Technical SEO

There are two big parts to search engine optimization (SEO): content SEO and technical SEO. Content creators spend the bulk of their time—if not all of their time—thinking about content. That is what a writer sees. That is what the user sees. They say content is king and the content is always right in front of us. Web managers also need to consider how technical metrics can affect SEO.

What is Technical SEO?

Technical SEO refers to measurable metrics which affect search engine optimization and search engine rankings that web developers, programmers, and infrastructure managers can influence. One important example is page speed. The faster a page loads, the better the experience is for the user. Search engines, such as Google, factor in your page load times when determining how to rank your webpages because search engines know that faster loading webpages provide a better experience to visitors.

There are many technical factors that can affect page speed, user experience, and website authority—all of which factor into search engine rankings. Several of these key technical factors include:

  • caching / minify / text compression
  • critical CSS
  • first paint experience / time to interactive
  • HTTP/2
  • HTTPS security
  • HTTP request total
  • image compression
  • image lazy load / mirage
  • image sizing (proper)
  • JS execution speed
  • media types (use modern ones: WebP, WebM, etc)
  • page redirects
  • render-blocking images
  • request preconnect
  • robots.txt configuration
  • third-party code/services

Your website’s frontend and backend developers and programmers—along with the people in charge of managing your servers and infrastructure—can make significant improvements to your page speed loading times and overall user experience by researching, prioritizing, and implementing improvements related to these topics. All of these factors will improve your technical search engine optimization.

Why is Technical SEO Important?

The spotlight has been shining brighter on the technical side of search engine optimization ever since Google came out with Core Web Vitals (CWV). Core web vitals measure the technical health of the user experience of any given webpage. These core web vitals are measurable and trackable and they push web developers to create a better user experience. Google factors in core web vitals and other measures of webpage performance when converting a site index into search engine rankings.

What are Core Web Vitals?

Core web vitals are broken down into three categories:

  1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): LCP focuses on your webpage’s loading performance. You want the user to see meaningful web content as fast as possible—within 2.5 seconds. The slower your initial content loads, the more likely your webpage visitor will become impatient and leave your website. This is especitally important on mobile devices that may not be connected to fast WiFi internet service.
  2. First Input Delay (FID): FID focuses on webpage interactivity. How long does the user have to wait to actually use your website? You need to keep the first input delay under 100 milliseconds.
  3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): CLS focuses on the visual stability of your webpages. We all hate when we are looking at a webpage and we go to click on something—only to have the webpage content shift and move on us. Shifts occur when some additional element, such as an ad, image, or alert bar, appears after content above or below it has already appeared. Content shifts are frustrating, so keep your CLS to 0.1 or less.

How Else Can I Improve SEO?

In addition to focusing on technical search engine optimization, your content creators should also work on content search engine optimization. Writers, bloggers, copyeditors, and others who create and input content into your website can learn key SEO skills:


User Experience

This post about user experience goes hand-in-hand with a previous post I wrote about user intent. Once you know your audience and figure out what they need and when, you need to create the content on your website in a meaningful way. According to usability.gov,

User experience (UX) focuses on having a deep understanding of users, what they need, what they value, their abilities, and also their limitations.  It also takes into account the business goals and objectives of the group managing the project. UX best practices promote improving the quality of the user’s interaction with and perceptions of your product and any related services.


User Intent

Once you know your audience, the next step is to understand them a little more and figure out what they want and need. User intent is an important concept when designing and building webpages to help increase both search rankings and the value of your pages to your audience. This should be the cornerstone of building and editing your webpages.

According to Wikipedia, user intent, also known as query intent or search intent, is what a user intended or wanted to find when they did their search. These intentions are often categorized into three goals:

  • Navigation: getting to a specific site (Go)
  • Information: getting more information about a particular topic (Know)
  • Transaction: performing an action, such as purchasing or applying (Do)


Google Analytics Data Updates

Digital Services manages the University’s Google Analytics implementation. We have a couple of updates for anyone in the campus community who reviews or reports analytics for their CMS website(s).

Pageviews

During the fall semester, we made some adjustments to our tracking code to better attribute digital advertising conversions between Google AdWords and Slate CRM.


Common Errors on Webpages

There are many common issues you can watch for on your webpages to help increase the quality and search engine optimization (SEO) of your pages, make them more accessible, and follow Michigan Tech’s editorial standards.

Specific instructions that may be included below are for Michigan Tech’s Omni CMS.

Misspellings

It only takes a few misspellings to affect a user’s impression of your website. Be sure to use the spell checking options within Omni CMS before publishing your pages. The system does not check spelling as you go. Within the editor you can use the Spell Check icon Spell Check icon to check the existing text and underline spelling errors. Before publishing you should always run the Final Checks, which includes a spelling check.


Communicating on COVID-19

Many areas of Michigan Tech are in charge of various guidelines, protocols, resources, frequently asked questions, and other information resulting from COVID-19. What is the best way to get this content onto your CMS website?

Documents or Webpages?

