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Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engines are one of the most important and frequently used tools for finding information on the internet. Search Engine Optimization refers to a variety of techniques and strategies for improving the ranking and visibility of websites within search engine listings.

Search Engine Statistics
By Carolanne Mangles at Smart Insghts

  • The number of daily searches on Google - 3.5 billion, which equates to 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide.
  • In 1999 it took Google one month to crawl and index 50 million pages, however in 2012 it took less than one minute!
  • In 2017 46.8% of the global population accessed the Internet and by 2021 this figure is projected to grow to 53.7%.
  • Net Market Share the global marketing share percentage, in terms of the use of Search Engines heavily favored Google throughout 2017 - averaging a net share of 74.54%.

How People Interact with Search Engines
MOZ.com

  • Americans alone conducted a staggering 20.3 billion searches in one month. Google accounted for 13.4 billion searches, followed by Yahoo! (3.3 billion), Microsoft (2.7 billion), Ask Network (518 million), and AOL LLC (277 million).
  • 76% of respondents used search engines to find local business information, more than the number who turned to print Yellow Pages.
    Burke 2011 Report
  • Search is very, very popular. Growing strong at nearly 20% a year, it reaches nearly every online American, and billions of people around the world.
  • Search engines run automated programs, called “robots" or "spiders" that use the hyperlink structure of the web to "crawl" the pages and documents that make up the internet.
  • Once a page has been crawled, its contents can be indexed - stored in a giant database of documents that makes up a search engine's "index".
    When a request for information comes into the search engine, the engine retrieves all the documents from its index that match the query.
  • Once the search engine has determined which results are a match for the query, the engine's algorithm (a mathematical equation commonly used for sorting) runs calculations on each of the results to determine which is most relevant to the given query.
  • Find more information at MOZ - How Search Engines Work.
  • Algorithm - A mathematical formula or equation for solving problems such as sorting large data sets.
  • Backlink - A hyperlink that links from a web page, back to your own web page or site.
  • Click through rate - The percentage of people visiting a web page who access a hypertext link to a particular advertisement.
  • Domain name - A hostname (such as utah.edu) that provides a more memorable identifier than an IP address.
  • Index - A search engine's database of web page content.
  • IP (Internet Protocol) address - A unique number (such as 155.99.1.3) that web browsers use to identify and communicate with web servers.
  • Keyword - A term or phrase entered as a query into a search engine.
  • Organic results - Search results compiled from the search engine index.
  • Robots and spiders - Automated programs which crawl the Internet collecting and indexing web pages.
  • Paid placement results - Sponsored search results paid for by commercial entities and placed near the top of the organic results.
  • SEO - Search Engine Optimization
  • SEM - Search Engine Marketing
  • SERP - Search Engine Results Pages
  • Time on site - The time that a visitor spends on the site is calculated as the difference between the recorded time of their last page (or file) request on the site and their first. 
  • URL (Uniform Resource Locator) - Synonym for a website address such as a domain name or I. P. Address.

SEO methods have changed as search engines update the algorithms used to determine page rank. Google and other search engines do not disclose their ranking criteria. However, their criteria seem to reflect three basic principles: trust, authority, and relevance.

Trust

Google wants to keep legitimate, high quality sites at the top of its rankings, while removing untrustworthy sites. Does the site content consist of legible, unique and good-quality text? Are there any grammatical or spelling errors? Are links going to reputable and relevant websites? These are measures of trust.

Site security is another trust factor. Google announced that security is an important issue to them and that sites with HTTPS would be a signal to Google's ranking algorithm. A site URL with "https" means all communications between a user's browser and the website are encrypted. If your URL uses the "http" protocol instead, get it switched to "https."

Authority

Authority refers to how strong a site is within its market. The number and quality of backlinks to a particular page on your site contributes to its authority.  Social media links (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Google+) to your pages indicate the activity level of the site as compared with its peers and contributes to perceived importance.

Backlinks to authoritative sites such as education (.edu) and government (.gov) sites also contribute to a site's status and ranking.

Metrics such as pageviews, bounce rate, click through rate and time on site give information on how many users are coming to your site and how long they are staying.

Relevance

Google rankings measure overall content relevance. This is an excellent reason to review page content to make sure it provides real value for users. The use of pertinent images on a page can boost page relevance. However, if an image's file size is large, it can slow down the time it takes for a page to load. Page load speed is another ranking factor. A slow page can receive a lower ranking.

Usability is simply how easy a site is to understand and navigate. Many of the same principles which contribute to the usability of a site by human visitors also makes a site more accessible to search engines. Defining your target content and target audience is an important step in optimizing your website.

  • Target audience - The potential visitors and users of your site who may benefit from the content provided on your site.
  • Target content - The information, products or services you offer, and the processes required to provide them to your users.
  • Landing page - Any point of entry into your site.
  • Conversion - The end goal of a visit to your site, or what you hope the users of your site will do. This may be a purchase, course registration, file download, or simply a page view.
  • Conversion path - The process or steps required to guide a visitor from the point of entry to your site to the point of conversion.

