Mix08 – Session 2 – Advanced Search Engine Optimization

For session 2 I had selected a session on Advanced Search Engine Optimization.  It sounded like the session was right up my alley.  My hopes were high. 

Search Engine – Crawling, Ranking, Finding

Search Engines do three basic things – crawl, rank, and find. 

  • Crawling – search engines start with sitemap.xml and robots.txt files, and follow links from there
  • Ranking – Each page is ranked according to certain criteria – inbound links (basically an endorsement of other sites – either high quality, low quality, or links with penalty); outbound links; note that subdomains are treated very differently than subdirectories.
  • Searching – simple process – check spelling, determine intent, fulfillment of search request with results, determine results order

Building Pages

  • Use HTML Semantically !!
  • H1 (SEO good) vs spans & styles (SEO bad)
  • A – used for ranking, test in link is important, use something descriptive
  • H1 – only 1 per page, most important page topic
  • Title – critical for determining keywords, relevance, and page content
  • Meta tags – description is what the user will see… without one, the crawler will have to guess at the page’s description based on content
  • JavaScript & CSS – don’t use JavaScript navigation, host css externally

Rich Internet Applications (RIAs)

  • These tend to look like black boxes to the search engines
  • Noscript tags are your friend !!
  • Validate your HTML – it makes the job of the crawler easier
  • 3 types of pages, based on your SEO goals
    • Monolithic – like mail.live.com – don’t want it to be searched
    • Linkable – bmw.com – each car is a separate page, with a rich experience on that page
    • Crawlable – lots of content, all HTML based

HTTP Status Codes

  • 200 OK – Page returned just fine without any errors
  • 404 Page Not Found – good for customers, bad for search engines – never removes pages from search engines
  • 301 Permanent Redirect – instead of throwing the 404, use this for a moved domain, etc.
  • 302 Moved Temporarily – confusing to users and to search engines, don’t use this.
  • 304 Not Modified – conditional get, only if search engine has latest version,
  • 503 Down for Maintenance – great to use if your server will be down temporarily, the crawler knows to come back
  • For more, visit W3C for standards for http status codes

Site Evaluation – Mix Site

  • Do a search for mix08 – the visitmix.com site is not the top result
  • Across the search engines, you get no title, and no description
  • Blogs are beating out mix site !
  • The site has a JavaScript redirect – BAD!
  • 16,000 inbound links to the index.html page, no server side redirect
  • 5700 inbound links to the default.aspx page – a lot less
  • http://www.visitmix.com vs visitmix.com vs visitmix.com/default.aspx – all 3 are different to the crawlers, choose one option and stick with it, use 301 redirects for other two

Other Notes

  • URL Rewriting in asp.net – there is a whitepaper by Scott Guthrie
  • Soft 404s (a page that gives content or a redirect to the homepage) is great for users, but bad for search engines.  There is a workaround for soft 404
  • Case Matters, particularly for apache, mono, etc.
  • There is another whitepaper called How to optimize Silverlight for search – read it!!
  • A good idea to make XAML understandable to crawlers is to create XSLT to reflect XAML
  • There is a Tools Review slide – we are using most already
  • Gatineau – AdSense Analytics – a competitor to Google Analytics (maybe this plays nicer with .Net and Silverlight?)
  • Canonicalization of URLs – include www or not, and force a redirect server side to stay consistent
  • Cloaking is bad
  • Sub-domains do not carry pagerank juice like a directory or subpage will
  • Underscores are bad (one word vs multiple, usability), dashes are better

Conclusion

I had high expectations for this session, since its title promised Advanced topics in SEO.  Most of the session was review.  Some of the more interesting things I walked away with were the brief tips on Silverlight, and on the importance of canonicalization of your site. 

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