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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Search Engines, SEO, Getting Listed, and Staying There

The topics of search engines, search engine optimization, how to get listed, how to get to the "top," and how to stay there aren't a mystical science or magic. What those topics do involve is having realistic expectations, following a few basic principles, and most of all making your Web site relevant to the people who visit it and who will search for it.

It is a good idea to hold off on making your entire site available to search engines before it is ready or before you have settled on the overall navigation and search-engine-friendly URLs. One way to manage this is to make a single article for the home page of your site that gives a good summary of what the site is about. Keep the rest of your site hidden until it is ready by setting access to all content, menu items, and modules to Registered. Avoid the temptation to have "under construction" pages, since that is what search engines will read, index, and show in search results for your site. That can appear very unprofessional.

As discussed in Chapter 2, write a short paragraph summarizing the purpose of the site in the Global Site Meta Description box found in the Metadata Settings area of the Global Configuration Site tab. This is what most search engines will present to people looking at search results. In the Global Site Meta Keywords field, make a short, general list of relevant search terms that you think people will use to find your site. If your physical location is important information (for example, if you have an actual store), make sure to include that in the keywords. Also select Yes for Show Title Meta Tag and Show Author Meta Tag. Both the description and keyword information entered should be concise and to the point, no more than 100 characters if possible. Stuffing either of these metadata options with excessive information, repetitive words, or incorrect information will not improve your search rankings. If your site is found to be using deceptive SEO practices, it could be removed and/or banned from inclusion. Figure 7.1 shows the Global Configuration – Site screen with the Metadata Settings options.

Figure 7.1

Figure 7.1 Global Configuration – Site Settings screen showing Metadata Settings section

Submitting to Search Engines

You don't need to subscribe to a service or hire a SEO professional to submit your site to the major search engines/Web index directories—Google, Bing, Ask, and dmoz (Open Directory Project). Although there are a lot of other search engines and directories out there, those are the top players. Most of the other search engines and directories get their information from them and/or get an amalgamation of information from those search engines or directories; for example, Yahoo! will be getting its search results from Bing starting sometime in late 2010 or early 2011 as a result of their merger (according to their current press releases).

The Web site dmoz.org is the Open Directory Project where Webmasters, Web site owners, and administrators can submit their site to the appropriate category of the directory. Each submission is reviewed by an actual human editor to assure that the entry is acceptable, that it is submitted to the right category, and that the details submitted are verified. Dmoz.org is regularly scanned and indexed by most of the other major search engines, meaning there is a high level of quality to the information it offers as well as reliability. Having a listing on dmoz.org can be one way to try to get your new Web site picked up by the other search engines.

Google offers a variety of Webmaster tools to facilitate getting indexed and more importantly offers an easy way to submit not only your site but the pages your site contains. Using the extension Xmap on your site, you can submit the site map it generates to your Google Webmaster Tools account, which submits all your pages at one time for indexing. Google Webmaster Tools also offers a number of other services that can help you diagnose search engine optimization issues with your site such as broken links, items that may cause issues like duplicate titles or metadata, and whether any pages in your site are unreachable. Google actively expands the tools it offers. It is also good to have a Google Analytics account so you can analyze the traffic that your site gets.

Ask has a policy of needing a submission of an XML site map. Although Xmap does not generate a site map that is in an acceptable form for this submission, you can utilize free tools online such as the Site Map Generator from www.web-site-map.com, which will generate a site map that is in the correct form. Once you have generated and downloaded the site map it creates, you simply upload it using File Manager to the root of your site and then direct the Ask Submission URL to the site map. The URL to submit your site map is http://submissions.ask.com/ping?sitemap=http%3A//www.YOURSITE.com/sitemap.xml. Once submitted, you will be directed to a confirmation screen that verifies your site map has been submitted successfully.

