There are a number of things that you should check when you are about to launch a new site. Some of these are search engine related, some – not so much. So I’ve decided to revisit this post, and concentrate solely on all of the things that make a difference for search visibility for small business websites, that are sometimes missed.
1) Google News Considered
In order to get your site into Google news, firstly you need to submit to Google for direct review. I’ve heard that you are more likely to get included here if you have multiple authors, and update more regularly i.e. once a day- which makes sense, but many sites don’t even take the time to have a go at getting listed! I have however heard of quality blogs making their way in here as well. Getting listed in Google News has a number of benefits, firstly it increases your traffic, and secondly it revs up the crawler activity (Newsbot is different from Googlebot) on your site in search of fresh content, getting you into the index faster, and into the news results for keywords when they occur in real time.
2) Sitemaps Created
There are a couple of different types of sitemaps for websites. Whilst many folk get the ordinary plain and simple navigational sitemap, and this is generally what people talk about when they say they’ve created one – there are a couple of other more specialised sitemap that webmasters miss out on.
In particular, on Google – there are sitemaps for the following:
News Sitemaps – for use on Google news, these follow a specialised format which you can find out more about here. If you are running on the WordPress platform, thankfully there is also a plugin which handles the creation of this for you.
Video Sitemaps – video sitemaps are important to bring your video’s into the SERP’s. Surprise surprise, that video sitemaps associate an individual URL with an individual video, which can aid in the creation of thumbnails of a video in a search result. This can significantly increasing clickthrough’s from the SERP’s when it occurs. Yahoo are using an alternative format that Google also support – it’s called Media RSS and is also worth exposing your content through. If you have multimedia content such as video, that is traditionally difficult to both discover and categorise, you’d be crazy not to take advantage of these glaringly obvious wins. Bing are also supporting Media RSS.
Mobile Sitemaps – Mobile sitemaps work in much the same way as traditional navigational sitemaps, but allow deeper indexing for mobile crawlers. If you have mobile content on your site, that is either no followed or hidden to prevent duplicate content problems, mobile sitemaps are the perfect solution.
Code Search – If alot of the content you create on your website is code related, you could benefit from exposing content in a code sitemap. You may, for example run a code search engine of your own, or indeed a forum which allows code to be submitted. This helps categorise both language and license, making it more easily discoverable by Google’s crawler.
Geo Sitemaps (KML) – If you are providing alot of locale relevant content, including addresses, then supplying a geo sitemap can help your content reach that bit further, for example within Google maps, and within Google earth. Essential a KML sitemap will associate content with an exact location, and helps to get additional local traffic. With more and more location aware applications making their way onto the web, it makes sense to provide this information in a machine readable format.
3) Rich Snippets Present
Search is getting smarter. More and more engines are now pushing for information to be marked up in more elaborate ways, both to help them understand context, and to deliver superior experiences in what is a VERY competitive market. Rich Snippets are one such way that the search engines are doing this, and you need to know about it.
To display Rich Snippets, Google and some of the other search engines look for additional markup formats (microformats and RDFa) to determine if they can be used. In most cases, it’s as quick as wrapping the existing data on your web pages with some additional tags. The following blog post from the Google Webmaster Central blog explains more in detailed analysis of what is going on. Google isn’t the only search engine asking for web pages to contain additional markup however – both Bing and Yahoo are also using it, so again it is both best practise and worthwhile doing it. Again, this is something that (if / when) you supply, will drastically increase your clickthrough rate.
There are also WordPress plugins out there to help you in that pursuit, assuming you are running on that platform. For other sites, you should look after it manually.
To test that your rich snippets are showing up ok, you can test them here.
To learn more about RDFa, this site has a pretty good breakdown of attributes that you can use etc.
4) Open Graph Protocol Implemented
Its getting pretty hard to ignore Facebook, and as it gets bigger and bigger you’d be mad to not tap into the wave of traffic that is out there for the taking. They have implemented the ‘Open graph protocol’ to help integrate existing webpages into Facebook’s architecture, making it easier to ‘like’ content. Thankfully all that most bloggers need to worry about is the fact there are WordPress plugins out there to help you do so.
- Open Graph Protocol Plugin for WordPress – My own personal favourite, this plugin properly implements the full scope of the open graph plugin, providing meta data in the header of your page so image thumbnails etc makes its way into Facebook when someone shares your post.
- Like – This plugin supports multiple languages, gives a number of display options and can be shown at the top or bottom of a post, on pages and on the front page, all based on what settings you select.
- Facebook Like Button – There is a settings panel to shape how the like button appears with this plugin
- Facebook Like Button Plugin – You can use a shortcode to insert this easily into posts.
5) Meta Tags Present
Whilst meta tags are becoming less and less important, they are still worthy of a mention, not least because they influence clickthrough rates, in particular the meta description tag.This could make the difference between you getting the clickthrough, or your competitor getting it.
Other meta tags that should absolutely make it into your site, are the verification meta tags for each of the relevant Webmaster Tool logins. You should be paying attention to what is going on within webmaster tools, for Google, Yahoo and Bing – to help pick up on any information that they provide, and to better understand how well your site is performing.