1. Choose a keyword or key phrase

Choose one primary word or phrase that is essential to your site's purpose. These are the words people would type in a search engine to find your site. Obviously, your site can be about more than one thing, but picking the right keyword or phrase is an important step in SEO, so do your research. Pick words or phrases that have a chance of being competitive. Something like "MBA" is going to be very hard to get to the top of search engine results, but something like "MBA in West Michigan" might be more achievable. 

The simplest way to do this is head over to Google and start to type your keyword into the search box and see what types of suggestions come up (don't hit enter, just start to type and observe the suggestions). Some other wonderful tools for finding the right keywords are Google Keyword Planner and Google Search Trends. These tools will help you understand that maybe you should not use the keyword "Equus caballus" because people on the internet just use the word "horse"

2. Content is key!

This is the most important thing you can do for SEO. Make sure you have well-written and unique content that is useful to your target audience. 

  • Titles - include your keyword or phrase. Aim for 8-12 words (maximum of 60 characters).
  • Page Content - aim to have at least 300 words in the content of your page, repeat your keyword or phrase in this content.
    • Make sure your content is free of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. (our free tool Silktide can send you weekly reports)
    • Keep it up to date. Search engines love fresh content (news sites, Wikipedia or blogs often rank very high)
    • Delete old pages. If you have a content item in your CMS that is no longer relevant, delete it. Just because you don't have links to it anymore doesn't mean google can't find it. 
  • Links - create hyperlinks to other pages in your site. Did you mention the degrees you offer in your program, make sure each degree is linked for more information. Never link the word "here" always link the key words. Example: "The Biology MS degree program also offers emphases in both Aquatic Sciences and Natural Resources."
  • Images - Use your keywords in the ALT field for images. Use unique images, avoid using stock photography or clipart. GVSU has a large photo repository you can access by visiting the Widen Collective. Don't overload pages with unnecessary images. 

3. Inbound Links

Having other websites link to your pages shows search engine your site has authority on a subject matter. Building up backlinks like these will help you rank higher in search engines, just make sure the site linking to you has some relevance your subject matter. Think quality, not quantity!

4. Social Media

Content from social media such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are gaining more and more importance in search engines. Using social media can help boost your image, visibility and search engine ranking, especially when users are liking and sharing your social content. Make sure you have a plan to keep your social media up to date and you are able to post often, if you can not, don't do it. A Facebook page that hasn't been updated in months is going to hurt you, not help you. 

Give it a try, search for some of your favorite companies or brands, often times their Facebook page, Twitter profile and LinkedIn page appear above their main website listing. 

5. Mobile Optimization

Mobile optimization is built into the CMS so there is not much you need to worry about. However, be aware that more than half your audience may be viewing your site on mobile devices. When creating content for your site make sure to take a look at it on a mobile phone or tablet. Do you really need that giant image? Do users have to scroll down more than a couple times to get to your content on a smaller screen? 

6. Local Optimization

Google and other search engines are starting to focus heavily on location-based search results. This doesn't just mean using your GPS to serve you more relevant results, but analyzing content for local keywords. This makes it very important to have specific keywords and personalize content basis your target audiences. If it makes sense adjust your keywords to include location, for example, "MBA in Grand Rapids, Michigan" or "Graduate Programs in Allendale"