Based on an article by Bruce Chapman - DNN
Here are ten ways DNN can improve the SEO of your site.
1) CUSTOMIZING PAGE TITLES AND META DATA
There are several key fields that search engines use in their ranking algorithms: page title (that’s the text you see in the title bar of the browser), meta description (that’s text describing your page to search engines, which your visitors don’t normally see) and ‘H’ tags, which are your H1/H2/H3 tags denoting which are the headers in your content.
LEARN MORE: SEO capabilities in Evoq Content
I disagree with the content of the Search Engine Watch article that suggests needing to modify the Meta Keyword tag. From all evidence I have seen, modern search engines simply ignore the contents of the Meta tag.
How you do this in DNN:
The page title and description are stored in the Page Settings. Simply open up the page settings for the current page, and you can edit these directly. Here’s the steps:
- Login as an Administrator, then go to the ‘Edit Page’ drop down on the top right hand side of the screen.
- Choose ‘Page Settings’ from that menu, and it will load up the settings for the page you’re currently browsing.
- To modify the page title, edit the value in the ‘Page Title’ field. In my example below, I’ve chosen some words that we can assume match the keywords/phrases that our fictitious bike company uses. Try and keep the length below about 70 characters so that, when it gets displayed in a Search Engine Results Page (SERP), you can see the whole title.
- To change the Page Description, type into the ‘Description’ box. Remember that your visitors won’t see this on your site. The key to a good description is again hitting your keywords, but doing so in a way that actually reads well. If your page gets included in a SERP, it’s likely that the search engine will use the Page Description as the two or three line description for your page. Try and keep it to under 150 characters so that it stands a good chance of displaying nicely in a SERP listing, and the ratio of your keywords to the rest of the text is not too diluted.
- When you’re finished, click ‘Update Page’ – the settings screen will close and you’re finished. (You’ll note on my example I didn’t bother with the Meta Tags at all)
Pictured: Page Settings showing the Page Title and Description Fields.
OVERVIEW: H TAGS
DNN doesn’t enforce the use of any particular H tag, so you’re free to edit one into your content however you like. It’s also possible to define a custom skin for your DNN site that shows a H1 for a specific page value (such as the module title for a piece of content).
I’d recommend leaving any ‘H’ tags out of your skin and just making sure that you define a H1 tag for each separate piece of content that you write (like a blog post title, for example). But others may disagree with me and just be happy to define a H1 tag using the page name of each page. I prefer to customize every bit of content for maximum impact – but this does take much, much longer.
To make something a ‘H1’ in DNN, here’s how you do it:
Use the ‘Edit this Page’ button in the ‘Edit Page’ dropdown to enter edit mode for the current page.
- Hover over the ‘Pencil’ edit icon and click on ‘Edit Content’
- Type in your header (or select an existing header with your mouse)
- Use the style drop down to select ‘Heading 1’.
Above: Setting H1 tags using the DNN HTML Editor
You can confirm the HTML is correct by switching to the ‘Html’ view within the HTML editor.
2) DROP-DOWN NAVIGATION BUILT IN CSS
Navigation by CSS really just means using simple HTML to show the page, and using CSS to style the menu instead of arcane amounts of script or other tricks. This assists with SEO by making it very easy for a search engine crawler to index your site and understand the structure of the site via the menu. Simple HTML and CSS menus are fast to parse and simple for a search engine bot to understand. Fast and simple is good.
The great thing about Evoq Content is the ability to swap components in and out as you need. There is a standard menu system that generates CSS-based menus. But if you don’t like that particular menu, you can choose from a range of different menu types to swap in to your site. So you are never locked in to a particular choice.
The standard DNN 7 Skin uses the ‘DDR Menu’ component, which provides a CSS-based, simple menu system. The default skin provides a good jumping off point to develop your own skin – or you can purchase a multitude of skins from the DNN Store.
You can see this in the below image of the standard DNN 7 skin:
Above: CSS Menu in standard DNN 7 Skin
3) URL STRUCTURE
The Search Engine Watch article covers URL Structure for two reasons:the first being the ability to set static, keyword focused URLs that are ‘sticky’ to your page. URLs are important for SEO purposes for a variety of reasons and paying close attention to them yields ranking benefits.
