Optimizing Our New Site for Search Engines

If you build a new website, does that guarantee that visitors will come? Not exactly.

Every website, regardless of what it contains or does, is challenged with the task of getting found by search engines. The practice of optimizing a website to be found by search engines while offering a great user experience can be intricate and often takes ongoing effort. Even so, it’s always worth the investment.

At Wilkes, we’re using our website redesign as an opportunity to optimize Wilkes.edu to be more easily found in search engines through a practice called search engine optimization (SEO).

What’s SEO?

Search engine optimization is the art and science of applying strategies to make your website more accessible to search engines while effectively serving end users (i.e. the visitors of your website) with a great user experience. It’s also a pursuit of ranking higher in search engine results pages when users search for words and phrases that are relevant to your website.

There’s no official playbook that gives step by step instructions on how to best optimize your site since every site is different, but in general, industry experts cite the following as core best practices:

  • Start by making sure that your site can be easily seen (i.e. crawled) by search engines by following technical guidelines
  • Make sure that your site offers content that is accurate, trustworthy, and engaging so that when users search for something and land on your pages, they find what they’re looking for
  • Include relevant keyword phrases throughout your content to attract both users and search engines
  • Offer a great user experience, including fast page load speeds, an easy to use navigation, and an attractive design on all devices
  • Take advantage of technical features that can help your pages get clicked on in search engines, like your page titles, URLs, meta descriptions, or any snippets/schema markup that can help you stand out

As for what makes a site rank highly in search engines? It’s complicated.

Search engines work by sending out robots (known as crawlers or spiders) to review web pages to see what information they offer. These robots then process and store that information in an index (essentially a huge database) and then when searchers enter a query, the search engine will review its index looking for what it feels is the most relevant content and then returns it in results pages. The order of results returned, or ranking, is determined by an ever-changing algorithm that prioritizes everything from the searcher’s location to the popularity of the sites in the index.

The goal of every search engine is to provide useful answers to searcher’s questions. The goal of SEO is to try to send as many signals as possible to search engines so that they consider your web pages to be useful, relevant, and worthy in appearing in search results.

How are we optimizing Wilkes.edu?

Our SEO strategy will be a multiphased approach that brings together a variety of tools and techniques, including:

  • A new design that is technically sound, offers a great user experience, and looks attractive across all devices
  • A new navigation structure that makes it easier and faster for users (and search engines!) to browse our site
  • Content that is relevant to searcher questions and includes keyword phrases
  • Code elements that send useful signals to search engines to tell them about our website content

After the site goes live, we’ll continue to work on our site’s ability to rank by making continuous improvements to the copy on our site, incorporating new technologies as they become available, and improving the technical elements that make our site accessible to both users and search engines.

What’s next?

Once the website goes live, our team will work together to put together resources and guidance so that we can preserve and continue to improve upon our website’s SEO value as we know that the new Wilkes.edu is a living, breathing communications asset. This may include things like:

  • How tos and guidelines for updating website content
  • Resources and training on our content management system
  • QA checklists to ensure that content changes are aligned with our overall strategy

Wilkes has already made some positive strides in making its website friendly for users and search engines over the years. This redesign is an exciting opportunity for us to build on our foundational visibility and reach even more prospective students and their families.

If you’d like to learn more about SEO, Moz has put together a wonderful beginners guide that walks through the basics of how search engines work, best practices for optimizing your site, and how to continuously improve on your SEO strategy.

Questions or comments regarding the redesign may be directed to:

Brittany Terpstra
Associate Director of Web Services
brittany.terpstra@wilkes.edu

Kim Bower-Spence
Executive Director of Marketing
kimberly.bowerspence@wilkes.edu