Search Engine Optimization (SEO), according to Wikipedia, “is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines via the “natural” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results.” In other words, search engine optimization (SEO) attempts to get your website to show up higher on a Google search engine results pages (SERP) for a particular search phrase. SEO is a concept that is easy to explain, harder to implement, and impossible to predict – but follow these 5 SEO tips and your school’s website will begin to show up higher in search engine results.
Search Engine Optimization is a function of relevance and authority as it relates to a search phrase. A search phrase are the words that you type into the Google search box. Relevance is determined by how much the returned website is a good match for the search phrase. Search engines determine this through a number of factors including keywords on the page. Finally, authority is determined by how many inbound links there are to the website. The idea here is that the better the content, the more people will link to it.
In all honesty, this is a simplification of how search engine rankings are determined but if you understand these basic concepts it will help you with search engine optimization.
On-Site vs. Off-Site SEO
There is one more differentiation that you should be aware of when optimizing for search engines: on-site vs. off-site search engine optimization. Off-site SEO occurs when other people link back to you thus increasing your authority. The authority of the site linking back to you also matters, e.g. if you were talking about sports a link from ESPN to your site would weigh more heavily than a link from your sister’s blog about football. Overall, there isn’t much you can do to earn links other than create great content which will force people to link to you because of your great content.
On-site SEO occurs at your website and there are actionable steps you can take to improve your search engine rankings. Follow these 5 steps to improve your school’s search engine rankings:
1. Page Titles
Update your page titles to include the search engine phrases, or keywords, that you would like to rank higher for, paying attention to the page content. For example, don’t change the title of the page to “New York City Middle School Athletics” if the content of your page talks about the elementary school academic program.
2. Limit Page Titles
You should limit all of your page titles to 72 characters which is the maximum number of characters that Google displays on their search engine results page (SERP). You want to do this so that your entire page title is seen on the SERP as well as ensuring that the keywords you are focusing on will be included there as well.
3. Limit Page Description
You should limit all of your page descriptions to 165 characters which is the maximum number of characters that Google displays on their search engine results page (SERP). You want to do this so that your entire page description is seen on the SERP. Although it is thought that the page description doesn’t factor into Google’s search algorithm, it does play an important role for the person reading it to determine if the content on your page is what they are searching for.
4. Use Heading1 Tag on Page
You should try to use at least one H1 tag on each page of your website and make sure that the heading includes the keywords which you are focusing on that page.
5. Page Content Includes Keywords
As you optimize individual webpages pay close attention that the keywords, and their variations, are included in the text on the page. For example, if your page is about “New York City Middle School Athletics” make sure that those keywords, phrases, and their variations are included in the text. You could also say “NYC Middle School” or “Athletics – New York School.” Warning: There is a fine line here with regard to putting keywords in your text and you don’t won’t to cross it. Please don’t “stuff” your text with keywords that are irrelevant or make the text illegible – doing either of these things will hurt your search results in the long run.
Finally, I realize that most of our school websites have hundreds of pages and the thought of completing these five steps on every page can seem daunting. I would recommend that you consult your web analytics program and begin updating 5-10 of the least visited pages on your site each day until your process is complete. This won’t be the quickest way to optimize your site but it will make the process seem more manageable.
Also published on Medium.