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Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a process that helps your website appear higher in search results for different search queries.

Search Engine Optimization Overview

Benefits

When your content complies with good search engine optimization (SEO) practices, publishing your documentation online gains a series of advantages.

  • It helps customers find the right documentation faster

  • It gives additional boost to your brand and products because your customers can find them easier

  • It may result in showing your brand over competitors' brands

Important SEO factors

When discussing SEO, we primarily consider Google since it is the most popular search engine on the market. Matt Cutts, a former Head of Search at Google declared in 2010 that their search engine used over 200 ranking factors. This is not something to worry about. Ranking factors can have dozens of variations, and the search algorithms evolve frequently.

Remember: There is no definitive list of SEO factors.

There are specific SEO areas to work on. An SEO factor's main focus is to assure the user that your website:

  • is trustworthy

  • has a high level of authoritativeness

  • represents an appropriate expertise standard.

Content clarity

Keep your topics brief and to the point. It makes your documentation comprehensible and easier to browse. Remember that content cannot be a wall of plain text. Consider additional resources and use variety of DITA elements like:

  • graphs and figures

  • notes

  • unordered and ordered lists

  • definition lists

  • tables, etc.

You can use the whole DITA arsenal!

Content quality

Feel free to adopt all good technical writing practices for this factor. They are relevant to SEO.

  • Your content must be factually correct and accurate.

  • Keep it simple and substantive. Your documentation should make your product easy to understand in a reasonable time.

  • Your documents should exhaust the subject. They need to be complete enough to provide all the information needed to solve your customer's problem.

  • Your content should be up-to-date. Always provide users with the latest versions of your documentation.

  • Keep your content consistent: Use the same approach and writing style for all content.

  • Adapt to your audience. Do not use complicated technical language when your readers are laypeople. On the other hand, include technical details when you deal with professionals.

  • Eliminate ambiguity and make your content to-the-point. Do not leave any questions open. Provide concrete solutions.This is the main difference between technical content and blog posts or social media articles.

Domain age and authority

Be aware that SEO needs time. Older domains are more trustworthy. It may take months for brand new websites to become more visible in search results.

Incoming links

It is good if high-quality trusted sources reference your site. It helps to build the authority of your content. As more users visit your webpages from other sites, Google recognizes that and boosts your webpages in search results. One of the easiest way to obtain such backlinks is to exchange links with your partnered companies and distributors. You can also distribute links on different domains that you may own.

Warning: Do not obtain links from fake blogs and catalogs or spam forums no longer used by real users. Do not pay for adding dozens of links from unreliable sources. This could result in a harmful filter applied to your website by Google.
Internal linking

Try to provide readers with helpful resources at the end of your articles. It helps them understand the content, and it makes them stay on your website longer. The time between clicking on a search result and returning is dwell time. If a user quickly returns from your webpage to the search page, it may mean that they are not satisfied with the result. Additionally, internal linking helps search algorithms navigate through your website.

Keyword density

Customers type specific queries in search engines to find answers to their problems. You can use these phrases in your content to put your webpages in the right context. Do not saturate your website with artificial words for search queries. It may result in the opposite effect to the one intended and can impair the usability of your content.

Mobile-friendliness

Ensure your content is easy to browse on mobile devices. Optimize your images to speed up loading time. You can use free tools like Tiny JPG to reduce the file size of your images without a visible quality loss.

Note: The Tiny JPG tools is provided by a third party, and Jorsek Inc., is not responsible for any changes in behavior, functionality, or discontinuation of the tool.
Security

Your domain should use an SSL certificate. Use the URL to determine if the site is using one. It should start with https:// and have a lock icon next to it.

Uniqueness

Do not copy or rephrase content from other websites even if it seems to be relevant. Create unique content that provides your readers with proper solutions.

Headings

Headings help you position your website in the result pages of search engines like Google.

What is a heading?

Remember: Headings are not just lines of bold text with a bigger font size. They possess additional semantic value.

Search engines use headings to interpret text properly. Headings help to index the structure of your website. In HTML, they are tags responsible for titles or subtitles that you want to include on a webpage. They use six levels, <h1> to <h6>. Heading 1 is the most important one, whereas heading 6 is the least important.

John Mueller, Search Advocate at Google says:

(...) when it comes to text on a page, a heading is a really strong signal telling us this part of the page is about this topic.

Apart from SEO significance, headings are important in terms of user experience design. Users often skim a page by its headings to find the information they want more quickly.

