is owned by Craig Nelson • TIC is a Sitecore partner & web consultancy • A U.S. point of contact for teams of Sitecore specialists • We create new Sitecore sites & enhance existing ones 44
  45. 45. Primary Developer - Craig Nelson • Sitecore Specialist certified for Sitecore 7 • 10 years of system administration experience • 10 years as a Microsoft Certified Trainer • 5 years of ASP.NET web development experience • 4 years of Sitecore development experience • 3 years as a Sitecore technical instructor • Sitecore architecture & configuration expert • Performance & SEO optimization specialist • Workflow configuration specialist 45
  46. 46. Get Help with your Sitecore Site Follow TIC on LinkedIn • Add TIC to your Circles on Google Plus • Follow TIC on Twitter • Contact Craig Directly • Craig Nelson - Certified 7.0 Developer and Sitecore Partner • cwnelson[at] • Mobile - 707.319.7446 Visit the TIC website • 46
  47. 47. Bibliography A Look at Google's 200 Search Ranking Factors About /robots.txt Demystifying the "duplicate content penalty" Link Juice Explained MOZ - Canonicalization Multiple Languages in Sitecore SDN - Languages and Search Engines Sitecore - Avoiding query string in dynamic URL Webmaster Tools - Duplicate Content Webmaster Tools - Geotargeting Webmaster Tools - URL parameters Download slide presentation to view URLs 47
  48. 48. Thank you for taking the time to view this presentation on How to Avoid Shooting Yourself in the SEO Please share with others and add a comment if you think it is useful Thanks! June 23, 2013 48