The following document will walk you through some tips relating to improving SEO (search engine optimization) for WiscWeb websites. This document specifically focuses on SEO for Google.
'SEO' is an acronym for "search engine optimization." SEO involves making strategic updates to your website to improve its findability. These changes can be as simple as updating the text used within a webpage or as complicated as paying for better ranking from Google.
- Include keywords on your page
Ensure that your page titles, headings, excerpts, and body text includes relevant keywords about the topic. Consider different terms a user might use to search for that content (Example: most people use the term “graduation” but many campus websites refer to this as “commencement.”)
- Double-check your page excerpts
These are auto-generated if you don’t set them yourselves. It is a good idea to write these from scratch so that they give a nice overview of the page content. Consider what you’d want to appear as a description in Google results)
Tip: Here’s how to find and set your page excerpts: WiscWeb - WordPress UW Theme - Finding and Editing the Excerpt of a Page
- Use headings properly
Headings are important for accessibility and readability of your content, but they may also impact SEO. They should not be used to style content, but rather to lay out and provide hierarchy to content on the page.
Examples of misuse:
- Don’t use a particular heading just because you like the size and weight of it.
- Don’t use multiple h1s on your page (there should only be one h1 and that is set by the page title).
- Use alt text on all images
Alt text provides helpful information to users navigating the site using a screen reader. We highly recommend adding these to every image on your site regardless of whether or not you care about SEO.
Tip: Here’s how to craft better alt text
Tip: Here’s how you can add alt text in WiscWeb: WiscWeb - WordPress UW Theme - Using Alternative (Alt) Text
- Keep your site up-to-date
Search engines tend to ding sites that don’t refresh their content regularly because they want to present the most accurate information to a user. If you haven’t made an update in a year, it’s time to double-check your pages and consider adding new, relevant content for the user.
- Check your links
Sites with a lot of broken links look as if they may have been abandoned and provide a poor user experience. Always keep your links updated.
Tip: You can use free link check tools like Brokenlinkcheck.com for this purpose.
- Use simple, concise language
Users don’t want to have to slog through a bunch of nonsense text to get to the answer to their question or to find the link they need. Make it easy for them. Use language that is easy to understand and avoid adding loads of text where a few sentences might do.
Fun fact: The WiscWeb page with the highest Google ranking and number of hits is a simple page on the writing.wisc.edu site about how to use semi-colons. It works because it is simple and easy to follow.
Sitemaps are XML files which list the various URLs that exist on your site (along with some other information). They allow search engines like Google to more easily crawl your site and find all the pages that exist. Consider them like a map - you may be able to find your way without one, but having one makes things a little easier and faster.
Why is this important? Well, if Google can’t find all the pages to your site, it certainly can’t place them in search results!
In WordPress, sitemaps are automatically generated for your site. The URLs for the sitemaps can then be linked to a Google Search Console account so that you may encourage Google to crawl your site more regularly.
- WiscWeb - WordPress UW Theme - Adding a Sitemap to Google Search Console
- Google Documentation Regarding SiteMaps
If you are interested in digging in further, Google has outlined all of the things they suggest for improving SEO ranking with their search engine.
This information is located in their Google SEO Starter Guide.