If your department is generating or receiving new content, you generally have a couple options for posting it online:

  1. Add to an existing webpage
  2. Create a new webpage
  3. Upload as a Word Document or PDF

If you have a small amount of content, like a status update, that relates to an existing webpage, we recommend adding a message box to that existing page. See the COVID-19 message box at the top of the Current Students webpage for an example.

If you have a lot of content, we recommend creating a new webpage. Here are some examples from other departments:

Sometimes, it may be tempting to post a PDF or other document format. Because these files are not as accessible or easy to use as a CMS webpage, we recommend only posting files if they are coming from a non-Michigan Tech entity, like the CDC or State of Michigan. An exception to this recommendation could be if the document is solely for printing purposes.

Frequently Asked Questions

When posting COVID-19 frequently asked questions, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Add a date after the answer, so users know if the information is new, has changed, or has been verified recently. Review several of the HR FAQs to see statuses used well.
  2. If you have more than seven total FAQs, try to organize them into subcategories to make your listing more scannable and readable. Review the groupings used by the HR FAQs as a good example.

In Omni CMS, use the FAQ Ordered List snippet to format your questions and answers.

Message Boxes

You may need to post a COVID-19 related message box onto an existing webpage. Examples include:

You can create a message box by using a Boxed Sections snippet with single column and full border options selected in Omni CMS.

Homepages

Calling out your COVID-19 information on your homepage may be important. There are a few options to do this:

Mediazone

You can add rollover buttons within the Mediazone of your homepage. Examples include:

In Omni CMS, select the Text Over Image banner type in the MultiEdit Content screen and add content in the Media Title and Banner Content fields.

Message Box

You can add a message box to your homepage or work your COVID-19 content into your existing message box. As an example, Facilities worked their COVID-19 content into there Announcements box:

Message boxes are created by using a Boxed Sections snippet with single column and full border options selected in Omni CMS. On a homepage, this is generally done in the Main Content region.

Blog Feed

If you have a blog feed on your homepage, you can make COVID-19 posts in your department blog that feed your homepage. HR does a good job of this:

Cross-Linking Content

There may be content from the COVID-19 website that applies to your own website. It is great to cross-link resources! Use the tactics listed above to reference any relevant COVID-19 content from any site onto your own website.

Similarly, you can cross-link your own content across your CMS website. For example information about pass/fail could be linked to on a homepage, a webpage about GPA, and a webpage about add/drop schedules. Link to new COVID-19 content where ever you think your audience might look for it or find it helpful.


You can use and combine these tactics to get COVID-19 content in front of your audiences.

Questions? Email cmshelp@mtu.edu. We are here to help you and are happy to talk through what your scenario is and what might be best. We are also happy to provide technical support.

Stay safe everyone!

Joel Vertin
Director of Digital Services


My Michigan Tech (Student Testimonial) Initiative

We have been busy launching a student testimonial initiative called My Michigan Tech over the past few months. This is really neat project that has allowed us to talk to a bunch of our students and learn about their Michigan Tech experiences.

Project Motivation

In August, an admissions and enrollment consultant came to campus. One great idea shared was to prioritize letting prospective students learn about Michigan Tech through storytelling by our current students. This could be accomplished through quotes and stories in text and video forms.

Storytelling is a powerful marketing tool. More importantly, though, it is a genuine way to share great information about Michigan Tech. Our students are our story, after all. Why not hear from them?


Improving Our YouTube Channel

Video screenshot example.

We have been working on reorganizing our YouTube channel and reprioritizing the type of video projects that we take on. This process involved benchmarking YouTube channels from over two dozen other universities, creating and updating playlists on our channel, and reorganizing our existing videos.

Our writing team has helped us craft our video titles, descriptions, and, tags. We have started outsourcing closed captions (and open captions where needed). We have explored which videos should be public (triggers a push notification to our subscribers) versus unlisted (great when you need to embed on a website, but don’t need the video to otherwise be publicly available). And UMC’s change in focus has allowed us to pursue high-impact projects.

Through all this, our efforts have been paying off.


A Better Footer for All

The Digital Services team is developing an upgraded global footer design for our CMS websites. The upgrade puts a strategic focus on marketing and recruitment in line with our mission to increase enrollment.

Customization

We are excited to introduce some new, customizable options. In addition to customizing your contact information, you will now be able to add call-to-action (CTA) buttons and social media icons to your CMS website’s footer. Options include:

  1. No CTA buttons or social media icons (base footer only)
  2. Add social media icons linking to the social media channels of your choice
  3. Add a “Give” button, linking to the giving page of your choice
  4. Add three recruitment buttons, letting users Request Information, Schedule a Visit, or Apply

You can also use any combination of option #2, #3, and #4.


A New Focus in 2019

As Digital Services gears up for 2019, it is important to acknowledge some leadership changes that have taken place. Through the restructuring within the President’s Council (formerly the Executive Team), University Relations and Enrollment (URE) was elevated and University Marketing and Communications (UMC) has been tasked with boosting the University’s external reputation and recruitment efforts nationally.