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Improve a SiteBuilder page's rank in search engine results

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

Many of these tips come from Google's SEO report card . Also, see Google's SEO Starter Guide for more detailed guidance.

In this article:

Allow search engines and review permissions

To ensure that search engines can index your pages:

  1. Go to Edit > Edit page properties.
  2. Under Change page properties, select Allow search engines.

For pages with restricted view permissions, Warwick Search shows results to University members that match their permissions.

If you want your page to appear in external search results such as Google, ensure that you add view permissions for anyone.

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 often appear bold 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.

Example title bar captions

For an academic course outline, the title bar caption:

BA English and Italian Literature - University of Warwick

…is better than:

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

For a service:

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 what this snippet contains – search engines typically display text 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 help article.)

Tips:

  • Use between 50 and 300 characters.
  • Include keywords that are likely to match users' search queries. Keywords are 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 help to present better search results and encourage people to click through from search results to your site. Descriptions are not a ranking factor in Google; they are in Warwick Search.
  • If you leave the Description field empty in SiteBuilder's page properties, search engines will make up a description automatically.
  • Review how your page description appears in different search engines and amend as necessary.

Page heading

Give your page an appropriate heading. The page heading displays at the top of the page, and you specify it in page properties. Search engines score words in page headings higher than the same words in 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 those formatted as Heading 3, and so on.

SiteBuilder toolbar with format drop-down menu expanded

Your page heading is a Heading 1 by default. So, in your content, format the first heading with Heading 2 and so on.

Search engines understand heading hierarchy just as 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 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 in the centre content rank higher than those in the right-hand content. Therefore, we recommend you use the right-hand side to include extra information such as links, news feeds or documents. Ensure the most important information is in the centre 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 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 control when these sitelinks appear, but you can organise your website to increase the chances of Google displaying them. Google advises:

  • 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

You can block unwanted sitelinks via Google Search Console. If your sitelinks contain unappealing or unwanted internal links, email webteam at warwick dot ac dot uk and tell us:

  • you want us to use Google Search Console to block unwanted sitelinks
  • the names of the unwanted sitelinks and their respective URLs

    Keywords

    Google (and most other search engines) pay no attention to the keywords meta tag as a ranking factor or for indexing because you can populate the tag with irrelevant information in an attempt to game search results.

    However, it's still worth writing the keywords property for your SiteBuilder pages because Warwick Search does use the keywords property as a ranking factor.

    Other factors

    • Pages edited more recently (within the last year) often rank higher than older pages. So, if your page has not 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’ or ‘more’.
    • Do not 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.

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