SEO best practices

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This page is meant to provide general best practices for structuring wikis, writing content and formatting to increase the chance of the wiki appearing first on results pages in Google. Called Search Engine Optimization or SEO for short, this is less of a science and more of an art. Note that this article is not an exhaustive guide, but a primer on what to pay attention to as you develop and expand a wiki.

  • A "quick and dirty" guide can be found here.

Overview[edit | edit source]

Search engines like Google automatically "crawl" web pages at regular intervals, indexing their contents so that they can be later displayed by the search engine. These crawlers follow links on each page they visit and analyze the contents in order to determine the order in which search results will be displayed. Search engine mechanics evolve constantly and are rarely publicized, further complicating SEO.

Fortunately, Gamepedia works constantly on the back-end to ensure that these bots are only crawling relevant pages and not wasting time with duplicate pages or those that wouldn't be of interest to people searching. On the front-end, the one editable by you and other editors, there are lots of things you can do to ensure that the wiki is attractive to both users and crawlers visiting it.

Structure[edit | edit source]

Navigation[edit | edit source]

Properly structuring content on a wiki is very important for searching. There are several things to consider while creating the structure of your wiki's core pages.

One thing that can be very helpful, both for SEO as well as for users, is to include navigation links to key pages in the wiki sidebar. This is editable by guardians and administrators through MediaWiki:Sidebar. Not only does this make the wiki more easily navigable for users, it also helps tell search robots that those pages are some of the most important pages on the wiki by linking to them from every other page. Typically, the fewer clicks away a page is from another given page is a demonstration of how closely those pages are related, and pages with more inbound internal links will be crawled more often and given more weight in search results.

On the topic of linking, be sure to link relevant pages that appear in the content of pages whenever possible. Generally the rule of thumb is to use a wiki link for any word or phrase that appears in an article the first time that it appears in the text. Also consider linking key phrases that might appear in infoboxes, such as those relating to core game mechanics (e.g. "Rate of Fire", "Damage", "Experience"). Again, linking keywords that appear in templates on many pages demonstrates the importance of those pages.

When creating pages about broad categories on your wiki (e.g. "Locations" or "Quests"), it is typically better to create content pages in the Main namespace, rather than relying on Category namespace pages as hubs. Not only can you add more general information about that topic that will help provide additional keywords and relevant information for users (and search crawlers), but tables and lists with additional information are usually more easily digestible for users. The category pages should also contain at least a sentence or brief paragraph describing the content.

Wiki main pages[edit | edit source]

The main page of a wiki is one of the most important pages. Often it is one of the most common results for general wiki-related searches. This is because it not only receives a lot of traffic as the hub for the wiki project, but also because it tends to contain a large amount of keywords associated with the game.

Main pages should always contain as many general and game-specific keywords as possible. Even on newer projects, or those for unreleased games, creating so-called "stub pages" for all the main content areas (e.g. Quests, Items, Monsters, Bosses, Equipment, etc.) and linking them prominently on the main page should be a priority. Note that these stub pages should contain at least one full sentence describing the purpose of the page and also at least one link to other content (or another page) on the wiki. Including commonly-searched keywords like "Guide(s)," "Walkthrough," "Tips and Tricks," etc. can also be helpful if there is a reasonable way to include them. In addition, it can be helpful to ensure that general text describing the game is nearest to the top of the page, rather than below other links.

As with all pages, but especially your main page, there should never be more than one H1-level heading on the page. This means you should never use a heading with a single = such as =Something=. This applies to other pages as well: The H1 heading is used by the article title at the top , and top level headers should always start with H2 and go on from there for any sub-headings.

If you include timely content on your main page, such as "News," "Release notes," or similar, make sure that these sections are reliably updated. If not, you risk search engine crawlers viewing the page content as "stale," which can affect search rankings. In lieu of a separate news section, placing an RSS feed (like here) or Twitter feed (here) is an easy, low-maintenance way to add value to the main page and keep visitors updated.

Generating content[edit | edit source]

When it comes to actual content, what you put on the pages is as important as the structure you choose. Wikis that contain little to no information are likely to be penalized in search results and avoided by users.

In other words, content is king. There might be a vibrant community growing around the wiki, lots of contests, social media activity, and whatnot, but these are all tangential concerns. A wiki lives and dies by the content it has and the vast majority of visitors will be users only interested in finding specific information.

You come for the content, you stay for the content.

Planning[edit | edit source]

To build effective content, we first need to ask ourselves what the players will be looking for regarding their game. Although the methods vary, the three questions we should ask ourselves are:

  1. What information will the players need?
  2. How will they look for it?
  3. How should I present the information?

There is no hard and fast rule that can apply to all wikis (unfortunately), so determining the kind of content to focus on is an art, not a science, as with SEO in general. However, making sure you are answering specific questions players might have is a good rule of thumb and helps focus on the softer side of SEO, the user experience.

Wiki guardians have access to Special:Analytics which has a section for the most searched terms for their wikis. Any words on that list should either link directly to a page by that name, or have a redirection to a page which covers that general topic.

