Practical Ecommerce

Search Engine Optimization And Web 2.0

That well-used buzzword “Web 2.0” encompasses a number of technologies, including blogs, RSS feeds, wikis, tagging/folksonomies, podcasts, widgets, AJAX and Flash. Some of these technologies are a net positive for your search engine visibility and some are a net negative.
Blogs and RSS feeds are great for search engine optimization, for reasons I discussed in my previous articles “SEO: Blogging Your Way to the Top” and “SEO: RSS Feeds Increase Visibility.”

So are wikis, being they are text-rich, frequently updated and heavily linked internally. Furthermore, a wiki acts as “link bait,” probably because it is viewed as a more definitive, neutral and trusted source where consensus has been reached. For example, by launching my SEO Glossary as a wiki I am certain that the site has garnered more links than it would have as a traditional website.

Tagging is one of my favorite Web 2.0 technologies. Found primarily on blogs (particularly on WordPress blogs that utilize the free plugin Ultimate Tag Warrior), tagging has a lot of SEO potential if optimally employed. The power of tagging lies in the use of tag clouds and tag pages. A “tag cloud” is a navigation element made up of text links of varying font sizes to show which tags are more popular than others on your site (see example at the bottom of the paragraph, taken from our Netconcepts.com home page). Tag clouds allow you to rejig your internal hierarchical linking structure, flowing link juice more strategically throughout your site using keyword-rich text links. The links in a tag cloud lead to “tag pages.” A tag page contains a collection of the most recent items that have been tagged with the particular keyword. Tag clouds aren’t the only way to navigate to a tag page. Typically, an item’s tags will be displayed adjacent to the item, with each tag linking to its tag page. Once on a tag page, you can often find links to other tag pages through a list of “Related tags.” A tag is related if items share those tags in common.

Unfortunately, I don’t know of any ecommerce platforms currently supporting tagging. Even my own company’s ecommerce platform GravityMarket doesn’t yet, despite all the other SEO goodness baked into it. It is in the product development queue, however, and I would hope that is the case for other ecommerce platforms too.

Now let’s move into some elements that aren’t typically spider-friendly. These include podcasts, AJAX and Flash.

With something as non-textual as a podcast, you might wonder how it can be made search engine friendly. Sure, the file name and anchor text of links to the podcast can provide helpful clues to the spider, but it’s really the ID3 tag that will be your workhorse here. The ID3 tag is the part of the MP3 file that holds the metadata, and this is where you would incorporate your links, show notes, and/or transcript (hint: CastingWords offers inexpensive podcast transcription). Don’t forget to optimize your presence in Apple’s iTunes podcast directory by submitting a Media RSS file with carefully chosen categories.

To spiders, Flash and AJAX are downright unpalatable. AJAX is a technology based on JavaScript that can pull data seamlessly in the background onto an already loaded web page. Content, navigation, or widgets based on Flash or JavaScript are likely to rank poorly, if they get indexed at all. Therefore, if you care about your rankings, use Flash and AJAX sparingly, and when you do use them, employ an approach known as “progressive enhancement,” whereby designs are layered in a concatenated manner to provide an alternate experience for those without Flash or JavaScript (including the spiders!). Amazon.com uses progressive enhancement with its “Create Your Own Ring” tool. Try it out, simply turn off JavaScript in your browser and you can still build a ring — albeit sans Flash. A low-tech alternative to progressive enhancement is to place an HTML version of your Flash or AJAX application within noscript tags. A good rule of thumb when using AJAX is to preload all your content into the HTML of the page and then hide it from the user via CSS until it’s needed, rather than pulling it in from an external source later upon the user’s request.

Stephan Spencer

Stephan Spencer

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Comments ( 4 )

  1. Legacy User September 6, 2007 Reply

    Am I missing a back link for sharing this Web 2.0 article?
    Oh the irony….

    — *Thank You*

  2. Legacy User September 6, 2007 Reply

    Actually, a new open source ecommerce solution that supports tagging was launched last week. It's called Magento: http://www.magentocommerce.com/

    So far it looks promising!

    — *Ben*

  3. Legacy User September 9, 2007 Reply

    The new version of IM Store ecommerce platform supports tagging as well. Really is a great feature for SEO, categorizing, and more.
    http://www.internalmatters.com

    — *Chris*

  4. Legacy User September 14, 2007 Reply

    Ben, thanks for the heads up!

    — *Gerri @ Highriskexperts*