Mary Hoy

Mary Hoy

Director of Marketing Analytics and Performance

Getting Started with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - Seven Things to Try

Mary Hoy

Oct 05, 2017

Interested in SEO, but not sure where to start or whether or not it’s worth it? This is post 3/3 of a series designed to provide you with enough information to be dangerous, find the value in search and offer a few ways to get started. Missed the first post? Get the basics here. Need a broader overview of key principles? Head back to the second post on What Works.

SEO is complicated. It requires ongoing dedication to ensure that you are taking a principled approach to developing and optimizing content. It can be daunting to get started — especially if you have a whole website already.

Here are seven things to try:

  1. Use Google Analytics and Google Search Console to identify the best-performing pages on your website. This will help you identify what content is working best and may be most likely to help your SEO goals. Identify priority pages for optimization and pages you may want to sunset.

    Questions to explore: What pages are already receiving large amounts of organic traffic? Where do people spend a lot of time? Where do you have a low bounce rate?

  2. Consider your audiences and find out what they are looking for by performing keyword research and analyzing competitors’ websites. Think about your content and identify keywords or keyword phrases that are most aligned with the intent of the searcher based on the content. You may already have pages that are receiving inbound traffic from non-branded keywords. If you can find them, capitalize on them. Keyword analysis also can help you determine where you have content gaps and may need to modify existing or add new content to your site.

Clean things up
  1. Clean up your site so it’s easier for Google to crawl. Start by running a crawl audit on your site to find the broken links, find which pages are missing key meta data variables and determine where your 404 errors are. Then start fixing them. Replace or remove broken links and pages or update a page code that is utilizing missing markup files.

    University Marketing has access to crawling tools that can help you with this process if your department or college does not have them — please reach out to us for help with an audit.

  2. Take a look at your page titles. Each page on your website should have a unique page title or title tag. Page titles should lead with a non-branded term to capture best intent of searchers and follow with a branded term to increase integrity from Google. Often what people are searching for (keyword) and the page content or academic degree program are not an exact match. If the intent is the same, cater to the need of the searcher by using keywords in page titles, but exact wording in page content. The ideal length for a title tag is 55 characters.

  3. Craft a unique meta description for each page. Meta descriptions are designed to support conversion of a click on your search listing — consider them as an advertisement for your page content. Searchers read the meta description and decide whether or not to take a next action. Google reads the meta description to see if keywords are in alignment with searcher intent and bolds connections between the page title and description. The ideal length for a meta description is 145-155 characters.

    Samples of strong brand meta description and lower level page title tag using a combination of non-brand and branded keywords:

Screen capture of Moz Title Tag

Screen Capture of Moz Title Tag

Optimize content
  1. For priority pages, consider infusing primary keywords into the H1, opening paragraph of page copy, image alt tags and subtitles. When exploring these opportunities, do NOT compromise the readability or engaging nature of the content. They should not be forced, but optimized for use within the context of the page. Be particularly considerate of alt image tags — do not detract from page accessibility standards. If you want to go pro with SEO, consider using a tool like Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) Graph to identify semantic keywords to include in your page content.

  2. Audit your social properties. Social content and properties are becoming more prominent in search results. Similar philosophies need to be employed on your social properties. Utilize aligned keywords with your web content when posting. Grow your audiences. Provide engaging content. There are indicators that Google values larger audiences and content that has been shared relative to returning social content in search results.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is inherently the long game. Can you impact tomorrow’s traffic? Probably not. Can you set yourself up for future success? Absolutely. Is it a lot of work? Totally. Is it worth it? Definitely.

University Marketing has access to tools that can help you with this process if your department or college does not have them — please reach out to us for a consult, help with an audit or other questions.


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