Bing has a submission page that you fill out located at www.bing.com/webmaster/SubmitSitePage.aspx. Once there, you answer the security question to show that you are human and then submit your Web site URL (www.YOURSITE.com); the MSNbot will then index your home page and follow any links that may be located on your home page to other pages on your site. Note that the procedures outlined above may be changed at any time by any of the search engines. Most search engines will provide instructions for submitting sites for inclusion in search directories.

Once you have submitted your site, you can use tools like Majestic SEO or the Google Chrome SEO extension to track how your site is indexed and how many pages of your site have been indexed. Both of those tools also offer quite a few more SEO tools and information that you can utilize to grow your ranking and optimize your site.

Getting your site indexed is only the first hurdle, and sometimes that can take anywhere from 48 hours to 6 months or longer. There are no guarantees regarding submitting your site and getting it indexed quickly, but here are some steps you can take to help your site be indexed.

  • Utilize reputable directories that specialize in the same topic as you do, and submit your site to be listed in them. The aim is to get quality linking to your site while targeting your specific audience in order to generate traffic to your site and to have the various search engines find your site.
  • Take part in forums and blogs that specialize in the same topic as you do. Follow any rules the site may have about linking to your site or self-promotion. By making your brand and your site more relevant with quality linking and interaction in your target sector, it will help to build your credibility and visibility.
  • Join trade organizations, business bureaus, chambers, and local business associations. Most offer listing and linking opportunities that are quality and relevant.
  • Don't spam links to your site all over the place or utilize linking schemes or junk "link farm" listing sites. Actions such as these as well as having your site associated with junk link farms will only reduce your relevancy and credibility. Search engines can and do penalize sites for these actions. Nobody likes a spammer.
  • Utilize your friends and business associates to try to generate reciprocal linking. This linking should be done in a relevant way, such as someone recommending your services or the information your site offers in the context of their own content, such as in a blog.

Most of all, it is important to be patient. There are thousands of sites being submitted every day.

Search Engine Optimization

A number of search engine optimization extensions can help with making your Joomla! more search engine friendly. One of the more popular extensions is SEOSimple by Dao by Design. This extension plugin works by taking the first chunk of text in an article or page and then utilizes it as the metadata for the description of the page. This helps sites avoid duplicate metatags on all their pages such as the main meta keywords and description that are present in the global configuration of Joomla! Depending on how your content is written, this can be useful to search engines but also to people who are searching for your site, because it will help them understand what the page link in the search results is about. Search engine result pages typically show the meta description information as the short introductory text of the individual search engine results. SEOSimple also allows you to customize your page titles in various configurations, which can be very advantageous to your search engine relevancy. Having relevant, individual page titles for all your pages is good for your visitors and search engines.

Tags are another way to add keywords and phrases to article content, and some tagging components even allow you to use them as a navigational tool, helping you organize your site content, which is helpful to your visitors to find like content throughout your site. A popular and simple way to use tagging component is Tag by Joomlatags.org. This extension allows you to add keywords or phrases to articles to highlight their main areas of discussion or topic. It has additional modules that allow you to show cloud tags based on the tags you have entered and list articles by tags or phrases. It also can show lists of related content based on tags in an article. A more complex and robust tagging system is offered by Jxtended called Labels.

Although there is a lot of discussion regarding how URLs are formed and how it may create "duplicate content"—defined as content that is exactly the same but accessed through a different URL—the major search engines are well aware of how dynamic sites generate URLs and how different URLs may be generated depending on the click path that people have taken to get to the content. This unintentional duplication of the content in this manner is not penalized by search engines. One way to combat this "duplicate content" is to take total control over the URLs in your site by using an SEF option such as sh404SEF.

Keeping your content fresh and new is an excellent way to ensure your site stays relevant for your topic and demographic.

For more helpful SEO tips, we recommend checking in with Joomla!'s resident SEO expert Steve Burge and his blog Alledia.com. Steve offers regular blogs and articles on Joomla! SEO as well as extension comparisons and other Joomla! news.

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