SEO or Search Engine Optimization Articles, dealing with the vast array of topics found within. No Black Hat here. Only good White Hat SEO topics.

5 Tactics to Boost Local Traffic

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I recently wrote an article for the company I work for, entitled “5 Tactics to Boost Local Traffic to your Vacation Rental Website” and it’s pretty powerful stuff.

Even if you are not in the Vacation Rental industry, these SEO or Search Engine Optimization methods and logic, that I go into great detail about in the article, are extremely beneficial to most industries.

My boss even gave me accolades in our meetings – it’s gotten the most re-Tweets, the most shares, the most likes and so on, compared to any other one thus far on the site, so please go read it. 🙂

5 Tactics to Boost Local Traffic to your Vacation Rental Website

SEO – Crush the Hype by Doing the Right Thing

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SEO - Don't believe the Hype

SEO – Disbelieve the Hype

SEO. Search Engine Optimization.

The majority of the folks in the world claiming to know SEO, to offer services, etc. are absolutely clueless about what SEO really is and isn’t.

Penguin! Panda! Oh No! What do I do now?

This work-around and that one.

In short – NO.

I constantly hear people freaking out about Google algorithm changes; oh many "innocent" sites are getting caught up in the wide net and suffering penalties…yadda yadda…

In short – NO.

Oh – you have the words "SEO" and "Search Engine Optimization" on your website – that must make you the ideal candidate for my super-duper SEO services – you know, where I claim first position in Google and will slam links to your site all over the internet or some other such crap.

In short – NO.

We need a great PPC person – Now hiring for SEO.

In short, No.

SEO is dead. It’s about Content Marketing. No it’s about Article Marketing. No it’s about Guest Posting. No it’s about Links. No it’s about PageRank. Hey why won’t my Alexa ranking go up? Forum signatures is the way to go. No it’s all about social now. No – you’ve all go it wrong, it’s paid SEO that really delivers.

In short, No NO NO!!!

SEO is about what it has ALWAYS been about!

Sure, there are some things that algorithm changes force even the most "innocent" of us to change – for example variety in anchor text, etc.

I love SEO. I can’t stand SEO Hype.

However "innocent" and White Hat, ethics, conversion optimization, smart marketing, etc. are not all synonymous.

The Hype of SEO Innocence

Paying somebody for any type of social networking followers etc. is NOT innocent.

Paying for loads of links is NOT innocent.

Crap content just for "fresh" content is NOT innocent.

Drive-by link spam on Social Media is NOT innocent.

Implementing Bait-and-Switch techniques is NOT innocent.

In short – ANY attempt to trick, fool, beat, win, reroute etc. "the system" IS NOT INNOCENT!

Stop the Hype. Proper SEO takes time, is sure as hell not a one-off, not a project, not a technique, etc.

Unique, relevant and fresh content. And all the tons of extra stuff. But it’s to HELP the visitors get the information or take the action they want – NOT what you want.

Oh noes! Don’t worry – there are people out there who want and need your product, service, information, etc.. And if there’s not, then you need to completely re-think what you’re doing.

Okay. I think I am finished with my rant for now.

Pagination and Duplicate Content in SEO

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Pagination Duplicate Content and SEO

Pagination and Duplicate Content in SEO

Pagination and Duplicate Content is a very real issue within SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

Pagination is basically breaking up long "stuff" into shorter chunks, with a navigation system to move on to the next or previous piece.

Duplicate Content means pretty much what you’d expect it to mean, however…

Let’s look at what these things are, how they interact, what they have to do with SEO and what best practice to put into place.


Pagination

Wikipedia defines it this way:

Pagination as the process of dividing (content) into discrete pages, either electronic pages or printed pages.


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Paginated content exists all across the internet. Websites paginate in different ways. For example:

  • Long articles divided into several shorter pages
  • eCommerce sites might divide a list of products in a large category into pages
  • Forums often divide threads into URLs of a sequence

Duplicate Content

Wikipedia defines it this way:

Duplicate Content as a term used in the field of search engine optimization to describe content that appears on more than one web page. The duplicate content can be substantial parts of the content within or across domains and can be either exactly duplicate or closely similar. When multiple pages within a web site contain essentially the same content, search engines such as Google can penalise or cease displaying that site in any relevant search results.


