Although Bing and Yandex may seem insignificant in numbers, they are amongst the top 5 most used search engines on the planet, and Yandex is No.1 in Russia. Not only do they dominate the world of search engines, they’ve also created a new channel in modern marketing – Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
Google, Yandex and Bing are the largest search engines presently. Google has a whopping 91.89% market share followed by Bing with 2.79% and Yandex with 0.54%.
With their ever-evolving algorithmic changes and updates, search engine optimisation is getting more complicated than ever. Simplifying SEO is crucial to be successful on this channel. This article covers what you need to do to get the best Sitecore SEO performance from your Sitecore website.
How to get indexed on Google, Yandex and Bing
The first, and most essential thing that needs to be done before optimisation is to get your Sitecore website indexed by the engines. There are numerous ways to approach this, but the best way is the simplest one.
Connecting your Sitecore website to Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a collection of tools and resources that help website owners and SEO professionals monitor and perform website maintenance.
Some of the main features include providing information about search appearance, traffic performance, technical updates, crawl status and data, back-links & linking URLs and more.
- Sign up for Google Search Console account
- Click Add a property and within the add site URL box
- Choose HTML Tag as a verification method
- Copy the Meta Tag and paste it in the <head> section of your site
- Once this is done click Verify in the Google Search Console window
Connecting your Sitecore website to Bing
Once you connect your site to Google Search Console, connecting to Bing Webmaster is quite simple. There are two ways to do it. The first is manually, and the second is to verify your site by importing the authentication from Google Search Console.
- Open a Bing Webmaster Tools Account
- On the Main Dashboard, click the button on the top right-hand corner that says Skip verification by importing your site from Google Search Console
Connecting your Sitecore website to Yandex
For businesses who have a Russian website it’s vital to be present on Yandex. This is because Yandex is the No1 search engine of choice for people in Russia.
- Create a Yandex account
- Go to the homepage and find webmaster card and click Add Domain
- Enter the name of your domain and click Add
Confirm that you own the site by either:
- HTML file: Create an HTML file with the specified unique name and content and place it in your site's root directory
- Meta tag: Add a special meta tag to the HTML code on the site's home page (in the head element)
- If you already have a primary domain, click Set as primary. Your new domain will then become the primary domain, while the old domain will be relegated to an alias domain
Connecting your XML sitemaps to Google, Yandex and Bing
Once your website is connected and verified the next step is to upload your XML sitemap to all the webmaster tools (Yandex, Bing and Google Search Console).
An XML sitemap lists all the (included) pages in your website. A well-structured hierarchy/xml sitemap leads search engines to all your important pages.
The sitemap can usually be found by appending /sitemap.xml to your website’s URL. For example: www.nameofyourwebsite.com/sitemap.xml. If you don’t have a sitemap, ask your technology partner to create one for you.
Connecting your Sitecore website’s XML sitemap to Google Search Console
- Within your Google Search Console dashboard navigate to the left panel. Under Index, click Sitemaps
- Enter your sitemap URL in the Add a new sitemap box. The URL is usually /sitemap.xml but be sure before submitting
- Once it's submitted, depending how large your site is, the status in the report below will be green
Connecting your Sitecore website’s XML sitemap to Bing
- Within your Bing Webmasters dashboard navigate to the left panel. Under Configure My Site, click Sitemaps
- Click the new Go to sitemaps link
- Click Submit Sitemap and submit the URL where your sitemap is present
Connecting your Sitecore website’s XML sitemap to Yandex
- Within your Yandex Webmasters dashboard navigate to the left panel. Under Indexing, click Sitemap Files
- Click the new Go to sitemaps link
- Enter your sitemap URL in the Add a new sitemap box
- Click Submit
With the website verified and the sitemap successfully submitted, how do you optimise your Sitecore website for Google, Yandex and Bing for better SEO? This can become very granular, but the three most important and commonly used categories of optimisations are :
- Technical SEO
- On-page SEO (content)
- Off-page SEO (back-linking profiles)
Over 95% of the optimisations made for one search engine is usually the same for the other search engines.
If you get Google’s technical SEO requirements right you’ve pretty much got Bing and Yandex right as well, although there are some very distinctive features that need more attention than the other.
Make sure that your website is mobile friendly
As the name implies, mobile friendly content is about optimising your technical, design and content foundations for mobile users and is about mobile usability.
