What is the best way to optimize my search engine?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a topic of interest for a number of Oracle B2C Service customers. The interest in the topic is understandable, given that no matter how impactful your content, it will be of little value if consumers cannot find it from their search engine of choice. Customers with some experience of SEO will know that there is no remedy that can be used to optimize the ranking of your content, and similarly, Oracle B2C Service itself cannot dictate the ranking of your content to search engine vendors. It is certainly the case that there are a number of best practices for content that can have a positive impact on ranking.
The following list identifies what we do at Oracle B2C Service to improve the likelihood that content will be found by consumers, as well as guiding you through the impact that the decisions you make on content or site naming can have on SEO for the reputation you can earn for your content or domains.
We'll start by outlining the features and capabilities that Oracle B2C Service provides to improve the ability for search engines to search your site.
- Sitemap and Canonical URLs: One of the best ways to ensure that your content is accessible to search engines is to enable the sitemap configuration setting. We have a separate best practice document that talks to the best practices associated with that capability - Please see the best practices document on sitemap implementation for details. Something that we do with Sitemap that increases the relevance of your content is that (in August '09 and newer versions of the product) we direct the search spiders to Canonical URLs. Canonical URLs are URLs that remove the URL arguments and details of interest only to the page being rendered and display the summary of the content as the link. Canonical URLs give the search engine a common term of reference for a URL, when that URL in its raw form may include a number of additional elements on the URL that can confuse the spider into thinking that it is indexing a number of separate pages when it isn't. You'll commonly see the Canonical URL in the search results list that a search vendor generates - pointing to a different URL that is displayed to the consumer when the link is selected.
- Removal of Session IDs from content URLs: We do provide a slightly different view of the URL to the spider in order to improve searchability. No other form of cloaking is used within the page.
- Canonical naming (CNAMEs): An option that some customers choose to take is to have a CNAME applied to their Oracle B2C Service site. The benefit for the customer is that the Oracle B2C Service site URL becomes a sub-domain usually of their corporate domain, so instead of mycompany.custhelp.com (custhelp.com being an Oracle B2C Service domain), the domain can be changed to support.mycompany.com. The impact on search ranking (the 'quality' or 'reliability' of the domain as determined by the search vendor) is limited to the sub-domain. The popularity of search content on the support.mycompany.com domain has no impact on the ranking of your corporate domain (www.mycompany.com) (or of the main *.custhelp.com domain your site is a subdomain of). The only ranking benefit the main domain can receive from a well-ranked sub-domain is through good use of linking back to the corporate site. See recommendations on linking below.
What attributes of your own content should you be using to increase the likelihood that your content can be found from a search? Well, there are no hard and fast rules, as the search engine vendors are very protective of the details of the algorithms that they use to determine relevance and quality of content, but the following guidelines, if applied, should serve you well in providing highly relevant and trusted content on the web.
Best Practices for your answer content:
a. Descriptive summaries: Search engines do place emphasis on the most clearly highlighted content on the page. A good practice for getting key summary content appropriately indexed is to put your Answer Summaries in a H1 tag within the page (see the latest version of the Customer Portal out of the box page set for examples of this) and to a lesser extent, H2 or smaller tags. Use them sparingly. There should be only one H1 tag on the page - marking everything in H1 or H2 is one way for your highlighting markup to be ignored entirely.
b. Specificity in key words and phrases: It isn't enough to enter good keywords in your answer. Make sure that your content is also clearly written and references key phrases appropriately. In a world of billions of indexed pages, adding specificity to your content in terms of brand, product name etc will help make it stand out from the millions of other pages on the internet with similar content.
Best Practices for your Customer Portal Pages:
a. Adhere to search engine best practices: While Oracle B2C Service does provide a RN:Condition called is_spider, it returns false (always) when a customer attempts to use it within their own pages. We use it (and the function that supports it) in our own code for the session Id removal we referenced above, but we make sure that it cannot be used for cloaking or keyword stuffing. Neither should you look to do cloaking or keyword stuffing (or any other technique that may be against a search engines quality guidelines) - failure to adhere to this requirement can lead to your site getting delisted - if that happens, it will be your responsibility to address any requirements for relisting.
- Review the quality guidelines for the search engines that consumers are using to reach your pages, typically available as part of the webmaster pages for a particular search engine. We've outlined three such pages below:
2. Ensure that someone within your business conversant with SEO keeps an eye on these guidelines over the lifetime of your implementation as guidelines (and interpretations thereof) are subject to change.
b. Using the related answers widget on your site: In our out of the box reference template, Oracle B2C Service ships a capability that makes use of our patented AI technology to suggest links based on learnt links - links between content learnt from user search behavior. Because these are small lists to matching content (and the content that you link to may link back or link to other content) they produce very strong link graph strengths for your site content. Oracle B2C Service - when cloaking information not relevant to the spiders, ensures that the links to related answers are spider readable. Keep this widget on your site in order to raise the SEO ranking of your answer content. Avoid drowning out these very valuable link graphs by adding lots of other fixed links elsewhere in your Oracle B2C Service site.
3. Best Practices for links to your content from other sources:
a. Good external linking: An often overlooked, but very important attribute of your content is where it is referenced. The more credible high traffic sites that link to your content, the more likely that the search engine vendors are going to rank your content favorably. Probably the best way to raise the ranking of a new site, like a brand new Oracle B2C Service web experience is to make links from the reputable sites you already manage to content within the site and ensuring that other reputable sites also look to link your answer content.
If you have questions around what generates a session and how you can prevent inaccurate session billing on your site please review Demystifying Session Usage (PDF). Some simple mis-steps in customization and configuration can increase billable sessions. For more information, see Session usage information.