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Writing for the Web

Writing content that is accessible, optimized for search, and otherwise informative and easy to read.

Searchability

Did you know that over half of the users visiting the W&M Libraries website come from a search engine search? Use the Top Ten Tips and the best practices below to make sure your content doesn't get lost in the sea of search result pages.

Most of the best practices covered in the the Top Ten Tips will ensure your content is accessible to assistive devices and findable by search engines. While there's no guaranteed method to make your page rank #1, using techniques like clear headings, readable page URLs, and descriptive hyperlinks all help.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

Write compelling content

More than anything else, writing useful, meaningful content is a major factor for search engines to find your page and for users to view your website as trustworthy and worth revisiting. When writing, think about how our different user groups may find your page - what search terms will students, faculty, staff and the community use (it's probably not library jargon)? Include those words in the headline and text of your page. Don't "stuff" the page with keywords though - both search engines and our users look for quality content, not spammy content written to game a search engine score. 

Descriptive hyperlinks

Search engines give greater relevancy to search terms when they're found in places like the text of links on your page and website. Make sure your links describe what they link to and avoid writing "click here". Users don't search for "click here"!

Use headings

Like hyperlinks, headings in your text that use relevant search terms will also boost your page's ranking. Use Heading 2 followed by Heading 3 to group paragraphs together under a short, descriptive headline to help users scan for the information they're looking for.

Readable URLs

Make sure the URL of your page is readable. Don't use spaces, punctuation, or capital letters - these often result in broken links. Instead, separate words by a hyphen (-). 

W&M Libraries website URLs

The Libraries website will automatically generate a readable URL (URL alias) based on the title of your page. Make sure you share that URL and not the permalink version (node/1234).

LibGuides URLs

LibGuides does not create readable URLs. Before you publish your guide, make sure to add a readable URL in the following places. Using the lowercase title of the page with hyphens in place of spaces is best practice.

  1. Update the main "URL" of your guide - at the top right of the edit screen
  2. Update the "Page URL" of every page in your guide - top left in the gray bar on the edit screen.

When in doubt

Don't overthink it! Most content on the Libraries website is findable through a Google search or by searching the website without having to tinker with wording. If you're still having difficulty getting your content to appear on the first page of results, try adding a keyword into the page title or check to make sure the keywords appear in your text.

Example of including key words

U.S. Declassified Documents Online

Doing an exact name search for this database on the Libraries website resulted in several pages of other content that used the terms "documents" and "online" multiple times. Adding the word "online" and the phrase "declassified documents" to the description makes this result appear 2nd and doesn't affect the readability.

 Before - third page of results  After - #2 on first page of results
Provides access to a broad range of previously classified federal records from 1900 to within the current decade. The types of materials include intelligence studies, policy papers, diplomatic correspondence, cabinet meeting minutes, briefing materials, and domestic surveillance and military reports. Coverage: 1900-2008. Provides online access to a broad range of previously classified federal records from 1900 to within the current decade. The types of declassified documents include intelligence studies, policy papers, diplomatic correspondence, cabinet meeting minutes, briefing materials, and domestic surveillance and military reports. Coverage: 1900-2008.