Archive for the ‘SEO’ Category

SEO and the Semantic Web

July 2, 2008

I posted this over at SEOmoz’s YOUmoz blog, their user generated blog. If you happen to be a member and like the article please vote for it so it will get promoted on their main blog.

From SEO and the Semantic Web on YOUmoz:

With the proliferation of the Semantic Web, all of our data will be structured and organized so perfectly that search engines will know exactly what we are looking for, all of the time. Even the newest of newbies will be able to create the most well-structured site that would take tens of thousands of dollars today. Everyone’s information will be so precise and semantically correct there will be no need for Search Engine Optimization anymore!

The fact of the matter is, this is never going to happen. Being a long-time SEO practitioner myself, I am very interested in the ramifications of the Semantic Web on today’s search, especially because I am tasked with optimizing Twine when it first becomes publicly readable this summer.

Before we dive too deep, let’s first look at what SEO experts and professionals do today. In a nutshell, we research, study, and test hypotheses learned by watching the heuristics of a search algorithm. We implement by writing clean and semantically correct HTML in certain combinations in order to allow robots to easier asses the meaning of a page. We use CSS to abstract the presentation layer, we follow good linking structures, add proper metadata, and write concise paragraphs. We organize our information in a meaningful way to show bots clean parse-able HTML. In some sense we are information architects, in another we are marketers.

But what would happen if a search engine company published their algorithm? Although that probably isn’t going to happen anytime soon, what if they would tell us exactly what they were looking for? That’s what the Semantic Web is going to do to search. Just the other day Yahoo announced SearchMonkey for just this purpose. It is only going to get bigger. Being told how to mark up your information certainly takes a lot of the guesswork out of it. But in terms of the role of the SEO expert or professional, I don’t think we can retire just yet.

The Semantic Web is organized by people just like the Web of today. The only difference is that now we are going to organize around better standards. Just as people have a hard time organizing their closets, attics, and garages, people have a hard time organizing their websites. Although the Semantic Web will add structure to the Internet, make it easier for novice users to create structured content, and change the way we search, there is still a need for experienced help.

Enter SEO. Some of our roles may have changed, but for the near future there will be still be a lot of similarities. The need to study and analyze robot behaviors to better tune information isn’t going away. They will still have to be on top of the emerging trends, search technologies, and organic ways to drive traffic. The fact of the matter is, nothing is going to change drastically for a while. In the near term, I am mostly worried about how to integrate Twine into the Web of today.

Not very semantic, huh? Well, that’s not say we aren’t going to integrate with microformats, display RDF in our pages, and publish our ontology. All of this is extremely important as the Semantic Web emerges; however, in a world where search is run by Google we have to cater to them. There are a growing number of semantic search engines and document indices out there, which are definitely raising awareness to the mainstream. Yahoo just jumped on the semantic bandwagon publicly and you know Google can’t be too far behind.

In conclusion, there’s nothing to worry about anytime soon. The SEO expert’s salary isn’t going back into the company budget. We still have to tune our pages to the beat of Google’s drum for the time being. When things do take a drastic turn, we will adapt and overcome as we always have. That’s what good SEO does. As for me, I will tune Twine just as I used to tune pages over at CNET, following the teachings of Sir Matthew Cutts et al.

Once a URL goes live plan to maintain it forever

June 5, 2007

Yes it may sound crazy but once a URL goes live you must maintain it… forever! (if SEO is your thing that is). Now that isn’t to say that you shouldn’t change or remove some URL’s, just make sure you create an Apache rewrite rule utilizing a 301 redirect. I deal with this on a monthly basis at work and its not so bad as long as you track your URL movements. Rewrites are an SEO’s best friend. Here is a good way to check to see if a Google has any records of a given string in your URLs:

Dashes, underscores, and CamelCase in your URL’s

May 9, 2007

I learned this the hard way at work probably about 8 months back. Take a guess which of the two Google doesnt like and cant understand? Thats right, dont use underscores ‘_’ or camel case ‘camelCase’ in your URL’s! Although URL’s arent the most important part of your site but they definitely do have an impact. To Google, as dash represents a space and thats what you should live by.

Need proof? Notice anything different about the two result sets?

Thats right. They are two different entities. The underscore doesnt create a space and therefore is NOT stemmed. This is a problem inherent to MediaWiki (my favorite wiki). Although wiki’s werent made for this purpose they have surely evolved into something different. Actually, as I am writing this now I just got the thought to make an Apache rewrite proxy to change the underscores to dashes. If I get it to work I’ll post my findings.

Learn from my mistakes. If you have the chance to make a rewrite or better yet start from scratch use dashes.

H1 tags are very important but use them wisely

April 25, 2007

When browsing the Gallery 2 installation on the A1 Imports Gallery I noticed that the default implementation was to use H2 as the headings! This is horrible, pointless, and not very well thought out. I realize that its not the job of the Gallery 2 engineers but they went far enough to make it an H2 so why not just make it an H1? Anyway the problem has been solved and we’ll see what type of results we get. Be sure to use them on your site, but use them wisely. A good rule of thumb is to only have one per page that is very specific to the content. Over-bloating your page with these tags will definitely send the wrong message to Googlebot.

Redirecting all subdomains to www

April 12, 2007

In order to get the cleanest and best ranking possible, always redirect your subdomains (the ones not in use) to www! I cant stress this enough. When Google comes by and sees that and are the same it thinks that this is duplicate content, which it is! I just implemented this today for my friends site A1 Imports Autoworks. Go ahead, try it. Here is the rewrite for Apache:

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^a1importsautoworks\.com(.*) [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$1 [L,R=301]

SEO training

October 18, 2006

My boss is a huge proponent to proper SEO standardization which means I have to be also. Every move I make, every URL I modify, every link I create it scrupulously examined. If him training me wasnt enough, he had the CEO from NetConcepts come in from Australia to teach us more tricks of the trade. Needless to say, I learned a hell of a lot. I will post more of my findings as I implement them.

How H1 tags and Title tags are different in the eyes of Google

August 2, 2006

I have just noticed that this site (based on WordPress) is using title tags incorrectly. Unlike H1 tags, tittle tags are read backwards in the eyes of Google. For example, on subcategory pages on this site, the titles read “John Clarke Mills >> Portfolio”. Ideally they would read something like this “Portfolio – John Clarke Mills”.

In a shopping comparison example, lets say you are looking for men’s jeans and you have drilled down based on these attributes or facets. The title should read something like “Jeans – Mens –”. However, the H1 tag like the breadcrumb would read something like “Home – Men’s – Jeans”. Makes sense once you know it but kinda strange at first.

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