Best Practices: Search Engine Optimization and Usability

Do you have pages with a lot of text and wonder if that is OK? Are your pages user-friendly? Do you want to increase your search engine rankings? Here are some tips to make your website better for your users and increase your visibility in searches.

Content-Rich Page Examples

The What is Biomedical Engineering page shows good use of headings in a page that has a lot of content. The sections don’t drag on because the headings break up the content. They also make the content more scannable for both users and search engines. Using the images to break up the large amount of text rather than placing them at the top or side of the page is another way to make the page more user-friendly.

Notice the keywords that are bolded and others that are linked to relevant pages. Highlighting the keywords in this way makes it look better to search engines and may increase your rankings. It also makes the most important topics pop out to the reader. Just be sure not to overdo it (a couple times per story should be enough). Google knows when you’re trying to cheat and there is a penalty for it!

The What is Mechanical Engineering page also uses these principles. In addition, this page includes bullets to further break up the content and make it feel less overwhelming. Properly using headings and bullets makes your content easier to read.

Keywords

Keywords, and how you use them on your pages, play an important role in search engine optimization (SEO). But keep in mind there can be too much of a good thing. You can be ranked lower for “keyword stuffing.” Write naturally, then pick out the keywords to highlight.

  • Use keywords in the URL. The URL is determined by the names of the folders.
    • Keep folder names to one to two keywords separated by a hyphen.
    • Always use lower case; never symbols or spaces.
    • These guidelines also apply to filenames (PDFs, Word Docs, etc).
  • Use keywords in the page title.
  • Use keywords in the headings.
  • Link keyword phrases across your site and to other relevant sites on campus.
  • Use keywords throughout the body copy and add style to them where appropriate (bold or italics).  Avoid underlines—they can be mistaken for a link.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Besides using keywords strategically there are several other things you can do to make your pages rank higher in searches. The University Marketing and Communications website provides more information and resources on these methods for improving your site’s ranking.

  • Publish relevant content.
  • Update your content regularly.
  • Include metadata, information about the content of your pages, via the keywords and description fields in the CMS.
  • Have a link-worthy site.
  • Use alt tags to describe your visual and video media.

Usability

Think about your users when writing the content and designing the layout for your pages. If it isn’t easy for them to navigate or is too overwhelming, they will not stay long enough to get the information you want them to have.

  • Use headings, lists, and bullets.
  • Don’t make the user click. They are happy to scroll.
    • Instead of 10 pages that each have one paragraph on them, it’s better to have one page with strong headings and several paragraphs.
    • Sliders were a great way to make a lot of content easier to digest, but clicking sliders to open them has become a problem, especially with mobile devices. Try using more headings, images, and bullets to break up your content rather than putting it in a slider.
  • Don’t overload your navigation—the tabs and links that give users access to your pages. The typical human brain can only handle so much information at a time.
    • Follow the rule of seven—keep your navigation down to seven tabs. The same applies to the page links under each of those tabs.