SEO for Chambers, Part 1: Crawling and IndexingThursday, August 2, 2012
Thousands of people flock to the library every summer to stock up on reading material for those lazy weekend afternoons. I’m a big fan of nonfiction (such books as Good to Great, Made to Stick and The Long Tail), so I have a great appreciation for the Dewey Decimal System.
The Dewey Decimal System categorizes books based on subject, enabling us to search and locate a specific title. Search engines have a similar system for categorizing websites, called indexing.
The first step to SEO is to make sure the pages of your chamber website are being indexed by search engines in the most effective way possible.
HOW ARE WEBPAGES INDEXED?
The process begins with web crawlers - search engine robots that crawl all over your home page and collect data. Next, the crawlers (sometimes called spiders) follow your links to the other pages of your website, and collect more data.
Indexing occurs when a search engine organizes webpage data and stores that data in keyword-specific datacenters.
The purpose of indexing is to enable search engines to quickly access websites that relate to a searcher’s query. When a search is performed, search engines will pull website URLs from relevant datacenters.
By taking a few simple steps to optimize the backend of your chamber website, you can help search engine crawlers access your most valuable content, and thus have more control over how your webpages are indexed.
HOW TO OPTIMIZE YOUR CHAMBER WEBSITE FOR CRAWLING AND INDEXING
1) Format your most valuable content as text
Search engine crawlers read text, and nothing else. They aren’t capable of comprehending an image, watching a video, or listening to a podcast. That’s why the most important content on your chamber website should be in the form of good ol’ HTML text. Your chamber name, your list of executive directors, your calendar of events – these are all pieces of content that you’ll want a search engine to index.
Of course, I’ve been advocating since Day 1 the importance of a well-rounded media mix. You should definitely include images, video and audio – just make a few adjustments to their HTML. Include a text transcript for videos and podcasts, and write some descriptive alt text for images (see example below).
2) Don’t hide behind logins.
Chamber websites usually include a private member login section, which can result in valuable content being hidden behind a password-protected barrier. Make sure important content is provided in the public pages of your chamber website.
3) Build a proper link structure.
In order for every page of your chamber website to be indexed by a search engine, you must have a crawlable link structure in place. Your home page should provide a link to every important page, and those pages should provide links to every subpage. And specialized landing pages should always have link back to your home page. Don’t let any page get left out!
4) Fix duplicate content
Duplicate content (an occurrence of the same page title, meta description or text content present on two or more different URLs) can have a negative effect on SEO.
A common example of duplicate content is when a human-readable URL is created to replace a nonsensical URL. Two pages with the same content will exist, but they will have different URLs.
Duplicate content can confuse search engines, which could weaken your ranking factors. In addition, search engines will only list one instance of duplicate content. So the search engine might list, for example, an unformatted archived version of your blog post instead of the original!
The simple solution is to use a canonical tag in the <head> of your preferred URL for that particular content. Also, be sure to use your Google Webmaster account to set up your preferred domain name (www or non-www).
For further reading on duplicate content, check out this article from WebProNews.
The key to SEO is to work with search engines, and never attempt to game them. Make it easy for search engines to crawl and index your chamber website. In turn, search engines will help you rank higher in front of a relevant audience.
TOO MANY DEFINITIONS TO REMEMBER?
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