Search Engine Optimization

SEO Guidelines

To assist you in making the most of your website or web application, we offer this basic set of links and guidelines on the subject of Search Engine Optimization (SEO): 

GOOGLE

Google has a great SEO guide in PDF format containing the essential SEO practices one would want to utilize. These practices will provide search engine optimization for Google and and the Google Search Appliance. The document is extensive. The more one reads, the more benefit one derives.

THE BASICS OF SEO FOR WEBSITE CONTENT OWNERS

  • Use a meaningful page title in the tag.
  • Keep HTML markup semantic and simple.
  • Avoid tables except for showing tabular data.
  • Avoid reliance on images: use ALT tags describing an image’s content for both 508 compliance (for the visually impaired) and for search engines.
  • Use background images rather than images in the markup to represent a site’s name or page’s title.
  • Avoid image maps; instead, use list items with background images through CSS.
  • Use online tools such as Firefox’s Web Developer plugin to view your website without any CSS or Javascript enabled to see what a search engine’s robot crawler would see.
  • Cut down on unnecessary markup that serves no meaningful text content; use CSS or Javascript to manage the page’s presentation.
  • Maintain good page structure with headings being hierarchical and properly used (ex. H1 > H2 > H3)
  • Try to place most of the page’s main content towards the top, just below the page’s title.
  • Make sure pages are as standards-compliant and accessible as possible.
  • Use tools such as the  w3c validator  for HTML standards compliance and  Cynthia Says  for compliance with 508 Standards.
  • Avoid having many broken links on your site:  Use 301 redirects for pages that have moved so search engines update their entry.
  • Use 'canonicals' whenever there are multiple/duplicate pages or URLs that serve the same content to avoid confusing search engines.  The reason for this is that some search engines punish (from an SEO perspective) sites that have duplicate content.   As always, your objective, when creating URLs and links should be to direct users to the right URL.  This page on google's webmaster support pages discusses this in more detail.
  • Publish a site map so users and search engines can find deep or hidden pages that may not be referenced elsewhere with real content.
  • Use a robots.txt file on your server in conjunction with Google Webmaster Tools to verify that your robots.txt file is set correctly and allows search engines to crawl a website.
  • For additional information about Search Engine Optimization on the Columbia.edu domain please contact the CUIT Service Desk at askcuit@columbia.edu or 212-854-1919.  When making your request please ask the Service Desk to assign it to Interactive Services.