Search Engine Optimization (SEO) 101

1. It’s not about TRICKS. It’s about GREAT CONTENT.

Google and other search engine companies are doing everything they can to make their algorithms smarter and more efficient to give you great results when you search. That means weeding out the chaff of incoherent, keyword-soaked content that doesn’t help users.

These days, if you want to rank well in search engines, give your users GREAT CONTENT. This is the most important rule of ranking. Think about your audience. Think about what they need, and give it to them as plainly and easily as you can.

See http://wordpress.georgiasouthern.edu/web-guide/writing-for-the-web/ for more information on creating great content for your site.

2. What’s all the fuss with Keywords?

Keywords are the groups of words people use to find content when searching. Your job is to try to figure out what keywords people might use to find you, and make sure those terms are in your page content (in a “plain English,” understandable way).

Making your content keyword-rich is important, but avoid the following temptation.

How NOT to write keyword-rich copy

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You don’t need to repeat your keywords constantly throughout your content, but you’d be surprised how common a practice this is. Use keywords only when necessary and only naturally in the flow of ideas. Search engines will find them, and your readers will thank you.

3. How do I find good Keywords?

There are a number of tools available for keyword research. One of the best keyword research tools is provided freely by Google here: https://adwords.google.com/o/KeywordTool

This tool will not only give you lots of data about specific keywords, but will do a search of your site and suggest keywords for you.

When doing keyword research, the main thing to keep in mind is that people generally search as SPECIFICALLY as possible. This means they’ll add location data to their searches or, if they’re researching colleges and universities, they probably already have the location -- or even the school itself -- in mind.

So, if you’re figuring out keywords for your division, say for an English degree, you might try:

Think more in terms of specifics than generalities. It’s more the way people search.

4. Using Keywords in your content

Writing great content is a subject unto itself, but if you keep your audience in mind and point them where they need to go, you’ll be doing just as much for SEO as you will for site usability.

Here are a few tips on making your content more “SEO friendly” once you’ve arrived at your keywords:

  1. Use your keywords in text links to relevant content.
  2. Use your keywords in headlines and sub-headings to guide users through the page.
  3. Use your keywords in photo data (alt text, longdesc text and captions) to make your photos more SEO friendly.
  4. Videos in your content is a boost for your SEO.

5. Get social with your content!

Off the page SEO has become more important with Google’s algorithm changes over the last couple of years. In addition to building great content, SEO experts are urging content-owners to build a brand.

Searches of the not-too-distant future could include AUTHOR ranking as well as content ranking, and to join the list of authoritative content-producers, you’ll need to make sure your content is social and shared.

Have a Facebook page for your department? Share a helpful link from your site. Have a departmental Twitter account? Tweet useful links from your site.

Share your content, and you could reap the rewards in search results!

6. SEO in the University and Department Themes

META DATA

When you receive your Wordpress site, the page titles are already configured for you. They include:

You won’t need to create new page titles for your pages. However, you may need to create a new page description.

The page description is automatically generated from your content. It usually takes the first sentence of your content as the description, which limits around 160 characters in search engines.

If you are using tables or in-page submenus and the like on your pages, the page description could pick up that information and use it as your page description, which could be incoherent (see the photos below for an example). If this happens, just fill out the description field at the bottom of your page, and the issue will be resolved.

PAGE URLS

When you are creating a page, pay close attention to the length and content of your headline as this becomes the url of the page.

If you MUST have a longer headline, you have the ability to edit the page slug, which controls the url. Make these url titles as brief and content rich as possible, both for search engines and for site users trying to find their way around.