Sitecore and SEO .

Sitecore-and-SEO

We have a superb in house SEO team, so when I attended my first Sitecore certification I was keeping an ear out for things that I thought would lead to problems.

One issue that stood out in the training was that a single page can have multiple URLs. You don't need to be an SEO coding God to know that multiple URLs are bad.

Create a new page in Sitecore called “Sample Item“ it can be accessed using these URLs out of the box.

/en/Sample%20Item.aspx

/Sample%20Item.aspx

/en/Sample%20Item

/Sample%20Item

having four version would be bad enough but it gets worse. The urls can vary by case as well so “Sample” is different to “SaMple”. So each url gains two versions for every letter in the item name.

The first thing to do is before even starting the build is to update the linkManager tag.

 <linkManager defaultProvider="sitecore">

    <providers>

      <clear/>

      <add name="sitecore" type="Sitecore.Links.LinkProvider, Sitecore.Kernel" addAspxExtension="false" alwaysIncludeServerUrl="false" encodeNames="true" languageEmbedding="asNeeded" languageLocation="filePath" lowercaseUrls="false" shortenUrls="true" useDisplayName="false"/>

    </providers>

  </linkManager>

Make sure that languageEmbedding is set to “always” or “never”. The built in link manager has an annoying habit when using asNeeded to swap between the /en or normal prefixed URLs. LowercaseUrls should be set to true so that when links are generated they are always lower cased. Another issue as you may have noticed in the URLs above is that Sitecore allows spaces in URLs and then encodes them as %20. You can get around this by patching encodeNameReplacements.

<encodeNameReplacements>

            <replace mode="on" find=" " replaceWith="-" />

</encodeNameReplacements>

The above changes will help make sure that the in built URL generation will output URLs which are consistent. Of course if you are using a custom URL generator then the above changes might be ignored. Also it doesn't mean that if you manually type an invalid URL into a browser or those URLs are in the wild it will not fix the issue.

To ensure that the multiple URLs are converged you will need a Sitecore processor. Here is an example.

using Sitecore;

using Sitecore.Links;

using Sitecore.Pipelines.HttpRequest;

using Sitecore.Web;

using System.IO;

using System.Web;

public class InvalidUrlProcessor : HttpRequestProcessor

{

public override void Process(HttpRequestArgs args)

{

var Request = args.Context.Request;

var Response = args.Context.Response;

if (!IsValidContextItemResolved()

|| args.LocalPath.StartsWith("/sitecore")

|| RequestIsForPhysicalFile(args.Url.FilePath))

return;

var item = Context.Item;

string ItemUrl = LinkManager.GetItemUrl(item);

string CurrentUrl = Request.RawUrl;

if (ItemUrl != CurrentUrl)

{

Response.Status = "301 Moved Permanently";

Response.AddHeader("Location", ItemUrl);

Response.End();

}

}

protected virtual bool IsValidContextItemResolved()

{

if (Context.Item == null)

return false;

return !(Context.Item.Visualization.Layout == null

&& string.IsNullOrEmpty(WebUtil.GetQueryString("sc_layout")));

}

protected virtual bool RequestIsForPhysicalFile(string filePath)

{

return File.Exists(HttpContext.Current.Server.MapPath(filePath));

}

}

<?xml version="1.0"?>

<configuration xmlns:patch="http://www.sitecore.net/xmlconfig/">

  <sitecore>

    <pipelines>

      <httpRequestBegin>

        <processor patch:before="*[@type='Sitecore.Pipelines.PreprocessRequest.DeviceSimulatorResolver, Sitecore.Kernel']"

          type="InvalidUrlProcessor, ClassLibrary1">

        </processor>

      </httpRequestBegin>

    </pipelines>

  </sitecore>

</configuration>

Whatever your business, be it a regional or global brand, the content you produce plays a vital role in your success. You know that… hence you’re reading this.

A well formulated and executed content strategy not only drives more traffic, at the core, it defines what your business is and helps build a strong connection between you and your audiences.

