Web U: Web Canons to Live By

by , Oct 1, 2007, 5:01 PM
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Multiple site names and far-flung properties will do you

There are a few things that really annoy me when done incorrectly, and in the long run they will really irritate your CFO as well. The first is e-mail addresses that don't match the domain of the Web site. There is no excuse for this marketing faux pas. This is not an opportunity for you to be creative or work in the name of your new puppy.

If you own example.com, then your e-mail address should be you@example.com. Anything less is unprofessional and does not inspire trust. It makes you look small and unsavvy online when you should be using everything in your arsenal to create a safe, desirable and bigger-than-life picture of your company online.

Before I delve into the second rant-inducing pet peeve, let me offer a bit of definition. If we are to trust the Wikipedia definition, then "canonicalization" is a process for converting data that has more than one possible representation into a standard canonical representation. This can be done to compare different representations for equivalence, to count the number of distinct data structures, to improve the efficiency of various algorithms by eliminating repeated calculations, or to make it possible to impose a meaningful sorting order.

And now back to my rant... The second thing I would like to address is the location and canonicalization of your Web properties. If Wikipedia and I are making no sense to you above, let me illustrate my pain with this example:

Consider four separate urls: domain.com; www.domain.com; domain.com/index.php; and www.domain.com/index.php.

All will land you on the same page of the Web site in question. You may be thinking that's a good thing and you'd be right as far as how people can access your Web site. However, what if people link to your homepage using all four different URLs? The search engines will index your page four times, which can, in turn, land you in duplicate content hell. While it's true that Google, Yahoo and MSN will attempt to determine your canonical URL on their own, it's not recommended to rely on this often faulty process to manage your business.

So what do you do? As I will often recommend, you begin by buying your IT guy a nice bottle of Scotch. Then, politely ask him to set up some redirects for you. Choose one of the four URLs as your proper canonical URL (usually the www version) and permanently redirect the other three versions. This will eliminate your chances for duplication issues as well as ensure you are listing correctly in the major search engines.

So now that you're canonicalized, the next step is to be consolidated. Consider these three Web addresses: www.example.com (the main example site), example.blogspot.com (the example blog) and www.examplenation.com (example video/podcasts)

Do you see it? Three great example properties spread out across the Web. What does that mean? It means that if you have spread out your content across completely unique domains, you are splitting your link juice and not getting as much bang for your buck as possible. Consolidating all these links into one domain creates a situation where the result is greater than the sum of its parts.

My advice to those that have content distributed as described above is to remember the old adage: "Location, location, location." Simply consolidate your Web real estate into one highly trafficked venue: www.example.com, blog.example.com (your blog) and nation.example.com (your content).

One final point on consolidation is to do it sooner rather than later, especially if you are hosting your blog on TypePad, WordPress, BlogSpot or any of those other hosted services.

Once you move your blog, you typically can't redirect your old URL on those services and you lose the power of those links. The longer you wait, the more links, opportunity and revenue you are wasting.

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