Articles in the Tips & Tools Category

Get simple, actionable information you can use to gain insight into SEO, content production, competitor data and more with our SEO Tips & Tools blog posts. Learn how to use a variety of tools and browser plugins to see your website how the search engines see it, and find opportunities to enhance your content, link portfolio and SEO.

February 6 2009

ASP.NET Isn’t Just For Windows Anymore

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Traditionally, web developers were forced to run their ASP.NET applications under the Microsoft Windows platform. As a result, many open source web developers were not able to utilize Microsoft’s powerful ASP.NET framework on various platforms, such as Linux or the Mac OS. A few years ago, Novell started an open source project called Mono, which brings the ASP.NET Framework to virtually any platform.

What this means for companies planning to build a website is that they are no longer bound by license limitations from Microsoft if they choose to utilize the ASP.NET framework. The fact that ASP.NET was required to run on a costly Windows server swayed many web developers and companies alike into choosing an open source solution, such as the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP). Now with the release of Mono, developers can run ASP.NET on what is called a LAMA stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL and ASP.NET), which would have been unheard of a few years ago.

Although the Windows platform is still the fastest and easiest way to run the ASP.NET framework, the release of Mono is particularly interesting because it gives both web developers and companies, who would have otherwise dismissed ASP.NET altogether, the option to incorporate the powerful framework into their existing server configurations.

You can learn more about the Mono Project by visiting http://www.mono-project.com.

Posted in: Tips & Tools

November 17 2008

Are Flash and SEO good bedfellows?

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Adobe Flash is a popular web development tool that is used to add animation and interactivity to web pages. Flash offers web designers and developers an arsenal of functionality that is seemingly not possible to achieve with standard HTML and JavaScript. However, this added flare does not come without its limitations.

Firstly, Flash requires the installation of a browser plug-in to display its content, but the browsers that support it are mostly limited to personal computers. So a flash heavy website will not display correctly for other devices with web browsers, such as cell phones, PDAs or some of the most popular gaming systems.

Secondly, it is still unknown how well Flash based content gets indexed in search engines. Traditionally, Flash based content was ignored by all search engines. Although Google and Yahoo have announced that they are able to index flash content, the SEO benefits and success have yet to be proven. Some common things we see from our clients are the use of Flash as their primary navigation source. If your primary navigation is contained within a Flash movie, then you need to consider an html based alternative. Probably the best use of Flash, in our opinion, is for rich banner ads, or aesthetic elements that do not rely heavily on important content.

However, if you need to put your content in a Flash movie, there are a few things you can do to help the search engines along. One solution would be to offer alternate content on the page for those users who do not have the Flash plug-in. Another solution involves adding the text content that’s in your Flash movie to an HTML div tag. You can then use a little JavaScript to have both the search engines see the text based content and the end user view the Flash movie as you intended. There are some good articles on the web about how to achieve this and we strongly advise that you implement either solution if you need to build an all Flash website.

Overall, if you are concerned about search engine rankings and you have a content rich website, it is best not to design an all Flash site. If you still want to go down that route, make sure you have an alternative html option, such as those listed above, so search engines will play well with your website. As of right now, it does not appear that you can have an all Flash website without some kind of supplemental solution. Only time will tell if Flash and SEO are truly good bedfellows.

Posted in: Tips & Tools

October 16 2008

Fixing un-canonical URLs. Oh joy! Part 5

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Welcome back to my series on fixing un-canonical URLs. To date, we’ve looked at a variety of areas that could potentially cause the same content to be accessible from multiple URLs on your site, which is very problematic from a search engine perspective:

  1. Protocols (http and https)
  2. Domain and subdomain names (sometimes referred to as host names)
  3. URL paths
  4. File names
  5. Case sensitivity (when myPage.html is handled differently than MYPage.HTML)
  6. Query strings

Let’s talk about the last item in my list:

          7.    Combinations of any or all of the above

It is possible, for example, to have the same content accessible from both protocols (http and https) as well as both the www- version and the non-www- version. This scenario provides four URLs that display the same exact content:

http://www.example.com
https://www.example.com
http://example.com
– https:// example.com

Any combination of the issues (numbers 1 – 6) may be lurking on your site. In addition, one section of your site may be suffering from one combination of these issues while other sections may be suffering from another combination of issues. I usually find that the simplest way to fix a combination of issues is to first test for one issue and fix it and then move on to the next issue.

All of the six potential problem areas I discussed were caused by efforts to make the internet easier, more forgiving to use and reduce the amount of work a web visitor or web site administrators had to do. The underlying design of web servers was created before search engines like Google or Live existed and before duplicate content issues were a problem. Since web servers weren’t really designed with search engines in mind, you should keep in mind the above list as you comb your site for canonical URL issues.

Perhaps the easiest way to avoid un-canonical URLs is to build your site (or section of your site) from the ground up with these potential problem areas in mind. Granted, that may be easier said than done.

I also suggest that any new pages/files/URLs you create on your site have a file extension appropriate to the scripting language on your sever (.php, .asp, .aspx, .cfm, etc.) as opposed to .html or .htm (which are normally assumed to be file extensions of a “static” page). The reason is that if you need to redirect, for instance, from example.com/mypage.html to www.example.com/my-new-page.html and your web server limits or doesn’t support the use of tools like URL rewriting, you may have to take an SEO hit after renaming the file. This is because an html file normally cannot run scripts. (Redirecting to another page is a script function.) So essentially, creating new files on your website with “dynamic file extensions” allows much more flexibility in the future.

What’s even better is to build your site or section using a CMS that was designed to be SEO friendly.

Remember to watch out for misspellings in your URLs, that includes the path name (the part of the URL starting with the first forward slash up to, but not including the question mark or fragment) and the query string. Also keep in mind that everything in the URL except the fragment can affect canonical URL/duplicate content issues. Another point is that a phone call or email to your hosting company may be able to resolve some canonical URL issues when you can’t seem to resolve a particular issue yourself.

Also, be on the lookout for the new anything-goes top level domains (the “police” in traffic.police would be an anything-goes top level domain, for example, while edu, com and org are traditional top level domains) which could offer a few more URL canonicalization challenges in the near future.

I hope this series was helpful, time saving and useful. Best wishes to you and yours on all your URL canonicalization efforts!

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