Information Technology

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Optimizing Your Webpage for Searching

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the term used for the process of creating a webpage or site so that it achieves higher rankings in search engines like Google. The UMass Boston website is now fully enabled for native Google search rankings. This page will help you understand the logic used in search engine rankings and how to capitalize on these rankings when writing and organizing your website.

When done correctly, SEO is one of the most effective ways to improve finding your webpage. After all, the most brilliant and engaging writing means nothing if visitors cannot find your page.

By utilizing the following tips and spending a little extra time to optimize your content for searching, you can reach a larger and more targeted audience and better enable reaching your site goals.

How Google Defines Relevance

Google is currently the leading search engine. It uses the following order of relevance in searches:

  1. Domain names
  2. Titles of the websites (meta-titles)
  3. Descriptions
  4. Page headings and sub headings
  5. Menu and navigation bar (links to inside pages)
  6. Quantity of information
  7. Popularity of each website based on the number of other relevant websites that link to it (same as in popularity of books)

Page Title

When users view search results, the page title is usually the first (and sometimes the only) information they read. Create a unique, multi-word title for each page that includes your primary key phrase as well as any secondary phrases that you can incorporate without over-using. Remember that certain words (and, the, a) are space-wasters that do nothing for you.

Meta Description

A Meta description is a short summary of the content of your page. Google displays the Meta description in its search results under the page title, so it is another chance to convince searchers to visit your site. UMass Boston web editors can use the “NSM Better Meta” tab in the CMS to customize the Meta fields for each page. In addition to showing up on a search results page, meta descriptions are the short blurbs that show up on social media pages when the url is present. This is a great opportunity to give a viewer a 'preview' of the page. If a call to action is important on your page, include it in your meta description so people know it's available before even clicking on the link. See 'Better Meta' as a logged in editor on to read more about that feature.


Headlines are given extra prominence by search engines so use headlines wisely. Include key phrases in your headlines and sub-headlines.

In addition to increasing your search ranking, headlines are also a great way to visually break up your content to make it easier and quicker for readers to scan.

Headlines are automatically formatted in the CMS, just select which one you want from the dropdown menu. See [[CMS:Styles]] in the UMass Boston CMS wiki on how to apply these styles to your text. They appear like this:

headline 2

headline 3

headline 4

Two to six sub-headlines per page is ideal. After your headlines, use content that is rich in key phrases.


Identifying Key Phrases

Whether you are writing new content or editing existing content, you need to come up with several key phrases that reflect the focus of your target audience.

To determine your key phrases, use information on your audience, as well as tools like Google AdWords Keyword Tool and research from similar sites (competitors) that rank well in search engines. Key phrases should be two to four words. Categorizing your key phrases as primary and secondary is helpful when prioritizing for content writing and editing.

There are many keyword ranking tools you can use to help determine what is the most suitable keywords for your site's objectives (see or The subject of your writing helps define the key phrase and fine tuning your searches will rank higher.

Also keep in mind the key messages outlined in the university brand manual. (

Examples of How to Strengthen Your Keyword Phrases

Change "university" to "Boston's public research university"

Change "admissions" to "transfer student admissions"

Change "research" to "interdisciplinary research into complex urban issues"

Writing and Editing Content with SEO in Mind

Aim to include between two and five uses of your key phrases per page and engage them seamlessly in your content.

Look for generic words and phrases and make them more descriptive based on the key phrases you have developed, i.e. change student to new UMass Boston student. This is also a good way to edit existing content for search optimization.

Users typically search by location, so include city whenever possible, e.g. 'liberal arts program in Boston' is preferred over 'liberal arts program.'

Remember variety. Use singular and plural, as well as present, gerund (-ing), and past tense forms of words to account for the different ways people write when searching, i.e. include both transfer to UMass Boston and transferring to UMass Boston.

Another thing to look for in your existing copy is instances of where you may have two different words separated only by a forward slash (/), ex) "industrial/manufacturing jobs." It's doubtful that people will search using that phrase, so change the copy to read "industrial jobs and manufacturing jobs."

Cross-Link Words in Content Pages

When you write your pages, make sure to use the keyword targets you selected for that page within the title, headline, subheadings, and the body text of each of your content pages. Then, only when appropriate, use that target phrase within your site's other content pages to link to the page focused on that keyphrase. You will create a hierarchical structure of importance for the search engines to crawl. The more a search engine sees similar words in hyperlinks pointing to a webpage, the more chance that page has for a higher ranking for those keywords.

Cross Referencing

Cross referencing from other pages to your site with hyperlinks will greatly improve SEO. Modules are an excellent way to do this. Most of the modules used in the UMass Boston CMS include a 'Link URL' field for this purpose. When cross referencing to your page, try to use 'relative paths' or 'internal links.' Note: you can also cross reference to your site from the body field. All web editors should have training on the available modules for their site. See the wiki for details. Cross referencing is an organic process; the nature of the content will indicate when it's appropriate to cross reference pages.

Additional Tips

Over-use of your key phrases can lower your rankings if the search engine thinks you are "keyword stuffing."

Search engines cannot read text in graphical images, video, or within Flash, so do not count key phrases included in these formats. Descriptions of any videos or images in your text is important, for SEO as well as for ADA compliance.

Search engines can read text within PDF, Excel, and Word files.

New, fresh content helps your page rank higher in search engines, so add announcements and links frequently; linking from other, related sites also increases rankings.

Web crawlers need time to see updates to a page

Please note: There is an undefined lag time on the Internet between when changes are made to content in a site and when search crawlers actually see it, thus affecting ranking. The amount of time is dependent on a number of variables including how many changes were made, depth of site, amount of cross references to the page etc. It can run from a number of days to a few weeks.

Learn how search works from Google, the industry leader.

This fun animation brings to life the art of internet searching!
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