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A Primer on Search Engine Optimization

Here in the Web Office, we have had a few folks ask us how they can make their sites show up in the results for specific Google searches.

This is a complicated issue, as Roger Johanssen points out in Basics of Search Engine Optimization.  However, there are a few quick things you can do to help search engines understand how to catalog your site.

First, write descriptive page titles.  Page titles are the text between the <title> tags in the HTML, and the text that shows up at the top of your browser window.  It is also the text that is used for bookmarks, if a reader decides to bookmark a page.  You should take the time to write a good title for every page of your site.  Do not just leave whatever your software puts in the page title, and do not use the same text for every page in your site.  An example of a good page title is “Projects by Economics Students | HSU Departments of Economics”.  This title describes both what the specific page contains, and the site that it belongs to.  it gives search engines a clear “idea” of what type of information the page contains, and therefore what the pages should be filed under.

A second easy way to improve your search engine positioning is to proper HTML heading tags when you write your content.  By this we mean that you should use <h1>, <h2>, <h3>, etc tags to mark up the subsections of your page.  This will also make your page more accessible.  So, for example, instead of making the main heading of your page bold and red, put it inside a <h1> tag.  You can then use CSS styles to make the heading look bold and red if you wish.  But by using the correct HTML element to mark up you heading (<h1> for the highest level heading, <h2> for the next highest level headings, etc), you are again giving a pointer to Google as to what is contained on your page and how your page should be indexed.

Taking the time to write good page titles and properly mark up your headings can go a long way toward improving your search engine performance.

Posted 21 Dec 05 • Permalink

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