FAQs

How can I improve my Enterprise site's search rankings (SEO)?

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. At it's root, SEO is the practice of improving the quality and quantity of visitors (traffic) to your site.

There are four main kinds of traffic:

  • Direct Traffic - these are visitors who navigate directly to your site from a web browser. The already know the URL they want, and just type it in.
  • Referral Traffic - these are visitors who clicked on a link (in an email, from another site, etc.) to navigate to your site.
  • Organic Traffic - these are visitors who found your site by conducting a search on a search engine (e.g. Google). 
  • Social Traffic - these are visitors who came to your site by clicking a link in a social media platform (e.g. Facebook). 

You can't really control direct traffic, and most increases to referral and social traffic come from marketing campaigns. Organic traffic, though, can be improved through proper SEO management.

Organic traffic is an incredibly valuable form of traffic because it's scalable - the more work you put into your SEO, the better your potential returns. Over 40% of traffic to PSU Enterprise sites comes from organic traffic, so working to improve your site's SEO directly benefits your Enterprise site. 

Improving your SEO

Keywords

Keywords are your number one priority when working with SEO. Potential visitors conduct searches using keywords to find the content they need. As such, you need to be think about and be aware of the keywords on your site's pages. 

Determine a page's keywords

Before you can include a page's keywords in your writing, you have to know what those keywords are. The process of determining a page's keywords is fairly straightforward, so long as you have some familiarity with your site the the kind of visitors your site gets. 

  • Choose a page you want to work on. You'll generally want to start with (and spend the most time on) important pages for your site. 
  • Think about who would visit that page and why they would visit it. This is not the same thing as the page purpose - your goal and your audience's goals may be different. Typical audiences (your visitors) are prospective students, current students, university employees, or community members. 
  • Next you'll want to consider what your potential visitors would search for to find that specific page. 
  • Using those imaginary searches, try to pull out the main words being used. Those are your keywords.

You don't have to cover every possible keyword, but you do want to choose 3-5 primary keywords.

Don't worry about keywords that are synonyms - search engines are smart enough to understand that things like "training" and "instruction" are essentially the same thing.

Example

A visitor to an informational page for PSU's GTEP program would probably be a prospective student looking for teacher training programs. This person would probably search for "graduate teacher program", "teaching program Portland" or "part time teacher training".  

Based on that, keywords for this page might include "teacher", "training", "graduate", "part time", "program" and "Portland". "Portland" is part of Portland State University (which is already on every page), so that can be ignored. You'll want to make sure the rest of the keywords are included in that page's written content, though. 

Ask the Question

Another way to determine your keywords is to simply "ask the question". What this means is to come up with questions your potential visitors might ask when conducting a search.

Once you know what the question is, you can answer that question on the page you're working with.

That doesn't mean you need to literally write the question and include an answer, but rather include the answer as part of your written content. When doing this, you'll want to also include some of the words used in the question.

Example

A potential visitor to a GTEP page might ask "Can I get my M.Ed while working?" when conducting a search.  

To "answer" that question, you could write something like "Through GTEP, you can complete your M.Ed in either one year (full time) or two years (part time). The part time option gives you flexibility to work or attend other classes during the day while taking your GTEP coursework in the evenings". 

Keyword Cautions

Not using keywords

It can be fun to include complex terminology and allude to a page's topic without explicitly saying the topic. Writing like this is especially common in academia. However, what works for an persuasive essay does not work for SEO. In fact, writing like that actually damages your site's SEO.

You want to use the kinds of words your visitors would use. You want to explicitly include your keywords so search engine crawlers can read those keywords.

Cautionary example

Let's say your department is opening a new site, The X Building, and has an informational page for The X Building titled "New Location, Coming this Fall".

On that page, you refer to the building as "[Department]'s new home" or "the new building". You don't use the building's name on this page because you want to build allure and draw in your reader's interest. That's all well and good for writing a story, but on a webpage it just doesn't work.  

A search engine can't guess that "[Department]'s new home" really means "The X Building". So if someone searches for "The X Building", the page you created won't rank high on the search results - it's possible it might not even show on the search results at all. Additionally, people visit websites to get information, not to get a teaser of information. 

"Tricking" search engine crawlers

People used to try to "trick" search engines in a variety of ways. They might pepper their page with various keywords, write a few lines of nothing but keywords the same color as the background (thereby making them "invisible"), or fill image alt and title text with keywords.

Those practices no longer work. Search engine crawlers are designed to recognize these outdated tricks, and will give a lower ranking to pages that employ these tricks.  

Page Titles and Headings

Search engines rate page titles and headings higher than standard paragraph content. As such, it's helpful to include at least a couple keywords in your page titles and headings.

Page titles

Every page on your site should be unique and should be named for the content on that page. Writing something like "People" as the page title for your staff contact page doesn't help your site's visitors or your site's SEO.

Rather, you'll want to create a unique page title that's specific to that page's content. So instead of using "People" you create a title like "Staff Directory" or "Staff Biographies", depending on the kind of content on that page.    

Headings

Heading formats are applied to section titles on a page and are primarily used to create organization and structure on a page for individuals that use screenreaders. Using heading formats allows someone with a screenreader to skip from section to section rather than having to read the entire page.

Search engines also use headings, though, to understand the kind of content that's on a page. As such, it's important to:

  • Use headings appropriately. Don't use them simply to make text stand out; only use headings on section titles.
  • Create unique and descriptive headings that are specific to the content they head. 
  • Include a page's keywords in the page's headings.    

For example, a heading that says "Next Steps" would be less effective for SEO than one that says "How to Apply".

Images

There are a variety of things you can do with images to improve SEO:

  • Filename: Make sure the image's name is descriptive and specific to the image; leave out special characters (except dashes).
  • Alt Text: Include alt text that describes the purpose of the image (not just a description of the image); this text is necessary for accessibility. Including keywords in the alt text helps SEO as well, but only include them if it makes sense in the alt text. 
  • Title Text: Include title text that gives additional context for the image; this text is optional. Including keywords in the title text helps SEO as well, but make sure they make sense in context. 
  • Text in Images: Search engine crawlers cannot "read" an image. So if you include text in the image (i.e. use an image as a button), the crawler won't read that content and so it'll be left out when ranking that page. It's better to use call to action buttons or true text links.  
  • File Size: Load times are taken into account for SEO, so if you're using an exceptionally large image file (1mb or more) you'll want to scale it down before uploading it to the CMS. 

Links

Creating an internal link structure, also known as link building, helps your site in a variety of ways:

  • Link building helps visitors navigate your Enterprise site since it helps them easily move between content areas. 
  • It helps establish an information heirarchy for your site that a search engine can read and translate in the results.
  • Search results are ranked based on keyword relevance and how frequently a page is linked to, so link building increases search rankings for a given page.

As such, you'll want to make sure to put pages on your site into the navigational menu. You'll also want to make sure your site (and menu) are structured to make sense to your visitors. Lastly, you want to make sure all links are named for their destination since search engines read the linked text to add relevance to the kind of information on the linked page. 

Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions

Meta titles and meta descriptions are an optional feature you can have added to your Enterprise site. While these do not in of themselves help search engine rankings, they do change how a page's content appears in the search results. As such, meta titles and descriptions can encourage visitors to click on certain links within their search results.

For more information, visit UComm's Meta Titles and Descriptions FAQ.