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Search engine optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of creating a website that will rank highly in search engine result pages (SERPs).

When you search for a phrase on a search engine (e.g. Google), the results that show up higher on the page have a better SEO ranking in relation to that phrase.

New to SEO? Check out this glossary of key terms from Google.

Why does SEO matter?

  • over half of our users come to the UVic website through a search result
    • over 96% of those are using Google to find information on

Improving your SEO will impact the quality and quantity of users visiting your site.

  • the first result from a Google search is 10 times more likely to be clicked on than the tenth
  • results that appear after the first page are typically clicked on < 1% of the time
  • AI-based searches (e.g. Alexa, Siri) are often voice-based and typically only return a single result

There are two main factors when considering the SEO of a web page: the technical structure and the content of the page.

Technical SEO

A search engine crawls the code of your web page—usually a combination of HTML and other web languages. So, the semantic structure of your page (how the code is organized) makes a big difference to how search engines read your web page and make sense of the content.

There are specific tags that are especially relevant to search engines. Not all of them are visible to the humans viewing your web page.

Title tag

  • appears in search engine result pages (SERPs), social share links
  • for most UVic websites will follow the pattern of [page title] - [site title] - University of Victoria (or) UVic
  • should be 30-60 characters long

Meta description tag

  • appears in SERPs, social share links
  • doesn't impact your search ranking, but can impact how often users click on your page in the search results (click-through rate)
  • should be 50-160 characters long

Other meta tags

  • these tags use a structured schema called Open Graph to determine how your link preview appears when shared on social media:
    • short description (in Cascade this is the same as the meta description), thumbnail image, page title and other custom information

Page title (H1) tag

  • should be unique to the page (only one H1 per web page)
  • should contain an important keyword (not “Welcome to our website”)

Other header (H2-H6) tags

  • used to break up content into relevant sections
  • must follow hierarchy (smallest number to largest)
  • include variations of the main keyword

Image alt text

  • alt text describes the image for users who cannot see it
  • search engines index the alt text for both standard and image searches

Link tags

Footer area

The very bottom of your page should contain some key information for both search engines and users:
  • full contact information
  • links to your social media
    • keep these outbound links low enough on the page to not affect your conversion goals
  • human-readable sitemap
    • includes pages not found in your navigation menu

Content SEO

"The first duty of writing for the web is to write to be found."
–Nielsen Norman Group

When a user lands on your web page from a search result, they typically decide in the first 5-8 seconds whether to stay and keep engaging or leave your site and look elsewhere.

  • each page should have a single focus, otherwise search engines will get confused what it’s about
  • users often ask questions when they search—make sure your content is the answer to that question
    • e.g. "What is the best law school in Canada?" or "How much does an Engineering degree cost at UVic?"
  • content should naturally contain your keyword variations
    • avoid "keyword stuffing"—filling your page with irrelevant text to boost the frequency of those words appearing on the page
      • Google will demote pages that do this in search results

Refer to our guidelines on readability to ensure your content is relevant for users and search engines.

Other considerations for SEO

Single source of truth

While has hundreds of different websites, search engines see it as one web entity.

When we have multiple pages across different sites that all say variations of the same thing, search engines don't know which page is the authority for that topic—known as the "source of truth."

Consider as one website

If there is another UVic website that has the information you want to mention on your site, link to that page instead of duplicating the content. Doing so will improve the SEO of your page and other UVic pages.


Following the guidelines for accessible text will ensure your page is search-engine friendly.

Mobile-first layout & design

Web pages are ranked based on how well they perform on a mobile device in terms of load time, accessibility and overall user experience.

Mobile-first design refers to creating websites that are optimized for use on mobile devices (smart phones, tablets, etc.)

UVic's newest web template meets the latest standards for mobile usability, but there are things you can do as a content author to ensure a good mobile experience:

  • set table widths using percentages (usually 100%) to ensure they will resize properly on mobile
  • when making major changes to a page, try previewing it on a mobile device before publishing
    • Does everything look the way it’s supposed to?
    • Is the user experience the same as on desktop?

Page performance

Pages that take a long time to load or that shift around while the content is loading are ranked poorly by search engines.

  • web pages should be under 1 MB in file size
  • avoid unnecessary bloat by limiting use of embedded media (sound and video files) and other scripts
  • reduce the file size of images (by resizing and compressing) before uploading to Cascade

Page & domain authority

The "authority score" of your web page or website measures the likelihood of it ranking near the top of search results for specific search queries or keywords.

  • these scores do not affect your search ranking, but they can help you analyze your web page or site against others for specific search queries
  • the scores are typically based on backlinks (links from other trusted websites back to yours)