CSS, AJAX, Web 2.0 and Search Engines

Aug 22, 2007 - 7:27 pm 1 by

SES San Jose Organic Track: CSS, AJAX, Web 2.0 and Search Engines

Speakers: (Moderator) Anne Kennedy, Managing Partner, Beyond Ink Shari Thurow, Founder and SEO, Omni Marketing Interactive Vanessa Fox, Zillow.com Mikkel deMib Svendsen, Creative Director, deMib.com Amit Kumar, Yahoo! (Q&A) Amanda Camp, Software Engineer, Google

Shari Thurow: CSS

Advantages CSS - HTML addition that allows webmasters to control design parameters such as margins, font/typeface appearance. - Ability to change the "look" of a site quickly and easily. - Can significantly decrease the download time fo a page. -- Usability pros say 8-12 secs. -- Yahoo rep says 30 secs or less

Disadvantages - End users must have fonts installed on their computers or the page will not display as designers intended. -- Logo or corporate identify -- Banners (ads or self-promotional) -- Condensed font used for screen real estate - Usability testing (task oriented) and focus groups (user opinions) might show that users prefer a font that is not commonly installed on all computers. -- Print materials -- A/B and multivariate testing - CSS-formatted hyperlinks can dominate the content of a web page making the content appear unfocused. - CSS can be used to hide text on a webpage

Surrounding a graphic with an H1 tag does not make the alt text does not make the SEs believe the text is more important.

CSS can be used to layer objects. SEs can detect negative coords. Negative coords are used to cloak content. The SEs know about this and it doesn't work. Another form of CSS manipulation that doesn't work is layering an object under another object so the user cannot see both objects but the SEs can. Search engines detect CSS positioning. Drop down menus are one form of acceptable invisible layers.

Should you robots exclude your style directory? No.

Definitely use stylesheets. Only determine use graphic nav versus css nav after testing with your users. Make sure your pages display appropriately on multiple browsers. Hidden elements (layers, text) are acceptable to SEs as long as those elements are meant to be seen and used by site visitors. Do not use CSS to exploit SEs.

Wow. We're at standing room only now. Big crowd.

Mikkel deMib: Web 2.0

What is (important about) Web 2.0? Most people still don't know what it is. Basically, web 2.0 is a new type of application. Not so much new technology, but it's a new use of the same technologies. One of the most popular new use of technology is AJAX.

Web 2.0 is also a deeper interaction with users. Turning visitors into active participants and "community" members. The paradox of Web 2.0 is that it embraces the true web and the power of user generated content, but it also isolates itself from existing web interaction.

AJAX is Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. AJAX puts a new javascript layer onto the client and handles a lot of the interaction that used to be handled on the server side, which dramatically increases the response times for the application.

AJAX is cool, right? WRONG. Remember frames? Useful yes, but they still suck. AJAX breaks the standards. AJAX shares the same problem with frames and flash... you can only link to the application, not a specific page. So it doesn't make sense for the SEs to crawl an AJAX application.

Tips from Mikkel: -- Should you use AJAX at all? Yes, but not as much as some people will tell you to. -- Ask yourself why you want to use AJAX? If you only want to because it's kewl, then don't. However, if you feel it will improve your business or make you more money, then do it. -- Let AJAX be an option -- not the default. Don't turn away users who don't support it. -- Set up proper (301) redirection of "wrong" linking to the AJAX application. -- Let the pros do the work! Do not let happy script kiddies and HTML-amateurs destroy the user experience and jeopardize security with poor AJAX applications. AJAX is HIGHLY insecure. Use TRUSTWORTHY vendors and consultants.

The Social Web 2.0

User generated content is great for SEO -- Original content is expensive -- loyal users write it for free -- You don't have to do keyword research -- users write (just as bad) as they search -- Miss-spellings are acceptable in user contributed content -- even in headlines and titles -- User generated content improve your freshness factor on your site and help rank non-community pages too!

Would you like to have 20,000 SEOs? Use your users to actively promote your site. train your users to help themselves to help you. Though you have to watch out how you train them. If one percent of your users turn out to be spammers, you suddenly have 200 spammers.

The "One page -- one link" strategy. It is not that hard to get one link to one good piece of information. Teach users where and how to get that one link -- and make it the goal to get that one link for every contribution. With just 1000 contribution a day, that's 30k new links a month!

Vanessa Fox: SEO in a Web 2.0 Startup World

The life of a startup... we don't need a lot of money (truemors.com). We have cool data (zillow.com). We don't need advertising, we have link bait! We have snazzy new technologies.

Oh, the woes of cutting edge technology... Does your site work with javascript turned off? If you can only do one thing, build in the ability to do more things later.

The biggest SEO mistakes - Blocking links - Blocking content (AJAX does that a lot) - Not providing content

Real World examples -- 95% of Zillow's search traffic comes from people searching for "Zillow". Which is very, very sad. So how can Zillow get traffic for other terms?

"But everyone has Flash!" Say your content is only available through Flash, but you think that's okay because all of your users have Flash installed. Yes, but SEs still can't read that content. "But Flash is so snazzy!" Eh, not always.

Keyword research in a web 2.0 world...as a searcher looking to find out about home appraisals, real estate estimates, etc. Make sure you use REAL words/names for terms, and not just your cool proprietary product names (like zestimate instead of estimate).

Remember that AJAX prevents SEs from seeing (as well as users with JavaScript turned off) lots of content.

User generated content is awesome! More indexable information, more freshness, etc. However, make sure you HAVE information... empty discussion boards look like ghost towns. Ensure you've got a place to get some content from.

Amit Kumar: From a SE point of view

The four things I wanted to talk about are the guiding principles, technologies, techniques, and resources.

Guiding Principles - Build for your users: Yahoo! will adapt. - Think "Accessibility" - Users vote by attribution -- the way we determine what people are looking at and people like is by how many links a site has. It's important to remember in the context of AJAX. Make sure users can link to you. - We accept hints! Use sitemaps.

Technologies - CSS --- Issue: understanding your pages --- Core to the web, like HTML - Flash and JavaScript --- Issue: reading your pages --- Need to consume carefully. - AJAX --- Issue: Finding all your content --- Think "form filling" - Badges --- Issue: Where is the content from? --- Attribution

Techniques - Graceful Degradation --- Turn off js/css in your browser, make sure everything still works. - Alternate Nav - SItemaps - Site Explorer - Robots.txt

Amanda Camp, Google:

I'm on the WMX team (WMX == Webmaster Ecstacy). Our goal is to make Webmasters happy. See www.google.com/webmasters

We have a ton of content off of Webmaster Central that deals with AJAX, CSS and web 2.0 things. We just did a post, in fact, about Flash. How Google handles Flash, making sure your site does okay, etc. Hopefully you've seen it, if not, go read it.

We also have the webmaster guidelines. Really, you should go read them if you haven't already. It talks about things like content and javascript and all of that stuff. What to do if you have javascript, etc. Really, just make sure it degrades gracefully.

So, we have lots of information, please go check it out!

Interesting Concepts and Tips...

Search engines don't use the title attribute to determine relevancy. (Not the title TAG, the title attribute)

Sitemaps are not meant to substitute for poor site organization.


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