November, 2010

  • The Search Blog

    Search engines treat meta refresh the same as 301 redirects

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    imageSEOMOZ recently published a good post for testing your level of expertise on SEO.  Whilst I am pleased to say I got the majority of the answers correct, there was one fact in the follow up post which was news to me!  I would like to share this in case this is also a surprise for others.

    Meta tag refreshes can be used to ‘redirect’ users from one page to another.  The code is placed in the head section of a page and looks something like this…

    <META HTTP-EQUIV="Refresh" CONTENT="5; URL=http://support.microsoft.com/newpage.html">

    This example code will wait 5 seconds, and then redirect the user to http://support.microsoft.com/newpage.html.  The delay time can be used to display a notification to the user informing them that they are being redirected.

    Whilst I had previously thought that these types of redirects were not as effective as 301 redirects for informing search engines that a page has moved, it turns out that as long as the delay time is low (0 or a few seconds), then the redirect code is considered the same as a server side 301 redirect code (i.e. the link juice will be passed to the new URL).  Longer delays may not be considered the same.

    This is valuable news for anyone who…

    1. Has difficulties creating server side redirects for their content
    2. Would like to make it clear to users that they are being redirected (by displayed a short message first)

     


    Author: Chris Moore is a program manager from Microsoft working on Search Engine Optimisation.  Follow him on Twitter

  • The Search Blog

    Do not religiously follow the ‘3 click rule’. But also think about SEO

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    imageHow many clicks does it take your users to complete their tasks?  How many give up before they complete?  I have been at Microsoft for a good number of years now and have heard ‘the 3 click rule’ quoted on numerous occasions.  Recent evidence suggests users are happy to go beyond 3 clicks.  However before updating your sites and sending your users through many levels of links to reach their goal, also consider the flat site requirements for good SEO

    A big thanks to Court Crawford, our gifted User Experience Lead at Microsoft for inspiring this post.


    The 3 click rule…

    …is simple…
    Never require your users to go through more than 3 clicks to complete a task
    The theory being that on average most users will give up after 3 clicks (presumably closing the browser, navigating to another site or simply walking away from the computer).

    But is this really still true today?  In the current online world of dynamic HTML 5 powered websites, Flash/Silverlight plugins, endless ‘Related content’ paths and rich media engaging web experiences, users expect to be guided through a website to complete their task, using multi-step processes which customise content and options as selections are made.

    In fact, this post from uie.com suggest that the 3 click rule is simply a myth (not sure if this has always been the case, or rather a reflection of evolving typical web behaviour).  Their research actually suggests that hardly anyone gives up after 3 clicks…

    Graph Entitled Clicks To Completion

    And that a larger number of clicks does not negatively effect user satisfaction…

    Please view the full post for a full write up of the research

    Replacing it with the 1 click rule…

    This post on Grundyhome.com provides the ‘1 click rule’ as an alternative…

    Every click or interaction should take the user closer to their goal while eliminating as much of the non-destination as possible.

    and the corollary:

    Avoid any interaction that eliminates the user’s intended goal.

    So keeping the user ‘on side’ by making it clear how the requested action benefits their intended goal, removes any need to limit the inputs and effort required to complete a task.  So long as the user knows where they are going, and as long as they are reassured of how each step gets them closer, they will stay on the path.

    But don’t forget the SEO impact

    image

    But no matter how well designed your website is for your users to meet the 1 click rule, you also need to consider the SEO impact when considering the click depth of your site.

    As mentioned in a recent blog post inspired by SEOMOZ, it is important to flatten your site structure effectively to ensure that important pages are 1 click away from high ranking pages (e.g. your homepage), and that other pages are 2, 3, 4, etc.. clicks away depending on the importance of the pages and the size of your site. 

    As per the ‘1 click rule’, having lots of goal focussing steps for your users is a good thing.  Having 23 (as an example) pages for a user workflow indexed by search engines is probably NOT a good thing! A smart website design will ensure that the search engine entry pages for user tasks are optimised and close (in terms of clicks) to the homepage.  The lower level pages which the users click through to complete a task, can use a solution such as the canonical tag, or on-page code (Javascript, Flash, Silverlight, HTML 5, etc…) to provide the users with a rich, interactive and multi click experience, whilst still ensuring that only a single strong ranking page is indexed by search engines.

    Author: Chris Moore is a program manager from Microsoft working on Search Engine Optimisation.  Follow him on Twitter

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