SEO

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. At its core, it’s the practice of trying to make your website appear high in the search engine results pages when someone searches for related information.

When your pages are set up to be easily found by search engines such as Google or Bing, it makes it more likely that people will find your content and visit your site.

Explore the tips below, written by UNH SEO Specialist Kelly Morgan, which include examples, Drupal instructions, and additional resources to help you improve your  site's SEO.

Why do you care about SEO?

Because everyone’s searching. More than two thirds of consumers search online before making a purchase, and the top five organic search results get approximately two thirds of the clicks. If you want to reach users online, it’s important to optimize your content to show up in search results.

How do search engines work?

Search engines use programs called "spiders" or "crawlers" to scan and index pages across the web and catalog their content.

When a user enters a search, the search engine looks for pages that seem to be relevant based on matching search terms (keywords), the overall content of the page, and how reliable the website is.

SEO is the process of making your pages seem relevant to what your "customers" are searching for. Watch this terrific video on the fundamentals of How Search Works, by former Google software engineer Matt Cutts.

How your site appears to a spider

Search engines don’t “see” our websites the way we do. They rely on text within the page to determine what it’s about, and that ranges from your page title and image captions to headlines and actual body copy.

When we open a webpage, we see something like this:

Search engines “see” this:

How do you optimize your pages?

1. Plan your content

Written content on your pages drives your search results, so plan carefully.

Start with a topic

•    Write down the topics you want to cover, aiming for one topic per page
•    Write down the keywords relevant to each topic. These are words, phrases or groups of words users are likely to use when searching for your content.

Define your goals

What actions are you hoping users will take on your pages?

Define your audience

Are you writing for prospective students and their parents, community members, faculty or staff? Keep in mind that our websites are a first stop for prospective students and their families and should be structured as such. Other resources are widely available for setting up individual and campus-only websites and the sharing and storage of internal documents and communications.

2. Start writing

With your topic, page goals and audience in mind, you’re ready to start writing content.

Feeling overwhelmed? Write a draft without worrying about your keywords, then go back and work them into your text.

3. Do some easy keyword research

Start small. Pick one of your topics and search, using words you’d expect others to use. What comes up?

If you are surprised by the results, try other word combinations.
If you get what you expected, review the results for additional words you might want to use.
Check out competitor’s sites and see what words and word combinations they use.
In Google, check out the “People Ask?” box that often pops up, or the related search term at the bottom of the search results.

Try the keywords in your site and monitor your standings in search results over a period of a few weeks.

Short- and long-tail search

Short-tail searches are searches with only one to three words. These typically bring up too many results and lead to a long-tail search. Long-tail searches are usually made up of four or more keywords that narrow the search further. It's important to include all these search terms in your copy.

4. Use a good title

Your webpage title is the most important clue for search engines to locate your page. Be sure that the title accurately reflects what is on the page.

5. Set up headings and subheadings

The second most important clue for search engines are headings. Headings serve to break up blocks of text, which makes a page easier for users to read and navigate, and they provide an opportunity to use your keywords. Search engines read headings to help determine the relevance of content on a page. Use page heading styles (Heading 1, Heading 2) to identify key content blocks. There should only be one heading on a page that is coded with an H1 tag, usually the name of the page. In Drupal, the heading styles are nested under the first styles tab in the text editor:

Your page title will automatically be “Heading 1,” also referred to as H1. You should only have one H1 style on the page. From there, use the headings in descending order:

Be sure that the heading accurately reflects the content of the page. Avoid clever language that would be meaningless to a search engine. Clear and simple is the best approach.

6. Name your files with real words

Crawlers and screen readers use file names to help determine the content of the image and the page. A photo of students on campus named “students-on-t-hall-lawn-during-u-day” would be far more helpful for SEO than one named “00293451.jpg.”

Note: Use lowercase letters and dashes between words in file names. Search engines read dashes as spaces, so this way will be able to distinguish the separate words in the title.

7. Use ALT text

The ALT text field that accompanies images, videos and audio clips provides another SEO opportunity. Use your keywords while describing what's in the photo, what the video is about, or what the audio file will cover.

8. Add links to help SEO

Links to and from reliable sources improve SEO by increasing the authority of your site. Also, the hyperlinked words are read by search engines to help them understand what's considered important on the page.  Make sure to put links on descriptive words, not on phrases like "click here," and don't include the URL itself in your text. When linking to information on the same website, the link should open in the same window.

Sometimes it's appropriate to link to a different website, such as a government agency or resource. You should only link to reliable, authoritative informational or educational websites that you are confident will remain active. Links to external websites should open in a new window.

9. Avoid duplicate content

You contribute to the SEO of the overall site by having only original content on each page. Don't copy and paste information that is present on other sites. Try to use links to or embed information from the "one source of truth" for particular information such as the catalog or calendar.

10. Do's and Don'ts...

Do:

  • Use everyday language – connect with your users
  • Use keywords in headings, anchor text, alt tags, file names and body copy
  • Build links – links to high-quality sites can improve your page ranking
  • Check for broken links – broken links can hurt your ranking
  • Be mindful of your overall site structure and user experience

Don’t:

  • Use “click here” – that’s throwing away an opportunity to use keywords
  • Duplicate content – this confuses crawlers and makes your site look messy
  • Duplicate pages – ditto above
  • Keyword “stuff” – endlessly repeating your keyword can actually hurt your page ranking
  • Content “stuff” – don’t forget to make things approachable and easy to scan