Visitors to websites often enter at pages other than the site's home page. Understanding where within your site potential visitors may land is crucial to optimizing your site for their visit. Usability includes structuring your site so that your target users can easily move from landing page to conversion.

Usability Tips

  • Build site navigation using real text links - not images. If your sites main navigation pages are built as images, the internal pages of your site will be almost invisible to search engines.
  • Add a sitemap to your site. You can request a sitemap from our Content Management group. A sitemap provides a reference to each page in your site that the search engine robot can follow. A sitemap doesn't improve rankings, but it does ensure that the search engine will crawl your pages. Google and other search engines can't rank pages that they don't know about. Once the sitemap is built, send its URL to the Google Search Console Profile.
  • If your site contains pages that you don't want search engines to find, request that they be excluded from the sitemap and that those pages have a meta tag (robots.text) set to disallow robots from crawling those specific pages. It's important that your sitemap and any meta tags are in sync as to which pages should be crawled and which should not.
  • If you want to make sure that certain pages are indexed, adding a link to them on your home page will help search engines find those pages quickly.
  • When creating a new page, add a description to the description box. It can be just one or two sentences long. If your page comes up in a search result, that description will be included with the link to your page.
  • Use words and phrases in the text of the page that are likely keywords your target audience will be searching for. Don't succumb to the temptation to use an excess number of keywords in an attempt to influence page rank. Google will rank pages lower if the text appears to be packed with keywords instead of reading like normal text.
  • Crop images before uploading them so that their file size is under 200 kB (kiloBytes). Under 100 kB is even better. Google rewards pages that load quickly and penalizes those that don't. Take a look at our "Cropping an Image" page for instructions on how to determine an image's file size and how to reduce file size while retaining image quality.
  • Check your site on a smart phone to see if it is mobile friendly. Our templates are responsive, adjusting page layout based on the device used to view the page. However, tables and video content added to pages don't adjust their widths automatically and can be cut off on a phone. Review our Tables - Best Practices pages to learn how to create responsive tables. Our Responsive Video Snippet can ensure that a video will adjust its window size when viewed on a phone.

Log in to OUCampus and visit the Site Analytics gadet. It's located on Dashboard > Overview page. Select your site from the drop-down list in the upper right corner of this gadget to review key metrics for your site. If you are editing a page, the gadget will display analytics for that page only.

Pageviews

This compares all page views to unique page views over a period of time on your site. If someone leaves a page and then comes back to it this would be counted as two page views in the "All" category. That's why unique page views are considered  a little more accurate in measuring activity on your site.

New Users

A new user is defined as the first time a browser or other device visits the site or page. Even if this visit was 30 days ago and you are looking at traffic for the last seven days, a second visit by a user will be counted as a returning visitor.

Average Time Per Visit

This is the average time spent on a page and the average duration of page visits for a particular site. Page visit time is measured from the moment that a page is viewed until another page within the site is viewed. The last page visited, also called the exit page, is not counted in the average.

Bounce Rate and Exit Rate

The exit rate measures the page last visited before a user exits a website. The bounce rate measures the rate at which a single page is visited before the user leaves the site. A bounce rate can be misunderstood to mean that a page wasn't read. Google uses the time between the opening of the page and the time the next page opens to determine how long the user has been on that page. Google can't determine how long a user stayed on the last page they visited, so it is counted as zero.

New vs Returning Users

New users are those visiting your site for the first time on a specific device. If a person visits a page on their desktop computer and then on a phone, this will count as two new users. If someone visits your site again within a two year period, this is counted as a returning visit.

Most Viewed Pages

This graph displays the top viewed pages for the time period you have selected. This is a good indicator as to which pages should be most accessible to your visitors through navigation, as this is the content they are seeking.

Users by Country and Users by State

These metrics display the countries and states which page visits are coming from. The maps are color-coded to indicate frequency of visits. Hovering over a  country or state that indicates visits will display the number of visits within the timeframe you have selected.

Visits by Browser, by OS (Operating System) and by ISP

These charts divide page visits into browser usage, operating system usage and by Internet service provider. The browser and OS information is helpful in testing page usability. ISP information can tell you the percentage of campus views as compared to other views.

Google Full Analytics Report

If you would like access to the full Google Analytics report for your site and you already have a Google account, send us your account's email address. We will add you to the access list for the full report.

If you need to set up a Google account, keep in mind that the email address you use for your account doesn't need to be a Gmail address. You can select an email address that you already have and use it. Set up your Google account and then send us your account's email address.

Online Resources

Google Webmaster Tools
Search Engine Watch
MOZ.com
Search Engine Land
Search Engine Roundtable
WebAIM

Books & Periodicals

Amazon Best Sellers in Search Engine Optimization
SEO 2018 - Adam Clarke
SEO Fitness Workbook - Jason McDonald
Search Engine Optimization for Dummies - Peter Kent

Last Updated: 5/8/18