Why are there multiple heading levels?

Let's use an example to understand it better. Imagine a single URL is like a book.

  • Heading 1 is like a book title. There is only one title per book and it is unique. We recommend to use only one <h1> per URL. It should be above other headings. Also, the applied font should be bigger than that of lower heading levels.

  • Heading 2is like a chapter title. One book may have many chapters. Each chapter covers a separate matter.

  • Heading 3 is like a subchapter. It provides a further discussion on the subject started in the main chapter. One chapter may contain many such sections.

  • Headings from 4 to 6 are lower in the hierarchy.

In terms of SEO, it is not a mistake to use many H1 tags. It may be helpful when there are many equivalent sections. However, SEO practitioners remind us that focusing on a single H1 brings better results. Since top-level headings have greater visibility than other headings, many H1 elements can be confusing for a user. This is why we use one <h1> per URL in Heretto Deploy. For more information on rendering headings in our system, go to Headings and Navigation in Heretto Deploy.

What are headings in the context of DITA?

When you publish your DITA content online, your DITA code transforms into HTML and CSS code with publishing scenarios. Your <title> tags typically become heading tags. Scenarios rank them according to your documentation hierarchy. When we refer to headings, we consider the titles of topics, sections, figures, and title tags of other elements.

How important are headings?

Headings are one of hundreds SEO factors. Do not spend too much time overthinking them. Be aware of other important aspects and focus on creating content helpful for your readers.

Headings and Navigation in Heretto Deploy

Headings generate automatically; you do not need to worry about choosing the right heading levels online.

Heretto CCMS derives heading levels from your content hierarchy. It applies the following rules when you publish your documentation online:

  • The title of the top-level element becomes an <h1> tag

  • Titles of the children elements become <h2> tags

  • If any of the children elements consist of sections, figures or other elements with titles, those titles will become <h3> tags

  • Any titles of the lower-level elements display as headings that correspond to their position in hierarchy

  • Heretto CCMS automatically sets correct heading levels. For example, <h4> should not be the first heading to appear after <h2>.

  • Headings are separate from the navigation. They connect to DITA <title> tags. On the other hand, <navtitle> DITA elements are responsible for the names shown in the navigation. These two types of titles may not necessarily be the same.

Let's consider the following map structure in Heretto CCMS:

Map structure in Heretto CCMS

When the map is published, Heretto Deploy shows the map structure like this:

Layer 1
  • Content Strategies is our main map here.

  • Maps can make editing easier. Map titles are never visible in the menu.

  • Document History is not displayed online since the audience attribute has been set to print. In this example Heretto Deploy prevents such documents from displaying online with a configuration.

  • Global shared is a variable warehouse with processing-role set to resource-only so it will not be present both in print and online.

  • Positions in the left navigation pane correspond to the topic titles. This area enables moving between different URLs. Child topics of the Linking topics are not visible here because the chunk attribute of the parent topic was set to to-content. Otherwise, they would be a part of the menu.

In the above example topic titles correspond to the following heading levels:

  • “Linking Strategies” - Heading 1

  • “Inline Links Overview” - Heading 2

  • “Local Cross-References” - Heading 3

  • “Peer Cross-References” - Heading 3

  • “External Cross-References” - Heading 3

  • “Key References” - Heading 3

  • “Block Links Overview” - Heading 2

  • Section titles and titles of other elements render as headings of accordingly lower ranks. Sections are not visible in any navigation pane.

Tips on Headings

Headings can efficiently position your website higher in search results.

Using keywords

Keywords are phrases used on your website. They directly relate to the queries in search engines. Their aim is to help your webpage appear in the proper context.

You do not need to fill your content with as many keywords as possible to be noticeable.

Remember: Search engines like Google possess proven ways of verifying whether a webpage is genuinely helpful or aimed to be artificially positioned in search results. You should never overload your content with unnecessary keywords.

The main keyword types are:

Branded keywords

These are your company or product name. For instance, Heretto or Heretto CCMS.

Short-tail keywords

These are general keywords that users use. Users use them during the stage of research when one is not yet sure about what they are looking for. These phrases are highly competitive. It is harder to search for your specific website with them. Our examples are “DITA” or “technical content”.

Mid-tail keyword

These are terms usually consisting of two to three words. They are more descriptive than short-tail keywords and less competitive. For instance, “DITA CCMS” or “structured content guides”.

