SEO in Shorthand - a starter guide
Something we get asked a lot about at Shorthand is SEO. And rightly so, as once you've created your beautiful digital story and published it, you'll want to have done everything you can to ensure your target audience are going to discover it. A big part of discovery, of course, is via search engines. You need to think of them as another user, and make it easy for them to understand and present your content to other users.
A heads up, this isn't a magical guide to a dark art. Search Engines, like Google, do not publish all the details of how they rank pages and they frequently update the algorithm.
Instead, our aim is to provide a list of best practice tips to follow as a starting point for all search engines - specifically when it comes to Shorthand stories.
1) Firstly, is your site being indexed by search engines?
- Determine if your site/story has been indexed: search for your site or subdomain e.g. on Google "site:mycompany.shorthandstories.com" If you see results, it has been indexed
- Search engines crawl billions of pages and it's likely that some will be missed. If your site is not on Google, for example, it may be for one or many of the following reasons:
- The site isn't well connected from other sites on the web, e.g. no backlinks, no links from your main site
- You've just launched the site and Google just hasn't had time to crawl it yet
- The design of the site makes it difficult for it to be crawled (text in video, text in images)
- Google received an error trying to crawl it
- Your policy blocks the site from being crawled.
2) Accurately describe your page's content
If you're unfamiliar with the various elements of a search result. This video by Google is a good explainer.
- Choose a brief, descriptive page title that reads well and communicates the topic of your story/page
- Align the title with what you want to rank for in search
- Don't choose a vague/complex title, or leave it untitled
- Avoid using the same title for multiple stories
- Don't make titles unnecessarily long
- Make sure the story title appears as crawlable text, e.g. it's in your Title section h1 (first text box) as text - not just appearing in a video. (This is relevant for accessibility as well as SEO.)
- Ideally, there should be a h1 element containing words that reflect the story content and/or key search terms.
Description meta tags are important because search engines might use them as snippets for your page.
- Write a description to inform and interest readers - why should they read your story?
- Align the description with key search terms you want to rank for
- Don't write a description that bears no relevance to your content
- Don't just list keywords
- Avoid using the same description for multiple stories.
The URL of your story may be the first thing a potential reader will see, so make the URL descriptive if possible. Here are some other pointers.
- Ensure the terms in your URL reflect the content of your story; using the words in your title as the basis of your URL is a good way to achieve this
- Use hyphens rather than underscores or straight concatenation in your URLs ("a-starter-guide" rather than "a_starter_guide" or "astarterguide")
- Keep your overall URL structure simple, logical and human-readable.
Tip: By default, your meta title and description will come from your story title and subtitle. Is it descriptive enough as it is, or do you need to tweak it?
In contrast, if you don't want your content to show in search engines, you could consider using robots.txt for non-sensitive information, or explore other methods for sensitive information.
Unless you add robots.txt or publish behind a paywall to your own servers — your Shorthand stories will be indexed by search engines.
Want more info?
Here are a list of resources that you may find useful:
- Editing metadata in Shorthand
- Learn how Google discovers, crawls, and serves web pages
- Webmaster guidelines from Google
- Google URL inspection tool
- How to create good titles and snippets for Google
- Bing webmaster help
We are also working on a series of data blog posts on the Craft, which will go into some of these subjects in more detail. When they are ready, we will post the links here as well.