Canonical Rel Attribute Just a Band-Aid

A while back the big 3 announced the adoption of a new relationship attribute for the header link tag in order to specify a preferred version of a page where there may be different ways to access it and to help avoid issues with duplicate content. It’s nice to have an option for when you take over a badly built site where there isn’t a budget to rewrite a lot of code and do a million 301 redirects but this is just a band-aid on a larger problem.

<link rel="canonical" href="http://example.com/main-slug/">

This is why architecture of a project is important and if you build it right the first time, you don’t have to worry about this being an issue. There are always times however that a bot will surprise you with some weird entry URL so as a guideline, it’s good to monitor your analytics and do simple 301 rewrites as they happen, if they happen. It’s good to know too that WordPress handles a lot of the heavy lifting for you already so if you have a WP site – you’re pretty much setup already.

Overtime we’ve seen canonical meta tags be useful in ecommerce applications, pagination, or for audits where you may not be able to change core site code. It’s helpful when there are child pages that don’t necessarily need to be indexed so you use the main product page as the canonical link for those, etc. But if you’re building from scratch – you had better not need them!

Read More:
5 common mistakes with rel=canonical
– Google, Specify Your Cononical
– Yahoo, Fighting Duplication
– SEOmoz has a really detailed write-up too.

Use Dashes not Underscores in URLS for good SEO

I need not delve into the technical details of percent-encoding to make my point regarding keeping your URLs clean as part of your on-site search optimization, but some basic coaching is in order. I see a couple repeat offenses that bother me and I would like to discuss them here briefly in hopes of raising some awareness of the situation.

TL;DR
– Use Dashes in URL’s NOT spaces or underscores
– Don’t use any special characters in your urls. Only letters, numbers, and dashes.

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Local Search Marketing using Foursquare

I mentioned previously that I was speaking at the Local Search Summit in NYC during Search Engine Strategies. New York was great, met (in person) great people in the industry that I’ve only previously talked to online and more importantly was able to present on something I’m very passionate about – local search. My talk and accompanying slide deck focuses on Foursquare and using Foursquare for local search marketing. [Click to Continue…]

Flash gets some Search Engine Love

Adobe Flash (previously Macromedia Flash) has long been a stealth containment of information, hiding its information from search engines.  The ever important need for your site’s content, including your all important keywords/keyphrases, to be properly indexed by the search engines has left flash web sites in the dark.  I’ve personally stayed away from using flash in web sites for anything more than non-content related interaction areas or animated galleries, slideshows, floorplan navigations, etc; basically anything not including copy or anything important to search bots.

So yesterday Adobe and Google announced that Google, and soon Yahoo (after they “work some bugs out”), will be improving their indexing of Flash files.  This won’t solve all the problems with Flash content showing up on search engines and it’s not the complete and total package but it’s a great step in the right direction for Adobe Flash and their users.

So what’s going to be indexed?

All “textual content” in Flash files.  It’s not everything, including images and any descriptive text that those would contain, but will at least start to index your keywords and phrases.

What’s not going to be indexed?

I’m not a Flash expert by any means so I’m not real sure how Flash files are built but if you include your text in that initial movie, you’re okay, but if you pull data from XML files or another .html file Google currently won’t include those.  Also if you include your SWF file by way of certain Javascripting, Googlebot may or may not recognize that.  They didn’t get specific on that part but if you read into Googlebot’s javascript ability I’m sure you’ll figure it out.  (Give it a little more time and I bet Google figures that stuff out though.)

So now what?

I’m in no rush to start developing things in Flash just because of this news but it is good to know that Adobe is working on getting this done.  I still have my qualms about Flash and the way most web sites use it, its accessibility issues, and the problems of users having older versions and having to update, etc.

I still say web site content and its navigation should not reside within a flash file and should be semantically marked up for the best search results and best accessibility.  This news also worries me that the people making those crappy flash sites will only use this news to justify their bad sites/code are just that much better.  Fail.

Read the news from Google and from Adobe for source information and some more details.

EDIT: (19 July 2008) – Google has rolled out an “update that enables support for common JavaScript techniques for embedding Flash, including SWFObject and SWFObject2″.  So one of the first issues with their news they’ve already fixed.

CSS Heading Image Replacement

A friend of mine recently asked me to weigh in on a question on his blog from a client who was raising some questions after attending a SEO seminar regarding hiding text with css for headings and SEO. Here’s my 2 cents…
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