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Experience Sitecore! | All posts tagged 'Aliases'

Experience Sitecore!

Martin Miles on Sitecore

Media Aliases in Sitecore 8.2 Update 1

With recent release of Sitecore 8.2 Update 1 we have got a really much fun on Azure and getting closer to PaaS. it was so much buzz about it at #Sitecore Twitter, so that another handy feature has been overlooked. I am now talking about Media Aliases in Sitecore. One would probably ask few questions about that;

- Haven't we had it previously in Sitecore, wasn't that doable in principle?
- It wasn't, at least not out of the box. Previously if you wanted to achieve that functionality you had to implement your own ItemResolver pipeline processor and combine that with MediaProvider so that the links to media items were generated using aliases. That required custom code being built and re-deployed, that was especially painful for solutions already live. Of course such an approach couldn't be called an easy way.

- But why at all do I need Media aliases?
- Good question. Why would you use normal aliases with Sitecore then? You may find yourself working with the platform for few years so far without even thinking about that functionality. However otherwise like me, you may have a SEO Maniac as your manager (in good sense of word "maniac", for sure) who constantly generates optimization tasks for you. In my case I also had a Marketing Department who wanted to have nice and simple URLs for certain features, so that they can easily tell that over the phone.

- Still didn't get that. Would it be better just to demonstrate an example of very obvious use case?
- Without any problems. For the sake of this experiment, I have installed clean vanilla Sitecore 8.2 update 1. With that instance, I want to host my professional CV and easily tell that URL to numerous employment agents so that they could get that URL straight away or even remember it. I also want to make it as simple and minimal as possible. So that people type an URL and immediately get the PDF document downloaded. And of course, I don't want to have any file extension in URL or anything that complicates.
That is an ideal scenario for implementing Media Alias. It is indeed very easy, below are few steps how to make it work:

  1. Navigate to /Sitecore/System/Aliases and create a new child item of type Alias. Give the item simplest name you can, but avoid that name matching any of existing pages, as in that case alias would take a priority and a page becomes unreachable.
  2. While editing alias item, click Insert media link in order to open Insert media link dialog box.
  3. Select (or upload if required) correspondent Media Item that will be processed.
  4. Hit Insert button. That's it - your new Media Alias is ready
  5. Do not forget to publish your alias (and media item) so that it becomes available from Content Delivery database(s).



As soon as I completed these 5 steps, I can now able to download my CV in one click with nice and clean URL: http://sandbox/cv Also, I want to warn that Media Aliases have the same limitations as the normal ones.



That's it - nice, clean and simple.
I hope Media Aliases will help you to deliver even more user-friendly solution!

All Sitecore reference - mass links update

All Sitecore References project has just got a mass links update, which includes:

  • All StackOverflow questions to date
  • Blog posts I am watching
  • Reconsideration of existing links in order to achieve precise matching


And just to remind - if you have a blog and want add links from it into All Sitecore References, please use Suggest Links page to do that.


Hope you find this project helpful!



StackOverflow: Can a multilingual Sitecore 6 web page have an alias for each language?

Question on StackOverflow - can a multilingual Sitecore 6 web page have an alias for each language? (link to original question)

Can a multilingual Sitecore 6 content page have an alias for each language? It appears that I can only add one per content page. For instance, labour_market_survey.html has an english page and a french page:

http://www.site.ca/en/labour_market_survey
http://www.site.ca/fr/labour_market_survey

But I can only give the content page one alias: http://www.site.ca/survey
How can I add a french alias, such as: http://www.site.ca/enquete ?
Answer: aliases are just sort of web-root-level "links" to certain items, mostly intended to use for marketing campaigns as short and friendly Tokens. To achieve what you want you may consider few options:
  1. If you have configured an individual website for each language - then you may create SiteAliasResolver processor for HttpBeginRequest pipeline. This will give you an option to have aliases on website level. Please reed this blog post describing how to achieve that (with code samples).

  2. Another option would be to use Redirect Module, as it will do exactly what you need. There was a question on Redirect Module recently, so there is exact example how to create a redirect item for any virtual URL that will do 301 to any specific sitecore item (which belong to some page item under corresponding language website): enter image description here

  3. If you are resolving languages on-a-fly so that the same item in Sitecore serves different languages (based on criteria how you resolve that), then you may use aliases as they are (but as I understood from your example that isn't your case)

P.S. Also, if you decide to go with aliases, mind Canonical URLs (link one and link two) as they may affect your SEO.

Hope someone finds that helpful!

Sitecore with SEO: overview and compare ways for managing duplicate content

In this blog post I decided to cover all ways of managing duplicate content in Sitecore and overview possible ways of dealing with that with emphasis on SEO. So, we have the following options to consider:

  1. Duplicates
  2. Clones
  3. Proxies
  4. Aliases
  5. IIS URL Rewrite module
  6. Sitecore Redirect Module
  7. External Reverse Proxy

1. Duplicates are commonly known and most straightforward way of creating duplicates (clones) of the items. The easiest way to perform that operation is to right click the item you'd want to copy, select Duplicate from context menu and specify new item's name.


This ends up with an entirely independent new item (and all its ancestors) located at the same level, including all field values, presentation details, permissions etc. Beware the locks and workflows - those also would be exact match of those original items have. After that, new item lives it own life and is no way synchronized to its original prototype (except Standard Values, for sure, as both new and duplicate items share the same template).

