As part of its ongoing development programme, the in-house product team at reed.co.uk wanted to optimise the site for usability and search engine optimisation (SEO). The team upgraded to Windows Server 2008 and Internet Information Services (IIS)
7.5 to take advantage of tools that support site management and fast, accurate URL rewriting. Since releasing a new version of the website incorporating this technology, search traffic has increased month-on-month.
reed.co.uk advertises jobs from around 8,000 recruiters and more than 4 million people visit the site each month in search of the perfect job. The business is almost entirely web-based, so it’s not surprising that the reed.co.uk product and marketing teams
are experts in SEO. Mark Ridley, Director of Technology, reed.co.uk, says: “Our product team regularly releases new versions of the website to continually improve the service to our customers. Much of this work is fine-tuning code to increase traffic, enhance
usability, or add new features.”
reed.co.uk offers more than 130,000 jobs in a variety of roles and industries. To ensure that jobseekers can find what they’re looking for, web pages need to contain crucial information in the correct format so that search engines can process information
appropriately. Ridley says: “There are many rules for achieving good SEO. For example, every URL should be represented in lower case, titles need to include meaningful words, and the structure of the pages and sites need to be optimised. On a simple level,
if the role is ‘marketing executive,’ then the URL should include the words ‘marketing executive.’”
If a URL is inaccurate and contains mixed or inconsistent cases or misspellings, search engines can misunderstand or wrongly categorise a link. Error messages, such as a 404 pages, may result in a poor user experience. Often visitors misspell keywords, so
an important part of the team’s optimisation process is to ensure that URLs accommodate user errors, and that searches still reach the right destination.
Ridley says: “Search engine optimisation is hugely important, but it can be a time-consuming process.” Ridley wanted to redevelop the company’s hosted web infrastructure to support his team’s optimisation work, and also to reduce the time and complexity
of managing the site.
The company’s data centre is hosted by Microsoft Partner Attenda, which has been working with reed.co.uk since 2000. Through a deep understanding of the business, Attenda has provided technical expertise and resources to ensure that the hosted environment
continues to support innovative developments and increased demand from online visitors to the site.
Within its hosted environment, reed.co.uk deployed IIS 7.5 to take advantage of web optimisation tools in the Microsoft IIS 2.0 Web Farm Framework, and the IIS URL Rewrite Module and Web Deployment Tool.
The Web Farm Framework and Web Deployment Tool help the team manage frequent release cycles in line with Agile practices. The team already uses Agile development processes and framework tools, including Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010.
URL Rewrite Module is a rules-based rewriting mechanism for redirecting URLs before they’re processed by the web server. The reed.co.uk development team uses the URL Rewrite Module to create rules that direct user searches to the right information. For example,
if a Bing or Google search engine picks up a user’s request and begins to send them to an old or incomplete link, the development team’s configuration rule will ensure the request reaches the right web page, rather than flagging a 404 error message to the
user. “Our software developers use the rewrite tool to update large sections of the website without needing to re-code URLs manually for every job link. This is especially important when making large-scale alterations to a website, which may fundamentally
alter its architecture. The URL Rewrite Module helps us manage this transition quickly and easily,” says Ridley.
Since deploying IIS into its hosted web server environment, reed.co.uk has released a new version of the site that incorporates additional features and delivers improved performance. Most crucially, the successful web business now has the tools and infrastructure
to support the demands of an increasingly competitive natural search landscape.
Optimised infrastructure enhances search success. reed.co.uk always had a solid web presence but Ridley says it’s now even stronger. “Competition for visibility is always increasing. By deploying a platform that supports us in optimising
our URLs for search, we can make sure we’re at the top of search results, and that users have an excellent experience once they’re on the site,” he says.
Deployment preparation time is cut by 50 per cent. Increased process automation and rules-based configuration have significantly reduced the time it takes to prepare each release for deployment across the
web infrastructure. Ridley says: “The Web Farm Framework and Web Deployment Tool perfectly complement our Agile development process. By embedding best practices and reducing manual tasks, we’ve cut preparation by 50 per cent.”
Performance is improved. When team members deploy new content, release security updates, or reconfigure URL rules, the changes are deployed across the site immediately. Technical details are logged in a central repository for all staff to
refer to, which reduces the potential for errors and unnecessary re-development work. This highly organised process enhances the end-user’s experience. “Visitors navigate reed.co.uk seamlessly, unaware that we may be upgrading the site even as they use it,”
Management and training are simplified. Ridley can allocate specific people in his team to manage new releases and update URLs, rather than having to watch over the process himself. He explains:
“It’s much easier to explain to someone how to do a release using the Web Farm Framework, whereas before we’d have to take them through all the manual tasks required,” he says.
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