SEO Best Practices

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)  is a process for improving the visibility of a website, or a web page, in relevant search results so people who want to connect with your site can find it more easily. This is known as boosting a site's search engine rank position (SERP).

The lynchpin to this process is identifying the keywords people would most likely use to look for your content, and then making sure these keywords are incorporated into your site structure.

By doing this, you tell search bots crawling your site what you think your site is about so that they'll recommend your site in relevant searches.

Determinants of SERP

On-page optimization for specific keywords

Off-page optimization or the number of quality links back to your site

Authority of your site based on the age of your domain, freshness of content and overall site health, such as page load times, broken links, etc.

On-Page Optimization

On-page optimization relates to the keywords you have on your site and how you structure them.

Keyword Analysis

Relevance is the key factor to consider when choosing the right keywords for SEO. The more specific you are, the better.

Make a list of terms or phrases you think people would use to describe the resources featured on the page you are looking to optimize

If you are working with an existing site, look at your web analytics to identify the words people are already using in search queries to get to your site as well as the words people search for in the context of your site.

Competitive Analysis

Look at the sites of similar groups within and outside of Stanford to see what keywords they are emphasizing in their page titles, headers and metadata.  

Find out who is already optimized for the keyword terms you want to target by conducting an allintitle: "KEYWORD" Google search.

Incorporating Keywords into Your Site

The goal is to optimize the density and frequency of 1-2 keywords in the content of a page without keyword stuffing or distorting the user experience.  

The prominence of keywords on your site is determined by how you incorporate these words into your site structure. The words you chose to emphasize in the structure of a given page tells search engines what terms you think represent the content on that page.

Search bots scan the following page elements to identify these terms.

  • Page Title - Frontload keywords in text; 70 character maximum in title before Google will truncate the text in search results. 
  • URL - Use terms that describe the page; use canonical URLs
  • Headers - Use only one H1 header to weight one key concept per page; use sub-headers to describe sections of page, which is helpful to SEO and scannability.
  • Meta Description - Unique for every page, limit 150 chars. This text is presented under the page title in search results, so it should be sufficiently descriptive to motivate people to click from a Google results page.
  • Meta Keywords - Limit 10 words; largely ignored by Google now but helpful for promoting your site in searches within Stanford Medicine web.
  • Anchor links and ALT text on images  

Other Considerations

  • The overall structure and health of your site also influences how Google and other search engines view your content. The following practices help boost the authority of your site:
  • Keep your site structure as flat as possible to facilitate crawling.
  • Build internal links across your site to reinforce the relevancy of pages and enable crawling.
  • Fix broken links.
  • Optimize image size and other factors impacting page load times.
  • Submit html and xml site maps so your site can be found and indexed.

  • Add your site to the appropriate directory and local listing - yahoo directory, DMOZ directory, google local, yahoo local, bing local

Best Practice Tips

  • Look at keywords from your users' perspective
  • Do not distort the user experience for SEO
  • Diversify; you want different keywords on different pages
  • Focus; optimize the 20% of your site that brings 80% of your traffic

Additional Keyword Tools

Want to Learn More About SEO?

Off-Page Optimization

Off-page optimization, known as link building, is based on building inbound links to your content from relevant sites on the web. The impact --  or "link juice"-- of a back-link to your site is based on the authority of the site linking to your site, and the relevancy of the back-link to your site's content.

The best way to encourage high-value links to your site is to publish useful content that people want to share.

You can also link back to your site from external web propertites you manage, such as a blog, Youtube videos, Facebook page or Twitter feed.

How to Audit a Site for SEO

The goal of an SEO audit is to evaluate how Google and other search engines see your site and to identify any red flags. The following are key items to assess:

  1. Check the SERP for specifc pages to see how your site perfoms for the specific terms you want to compete on
  2. Look at your site's call-to-action in a Google search result. Do the page title and metadescription motivate people to click through?
  3. Evaluate site performance using:
    a. Google Analytics to id the top content. Evaluate the quality of this content. Is it current, helpful and easy to understand?
    b. Google's Webmaster tool to id broken links and to see what keywords Google attributes to your site
    c. Page Speed Insights to assess page load times and related fixes
  4. Assess the indexibility of your site; how flat is its structure? Are there html and xml site maps? is there sufficient internal linking?
  5. Assess the off-page optimization; identify what sites are linking back by conducting a Google search for Link: DOMAIN.COM. Also are you fully levergaging any external web properties that may provide a relevant context to promote your site?
  6. Evaluate the authority of your site; look up the Google Page Rank of your site at

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