Standards: Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a web site from search engines. Usually, the earlier a site is presented in the search engine results, the more searchers will visit that site.

Abiding by a few basic SEO principles can help people find your site when they "Google it."

A. Content is key

An introductory paragraph should be present on your home page, but really every single page on your site can benefit from having a brief sentence summarizing it or introducing the main content. Sometimes the page heading will be enough, but whenever you think an outsider may not be familiar with the subject matter, be sure to elaborate...and use that as an opportunity to sprinkle in some keywords.

B. Keywords

Keywords are specific words or phrases that relate to your website’s subject matter. In essence, they describe what your website is about.

Search engines like Google will index your website and come up with their own set of keywords to describe each page. It's up to you to ensure that the words and phrases that best describe each page are used there numerous times and placed prominently (such as in heading tags; h1, h2, h3, etc.).

To figure out what keywords you should be using for a specific page, ask yourself what someone might type into a search engine if they were looking for that page. Be sure to consider searchers who may not know much about the subject, as they will often use simple terminology.

A word of caution: After adding keywords to your content, ensure that everything still reads naturally. Humans are ultimately who you want looking at your website, so don't cater to the search engine robots at the expense of readibility.

C. Page titles

Like you do within your page’s content, relevant keywords should be present in your page title. However, they should not be a big, long list of keywords; make it into a sentence if possible. It is recommended that you change your page titles throughout your site to tailor them to the individual pages.

D. File names

This applies to all files you put on your website, from images to HTML files to PDF documents and more. Almost every type of file can be indexed by search engines, and naming each file appropriately (i.e. with keywords) can help with SEO. Here are some examples:

Note: It is best to use "-" (dashes) as opposed to "_" (underscores) to represent spaces in file names.

E. Quality of inbound links

Search engines like Google assign a score (or "rank") to each website indexed. The higher the score, the more trustworthy the website is deemed to be by the search engine. If such a website then links to another, the search engine assumes the second site to be somewhat trustworthy because of the referral. If several more high-score sites were to also link to that second site, its good standing with the search engines would be further enhanced.

It's a lot like that saying, "Show me your friends and I'll tell you who you are."

The best way to improve the quality of inbound links to your site is to consistently publish quality content. Other sites will link to content they find interesting. If you think other sites are unaware of your content, let them know via e-mail.

Another way to let other sites know about you is to link to them first. It's likely that they will notice the incoming traffic and check out your site. If they like what they find there, they may respond with a link in kind.

F. Meta tags

Meta tags such as description and keywords used to have a lot of influence over SEO, but thanks to many a sneaky website providing false meta information in an attempt to increase traffic, search engines no longer pay much attention to these tags. In fact, the meta keywords tag is pretty much useless nowadays.

The meta description tag still holds value however. Whatever you enter there will be used as the short summary of the page in search engine listings, usually right below the page title. Therefore a good, accurate description can help entice searchers to click through to your website.

G. General tips and tricks

  • Boring, to-the-point headlines can help with SEO. Example: An article entitled "Snow at Loyola" is likely to attract more hits via search engines than something like, "Students abuzz as campus becomes a winter wonderland." The reasoning is simple: most people searching for such a story will use the keywords snow and Loyola.
  • Instead of linking to another page or website with the words "click here," use appropriate keywords as the link text. Examples:

    Right: Find out more about our athletic programs at the Loyola Wolfpack site.
    Wrong: Click here for Wolfpack Athletics.

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