SEO Webinar Follow-Up: Questions Answered
Thanks to everyone who attended Tuesday’s webinar on SEO Best Practices. We had some questions from the participants that we weren’t able to answer before time ran out, so I’ll address them here.
How does Google’s localization for web users impact what we do for SEO?
For those of you who might not be familiar with this, Google tailors search results to individual users based on factors that include the user’s previous search history and geographic location, which Google auto-detects via the user’s ISP address. Most users don’t even know Google is doing this, and if they do and are bothered by it, typically find the hoops they have to jump through to turn the personalization off more trouble than it’s worth, so they live with it.
If you want to target local or regional audiences, Google’s localization works in your favor, and there are a couple of things you can do to encourage Google to include you in local results.
- Make sure your complete street address and local telephone number are included on your site. Most institutions include this information in the footer. If yours doesn’t, add it now. Most also include it in on their “Contact Us” or “Directory” page.
- It may also help to have page on your site specific to your home town or region—say, “Ball State and Muncie” or “Ball State and Indiana”—with contact specific to your institution’s contribution to/relationship with the local community.
- Similarly, if you have multiple campus locations and those campuses don’t have their own sites, it may help create separate pages for each location on your main site that include the campus’s full street address and local telephone number.
- Add you institution to Google Places. It’s free, and only requires a Google account. You can even add photos, video, and a brief blurb to your listing.
- Make some reference to your location in the meta-description, and, where it can happen naturally, in the running copy of your home page and relevant pages within your site. This is especially useful and important if you offer part-time professional degrees—MBAs, M.Ed.s, etc.—to a largely local or regional audience, as some portion of those prospects will likely be searching something along the lines of “MBAs in Chicago” or “Education degrees in Indiana.”
If your institution is trying to target audiences outside your region, Google’s localization may work against you to some degree, but it’s hard to quantify to what extent. Our recommendation would be to focus on best practices: making sure the pages on your site have unique page titles and meta descriptions, that those titles and meta descriptions describe the content of those pages clearly and compellingly in language the visitor is likely to use, and that the content of your pages clearly and plainly articulate your institution’s points of distinction and is easily sharable.
For more information, here are a couple of good blog posts on the subject. They’re mostly directed at for-profit businesses, but you may find them informative.
What’s the effect of social media on SEO?
Social media has a huge effect on SEO. If you think about it, Google and its competitors have been crowd sourcing indicators of a website’s relevance and authority ever since they began incorporating inbound links into their search algorithms. Measuring the how often social media posts with links to your site get liked or shared is a natural extension of that. Now Google and Bing include social media comments in search results. It makes it that much more important to have a sound social media strategy and that the content on your main site is easily sharable. This is definitely a subject worthy of its own blog post. In the meantime, here are two good overviews from Mashable:
What does “canonical links” mean?
Search engines get confused when different URL’s lead to identical content, for example, scholarship information that might live in both the first year and transfer sections of your admission site, or an HTML and printer-friendly version of the same page. A canonical link is a bit of HTML that tells the search engines which of those duplicate pages is the “preferred” option. Here is a good explanation from Google:
Please post examples of “good” meta descriptions.
I like the way Swarthmore gets in its liberal arts category, its Quaker values, and its engineering program:
Swarthmore College Home
Swarthmore College, noted for its Honors Program, integrates ethical and social responsibility throughout its liberal arts and engineering curriculum.
Although I think the page title is a bit of overkill, I like the way Knox gets in its national ranking, its category, and its location.
A nationally ranked, private, liberal arts college | Knox College
Knox College is a nationally ranked liberal arts college in Galesburg, IL, devoted to providing a personalized education in a diverse & vibrant community.
And here are two we just wrote for the UC Hastings College of Law:
Academics | UC Hastings College of the Law
UC Hastings offers three degree programs taught by a world-class faculty with core strengths in public interest law, international law, and law and science.
Public Interest Law | UC Hastings College of the Law
UC Hastings offers academic concentrations, research opportunities and clinical experience dedicated to public interest law and social justice.