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Interaction and SEO Effects

When you take a look at your average SERP, you’re looking at a list of (hopefully relevant) pages. That word, pages is key here. It’s what we optimize in SEO – pages.

Each page should have unique titles, descriptions, and most importantly, content.

So if you break up a long article across several pages, won’t each and every one of those pages have the exact same title, description, etc.? And that, my friends, is the rub.

What Google Says

In short, there are three things that Google says you can do in order to use Paginated Content and still whoop tail at SEO:

  1. Specify a View All page
  2. Use rel="next" and rel="prev" links
  3. Do Nothing

Specify a View All Page

Google attempts to detect the View All version of our content and, if available, its associated component pages. However, to make it more explicit, you can include rel="canonical" from your component pages to your view-all page to increase the chances that your series of pages are found.

Use rel="next" and rel="prev" links

Google’s default is to search for a View All page. However, if you’d like to override this, or if you don’t have a View All page, then using the rel="next" and rel="prev" links would be your best bet.

Let’s look at an implementation example. On the site, www.example.com, there could be an article titled abc and is broken down into three pages.

On the second page, http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=2, in the <head> section, you would put:

<link rel="prev" href="http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=1" />
<link rel="next" href="http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=3" />

Do Nothing

Um… What?

That’s right. Doing nothing is actually a viable alternative in the eyes of Google.

The reason? Paginated content is extremely common, and Google will still attempt to return the most relevant results, regardless of content’s pagination or lack thereof.

My Take

So out of these three options, what would I do?

Sorry but I’m not opting for doing nothing.

I’d honestly suggest doing both of options one and two. Create a View All page for your users; I imagine this may come in handy in other ways as well.

And also use rel="next" and rel="prev" links. This overrides the Google View All default, giving you complete control over Duplicate Content issues, but allows your creation of the View All page to help your users.

Keep in mind, however, that when using the rel="next" and rel="prev" links, they need to be complete and correct; one mis-step and Google will pop back into its default search for the View All page.

And here’s a handy little video from Google putting all this into perspective.

Quality vs. Quantity

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Quality vs. Quantity

Quality vs. Quantity

Which is better?

If you know me at all, you’ll bet I choose Quality; and you’d be right – every time.

Consider all of the times you’ve dealt with Customer Service for a large company. Out of all the interactions you had, what percentage of them were pretty awesome? I’m going to take a stab and say that it’s a very low number.

So if you have a bad experience, what do you do? Perhaps you complain. And do the companies care? Do they actually do anything about it?

Think now about the "Occupy *blank*" movements. Quite literally, hundreds of thousands of people around the world have complained to governments and big business to change their ways. And what positive change has that brought about?

Now head over to oDesk.com. Do a search for an SEO project or long term job. Look at the rates being bid upon, look at the average rate the employer pays; it’s pennies on the dollar.

Go to LinkedIn.com. Look at the discussions in an SEO group – if the group manager is slack (like most are), then you’ll see the majority of "discussions" are mainly spam. Get bold and become a manager of a group like I did. Delete those topics, send warning posts, delete shady members and…it never stops – they don’t get the message nor care.

Or how about reporting Spam email messages. Does it stop them?

Why Quality is so-often overlooked in favor of Quantity

So why, in all of these examples, and countless others, does nothing positive happen?

Because the world is obsessed with Quantity over Quality. Why on earth should they care about dissatisfaction from a relatively small number of complaintants when the potential opportunities or the non-complainers occupy a much higher number?

And then there is the appearance of the ever-decreasing natural resource: TIME. People feel they have less and less of it – so they need to make those efforts multi-faceted and cover as much ground as necessary in as little time as possible.

