Facebook Instagram Youtube LinkedIn Twitter

Writing with SEO in Mind

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a process whereby we alter pages to make it more likely that they'll appear near the top of search engine results when particular searches are performed. In many ways, it can be like trying to do a jigsaw puzzle without having access to the picture: the precise methods that the search engines use to determine result rankings are closely held trade secrets, and constantly changing (experts estimate that Google's ranking algorithm gets five to six hundred tweaks per year). Clearly, SEO can be a full-time job!

As a website content contributor, we don't expect you to become an SEO expert. The good news is that our website goals (publishing great, relevant content) align pretty closely with the goal of search engines (helping users find great, relevant content). As long as you're writing the best pages you can, University Marketing and Communications has expertise and tools to help with all the technical details. Read on for a few key things to keep in mind as you're writing, and some ways that we can help you prepare, create, and maintain your pages to get the most benefit from search engine traffic.


Focused Content

If you search for instructions on changing the oil in your car, you probably wouldn't expect the top  pages to additionally include information about beekeeping and a recipe for rhubarb pie.  In general, the pages that rank best — and are the easiest to optimize for improved rankings — are those that focus on a single topic. Start by asking yourself a couple of key questions: who is this page for, and what should they know once they've finished it?

There are a number of ways that University Marketing and Communications can help you with selecting a topic for a page.

  • We can assist with keyword research. Our tools can start from an initial search word or phrase, and suggest alternatives that might be more commonly searched, or where there are fewer other pages already existing. This is also a good time to evaluate types of content as some terms might be searched more frequently on YouTube or Image Search. 
  • We can help with competitive research. Comparing our existing pages with comparable pages on another site can help determine where there are gaps in our content, pointing toward opportunities for topics to consider.
  • Once you're close to narrowing down your final topic, we can work with you on a simple content brief that examines your topic in the context of the wider internet: How many other pages will be competing for the top spot in your selected search? How often are people searching for that phrase? What related terms might you also want to include?
  • After you've selected your terms, we can initiate search engine result tracking and provide regular reports showing how your content's rank has changed over time, how it compares to competitors, and what improvements are recommended.
To engage with UMC for any of these services, start with our request form.


On-Page Factors

Within the content you create, the most important thing that you can do to help your search results is to make it simple for search engine indexers to tell what your page is about.  At the most basic level, this means that you should use the same words and phrases in your text that you'd like the search engines to associate with the page. Your page's structure can also give clues to search engines, so make sure to use your selected keywords in section headings when appropriate, as well as image descriptions and the title and description of the page itself. Strategic use of text formatting, like bold face or italics, can also help emphasize particular words.

One other aspect of the page that's sometimes overlooked has to do with page load time. While we do our best to provide features through our web content delivery infrastructure to help pages load efficiently, one thing you can do to help is ensure that images are appropriately sized. Within our website template, the "content area" has a maximum width of 1200 pixels, so consider resizing and/or cropping images  accordingly before uploading - in addition to the impact on search engine placement, your visitors will appreciate that the pages loads more quickly and scrolls more smoothly.


Off-Page Factors

Google and other search engines look at more than just the content on your page when generating rankings: they evaluate the "reputation" of your information by using external cues. This includes factors like how frequently it's been shared on social media, or even the number of times it's been linked to by other pages.

This means that if you're engaged in a discussion with your peers about a topic, and our website contains material that's relevant, you can help our search engine placement by referencing it. If you blog, consider adding appropriate links to your posts, or even to your bio.  And certainly think about sharing pages on your own social media feed from time to time.  (One warning: relevance counts too - don't just plaster links all over the place without context. Google has been known to actually penalize sites in their rankings that they consider to be engaging in "spammy" SEO tactics.)