Top 10 SEO Tips

Although there are a few "quick wins" in optimising your site for search engines, most of the gains come from an investment of time on a regular basis to add relevant content and fine-tune your web site. Below are some ideas to get you started down the path to a site that ranks higher in search engines, and as a side-benefit, is more useful and accessible to users.

Tip How to Implement Potential improvement to internal site search (Funnelback) Potential improvement to external search (Google, Yahoo, etc)

1. Content is (still) king

Write relevant, engaging content that has value to your site visitors. Write for the user first and the search engines second. Always be asking yourself "Would my site's visitors want to share this content with their friends and colleagues?"

Find staff members within your organisation who can help by providing content in the form of latest research, opinion/blog or noteworthy visual content. Often it's staff who do not normally have marketing as part of their job function, such as academics and researchers, who can provide the content that is of most interest to your audience. Even if your site's goal is to "sell" your programme, you can still make it interesting by using case studies or success stories to personalise it.

See also:
User Friendly SEO

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2. Keyword Planning

Determine search keywords for which you want your site to rank highly for and make sure those keywords appear several times on the page in prominent places, such as the page title, sub-headers and links.

If you want your site to appear high up in search results when a user enters "London Graduate Economics Programme", make all of those words appear, either together or separately, on the page. Aim to create a "landing page" for each keyword set (i.e. you don't need to scatter the keywords on all pages of your site, rather pick one page that you want search engines to point users to when they enter your chosen keyword phrase.)

See also:
Keyword Research

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3. Meta Data

Add meta data to all site pages. Meta data, such as your page's subject, keywords and description is not normally seen by site visitors, but exists "behind the scenes" in the source code. Meta text is not counted as a factor in your external (e.g. Google) search engine rank, but the page description you give may be used as the "snippet" blurb displayed on search results pages. Conversely, meta text is used to determine UCL internal search ranking.

In Silva CMS, open a page and click the "Properties" tab at the top, where you can enter a subject, keywords and a description.

See also:
Meta Data SEO

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4. Page Title

Give your page a relevant, and short but descriptive title. The page title appears in the browser's title bar, in the user's favourites menu if they bookmark or share your page, and usually in search engine results.

In Silva, the header of your page also doubles as the page title, so choose text that works in both places. Keep text to 70 characters or less. Any text beyond this will usually be cut off in search engine results.

See also:
Title Tag on SEOmoz

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5. Think Social

Social media is important. Build an online community where links back to your site are discussed and shared amongst external stakeholders (your site's users and potential users). All major search engines look at how often your site is mentioned in social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Giving users a forum to discuss your organisation and share it with their network tells search engines that your site is relevant.

Establish a Facebook, Twitter and YouTube account and appoint someone to monitor activity on each. Encourage discussion and debate by posting regular updates and/or asking opinions of your followers. Share links back to your site wherever timely events are happening or newsworthy announcements are made. If you have someone who can commit the time, create a blog on with consistent, high-quality material.

See also:
SEO and Social Media Get Married

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6. Back Links

Seek opportunities to create "back links". Back links are simply links from related websites (i.e. outside UCL) which point back to your website. Search engines see these links as verification that your site is both relevant and important, so when possible ensure back links come from high profile organisations.

Ask partner organisations who you work with regularly to add links to your site. Whenever submitting press releases to news organisations, always provide the URL of the appropriate page on your site for news outlets to publish. Domains ending in or .edu are seen as unbiased and authoritative, and given extra weighting by search engines, so seek backlinks from them. Participate in online discussion forums related to your subject area and include your website URL. Low High

7. Narrow Focus

Ensure your target keyword phrases are sufficiently narrow. Aiming to get a top 10 page rank in Google for a term as broad as "Research" is unrealistic -- too many other sites fall under this term so competition is fierce. Even "Health Research" is still not focused enough. Think about limiting it further, such as "Digestive Health Research".

Use online tools such as Google Adwords Keyword Tool to identify keyword trends. Regularly review keyword performance using Google Analytics (see below).

See also:
Keyword Research
Keyword Tool

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8. Statistics

Familiarise yourself with Google Analytics for your site. There you'll find statistics for which keywords visitors are entering in search engines to find your site. Rather than fight the tide, create pages focused on the keyword phrases users associate with your site.

In Google Analytics, keyword data is available under Traffic Sources > Search Engine Optimisation > Queries.

See also:
Using SEO Reports

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9. Non-text Content

Images count. For that matter, so do videos and audio podcasts. If you hadn't noticed, search engines index all of them now, and when a user does a web search, image and video results are often presented intertwined with traditional web page results. You double your exposure when posting videos as your site appears when a user searches either YouTube or Google.

Use the 'title' field in Silva when you place images on the page to describe the image. This is good for accessibility as well. Source original images whenever possible instead of stock photos-- a photographer hired for a half day may not be as expensive as you think. Although Google prefers larger images, don't go overboard as this will slow your page load time which negatively impacts SEO. Speak to the UCL Multimedia team if you need help filming an event or promotional video for your site.

See also:
Video for SEO
SEO and Images

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10. UCL Domain

Stick with UCL. One of the many advantages of having a website under is that search engines recognise it as well-established, unbiased and authoritative, so your site is given extra weighting by search engines simply by being affiliated with it.

Think hard if you are considering using your own (shiny new) domain name instead of You will have to build SEO respectability from scratch, and achieving the same level of prestige in search engines' eyes will take some time (think years). Low High

That's it.

Now that you have untold thousands of new users discovering your site, don't forget about the all important 'call to action' -- what do you want users to do now that they've arrived? Always be thinking about driving them to one or more destinations: do you want them to contact you, fill out an application form, attend an event or simply dig deeper into the site? Whatever it is, make the next step clear. Usually this just means making the link to the place you want to lead them a bit more visually prominent than the rest of the links on the page.

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