SEO presentation - Megan McDermott

Search Engine Optimization
December 3, 2008
Megan McDermott
Communications & Public Affairs
Lauren Harrison
Housing & Residences
Part I: SEO Basics
1. How search engines work
2. UW search tools
3. Defining and implementing keywords
4. The importance of links
Part II: Technical Details
1. Changing URLs
2. Blocking search engines
3. Using SEO tools
How search engines work
“Bots” follow links around the web
Index URLs
Revisit URLs periodically
Google uses over 100 factors
to rank pages
• Most important:
– Titles
– Headers
– Links
Search at UW
• Two engines:
– “Old” search: Google
– “New” search: Google results
with Yahoo backup + people
search, manual keyword index
– Various other tools (IST, library,
Why are the results like this?
• Results are straight from Google/Yahoo
• UW websites are often poorly optimized
Poor use of keywords
Poor linking practices
Old pages left on servers
Old URL’s not redirected or redirected
This is not
good! I’ll do the
best I can …
Defining Keywords
• If someone was searching for your
page, which words would they use?
• Which words do you want to rank
highly for?
• Which words should you rank
highest for?
• Create a list of keywords that best
represent your website – think about
different variables of your keywords
What is this
page about?
Writing good headlines
Always use your <h> tags
Ensure your keywords are included in the headline
Be clear and specific
Different from journalistic style – short and sweet, not
wordy and creative
• Headings should compliment your <title> tags
Writing good title tags
HTML <title> goes in the <head> section
Displayed in search results
Be specific without being wordy (max. 65 characters)
Avoid giving more than one page the same title
Use the keyword first, followed by the department,
then University of Waterloo
Grad Housing – Housing and Residences | University of Waterloo
• In Contribute: Format > Page Properties
Keywords in page text
• Keywords should appear in the page text
– If your page is about Grad Housing then the term grad
housing needs to be used in you text some where.
• Less important keywords and variations of your
keywords should be used in the text
• Always write for people first, it needs to sound natural.
If you think you have over-used your keywords in your
text, then you probably have!
• Don’t try to hide keywords
Meta tags
• Have become less important in search rankings
• Meta descriptions are shown in search results
• It is better to have no meta description than a
description that doesn't describe that page
Example: Keyword | Department – A brief description of
what your page is about. (max. 150 characters)
• Use the ALT attribute (useful in identifying what the
image is about, but also helpful to the visually
• Be descriptive. Use your keywords. Do not leave it
• Example: alt= “6 students sitting in front of REV”
• Keep your keywords in mind while naming your
– Good image name: rev-double-room.jpg
– Bad image name: DSC00_003.jpg
• This is not only good SEO practice, but good web
building practice in general
Friendly URLs
• When naming your folders and pages try to use your
• Never leave spaces or special characters in your file
• To separate our words use a hyphen –
• Do not use an underscore _
BAD: application.html
Internal links
• Links inside the site (e.g. navigation menus, in-text
• All pages should be linked from somewhere
• Doesn't have to be on the navigation menu
• More important pages should be linked to more often
or from more important pages
• If a page is easy for a search engine to find it's easy
for people to find too
• Anchor text (words displayed for the link) is important
for ranking
Inbound links
These are links pointing to your site from other sites
Important for discovery and ranking
Each link is a “vote”
Where to get inbound links?
Part II
Technical details
Where did that
page go?
What to do when URLs change
Remember: search engines index URLs
Don't change urls; try to plan ahead
Redevelop new content at the same URLs
Check for file not found errors and redirect
using .htaccess
– 301 Redirect means the file has been moved
– Be careful: bad code can bring down your
• Contact other sites linking to you
Using .htaccess
Linux/Apache servers only
A simple text file
Turn on hidden files in your file manager
Redirect folder:
Redirect 301 /folder
• Redirect single file:
Redirect 301 /folder/file.html
• More information:
Blocking search engines
• Search engines will index any URLs they know about
• Including old URLs
– Old pages should be removed from the website or
marked as historical
– Redirect URLs to the appropriate page
• Search engines shouldn't find anything that isn't
linked, BUT:
• Once they know about a URL they will index it until
you tell them not to
Blocking search engines with meta tags
• The meta noindex tag tells search engines not to
include that page in results
• Goes in <head>
• Useful if you want page to be available but not
included in search results
<meta name="robots" content="noindex">
Blocking search engines with robots.txt
• Disallow in robots.txt
• Block all robots from the entire site:
User-agent: *
Disallow: /
• Block all robots from a particular folder:
User-agent: *
Disallow: /folder/
• More information:
Blocking search engines
If there's something you
really don't want search
engines to index it shouldn't
be on the website at all.
Removing pages from the search results
• Google takes time to discover that pages have been
• If page has moved, use .htaccess to redirect to the
new URL
• If page is removed completely, either:
– Wait
– Block with meta noindex and/or robots.txt
– Submit a removal request using Google Webmaster
Using Search Tools
• Which pages are indexed?
• Which sites link to me?
Using Search Tools
• Google Webmaster Tools
– Sign up with Google account
– Follow instructions to verify your site
• Tools available:
File not found (404) errors
Search terms used
Crawl stats
Duplicate title tags & meta descriptions
Remove URLs
+ more
This is some of
what I know
about your site
Template adjustments
• Optional: make page title <h1> and site title <h2> or
lower on all but the home page; ensure CSS is
updated to match
• Bad:
– Graduate Scholarships
& Financial Aid
– Admissions
– Undergraduate
– Course descriptions
– Application process
– Promissory note
• Good:
– Exam schedule
– Distance education
+ Many more!
Popular search terms at UW
1. schedule of classes
2. bookstore
3. watcard
4. exam schedule
5. quest
6. important dates
7. map
8. library
9. housing
10. campus map
Additional Resources
• Google Webmaster Guidelines:
• Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide:
• SEOmoz Beginner's Guide to SEO:
• SEOmoz Google Ranking Factors:
Advanced Resources
• Google Webmaster blog
• SEOmoz blog
• SEO Book
• Webmaster World forum