1. Make your website findable

    • This workshop will go through the basics of how to make your website findable. Suitable for anyone who has a website and wants it to do better in search engine results. No technical background is required. I'll be talking about constructive techniques that enhance the content of your site and improve the quality of information on the internet. (In geek-speak: no black hat stuff)
    • Facilitator: Chris Lawson

    • Chris Lawson is Communications Officer, New Media at the Public Service Alliance of Candada. Loosely translated, this means he's responsible for design and editorial direction of the union's national website, psac-afpc.org.

    Make your website findable

    CALM/Labourtech, May 14, 2010

  2. Introductions


    • Who are you, what's your website, what's your relation to it and what do you hope to get from this workshop

    Workshop plan

    • I promise to take the prescribed breaks and not to punish the punctual.
    • This is a talk about the basics of findability and show what I've managed to learn from my own SEO campaign on cupe.ca and seeing how a mostly non-optimized site fares in comparison.
    • With any luck we'll have time to check out the websites of some participants and see how they're doing.
    • Please stop me if you have any questions. This is going to be a bit jargony and there will be acronyms. Chances are others are in the same boat.
    • We’re going to be dealing with Google even though there are a few other search engines out there.
    • We're not going to learn how to do so-called 'black hat' techniques
  3. Definitions

    What is findability?

    • The term came into more common use in 2005 when Peter Morville published Ambient Findability: what we find changes who we become.
    • Moreville defines the term as:
    • The quality of being located or navigated, the degree to which an object or a piece of data can be located, and the degree to which a system supports navigation and retrieval.
    • People can find the site via search engines or directory listings, they can find what they're looking for once they arrive and they come back to find more.

    What is search engine optimization?

    • Search engine optimization is the process of gearing your site's domain name, design, markup, content and linkscape so that your pages show up closer to the top of searches on popular search engines.
  4. Why do we care?

    • For the same reasons we create and maintain websites in the first place.
    • We're not moving product but we are trying to win converts. Maybe we want people to visit our site ahead of the employers for information about our strike.
    • If you can't be found easily, there's not much point in doing a website.
    • Search engine-referred traffic is becoming increasingly important as a percentage of cupe.ca's total traffic. (to 61% in 2008 from 53% in 2006)
    • PSAC’s non-optimized site gets 14% fewer visits than CUPE, but only about a third of its traffic from search engine referrals. Much room for improvement.
    • Search engine referred visits 50 per cent more likely to be new visitors than direct traffic or referred traffic.
    • A brief recap on what a good website can do for us:
      • Fewer FAQs via phone, fax and email
      • More visitors: our message getting ‘out there’ and all the benefits that come from that
      • More effective online actions
      • Less paperwork as people order stuff and sign up for conferences online.
  5. How to become findable

    • This is serious work. It's going to take a long time. The outcome is not at all obvious. And much of it is out of your control.
    • It's also a bit of an experiment. More than a bit, actually.
    • Have objectives and ways of measuring how well it's going
    • Record your progress: not only what your results are, but what you did and when
    • Measure success (see the chart)
  6. Start where you are

    • Start tracking your website visitors.
    • Unless you have money to burn, the answer is Google Analytics.
    • Google for webmasters can show you how your site fares with search engines
    • Definition: Keyword isn't necessarily a keyword. It’s more likely (and more effective) if it's actually a phrase or a few words. Mostly nouns. Mostly nouns that explain the who what where and why of your website.
    • There may be serious religion around the words you use to describe yourselves. Child care workers aren't baby sitters, for example, though baby sitter is a more frequently searched term.
    • Keyword choice is tangled up with who your audience is and what are your larger goals for your website.
    • A local union whose members make car parts might want to rank highly in searches for their employer's brand name as part of a public campaign, but if the local is just trying to service its members online, identifying too closely with the employer's brand might not build trust with members.
    • Use del.ico.us to see what keywords people are already using to describe you.
    • Use your website stats to see what people are using.
    • Keyword research can tell you surprising things.
    • You'd think the plain language term "child care worker" would be a more frequent search term than "early childhood educator". But you'd be wrong.
    • You're going to use these keywords in variety of places: headlines, sub-heads, body copy and others, so they need to sit well with you and they need to... ah... make sense.

    How efficient are your keywords?

    • Keyword efficiency is a measure of how popular a search term is, compared to how many sites are out there answering for that term.
    • This ratio is commonly known as the Keyword Effectiveness Index.
    • wordtracker.com can show you how efficient your keywords are
    • A good Keyword Efficiency Index is somewhere between 10 and 100. The lower the number, the harder time you'll have getting ranked on that keyword.

    More keyword research tools

    • Back to Google Analytics: absolute unique visitors referred by search engines?
    • Your rank relative to a competitor/rival union/employer
    • Conversions of some kind.
  7. How to fix it, part 1: on site

  8. Markup

  9. Uh... come again?

    This is what semantic markup looks like

    Another upside to supporting a standard

    • XHTML-compliant. XHTML is a web standard -- a universally-agreed to set of rules about how web text is to be conditionned (marked up) so that it appears as the publisher expects.
    • X stands (misspelled) for Extended. It looks a lot like regular HTML, but it makes a lot of bulky old tags obsolete (deprecated) and it puts every part of your page into its own neat, self-contained package. This makes it easier for search engines to interpret.
    • HTML 5 will also do. But the world isn't ready for it just yet
    • Semantic. Search bots can't tell which parts of your page matter and which bits don't unless you tell them. Semantic markup uses the tags to assign roles and relative importance to the bits of text on your page, from the mighty main headline <h1> to the lowly paragraph <p>.
    • We didn't use to do this. Our markup was all about the presentation. We used to write a bunch of crap just to make a headline look big and blue.
    • CSS. Stands for Cascading Style Sheet. A cascading style sheet is a document that describes how all that semantic markup is supposed to appear to the viewer. If done right, one such document can apply to an entire website. The browser only has to download it once.

    Another other upside to coding to web standards

    • Web pages marked up with semantic XHTML and styled using an external style sheet are 40 per cent smaller than similarly arranged 'old school' HTML.
    • It will save you all sorts of hassles next time you try to redesign your website.
    • Users with visual or mobility challenges will have an easier time navigating your site.
    • Your pages can rank higher because you can place your keywords strategically.
    • Google cares about semantics. A keyword in an <h1> is worth more than a keyword in a <p> and it doesn't know or care what <font> tags mean.

    Page size is an issue

    • The internet is indexed by computer programs called 'bots that download, compress, analyze and categorize the content on the internet's 11 billion web pages.
    • Those are some busy programs. They don't have a lot of time for you.
    • Total page size should not exceed 150 kilobytes (150K). Some say less -- 100K.
  10. On page optimization

    The invisible

    • The <title> tag
    • <meta> tags.
    • Every web page has document header that is for the most part invisible to the user. This header has several tags that play a role in your site's findability.
    • The title tag you actually see when you're looking at a web page. It's the text that's at the top of your browser window.
    • Google uses the contents of the title tag to create the headline for its search result hits.
  11. Meta useful

    • Google actually uses the contents of the meta description tag. Use it.
    • Facebook uses the meta description to fill in the blanks when someone shares your content on their facebook page. Many people don't know they can edit that content. So it's important you get it right.
  12. Meta useless

    • Meta Keywords is ignored by all major search engines. Don't waste your keystrokes.
    • Earliest search engine hack
    • Meta robots is more efficiently dealt with in your robots.txt file. Using a meta tag to tell robots to index the content on a per page basis is a waste of perfectly good zeroes and ones. They're gonna do it unless you tell them not to.
  13. Link text

    • This is the markup to produce a link on a page where clicking on the words "Background on privatization" takes you to CUPE's privatization landing page. Those words, and the words immediately around it, are the link text.
    • Google does a textual analysis of the words in the link text. They're looking for: positive associations, comparing the words used in the link text with content on the linked page to determine relevance.
  14. Images

    • This markup references a JPEG image and places it on the page. It's been optimized for search engines, namely:
      • the file name
      • the alt and title attributes
    • If you have images in your page that are part of the presentation (aka decoration) take them out of the XHTML and make them CSS background images instead
  15. Domain names

    • Domain names should include your keywords.
    • Organizational domain names rank well for the name of the organization, but you may have other plans.
    • If you have multiple words in your domain name, join them with hyphens. join-our-union.ca.
    • You can't have spaces but hyphens are legal and they're the only punctuation you can use if you want the search engines to understand the words as words.
    • Underscores don't work.
    • Register the domain without any punctuation and put that on your business cards.
    • If you change your domain name don't let your old one lapse. Domain names age like wine, but only if they don't expire.
  16. Google Canonical problem

    • To Google, these are four different pages. This can split your page rank
    • Tell your webworker to search "Google Canonical problem" and fix it.
    • If by chance you are the webworker, I include the Apache mod_rewrite statements we use:
      RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.cupe.ca [NC]
      RewriteRule ^/(.*)$ http://cupe.ca/$1 [L,R=301]
      RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.scfp.ca [NC]
      RewriteRule ^/(.*)$ http://scfp.ca/$1 [L,R=301]
    • These statements can either go in your site's config file or in your .htaccess
    • If you're using IIS you have a whole other bit of software to install.
  17. File names and 'directories'

    • http://cupe.ca/pensions/say-pension-reform
    • The stuff after the slash
    • keywords separated by hyphens
    • Google doesn’t take it all in
    • There's more to a URL than just machine name, subdomain, top-level domain. There's the stuff after the slash too.
    • Google also looks for keywords in the latter part of the URL too. So the rule about putting your keywords in your URL too. Hyphens not underscores to separate words. Don't go nuts with the classifications
  18. Query parameters vs 'natural' urls

    • Bad: http://www.world-psi.org/TemplateEn.cfm?Section=Winning_workers_rights&Template=/TaggedPage/TaggedPageDisplay.cfm&TPLID=130&ContentID=13265
    • Better: http://www.nupge.ca/content/3245/mental-health-patients-being-left-behind-london
    • Best: http://cupe.ca/health-and-safety/upset-accidents-port-matane
    • See the question mark? That's a URL separator. The stuff that comes after that are called query parameters. It's data that's being sent to the website so that the content management system knows which record to pull from the database to make the page.
    • Google ignores everything after the first two ampersands.
    • If you are using a content management system, make sure it uses plain language URLs. There's no excuse not to these days.
  19. Content

    • “A site that is brilliantly optimized for search engines is folly if it’s shy on quality content that’s relevant to its target audience. As it turns out, your content is the best tool to generate traffic.”
      Aaron Walter, Building Findable Websites: Web standards, SEO and Beyond
  20. Credible, trustworthy content

    • isn’t afraid to hyperlink to the other side
    • isn’t too lazy to link to proof
    • is spelled correctly and gramatically correct
    • is written for the web. See Crawford Kilian’s workshop notes
  21. Cute is dead. Poor cute

    • Cute isn’t findable
    • That means rhetoric too.
    • Catchy, clever titles which tend to be oblique, which reference our subject matter obliquely or through metaphor or turn of phrase are highly problematic for website findability.
    • People don't search for clichés or adjectives. And when they're looking at search hits they need to be able to tell if the hit they're looking at is the one for them.
    • That means rhetoric too.
    • All that stuff has to make way for your keywords, in headlines, subheads and page titles.
  22. Link bait

    • a pension calculator, a cost-of-living calculator, a form to change your address
    • be useful and people will link to you
    • A rather cynical, sardonic term for “actually useful, interactive applications.”
    • Some union-y examples might be: a pension calculator, a cost-of-living calculator, a form to change your address.
    • If your website helps them get something done, or if it answers their question, they'll come back, and they'll put links to it whereever they can.
  23. Improve your linkscape

    • Determine credibility of website by who links to it
    • Measured by Google Page Rank
    • Anyone can put up a web page purporting to be about a given topic or keyword phrase, but how to determine which ones are actually good.
    • Google has made its money and stakes its reputation as a business on its ability to deliver the good pages to you. How it does this is a closely guarded secret but we do know it has a lot to do with a site's linkscape.
  24. WTF is a linkscape?

    • How many people are linking to you?
    • What kinds of sites are linking to you?
    • Are they similar to yours?
    • How are those linking site referring to you?
    • How long has your site been around?
    • These factors (and others) add up to your Google Page Rank, number from one to ten. Each number is actually an order of magnitude greater than the other.
    • Your Google Page Rank will have a massive imact on how high up you place in searches.
  25. Assess your linkscape

    • Yahoo webmaster tools
    • Google webmaster tools
  26. Build your linkscape

    • Find your juicy links
    • Beg borrow and trade
    • Web 2.0 sites can give you link juice
    • You're looking for long-standing websites that have a high page rank and some connection to your site's area of interest and good ranking for your keywords.
    • SEOMoz has an online tool that will do that for you.
    • You can also just Google your keywords and note which sites rank well.
    • Take the results and go get links on those pages.

    Beg borrow trade

    • Failing that, there's this. Don't buy links. You'll get caught if you're too effective. But there are ways that you can get more inbound links without resorting to link spam or link purchase. Get on the phone or email to:
      • Companies that supply the union
      • Contractors you work with (designers, trades, whoever might be proud to list you as a (hyperlinked) client
      • Coalition partners
      • United Way or charities that your union gives to
      • Pension plans, insurance companies, or benefits companies that profit hugely from your members' involvement with them.