Think About It

What would happen if

  • At a restaurant, your waiter buzzed from table to table, getting orders incorrect, not clearing your dishes til after you left, not re-flling your drinks, etc.?
  • You practice a martial arts technique 10,000 times without focusing on proper execution, power, speed, timing, relaxation, application, body structure & alignment, footwork, etc.?
  • You have several job interviews planned in one day and cut each employer short because you’re going to be late to the next one?
  • As a student, you blaze through all required reading assignments and remember nothing from them?
  • Your legs and ribs are broken from an automobile accident, where a driver didn’t have time for pesky stop lights?
  • You spent tens of thousands of dollars in the hottest new automated marketing delivery software and yet…you have a .07% ROI?
  • After your father dies in the hospital due to malpractice, the judge says "Well, 1 out of 10,000 isn’t bad at all"?
  • People used the bathroom without wiping (it takes up too much time)?

Now let’s look at the flip-side. What would happen if

  • Your waiter did their job amazingly well, was conversational, cleared dishes on time, did not seem rushed, smiled, apologized for any mistakes, etc.,?
  • You practice said martial arts technique perfectly, paying attention to all important details, perhaps even focusing on one aspect at a time?
  • During rush hour traffic, someone paused and waved you into the line of traffic?
  • A brand actually responds conversationaly to you after you left a comment on one of their Facebook posts?

Quality Does Matter

You get the point. And the point is Quality DOES Matter!

This has HUGE effects on not only life in so many different aspects, but more specifically to Online Marketing and SEO as well.

THINK before you blast out 500k email marketing campaigns – did you really create your customer personas? Did you really select all the relevant criteria when creating that query of your CRM or database? Are you really sending the email at the right time to the right people? Does your offer really stand out?

THINK before you engage in another mad-genius Social Marketing effort of blasting links, Tweets, blog posts, re-sharing etc., nearly a hundred times a day. Do your customers or potentials really want or need your stuff in their faces that frequently?

THINK before you post a project on oDesk and accept a bid at $2 per hour or some other ridiculous thing (I was personally just approached about an Online Marketing & SEO Manager role, paying $16 per hour – and the average Costco employee makes $17 per hour…get a clue)

THINK before you send out the fifth touch-point email to a potential customer in a month

THINK before you release your Customer Service reps into the wild – Do they really understand the processes enough that they can Converse with the Customer?

And THINK before you enter into some sort of Link Scheme.

In short, Quantity over Quality is the way of the World. In some instances, this is necessary, for example direct sales (those who don’t understand the difference between Sales and Marketing drive me up the wall, by the way). Yet in most other circumstances, it’s a horrible trend that rarely produces anything resembling a positive experience for either party.

Think about it. And feel free to leave your comments.

Htaccess – Your Guide to Control

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htaccess

Control

Htaccess is just the file we need in today’s world of Content Management Systems (CMS), CPanels, plug-ins, applications and the like. Yet many people rarely encounter this old-world text file.

In general, .htaccess works on servers with the Apache Web Server set-up, but there are work-around tools etc. for others. With that said, let’s dive in to the nitty-gritty.

.htaccess – what is it?

To see if you already have an .htaccess file, open up your website in your favorite ftp program, file manager, etc. and look at the root folder; you should see it there.

This powerful control mechanism is simply a text file, placed at the root directory (you can place it elsewhere, but root directory is highly recommended, and has server directives within.

For example, with .htaccess, you can redirect users, put in URL re-writes, provide password-protected directories and more.

If you’d like to create your own – just open Notepad or a similarly text-based application, turn off the word-wrap and save the file as htaccess.txt or some such. Then and this is important, rename the file as simply .htaccess. Upload it to your root directory with file permission settings at 644 and you’re ready to go.

Useful .htaccess Snippets

Now that we know what the .htaccess is, let’s look at how we can use it.

