Julian is one of our SilverStripe developers who works with the rest of the team on large projects, as well as acting as technical lead on projects of his own. Today is his birthday; so you are welcome to congratulate him.
SEO or Search Engine Optimization, is the practice of getting your website to show up high in search results. SilverStripe 3 provides a number of great SEO features out-of-the-box. Here is a quick rundown of the most useful of these features:
- Automatic and manual redirects
- Clean search-engine-friendly URLs
- Broken link reports
- Ability to customize meta-tags on each page
- Easy-to-use CMS UI to craft your website’s content
- Powerful developer API to implement anything you want
This blog post is about the last two points. How you can use SilverStripe 3 to build a website that is nicely optimized for Google searches (yes, there are other search engines, but let’s face it, no one uses them).
Alright, let’s get to it. Here are some specific optimization techniques you can use to improve your search ranking.
Don’t be a spammer
Google makes 500+ changes to its search ranking algorithm every year. The last two major updates to this search algorithm were called Panda and Penguin. Both these updates focused on detecting low-quality content, content created by spammers with the purpose of tricking Google into ranking their website high in the search results, attracting lots of gullible visitors, displaying lots of ads and ultimately making lots of money. Google now employs many clever techniques to detect this kind of black-hat SEO and penalize sites that use it.
You need to make sure your website doesn’t look like a spam website to Google. That way Google won’t decide to reduce your search engine ranking and you will continue to enjoy lots of visitors coming to your site. Here is the one golden rule to keep in mind:
Build a website that looks like a human built it.
That may seem obvious, but let me break that down into some concrete recommendations:
- Keep your page titles and headings short and descriptive
- Vary the anchor text of your links
- Place no more than 100 links on a single page
- Avoid duplicate content like the plague (or use rel="canonical")
- Use only a few carefully selected keywords on each page
- Remove links to low quality “spam” content
Read more about the Panda and Penguin updates here:
Write compelling content
Ultimately, the most importing thing you can do for your website is to write good content. Great content is what attracts visitors to your websites, causing them to recommend your site to others, mention your site on their blog, tweet about it, post it to facebook, etc. I can’t offer much advice on what makes for amazing content. I can say: don’t be afraid to experiment. You can then use Google Analytics to track how many people look at each page on your website and thereby find the best content on your site from an SEO point-of-view and write more content like that.
Learn more about Google Analytics.
Use the SilverStripe Google Analytics module to make installing Google Analytics easy.
Landing pages are your best friend
Create landing pages. They are a great way to rank highly in Google search results and they are useful for humans visiting your website, too.
A landing page is a special page on your site that you have optimized for one or two keywords that you want to rank highly for. It’s quite simple: all you need to do is craft a page that is a great resource for someone searching for a specific keyword.
The first step is to do some research to find the keywords you want to target. Then you can write an overview of the topic each keyword relates to, include a few links to other websites that people might find useful, include some deeper links into your own websites that go into more detail on various sub-topics and put all that on an attractively designed page. Keep the entire page short and uncluttered and be sure to link to it directly from your website's homepage (keeping in mind not to put too many links on your homepage).
Decide to go multi-site or single-site
An important decision about how you want to build your website is if you want to put all your content into a single website on a single domain, or if you want to spread it out across multiple websites on separate domains.
Multiple websites mean that you can take advantage of a special boost that Google gives your website if your domain is an exact match for what someone is searching for. E.g. if someone searches for “silverstripe cat food” and you happen to own silverstripecatfood.com, then you get a huge boost in your Google ranking. So, if your goal is to get as many people as possible to visit your network of websites, because more visitors means more advertising revenue for you, then multi-site might be the right way to go.
A single-site approach also has its advantages. If you put all your content onto a single website, then that website benefits from all your compelling content. The site can become the ultimate resource for whatever your organization is about. It might not attract quite as many total visitors as the multi-site approach, but if you are selling a product or service on your single website, then that is where you want your visitors to land. No use attracting visitors to numerous other websites, even if those sites have links back to your main website, if those visitors could just as well be coming directly to your main website.
Read more about the trade offs between multi-site or single-site website structures here.
If you want to go “multi-site”, then you can avoid many of the headaches that come with maintaining and administrating multiple websites by using the SilverStripe Subsites module.
Speed up your site
Website speed makes a small but noticeable difference in your Google ranking. This is especially true if your website loads particularly slowly. Besides hurting your Google rank, a slow website is extra load on your web-server, a bad user experience and risks that your website will go down if it gets an unexpected spike in visitors.
The good news is that we have optimized SilverStripe 3 to be faster. Here are some of the new features in SilverStripe 3 that increase its performance.
In addition to those benefits that you get simply by using SilverStripe 3, you can implement specific optimizations to further improve your websites performance. Here is a list of techniques. We can go into detail on some of these in future blog posts.
- Static caching
- Partial caching
- Enabling gzip compression
- Adding expiry headers
- Combining and minifying CSS
- Creating image sprites
- Resampling and re-compressing images
Read more about more techniques for improving website performance here: