SEO Makes Everything More Findable
We, the SCN team, like to see traffic in our community. We can’t get enough of it, and although SCN is already a busy place, we want to drive even more traffic by making every bit of content easier to find. External search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. are the multipliers in this game, and this is the reason we focused our teams on Search Engine Optimization (SEO): to maximize what we call the “universal findability” of SCN content.
We’ve had surprising success with this project so far.
Visits from external search engines have increased almost 300% in 2010 compared with 2009.
SEO is clearly working for us — and for the community.The signs are that more and more, our members are using external search engines, especially Google, to find content on SCN.
One year ago, external search engines delivered 16% of SCN traffic. They now account for 48%.
Technical and Semantical SEO
We needed to look at SEO both from two perspectives. We needed to optimize our platform, to make sure that it allows easy access and unambiguous classification by search engine crawlers, and we needed to optimize our content, that is, the words we use and how we use them, to make sure that our pages would be indexed correctly and turn up in the right search results.
The way our platform creates urls or page titles, or how it replicates and handles multiple instances of the same content can significantly affect content findability, and we focus on optimizing these variables. Our biggest platform breakthrough, however, came in May last year when we switched from being an HTTPS site and became a simple HTTP site. Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure seems to have been a barrier to search engine bots that hindered them from crawling and indexing our pages and content. After this platform transformation we began to see an immediate increase in our search engine traffic.
We were happy that, from a technical perspective, the gates were opened so that the crawlers could crawl through our content, but would they “get” what our content is about, so that it would be ranked highly in search results screens? To make this happen, we needed to revisit our pages with an understanding about how crawlers index them.
We normally use the word “content” in the widest possible sense to include web pages, videos, podcasts, PDF files, downloads, etc. But in the first phase of our SEO project, we focused on “classic SEO;” optimizing search results for our web pages.
(Blogger Brian Solis, recently introduced the concept of Social Media Optimization (SMO), which extends SEO best practices to all kinds of content types living on any social media platform, such as videos on YouTube, photos on Flickr, or posts on a Facebook wall.)
In June of last year we launched a multi-faceted SEO for Content program to develop a clear and effective set of content guidelines, to evangelize, and to implement them over a large set of pages with the goal of significantly increasing their findability.
The chart below shows the significant climb in search engine traffic to SCN in the second half of 2009, attributable to our SEO project.
SEO Guidelines for Content-Owners
The SAP Community Network comprises a vast content landscape with many content owners spread across different organizations and regions. They are our stakeholders and they are expert in SAP products, their particular technical areas, and lines of business. To increase the findability of our content, we needed to build the SEO savvy of our stakeholders and exploit their knowledge. Best practices for SEO are not difficult to understand or implement, but you need to pay attention to the details.
In June last year, we held a series of SEO workshops for our content owners showing them tools and techniques for optimizing their content. We teach our content owners five key SEO activities:
• Establishing an SEO baseline for your content
• Defining page-relevant keywords
• Placing keywords where they matter the most
• Generating link love
• Monitoring content
SEO Benefits the Community
We’ve had good success and learned a lot in implementing an SEO program that has tripled our search engine traffic. An unexpected benefit is that the search engines are delivering traffic that comes back to SCN. At the beginning of 2009 almost 30% of the search engine traffic were new visits, now the percentage of new visits is just over 15%, shown in the chart below.
These numbers show that more members of our community are using Google and other external search engines to find content on SCN. This observation is also borne out by several comments from members in our recent Satisfaction Survey.