SEO and DotNetNuke is a topic increasingly discussed with the growing awareness of site owners and webmasters of the need for building DNN websites that maximise the chances of being rated highly in search engine results pages. Following are the features that your DNN Module must have to maximize the SEO aspects.
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1. Allow customisation of every aspect of the Url for the page
The Url is so important for the page. It tells the user what is on the page by looking at it, and it’s one of the most important things you can put keywords into for your page. For the Url Master and Friendly Url Provider modules, the most common request I get is ‘can I get rid of the ‘articleId/entryId/propertyId/categoryId’ from the ‘News Articles/Blog/Property Agent/Catalook’ module? This is because people are stuck with Urls like /articleType/viewType/articleId/3/my-article-name.aspx’, and they just want ‘/articles/my-article-name.aspx’ – or, in my case, they just want ‘/blog/blog-entry-name.aspx’ or similar. The point is, developers, you have wean yourself off just throwing in a database-id into the query string and calling it finished. It’s a lot more work, sure, but it’s the most important thing you can do to a module.
2. Don’t allow duplicate Urls for the same content
Duplicate content is something we must all watch out for. You don’t want the same page being accessed by more than one Url. If you do have more than one Url, you should have 301 redirects back to your chosen ‘canonical’ Url. This means making sure, that in your code, if you are generating links between pages of content, you don’t generate multiple versions of Urls back to the same address.
3. Allow customisation of the Page Title, Meta Description and Meta Keywords for the page
This is a very common problem. The base DNN page information allows the specification of the Page Title, Description and Keywords. Once you add a module displaying ‘dynamic’ content, driven by query string values, the content probably won’t match the ‘generic’ Title, description and Keywords.
The Title and Description are important, because of the Search Engine Result Pages, or ‘SERPs’. Everyone is familiar with the ‘clickable’ header on the SERP, and the short two or three line description. In many cases, the Html Page title is the header, and the Html Meta Description tag is the two or three line description. It’s here where you need to convert people looking at a page full of results to actually click on your page – particularly if you aren’t ranked number 1 for the result. By allowing crafting of individual Descriptions and Page titles separate to any other page content, you allow site authors to fine-tune their SERP results without affecting what the actual page looks like.
Many modules available just throw an automatically generated value into the Page description, and title, or, worse, don’t even change it from what the base page value is.
4. Don’t use AJAX for content display
5. Allow customisation of the anchor text for all links
This is something that most modules actually do a reasonable job of, but it’s worth repeating – if you are generating links to different parts of your content, allow the author to customise the text of that link. Perhaps there is a particular keyword they’d like to link with, which is different to the ‘title’ or ‘name’ or whatever. Let them customise the link text.
6. Use simple layouts and CSS design
Early DNN was table heavy – and I’m not part of the crusading crowd that wants to run the sword through any website that dares to put a table in for display purposes. Sometimes a table is necessary, sometimes not. But don’t force tables on your websites. Just keep it simple with div and span elements, and let CSS do the heavy lifting of organising the content. That way, skilled authors will be able to modify the CSS and change the layout quite easily. They’ll be thankful, but, most importantly, the Html will be cleaner and more likely to be indexed effectively by search engine spiders.
7. Use H1, H2 and H3 tags for headings, instead of the ‘Head’ class
Most people who have studied SEO techniques know that you need to use emphasis on the keywords of your content, so that the search engines know what the page is about. The search engines know that ‘h1’ and ‘bold’ and ‘em’ mean that the particular words inside are important to the overall meaning of the page.
So use the H1, H2, H3 tags where suitable. There is an in-built DNN CSS class called ‘Head’, and you should avoid it. That’s what ‘H1’ is for.