Wednesday, June 18, 2008

How to improve SEO of you WCM sites

Well, as many of you might know - the most important thing for an internet facing web site is to be found easily in the leading search engines.

Because it does not matter how nice and sexy you "pimped" your web site, nor how relevant and profound is the content - if no one can find it your web site is as good as dead.


Ok, so you will be happy to learn that WCM (Web content management) sites that are created in SharePoint 2007 are pretty SEO-aware (Search Engine Optimization), and this comes a long way for you.


Some key features you enjoy with no hard work:


* Navigation, is configured OOTB (Out Of The Box) to reach all pages, expose them to the search bot / spider / what-you-might-call-it. All links are true a href links, no scripts.
* Zero to none use of hidden frames (only place you'll find them is in authoring mode
* Caching support and special attention for anonymous users (used by the search engines)


And much much more...



But - we are here to see what can we do to make it even better? How can I improve my site SEO?



Well, from a little research I did for a customer of mine while back we found 3 things that are actually can improve our SEO greatly.
(Important: I and not teaching how to cheat search engines! This is very dangerouse to play with. Simply how to make your site friendlier to search engines. You still have to have good content, incoming links and such to get good ratings on your site)



1: Turning off the view state.
2: Adding a site map for google.
3: Adding meta-tags for keywords and description for relevant content pages (advanced)

Ok, so let's go over these options and see what is the benefit and how it can be achieved:


Turning off the view state


What is gained?


If you right click->view source on any content page in MOSS you will see right at the beginning of the body tag you will see a input type hidden tag with id=__VIEWSTATE... then, its value will pretty much take your entire page so you'll have to scroll down several times...

So, apparently this gigantic piece of information is something that most search engines do not like to say the least. Especially when it comes before you true content of the page - it ruins your content rating in the search results!

Another obvious reason is, your page is larger... and larger pages are slower to load, and search engines will mark your page as a slower page... we don't want that.

How is it done?


Removing the view state from your WCM web application is rather easy. Simply go to your web application root directory (usually smth like: c:\inetpub\wwwroot\wss\xxxx),backup web.config file, and open it for edit in notepad. Look for enableViewState="true" and change it to false.

No need for IISRESET, but you site will experience a very small delay on the next request.

Adding a site map for google.

What is gained?

When a search engine (google in my example) starts indexing a web site it first of all checks to see if someone had prepared a "work order" for him. This "work-order" is what we call a sitemap / site map XML file that will allow us to make special requests for the crawler when it is working on our site.

If we do not have such a sitemap file, the engine will just open the home page of our web site and start crawling all links it can find on it for sub pages and so on and so forth...

This is usually good enough, except for cases where:

We want to have a section in our site that is not exposed by a link at the top site. Like http://www.kwizcom.com/ will not show a link to www.kwizcom.com/support (only example) which will hold our products support forum.

In this case - with no site map, our /support site will not be available at google at all.

Another problem we can prevent using a site map file is, when you have the same content in 3 different pages on your web site. 1 at the home page, and twice at the specific product information pages... Google will think you keep duplicate content and will lower your web site rank!

Using a sitemap, you can choose specifically what pages you want google to crawl, what pages are more important than others and what pages you don't want him to load.

One last benefit you gain by using a site map is that you can tell the engine what is the lifespan of each of your pages. Meaning: how often does its content change - monthly? weekly? so google will be sure to check it up every once in a while and update its content. Cool, eh?

How is it done?

Well, building a site map for MOSS (or any site for that matter) can of course be done manually, but you have to keep in mind that we are talking about a lot of pages to add to the XML files and this can be very time consuming!

Furthermore, you have to rebuild your site map every once in a while to reflect changes, additions and deletions...

You can develop a utility that does that for you, or use our site map builder here:

http://www.kwizcom.com/ProductPage.asp?ProductID=737&ProductSubNodeID=738

Once you got your hands on a site map generator, your work is just starting:

You will need to make changes in the XML to hide pages you don't want to show, change rating for more important pages and customize other information on it to match your requirements.

Adding meta-tags for keywords and description for relevant content pages (advanced)


What is gained?

By adding a meta tags of keywords and description to your pages you will let the search engine what content is your web site or web page targets.

This helps to raise the quality of the content in your web site. You may want to add specific keywords /description to all pages, and allow some pages to have additional information added to them.

How is it done?

Doing this can be very simple or very complex depends on your needs...

In the most simple straigh forward way - just edit your web site's master page and add the meta tags for keywords + description to the HTML head node like so:

<meta name="Description" content="KWizCom, knowledge worker components">

<meta name="Keywords" content="buy web parts, products, sharepoint, wss, moss">

But, if you requier your content to be changed according to the information of the current page (let's say you wish the page's title to go in to the description along with the site's name, and you have a metadata field named: keywords you wish to be loaded into the keywords tag), things get a little tricky.

But not to fear! I have created a control that will allow you to plant it in the master page and define what exactly you wish to see in these meta tags... it's just that using it is a bit tricky, so for now I don't have time to elaborate. But if you want it anyway before I manage to write a post about it - write me to shai at kwizcom.com and I will send it to you and try to help you configure it.



Ok, that concludes my post so far... it's been a very long while since I posted here, just in case you wondered - I relocated myself to Thornhill ON and didn't have enough time for nothing...

Hope this helps some of you,

Thanks,

Shai Petel

1 comment:

Greg.O said...

Thanks for the very useful post!
One thing I have found is that turning off the view state paramenter in config.web seems to cause issues. For some reason I'm no longer able to approve/reject in Master Page gallery ("Unknown error"). Also, I am not able to extend a content type with an existing site column ("Save error"). Turning view state on again fixes the issue.

I'm not sure if the above is specific to my environment or if it's a bug - this way or another thought it might be a good idea to report the issue in case someone else runs into it.

Best regards,
Greg Osimowicz