A URL is what is used to link to your site – whether from an email, social media post, other blog post or just a plain old web link from another site. Links coming into your site have a large bearing on the ranking you receive from a search engine – all else being equal, a site with more links from high-quality sites will rank better. Paying attention to links is important for SEO.
Any link is made up of two factors – the link text and the link URL. The link text is what the user sees – the link URL is what the user follows. Because of automated software and the ubiquity of copy/paste – sometimes the link text and the link URL are the same. This quirk of user behavior pays off when you have simple, descriptive URLs that also contain keywords. It benefits your page to be associated with your targeted keywords/phrases, but it also pays when someone links directly to your page using the URL as the link text. That is the first factor.
The second factor for URLs is that search engines insist on each unique URL linking to a piece of unique content. That means you can only use one URL per page. If you use more than one URL for a piece of content, then search engines consider you to be creating duplicate content. A page with duplicate content issues will never rank as well as a page that does not.
Because you have to choose a single URL for a piece of content (which is termed a ‘Canonical URL’ for the page), the choice of URL becomes important. Search engines do this on purpose – they want you to choose the most appropriate URL you can for that page, which means you can’t keyword stuff the URL and try and make it rank for everything. Because you have limited choice for the URL, the search engines can then use that as a ranking factor, knowing you have to choose your URL carefully. If you’re not paying attention to your URLs, you are leaving rankings on the table.
It’s no surprise that Search Engine Watch mentions these two URL factors in their article – because they are both important. Luckily in DNN, elimination of duplicate content happens for you automatically – the system knows which is the correct URL for the page, and if you try and reach the page with another URL (for example, an older one you tried earlier), it will redirect the visitor to the correct, canonical URL.
Here’s how to do it:
If you just changed the page URL, you’ll notice that when you updated the page settings, you will have been redirected to the new URL. In the image below (which is the same shown for  above), you’ll see I’ve chosen a URL which reflects the keywords/phrases.
- Login as an administrator, then navigate to the page on which you want to set the URL
- Using the ‘Edit Page’ dropdown – go into the Page Settings
- Type in the URL you want to use in the Page URL field
- Click on ‘Update’.
You should choose this carefully – it’s OK to make a URL which looks a little long and unwieldy – few people type URLs in – it’s worth it to use your targeted keywords/phrases. If you do have to have a URL typed in (for example, from a printed advertisement) then I recommend creating a redirect for that specific URL that goes to your page. That way you can still have an SEO-optimized URL for the page, but provide a short, simple URL for manual entry where needed.
Above: showing how to set the Page URL. Note that it can bet set to any ‘level’ of the menu structure.Custom URLs do not inherit the parent paths of the URL, so they can be fully customized to whatever value suits the best.
4) SUPPORT FOR THE REL=CANONICAL TAG
The Canonical link element is a way to inform search engines that a page might be available under a separate URL, but the canonical URL is the one to index the page for. The Canonical link element is commonly known as a ‘canonical tag’ because of the HTML tag used to create them. Essentially, a canonical tag means to ignore the requested URL as the canonical URL, and use the one listed in the tag instead. This tag is hidden in the HTML of the page (usually in the header) and visitors cannot see it.
Canonical tags are very useful if small URL changes modify the display of content, but not the bulk of the content itself. An example might be a different URL to show different colors of a shirt available on an e-commerce site – the shirt is the same, but the URL may have "?color=red" or "?color=blue" on the end.
DNN can show canonical tags in a variety of ways. If you have multiple domain names in use for a single site, then DNN gives you the option of specifying the primary domain using a canonical tag. You can also set canonical tags for individual pages simply by adding one to the Page Settings itself. This gives you fine-grained control over a tag for a specific page. Finally, if you use, develop or purchase content-display modules (like Blog modules) then the software can generate the tag for you. Not only does DNN fully support canonical tags, it provides many ways for you to do so.
