XML Sitemaps, an SEO Primer

Excerpts from my latest article at Practical eCommerce: “SEO: Understanding XML Sitemaps.”

XML sitemaps serve a very niche purpose in search engine optimization: facilitating indexation. Posting an XML sitemap is kind of like rolling out the red carpet for search engines and giving them a roadmap of the preferred routes through the site. It’s the site owner’s chance to tell crawlers, “I’d really appreciate it if you’d focus on these URLs in particular, thanks.” Whether the engines accept those recommendations of which URLs to crawl depends on the signals the site is sending.

Simply put, an XML sitemap is a bit of Extensible Markup Language (XML), a standard machine-readable format consumable by search engines and other data-munching programs like feed readers. XML sitemaps convey information about one thing, the URLs that make up a site. Each XML sitemap file follows the same basic form.

Read the article in full, including examples and a Q&A at Practical eCommerce: “SEO: Understanding XML Sitemaps“»


Web PieRat logo.

Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Migrating Your Site? SEO Checklist

Excerpts from my latest article at Practical eCommerce: “SEO Site Migration Checklist.”

Migrating a site to a new platform or domain, or implementing a major redesign, are some of the most stressful situations in search engine optimization. The potential for massively impacting organic search traffic and sales is higher during these launches than at any other time. With planning and priority on the SEO impact of the launch it’s possible to actually improve SEO performance after a major launch event.

However, most sites neglect to include an SEO professional in the planning, design, development and launch phases of the project, typically resulting in a loss of SEO performance post-launch. While an experienced SEO professional can certainly come in afterwards to guide the team through a strategy to revive the site’s SEO performance, this process typically takes three to six months of planning, rework from the design and development teams, and a loss of traffic and revenue in the interim.

Speaking from experience helping clients through many platform changes, redesigns, domain moves and other assorted SEO pitfalls, these are my best tips for arriving at the other end of the launch with your SEO safely intact.

Read the article in full for 2,000 words worth of SEO site migration tips at Practical eCommerce »

Migrating a site is always a complex process and should always include an SEO professional. Just as a marketing team wouldn’t dream of replatforming or redesigning without information architecture expertise, the same logic needs to apply to search engine optimization. The stakes are too high in terms of organic search traffic and revenue to risk cutting corners on SEO.


Web PieRat logo.

Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Syndicating Content for SEO Benefit

My latest article at Practical Ecommerce, read it in full here.

When ecommerce companies think about content syndication, they typically consider acquiring content that others have written to beef up their own sites. Depending on the goal, placing content from other sites onto your own can be beneficial from a branding, partnership, or reference point of view, but rarely for search engine optimization.

By its nature, content syndication tends to create duplicate content — I addressed that topic here previously, at “SEO: There Is No Duplicate Content Penalty” — because one site creates content and one or more sites post that content to their own sites. But it doesn’t have to be duplicate content.

Read more »


Web PieRat logo.

Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Rel=Canonical Consolidates Google +1’s Too

While researching how to add the +1 button, I came across this interesting tidbits on using rel=canonical to consolidate +1’s to the canonical version of a page. This bit from the FAQ is interesting because it mirrors advice on canonicalizing URLs to consolidate link juice, which points to a possible future in which +1’s enjoy a similar level of algorithmic importance as links do. Otherwise, why bother to worry about canonicalizing for them, hmmm?

From Google’s +1 FAQ:

However, your site may make the same content available via different URLs. For example, your site may have several pages listing the same set of products. One page might display products sorted in alphabetical order, while other pages display the same products listed by price or by rating. For example:

http://www.example.com/product.php?item=swedish-fish&sort=alpha
http://www.example.com/product.php?item=swedish-fish&sort=price

If Google knows that these pages have the same content, we may index only one version for our search results. As a result, +1’s for the other versions may not appear in search results.

You can make sure Google displays +1 annotations for the most search results possible by adding the rel=”canonical” property to the non-preferred versions of each page. This property should point to the canonical version, like this:

This tells Google: “Of all these pages with identical content, this page is the most useful. Please prioritize it in search results.” Now, when a user +1’s a page with a non-canonical URL, Google will associate that +1 with the canonical, preferred version.


Web PieRat logo.

Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Server Header Status Infographic: Geeky SEO Joy

Server Header HTTP Status Code InfographicDr. Pete’s infographic on SEOmoz entitled “An SEO’s Guide to HTTP Status Codes” is pure geeky fun, and educational to boot.

As an in-house SEO, I spend a fair amount of time talking about http status codes. Sometimes I think I should just record myself saying, “We’re going to 301 that, right?” But an infographic is way more fun. As soon as I finish this quick post, I’m going to forward it to all my SEO BFFs in DevLand. Thanks, Dr. Pete!

As long as we’re talking geeky server header status visuals, maybe I’ll send my devs my duplicate content decision matrix for a double dose of visual SEO education. And for a dash of humor, perhaps Danny Sullivan’s “Matt Cutts Debunking Flowchart.”


Web PieRat logo.

Originally posted on Web PieRat.