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Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Best Practices

The following practices will help you improve user experience and performance in Google (and other search engines) search results. Many of them are summaries from Google's Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. Read the full version for detailed information and advanced topics. Further reading:

Ranking high in Google is VERY VALUABLE. What's the strategy? Get relevant. Get trusted. Get Popular.

1. The Golden Rule of SEO: Content is King

Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors discussed here. 


  • Write easy-to-read text
  • Stay organized around the topic, avoid dumping large amounts of text on varying topics onto a page without paragraph, subheading, or layout separation
  • Create fresh, unique content New content will not only keep your existing visitor base coming back but also bring in new visitors.

Think about the words that a user might search for to find a piece of your content. Users who know a lot about the topic might use different keywords in their search queries than someone who is new to the topic.  Anticipating these differences in search behavior and accounting for them while writing your content (using a good mix of keyword phrases) could produce positive results.

Consider creating a new, useful service that no other site offers. You could also write an original piece of research, break an exciting news story, or leverage your unique user base. Other sites may lack the resources or expertise to do these things.

2. Help Google and users understand your images

Don't use images to display important names, content, or links. Google crawler doesn't recognize text contained in graphics. Use ALT attributes if the main content and keywords on your page can't be formatted in regular HTML.

  1. Use brief, but descriptive filenames
  2. Use brief, but descriptive alt text
    The "alt" attribute allows you to specify alternative text for the image if it cannot be displayed for some reason. If a user is viewing your site on a browser that doesn't support images or is using alternative technologies, such as a screen reader, the contents of the alt attribute provide information about the picture.
  3. Write a short caption on the page below each image. Put important information in text rather than images.

3. Image links

  • It's not recommended using too many images for links in the site's navigation when text links could serve the same purpose. A simple way to make your link stand out is to use buttons.
  • Give a brief, but descriptive alt text

4. Create unique, accurate, descriptive page titles

A title tag tells both users and search engines what the topic of a particular page is.  Title tags are often used on search engine results pages (SERPs) to display preview snippets for a given page and are important both for SEO and social sharing. The title element of a web page is meant to be an accurate and concise description of a page's content. When edit document in Hippo CMS, the required Title filed serves three purposes:

  1. It will appear at the top of the browser as webpage's heading,
  2. Show in browser toolbar as page title,
  3. Search engines like Google often display the first line in the search result.

Tips: Create unique title tags for each page. Be brief, only use a few words or phrase.

Library public website title conventions:

  • On home page - use long name: University of Maryland Libraries 
  • Interior Pages - use short name after "|": <PageTitle> | UMD Libraries
  • Grouped Interior Page - use short name: <PageTitle> - <GroupTitle> | UMD Libraries


  • Art Library | UMD Libraries (short name after "|")
  • Academic Search Premier - Database Finder | UMD Libraries
  • Testudo is Great - Newsroom | UMD Libraries
  • Miniature Suite No. 2 - SCPA Scores | UMD Libraries
page title field   page title
In Hippo CMS, Title field for the page title and heading, 
Summary field for meta description tag.
  There are four-page titles displayed in browser toolbar for four websites.

5. Make sure that other sites link to yours

Creating descriptive categories and filenames for the documents on your website can not only help you keep your site better organized, but it could also lead to better crawling of your documents by search engines. Also, it can create easier, "friendlier" URLs for those that want to link to your content. Visitors may be intimidated by extremely long and cryptic URLs that contain few recognizable words

6. Use friendly URLs 

Keep the URL simple, brief and readable.

  1. It can help visitors remember the Web address
  2. It can help describe the page to search engines. Search engines look for keywords in URLs. It’s a known ranking factor. Since most search engines include the Web address as part of the information that describes a page, placing keywords in the URL can help boost the ranking of the page. 
  3. Don't repeat folder name in the document title. eg. can simply be


More tips on friendly URLs


Keep it short

While a descriptive URL is important, minimizing the length and trailing slashes will make your URLs easier to copy, paste, or remember in the rare case they were not bookmarked and will be fully visible in the search results. Should be no more than 100 characters with stop words removed.
might be shortened to

Use keywords

If your page is targeting a specific term or phrase, make sure to include it in the URL. However, don’t go overboard by trying to stuff in multiple keywords for SEO purposes; overuse will result in less usable URLs and can trip spam filters.
might be better as

Be descriptive

Rather than selecting numbers or meaningless figures to categorize information, use real words and remove any special characters. 
should be rewritten to

Remove Special Characters's-leashes 
should be rewritten to

Use hyphens to separate words

Not all of the search engines interpret separators accurately like “_”, “+”, or “%20” so use the hyphen “-” character to separate words in a URL. 
Note: if you leave space between keywords, Hippo automatically fills in hyphen for you. 
should be rewritten to


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