Below are 26 best practices to help improve your Sitecore website’s mobile indexability.
- Use the same meta robots tags on the mobile and desktop site
- Don’t lazy load primary content upon user interaction
- Let Google crawl all resources
- Make sure that the content is the same on desktop and mobile
- Use the same clear and meaningful headings
- Make sure that your mobile and desktop have the same structured data
- Use correct URLs in structured data
- If you use Data Highlighter, train it on your mobile site
- Put the same metadata on both versions of your site (meta tags, meta descriptions etc.)
- Provide high quality images
- Use a supported format for images
- Don’t use URLs that change every time that a page loads
- Make sure that the mobile site has the same alt text for images as the desktop site
- Make sure that the mobile page content quality is as good as the desktop page
- Don’t use URLs that change every time the page loads for your videos
- Use a supported format for videos
- Use the same structured video data
- Place the video in an easy to find position on the page when viewed on a mobile device
- Make sure that the error page status is the same on both the desktop and mobile sites
- Make sure that your mobile version doesn’t have fragment URLs. For example, pages that start with #, these pages won’t be indexed
- Ensure that the desktop versions that serve different content have equivalent mobile versions.
- Verify both versions of your site in search console (only if your site has its own URL)
- Check hreflang links on separate URLs
- Ensure that your mobile site has enough capacity to handle increased crawl rate
- Verify that your robots.txt directives work as you intend for both versions (if you have a mobile specific site)
- Use the correct rel=canonical and rel=alternate for separate URLs
You can also use Google Mobile Friendly test to see how your website’s mobile performance.
Understanding how AMP looks in search results and works
AMPs are simpler pages of your current website that can be served to users much faster. This improves the web experience for mobile visitors, especially when internet connections are slow. Google Search and all other search engines index AMPs.
Improving page speed
Sometimes search engines can be quite lenient when it comes to some minor technical elements not being quite right but page speed isn’t one of them. The topmost important expectation from a Search Engine, be it Google, Bing or Yandex, is that they all require your website and individual pages to have a good load speed.
All search engines have made page speed a mandatory ranking factor recently. Google’s Page Speed Tool is a great way to see the performance of your Sitecore website’s page load speed.
HTTPS content and mixed content
HTTPS became a ranking factor in 2014 for Google and in 2015/2016 for other search engines.
Over 80% of the websites on all search engines are supposed to be HTTPS secure. That’s why It’s important to check on the common HTTPS issues as part of your monthly audits, as new assets and newly created content may not always be secure. For instance, mixed content issues usually arise when secured content (HTTPS assets and pages) mix with non-secure pages (HTTP assets and pages). This weakens the perceived security.
Canonical and hreflang issues
A canonical tag or rel=canonical informs search engines that a specific URL is the master copy of a page. In other words, it is the preferred URL to be indexed.
Using the canonical tag prevents identification problems faced by crawlers visiting a webpage and stops them indexing duplicate content. It tells search engines which version of a URL you want to be indexed and so appear in search engines.
Some best practices are:
- Canonical tags can be self-referential
- Make sure that you canonicalise your homepage
- Check for dynamic canonical tags (avoid trying to write a script to fill your canonicals, this could go wrong and potentially have 100’s of the wrong pages indexed)
- Include a Canonical URL field in the Content Editor of all your Sitecore pages
If your Sitecore website has international versioning enabled, then applying the hreflang attribute will optimise your SEO.
Applying the hreflang tag tells search engines which version of content to show based on the visitor's language and region. The hreflang also prevents issues with duplicate content. By having a country/language identifier in the URL (e.g. www/yourdomain.com/en-gb/page) combined with hreflang attributes for regional/language variants, this English version of the page will surface in SERP for the user in the UK.
Internal linking and ‘link juice’
Internal linking can be part of a more complex technical ecosystem but is also part of content optimisation.
Internal linking helps search engines crawl through the website better. Think of it as strings that connect all articles and pages with each other. Crawlers use these strings to find content and index it. The more strings connected to all parts of the website, the better indexation. This is also referred to as ‘link juice’.
It’s vital you include relevant linking to other parts of the website within each page or article. But ensuring not to overdo it as content must read well (and naturally) to visitors.
Blogs articles are the best place to connect to other parts of your website.
To get a better understanding of how internal links are performing look at the linking profiles reports in Google Search Console, Yandex and Bing.