Directory Index
Specify the index file of your directory
DirectoryIndex welcome.html welcome.php

Custom Error Pages
Redirect users to your very own customized Error Page, whether it be for 404, 500, etc.:
ErrorDocument 400 /400.html
ErrorDocument 401 /401.html
ErrorDocument 403 /403.html
ErrorDocument 404 /404.html
ErrorDocument 500 /500.html
ErrorDocument 502 /502.html
ErrorDocument 504 /504.html

Remove www
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.yourdomain.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://yourdomain.com/$1 [L,R=301]

Set Server’s Timezone
Set your server’s timezone with:
SetEnv TZ Europe/London (obviously change the timezone to what you desire)

Control Access
Deny access from specific IP Addresses:
order allow,deny
deny from XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX
allow from all

301 Redirects
Redirect 301 /olddirectory/file.html

Detect and Redirect Tablet-based users

RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^.*iPad.*$
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://yourdomain.com/folderfortablets [R=301]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^.*Android.*$
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://yourdomain.com/folderfortablets [R=301]

Hotlink Protection

Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(www.)?domainname.com/ [nc]
RewriteRule .*.(gif|jpg|png)$ ^http://domainname.com/img/hotlink_f_o.png [nc]

Force Save As
Want to force users to download files instead of viewing them in the browser?
AddType application/octet-stream .avi .mpg .mov .pdf .xls .mp4

Disable Directory browsing

# disable directory browsing
Options All -Indexes
# enable directory browsing
Options All +Indexes

Blocking Specific User Agents

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
SetEnvIfNoCase ^User-Agent$ .*(bot1|bot2|bot3|bot4|bot5|bot6|) HTTP_SAFE_BADBOT
SetEnvIfNoCase ^User-Agent$ .*(bot1|bot2|bot3|bot4|bot5|bot6|) HTTP_SAFE_BADBOT
Deny from env=HTTP_SAFE_BADBOT
</ifModule>

What’s Next?

This is just a quick glance into the .htaccess file, but I hope it gives you some idea of the power at your fingertips. Good luck and let me know if you have any questions!

Styling for Google

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Google with Style

Style

Google recently released their new HTML/CSS Style Guides for Webmasters; to help create better websites, as well as the nudge-nod-wink to enhanced SEO.

While some of the suggestions seem fairly obvious, some are a bit surprising. Let’s take a look at a few.


Google’s Suggestions

General

Protocol

  • Leave out protocols (http:, https:) from URLs pointing to various files unless they aren’t available for both protocols.

Indentation

  • Google says to Indent by 2 Spaces in code; don’t use Tabs.

Capitalization

  • Use only lowercase in code, including element names, attributes, attribute values, selectors, properties, and property values (except strings)

Encoding

  • Use UTF-8

Action Items

  • This is a new one on me – Mark "To Do" and action items with the keyword TODO in code, along with the contact name of person involved. Examples given are:

    {# TODO(john.doe): revisit centering #}
    <center>Test</center>

HTML Styles

Document Type

  • Google suggests using HTML5 instead of XHTML. <!DOCTYPE html>

Validity

  • Use Valid HTML where possible. Test with the W3C HTML Validator

Semantics

  • Use Elements / Tags according to their original intent and purpose.

Multimedia Fallback

  • Google would like for you to provide alternatives for media. Always include Alt attributes; alt="" if necessary.

Separation

  • Separate structure from presentation from behavior.

Format Block Level Elements in Code

  • Start each new block-level element on a new line in your code.

Quotation Marks

  • Use double Quotation marks ("") for attribute values.

CSS Styles

Validity

  • Use the W3C CSS Validator to validate your CSS whenever possible.

ID and Class Names

  • Use meaningful class and ID names, based on the element’s purpose; make names short as possible but as long as necessary.
  • Avoid qualifying ID and class names with type selectors. Instead of ul#example {}, use #example {}.

Shorthand

  • Google says, in short, use the shorthand when possible.

Zeroes

  • Don’t specify units after a 0 value but instead like margin: 0;
  • Don’t lead with a 0 value, but instead like font-size: .8em;

Hexadecimals

  • Use 3 digit declaration when possible. For example, instead of color: #eebbcc;, use color: #ebc;.

Declaration Order

  • Alphabatezie declarations.

Stops

  • Use a semicolon after every declaration, including the last one.
  • Use a space after the property name’s colon.

Declarations

  • Start a new line for each selector, declaration and rule.

Quotation Marks

  • Use single quotation marks for selectors & property values (”).
  • Do not use quotation marks in URI values (url()).

