One of the questions we field often in Web Services is how to improve a site’s search engine rankings.
When we look at how a person reviews search results, about 75% of users will only look at the first set of results for a given search topic and 25% will proceed to the second page of results. Some information seekers might go deeper, but in general, we are always aiming for that first page.
With hundred of thousands results for any search term vying for that first page results, optimizing your search results is one of the biggest challenges for a web manager. It takes dedication and time for the incremental changes to move upward. Here are some tips for making that happen:
Determine Key Words
- Revisit your department or unit’s goals. Who are your primary audiences? What do you want them to accomplish when visiting your site?
- Look at your Google analytics, which captures information on search terms used by visitors when they came to your site. Look for patterns and recurring search terms.
- Review your peer institution sites and their page content. Review peer sites that have better rankings, as well as those that have lower rankings. Use a keyword analysis tool (a few free ones can be found here: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/5-free-tools-for-competitor-keyword-research/28015/) to see their patterns for opportunities to improve yours or to find gaps that you might be able to use to leverage your site higher.
- Keep your keyword density (the amount of keywords in relation to other page or post content) to around 8-10% percent of the total copy. There are a number of online tools that can assist in doing this review.
When adding content, you can use your keyword research to help guide its creation. This is a balancing act – remember, your goal is not to stuff a site only with key words. Our goal for websites is clarity – write for the humans that use our sites, not for the machines or algorithms behind the scenes.
- Optimize using Page Title and Headlines – Search engines give greater weight to the page title and headers that are used to categorize your site. Adding keywords here can make a big difference. Our Apollo theme will allow you to add a subheading to your Page Title as well, which can be a good way to adding a little extra weight to the title that doesn’t make your navigation labels too clunky.
- Use Your Alt and Title Tags. The alt and title tags provide you another field in which to emphasize your keywords. Again, add it in a way that makes contextual sense.
- File names. File names can also add some optimization juice. Name your files also in a way that can support your goals. For example, a photo uploaded from a camera might have the following name:DSC-11978a.jpgA search engine will note that name and add it image and search results. If the file had been renamed: 2016-white-coat-ceremony-students.jpgThere’s data there that make it clear what the event was and who involved, which assists the search engine in relating the photo (and the page it is embedded into) to a search query for those keywords. Paired with an alt and title tag, this helps to make the page even stronger.
Develop a Backlink Strategy
Apart from the content itself, search engines also look at the linking structure of a website. The internal linking structure is important (and this is done by the theme behind-the-scenes), however, even more critical are the external links – what sites connect to it as a source of information. The more sites that share your content, the higher an authoritative source your site will be seen to be, and therefore garner a higher search engine ranking spot.
Backlinking takes time – in fact, you do want to take your time, as building up back links could get you listed as a possible spam or ‘black-hat’ site attempting to build relevance through techniques that are frowned upon by search engines. Many companies claim to help build your backlinks – be wary of using them, as some of them could result in your site being delisted from Google if it is found they are using some of these techniques to falsely boost your relevance.
- Start by creating great content. Content that is shared by others without any type of coercion generally has the greatest chance of spreading quickly.
- Use news and social media. News stories and press releases that link back to your site have the potential to greatly increase your reach and thereby provide more inbound links. UF Health’s internal social media ecosystem is quite robust and provides a number of opportunities for amplifying your message.
- Find authoritative sites that are willing to link to your content. Choose specific partners and demonstrate to their team why linking to your site provides benefits for their audience.
- Use blogs and other external sites. Many blogs invite guest bloggers to write on a topic – popular news and blog sites like HuffingtonPost, Buzzfeed, and Medium accept guest submissions. Again, these venues might not be appropriate for all audiences, but their readership sizes make them good venues for drawing in backlink traffic.
- Take part in online Q and A sessions and forums. Participating in these online discussions helps to raise your department and physician’s visibility and will lead to follow-through traffic to your site.
How Web Services Can Help
Web Services provides a number of free services to our UF Health clients to assist in optimizing site content. We can help review Google Analytics for your site and provide content audits looking at keywords, keyword density, and peer reviews. Our social media team can assist in developing a backlinking strategy using external sites and UF Health social media properties. Contact us today to start the process.