To set a canonical link on your page, here’s what you need to do:
- When logged in as an administrator, bring up the page settings on the page you’re on, using the Edit Page->Page Settings link
- Switch to the ‘Advanced Settings’ tab of the Settings screen, and scroll down until you find the ‘Appearance’ section
- In the ‘Page Header Tags’, copy in your Canonical Link Element tag – this is in the format of:
- Click Update Page when you are done.
The following image shows the Canonical Link element for the ‘Our Products’ page.
5) XML SITEMAP CREATION FUNCTION
An XML Sitemap (also called a Search Engine Sitemap) is a structured file containing a listing of all the publicly-available pages on your site that you would like a search engine to read and index. Often confused with navigation sitemaps – those pages which show all the visible pages as clickable links – search engine sitemaps are not seen by site visitors, but are instead read by search engine robots as they index a site.
A Search Engine Sitemap provides a fast way for a search engine to read and understand the structure of a site. It also includes attributes for a page, which give the search engine insight on the relative importance of the page (compared to all other pages on the site) and the frequency of update. Frequency is a suggestion of how often the page should be re-visited for fresh content.
Creating an XML Sitemap in DNN is easy. You don’t have to do a thing, it’s all done for you . DNN comes with a dynamic sitemap created by reading the current structure of the site. You can set the priority of the pages individually for each page. And when you install content modules to expand the functionality of your site, they have the ability to contribute entries to the sitemap as well, through an extension point called Sitemap Providers.
Here’s how to submit your DNN sitemap to search engines:
- Log on as an administrator, and go to the Admin->Site Settings page
- Find the ‘Site Marketing’ section and expand it
- You will see the ‘Site Map URL’ section with a submit button next to it. Click ‘Submit’ to submit this to the selected Search Engine.
This sends the sitemap URL to the search engine, who will store it and start reading it for indexing your site. It’s recommended for you to create a Webmaster account with each of the listed search engines, so that you can check to see that your sitemap is being read correctly and that you don’t have crawling errors.
6) NO FRAMES OR IFRAMES
As the Search Engine Watch article says, hosting frames within pages makes it harder, if not impossible, for a search engine to understand a site. The answer for DNN is simple: we don't use Frames or IFrames anywhere. You can install IFrames if you want, but they aren’t used as part of the application.
7) 301 REDIRECTS, NOT 302
A redirect is an action that a web server gives when you request a URL that has moved somewhere else. The serverredirects the visitor to a new location. The numbers 301 and 302 refer to a status code used to give more context to the redirect. 301 means ‘moved permanently’ and 302 means ‘moved temporarily’.
When you understand the difference, it’s obvious why search engines will only take action on updating an index if they read a 301 status code on a redirect. The search engines understand that the content for the old URL is now at the new URL, and so any links pointing to the old URL should now be considered to point at the new URL. As each link pointing to the page carries a ranking value, you want to make sure that the value of that link is transferred. This is what a 301 redirect does – and it also makes sure your visitors don’t get lost if they use an old URL.
For most redirects in DNN, a 301 redirect is issued. This is used when changing domain names, for when pages are renamed or moved, and for when administrators purposely create a redirect to point an old URL at a new location. 302 redirects are used to redirect a visitor to a login page if they try and access secured content, and for some other temporary redirect purposes. DNN complies with the need for 301 redirects over 302 redirects.
Here’s the steps to create a 301 redirect to a DNN page:
- Make sure you’re logged in as an administrator, and go to the Edit Page->Page Settings link to bring up the page settings
- Navigate to the ‘Advanced Settings’ tab of the Page Settings popup, and find the ‘URL Management’ section and expand it
- To create a new redirect, click the ‘Create’ button in the top right of the URL Management section
- For the Site Alias, by default it will choose the primary alias for your site. You can also choose any other alias you can configured for your site. You would choose a different alias when the URL you want to redirect was from a different alias to the one the site currently uses (oldexample.com/my-url redirected to newexample.com/my-new-url)
- In the URL Path input box, type the path of the URL as it would appear on the end of the selected site alias. You don’t need to include the leading / as this will be added for you.
