Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Here are some tips to help you when thinking about search engine optimization for your web pages.

Keywords and Phrases

  • Get to know your know your audience. Include words and phrases that your target audience will use to search for your pages. For example, if you are producing a page describing 'employment opportunities', are they the keywords you would expect your audience to use. Would terms like 'jobs', 'vacancies' or 'job vacancies at Oxford University' be needed, or a combination of all of them?
  • Some search engines pay more attention to words and phrases that are near the top of a page, so include key words and phrases, especially within the headings and first few paragraphs. However it is still a good idea to repeat key words and phrases throughout your pages as search engines also pay particular attention to the number of times specific words and phrases are repeated.
  • Use niche words and phrases as well as generic ones that relate to the subject matter on your page.
  • Keywords and phrases should always be relevant to the subject matter on your page and your target audience, not to boost your search engine ranking.
Title Tag: <Title></Title>
  • The words in the title tag play a very important role in how your pages will be ranked by search engines.
  • It is essential to make sure that the most important keywords are used in the title tag for each individual page on your site, and the closer they are to the front of the tag, the better.
  • Use brief but descriptive titles.
  • Most search engines, including Google, use the text within the title tag as the link text to your page. It is also used as the title by web browsers and when bookmarking a page, so it needs to make sense.
Heading Tags: <H1></H1>, <H2></H2> …
  • These are a good way of displaying keywords and phrases on your page, and Google in particular places more emphasis on the content placed in them than in the main body text. <H1> tags are given a higher importance and then <H2> tags, etc.
  • It’s best to use these tags sparingly though as excessive use of them can make your page look cluttered and confusing for the reader. Sometimes it may be more appropriate to highlight a heading in bold.
Links with Relevant Websites
  • The more websites that link to your pages the better your search engine ranking will be.
  • For example, sites containing information about UK universities, higher education, undergraduates/postgraduates, research, etc., would be very relevant to Oxford University - if they link to our homepage then it’s likely to boost our ranking.
  • Where you can control the links to your pages, other sites should use the keyword(s). For example: 'See our job vacancies' not 'for job vacancies "click here".'
Text Links (<a href>xxx</a>) and Image alt="xxx" Tags
  • Label text links descriptively. For example: use 'View the Undergraduate Prospectus', not 'to view the Undergraduate Prospectus "click here".'
  • This is also the case for image alt tags. Enter text that is relevant to the image, or if you are using it as a link, indicate where it will take you, such as: alt='View the Undergraduate Prospectus'.
Meta Description Tag <meta name="description" content="xxx"/>
  • This tag allows you to write unique descriptions for search results. It appears just below the text link on search result listings and is a good way of informing someone who has performed a search what can they can expect to find on your pages.
  • It’s best to keep descriptions short and to the point.
  • Not all search engines will use your description. Google, for example will create its own based on your page’s content.
  • A high volume of visitors will boost your rankings on search engines, so it’s a good idea to update and add new content to your pages on a regular basis. This will help to keep your existing users coming back and to attract new ones.
  • Take a look at what others are doing. Choose some keywords/phrases from your page and run a search. For example, go to Google and search for ‘research at Oxford’. In the results list, choose the first one and click on the link labelled 'cached'. You will then be able to see how the keywords are presented on the page.