And that’s about it. Good luck with your implementation!

Social Search Research with Microsoft

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Microsoft's So.Cl

So.Cl

Microsoft’s Bing is rising strong and fast in the battle of Search Engines. Google experiments with Universal and Social Search. Facebook knocks out the competition. Google attempts to integrate.

I don’t know about you, but I’m seeing trends.

Last year a handful of students at select universities began testing a new Microsoft website: So.Cl.

Recently the site came out of Beta.

Social, Soshul or So.Cl?

Pronounced “Social”, So.Cl is a combination of Search and Sharing for Research.

Developed by Microsoft’s FUSE Labs (now defunct), So.Cl. is similar to Pinterest, in that you can “Pin” things, specifically search results. Web pages, Images, Videos, whatever you can think of.

As was once mentioned on their FAQs (they’re no longer online), “We expect students to continue using products such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other existing social networks, as well as Bing, Google and other search tools”.

Also on their FAQ, they mention:

  • “So.cl combines social networking and search, to help people find and share interesting web pages in the way students do when they work together.
  • So.cl helps you create rich posts, by assembling montages of visual web content.
  • To encourage interaction and collaboration, So.cl provides rich media sharing, and real time sharing of videos via "video parties."

What’s The Point?

Social Search. Privacy Concerns. True Analytics of Search. Micro-Targeted Ads. Oh and the end-all to academic research.

It’s wide open. So.Cl will be here for awhile and people will be talking (they already are).

I can see this as a pretty great tool for SEO, Marketing and others (I’ve already seen Spam & Scam on the site) in a Research context, but I personally worry about it’s over-saturation, as has been the case with every other hot new thing.

Do you plan to join So.Cl? What do you think are Microsoft’s true aims with this So.Cl project?

What Others are Saying

Ding! Ding! 5 SEO Tips for Bing

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SEO Mastery for BING

A bit more than a Ding

As you all know, Bing is the second-most used Search Engine, behind the obvious leader Google.

But did you know that there are some very specific things to look at to improve your rankings…for Bing?


5 Tips to Boost Your Bing

Take note that we’ll not be covering general SEO tactics here, as this is geared towards people who already have a grasp of the fundamentals.

  1. Webmaster Center
    Over time, Bing’s Webmaster Center has become more robust and now provides a very good look into the performance of your site and optimization efforts. Use this tool and Be Smart about it.
  2. Microformats
    The major players in the Search Engine world have all begun to support microformats. And in some cases, implementation provides extra benefits in the SERPs. Use them. The suggested protocols and implementation information surrounding them can be found at Schema.org.
  3. Geo Signals
    Bing doesn’t use TLD versions of their Search Engines, like you’ll find over at Google, but rather a variety of Geo Signals in order to determine for which country a certain page is more appropriate. Things like the physical location of the server, TLDs, incoming link locations, language, etc. And, although Google does not consider the Meta Geo tags, Bing does.
  4. Click-Through Rate
    Although Bing still allows you to get quickly indexed, whether you rise, drop or pop is heavily influenced by user interaction…So pay attention to CTR (Click-Through Rate) in your Analytics.
  5. Bounce Rate
    As mentioned above, Bing really cares about user interaction. If people are bouncing out in less than a minute, Bing takes notice, and so should you (as you should anyway).

Well folks, it’s not a lot, but it is power-packed. These very Bing-specific SEO tips could take you to the next level. Bing may not have been very important in the past, but that’s just not the case anymore.

Know of any other Bing goodies? Leave a comment and share!

Anchors AWeigh – A Name is Not an Anchor

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Anchors Aweigh

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and links go hand-in-hand. That’s why we hear so much about it all over the internet: blogs, forums, groups, social media – you name it; everywhere you look, somebody is talking about "link juice", "link bait", how to build links, optimizing links, etc.

And sometimes you hear about navigation and usability. But rarely do we hear about Anchors.

Today we are going to look at a very specific type of internal linking: local navigation.

Once you understand the true creation of a link, how to use Anchors and they are can be important, you’ll be shouting "Anchors Aweigh!"

