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Sitecore and SEO – Seven Low Cost, Quick and Must Do Tasks

Deb Francis
Deb Francis

There’s a plethora of so called experts blogging, tweeting and chatting on everything web from soup to nuts. I have a select few experts that I loyally follow, however, and one such person is Jill Whalen, a true SEO expert.

I’ve been a loyal subscriber and reader of her SEO newsletter, High Rankings Advisor, for more than seven years. The only subscription I’ve held onto longer is my local newspaper. I can’t seem to shake the paper version just yet, plus its make good fire starter. Jill has practical, no nonsense and a good old fashioned approach to SEO. She’s witty and her newsletter is a fun read.

Issue 297 (I must confess that I’ve not read all 297) addresses "3 SEO Traps to Avoid During Your Redesign". SEO trap #1, as she refers to it, is your content management system. Gasp! How could that be a trap? We are CMS evangelists here at Aware and frequent implementers of Sitecore. So I set out to explore the issue with our own internal CMS and SEO experts to find the quickest and lowest cost ways we "tweak" Sitecore toward a more search engine friendly implementation for our clients. Many of the SEO tactics true ten years ago remain the same. Just don’t overlook them in the midst of a complex CMS deployment.

Our Web Strategist team, the chief SEO implementers on every CMS project we do, had this to say:

301 Redirects: Don’t lose your good rankings. First determine which pages are most important to maintain search links for and create dynamic redirects so you really don’t need to "reclaim" the rankings from scratch. Aware has created a Sitecore URL Redirect Module exactly for this purpose. As the search engines re-index your site, they will begin to pick up the new links rather than the old ones.

Metadata and Keyword Inheritance: More important than keyword and description tags are title tags. Although not important to rankings, description tags do show up in SERPS (search engine results pages) and well written descriptions can increase click through rates. Implement the Sitecore metadata module which will allow you to create predefined lists of keywords and descriptions. These lists will then be made available to the content authors when pages are created so they don’t have to recreate these metadata lists each time. Content authors will also have the ability to add additional keywords, descriptions and title tags to specific pages or have one change be reflected on multiple pages. Content authors or administrators will also be able to customize this base list or create custom meta tags. This can all be accomplished through the Sitecore UI and would not require developer assistance.

The SEO Module: How useful is it? It won’t optimize your site for you. That needs to be done the good old fashioned way. But, the SEO module will facilitate ongoing SEO maintenance. It lets marketers see how the search engines will view the website, identifies inbound links, and helps optimize keyword combinations, density and placement. The module also provides at-a-glance reports of image and linking errors, and provides alerts if fields such as alternate text, description or other meta-values are incomplete. You can also use it to analyze a competitor’s site and see how their keyword density compares to yours.

Google Analytics versus Sitecore Reporting: Do you have to choose? No need to choose between Google Analytics and Sitecore reports. Sitecore allows Google Analytics tracking code to be added and also provides an environment within Sitecore to access Google Analytics reports. This allows users to access analytics content within a single interface, Sitecore, and eliminates the need for users to login to their own Google account to view data. Sitecore also offers the online marketing suite (OMS) as an analytics option. OMS can run concurrently with Google Analytics and collects data at the server level which typically means more accurate data. Using these two tools in tandem will provide a complete picture of your website.

Human Readable URL’s: Sitecore’s dynamic link functionality allows content managers and administrators to create search friendly URLs. When creating your Sitecore content structure, try to use keywords in the structure, then by default the URL, that reflect the sites categorization of content to help search engines identify page content. Using dynamic links can also limit the use of URLs with query strings. Google recommends to keep dynamic URLs with parameters short and to limit the number of them.

Keyword Rich IA: Get your SEO staffer involved early on in the project when you’re defining your information architecture. The information architecture is the back-bone of your Sitecore content tree. With well-defined information architecture, adding content rich pages to the content tree can help additional content get indexed with search engines. Content logically grouped together makes it easier to find for users and for search engines. With content aligned in themes along the information architecture search engines can easily follow content.

Dynamically Generated Sitemaps: Sitecore’s sitemap module ensures sitemap content is updated for search engines. The module eliminates the need to manually update xml files each time the site structure changes. This step is often overlooked when new content is added to the site. With multiple content authors, automating this process can eliminate long stretches of time with outdated sitemaps.

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