SEO Tips for Perch websites

One of our top pre-sales queries is from people asking if Perch is good for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This blog post is to explain some of the ways in which you can ensure that your sites rank well – with help from features in Perch.

Google produce a Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide so I’ve used this as a guide to things that Google sees as important.

I’ve also used the excellent Beginners Guide to SEO on as a guide. I’d really suggest reading that guide in full if you are keen to learn more about SEO for your site or those of your clients.

Create unique, accurate page titles

The first suggestion by Google is to make sure you have unique page titles. If you are using Perch to simply manage small parts of static pages then you may have hardcoded the titles, however you can also use the title added through Perch in the options for that page. You would certainly want to do that if you are allowing content editors to create new pages.

You can see in our video how the perch_pages_title function allows a unique title to be added to the page. You can also use this to allow a title to be added by editors when the title tag is in a Perch Layout.

If you are using one of our Add-ons, for example the Blog App you can ensure that the Blog title is passed into a layout. How to do this and more can be found in our Solutions.

Make use of the “description” meta tag

The Page Attributes feature added to Perch in Perch 2.4 gives you a very flexible way of managing attributes – including the description meta tag. Take a look at how this works in our video about Page Attributes.

Improve the structure of your URLs

In this section Google make lots of suggestions as to how to improve your URLs. This goes beyond “search engine friendly URLs” and includes things like organizing your site into subfolders that help to explain the content. In Perch your site architecture is entirely your decision, we don’t force or assume any particular architecture so you are free to decide what makes most sense for your content.

As for those “friendly URLs” if you are using some of our apps or a list and detail page setup then by default you will get a URL with a QueryString. This is because Perch makes very few assumptions about what you have available on your server. However it is very simple to add some rewrite rules if you have mod_rewrite available.

As with most things in Perch we think that you should have control over the content in your URLs, so we leave it up to you.

Make your site easy to navigate

Good SEO often means a good experience for visitors – making it easy for a search engine spider to move around your site can also make it easier for users.

Google suggest planning your site architecture around your home or root page and Perch takes this approach as well. Planning out your site structure carefully therefore will help Google, your visitors and also your content editors as they will understand where to find things.

The recommendations include creating a site map for human visitors and a “Google Sitemap” for spiders. If you are using the Perch Navigation functions then all you need to do to create a site map is put the following function onto a Sitemap page.

<php perch_pages_navigation(); ?>

You can of course customize this further as explained in the documentation. We also have a Solution explaining how to create a Google Sitemap from these same functions.

Offer quality content and services

Under this heading the Google recommendations talk about the content of your site. Due to our structured content approach and the ways in which we enable you to prompt content editors by way of help text, you can build a site that is easy for your client to keep optimized for search engines.

The Google guide suggests that you use descriptive anchor text – the text used in any links. We all know how easy it is to end up with pages full of “Click here” links. If you are asking your editor to create a link to a page, product or other site via a structured content form, you can give them help text to remind them that the link text should be a description.

You can add help text so that your editors understand what they should put in the alt text for an image.

You can use structured content templates for articles, products or other blocks of content – so that you make the choice of which heading levels to use for example. This helps to ensure that correct mark-up is used. Editors using a WYSIWYG may just make heading text bold, rather than using the correct heading level, or they may have been told by someone well-meaning that they should put more of their text into heading tags for SEO purposes!

Chapter Four of The Beginners Guide to SEO goes into great detail about things you can do with your content to best optimize it for search engines. Many of these tips could be translated into help text in the templates that you create.

Rich Snippets

When you create a rich snippet, you are adding markup to your pages that Google and other search engines can understand. This markup might indicate to Google that the content it is retrieving is an event, a product or a recipe. Google then displays these snippets when returning listings where appropriate.

Through our structured content approach Perch makes creating rich snippets very easy as you have full control of the markup so can turn your content into a rich snippet just be adding the appropriate markup. Google suggests using Microdata and as an example the below code is the Recipe example from as a Perch template.

This will create a form in admin for the editor to complete that looks like this:

Perch Recipe template in admin

Once a recipe has been entered the final markup is as follows – you can validate this using the Structured Data Testing Tool in Google Webmaster Tools to check that it is valid Microdata and therefore will be considered a Rich Snippet by Google.

If you have any other SEO tips that you use when working with Perch leave a comment to help other Perchers. If there is something you need to know how to do then pop over to our forum and ask, we’d love to help!