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How can I improve my page's rank in search engines?

Most of the tips on this page apply equally to our internal Warwick Search and external search engines. So, by following the tips below, you can optimise your page for all search engines. While you can't control exactly how a search engine ranks and displays your page in search results, following these tips gives your page the best chance of performing well.

Many of these tips are adapted from Google's SEO report card (PDF Document). Also see Google's SEO starter guide for more detailed guidance.

Topics this page covers:

Title bar caption

  • The title bar caption property is the page title that appears in external search engine results pages. (This property is used in your page's <title> tag.)
  • “Google typically displays the first 50-60 characters [...] If you keep your titles under 55 characters, you can expect at least 95% of your titles to display properly. Keep in mind that search engines may choose to display a different title than what you provide in your HTML. Titles in search results may be rewritten to match your brand, the user query, or other considerations.” (Source: moz.com)
  • Make each character in your title count, choosing each word carefully. Words like its, a, and of are unlikely to be in search queries and are ignored by most search engines anyway.
  • Consider words people are likely to search for and position these at the front of your title. Search query words are often emboldened in results, which positively reinforces the message that your page is the right one.
  • Always include the name of your organisation, department or product in your home page's title. If someone is searching for your website when they already know who you are, they are likely to type this in.
  • Ensure titles are unique throughout your site. Search engines don't like duplicate titles on pages with different content.

Examples of title bar captions

For an academic course outline, the title bar caption:

English and Italian Literature (QR33) - University of Warwick

…is better than:

University of Warwick - Modern Languages and Cultures - English and Italian Literature

For a service, the title bar caption:

Junior Tennis Lessons - Sport - University of Warwick

…is better than:

Junior Lessons

Description

Search engines try to present better results by including a description snippet beneath the page title. For example, this screenshot shows a description of the Hispanic Studies undergraduate course in Google search results:

Google search results for query "hispanic studies degree" showing highlighted description

While you can't control exactly what this snippet contains – search engines typically display a snippet from the body of your page rather than the description – it's still worth using the Description field in SiteBuilder's page properties. (See the page description FAQ).

Tips:

  • Make your description 155 characters or less.
  • Include keywords matching users' search queries. These are displayed in bold in search results (as you can see for the words Hispanic Studies and degree in the screenshot above).
  • Ensure each page on your site has a unique description.
  • Good descriptions are used to present better search results – Google does not factor in descriptions when ranking your page. So, you are writing descriptions to encourage people to click through from search results to your site.
  • If you leave the Description field empty in SiteBuilder's page properties, search engines will make up their own description anyway.
  • Check how your page description appears in different search engines and amend as necessary.

Page heading

Give your page an appropriate heading. This is the heading displayed at the top of the page, which you specify in page properties. Search engines score words in page headings higher than the same words within the content.

Content and sub-headings

Headings within page content are often ranked more highly than normal, italicised, bold or text styled otherwise.

Format headings by choosing a heading style from the Format drop-down menu in the toolbar. Terms formatted as Heading 2 score higher than terms formatted as Heading 3, and so on.

SiteBuilder toolbar with format drop-down menu expanded

Your page heading is automatically formatted as Heading 1. So, in your content, format the first heading with Heading 2 and so on.

Search engines understand heading hierarchy just like readers do, so use a logical heading structure to organise your content. For example, text formatted in Heading 3 style logically denotes a subset of content related to the larger section with a Heading 2.

Search engines consider words in headings in a similar way to words in the page title. Try to include words in your heading you think users search for when looking for your page. Place these words as near to the front of the heading as you can.

A heading's effect on page rank is limited to a certain short length of heading. For example, there is no point formatting your entire page with Heading 2 to try and boost its rank.

Page content and sidebars

Terms appearing in the main content rank higher than those in the right-hand column. Therefore, we recommend you use the right-hand column of your page to include extra information such as links, news feeds or documents. Ensure the most important information is presented in the main page content.

Page hierarchy and navigation

Create a logical hierarchy for your pages so a search engine can understand what role this page plays in the context of the site. Specific topics tend to be further down the hierarchy; broader information closer to the top.

Use text for navigation links where possible and use logical navigation where appropriate to convey structure:

Logical page hierarchy for History of Art research projects

Use descriptive anchors (links) in page content, rather than ‘click here’ or ‘more info’; make them descriptive and concise.

Google sitelinks

Google sometimes displays internal links beneath a home page title in search results, called ‘sitelinks’. They can make your site's result look more professional and therefore reassuring to users. Sitelinks also make your page's result physically bigger. Here's an example of sitelinks displayed in search results for the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies:

Sitelinks in Google search results for Department of English

You can't choose when these sitelinks are shown, but you can organise your website to increase the chances of Google displaying sitelinks. Google advise:

  • Use a hierarchical page structure.
  • Use descriptive link text for links pointing to internal pages within your website.
  • Avoid deep nesting of content behind many sub-directories.

Remove unwanted sitelinks

Unwanted sitelinks can be blocked via Google Search Console. If your sitelinks contain unappealing or unwanted internal links, send an email to webteam at warwick dot ac dot uk and tell us:

  • You want us to use Google Search Console to block unwanted sitelinks.
  • What the unwanted sitelinks are called and their URL.

    Keywords

    Google (and most other search engines) pay no attention to your keyword meta tags as these can be easily populated with irrelevant information to 'spam' search results.

    However, it is a good idea to include keywords on your SiteBuilder pages as they are useful for Warwick Search to help rank pages according to keyword matches.

    Other factors

    • Pages edited more recently (within the last year) often rank higher than older pages. So, if your page hasn't been edited for a while you may find it slips down search results. Check the content is still valid and make a minor edit.
    • Use descriptive text for internal links throughout your site. Avoid link text such as ‘click here’ and ‘more’.
    • Don't embed important text such as names, contents or links in images or Flash. Apart from being inaccessible to some users, search engines including Google's crawler don't recognise text in images.
    • Ensure all images or slideshows have an alt (alternative) text description.
    • Use the check this page for errors tool to check your page content.
    • SiteBuilder can automatically link a Google Analytics account to every page on your site. Use this to garner more detailed page statistics.

    For technical information about how document scoring works in Warwick Search, see the Lucene documentation.

    Related FAQs

    Support

    Telephone 73737
    Email webteam at warwick dot ac dot uk
    How to report a problem