I’ve spent the last couple of posts talking about Search Engine Optimization, providing some necessary background, and offering up some tactical tips around optimizing content together with a proper backlinking strategy to rank high in the publicly-facing search engines. This post discusses SEO from a different perspective, from the internal perspective. We are going to discuss SharePoint Search Engine Optimization.
When Microsoft released Microsoft Office SharePoint Services (MOSS) 2007, they included the functionality of the Content Management Server product. This provided the ability to build visually-rich intranets that are appealing to the end user and can be managed in a very user-friendly way. This addition to the SharePoint product resulted in a large push to use this technology as the bedrock to build intranets.
As with any intranet system, Findability is one of the primary concerns and considerations. The ability to find content within the intranet through search is a critical component. With MOSS, much (if not most) of that content takes the form of web content. There are many different considerations when it comes to performing SharePoint search engine optimization. That is what this post discusses. Below are the top 5 ways to optimize web content for the SharePoint search engine.
- Use the Title field wisely
Just like the title html tag holds a lot of weight in ranking well for public search engines, the same is true of the Title field of a page or document within SharePoint to rank well within the SharePoint search engine. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s important. When preparing page layouts for the intranet, it is important to use the Title field in a very prominent way. That means to use it for a main header or some other way of importance. This way, your content managers will want to put something meaningful in this field. A great example of this is the welcome page of a site. If the Title field is not used as part of the content in a meaningful way, you will end up with a bunch of welcome pages titled "Home". Guess what happens then when you search for the keyword "Home".
- Plan IA with SharePoint SEO in mind
Information Architecture planning is key to any intranet build of any scale. Its primary purpose is to provide a structure that facilitates the browsing experience and improves the findability of content for that user. Rarely is optimization for search a consideration as well. On the top of my mind are 2 things to consider: the URL is a highly weighted component for search results and long URLs are given less weight that short URLs. With SharePoint, it’s important to remember that the URL is a direct representation of the site structure. So when you create a new site, you can control the name of the site as part of the URL. Take care with this name and make sure to align it with the main keywords that will be used to search for content in this site. Also, if possible, keep the important information towards the top of the site structure. As information is buried deeper in the site structure, the SharePoint search engine views that information as less important.
- Use authoritative pages strategically
Obviously, there are times when the IA commands that key information be buried or you simply want to point out that certain information is really important. That’s where authoritative pages come in. Within Central Administration, you can define URLs that are deemed very important from a search perspective. This will improve the rankings of that URL within the SharePoint search engine.
One word of caution: The use of authoritative pages tells the search engine that this "entry point" is important. So subsites from this point will be given better consideration as well. This may result in unintended consequences.
- File type biasing
One of the ways that SharePoint is different from typical internet sites and thus SharePoint search engine optimization is different than that with internet sites is that the SharePoint search engine does not only deal with web pages and the corresponding content, but also other types of document. This distinction needs to be taken into account because the file type of documents impact how different documents are ranked. Using SharePoint speak, this is called file type biasing. So, think of the file type as another criterion for ranking.
Here is the file type biasing from highest ranking to lowest:
- HTML Web pages
- PowerPoint presentations
- Word documents
- XML files
- Excel spreadsheets
- Plain text files
- List items
- SEO basics: content, URL name
Remember that even though we’re optimizing for the SharePoint search engine, we are still optimizing to a search engine and the same tactics to optimizing content for public search engines like Google or Bing apply to SharePoint as well. This includes using keywords with search engine optimization in mind within pages and documents, including a lot of content per page for the search engine to crawl through, and using bold and header tags to signal important terms.
This is just a start, but hopefully this provides a good start with SharePoint search engine optimization.