Long-tail keywords

Small amounts of users use these for specific use cases. For instance, “how to reuse content in Heretto CCMS. You can use them to help clients find particular webpages related to your product.

Note: You may want to obtain a list of considerable keywords from an SEO Specialist at your organization before you start creating the documentation.

After you grasp the general concept of keywords, you should keep in mind the following suggestions:

  • It is good for your headings to include 1-2 keywords that your clients could use to find your resources. You can use keywords to give context of your documents. You can also use phrases that relate to your content's main topic to help Google better understand your webpage.

  • Try to include the main keyword in the top-level heading
  • Headings are not lists of keywords. Write them in a natural, comprehensible way.

  • Headings can be equivalent to long-tail phrases like “How to create your own template in Heretto CCMS

  • In case of technical content, headings are equivalent to <title> tags. You may safely adopt the rules relevant to title creation.

  • You can freely use keywords outside of your headings

  • Always keep your readers in mind first

A proper heading length

Headings should be brief. They should be no more than a single line. In technical writing, headings are strictly connected to your topic titles. We recommend to use no more than eight words in a single title. This will also make a good balance for SEO as well.

Risks associated with too long topics

  • Keep in mind that customers want to find the right answer as fast as possible. Too many paragraphs in one topic forces them to go through the whole text before they find a solution.

  • When you publish maps online, each topic title renders as a heading and is present as a link in the navigation pane. This helps users navigate through your webpages to find the right answers with ease.

  • You may want to enrich long topics with sections. However, section titles render as lower-rank headings which have lower priority level. Moreover, systems like Heretto Deploy can create additional browsable menus with references to particular topics. Sections will often not be present in that navigation. Create new topics instead. Even if they are lower in the hierarchy and their titles become lower-rank headings, at they can at least display in the menu.

Technical Content Development vs SEO

Technical writing and SEO are not mutually exclusive. You can take advantage of both of them to provide your readers with a better user experience.

Reuse in terms of SEO

The Google search engine appreciates unique information and has no interest in showing their users duplicated, low-quality content. In2011, Google introduced an algorithm of a lovable name, Panda. Its job is to encourage unique content and to find genuinely unique sources that provide value to the readers.

Does it mean that reused content — one of the greatest blessings of technical writing — is a curse in the context of SEO? Absolutely not. As long as your webpages have clear goals and aim to help users, there are no worries. However, do not reuse too big chunks of content unless it is well-justified. You do not want your own webpages to compete in search results.

Also, try not to create too long topics. From a technical writing point of view, long topics are harder to reuse in other documents. Moreover, if you decide to reuse such topics anyway, you duplicate long parts of content which can impair your SEO.

Information architecture

Your information architecture, topic naming convention, and map structure are directly related to the navigation on your website. Making it simpler allows a user to dive deeper in your website and engage with it better. This increases parameters like time people spend on your website, which is directly related to SEO. An algorithm called RankBrain recognizes user engagement . It aims to understand search queries better and measure user satisfaction by checking how readers interact with results.

Internal linking

Internal linking occurs when you link between two URLs that belong to your website. Contextual linking provides your readers with additional helpful resources. It also helps search engine robots navigate through your domain. It makes it easier to reach URLs that otherwise would be harder to access. For example when it takes a lot of steps from the homepage to reach them.

To develop internal linking you can take advantage of DITA elements. Relationsip tables or related links are good technical writing practice. It is also a very good solution for your SEO. Such links are display at the end of your articles so they do not distract your customers from reading.

Diversity of elements

Long passages of paragraphs:

  • make it more complicated to find the right answer quickly

  • are harder to comprehend and can overwhelm a reader

  • can make your reader feel bored

You can easily prevent that. Different DITA elements render in many ways online thanks to the CSS language. It results in diverse webpages that present content in more approachable way. This also indirectly improves your SEO by keeping users engaged.

A note element is a good example of how to bring diversity to your content. You can use it to make sure that users will not omit important information like warnings, things to remember, restrictions, and cautions.
Remember: Using different DITA elements improves user experience by making documentation more readable which indirectly contributes to your SEO.
For example, if a user finds your webpage in search results but immediately leaves, it is a strong signal that it was not what they were looking for. Try to design your documentation in such a way that a user quickly finds the right answers rather than keep browsing the search results page (SERP). Using different DITA elements may help to highlight these answers properly.

Learn more about it by reading about important SEO factors.