Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Let's talk search engine optimization.

The Brandeis Search is powered by Google. It uses Google's standard search engine with results restricted to only look on Brandeis’ sites — anything ending in "brandeis.edu". While there is no magic formula for getting your site ranked highly in search results, there are best practices that can make your pages more relevant to users and thus more likely to rank highly with Google and other search engines.

Let's work through the high points of a page in the CMS, exploring how various elements affect search results:

Good site hierarchy

Structure your site with the most important content up front — either linked from your homepage or easily accessed from it. This helps both users and search engines to determine what is most important about your site.

Readable page URLs

The System Name in Cascade is what forms the URL for your page. Don't use spaces or uppercase letters as these can lead to broken links, or problems in your analytics data. Be descriptive and use hyphens (-) to separate words ("meeting-minutes" rather than "meetingminutes"). This makes it easier for Google and your users to see what the page is about. 

Concise page titles

Each page in your site should have a short but unique title. This title will appear as your page headline, in your browser’s title bar, in your left-hand navigation and is important for SEO. It should clearly indicate to both search engines and the person viewing your site what the page is about, and how it differs from other pages on your site.

Useful headings

Headings help to create a hierarchy of information on your page. If you skim the headings do you get the gist of what the page is about? Keep in mind: if users can find what they're looking for, so can search engines.

Accessible images

Image file names: Google looks at file names just as it looks at the URL and page name of your site. Giving it a meaningful name (but all lowercase, no spaces) will help both the search engine and yourself to find images. Try something like career-fair.jpg instead of IMG_0123.jpg.

Images on the page: All of your images should have "alt text" that is descriptive and can serve as a reasonable alternative to the image if someone cannot see it. 

Descriptive links

Navigation links and links in your text should tell users (and Google) something about what they are linking to. This makes it easier for the user (and search engine) to scan the page and find relevant links as well as understand what the page you’re linking to is about. For content links, avoid using "click here" or similar phrases. Search engines key in on hyperlinked text — and users aren't searching for the term "click here." Descriptive links are also important for making our content as accessible as possible.

Quality content

What influences your website more than any of the above factors is the main content of your page. Creating compelling and useful content is what drives users to come to your site in the first place, and is what will prompt them to share that content and create the buzz that helps build the reputation and credibility of your site.

Why doesn't my page come up when I search for (insert term)?

Start by examining your content — this includes your page title, links and headings as well as the main content.

You never want to "stuff" your page with search keywords to try and increase your rankings. However, you need to know your user. If you find that people are searching for "agenda" when you are using the word "program" you may want to tweak your content to use that more common search term instead.