Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of improving web content so that it ranks highly in search engines such as Google. Many web users find web content using search engines.

Although search rankings are important you must not let SEO reduce the usability or quality of your content. Usability and accessibility are more important than search engine rankings, and quality content is more likely to become popular naturally.

SEO guidelines

High search rankings are never guaranteed but there are some simple guidelines you can follow to increase the chances of users finding your content in search engines.

  • Always write high quality, consistent content. Only use SEO techniques that aid usability and accessibility.
  • Before you write or update your content, think about the search terms (keywords) that users are likely to use when they search for content on a particular subject. Make a list of these 'keywords'.
  • Frontload your content so that the most important information comes first. Include keywords near the start of the page. 
  • Ensure that the keywords you identify as being important are included throughout your text, but particularly in the opening paragraphs. 
  • You can use variations of the keywords, eg you could use 'funding opportunities' and 'funding schemes'. 
  • Repeat keywords but don't overuse them and don’t let them break the flow of your text.
  • Use clear and descriptive page titles that include some of the keywords that your users might search for. Try to place keywords at the start of page titles. Keep titles brief and don't cram them too full of keywords.
  • Break up your text using clear and descriptive headings. Include keywords within your headings whenever possible. This also helps readability. Try to include keywords at the start of your headings. 
  • Create descriptive URLs (file names) for your pages. For example, use 'seo-techniques' rather than a vague title like 'techniques'. Use hyphens (not underscores) to separate words.
  • Provide clear and descriptive information in the ‘description’ metadata field and include keywords. This won’t directly improve your search rankings, but it will appear on search results pages. Good descriptions might encourage users to go to your content.
  • Include links to relevant ESRC content and other websites. Always use clear and descriptive titles for your links, and include keywords in them.
  • Use clear and descriptive alt text for all your images. Try to include keywords that help to describe the image, but remember that accessibility is more important than SEO. 
  • Encourage other relevant websites to link to your content whenever possible. Inward links can boost search engine rankings.
  • If your content is of interest to a broad audience, ask us to tweet it using the ESRC Twitter account (email websupport@esrc.ukri.org).
  • Minimise the use of PDFs and other documents. Use web pages instead.
  • Update your content regularly.

Monitoring and improving your content

SEO is not a one-off task. You need to pro-actively manage your content so that it performs well in search engines.

You should:

  • regularly monitor the performance of your top keywords and phrases in Google
  • make further content improvements to see if they improve your rankings.

For further information about SEO, please email websupport@esrc.ukri.org