Search Engine Etiquette

If you want to encourage referrals to your [WordPress][] weblog from search engines, then the least that you can do is to ensure that people will be directed to a page containing the information that they seek. I consider this to be basic etiquette.


If the relevant search engine result is pointing to a monthly archive, or a category archive, or even the front page of your site, then it is likely that within a few days or weeks, the particular post in question will have moved to the second page of results. This means that when your visitor lands on the page, they won’t see the information that they expected (at least not until the search engine next reindexes your site), and they may not necessarily know where to go next.

My solution to this problem is to ensure that only individual entry archive pages show up on search engine results – all other pages on this site will not be indexed. Look in your header.php file and just inside the `< head >` section, add the line from [search-engine-etiquette.phps][] ((It’s only one line of code, but when I pasted in inline here it caused some strange problems with WordPress. It seems safer to leave it in an external file.)).


What Does This Do?

Basically, it means that for any page other than an individual entry archive page, the robots rule `noindex,noarchive,follow` is specified. Search engines are instructed not to index or archive that particular page. However, they **are** instructed to follow links on the page to look for other indexable content.


I’ve upgraded from [WordPress][] 1.5.2 to 2.0.2, and am also now using [Akismet][] to stop spam ((not that you will have ever seen spam on this site, of course, but I was getting a lot in the moderation queue, making it likely that I’d accidentally miss a genuine comment)). If you try to write a comment and you get the following message, then it means that your comment has passed the spam filter:


> Your comment is awaiting moderation, and is presently only visible to you and Pete himself. Once Pete has approved it, it will appear publicly on the site, and any comments that you write in future will be automatically approved.

However, if your comment does not appear, and you do not see this message, then it means that your comment has been mistakenly identified as spam. Use the contact form (link is in the top-right corner) to let me know, and I’ll retrieve it from the sticky spam trap.

2 replies on “Search Engine Etiquette”

Ah, I was thinking only yesterday that you should be the WordPress genius whom I approached with a particular query. The thoroughly useful advice above, which I shall take almost immediately (well, if I can bear to go back under the bonnet of WordPress after the past few days of trauama), leads me to ask the following.

I’m having a complete ‘mare over exactly what CHMOD settings I should have for the various files and directories of my installation – none of the WordPress instructions are very clear (well, at least not to me) – so much so that yesterday, just before kind of officially putting my site online, I appeared to erase the whole thing off the internet and made it completely inaccessible to me, even as the site’s owner. So I think I’ve now reset all the file permissions back to something which makes my whole site very very insecure indeed (but don’t tell anyone that, will you?)

My attitude is to set everything to have the securest possible permissions (ie all files writable only by the user account). If I need to modify the theme, I make the changes on my local copy and then upload it via FTP.

Though I do have PHP, MySQL and WordPress all installed on my computer, so I can make tweaks without having to upload the changes each time I want to view the results. Might make a difference.

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