SEO Best Practices

Follow these search engine optimization best practices to ensure your content is seen by relevant audiences. SEO terms are bolded. You can find full definitions of these terms in the UC Davis SEO Glossary.

View the SEO Glossary

Body content

High-quality, unique, useful content is what Google is looking for and will rank highly. Always try to write 10x content. This is content that is 10x better than the highest-ranked content in search engine results.

Be sure to include primary, secondary and tertiary keywords here, and try to answer the questions most people are searching for related to your content.

Create useful content

By building content that fulfills a user's need, you have a better chance at ranking in search. If you are a reputable source for the topic, are providing a better experience than competition and/or are addressing a niche that is not currently being addressed, you are more likely to rank in search for your content.

  • Focus on topics you are known for or you can craft a unique and valuable experience for your users.
  • Build content that is evergreen or seasonal.
  • Use metrics to help you make the best decisions in optimizing existing content or in crafting new content.

Canonical tag

Sometimes departments will republish another department's article, creating duplicate content.

Google tries not to index duplicate content, so if duplicate content exists, it will choose only one page to show in search results. However, it might not choose to show the original page.

A canonical tag tells search engines to show only one version of the page. By using a canonical tag, you can make sure search engines only choose to show the original content.

How to create a canonical tag

Ask publishers who are duplicating your content to include a canonical tag in their page to tell Google to prioritize the original. The publisher must include the original page's URL in the "Canonical URL" section of their page.

In SiteFarm, users can find this section in the right-side navigation: SEO > Advanced > Canonical URL.

If your content is original, it is best practice to use your own URL in this section as well. This is known as a self-referential canonical tag.

A screenshot of the canonical URL section in SiteFarm. The description says "A link to the preferred page location or URL of the content of this page, to help eliminate duplicate content penalties from search engines."

Header tag

Header or heading tags are the titles and subtitles of your articles. Header tags are important because they help readers scan your content and glean information more quickly.

They are categorized as h1, h2, h3, and h4 with descending levels of size and importance. Every page should have only one h1.

Google scans header tags to determine a page's ranking, so be sure to include your target primary and secondary keywords here if you can.


Search engines will crawl the names of your images, so be sure to name your files appropriately. Include your primary keyword if possible, separate words by dashes (not underscores) and try to keep the file name under 10 words. Use more specific keywords at the beginning of the name and general, branded keywords at the end.


  • Cow-emissions-climate-uc-davis.jpg

  • John-doe-professor-climate-uc-davis.jpg

Alt tags are also important for SEO. An alt tag is text describing an image, which is read aloud by screen readers and appears when the image does not load.

Try to use images that are relevant to your content. If you can use one of your keywords in the alt tag, that's likely a good image to use. If an image is purely decorative, leave the alt tag blank.


Search engines crawl sites and pages to index them so that they will show up in search results.

It can take a few hours to a few weeks for a new page to be indexed. Just because a page is indexed does not mean it will get a high ranking. Pages that consistently rank low can be removed from the index.

There is no guarantee that Google will index a page. Google will often not index duplicate content or images, content it considers not useful and URLs that have too many parameters.

To speed up indexing, be sure to:

  • Have a fast server so there's no overload
  • Link to new pages in more prominent places (like the homepage or landing pages)
  • Avoid using unnecessary URLs (like category filters)
  • Use sitemaps to help Google identify new URLs

Most importantly, always aim for high-quality, useful content. Google will prioritize this type of content when choosing what to index and when.

Watch Google's indexing video


Keywords are the bread and butter of SEO. A keyword is the main idea your content is about. If someone were to search for your article, this is likely the word or phrase they would put in a search box.

Short keywords are often highly searched for and are very competitive as a result. So, it is difficult to rank for these keywords. To best optimize your content, package short and long keywords together for the best chance to get your content seen. Keyword maps are helpful tools for this.

However, an ideal keyword is not too short or too long. It should be about two to three words depending on how niche your topic is. If your topic is very niche, you can use single-word keywords (e.g., enologist).

For example, if you were to write an article about heat waves in California, here are some examples of keywords you could use:

  • Heat
    This keyword is too short and vague. It's unlikely someone will find your content using this keyword alone.
  • Heat domes in California causing dangerous heat waves
    This keyword is too long. If someone were to search for this, they would find your article, but hardly anyone naturally types this much into their search bar.
  • Heat wave or California heat wave
    These keywords are just right. If you use these in your content, it's more likely that Google will rank your page highly and people will see it.

