Joomla and search engine friendliness

Xmas day, and it is kinda hot out here. It is close to 30 degC today, and for a girl that comes from the northern hemisphere, it feels quite unrealistic to have Xmas dinner in these temperatures. So we turned the airconditioner on, and we spent some time doing geeky things. The family thinks we’re weird anyways.

So what did we do? We tried to make VerySimpleDesigns.com more search engine friendly. I did install some analytic tools earlier already, and I see that some people do find the site even without me actively promoting it. It is a project which we prefer to do without placing screaming ads on the site, and we try not to upload crap, altho we do need some feedback from those that actually download the stuff to know what they think of it. Existing content needs to be tweaked further obviously, but we also realised that we better worked on SEO/SEF before we have too much content to validate.

We host the site on a linux platform, so used .htaccess to do some URL rewriting, and we configured Joomla to make use of this setting. Also the default SEF settings were enabled, we installed the SEF Patch from JoomlaAtWork as well as the sh404SEF component. The latter is a bit of a funny story – it is a free component, issued under GNU/GPL licence – but to download the latest version you are expected to subscribe to the official distributing website. I mentioned funny, because the licence allows re-use, modification and re-distribution. No need to say that there are several locations which are not terribly difficult to find that host the same file for free download. I understand that the developer no longer had sufficient time to do component maintenance, and therefore partnered with a commercial party, but to me this makes no sense at all. Download for free and pay a subscription fee for professional support would and certainly would prevent a wild growing amount of unofficial download locations and clearly focus on where to get paid support.

Screenshot of VerySimpleDesigns.com
Screenshot of VerySimpleDesigns.com

We also re-structured the site layout. Not so much the sections and categories, as we did that right from the start. But Joomla hosts the images a bit deep in the file structure: images/stories/… This bothered me, as I do want the images indexed, and I carefully named all of them prior to upload. But I am also a sorting freak – I love to have clear structures, so I happily created a few more sub-directories, which in retrospect are not search engine friendly at all. So back to the drawing board…

So we changed the image location and made sure it is not more than 2 levels deep. We made the directory accessible by the crawlers, so that the images will be indexed.

We carefully inspected the used meta-tags, and sofar we only used single word keywords, and no search phrases. Some work to do there. We created a target keyword list and used Google’s Adwords to generate possible keywords based on the site URL. Funny how the word illustration in an Inkscape tutorial leads to a full list of “Illustrator tutorials” and variations thereof tho. We do not want to draw people to the site with intentionally selected “skewed keywords”. You know.. you use a phrase that gets people to the site, but you are not offering whatever they searched for. We do not use Illustrator (or hardly ever) and tho the tutorials can easily be translated to this vector editor, we provide them now for Inkscape, so the Inkscape user is our main target. So we use Inkscape tutorials :D. Anyways, there is a lot more content to upload and more articles to write, and having a keyword list allows us to focus on a limited set that will eventually result in more traffic to the site.

Google’s webmaster tools let us know about crawl errors and provides HTML suggestions. In this case “duplicate metatag descriptions”, referring to pages where we left the meta-tag empty. More work to do! But the tools are awesome and give us clear indications what’s amiss.

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