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Lee Odden

SES Toronto: Web 2.0 and Search Engines

By Lee Odden     Search Engine Strategies, Search Engines, SEO, SEO Tips

Chris Silver Smith Speaking SES Toronto

With so many “Web 2.0″ technologies coming in to play with web design and online application development, the effect on the search engines’ ability to find, crawl and index content becomes an issue. As such, this session moderated by Kevin Ryan included deep dive advice from Chris “Silver” Smith, Lead Strategist from Netconcepts and Ambles Kwok, a Senior Engineering Manager from Yahoo Canada.

Chris Silver Smith was first up and gave examples of Web 2.0 technologies including the idea of folksonomy and tagging by showing a tag cloud from Delicious. It’s an alternative method of navigation based on user defined keywords assigned to a piece of content.

If you cannot implement the capability of tagging into your content, you can create a similar effect for SEO benefit by mining your log files for search engine referral keywords and generating a tag cloud from that data. Shows Cabella’s tag cloud as an example implementation:

Cabellas Tagcloud

Another tip is to enable your photos to be indexed by search engines. Many companies hide images from crawlers. There’s high usage of images by vertical search engines. It also creates the possibility of additional rankings in Universal search results.

Share images through Flickr and other image sharing sites. Link your profiles back to your site. Don’t be spammy. Don’t mass upload.

User Tagging: Google’s image labeler program. Enable Google’s users to tag pictures for search. You can opt in your site’s images within Google Webmaster tools.

Have a repetitive task? Use Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, which is a platform where people who want to make a little money (micropayments) for doing small tasks can be sourced. An example application would be to get people to tag media or content for you such as: unspun.amazon.com

Google Friend Connect: Free API for building site communities.

JavaScript and Form based Navigation:
Many sites still have links embedded in JavaScript. Search engines have problems with following these kinds of links but are getting better. Always include a static link with JavaScript navigation.

Google’s crawler is starting to crawl some form based navigation, such as drop down menus.

Use widgets/gadgets for distribution such as Yahoo Widgerts, Google Gadgets

Yahoo Search Monkey is a great tool for customizing your listings in Yahoo search results. Below is an example of a WebMD listing. More examples are available at the Yahoo! Search Gallery.

searchmonkey

Flash and splash pages: Search engines are getting better at reaching content with Flash, but they still have problems.

Ajax, Flash, JavaScript – all need alternative navigation routes. Create two: one for rich media enabled users and one for search bots and users with rich media disabled.

For flash content use the <swfobject> and present altnerative content to what’s shown in the Flash movie.

Redirects: Many sites use Java Script or meta refresh redirects and should use server side redirects instead.

It’s also helpful to provide text transcripts of rich media so search engines can crawl the text content.

Chris’s last tip is to make sure you optimize your blog with plugins and using keywords in titles, categories and within posts.

During the transition from Chris to Ambles, Kevin Ryan asks: “Tag clouds are like the Paris Hilton of the internet. Looks good, but what do they actually DO?” Chris Smith offers an explanation of tags as an alternative navigation method.

Next up was Ambles Kwok, Senior Engineering Manager with Yahoo Canada who talks mostly about the semantic web and using markup to give meaning or context to content. Without context, web pages have no meaning to search engine bots.

One example of a Microformat is the nofollow attribute for links. Another example is the Upcoming.com site that uses Microformats such as: hCard, Hevent, hReview and rel-tag.

Yahoo’s SearchMonkey leverages the Semantic web. SearchMonkey + POSH = SEO 2.0. When you give context to content, it gives meaning to bots. SearchMonkey also leverages the semantic web to enable blended search.

A question for webmasters: How does the semantic web affect my search engine strategy? Here are a few practical examples:

  • You perform a search for a persons name and see their family tree, business acquaintances, friends and significant others, along with the ability to download their vcard.
  • You search for a keyword such as “ford mustang” and receive a list of sites, photos, and documents that people have decided are related to the word “ford mustang” through tagging on their website.
  • You search for a product and receive a list of reviews related to that product which people all over the net have posted on their website.
  • You search for a specific date and receive a list of categorized events occurring on that date that people have posted on their website.

Microformats “give meaning to the machine”. Content is king, but content without context is meaningless.

Keywords, URL and links are SEO 1.0. Structured pages are SEO 2.0 – giving context to the data.

Kevin Ryan asks, “Why is SearchMonkey opt in, why is it not the default?”

Kwon: It’s in beta and making it the default could disrupt search results. However some results are “on” by default.

Kwon continued saying that giving more structure to data to search engines makes it easier for them to understand the information and more accurately sort it in search results. Using semantic markup and microformats is a trend.

Kevin Ryan asks, “Define graceful degradation”

Smith: Can your web site be used by people on a variety of browser versions? Graceful degradation means your web site can be viewed on the latest and greatest to text only browsers.


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