Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tips
Everyone's biggest question is how do I get my site to show up in a search engine (Google, Yahoo, Bing, MSN, etc...). There are some basic steps you can take to give your site a better chance when it comes to a search. Below are some important things to keep in mind when it comes to SEO. For this tutorial, we are going to use our OU Campus site as an example.
SEO is not an exact science. This is not an exhaustive list as every search engines ranks sites based on different criteria. Furthermore, your changes might not have an immediate effect on your rankings either. It could take 6-8 weeks for your site to be indexed by search engines.
Keywords are one of the most important things to keep in mind when creating your content. If I want someone to be able to search the term "OU Campus" and my site show up I need to make sure I am using that term throughout my site. Search engines will rank items in a heading tag (h1, h2, h3, etc...) higher than words just in a paragraph (p) tag. This is why we encourage you to use our Heading 2, Heading 3, Heading 4 and Heading 5 tags in the WYSIWYG for your main sections or keywords. The title (gray bar across the top) is already within a H1 tag. If you are within a paragraph and have a keyword you can bold it and the search engines may look at it with more value. See our Style Guide page on Headers, Paragraphs, and Links.
Having your keyword in your URL is also an important thing to do. We chose the /oucampus alias not only because it will make it easier for users to remember the URL but if someone was to search for OU Campus in the WKU search this site will have a better chance of showing up higher on the page rankings.
Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to keywords is that you do not need to over use your keywords. Not only will it potentially make your page not read as smoothly, but if a keyword is on a page too much a search engine might see it as a word bank or spam and discredit your site in the rankings. You are ultimately creating a site for people to read so make it readable.
While you can really make your site look good with flash it still is not search engine friendly. Google has made good strides to be able to index flash files however they still are not there. It is recommended to only use flash for decorative purposes not to display pertinent information.
Not only are image descriptions needed for ADA Compliance but they will also help your SEO rank. Spiders can only search text, it can not search text within your image. For this reason, it is suggested that you name your images something that also describes your image rather than something like img365.jpg. Your image descriptions need to be as descriptive as possible and can include keywords. See #11 on our tutorial on Uploading and Editing Images to learn how to set your image description/alt tag.
Your content needs to be updated periodically. Updating your content regularly is crucial for increasing traffic to your site. One way to do this is with a blog. One caveat to that is you must update your blog. If you have a blog and need a RSS feed from your blog, or need a blog please email firstname.lastname@example.org to set that up for you.
While meta information is not as important in ranking as it use to be, meta information is important in the display of search results. The most important meta attributes are below.
- Title - The title attribute is one of the most important meta information tags. This is not only displayed as the bold top link in the search results but it also has more weight in rankings. It is good to mix up your keyword combinations and phrases in your title. You should keep these under 70 characters as each word takes weight from another as you add more. The first word in the title is the most important word in the title.
- Description - The description attribute is what is displayed under the bold title tag in search engine results. Including a phrase that tells people what to do would be good to have in your description. For example, a good description for this OU Campus site would be "This is your one stop shop for anything in OU Campus. Any questions you have could be answered in this site." The description should be kept under 155 characters.
Want to Learn More About SEO?
A quick Google search of the term "SEO" will turn up more information than one person can possibly digest (at least before lunch), but it is a good place to start. You will find varying opinions, as we said before, optimizing your site for search engines is not an exact science. Google just recently released a one page 'first steps cheat sheet' outlining important steps for SEO.