Okay, maybe not, but at least you’ll be a bit wiser. 🙂

Wikipedia defines an Internal Link as "a hyperlink that is a reference or navigation element in a document to another section of the same document or to another document that may be on or part of the same website or domain of the internet."

We know about this. It’s what makes up our navigation systems.

We know about usability factors of allowing the user to get where they want in the least number of clicks possible (and if you didn’t – we’re trying to make it easy for them).

We also know about the SEO factors of supposed page rank, link weight, authority, silos, no dead links, anchor text, etc.

But Wait! I just said "anchor text" and yet the title of this post is "A Name is Not an Anchor". Confused? Read on.

Structure of a Link

In any link within your opening angled brackets you place the letter "a" along with various attributes and values of the Anchor element, and the text for the link (known as Anchor Text), followed by the closing tags.

A very simple link might look like this:

<a href="http://www.craigkiessling.com">Atlanta SEO Services</a>

Let’s look at what that means. The brackets simply denote an HTML tag. The "A" at the beginning designates the word Anchor. Just like a boat, it holds down a certain place, but here in the online context. This anchor could be a place within the document we are currently reading. It could be a completely different document within our own library (or website) or perhaps some other library. Or perhaps it could be a specific spot within our own library.

The "href" bit means "HyperText Reference". It is where we usually put the URL or URI. The address or the location of the web site, page, file, image, or whatever it is – that we want to link to.

How about a little more complex link? Got that too:

<a href="http://www.craigkiessling.com" class="SEO-Link" name="Atlanta SEO Services" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Atlanta SEO Services</a>

And now let’s look at this. The items that are the same as the previous example we do not need to discuss. "Class=" tells us that this link should be labeled as having the class "SEO-Link", and whatever styling we set up for the class of that name n our CSS should be applied to this link (or any other with that same class name; ids are unique but classes are not). Then we have the "Name" attribute. This something that was pretty cool back in the day; you could name your links, name your link destinations. Great for usability and SEO right? Well maybe. But with HTML5 – the most modern version of it that everyone is using – it’s deprecated; yeah it’s outta here. Then you have the "Target"

attribute of the link. This says where to open the new link – in the same browser window, or a brand new one? Here we tell it a brand new one. "Rel" is basically telling us what the Relationship is between this page and the one being linked to. Here we tell SE to bugger off – don’t follow and waste our link juice :P.

Anchors in HTML5

What do you think happens here, with a link of today’s standards?

<a href="URL" title="additional information" id="cool-name" class="pretty-cool-name">link text</a>

Technically, the "Title" attribute is suppose to give more information about the element in question; wiki says it’s suppose to give "brief" information about the link.

Problem is…Most of the crap SEO people have done with this like they’ve done with everything else – ruined it via over-stuffing of spam keywords etc.

"Class" is what we’ve talked about before – CSS styling.

But what about the ID?

Oh yeah. The "ID=". I left that one out intentionally because it can be a bit confusing. Bear with me now, we’re diving in head-first!

ID. In CSS you have classes and IDs. Classes you can use many times throughout a site, but IDs you can not.

Like if you wanted every first paragraph to have Drop-Caps for the first sentence; or every first letter of the first paragraph in each post.

But one particular paragraph you want to have special and different stylings. Well then you would give it an ID.

Now then, in most browsers, when the cursor hovers over a link, it typically changes into a hand with a stretched index finger, and the title appears in some way (varies according to browser). Some browsers render alt text the same way, though this is technically incorrect.

In HTML5, you can still use ID for extremely specific styling, But…You can also use it for naming. Why? Because as we’ve already explained they’ve gotten rid of name, and title is used for information.

A name is Not an Anchor

So here we are full-circle. Name is no longer used as a legit attribute for elements in HTML5. Title helps boost us from a SEO and Usability perspecitve. And now for styling – well my suggestion is to still use Classes, but very specifically and with the Cascading methodology. And only use IDs for what you use to use Name for.

That’s right – ID is the new name.

It helps though, for sure. You’ve seen how Google can treat a validated & well-optimized page with a variety of extra links showing up for a domain in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Page(s)).

