Search Engine Optimization FAQs

SEO Frequently Asked Questions

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the process of getting traffic from organic search results on search engines, like Google, Bing or Yahoo. There are three ways to improve website SEO, on page SEO, off page SEO and technical SEO. This guide explains specific on page SEO tactics that web editors can provide to increase website visibility for search engines.

A search engine results page, SERP is a search engines response to a user's search query. The user enters their search query (often using specific terms and phrases known as keywords), upon which the search engine presents them with a SERP. 

In addition to organic search results, SERPs display both paid and unpaid search results. These organic search results are considered “Trustworthy” and therefore are more sought after than paid search results. Organic search results are based on relevance to the user’s search query (keywords), links, domain authority and other organic ranking factors.

An organic search result includes website title, URL, meta description and sometimes, links. Optimizing a website by giving each page an unique title and appropriate meta description containing keywords is helpful in increasing organic search results. 

Example of the components of a SERP

[Note for David: how do I best describe screen shots?]

The URL, title and the meta description of a page display in a SERP, as shown in the screen capture below.

A portion of SERP, or search engine results page, with the search query, URL, title tag and meta description numbered and labeled.

When you hear people mention the process of optimizing pages of the website for organic search, it means making changes on a website to ensure that people searching the internet can easily find what they are looking for using keywords.

Site optimization can be done at many levels. WebTech will often work the technical details of improving search (like using structured data, increasing site speed or ensuring the website is mobile friendly), while University Marketing may focus on planning search engine strategies around audience interests or locations.

Content editors can help contribute to their department or organization website's SEO a number of ways with on-page optimization. This could include:

  1. utilizing well-defined page titles and URLs
  2. writing keyword rich content
  3. using proper heading structure
  4. adding unique, descriptive meta descriptions with an enticing call to action on each webpage

The largest percent of free (unpaid for) website traffic comes from search engines. From April 2021 to Dec 2021, 40.6% of Western’s Drupal website traffic was attributable from organic search engines alone.

Over 3.5 billion searches performed daily. This translates to about 40,000 processed per second.
SERPs play a large role in bringing visitors to websites. SERPs are especially critical if one considers the shifts from in-person to online activity brought on by the pandemic. It is important for us at Western Washington University to take the time to optimize the web pages we produce in order to see an increase in traffic from search engine result pages.

For those of us working in higher education, the importance of having a strong online presence is even more critical based on our target audience. In 2018, an estimated 12.3 million college students will be under the age of 25. This younger demographic profile means that a large percentage of the intended audience has grown up immersed in technology.

This also explains why three quarters of high school juniors and seniors report that college websites influence how they view institutions and the quality of education offered. Prospective students expect colleges and universities to engage and meet with them online. The work we are doing on the website today allows us to rise up and meet this challenge.

The purpose of optimizing your department website for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) serves Western in two ways:

  1. It helps makes more visible overall to search engines by tailoring content that will appeal to search engines. The result being that our website will appear higher up on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) - and more prospective students will see and visit our pages.
  2. SEO also focuses on creating new content that creates a more fulfilling experience for prospective students and their families - building a deeper relationship with Western Washington University.