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Best practice

How to incorporate SEO best practises within RedDot CMS projects


The two main goals every website should try to achieve is to attract and convert visitors, whether it be the form of leads, sales, or an increase in readership. From a development point of view, implementing SEO best practises within your CMS projects will help your site to gain exposure by enabling search engine web crawlers to effectively explore and index site pages.

Unfortunately there isn’t any fancy plugins or in-built functionality within RedDot that will automatically optimise your site. But don’t worry, making your site ‘SEO Friendly’ is relatively straight forward and easy to do!

Below are some helpful hints that will help you to optimise your RedDot CMS projects:

Alternate keyword rich page titles

The title tag is the single most important piece of information that search engines use when deciphering your web pages, therefore it is important that authors can insert target keyword and phrases within this title.

In most projects, the default page ‘headline’ placeholder is used to automatically populate the title, page name displayed in the body content (h1) and the link name where the page appears within the site navigation. For this reason displaying long, ‘keyword rich’ titles across your entire site is not a good look!

Don’t worry about making this field mandatory; just use a render tag or a pre-executing script block to default to the page headline value if no alternate page title is entered. I would suggest limiting this value to around 120 characters.

Meta Tags

As a minmum, ensure that you provide authors with the ability to enter in description and keyword meta values for the page.

The meta description value shows up in many search engine results as a summary for your page. Google, in particular, will display full snippets of the description value when a keyword phrase or sequence matches the search query. It is important to provide a creative, well written, compelling summary for your page in order to drive ‘click-through’ traffic from search engines. Limit the description value to around 160 characters and make it a mandatory placeholder.

The keyword value isn’t as important in terms of SEO as it used to be, however it’s not a complete waste of time to include it within the page. The keyword value should contain around 5-10 terms or phrases (separated by commas) that best describe to content of the page. There is no need to make this placeholder mandatory within the page.

I tend to group all Meta data fields together at the top of the page (within a collapsible div) so that users can edit these items quickly and easily.

1

Using the ‘child element’ grouping placeholder feature, clicking on any of these RedDots will automatically pop up a form where the user can edit the title, alternative page title and all meta data properties with one click. Some help text about each of the fields doesn’t go astray either!

2

Make your pages easy to use and your authors will love you!

SEO friendly page filenames

The filename for the page is another way in which you are able to target specific page keywords, since search engines reward filenames (as well as domains and directories) that contain keywords and or phrases.

Although RedDot provides the ability to assign a friendly URL to a page, unfortunately this isn’t a mandatory requirement for workflow submission. I’ve found that most users tend to overlook or forget to add a friendly filename, especially when there are pressing deadlines to get content published! By default, RedDot will publish pages as either an integer or GUID filename if this value is left blank.

As a workaround to this, I developed a custom ‘Add Page’ RedDot that I include within my projects that mimics the ‘create and connect’ default method or creating pages – but automatically assign a friendly URL filename based on the page headline when the page is created using RQL.

Whilst working at Areeba, I created two separate plugins (which are available for purchase) that would automatically update the filename for the page whenever the page headline was changed (using JQuery/AJAX/RQL) and the other a separate standalone application that would crawl through a project and assign friendly filenames to pages that did not have one assigned.

Just make sure that you limit filenames to around 100 characters (as RedDot is unable to publish filenames longer than this due to a ‘temp’ folder issue) and use hyphens instead of spaces.

Sitemap file

Sitemaps are a way to inform search engines about pages within your site that they might not otherwise discover. The easiest way to create a XML Sitemap file for your site is to output page links using the Navigation Manager. Since the Navigation Manager already has a tree representation of all your site pages, there’s no need to utilise lists or anchors to build the file.

Check out Google Webmaster Central for more information regarding format of Sitemap files.

Robots.txt

The robots.txt file provides search engine crawlers (or robots) instructions on which parts of the sites to crawl and or index.

Just make sure that the robots.txt file sits within the root folder of your site. You can either incorporate the file within your CMS project as a ‘linked’ media file (from a main menu page or the homepage) or a separate page published by the CMS that is created from a static content class template.

Everything you need to know about robot.txt files can be found at http://www.robotstxt.org.

404 error pages

Incorporate a custom 404 error page within every project that you build to catch any mistyped URL’s or broken links. Whenever a user comes across a broken link, the last thing you want is visitors to leave the site, so as a minimum your 404 error pages should contain the following:

  • An apology for the error
  • A link to your site map
  • A link to your home page
  • Links to the other main areas of your site
  • A prominent search box (if search is enabled within your site)

By integration some custom server-side code, you can also use your 404 error pages to manage 301 redirects within your site (which I’ll get around to blogging about in the near future!)

Image alt text

Set the alt value to ‘required’ for all image placeholders to ensure authors add relevant textual descriptions for image content (another way to target page keywords!)

