So much effort for SEO

Lately, I’ve been working really hard to make Google, Yahoo! and Live Search happy with the sites I manage (such as this one).

I’ve been dealing with very nice plugins for those applications that do not have good native support for URL beautifying, and have no complains about them. But that was the easy part.

WordPress and DokuWiki

These applications support native URL beautifying, and I consider them good enough for my requirements. I needed nothing else for this matter.

Simple Machines Forum

SEO Friendly URLs built by this software is not good for me. So I used a modification, SEO4SMF, which finally satisfied me.

Also, my hosting uses CGI and they rejected to edit php.ini as requested by SMF it for my site, despite my request. I then hacked SMF to skip this validation, and surprisingly it worked without further trouble. Later, I found that the hack I did was included in a modification, Override SEF Checks. So I undid my change and installed it. It’s now working like a charm, and clean.

A final note on SEO4SMF: I couldn’t find a way to beautify actions. I really don’t care, as almost every action is disallowed on my robots.txt files. But neither me nor my colleagues were able to do this. It’s not that the plugin doesn’t support it, but we couldn’t make it work.

Now, there’s another issue. Redirection. Since I wasn’t using pretty URLs before, and search engines had indexed my sites already, I needed to redirect my old links to the new ones.

WordPress

There’s a nice plugin for this Blogging tool, Redirection, which made it pretty easy. It’s very complete and user friendly. I only found one issue: I had no way to set a 410 GONE status. It is available on the administration page, but it just doesn’t work.

However, while reading about Search Engine Optimizations, I found no difference between 404 NOT FOUND and 410 GONE. I would like to be able to set it, just because I think it’s the right thing to do, but it won’t keep me from sleeping any longer.

DokuWiki

I needed no redirections for Wikis yet. So I spent no time on this one. Sorry.

Simple Machines Forum

SEO4SMF provides an .htaccess file which already understands old fashined URLs, and force a 301 PERMANENT REDIRECT to the new ones.

However, I feel it lacks one feature, although I’m not sure if it’s SEO4SMF’s responsibility or it should be another plugin’s: to be able to manually set redirections. After making radical changes, such as merging or deleting topics, there’s no way to specify a redirection or force a status code.

Conclusions

Making SEO Friendly URLs is easy. Almost every web application nowadays does it, or has a plugin that does it.

The difficult part comes when you try to deal with redirections.

Although it provides a really nice tool, WordPress requires much work to do it. I had to manually set each redirection, since it doesn’t provide an engine complete enough to think of an algorithm that could handle it automatically.

SMF has no way of doing this at all (or I couldn’t find it), and I’m stuck with .htaccess editing each time it’s required. This is really ugly.

Now, a simplified approach of what we do at deRemate (I should not give much more detail, NDA’s and stuff, you know) is to understand any part of any URL we ever create. In this way, there’s no chance we miss any info on any URL. Then, recreate the URL with the most up-to-date parsers, and compare them. If they differ, we return a 301 PERMANENT REDIRECT status. In that way, we also avoid duplicate content.

It would be nice to see an approach of the sort in many other web applications, so Webmasters would have a much less stressing time when renaming, removing or somehow changing a Resource Location.

References