You can have more than one keyword in your article. These are called secondary keywords because they are kind of related to the main idea of your content. But make sure you have a primary keyword in mind that is your highest priority and captures your main idea.

Your primary keyword should be in your URL, title, meta description, some headers, body content and image names or alt text. Even so, avoid using your keyword too much. A good rule of thumb is: If it doesn't sound like a human said it, don't say it.

Google's algorithm gives higher ranks to content that sounds natural. It will penalize keyword stuffing — when you use a keyword an unusually high amount of times to manipulate a page or site's ranking in Google search.

An example of keyword stuffing where all instances of "UC Davis" are red. It reads "Welcome to UC Davis! If you are interested in attending UC Davis, then you are in the right place to apply to UC Davis. When it comes to UC Davis, you won't find a higher-quality education. Our UC Davis experts will guide you through UC Davis. Seriously, go to UC Davis!"

Always avoid keyword stuffing. Search engines could potentially ban your website if they find this.

Read the full Keyword Guide

Meta description

A meta description is the summary of your content that appears in search results below your title tag. > admissions > undergraduate
Transfer Admission Guarantee - UC Davis
The UC Davis Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) is a written agreement 
ensuring your admission to UC Davis from any California community college.

A screenshot of a search result. The meta description is surrounded by a yellow border and says "The UC Davis Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) is a written agreement ensuring your admission to UC Davis from any California community college."

While Google will not look at your meta description to determine your page's ranking, it's still important to use keywords here. This is because when people search for your keywords, your keywords will appear in bold letters in search results, which encourages users to choose your content to read.

How to create a meta description

In SiteFarm, select "Edit Summary" next to "Body" to open the "Summary" text box. Put your meta description here.

Your meta description should include your primary keyword as well as secondary keywords if you have them.

Make your meta description 155-160 characters long. Too few characters, and you miss an opportunity to use good primary and secondary keywords. Too many characters, and your meta description will get cut off by Google.

A screenshot of the summary section in SiteFarm. The description says "Enter text you would like to use as a brief, custom teaser or leave blank and the system will use a trimmed segment of the body text instead."


  • When reorganizing or merging content, make sure to redirect to the proper URL.
  • Watch 404 logs to fix broken links or redirect where necessary.
  • If deleting a page, find a page that provides similar content. If no page exists that is related, leave the page a 404. However, if you delete a page and are seeing traffic to it, you may want to consider creating a page to address the need.

Title tag

A title tag is what shows up as the title of your page in search results. > admissions > undergraduate
Transfer Admission Guarantee - UC Davis
The UC Davis Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) is a written agreement 
ensuring your admission to UC Davis from any California community college.

A screenshot of a search result. The title tag is surrounded by a yellow border and says "Transfer Admission Guarantee - UC Davis."

You can make your title tag different from your article's headline if you manually input the title tag in SiteFarm.

How to create a title tag

Select "SEO" in the right navigation. Type your title tag in the "Page title" section. If you'd like the page title to match your article title, leave it as is.

A screenshot of the title tag section in SiteFarm. The description says "The text to display in the title bar of a visitor's web browser when they view this page. This meta tag may also be used as the title of the page when a visitor bookmarks or favorites this page, or as the page title in a search engine result. It is common to append '[site:name]' to the end of this, so the site's name is automatically added. It is recommended that the title is no greater than 55 - 65 characters long, including spaces."

Ideally, your title should look be formatted as: Title Tag | UC Davis.

Your title tag should include your primary keyword. You want users to have a good idea of where they will be going once they click on your title, so avoid making the title tag too vague or about a different topic than what your article is about.

Make your title tag 55-60 characters long. Too few characters, and you miss an opportunity to use a good primary or secondary keyword. Too many characters, and your title tag will get cut off by Google.


Keep your URL simple. URLs over 100 characters are often not indexed by search engines.

Also, make sure your primary keyword is in your URL. Google will take this into consideration when ranking your page, and if people search for your primary keyword, it will appear bolded in your URL in search results.

How to create a custom URL

To ensure your URL is optimized, include your primary keyword. You can do this by selecting "URL alias" in the right navigation within SiteFarm and entering your custom alias.