Five Easy Steps for Improved SEO

By Linda Coutant

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) means enhancing the ability of a search engine to find your website or web page when someone searches for something on the Internet. There is front-end SEO, which is what you see in the content, and there is back-end SEO, which you mostly don’t see.

At Appalachian State University, Drupal 7 will automatically handle most of your website’s back-end SEO needs. There are things in your control, though, that can improve the front-end SEO. That’s good news, and these five steps can help.

Step 1. Develop content readers care about.

What news and information are your readers interested in? This may be as basic as “About” information on your college or program, or it could be more focused, such as how to apply for graduation or examples of successful alumni.

Legitimate content designed for your target audiences is important to your readers, as well as Google and other search engines. So, write about what is relevant and important.

Reader interest is a good measure, too, of what existing content should be kept or tossed. Much like an attic or garage, your website should not accumulate old stuff that no longer serves anyone.

Step 2. Select keywords or keyphrases that people use to search for your topic.

So, you have an idea of what’s important content, but does the language in that content coincide with search terms people might use to find it?

Here’s the fun part of SEO – finding the most effective keywords or keyphrases. If you’re selling low-price shoes, an ideal keyphrase might be “cheapest sneakers in Asheville.” In higher education, it might be “best value schools in the Southeast,” and specific to Appalachian State University it might be “scholarships at Appalachian.”

Brainstorm ideas or perhaps poll a few members of your target audience for terms they use to search for your content. If you have time, you can research possible keywords or keyphrases extensively using online tools such as Keyword Tool.

Other online tools, such as Google Trends or Buzzsumo, can help you compare the strength of one keyphrase versus another. For example, in Google Trends you can type in “teacher preparation program” to learn the frequency of searches using this term. Then, you can add a second keyphrase, such as “become a teacher,” and see the frequency of those searches in comparison. If one has more searches, this may be a better keyphrase for you.

Step 3. Incorporate those keywords or keyphrases into your:
  • Page title
  • Headlines
  • Subheads
  • Body copy

In the fraction of a millisecond, a search engine will scan the title of a webpage and its headlines, subheads and body copy for whatever language has been typed into the “search” box. If it’s a match, your content will pop up in the search results page. If not, then well… your content and the person searching for it don’t connect. Or your content might get picked up, but it will be listed on page 65 of the search results.

Step 4. Push out content on social media to encourage users to visit your site.

Another way to increase the likelihood of a search engine picking your content for the top rankings of a search is to make it more legitimate by having it read and shared by others.

This is where social media can play a critical role in improving your SEO. Google and other search engines select websites and webpages with authority among readers – that is, those with plenty of visits. So, once you’ve written stellar content, push it out on your organization’s social media accounts. Not only will this help spread your news and information to those who want it and bring more visits to your site, it will also boost your credibility with the search engine.

Also, seeing how many Facebook likes your content receives can indicate whether you were on or off the mark in terms of developing the appropriate content for your target audience.

Step 5. Use Google Analytics to track what pages get visitors and how often, and tweak the content if necessary.

Google Analytics offers great information to help identify what content is being seen and when. For example, you can determine if a page is viewed on a Tuesday or a Sunday, at the start of a school year or just before graduation. Contact webmaster@appstate.edu to request access for your site and help in reviewing the information. Having this data can help you adjust the content if necessary.

It’s always good to revisit your content every few months, or more frequently, and tweak as necessary to ensure it is still accurate and relevant.

If you want to delve deeper into the world of SEO and learn how to control of its back-end use, read the lengthier and more technical Tips for Effective SEO.