Search Engine Optimization

Write Content for the User
Use words and phrases that your audience would understand and use to search for your content. Avoid phrases and terms that you use internally but that your audience would not understand. Create keyword-rich content based on what users are likely to search for to find the information on your page. Consult your analytics reports on the most common search terms users enter to reach your site. Let those results guide you in developing content. 

NO - The Black House was founded in 1962. It is an organization for persons enrolled at Georgetown University, who are members of the African Diaspora from the United States of America or other locations throughout the world.
YES - The Black House was founded in 1962. It is an organization for African-American and Black Georgetown University students. The club welcomes international and American students.
Error: The content uses uncommon search terms, which a user is not likely to enter to find the page.

Use Keywords in Page Titles
The page title is the collection of words that appear at the very top of your internet browser. 

  • The title should be an accurate and concise description of a page's content. Use relevant keywords in title tags at least once. When they appear in a user’s query, search engines highlight them on the results page, increasing the likelihood that a user will click on them. 
  • Keep them concise. Search engines only display the first 70 characters in a title tag.
  • Place keywords near to the beginning of the title tag. The closer to the beginning, the better your page ranking. 
  • Keep titles relevant to your brand. Make them descriptive and compelling. Use them to draw your user in and create a great first impression.

 

NO - Georgetown University :: Office of Student Affairs :: Student Health Insurance

YES - Student Health Insurance – Plans, Claims, FAQs

Error: The page title needs to be more descriptive and appears to have been written from an organizational perspective. The keywords are too far into the title.

 

Write Meta Descriptions to Attract Users

  • When search engines rank pages, they do not consider keywords and phrases in meta descriptions. However, this part of your content is critical to influencing users to click through.
  • Keep them short. Search engines truncate descriptions longer than 160 characters.
  • Don’t duplicate. Each page should have its own unique meta description.
  • Make them compelling. Treat them as you would promotional copy to encourage users to click.

NO - New Student Orientation (NSO) congratulates newly admitted Georgetown students and looks forward to orienting them to their life as a Hoya
YES - Welcome to Georgetown University! Your experience as a Hoya begins here. Check out Orientation events, checklists for new students and stay on top of important dates.
Error: The description is not compelling, and is too generic.

Figure 1: An example of Google’s search engine results page when Page Titles, Meta Descriptions and URLs are optimized.

Construct URLs That Matter
URLs help search engines rank pages; they are critical to SEO. At first glance, they should help the user predict what type of content they will find on that page. 
Georgetown URL Guidelines:

  • Always use lower case. Separate words with dashes (-), not underscores (_).
  • Always include “parent” pages or sections in URL constructions. For example: http://www.georgetown.edu/campus-life/campus-ministry/index.html (where “Campus Ministry” is a junior page on the “Campus Life” site).
  • Ensure that file names match content.

NO - http://www3.georgetown.edu/student-affairs/caps/Policy-version-2-signed-off.pdf
YES - http://www3.georgetown.edu/student-affairs/caps/smoking-policy.pdf

Error: URL does not give an indication of the content and is not entirely written lower case.

Important Content Should be in Plain Text
Avoid hiding your content in media files, which search engines are likely to ignore. 
If your site includes media, ensure all audio and visuals are appropriately labeled and described. An image should have a smart alternative text description. Help search engines successfully point users to content by including transcripts for video and audio, and avoiding embedding text in images.

NO - Alternative text for image: photo 3small.jpg
YES - Alternative text for image: Todd Olson, Vice President for Student Affairs
Error: The file name is vague and does not accurately identify content. It will weaken SEO results.

Resources
The SEO Resources Page contains many resources to assist you, including video tutorials, beginner's guides, and SEO tools.