May 11

Improving MDN discoverability

MDN continues to be a popular destination for developers looking for everything from building Firefox Add-ons to hacking on the Mozilla source code.  But as modern browsers continue to evolve, MDN has become an even more valuable source of information and documentation for one developer segment in particular:  Web developers.   And that is why the developer engagement at Mozilla is dedicated to improving our strategy, infrastructure, community efforts and content for MDN.  One critical piece to that is our SEO.

Mozilla has been fortunate to have awesome SEO, especially mozilla.com and it’s various subdomains, including MDN.  However, it has been a challenge to move the needle for  http://developer.mozilla.org exactly for that reason:  our SEO is already pretty good.  While making huge gains has sometimes proven difficult, we have made incremental improvements in the past.   That has changed over the past year as we have put more energy into the overall strategy for the site and the new content we continue to add to it.

Our goal and the results so far

Last year, we set a goal to bring 10 Web developer targeted keywords into the Top 10 search results in Google.  As of this week, we have hit the half-way mark to that goal.  We started with a list of 95 keywords that we felt were of interest to Web developers and have been monitoring our search rankings for about six months to get a feel for how we’re doing with various MDN projects and their impact on SEO.

A combination of 1. the redesign and new landing pages for MDN, 2. the promoteJS campaign spearheaded by Chris Williams,  3. more articles on the Hacks blog, 4. regular tweeting @mozhacks, and new sections added to MDN like 5. Demo Studio and 6. Learning have all contributed to raising the profile of http://developer.mozilla.org and and have helped Web developers find us via search.

Here are some stats from our data gathered from Dec 2010 vs May 2011:

  • 5 new keywords in the Top 10:
    • font face (14 -> 5)
    • ajax (12 -> 6)
    • svg (12 -> 8 )
    • drag and drop (11 -> 9)
    • video tag (12 -> 10)
  • 6 keywords with huge 20+ gains in rankings (they were originally 50 or lower in rankings):
    • css (19)
    • websockets (20)
    • html (23)
    • css3 (24)
    • webm (39)
    • audio tag (39)

Room for improvement

As the numbers above suggest,  we have made some awesome gains for a lot of important keywords.  But while the overall shift in SEO has been positive there were some keywords that dropped a few spots:

  • 4 keywords dropped 5+ in rankings:
    • mathml (6 -> 24)
    • dom inspector (3 -> 20)
    • audio api (11 -> 19)
    • html5 video (29 -> 35)

The first two on that list are not a huge surprise since mathml is a niche technology and dom inspector is an older technology that has been replaced with new tools, so some fluctuation can be expected.  But we do know that we need to do better with promoting and talking about the newer HTML5 standards around audio and video.   Which we have been, since both have seen gains in rankings via other keywords or the tags themselves.  So I think we’re on the right track.

Low hanging fruit

We also have the opportunity to focus on a few keywords that are within reach of helping us meet our goal.  A few of them have seen good gains already and the others can move up to within the Top 10 if we focus on them in the coming months:

  • 6 keywords on the brink of the Top 10:
    • <audio> (11)
    • audio tag (12)
    • webm (12)
    • css gradients (14)
    • web storage (15)
    • audio api (19)

All of those are on our radar for new content and demos, so hopefully we can work on getting those moved up soon.

Where we stand today

As I mentioned earlier, MDN already has some great SEO, so the numbers below shouldn’t surprise many people.  As of this week, here is where we stand in the rankings for the 95 keywords we’ve been tracking:

  • Ranked #1:          34
  • Ranked #2:          17
  • Ranked #3-10:    25 (76 of 95 keywords are in Top 10!)
  • Ranked #11-35:        17
  • Ranked #36-50:         0  (this is a great sign)
  • Ranked >#50:             2

Those are numbers that any site would be proud to see for keywords that matter most to their audience. 🙂  So it is interesting to note both the incremental gains we have achieved in moving a few keywords into the Top 10 and the bigger gains we have made as we introduce and talk more about emerging technologies through Hacks articles, new documentation, and awesome demos on Demo Studio.

We will continue to improve our SEO strategy as we add content to the MDN website and launch new programs to engage with Web developers.  We hope this data and new learnings will also guide the development of Kuma (the next generation wiki platform for MDN Docs) to make sure we take advantage of the new infrastructure to maximize our SEO in the future.

Thanks to everyone on the developer engagement team, as well as our MDN dev and QA teams for their contributions to getting us this far!

With that said, we still have work to do before we hit our goal.  It won’t be easy to bring 5 more keywords into the Top 10, but that’s what we said about the first 5. 😉