Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

A few basics of SEO can help increase traffic from search engines by optimizing internal and external aspects of a website. A few fundamentals can help you generate search engine results for your site. SEO is particularly important because many visitors will use a search engine to navigate to your site, whether it is from an actual search-engine page or the Google-powered search used on the University of Oregon site. There are more than 3 million pages in the uoregon domain alone.

Thus SEO is critical for navigating internally and externally. SEO in large part hinges on keywords and specific spots on a page where they show up. Keywords and their locations are what search engines recognize in determining what should show up in search engine result pages for a given keyword or term.

Here are a few fundamental elements for SEO:

  • Update your site often. If you never update your site, search engines will think the information there is old and outdated and rank your site accordingly.
  • Page Titles—what shows up centered along the top edge of a browser window—is the single most important SEO element, according to some experts. The page title also serves as the search result. If it’s not relevant or says something as basic as “HOME,” then it fails to distinguish itself for a search engine or a user. Page titles should describe what each page is about in less than seventy characters (the limit for many search results).
  • Use the important keywords closer to the front of the title, and when possible, throw in the name of the site toward the end.
  • Optimized URLs: A URL is a web address, but like a page title, it should tell users what to expect if they click on it or paste it in the browser. In much the same way, a URL can also tell a search engine what the page is about. Keep the URL short, but use a few relevant keywords and your ranking will improve. Most content management systems (CMS) such as Drupal frequently do not do this very well. Having a long URL of a bunch of random characters that a database uses to deliver unique content does little for search engine optimization or for users who might want to return to the page. For example, look at these two addresses for the same page: webcom.uoregon.edu/node/26 and webcom.uoregon.edu/seo.

Note: If you’re using a CMS, there is probably a module or plug-in that will optimize your URLs using your page titles. It is well worth the time to investigate and implement.

  • HTML Tags and Metadata. This step takes search engine optimization from on-page text into the code. Be sure to use your title tags and H1, H2, and H3 tags appropriately for organizing the content on your site.
  • Be sure to use hyperlinks in your actual text, avoiding generic phrases for linked text such as “click here.”

Metadata

Most search engines have stopped using metadata, or meta keywords and descriptions, as criteria in a search. However use of the tags remains a best practice because the tags can help your page be more appealing in the summary section of search-result pages. Within your site, using the same metadata for numerous pages can actually have a detrimental impact on search results. So use it strategically.

Link Deeply and Link a Lot

The number of pages linking to your homepage and the number of pages you’re linking to can affect search results. Be sure to follow UO guidelines by linking all your pages back to the UO homepage and to your site’s homepage. Link deeply into your site when possible. Be specific about where you’re linking. For example, if writing a story for Inside Oregon, the university’s internal faculty and staff newsletter, embed links when relevant. Again, use specific words as linked text for search engines, and use relevant text as the links. Avoid “click here” and "read more."

Google Webmaster Tools

Google’s secret formula is an ever-changing search algorithm. The credibility of Google searches are staked on a webmaster’s inability to consistently manipulate search results. We strongly recommend that all UO web developers and content specialists make themselves familiar with content provided by Google at www.google.com/webmasters.

Additional Reading:

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