Digital Marketing Officer Rosie Morse explains the SEO work she undertook to support improvements to Bristol Dental School‘s section of our website.
This year, over a third of the traffic to the University of Bristol website came from search engines. And yet, organic search is often overlooked as a marketing channel.
In 2023, the Dental School webpages were reviewed and improved in line with the opening of its new school location. An external agency led on user research, the Digital Experience team did the content design, and I provided some SEO insights to support the project – with the goal of increasing organic search traffic to the Dental School webpages.
How to access Google Analytics (University of Bristol staff).
Both tools provided valuable data on which to base recommendations. Google Analytics shows the pages that users from organic search are most engaged with. Screaming Frog pulls lots of information about SEO performance, including status codes and page tags.
Another invaluable tool was Ahrefs. It can be used for keyword research and assessing the SEO health of a domain. I compared the backlinks, organic traffic and existing keywords for the Bristol dental webpages to nine competing dental schools.
Takeaways and recommendations
Backlinks are the links to our website that other domains include in their webpages. These are important for SEO as they tell search engines that our website is trustworthy. The quality of those referring domains is also important.
However, five of the nine competing dental schools outshine us on backlinks, with one school achieving almost 7,000. I recommended that we grow our backlinks to help improve ranking. The best way of doing this is increasing visibility of these pages through promotion and other SEO optimisations.
You can also reclaim ‘lost’ backlinks, which are backlinks that the domain has removed or where the link has become broken. For example, the dental pages had a strong link from The Lancet which we’ve since lost. To reclaim a link, it’s as simple as emailing the domain’s site owner to let them know – they might even be grateful you’ve told them!
Keywords are the words or phrases that users enter into a search engine to find the information they are looking for. Webpages ‘rank’ for keywords, meaning they appear in a particular order on the search results pages. This is based on how relevant the page is for that keyword, and how trustworthy that website is.
I found that the dental webpages were ranking well for keywords containing ‘University of Bristol’ or ‘Bristol’, with the homepage ranking in first position for ‘bristol dental school’. We are ranking less well for searches that are more generic, for example we rank 13th for ‘dentistry courses uk’.
This suggests that our competitors are ranking above us for more generic keywords. My competitor analysis also showed that four of the nine competing dental schools were ranking for a higher number of keywords. Six were receiving higher monthly organic traffic, indicating keyword quality.
Effective keyword targeting is essential to compete in search. The best keywords bring in a reasonable amount of traffic from the target audience, while accurately representing the information on the page. For the dental school webpages there are multiple potential audiences, so thorough, user-focused keyword research is critical.
Optimising page tags for search engines
Screaming Frog pulls information about the tags that our pages have, including:
- Title tags – the page titles that appear in search results and in the browser tab.
- Meta descriptions – the descriptions that appear below the title tags in search results.
- Heading tags – the tags attached to headings and subheadings on the pages.
Search engines read title tags and headings for keywords to identify what the page is about. Meta descriptions appear in search results, so they must entice users to click through, and should be an accurate description of the page.
My analysis identified improvements across the board. Most notably, meta descriptions were missing for 30 out of the 37 pages I looked at, and the remaining were too short or ineffective. Making small changes like this will give a healthy SEO boost.
What were the results of the recommendations?
There are no results yet! Not only does it take time to implement some of these recommendations, SEO is a long game and you can sometimes not see improvements in ranking for months.
Search engines may crawl your web pages less frequently, so new or updated content can take a while to index. Fluctuations in search trends and competitor content also plays a role.
How can you improve your content for SEO?
You can do a similar audit for a specific page using our SEO checklist on the SEO for Marketing Hub (University of Bristol staff only). Please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any thoughts or questions.