SEO and Your Hub

April 7, 2015 Yoav Schwartz

This article is about Search Engine Optimization and its effects on your Hub.

You can think of SEO as “how to help Google find my stuff and rank me higher on search results”.

Before you read any further, I highly recommend reading: http://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo

SEO used to be all about “hacking” your website - getting the right words into your blog posts, the right amount of times, and linking back and forth between other sites. You also had to worry about the keyword “meta tag” (those <meta … > tags in the source of HTML pages near the top of the page) and make sure it had the right words, and the right amount of words. 

Things change.

Google declared in 2009 that it doesn't look at the keywords metatag for search ranking... 
https://chrisedwards.me/seo/keyword-meta-tag-google/

Google (and other search engines) used to behave more like robots than they do today. They've learned to be much more “human” in that they’re essentially trying to help people find what they’re looking for and measuring that key result like a human would. If your content is helpful, and people who search on Google and then go to your site actually engage with your site and stick around, your search ranking will go up. Sound familiar?

Yes, this is the basic premise of Content Marketing - be helpful.

So, the first step to making an Uberflip Hub SEO friendly is simple. Fill it with helpful, insightful, useful and/or enjoyable content. There’s no working around that.

Technical Stuff

Next, a Hub has some key components that work right out of the box:

  1. All URLs to content (Streams or Items) are automatically formatted to include that content’s title as the “slug”. They also include the ID of that content, which is of no value to SEO but is required for our system. So for example a Stream with the ID 1234 and the title “My awesome stream” will have a URL such as: https://hub.site.com/h/c/1234-my-awesome-stream

    This is important for SEO. But what happens if I change my Stream title to “my kickass stream” ? We’ve taken care of that too. No matter what URL you try with that ID, the system will automatically 301 Redirect (http://moz.com/learn/seo/redirection) to the appropriate URL - which will now be: https://hub.site.com/h/c/1234-my-kickass-stream

    This ensures content URLs always match the content they serve, and that old URLs that may be floating around the web do not:
  2. All meta tags, such as <meta name=”description”> are automatically populated with the description or excerpt of that piece of content.
     
  3. All structural tags, such as <h1>, <h2>, <h3>, <article>, which search engines use to better understand the context of a particular page, are automatically applied in a logical way.

Duplicate Content

There are some best practices that are left to the Hub owner to decide where and when to apply.

Probably the biggest SEO concern (that can be easily addressed) is duplicate content. To quote Moz:

Duplicate content is content that appears on the Internet in more than one place (URL). When there are multiple pieces of identical content on the Internet, it is difficult for search engines to decide which version is more relevant to a given search query. To provide the best search experience, search engines will rarely show multiple duplicate pieces of content and thus, are forced to choose which version is most likely to be the original—or best.

source: http://moz.com/learn/seo/duplicate-content

If you think about the basic premise of a Hub, it’s to bring in content that exists elsewhere. And if not done carefully can produce A LOT of duplicate content.

There are 2 ways to address duplicate content.

  1. Telling search engines not to crawl a particular page - i.e. ignore it via a noindex/nofollow meta tag. The system will automatically apply this tag in the following cases:
    • The Stream option “No Robots Meta Tag” has been checked. This will cause the Stream URL and all its Items (when accessed through this Stream) to be ignored by search engines
    • The Stream is “hidden” - the same will apply as per above.
    • An Item is “hidden” - in this case just this Item will have the noindex/nofollow meta tag applied
  2. Telling search engines where the originating content lives. this is done by another meta tag called the “Canonical” tag which basically includes a URL to the original content. This is a better technique in some cases, because at least the search engine can gain context about your page even though you’re telling them to list that other/originating content in their search results. This canonical tag is applied when the Stream option “Enable Canonical Meta Tag” is checked. When checked, all Items within that Stream will have their originating URLs populated in this meta tag. This has different effects for different types of content. The most obvious is a Blog RSS that was imported - each Article has an originating URL where that blog lives.

    Sometimes Canonical tags point to another URL in the same Hub. This is what happens when you check the Stream option for a Marketing Stream - which by definition is a collection of Items from other Streams in your Hub. It’s recommended that this option be enabled on all Marketing Streams. In fact, when you create a Marketing Stream this option is pre-selected.

Flipbooks and SEO

A Flipbook is really a web-app in that its a single web-page that has an interface for consuming many PDF pages that are no longer in PDF format. A search engine would normally see a Flipbook URL as a single page, but we’ve devised a system whereby when a search engine hits a Flipbook URL it doesn’t see what humans see. 

Here’s what you see on desktop for a one of our latest Flipped newsletters:

But here’s (roughly) what a search engine sees for the same page:

Since every Flipbook page can be linked to directly but appending the page number to the end of the URL, we have a system for “paginating” a Flipbook, displaying its text and links for each page along with images for each page, so that search engines can effectively “crawl” its content like they would any set of web pages.

Important: this is how direct Flipbook URLs can be crawled. When a Flipbook lives within a Hub, it is essentially an embedded iframe of that Flipbook - the same as a YouTube video is an iframe of that video inside a Hub. However, if you publish a Flipbook at the same subdomain as the Hub it lives in (which is best practice and in most cases will happen automatically), the SEO “juice” is applied to that subdomain just the same. 

Subdomains vs Subdirectories

The final aspect of SEO that’s worth mentioning is subdomains vs subdirectories (or folders). It is said that a blog living at www.site.com/blog (subdirectory) is better for SEO than blog.site.com (subdomain). This is arguably true if looked at in a silo, and there’s also nothing we can do about Hubs having to live at a subdomain. We are a “hosted service” meaning that our customers cannot install our software on their servers - the only way to have their Hub live on one of their domains, is to setup a CNAME for one of their subdomains (anyone they want) and point it to our servers. However, when you consider all the other important aspects of SEO, this subdomain/subdirectory issue becomes a lot less important. Here’s an article about it:

http://hub.uberflip.com/h/i/5919850-content-marketing-seo-your-website-and-content-don-t-have-to-share-a-bed

and here’s a more recent one written by Dharmesh Shah (CTO/Co-founder of Hubspot)

http://inbound.org/post/view/the-sub-domain-vs-sub-directory-seo-debate-explained-in-one-flow-chart

Conclusion

When it comes to SEO, there is no substitute for good content.

All the technical requirements are automatically address by Uberflip’s system except for how to treat duplicate content, which needs to be decided case-by-case.

About the Author

Yoav Schwartz

Yoav is the founder and CEO at Uberflip and is responsible for driving the mission, vision, and goals of the company. He spends considerable time working with his team to continuously delight and surprise Uberflip's customers.

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