So let's quickly look at why developing a coherent content strategy is important and how setting clear goals and understanding your audience will elevate your online performance. 

What is a Content Strategy?

It's basic right? Content is at the core of how you define the way your business presents itself and an effective strategy should look to ensure that tone of voice, messaging and the core values are surfaced across all channels, from service or product pages on your website, to blog posts, through social media updates blah blah blah.

But let's keep it simple - your content strategy should be a clear roadmap that connects your marketing activities to your business goals. Align to your customer’s wants and needs and engage them at every interaction point and boom, you're in business. 

Who are my Audience?

You likely start all your projects with this chalked on the wall because your business knows “exactly” who its customers are right? Sounds obvious but we often find its not been done forensically enough (not based on data), is too old (more than 12 months ago - forget it) or its a spin off from some brand work that was legitimately aspirational but doesn’t face the reality of who you your business is actually engaging today.

So start (or circle back) with audience research, building out those personas to understand their ambitions, their lifestyle, their pain points or concerns, and crucially their wants and needs - in your context. 

Do I need to tailor content?

As part of your research find out where your audiences spend their time online and how they interact with content: Some may spend time thoroughly researching a product or service, whereas other audiences may want their content to be quick, snappy or easily digestible in the form of a video, infographic or short blog posts.

 

Ultimately, the key is to produce a strategy that creates the type of content your customers want to see:

  • What are the problems that your product or service will help them solve?

  • Who are they most influenced by?

  • What voices influence their behaviour?

  • What type of content do they consume?

  • Where do they consume content and engage with brands?

Different Content, Different Objectives

 All content is not born equal: When producing your strategy, it is important that the objectives for each individual piece are defined, that these fulfil your marketing objectives and tie to the overarching goals for your business.

There are various content frameworks that exist to aid content development in this way, but one that is popular and effective is Google’s hero, hub and hygiene method: It provides a framework on developing content to achieve different goals and gives guidance on the effort needed to create each type of content.

Hero Content

Hero content is essentially campaign content, it is big splash ideas designed to appeal to a large audience with the aim of telling your brand’s story at scale. 

Ways of measuring hero include the amount of PR mentions or links from authoritative domains plus social interactions and mentions of your brand across all channels. 

Considering the scale of hero campaigns, this content is not regularly produced and is reserved for peak promotional times where it’s important for a business to stand out from their competitors.

Hub Content

Hub content is the stuff that keeps your audience engaged, it expands on the themes of product or service level content, educates users and helps create a connection between themselves and your brand.

Hygiene Content

Hygiene content is the bread and butter of any website, it is the BAU content for products and services, it is SEO focused and targets important keywords at a product, service or guide level.

How do I manage all this?

Content development is only one part of the ongoing work needed when working with an effective content strategy. We call it “feeding the beast” because it really is the fuel in your brand vehicle and once you start you really can’t stop (if it’s delivering results) but that’s where performance measurement comes in.

Your greatest gift in managing the outputs from your hero/hub/hygiene style efforts is to understand If your content is working. To truly deliver results your business must first understand the objectives and goals of each piece of content to effectively measure its success. That as a guiding light from day 1 will let you slow down, speed up, stop or start new content briefs and projects.

Remember - content strategies are not set in stone. They are living breathing things and should adapt and pivot as insights become available and your brand naturally evolves.

If ever you want to chat content and explore new initiatives we’re always here to help.

want to speak to one of our experts?

 
Richard Brisley
Richard Brisley
Tech Lead
Richard is the longest standing member of the Sagittarius team, he works tirelessly to support the development and side-facing team with problem solving and pitches alike. His skills as a .NET programmer and database administrator have been paramount to the success of Sagittarius and our continued success. 

In 2016 and again in 2019 Richard was recognise in the BIMA 100 awards for his outstanding work in Tech, his passion for digital and his contribution to the industry. 

Richard Brisley

Richard Brisley

14 Dec 2015 - 5 minute read
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