Category: SEO

How to tip the odds in your favor in search results – Headings, images & content (part 3 of 3)

(cross-posted from the W&M Creative Services Blog)

So you’ve set up the framework for your page, placing it in the appropriate spot on your site, giving it a readable URL and meaningful title, and filling in the description metatag. Next we will take a look at what goes into the main content area on your page.

Useful Headings

Headings help to create a hierarchy of information on your page. One way to think of headings is as if you were writing an outline of your page’s content like you did back in middle school for a research paper. If you skim the headings do you get the gist of what the page is about? W&M’s Web Writing & Style Guide encourages you to use headings thoughtfully and sparingly, which is also good practice for SEO. Use heading tags where it makes sense. If there are too many headings on a page your users will not know where to start visually; they will not be able to quickly determine what content is important, and they cannot easily scan to find what they were looking for on the page. Keep in mind, if your user cannot find what they’re looking for amongst a sea of headings, how will the search engine?

Images with “alt” text

Images may seem like just a nice visual element to add to your site but you can optimize them for search engines as well. All of your images should have “alt” text that is descriptive and can serve as a reasonable alternative (thus the “alt”) to the image if it cannot be displayed or is being “seen” by a screen reader for those users with vision impairments.

Another helpful SEO tip is to give your files meaningful names (just like your folder System Names). Rather than IMG0123.jpg, name it crim-dell-bridge.jpg (being sure not to use spaces, capitalization or any special characters aside from dash (-) and underscore ( _ ) ). Google looks at file names just as it looks at the URL and page name of your site, so giving it a meaningful name will help both the search engine and yourself find images.

Descriptive Links

Anchor text, the clickable text that users will see as a result of you adding a link to your content, should tell users (and Google) something about the page you are linking to. Avoid using “click here” or similar phrases. Instead describe where the link will take the user. This way it is easier for the user (and search engine) to scan the page and find relevant links as well as understand what the page you’re linking to is about.

Quality Content

Putting up clear, quality, relevant content on your website, whether in the form of an informative page title, well structured links, or useful image descriptions will help your page become more relevant to search engines. However, what influences your website more than any of these factors is the main content of your page. Creating compelling and useful content is what drives users to come to your page in the first place, and is what will prompt them to share that content and create the buzz that helps build the reputation and credibility of your site.

Content Questions to Ponder

If you are finding that your site does not appear where you expect it to when searching for a particular term, examine your content (this includes your page title, links and headings as well as the main content). Do you mention the search term you’re looking for anywhere in your content? Is it important enough that you should adjust your page title to include the term? You never want to “stuff” your page with search keywords to try and increase your rankings. However, if you find that people are searching for “agenda” when you are using the word “program” you may want to tweak your content to use that more common search term instead.

So with SEO it pretty much boils down to: write good content, name things clearly and concisely, and just generally be “friendly” to your users. These steps will take you a long way in making your site more relevant to Google and its searches, both on and on Google’s main site. Happy searching.


How to tip the odds in your favor in search results – Titles, links & metatags (part 2 of 3)

(Cross-posted from the W&M Creative Services Blog)

We started with a quick overview of what Google says to concentrate on in your search rankings (do what’s best for your visitors) and how the W&M site search works. Now let’s move on to your actual web pages, starting with the things you create first when you make a new page.

Clear Site Hierarchy

Try to structure your website with the most important information “up front,” either linked from the homepage or very easily accessed from it. Using this kind of hierarchy in your site helps both users and search engines determine what is most important on your site.

Readable URLs

The system or file name is pretty much always the first thing you set when creating new content and it is what forms the URL for your page. For your system name try to be as descriptive as you can. Use dashes (-)  to separate words if you want a multi-word system name, for instance “meeting-minutes” rather than “meetingminutes.” Using a character like the dash or underscore to separate the words makes the URL easier for Google (and your users) to see what your page is about, a page like “” is much harder to remember and figure out what the content is about than “” If there are key words in your page URL those will also be indexed in Google’s results, so this is one more spot where using meaningful names for your pages can help improve your search rankings.

Concise and Effective Page Titles

Each page in your site should have a short but unique title that clearly indicates to both Google, and the person viewing your site (either in search results or actually on the page) what the page is about and how it differs from other pages on your site.

Metatags (where needed)

Years ago the keywords metatag was a factor in search engine results but in recent years Google has begun ignoring the keywords field, mainly because sites were “stuffing” the keywords field to bump up their search results rather than putting in the most relevant keywords for their site. So this is not something you’ll need to worry about for your page.

A page’s description metatag gives Google and other search engines a summary of what the page is about. Although these do not directly influence the search results any longer, they are still important as search engines may use them as descriptive snippets for your page if it turns up in their results. Something to note, if the search engine finds text it deems more relevant to the user’s search, such as a sentence containing their search term, then that may be used as the summary for the search result instead of what’s in your description metatag.

As with page titles, the description for each page should be unique and specific to each page. If you copied the same description from page to page, how will users be able to distinguish which of your pages they want to visit when they come up in a search result? If all of the results from your site appear the same the user may skip your site altogether since it is unclear.

In the next post we’ll look at how the main content of your page affects your search rankings, with tips on how to improve those rankings using your images, headings and general content.


How to tip the odds in your favor in search results (part 1 of 3)

(Cross-posted from the W&M Creative Services Blog)

There is no magic bullet for getting your site ranked highly in Google’s (or any other search engine’s) search results. However, there are a handful of best practices that can help you make your pages more relevant to users and thus more likely to become top-ranked results in Google, this is referred to as SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

First, a starting thought from Google’s SEO Starter Guide (emphasis mine):

You should base your optimization decisions first and foremost on what’s best for the visitors of your site. They’re the main consumers of your content and are using search engines to find your work…Search engine optimization is about putting your site’s best foot forward when it comes to visibility in search engines, but your ultimate consumers are your users, not search engines.

Search results on

On the W&M website we use a Google Custom Search Engine which, when you boil it down, is just Google’s normal search engine except it’s results are restricted to only look on a particular set of sites (in W&M’s case, anything ending in “”). So all of the following tips from Google’s SEO Starter Guide will apply just as well to a site’s search results as to Google’s (although they may not match exactly).

In the next two posts we will work from the top down on a web page, from page URLs to image descriptions, exploring how each element affects search results — stay tuned…