- In the URL Type drop-down, choose ‘Redirect (301)’ – this specifies the URL you entered will be redirected to the current page using a 301 HTTP status
- If the URL you wish to redirect includes a Query String (the code to the right of a ? in the URL), then enter that in the Query String box. This is optional – you don’t need to enter anything here if you don’t have the value.
- At this point your URL redirect is finished- click ‘save’. This will add it to the list of ‘Custom URLs’.
- Click on ‘Update’ to close the Page Settings. Your URL Redirect is now active and can be tested.
You will also see a list of ‘System Generated’ URLs. These are all the URLs the system has generated for the page, including any old URLs where the page name might have been changed, or the page was moved in the hierarchy of the site. They may also include variations on URLs where the system options were changed, such as URLs that were applicable in earlier DNN versions. The System Generated URLs show automatic redirections that are done on your behalf, to maximize the value of your existing URLs – translating to better rankings through avoiding lost and broken links.
This factor relates to the use of the rel=next and rel=prev tags. These tags help a search engine understand when pages of content are part of a paginated results set – where there are multiple pages of content for the results of a search or listing.
DNN doesn’t have a set of paginated results as part of the standard product. The search feature of the site uses dynamically loaded content instead of URL-paginated results. However, the extensibility model of DNN means that you can write whatever feature sets you use, and modify the output HTML to include pagination tags.
9) CUSTOM ALT TAGS
An ‘Alt’ tag is the text description attached to an image on a page. These are used by search engines to understand the contents and context of an image on a specific page. The Alt tags are used not only to index the images on a page, but also as a way of weighting the content of the entire page. Alt tags carry ranking weight because typically an image on a page is highly relevant to the content on that page.
It’s easy to set the Alt attribute on an image using the in-built content editor. Here’s how to do it:
Note: perform these set of steps for each image embedded in your content.
- Login as an Administrator, and put the page you want to edit into Edit Mode using the ‘Edit Page’ drop down
- Edit the content you wish to change
- When the HTML editor has loaded, select the image, and right-click on the image to select the properties of the image:
- In the image properties, update the ‘alt’ text field. Choose a phrase which best suits the image, and which also matches the desired search terms or search phrase you want the page to rank for.
- You can check the HTML for the specific image you are setting the Alt tag for – here you can see the HTML tag has been updated as we would expect.
- Click on Update to update the page.
10) BREADCRUMB NAVIGATION
Breadcrumb navigation is the practice of leaving links (typically in the header of a site) which give the visitor visual feedback on where they are within the site. This gives them an easy ‘breadcrumb’ to follow back to the higher levels of content and also provides context of the current page.
Like CSS menus, breadcrumbs are an entirely customizable part of DNN. The standard skin that comes bundled with DNN 7 includes breadcrumb navigation based on the names of the pages. But it’s easy to change this to something else, or to write your own breadcrumb system yourself. This is all done through the magic of skinning – where you can change the appearance and behaviour of a DNN site without changing the underlying system code.
Breadcrumbs are included in the default skin of DNN, so you can copy from there. Here’s how that is done:
Different breadcrumb layouts can be achieved by varying use of the skin object – and it’s possible to replace the standard skin object with one of your own design. Breadcrumbs are great for giving internal links, great for helping visitors find their way in the site, and help with site SEO.
- The Breadcrumb skin object is included in the skin references
- The Breadcrumb skin object is then included within the skin HTML and the attributes for the starting level and the breadcrumb separator are set:
- At runtime, the skin object applies to the current page in the hierarchy and shows the breadcrumb levels including the URLs for the page.
In the previous ten topics, you’ve read some important factors for optimizing your search engine ranking – and found out that DNN supports each and every one. Using DNN maximizes your chances of a high ranking and the traffic that flows from that. Unlike other CMS solutions that may stand in the way of achieving results in your search programs, DNN provides clear pathways to optimize your way to success.
If you have a DNN site, then it is a good idea to work through this list and see that you are maximizing each one of the areas covered. These on-page optimizations are simple to do and should be included in the SEO program of every site. If you have other suggestions or tips for SEO using DNN, then please share in the comments.