Long tail keywords[edit | edit source]

Deciding whether to present game information on one page or spread it out over several ones is one of the more fundamental decisions when it comes to structuring the wiki. One argument in favor of dispersing information over multiple keywords is that it allows for targeting long tail keywords.

What are long tail keywords? Basically, they are specific queries that are not used frequently, but are usually used by users interested in specific information. Their low search volume is usually offset by a very high amount of different queries, and a wiki with a large number of articles on specific topics has an increased chance of appearing high in search results over a wiki with general, high level overviews. Shorter articles are also easier to understand and read, especially on a wiki covering multiple titles.

The downside is that having multiple articles increases the amount of maintenance done and requires a fair bit of planning. Using templates can help deal with the overhead.

Presentation[edit | edit source]

A good layout for a page makes it more attractive to both users and bots, as well as making it easier to navigate and grow. The layout will vary from game to game, but in general, aim to answer specific questions:

  1. What are the statistics/basic functions of the article's subject?
  2. How does the subject relate to the story/lore?
  3. How does it function in gameplay?

Ideally, a page will grow to the point where it can contain information relevant to any visitor: Those playing the game, those considering a purchase, and even random visitors visiting the page after it appears in search results.

For example, compare the following pages: The article as it was initially created and how it appears a dozen edits later. A good structure and a call to action helped motivate contributors and direct their efforts, resulting in an article that is informative both for hardcore and casual players, as well as random visitors.

Call to action[edit | edit source]

A call to action (CTA) refers to measures encouraging visitors to edit a wiki. Most maintenance templates contain a link encouraging visitors to edit by default, though individual wikis may want to create their own.

For example, consider the template placed under the Strategy header here. The link is larger than the one placed in Stub and other templates, uses active voice, and explicitly describes what will happen. The entire guide below the header was actually created by a regular user using the link provided by the template.

Use of images and other media[edit | edit source]

Using images and other media is always a great addition to a wiki page. Whenever possible, be sure to include captions and alt tags for images. Examples: [[File:Example.jpg|250px|This is alt text.]] [[File:Example.jpg|thumb|This is alt/caption text.]] This serves two purposes. First, it gives additional context to search engines about the content of images and can help them be served in results. Second, it is also a good practice for accessibility, as it aids visually impaired users who may be using screen readers or similar software. Also, in the event that an image cannot be loaded, the alt text is used in lieu of the image.

Where possible, include summaries of videos that are embedded in pages. This helps ensure that important details and keywords that might be in the video are also included in the page text.

Things to avoid[edit | edit source]

  • Avoid using links that require redirection. Always use the most direct link possible.
  • Avoid using Category namespace pages as key hubs on the wiki. Create top level articles and categorize them at the top of the category, by using the following code: [[Category:Target category| ]]
  • Avoid creating News or Updates sections if you cannot update them on a regular basis. Use an RSS or a Twitter feed instead.
  • Avoid repeating content on other pages without reason. Apart from increasing the maintenance overhead, duplicate content on the same page gets penalized in search results.
  • Never copy content from other sites. This can cause issues with copyright and duplicate content will be penalized in search results. Always rewrite using your own words.

Meta descriptions[edit | edit source]

What are they?[edit | edit source]

"Meta descriptions are HTML attributes that provide concise explanations of the contents of web pages. Meta descriptions are commonly used on search engine result pages (SERPs) to display preview snippets for a given page."

In addition to search results, meta descriptions are commonly pulled for sites like Facebook, Tumblr and Pinterest when users share a link to our sites.

Meta descriptions should be limited to 140-160 characters, or else they will be truncated by most search engines.

For more detailed information, click here

Why are they important to us?[edit | edit source]

While Meta Descriptions do not directly impact search rankings, they are considered an excellent tool for a different aspect of SEO where they effectively work as advertising copy to assure readers that they have found exactly what they’re looking for. Any keywords from a user’s search become bolded in the meta description, so that closer matches will draw attention to our links.

Which pages have to have them?[edit | edit source]

All wiki main pages must have meta descriptions. In addition, the main pages for each major content area should also be equipped with a meta description (ex: Weapons, Races, etc.)

How do I determine what the meta description should be/included?[edit | edit source]

Currently, most of our main page meta descriptions read as follows:

"The #1 community generated wiki resource for <game>."

How to improve the meta description?[edit | edit source]

"The comprehensive wiki resource for Age of Wushu. Schools, skills, general gameplay, and more!"

Note how this meta description makes use of keywords like the game title, "wiki", "gameplay", as well as a couple of the major page categories (Schools, skills).

The best meta description will include as many keywords as possible, while still being coherent:

"Destiny wiki is the #1 resource for information about the upcoming release of the FPS Destiny by Bungie such as Weapons, Races, and Vehicles!"

This meta description is excellent because in addition to the keywords used in the "better" meta description, it also includes other keywords such as "FPS", "release", and "Bungie" that might also be associated with the game Destiny.

For major content pages, the description should be specific to that page, so an example description for the races page of Destiny Wiki might read:

"Information about races including Human, Exo, and Awoken, from Destiny Wiki on Gamepedia.com, the #1 source for community generated game information"