Our Google Lighthouse Series focusses on five Google Lighthouse categories (in no particular order) that we hope will help you get the very best from your your Sitecore website.
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
- Best Practices
- Progressive Web Apps (PWA)
Our first article, Google Lighthouse: Performance, explored some simple tips on optimising your Sitecore website's performance. In this article we'll be looking at the SEO category of Lighthouse.
Search Engine Optimisation has traditionally been something of a dark art, with SEO specialists forever trying to beat the algorithm. In reality though, you have to get the basics right first. This article will break them into groups: Content, Usability and Crawling.
Lighthouse has automated tests for Title and Description of the page for good reason. The Title should reflect two things:
- The name of your website
- The name of the page
Whilst the Keywords Meta Tag fell out of fashion, Description is still going strong. Use it to concisely describe the page content; it may be used in a search results if the search engine deems it better matches the search request than an excerpt from the page itself. Amazingly, we commonly find pages where content editors have neglected to fill these fields in.
Another issue often neglected by content editors is that of Alternative Text (Alt) for images. This can help greatly with both accessibility and improving search results, but it's common to find the Alt attribute left blank. Sitecore can be configured to auto-populate the Alt attribute when an image is uploaded to the Media Library.
It's also important to remember to give international content as much care and attention as you would for English content. If you can provide better foreign language content for your users than your competitors, you'll not only perform better in search results but also when a user visits your website.
Sitecore supports multi-languages, so use this feature to reach your international markets. Use the hreflang tag to optimise your international pages so relevant language versions of pages are surfaced in SERPS based on the country the user is searching from.
Increasingly, the usability of a website affects its search ranking. Just as being too slow will cost you, making a user's journey difficult will also cost you. And not just once the user visits your page.
Search engine crawlers are clever enough these days to assess how usable your page will be and rank it accordingly. After all, they want to provide the user with good results so the user continues using their search engine.
With the increased usage of mobile devices, greater importance is being placed on small screens and touch inputs. Here are a few ground rules that your website's UI should follow to make sure you aren't penalised:
- Buttons and links should be at least 48x48px and have enough space to allow a finger to interact with them without accidentally pressing a neighbouring element
- Font sizes should be greater than 12px
- The Viewport Meta Tag should be set so the page is zoomed correctly on load, but allow the user to zoom in if they require
There's little point having a wonderfully populated and usable website if the search engines can't access your pages. This section is all about helping the crawlers do their job.
- Ensure your page returns a successful HTTP code: If a crawler thinks there has been an error, it will probably discard the content
- Tell the crawlers where they can and can't go: Creating a valid robots.txt with rules that allow crawlers to access content pages and deny them from accessing irrelevant areas of your site can help avoid users being directed to the wrong starting point for their journey. Including a Robots Directive field in all your Sitecore pages gives content editors the ability to assign directives
- Set a valid Canonical URL for every page: This tells the crawler what the primary version of the page is and can be particularly useful. For example, with pages that use a query string in conjunction with filtering or pagination
The great news is that almost all of these issues are easily resolved either using content or some fairly minor UI changes, so getting the basics right needn't be that difficult.
So that your website performs in SEO, we develop Sitecore websites with SEO in mind. If you're looking for some SEO guidance for your Sitecore website, our Digital Experience team can help.
Look out for the next article in our Google Lighthouse series.