Google rankings: Optimize your content for search engines

Search engine optimization (SEO) can increase your site’s visibility by helping your pages rank higher in search engine results.

Groups that want to increase visitor traffic to their site can step up their web game by optimizing their content for search engines like Google, Yahoo! and Bing.

SEO is a huge and dynamic field, but the basic principles are common sense: Search engines aim to list the most relevant results for a user’s query. To determine relevance, they look for sites that are rich in keywords that match a user’s search, built following best practices, and linked to often by other credible sites.

By using the WashU Web Theme, you’re already ensuring your site follows many of the best practices search engines consider. But programming can only take your site so far. It needs quality content to make up the rest.

Here are a few ways to help improve your site’s rankings in search engines:

  • Make a list of the keywords your audience might use to search for a site like yours; when possible and practical, include those keywords on the pages of your site, especially in page names, subheadings and image captions
  • Use target keywords in your site name and web address / URL if possible
  • Include images on your site; caption images that appear in the body, and use the alt tag for images that do not show a caption
  • Before uploading images to your site, save them with filenames that include a relevant target keyword
  • Follow the best practices for web writing
  • Ask writers and managers of other websites to link to pages on your site; it’s even better if their link text includes a relevant keyword or phrase (e.g., The Washington University Sleep Medicine Center provides treatment options for many sleep disorders.)
  • Link to pages within your own site when appropriate
  • Avoid black-hat tactics; search engines penalize sites that appear to be trying to cheat the system

It can take a few weeks or even months for search engines to fully index and start ranking a new website, so be patient.

To track your site’s visits, be sure to install Google Analytics on your site.

If your website exists in a competitive niche and organic SEO isn’t getting the results you need, you might also consider targeted ads on sites such as Google or Facebook. Contact us if you would like to explore paid advertising options.