Category: Search Rankings

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 OU Campus 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 OU Campus 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.

Large Image Files

Having images on your page that are too large can slow down the page load time and frustrate your users. All images that are used in the CMS should be created using the Image Editor gadget in the CMS. This process includes the files being compressed and optimized for the web to manage that file size. Be sure to insert or link to these edited files, not the original.

Email Address Links

Linking email addresses on your page make it easier for users to contact you, especially from a mobile device. When you paste text into the page or have an email address at the end of a sentence followed by a period, the addresses are not linked automatically. The easiest way to add the link is to put your cursor after the address, press space (this should automatically recognize the email address and link it), then delete the space. You can also use the Mailto Link icon Mailto Link icon to manually add the link.

Deprecated HTML Tags

There are several outdated HTML codes for some formatting that can get copied and pasted in if you’re not careful. While the text will appear how you want it to a sighted user, it will cause problems for screen readers. This includes

bold <b> should be <strong>

and italics <i> should be <em>

Be sure to use Paste as Text Paste as Text icon before pasting or Clear Formatting Clear Formatting icon after pasting to remove all of the potentially bad code, then use the formatting tools available in the CMS editor to apply the needed styles.

Underlines

On webpages, underlines signify links and should not be used to format text for other reasons. If you want to make some text stand out, use headings, bold, or italics as appropriate instead.

Empty Headings

Because screen reader users can navigate your page using the headings, having a heading tag with no content in it can cause problems. Be sure there are no blank line spaces between content on your page.

Missing Meta Information

A meta description displays in search engine results as the short summary of the page’s content. Along with the meta title, which is the text that shows up in the browser’s tab, it is potentially one of the only pieces of content a user will see from your site, so it plays an important role in the search engine optimization for the page. Keywords help your page rank higher in the search results.

If you do not fill out the Description and Keyword fields when setting up a new webpage, be sure to go back and add the information before publishing. In OU Campus, the meta title will automatically be generated based on the page and site titles.

Underscores in URLs

URLs with hyphens are preferred over underscores by Google. Hyphens make URLs easier for search engines and real people to read. Do not use underscores in your folder or filenames—only use lower case letters, numbers, and hyphens.

H1 Headers

Having multiple <h1> tags can confuse search engines. The only H1 heading on your page should be the page title. Do not add Heading 1 to the body of your webpages.

Words in All Caps

Not only can it be harder to read, but etiquette generally discourages the use of all caps online. Instead, use headings, bold, or italics as appropriate to make the message stand out.

Michigan Tech Editorial Guide

Michigan Tech’s Editorial Guide has additional information about text formatting, style, and punctuation. These are some of the common issues seen on our webpages that are easy to avoid. Following the Editorial Guide will help maintain a consistent user experience across all our pages.

Phone Number Format

Phone numbers should be formatted with hyphens, not parentheses or periods.

Example: 906-487-1885

And, Not &

Ampersand (&) should only be used for brand-specific words, Twitter or in lists and titles. Otherwise use “and.”

Time

Times should be listed using a.m. and p.m. When the time is on the hour, do not include :00, just list the number. Use noon or midnight rather than 12 p.m. or 12 a.m.

Example: 8 a.m.—2:30 p.m. or 8—11 a.m.

Dates

Dates should be spelled out and include the day of the week and year for informational purposes. Do not add nd or st to the number portion.

Example: Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Numbers Zero Through Nine

Numbers zero to nine are always spelled out except in recipes, with staff positions, or in credit hours.

Example: There were six people in class taking 3 credits.


Avoid Duplicating Meta Descriptions

Often times, it is easiest to copy something that you have already made in the CMS, to use as a starting point. Am I right? This is particularly true with Generic Pages. You’ve already made this particularly awesome webpage and now you want to copy it. You duplicate the item in the CMS, update the content, send it to Public and you’re done with it. Easy! One issue that we are seeing more and more though, is duplicated meta descriptions. This is often because people don’t know what a meta description is or why it is important.


External Links and Beware of the ‘Link Trolls’

As a web manager, you have a lot of responsibility. You have to keep your content “fresh” and accurate. It is a lot of work when you have 50+ webpages to manage along with various other job responsibilities. Making CMS updates typically falls under “and other duties assigned”—making things particularly difficult.

The ‘What’ and ‘Why’ of External Linking

We link to a lot of external websites—ones that Michigan Tech does not own or control. We link to resources about the local community and lodging, responsible research practices, and the products that our university uses. We link to information about disabilities. To our corporate partners’ websites. To sponsors, writing tips, and career advice.


Search Engine Optimization and Usability

Over the past month, 60% of our web traffic has come via some search engine. That number has hovered around 60% for months now. What does that mean? In a world where users automatically go to Google to find a website, it is increasing important that we optimize our websites for search engines (commonly referred to as SEO).

A number of the same principles for optimizing our websites (using headings, linking keywords, providing rich content) also create a website that is very user friendly. A good website follows usability best practices and SEO best practices.

To help our campus web liaisons, we have produced a guide about SEO and usability best practices.