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Search Engine Optimisation

Search engine optimisation (SEO) has spawned an entire industry of advisers and "experts" who try to game the big search engines to make your website appear higher up the list of results. Most of their advice, or at least the stuff that works, is really easy to do and can be found on Google's own help pages.

Remember, search engines want to display your content. They take it, without paying you a penny, put links to it on their website, and make money by placing adverts next to it. Search engine optimisation is about helping search engines understand and present your content - and nothing more.

Great Content

You should build a website to benefit your users, and any optimisation should be geared toward making the user experience better.

Google SEO Starter Guide

In truth, the best way to optimise content for search engines is to write great content. According to Google "when Googlebot crawls a page, it should see the page the same way an average user does". By great content we mean using properly structured headings, writing content that is easy to read, keeping content up to date, using good descriptions, and properly marking-up your images.

Content that is great for SEO is also content that is great for Accessibility.

Secure Content

All websites should be using https - and the public websites we host do!

Mobile Friendly Content

Google have had a strategy of "mobile-first index" since 2016. According to their webmaster blog "if you have a responsive site... where the primary content and markup is equivalent across mobile and desktop, you shouldn't have to change anything".

All of our standard themes are mobile responsive.

Proper Headers

Structure your content using headers. Properly nested headers are good for SEO and accessibility and iCM will warn you if your headers aren't properly structured. See the Accessible Content article for more information.

URLs

Google recommend using a "simple URL structure" and iCM does this by default. They give an example: "The URL http://www.example.com/green-dress.html is much more useful to us than http://www.example.com/greendress.html. We recommend that you use hyphens".

If you take a look at the URL of this page you'll see it uses the article heading, separated by hyphens.

Your headings should accurately describe the page, be unique, and be "brief but descriptive".

Navigation and Structure

Google give this example as a good way to structure a site:

Site Structure
 

Unlike some CMS providers where your article content is created in one great blob and you have to manually construct navigation using various tags and other black magic, iCM uses an article tree, which looks remarkably similar to Google's example:

Article Tree
 

Your site's navigation is built directly from that article tree - a real "what you see is what you get".

Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumb trails are a helpful way for search crawlers to understand how your content fits together. All of our standard themes include a breadcrumb trail and it is built directly from the structure of the article tree.

Meta Descriptions

Metadata descriptions appear in your page source and tell search engines what a page is about. They may also be used as snippets of text in search results (Google are a bit shady about this and can use content from elsewhere on the page, depending on the search query).

Our sites output meta descriptions in the page source. Here's the example on this page:

<meta name="description" content="We're often asked about SEO. This article describes all of the good things our sites do automatically and offers some advice about the content you create." />

Meta descriptions are taken from your article summary text:

Summary Text
 

If your article doesn't have any summary text, the description falls back to the intro text. What makes this so simple is that it's exactly how lots of the templates on your website work too. The Search template displays article summary text in results, the List template displays article summary text beneath each heading, so your articles will already be outputting meaningful meta descriptions just by you writing great content.

Other Metadata

You can manipulate the metadata your site outputs, overriding titles and descriptions for specific articles, and creating additional properties that will be added to the page source.

See the Metadata Properties, Unfurling and Structured Data Markup article for more information.

Robots and Crawlers

You can manage your robots.txt file from inside iCM. It's one of the fields in the subsite configuration. The robots.txt file is generally used to prevent an entire subsite from being indexed by search crawlers.

If you want to exclude individual articles from search engine indexing you could create a "robots" metadata property in iCM, with the value of "noindex" and relate that to your articles, as described in Metadata Properties, Twitter Cards and Open Graph.

Sitemap

Our sites automatically generate Sitemaps that you can submit to search engines. They follow the industry standard sitemap protocol that search engines expect.

Other Free Tools

Google Webmaster Tools and Google My Business offer lots of ways you can manipulate how Google recognises and reacts to your site, without having to do strange things to your site.

Last modified on 16 March 2023

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