SEO - Getting your page found!

Search Engines

We've all used them, so you should already know what a search engine is, but if you don't then you should take a look here for more information on search engines before you read any further. The main search engines you are probably familiar with are Google and Yahoo. The Colorado State University search uses Google's Coop Search technology to re-brand Goolge's CSU related search results to within our visual style.

Tips

The tips below are basic ways to improve your rankings within the CSU search engine, and search engines overall. Since our search engine only indexes pages within the colostate.edu domain, there should be little competition for search results relating to your department or area of interest, and it should be relatively easy to improve your ranking by following the tips below.

Each of the tips below are part of a whole Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy, they will each have an effect, but they work best when combined together. Having terms listed in the Description, in the Keywords, in the Title, semantically in the content, and in the URL will dramatically improve results over just using any one the techniques by itself.

Metatags

Metatags are used to store information usually relevant only to browsers and search engines. Really anything can be stored here, but the Description and Keywords metatags are directly relevant to how your webpage ranks in search engines.

Description

<head>
<title>Your Page Title Here</title>
<meta name="Description" content="Your Description">
<meta name="Keywords" content="Your Keywords">
</head>

Example:

example of the descritpion metatag information being displayed in search results

The Description metatag is used as an area to describe the webpage, and give a little information about what will be found on it. Search engines index this information in addition to the rest of the content on your page, and will often display a portion of this when returning search results. When writing your description, you should keep it fairly short (only a sentence or two), but be sure to include search terms and phrases that you think people will be searching for.

Keywords

<head>
<title>Your Page Title Here</title>
<meta name="Description" content="Your Description">
<meta name="Keywords" content="Your Keywords">
</head>

The Keywords metatag is used to define keywords and phrases that you would like the search engines to list your page in their results when those words or phrases are searched for. Though the keywords metatags are not relied on as heavily as they used to be (having the word in the actual content is far more effective), they still have an impact on search results, and should be used. You will want to list words and phrases in the order of importance as many search engines have a limit, and will quit reading the words after a set word limit has been reached. The search engines do not tell what that limit is, so keep the most important terms first. There is also some speculation that if you have too many keywords, the search engines may penalize your ranking, so keep the words relevant and within reason.

Titles

<head>
<title>Your Page Title Here</title>
<meta name="Description" content="Your Description">
<meta name="Keywords" content="Your Keywords">
</head>

Example:

example of the title display

The Title tag is where you define the title of the page. This information is usually displayed in the top bar of your web browser. This information is also used by search engines to help rank your page. Having accurate titles for all your pages will dramatically help your search engine rankings. Your titles should be brief and accurate.

Content

Most search engines today rely heavily on the content of your page to rank it in search results. Search engines also try to look at the semantic coding of your page to get a better feel for how relevant your page actually is. So basically, proper coding practices can also dramatically help your rankings.

Example 1: <html>
<head>
<title>Waffles</title>
</head>
<body>
<h1>Waffles Rock!</h1>
<p>Waffles rock because they taste awesome.</p>
</body>
</html>

Example 2: <html>
<head>
<title>Waffles</title>
</head>
<body>
<p><font size=6><b>Waffles Rock!</b></font></p>
<p>Waffles rock because they taste awesome.</p>
</body>
</html>

When searching for the term "waffles," Example 1 will typically rank higher than Example 2 even though they will look the same in your web browser. The reason is by using the proper "<h1>", the search engine knows this is a heading, and not just another paragraph. Since they both have the exact same information (and the term shows up the same number of times), the properly coded page will get ranked higher because it seems more relevant.

URL

The search engines will also look at urls when ranking pages. This means that naming your pages will also have an impact on your search results. Using our example of "waffles" Naming a page "wafflesrock.html" will be more effective than naming a page "wfflrck.hmtl". Having the term appear in the filename of the page adds one more level of relevance to the content and the search engine will rank the page higher as a result.

Strategy

The above examples are simple things one can do to make a page rank higher in the search results, but they will work best when used together. By having a page named "wafflesrock.html" - with a description indicating how waffles rock - keywords listing waffle related terms - and a page title of "Waffles Rock" - and having the term "waffles" appear in the content, while being semantically coded should yield very high results for the search term "waffles".

Though this may seem basic, or tedious, you would be surprised at how often people do not do these basic things on campus, and thus their page gets outranked by a well named pdf, or some other page far less relevant than theirs.

Competition

The last strategy you can employ is to scout your competition. You can perform searches on terms you would like your page to be displayed for, and see who is ahead of you in the rankings. Analyze their code - look at their url, description, keywords, and content and see how many times the term shows up in each and compare it to your page. Then modify your code accordingly and see if you improve (keep in mind that google re-indexes anywhere from one day to six weeks across campus).

Learn More

There is much more to high rankings than we can cover in this one page. Additional topics include domain names, popularity, number of pages linking to yours, paid placements, etc., but the above tips should be good enough to get you started, and achieve success within the CSU search.

Here's a good set of resources:

© 2012 Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523 USA  |  T.O.P.S.