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Whose website is it anyway?

March 27th, 2009 by mdmcginnis

I’ve been doing a lot of keyword research in recent weeks, looking for the most popular search terms that people are looking for, related to what Texas A&M does. At www.tamu.edu, we want to have useful pages devoted to each of the important queries – questions – that people have. I’ve come up with hundreds of keywords. And I’ve come to an obvious conclusion – we can’t do this by ourselves.

All keyword research and search engine optimization requires a balance between what’s desirable and what’s possible. Sure, we’d like to have the number one result for “universities” but we only cover one university, while other sites cover thousands of them. If you want to know all about universities, you really ought to look elsewhere. When I look at statistics for the most popular yet relevant searches, I see search terms with words such as “scholarships” (1,830,000 Google searches a month) and “online schools” (3,350,000 Google searches a month).

The problem is, other Texas A&M websites have a lot more information about scholarships and distance education than www.tamu.edu. Other Texas A&M websites have a much better chance of getting to the top of the search engine results than any of my web pages.

Now, we’re glad to help other webmasters optimize their sites for better search results. All I’m saying is that it doesn’t make sense for us to reinvent the wheel. The most powerful Web address for scholarships will always be scholarships.tamu.edu. If Texas A&M is going to compete with online schools such as the University of Phoenix, we’re going to do it through the folks at distance.tamu.edu.

And so far I’m only talking about the big targets – the keywords that get millions of searches a month each. But what about the even more potent long tail keywords, that collectively get tens of millions of searches a month – from the most highly motivated searchers? The ones who search for “ocean hydromechanics fellowships” know exactly what they want. They may have a million dollars to give away. They are not writing a fifth grade school paper.

The only way to satisfy these millions of long tail searchers is for each webmaster to optimize his or her own pages. What would that mean?

  • Look at your website as your visitors would. Look at it functionally not organizationally; that is, what do visitors want to do on your website, and how can you help them? (They probably didn’t come to download your organizational chart). What do you want them to do on your website? How hard is it, really, to give money to your department, or apply to your program, or sign up for a seminar – using your website?
  • Label your pages clearly. Have you named and titled your pages based on what your visitors need to do? Are you using the keywords that your visitors would use? Do you have links in your navigation and headings on your pages that use words such as “Sign up” or “Donate” ?
  • Make a good map. One important reason for navigation is to avoid getting lost. Even if this doesn’t relate directly to search engine optimization, it’s still important: do your menus allow your visitors to reach any page on your site in a few clicks?

In the end, you are responsible to helping visitors find your website through proper search engine optimization. The process need not be laborious or mystical. Let us know if we can help.

Friday, March 27th, 2009 Search
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2 Comments to Whose website is it anyway?

  1. This is all great introductory information. If I may make a suggestion, there’s a setting in WordPress that will automatically configure the page names for you. If you go to Options > Permalinks, you can select the “Custom” radio button and add this to the field: /%postname%/

    At that point pages like this one will look like:
    http://webmaster.tamu.edu/whose-website-is-it-anyway

    …instead of
    http://webmaster.tamu.edu/?p=982

    This is far more useful for search engine optimization.

  2. Will Reinhardt on April 24th, 2009
  3. So true, and that’s how we’ve set up our most recent blogs, such as http://aggieblogs.tamu.edu/.

  4. mdmcginnis on April 24th, 2009

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