Also it's worth of mentioning Copy To - this brings similar behavior, but allows to create duplicates keeping same name but at other paths rather than original item. Copy To is available from the same context menu.


2. Clones are sort of similar to duplicates with the difference that no new item is created when using clones. To create a clone for a highlighted item from a Sitecore tree, select Configure tab, hit Clone and specify where you'd want to locate your clone.


Notice, that clones are displayed in content tree in a slightly light font color, I personally think that may create some future issues when business users may perform some actions on item without realizing that item is a clone. Why is that important to know? Let's view the way clones function on a lower level.

When you create a clone the item and the values are not physically copied. Instead, the inheritance similar to the one between Standard Values (that is sort of prototype item for a template) and real template item, is created (clone inherits not from s.v. but from original item). When you modify a filed value of original item, that would affect same field of cloned item. However the reverse process, when you modify a field value on cloned item, overrides that individual field value and it is no more tied to original item's field. Other fields of the same item will still keep the reference to their originals. Clones use the __Source field of the Advanced section from standard template to specify the cloned item:


Unlike duplicates, clones do not clone most of standard fields (those coming from standard template) like locks / workflows and statistics (created, updated, revision). But they do clone security settings, which, again, can be overridden for a clone item.

If you want to get rid of clone item - there are 2 ways to do that: just delete the clone (obvious) and unclone it. Uncloning turns cloned item into a normal item and copies field values from originals. Clones exist only in master database, when you perform publishing to CD servers - uncloning takes place there.

You also can do some crazy things like creating clones of clones - inheritances chain take place in this case; each field at each level can be overridden, for sure.

To get even more understanding on how clones work in Sitecore I recommend reading Cloning What Ifs article.


3. Proxies is another mechanism of creating and managing duplicate content in Sitecore. The are frequently used in cases similar when you have an item that you may want to be a child of multiple parent items. In order to use them you must ensure a config file setting called proxiesEnabled is true; then you create proxy items at /Sitecore/System/Proxies based on /System/Proxy template. However, proxies considered to be outdated in favor of Clones. Please do not use Proxies!


4. Aliases are the different beast. They are perfectly good for promos and campaigns as the normally specify a quick URL for campaign landing page. Aliases have out-of-box limitation that they are set only per root level and not multisite-friendly (however there is a link that explains how to implement that feature on your own).

Aliases are defined under /sitecore/system/Aliases based on the System/Alias template.

There is just one field in alias template that allows to select target item.

There are two more overheads when working with aliases - sometimes you may need to identify if an item is alias:

bool isAlias = Context.Database.Aliases.Exists(path);

Also you may need to set canonical URLs on them to improve SEO. Good way of doing that is:

public class AliasResolver : Sitecore.Pipelines.HttpRequest.AliasResolver
{
    public override void Process(HttpRequestArgs args)
    {
        base.Process(args);

        if (Context.Item != null)
        {
            args.Context.Items["CanonicalUrl"] = Context.Item.GetFullUrl(args.Context.Request.Url);
        }
    }
}

Also, do not forget to publish your aliases to content delivery databases, as they won't work until published.



5. IIS URL Rewrite module is probably most functional option, it is external to Sitecore, that means it happens before routing and before pipelines.

For the drawbacks of using IIS URL Rewrite I would mention that you'd need to have access to IIS Manager or web.config write permission on each of content delivery servers. I previously wrote a blog post IIS URL Rewrite module - few SEO tricks that can demonstrate how powerful it is.

Also I would beware you of some specific Sitecore URLs and create appropriate extensions (ex. for WebResource.axd - take from real code).



6. Sitecore Redirect Module is another good choice as it does perfect server side 301 redirect for both URLs and items. It is almost as powerful as IIS URL Rewrite, but because it is configured in Sitecore - you do not need to have CD environments access at all - just create and publish redirect rules (as you normally do with generic content) - they will take effect immediately! Module is transparent to multi-site configuration, it can do redirects from one site's URL or item to another.

One more advantage of the module - availability of source code, so functionality can be extended to any bespoke requirement, also it becomes compatible with new Sitecore versions by just rebuilding it with appropriate Sitecore.Kernel.dll and replacing updated module DLL in webroot bin folder.

The only drawback, probably, is that in default state it performs only 301 redirects (however you may implement whatever you require). Please remember, that 301 requests are cached by browser -so you you are testing it intensively - you may need to purge browser cache from time to time.


7. External Reverse Proxy can be another option. It can do not only rewrites to external websites, but also rewrite some requests to alternative internal URL and pass that to IIS as "given" and further down to Sitecore. I met such scenarios several times on projects I took part. By the way, did you know that IIS can also serve as reverse proxy?

Performing rewrites and URL resolving logic outside of Sitecore can be both advantageous and disadvantageous. What traps does it bring?

Well, imagine you are new developer who start working on a new working copy of source code. When you run locally you may have different URL patterns compared to those on production environment. Business users usually deal with external production URLs and do not know internal structure, so that is how they form tasks and change requests. If you are not enough lucky to have comprehensive documentation or senior colleagues who can explain how is that configured - you may end up in multiple puzzling hours of attempting to find and match URLs from different environments.

Also, SEO much relies on sitemaps, so if you are using dynamic sitemaps - you need to implement that custom URL resolving logic that you have on reverse proxy. Also Sitemap Module from the Market would not work for you in that case.


I hope this article helped you to understand you options are with their pros and cons and to pick up a proper implementation depending on exact scenario.