Articles written in June, 2008

June 30 2008

Duplicate Content Tips


There can be numerous reasons why pages may not appear in the search results or why rankings can drop. One reason is duplicate content. There are many ways in which content can be duplicated and it usually happens unintentionally. It can occur for very valid reasons, often through actions that have been taken to boost rankings. It is not the worst thing to have happen, but if it can be fixed, it is probably in your best interest to do so. I have come across this issue a few times lately and thought I would offer a few helpful tips.

In general, a search engine’s mission is to provide unique and relevant content to the searcher. When an engine comes across duplicate content, the question arises; “Which pages are the most appropriate pages to index?” To display the most useful pages in the search engine results pages (SERPS), a duplicate content filter evaluates, sorts through, and removes the duplicate content pages (and spam). The search engines may do a fairly good job determining what to index, but by taking proactive steps, it is possible to help guide them to the pages you want indexed (or at least keep them from weeding out certain pages from your site). Keep in mind that without providing any guidance, they will do it themselves which may cause disappointment.

Below are just a few ways to avoid duplicate content:

  • Resolve canonicalization issues by redirecting to the preferred domain (ex: redirecting the non-www version to the www version)
  • Submitting a sitemap with the canonical version of each URL.
  • Implement a robots.txt file to tell the search engine spiders not to crawl or index certain pages (such as printer friendly pages).
  • Have all additional domains properly redirected using a 301 redirect. This will also transfer any built authority.
  • Keep dynamic parameters in URLs to a minimum.
  • Have an internal linking strategy to build relevancy.
  • Make each page on your site unique, including unique titles, meta descriptions, headings, and navigation.

These ideas barely scratch the surface of ways to reduce duplicate content, but hopefully it will get you headed in the right direction.

June 26 2008

As the Bid Turns: Microsoft and Yahoo! – On Again, Off Again


After Microsoft’s bid for Yahoo! fell apart earlier this year, the proposed deal seemed dead and done — until, that is, billionaire Carl Icahn stepped in and Yahoo finalized a search advertising partnership with Google.

The saga of Microsoft and Yahoo! started in January of this year. That was when the software giant first launched a bid to buy the entirety of the search engine portal.

As we — and the rest of the webosphere — blogged about earlier, months of talks ensued with Yahoo constantly turning down offers in varying denominations. Ultimately, Microsoft offered to buy Yahoo, one of the Internet’s first portals, for $33 a share. This was a figure which valued the company at $47.5 billion all told and was, in turn, flatly refused by Yahoo.

Speculation ran rampant, especially with regard to the reasons for which the deal fell apart. One of the many reasons was that Yahoo co-founder and CEO Jerry Yang was looking for $37 a share. Allegedly, the price per share was too high for Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who reportedly decided he did not want to buy Yahoo at that price.

The ensuing criticism, from the industry and shareholders alike, was led in no small part by billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who purchased millions of dollars worth of Yahoo shares. In fact, Mr. Icahn tried to oust Yahoo’s current board under the belief that it had made a mistake by not accepting the Microsoft offer.

Coming on the tails of this activity was recent news that Microsoft has said it is considering a deal with Yahoo which would not involve a full buyout of the company. There are no details as yet on this alternative transaction. The statement from Microsoft says that the company, “is not proposing to make a new bid to acquire all of Yahoo at this time, but reserves the right to reconsider that alternative”.

After Microsoft’s statement, Yahoo confirmed it was looking at a number of “value maximizing” alternatives with Microsoft, and would assess offers made by the firm.

A twist on the on-going saga is Yahoo’s partnership with Google to foster an alternative search advertising arrangement. Post-partnership, what is the latest to come from the on again, off again scenario? It’s news that Microsoft may be willing to sweeten its previous offer for a partial buyout of Yahoo’s search business.

In the meantime, following the end of discussions with Microsoft mere weeks ago, Yahoo’s board said in a statement that a sale leaving the company without an independent search business “would not be in the best interests of Yahoo stockholders.” However, it’s been reported that several of Yahoo’s nine board members, including its chairman, Roy Bostock, have suggested an interest in holding further discussions with Microsoft on a possible deal to sell the search operations.

Should Microsoft increase its buyout bid for just Yahoo’s search assets, at the end of the day, what would this mean for the Internet and search, especially in terms of SEO? We might have to wait for the dust to settle from this most recent cycle of will-they-won’t-they before we can figure that out.

June 19 2008

How switching from image to text-based navigation can help your SEO


We are often asked to implement new navigation on sites that have poor optimized rankings. Many times, this is due to an image-based navigation, or a navigation structure that has been poorly designed.

While we understand that everyone wants an attractive and interesting site, a CSS, text-based navigation is a must-have for almost every website. It is your choice whether or not you want to give up looks for optimization, but in most cases, the text-based navigation looks just as good as an image-based one.

Here is the SEO difference. Image based navigations display all the ‘words’ of page names inside an image (a gif, jpg or png) and while that allows for a multitude of style options, the search spiders can not read your image. It only sees an image, and perhaps an alt tag. Text-based navigations, however, have the navigation (page names) in the code, so the spider reads it as plain language, and therefore, can follow links and index pages with better accuracy.

Using CSS and limited Javascript, you can make stylish and scalable menus by formatting the text within the CSS sheet. We like son of a suckerfish and for more effect, Superfish dropdowns for their easy editing, styling and lightness of code.

For a huge selection of menu code, and great design ideas, visit this CSS Showcase page.

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