Search Engine Optimization

The USD search engine pulls everything it knows about your page from your page. If you want to show up appropriately in the USD search engine, you will need to make sure that your page has the appropriate information.

Use text whenever possible

People search on text, and search engines use text to create their index. The USD search engine ranks your page based on its content. Because the USD templates encourage the use of images over text for headlines, we have ranked keywords, titles, and meta descriptions higher than headings. However, if you can use text headlines rather than image headlines this will still assist the USD search engine, and it will also optimize your web page’s ranking in external search engines.

The subpage template uses text for its headline. The subsite index template uses an image for its headline. Most Pint-created third-tier and above sites use images for their headlines.

Use a short, descriptive title

Your web page should have a short, descriptive title. The title of your web page is what appears in the browser’s title bar. It is also what most browsers use as a bookmark name when viewers bookmark your web page. Our search engine uses your title to title your entry in the search engine results listing.

Your title is the second-most-important part of your web page to USD’s search engine, and probably the most important to external search engines.

Set up keywords

Your web editor should let you set keywords for your page. Keywords are a “meta” tag that go in the “head” of your document. If you are editing your pages by hand, it will look like:

<meta name="keywords" content="keyword 1, keyword 2, keyword 3" />

You should keep the number of keywords short and relevant to your page. Use fewer than twenty keywords to avoid losing keywords. Fewer than ten keywords is even better.

Your keywords are the most important part of your page to the USD search engine, but are often ignored by external search engines.

Add a description

The description tag describes your document. The USD search engine will use your description to describe your page to people looking for it. Keep your description short, under 200 characters, or it might get truncated.

Like keywords, the description tag is a “meta” tag that goes in the “head” of your document. If you are editing by hand, it will look like:

<meta name="description" content="How to optimize your web page rankings in the USD search engine." />

The description tag is the third most important part of your page to the search engine, but probably not highly important to external search engines.

Use descriptive links

When the USD search engine ranks your page, it looks at the words that other web pages use to link to your page. This includes pages that you make. Your links to your own pages (as well as to other USD pages) should be descriptive text links to optimally rank your pages.

Link text to your page is the fourth most important ranking factor to the USD search engine, and generally very important to external search engines as well.

Use headings for your headlines

While we don’t use headings nearly as much as external search engines do to rank your pages, we do use them. Whenever you have headlines in your web pages, you should use the “heading” HTML tags rather than simply resizing the text to bigger and bolder. This will significantly affect your ranking on USD’s search engine, and vastly affect it on external search engines.

The “heading” HTML tags are usually numbered from one to six, with one being the “most important”. In HTML, they are “h1” though “h6”.

Discuss what you want people to find

Finally, search engines only rank based on what they find on your page (or what they find on links to your page). If you want people to be able to find your page based on a specific phrase or word, you need to use that phrase or word on your page, and it needs to be text. While USD’s search engine ranks more highly based on keywords and descriptions (because we know who is making our pages), external search engines trust only what you actually display to the viewers: what you talk about. And USD’s search engine does rank based on your normal content as well.

If you want people who are interested in a topic to be able to find your page, you need to discuss that topic.

Do not look like you are trying to fool search engines

Search engines try to provide useful results for their users, and their users are people looking for pages about specific topics. One of the things that major search engines do is try to detect attempts at fooling them into ranking pages more highly than the content warrants. “Invisible” text (text that is the same color as the background, or too tiny to read), multiple “title” tags, stuffing the keywords entry with words that are unrelated to the content of your page, or simply with too many words, are all examples of things that might look like you are trying to fool a search engine into incorrectly listing your page.

Our search engine does not have code for down-ranking a site that contains things that look like tricks, but the major search engines do. You want to avoid looking like you are trying to trick search engines.

Make sure you can be reached from other pages at USD

If someone were to start from the main USD web page, what links would they have to follow to get to your page? Both USD’s search engine and the major search engines work by “crawling” the web from link to link. If your page is only accessible by knowing the URL, we can add it to the list of pages that USD crawls, but it will probably not be reached at all by the major search engines.

Also, the major search engines factor in the quality of the pages that link to you. If no pages link to you, this will reduce your ranking in the major search engines even if they do list your page.

More Information