Links displayed within html only (No JavaScript)

Always make sure that your navigational links are contained within the HTML source of the page. By all means necessary, avoid outputting navigational links within JavaScript code otherwise search engines won’t be able to crawl your site links.

Provide alternative text content for flash movies

Since search engines are unable to index content within flash, make sure you provide users within the ability to provide ‘no-flash content’ for this purpose. A simple Text placeholder will serve this purpose.

When it comes to SEO, the important thing to note is that there are no hard and fast rules. SEO is will continually keep evolving as long as search algorithms continually keep changing. The most important thing is to ensure that you adopt as many industry best practises as possible as a well optimised site will do much better than a site that doesn’t.

Feel free to share any other SEO hints and tips that you use within your projects!

Check out my blog for more RedDot CMS & SEO articles.

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About the author:

Kim Dezen Kim Dezen is a Senior RedDot CMS (Open Text Web Solutions) CMS Consultant, Developer and Freelancer. Part time DJ and obsessed music / vinyl junkie. Follow me on Twitter: @kimdezen                  Check out my blog: http://www.kimdezen.com for all things related to Red Dot, SEO/SEM and Web Development.

Discussion

9 comments for “How to incorporate SEO best practises within RedDot CMS projects”

  1. Some great points here Kim. Thanks for sharing.

    I fall foul of not having some of these implemented so I will put on my to do list.

    Posted by Danny Baggs | November 26, 2010, 11:51 am
  2. Kim,

    This is a bit off topic but…

    I noticed you have an “Edit Filename” button on your bar there at the top as well as having replaced some of the reddots using more friendly images (or buttons). How did you achieve the buttons look? But perhaps more interesting to me is how did you achieve the edit filename button?

    Would you mind sharing any of the informational bar you have created? We have a similar one but your has more useful things that, to this point, we have been told by OpenText is not possible to display!

    Posted by Joel K | December 6, 2010, 11:56 pm
  3. Hey Joel,

    All of the buttons were created in Photoshop – which were then styled up and inserted into projects using CSS/HTML and JQuery.

    The big fat buttons on the page open up custom forms that execute RQL queries (using the RustyLogic .NET wrapper) to perform any actions i want to achieve. The Open page button mimics the behaviour of the default open/close RedDots on the page – i just made it bigger so it was easier for authors to open pages!

    Anything is possible within the CMS using custom code and RQL – the hardest part is coming up with the ideas (and dont let anyone tell you otherwise!!!)

    I will be writting another blog post shortly about usability enhancements to make projects easier to user friendly for authors/editors – I will definately include more information about my toolbar in it!

    Cheers,
    Kim

    Posted by Kim Dezen | December 7, 2010, 7:06 am
  4. We are currently migrating our content to various ‘centralised’ government websites but want to make the process as pain free as possible to our users, especially as we have a lot of deep linking to the site. Our content is UK-wide and is being split between 4 websites for each of the countries.

    As each section of the site is moved, we have to remove the pages from our site. As a transition, we want to redirect all of the deep pages to return the user to the section landing page with an explaination of why they are there and where they need to go to find the information on the other site.

    OK, that was a long intro! What I really would like to have is a sneak preview of how to use 404 error pages to manage 301 redirects within our site as I need to come up with a sensible solution in the next week or so!

    Many thanks

    Phil

    Posted by Phil De Caux | December 14, 2010, 6:49 pm
  5. Hi Phil,

    I will be on leave next week – so will have some extra time up my sleave to provide some hints on how to manage redirects within a 404 error page. Stay tuned..

    Cheers,
    Kim

    Posted by Kim Dezen | December 16, 2010, 5:44 am
  6. Thanks, Kim

    I will look forward to it. I hope you get some time to relax though!

    All the best

    Phil

    Posted by Phil De Caux | December 16, 2010, 11:18 am
  7. Hi Phil,

    Apologies for the delay, but i have posted up information about managing 301 redirects on my blog at http://www.kimdezen.com/2011/01/reddot-301-redirects-manage-301-redirects-reddot-cms-projects/

    Will put it up here soon..

    Cheers,
    Kim

    Posted by Kim Dezen | January 17, 2011, 8:17 am
  8. Hi Kim,

    is metadata something we have to create manually or is it something reddot has provided to us ready to use?

    Posted by Andry Poernomo | March 16, 2011, 5:17 pm
  9. Hi Andry

    All meta data items need to be created manually..

    Id suggest setting up all of your meta fields once within a baseline project (check out http://www.kimdezen.com/2011/02/baseline-reddot-cms-project/ for more information) – then you’ll never have to worry about creating them again for new projects.

    Kim

    Posted by Kim Dezen | March 29, 2011, 2:18 am

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