    Web 2.0 too

    • User-created content sites actually allow users to create publicy-accessible pages that give your site link juice.
    • Start with these sites. These sites all allow you to sign up for a free account and create your own page.
    • Getting 'out there' will benefit your site in many other ways too.
    • You can put the little social networking site tags on your site too.
  27. Paid search vs "earned search"

    • Buy your way to the top of the search results
    • Sometimes it can make sense
    • Is all this sounding like rather too much work? You can always buy your way to the top of the search results. This is the money to burn, looking for an oven approach to SEO.
    • Google's pay-per-click ad service can get you a little mention right beside the top hit on a search for a list of keywords you pick.
    • You can pay as much per click as you dare. The more you offer, the more likely your ad is to get to the top.
    • And sometimes it can make sense to do it.
  28. When ads make sense

    • new domain, or new content
    • done your keyword research
    • clearly track conversions
    • have an end date
    • secondary plan for when the money runs out.

    It makes sense to buy ads when:

    • You have a very new domain, or new content that you need to promote as part of a broader campaign
    • You have done your keyword research and have found efficient keywords that are in sync with your message and your campaign objectives
    • You can clearly track conversions
    • You have an end date
    • You have a secondary plan to boost your ranking for when the money runs out.
    • Try Facebook instead of Google
  29. Ads don’t make sense when:

    • where you already rank well
    • where you have no compelling content
    • If you have no way to measure effectiveness

    It doesn't make sense to buy ads:

    • For keywords where you already rank well
    • For keywords where you have no compelling content to offer
    • If you have no way to measure effectiveness (conversions)

    In any case, my advice:

    • Monitor your ads very closely
    • Check which keywords bring conversions daily
    • Drop the ones that don't convert well and/or reduce what you will pay for those keywords
    • Do come up with multiple versions of ads
  30. Looking good in Search engine result pages

    • PDFs are demon spawn
    • Passive voice makes a comeback
    • Personal search

    PDFs are demon spawn

    Illustration of some really bad SERP listings of PDFs
    • Fill in the meta information in the PDFs you upload to the website.

    Can I really use passive voice?

    • Oh yeah. If you can't get your key words in the first 70 characters of your title tag. Some would argue that this is a black hat technique and should get you banned from Google.

    Put a search function on your site

    • If you have more than 100 or so pages, you really ought to let people search for your content.
    • You can dress up Google in your site's clothing and add it to your site with their Coop search service. Of course, they get to put ads on your SERPs.
  31. Set up a mailing list

    • To send willing subscribers news about the latest stuff on your site.
  32. Page serving

    • robots.txt
    • Sitemap
    • Nofollow


    • A structured text file that tells a search robot what pages on your site you want indexed and what you don't want indexed.
    • List all the non-content pages on your site: login pages, contact forms.
    • Please note: this is not a security measure.
    • For more info, see the Robots exclusion standard page.


    • Another structured text file that tells search engines what your main pages are and how to navigate the website to speed the indexing process.
    • It will also be used to draw sub-search hits if your site gets the top ranking in a Google search.
    • The XML Sitemap standard is a June 2005 Google initiative that has since been adopted by the other major search engines.


    • Nofollow is an attribute that you can add to link tags that is the equivalent to search engines of saying "we don't have anything to do with this site we're linking to".
    • It does not prevent Google or other bots from indexing the content on the other end of the link. In the wild it looks like this:
      <a href="http://some-other-site.com" rel="nofollow">Some other site</a>
    • The "nofollow" attribute is good for protecting yourself from getting a bad rep from links other people put on your site.
  33. We're done

    • Go-round: One thing you liked, one thing you learned and one thing you'd do differently.
  34. Appendicies

    What Google likes and dislikes


    • Keyword Use in Title Tag
    • Anchor Text of Inbound Link
    • Global Link Popularity of Site
    • Age of Site
    • Link Popularity within the Site's Internal Link Structure
    • Topical Relevance of Inbound Links to Site
    • Link Popularity of Site in Topical Community
    • Keyword Use in Body Text
    • Global Link Popularity of Linking Site
    • Topical Relationship of Linking Page


    • Server is often inaccessible to bots
    • Content very similar or duplicate of existing content in the index
    • External Links to Low Quality/Spam Sites
    • Participation in Link Schemes or Actively Selling Links
    • Duplicate Title/Meta Tags on Many Pages
    • Overuse of targeted keywords (Stuffing/Spamming)
  35. This information is from Search engine ranking factors, SEOMoz.org
  36. Resources