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1. Technology Decisions

As we outlined previously in this chapter, your technology choices can have a major impacton your SEO results. The following is an outline of the most important issues to address at the outset:

Dynamic URLs

Although Google now states that dynamic URLs are not a problem for the company, this is not entirely true, nor is it the case for the other search engines. Make sure your CMS does not end up rendering your pages on URLs with many convoluted parameters in them.

Session IDs or user IDs in the URL

It used to be very common for your CMS to track individual users surfing your site byadding a tracking code to the end of the URL. Although this worked well for this purpose,it was not good for search engines, because they saw each URL as a different page ratherthan variants of the same page. Make sure your CMS does not ever serve up session IDs.

Superfluous flags in the URL

Related to the preceding two items is the notion of extra junk being present on the URL.This probably does not bother Google, but it may bother the other search engines, and it interferes with the user experience for your site.

Links or content based in JavaScript, Java, or Flash Search engines often cannot see links and content implemented using these technologies. Make sure the plan is to expose your links and content in simple HTML text.

Content behind forms (including pull-down lists)

Making content accessible only after completing a form (such as a login) or making selections from improperly implemented pull-down lists is a great way to hide content from the search engines. So, do not use these techniques unless you want to hide your content!

Temporary (302) redirects

This is also a common problem in web server platforms or CMSs. The 302 redirect blocks a search engine from recognizing that you have intended to move content, and is veryproblematic for SEO. You need to make sure the default redirect your systems use is a 301,or understand how to configure it so that it becomes the default.

2 Structural Decisions

One of the most basic decisions to make about a website concerns internal linking and navigational structures. What pages are linked to from the home page? What pages are used as top-level categories that then lead you to other related pages? Do pages that are relevant to each other link to each other? There are many, many aspects to determining a linking structure for a site, and it is a major usability issue because visitors make use of the links to surf around your website. For search engines, the navigation structure helps their crawlers determine what pages you consider the most important on your site, and it helps them establish the relevance of the pages on your site to specific topics.

Target keywords

As we will discuss in Chapter 5, keyword research is a critical component of SEO. What search terms do people use when searching for products or services similar to yours? How do those terms match up with your site hierarchy? Ultimately, the logical structure of your pages should match up with the way users think about products and services like yours. how this is done on the Amazon site.

Cross-link relevant content

Linking between articles that cover related material can be very powerful. It helps the search engine ascertain with greater confidence how relevant a web page is to a particular topic. This can be extremely difficult to do well if you have a massive e-commerce site, but Amazon solves the problem very well, as shown in The “Frequently Bought Together” and “What Do Customers Ultimately Buy After Viewing This Item?” sections are brilliant ways to group products into categories that establish the relevance of the age to certain topic areas, as well as create links between relevant pages. In the Amazon system, all of this is rendered on the page dynamically, so it requires little day to- day effort on Amazon’s part. The “Customers Who Bought…” data is part of Amazon’s internal databases, and the “Tags Customers Associate…” data is provided directly by the users themselves.

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Minimize link depth

Search engines (and users) look to the site architecture for clues as to what pages are most important. A key factor is how many clicks from the home page it takes to reach a page. A page that is only one click from the home page is clearly important. A page that is five clicks away is not nearly as nfluential. In fact, the search engine spider may never even find such a page (depending in part on the site’s link authority).

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