The Big Plunge

Man diving headfirst into the waterSearch Engine Optimization has become a central concept to marketing on the web. Most of your site’s visitors are going to be directed to your site by their searches via a search engine. For better or worse, your site’s success with your audience lies greatly in where you rank in search engine results.

It’s no wonder that an industry has built around the core of search engines.  Numerous businesses tout techniques for increasing your site’s relevance to search engines. Some use industry-approved techniques to boost your rankings – methods called ‘white-hat’ techniques.  Others employ more shady, ‘black-hat’ techniques that might prove profitable in the short-term, but that can result in severe penalties if they are discovered (Google will delist web sites they find employing such techniques, a situation which almost assures economic ruin for the business that finds itself removed from their listings).

A Natural Diving Technique

The most successful long term strategy for developing a high ranking is search engines is through an organic approach.  In the organic model, quality, relevant content to your audience takes precedence over other SEO techniques. The business or organizations concentrates on writing strong content that has value to the end user.  The end users, in response, link to and recommend the site to others, both through their web sites, blogs, reviews, and social media.  This, in turn, increases your relevancy scores to the search engines and leads to a higher search result.

Organic  SEO is the most sustainable method for increase search engine relevancy. It does not require the cumulative and expensive costs associated with paid search engine placement or hiring external SEO firms, and stays solidly in the ‘white-hat’ side of the process by building on within the parameters that were intended for the search engine algorithms that determine placement. However, it does require a long term institutional commitment to revising, editing, and providing content that changes and is responsive to meet the needs of your audience. As it builds on organic growth, it also takes a longer time to show measurable results, but its results are often much longer lasting that the paid placement techniques.

Testing the Waters

SEO Blogs

Like many things involving the internet, there are changes within search engine optimization occurring every day. Any change made by a search engine can have immediate implications in your rankings if not identified and addressed. Here are a few SEO industry blogs that I would recommend reviewing if you are taking an active role in the SEO of your unit’s web site. You don’t need to follow them all, but they are some of the most widely used and you might find a few that appeal to your reading preferences and you might want to bookmark them for future reference.

Content Strategy Blogs

In addition to the blogs above, I’d recommend also looking at informational resources about content theory and content strategy, the lynchpins of the organic growth model. These three are quite good and I readily recommend them:

Keeping Our Heads Above Water

Raising the search engine results of our web sites is a communal effort.  The new WordPress template leverages the strenght of all of our units through the use of a global navigation system that ties the Shands hospital system, the colleges of the Health Science Center, and the veterinary hospital system together. Ranking improvements in any site in our system will have the potential to raise the ranking results of many others within the system.

External Web Services is ready to assist you in your SEO efforts.  We’ll consult with you, recommend best practices, and help conduct audits on your site’s current content. In turn, we’re working with our University of Florida colleagues to share resources and knowledge to allow us to build off of the University’s brand. We invite all of our content providers to share their experiences and knowledge via this blog as well – contact me if you have some suggestions.

Photo: Hani Amir, Flickr

About the Author


Jeffrey Stevens

Jeff Stevens is the Assistant Web Manager for UF Health Web Services. He focuses on user experience, information architecture, content strategy, and usability.

Read all articles by Jeffrey Stevens