We are use to seeing well optimized pages show up nicely like this for sites that have various pages, however did you know you can get the same results for simply having one page but broken up semantically well? Yep.

Take a look at the below search results and think on it.

Search for Shaolin Kung Fu on Google - Look at the Extra Linkage!

Rel = Canonical – What the Heck is that?

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Canonical

NOT rel=canonical

Canon:
A general law, rule, principle, or criterion by which something is judged.
A member of the clergy on the staff of a cathedral, esp. a member of the chapter.
Canonical:
According to or ordered by canon law: "the canonical rites of the Roman Church".
As a Noun: The prescribed official dress of the clergy.

And what do either of these definitions have to do with SEO or even rel="Canonical", for that matter?

Nothing. Except, perhaps, for the idea of a general law, principle etc. We’ll see how in just a moment.

So when asked in a Job Interview, anything referring to the Catholic church or Catholicism is not really the correct answer; unless of course your job happens to be in that area.

So what does rel="Canonical" mean, why should you care, and how should you make the magic happen?

rel= "Canonical" – Why, What and How

Why should you care about rel="Canonical"?

Have you ever heard of duplicate content and the penalties that come along with it?

I’m sure you have. In short, Google is not a big fan of duplicate content and it could seriously hurt your rankings! Whether you have or haven’t, here’s a real-world example to give it some context:

Let’s say you’re running a site selling products (or services). And oftentimes these product pages can have exactly the same, if not similar content, but a slightly different URL. For example:


http://www.example.com/product.php?item=swedish-fish&trackingid=1234567&sort=alpha&sessionid=5678asfasdfasfd
http://www.example.com/product.php?item=swedish-fish&trackingid=1234567&sort=price&sessionid=5678asfasdfasfd

As you can see, there are two different values of variables in the URL – sort=alpha and sort=price. Regardless of how they’re sorted though, you’re still looking at the same list of swedish-fish.

And they will have the same, if not similar, content. So what do we do?

We implement the rel="canonical" attribute or tag.

You need to decide which actual page has the most complete, accurate and best content for this subject, topic or page. Once you’ve done that, you need to go to all of the other possible URL pages and put in the directive to tell Google "Hey! I know this looks alot like this other page over there, but I want you just to pay attention to this one page for the content, instead of all the possible ways you could find it."

So then, in each of the non-canonical pages, or each of the pages that tell part of the story with duplicate or similar content, we need to tell Google to go to this other page for classification, like


<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.example.com/product.php?item=swedish-fish"/>

Place this in the <head></head> section of these pages – all pointing to the one page that you’d prefer to be listed in the SERPs for that content.

Oh! And here’s a couple of extra pointers regarding rel="canonical":

  • It’s preferred to use absolute links instead of relative links, when specifying the canonical.
  • Do not try to "game" the system by using this to simply rank a page higher; you will get found out. And quickly!
  • If the preferred page does not actually exist – you’re at the whim and mercy of Google.
  • To an extend, Google can follow a chain of canonicals – but if you’re trying to game the system – see the second bullet point above.
  • Yes, you can use it to point to pages on another site…But again…Hopefully you get the point.

So you’ll either have to do this manually in the pages of your website, or if you’re using WordPress as a back-end CMS or blogging platform, there is a much easier way.

WordPress SEO by Yoast is an outstanding plug-in to say the least, with all of its wonderful functionality.

And one such piece of functionality is about rel="Canonical"!

After you’ve installed and activated the plug-in, go into your Page or Post that you need to get Canonical on, and scroll down past the content area into the box supplied by the plug-in.

Click on the "Advanced" tab, scroll down a wee-bit and there you have it: a form field labeled "Canonical URL". That’s where you would paste in the URL for the page that has the most complete and accurate content that you’d prefer Google to index and show on the SERPs for this topic’s search query.

Well folks, that’s it. Hopefully you’ve learned a little bit about rel="Canonical", why you should use it, and how to do so.

Oh and by the way, there is a way to use this for the whole www.website.com vs. website.com battle too.

Have you figured out how?