Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Search Engine Optimization Features of SharePoint 2013

SharePoint 2013 offers native support for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on Publishing sites, which is great for public-facing SharePoint websites. Along with its many basic SEO properties, SharePoint 2013 generates XML sitemaps and canonical URLs, allows you to edit robots.txt, and creates SEO-friendly URLs. Read on for details of the most useful features.

PAGE SEO PROPERTIES SharePoint 2013 allows users to set a number of SEO Properties for publishing pages:

  • Title: Sets the title on the page and in the navigation.
  • Browser Title: Controls the tag for your page. This is an important tag for organic search results and should be filled with key phrases pertinent to your page.
  • Meta Description: Although the meta description tag is not an important factor for how your site will rank, it is very important for click-throughs from search results. Use the meta description to describe what the page is about as it will be used as the text preview in search results.
  • Keywords: Meta keywords are no longer used by search engines to rank your site and there are mixed thoughts about including them at all anymore. Generally it is accepted to skip them altogether.
  • Exclude from Internet Search Engines: This setting tells search engines whether or not to index the page. If you set this to “Exclude from sitemap and hide from Search engines” it renders a noindex robots meta tag to the page, therefore preventing search engines from crawling the page.

To configure these settings go to:
Ribbon > Page tab > Edit Properties dropdown > Edit SEO Properties

SITE COLLECTION SEO PROPERTIES Users also have the option to define meta tags on the site collection level. This is useful if you need to verify site ownership for a search engine’s webmaster tools or analytics services.

To configure these settings go to:
Site Settings > Site Collection Administration > Search Engine Optimization Settings.

RENDERING SEO PROPERTIES Be sure you have the AdditionalPageHead Delegate Control on your Master Page to utilize the out-of-the-box SharePoint 2013 SEO properties on your site. The delegate controls that render the SEO properties are activated by the SearchEngineOptimization Feature, which is associated with AdditionalPageHead. SearchEngineOptimization is activated by default with a Publishing site.

CANONICAL URLS When URL parameters are used, multiple links lead to the same content which causes search engines to index these as separate pages. This is problematic for your page’s optimization. It’s more beneficial to index all variations of the page singularly (with a canonical URL) as search engines place great importance on link popularity.

SharePoint automatically strips parameters from your links if you enable canonical link parameter filtering. To do this, click “Do not filter link parameters” within the site collection’s Search Engine Optimization Settings. If needed, you can choose to include certain parameters by clicking “Filter link parameters” and entering the parameters.

To configure these settings go to:
Site Settings > Site Collection Administration > Search Engine Optimization Settings

XML SITEMAP In addition to generating a XML sitemap daily (by default), SharePoint 2013 adds a link to the sitemap on the robots.txt file ensuring search engines can easily find it. You can also edit the robots.txt file to specify pages or directories that you do not want to show up in search results.

To configure the robot.txt file, first ensure that the Search Engine Site Map Site Collection feature is activated and then go to:
Site Settings > Site Collection Administration > Search Engine Sitemap Settings

PAGE URLS In SharePoint 2013 users are able to have SEO-friendly URLs using Managed Navigation. These URLs no longer automatically contain /pages and .aspx extensions. These cleaner URLs can help rankings by removing unnecessary terms and making it easier for the search engines (and users) to understand what the page is about.