Amplify your crawl budget
Crawl budget is the number of pages that search engines crawl in a given period of time. It isn’t a ranking factor, but it helps in inviting the crawlers to your search more often.
For an understanding of how this works, look at sections within your Webmasters that say Crawls Stats or Crawl Status.
If you see the crawl budget graphs are high, it means your website needs a good clean from an SEO perspective. So what is a good clean?
- Clean up duplicate content, so the crawl budget isn’t wasted
- Restrict indexation of pages with no SEO value. Old content pages that aren’t performing well or have more issues that visits, or even better re-purpose them
- Add URL parameters in Google Search Console. By default, Google crawls all pages present on the website but sometimes it’s important to add URL parameter limits to limit pages such as ‘BackToResults’ pages or dynamic pages found through advanced filters on your sight from being indexed
- Fix redirect chains. A redirect chain is a chain of redirects that can be collected over a period of redirecting the same pages to other pages without knowing if they have been redirected before. Avoid this because the crawler is continuously indexing those same pages
On- page optimisation is the practice of optimising individual web pages to rank higher on search engines and gain traffic. Unlike technical SEO, On-page optimisation mostly deals with content and its associated HTML.
Below are some techniques that help your Sitecore on-page SEO:
Publish high quality content
Quality can mean many things to many marketers. This usually leads to too much content, too little content, irrelevant content or content that is cannibalised with keywords. Below are some tips on improving Sitecore on-page SEO:
- Original content: No copies or rewrites of existing content and try using as many original assets on the page as possible
- Add canonical tags: Make sure every article or post has a canonical URL
- Value: Publish content that provides value
- Research: Write content that is well researched
- Detail: Produce longer and more detailed articles
Page titles and meta descriptions
This is the most basic form of SEO and a fundamental ranking factor. Here are some tips:
- Each page must have a unique page title and must be relevant to what the page is trying to say
- Add keywords to the beginning of your page titles
- Write short and descriptive titles. Users tend to click on short precise titles
- It’s not always necessary to include your domain title
- Make sure to keep the title with the search engine character limit
Meta description is the description of the page in a few words that can often be seen directly on the search engine results page. It’s an opportunity to convert a cold user into a reader. A few ways to optimise meta descriptions are:
- Take the time to write original meta descriptions and keep the tags unique
- Make sure to add targeted keywords in this as well
- Stay under the meta description word limit that search engines have
Optimise page content
Optimising the overall content formatting and the content itself is key as crawlers from all search engines follow the HTML text format. So make sure:
- All Heading tags are correct (H1, H2, H3 etc.)
- Try including keywords in Headings
- Use well researched high traffic keywords in the text
- Use LSI keywords (words that are related to your topic indirectly or directly)
- Keep high quality images
- Make sure the images have Alt text and other attributes like ‘Title’
- Add Schema mark up or structured data
- Add Facebook Open Graph for better social sharing
- Avoid lengthy paragraphs. Make the article readable and break into bite sized information
Optimise the URL
This may be the simplest of all on-page optimisation techniques, but most articles get this wrong due to dynamically generated URLs. Avoid this as much as possible and write simple, precise and relevant URL structures with relevant keywords.
As mentioned, internal linking helps search engines crawl through the website better as it uses links to move throughout the website.
Having external links from your article to another reliable source or post this increases the trustworthiness of the article. It is a positive SEO factor. Every time you quote or use content from another website, mention the source and link back to the article.
Off-page SEO is optimisation off your own site. It’s gaining SEO ranking from other external websites in the form of back-links. Google recently confirmed that back-linking is one of the Top 3 most important ranking factors. Back-linking should be near the top of the list for all marketers.
How to gain back-links:
- Start guest blogging with high authority blogs and publishers
- Reverse your competitors’ back-links and contribute to their back-link sources
- Mention key industry influencers in your blog posts
- Publish downloadable content and guides with your main website links in them
- Post articles or content as guest users on user contribution sites and on social media
- Become an industry thought leader by publishing other contributors' content on your site in exchange to publishing your content on their site
Optimising for Google is like optimising for all the other search engines as they’re the most sophisticated and dominant search engine in the market. Following the steps in this article will improve Sitecore SEO for Google, Yandex and Bing.
Our Digital Experience Team has helped many customers both get started with SEO on the Sitecore websites, as well as tackling the more complex SEO tasks. For more information about how an SEO audit can help your website, get in touch.