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Strengthen Your College Portfolio with These Five SEO Tips

SEO tips

As college students, we all know the importance of framing ourselves in the best possible light while creating our portfolios. Preparing ourselves for potential job opportunities with a wide array of skills is crucial to beating the competition. Although the traditional speaking, writing, and critical thinking skills will forever remain critical, technological capability has crept its way in to be an essential skill in the modern-day wheelhouses of communication college students. 

Data analytics has become increasingly imperative to all things business. Communication students must hop on the bandwagon that is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) because it certainly isn’t going anywhere. Gone are the days of posting to the web and hoping for the best; it’s the big leagues now.

SEO is the practice of growing your website to reach your intended audience by being ranked on the search engine results page (SERP). Although initially daunting, the basic concepts necessary to understand SEO can actually be quite clear. Whether you are pursuing a degree in a digital media-based field, or are learning how to effectively market yourself as a job candidate, SEO allows you to advance past the competition. 

Below are five SEO takeaway concepts, requiring no subscriptions to data software programs.

Keywords Count

Keywords indicate the overall topic of your content. They are a foundational piece of SEO, and with light research, you’ll see a drastic difference in viewership just by switching to another synonym. 

To choose your primary keyword, you must analyze the competition. Although subscription-based data-analytics programs are valuable, there are many alternative free services for students just beginning their SEO exploration. 

For example, Google Keyword Planner allows you to enter in target keywords, then provides you with alternative queries, average monthly searches, and the level of competition (low, medium, or high) for that keyword. Additional filters can be applied to refine a search.

Google Keyword Planner

Keywords indicate the overall topic of your content. They are a foundational piece of SEO, and with light research, you’ll see a drastic difference in viewership just by switching to another synonym. 

To choose your primary keyword, you must analyze the competition. Although subscription-based data-analytics programs are valuable, there are many alternative free services for students just beginning their SEO exploration. 

For example, Google Keyword Planner allows you to enter in target keywords, then provides you with alternative queries, average monthly searches, and the level of competition (low, medium, or high) for that keyword. Additional filters can be applied to refine a search.

  • What this means for you:

For a startup company, it may be more useful to break into the market using a keyword with a lower volume, but also a lower difficulty. For example, if you are working for a young beverage company, you’ll likely struggle to beat out big-name brands for the keyword “soda.” However, if you can win over the searches for “cherry cola,” site traffic is inclined to grow. 

In terms of your communication student portfolio, brainstorm keywords that highlight who you are as a job candidate and that align with your brand. Then, analyze if using these keywords or their variants will grow your digital presence. 

Intrigue On-Site

working on your website

Although an understanding of off-site SEO variables is important, if the on-site features are not high-quality, users will not stay on-site long. Therefore, the optimization of titles, meta descriptions, and images is essential.

Titles are most effective when they resemble a sales pitch. Not only will formatting titles in an alluring manner increase chances of being used as a featured snippet, but it will also entice the reader to click on your article. 

Meta descriptions are summaries of the information provided on websites found under the article title on a SERP. Captivating descriptions that clearly answer the searcher’s question lead to more clicks.

Images provide value as an intriguing complementary medium to articles. However, if their high-quality resolution sacrifices the load time of the page, you may want to consider a substitute. This is especially critical with mobile search, as no one wants to waste time and data waiting for images to appear. 

  • What this means for you:

Keep your titles short (55-60 characters), so they aren’t cut off in the SERP. Use your primary keyword in the title.

In meta descriptions, be sure to form one complete thought, and avoid explaining complex ideas here. The ideal length is around 150-300 characters. 

For your images, reduce the file size as much as possible without sacrificing the quality. The maximum image size is around 200kb.

Google’s Hummingbird Acts Human

google hummingbird

In 2013, Google implemented the Hummingbird algorithm, which works to understand the semantics behind queries. It focuses more on consumer intent and less on keyword overhaul, providing a more user-friendly experience.

Our search query length shows the impact of this shift; we are now prone to asking Google, “What does a high school graduate want for their gift,” versus, “teen gifts.” We ask more elaborate questions because we know Google is now equipped to supply us with fruitful answers.

  • What this means for you:

Hummingbird has further solidified the importance of appealing to the natural language of readers. Hence, the role of implementing SEO has shifted from a technical responsibility to a communication responsibility. 

Stuffing an article chock-full with keywords not only confuses the audience but may also cause you to, somewhat ironically, rank lower on the SERP. Google’s Hummingbird works more like a human than a machine. 

In the same regard that a smaller business won’t win over the market for a difficult keyword, this business may not be able to rank well for a competitive semantic theme. Spend some time reviewing which semantic topics are found in your brand and pick a few to provide valuable content on.

Fight For Features

SERP stands for Search Engine Results Page, AKA the page that flashes up on your screen upon pressing enter to start your search. Google’s featured snippets are condensed pieces of information that automatically arrive on your SERP without even having to click through a site.

A snippet may take the form of a 2-3 sentence answer to “How much does a cantaloupe weigh,” a list explaining “How to grow flowers,” or a table stating “Cucumber nutrition facts.” The “People also ask” box presents extensions to the original query.

To form these snippets, Google typically crawls the top five search results and chooses the information most relevant to perceived user intent. 

Although these tools accommodate users, they hinder click-through rates immensely. Therefore, it’s increasingly important to position your website to either rank high organically or serve as a snippet itself.  

  • What this means for you:

Format your website so that Google can easily extract straightforward information. If your website focuses on explaining a topic, such as remote work, strategically title your article as a question. This way, Google will see, “What is remote work?” and may pull your site to the top of the SERP as the featured snippet. 

If your article then explains the benefits of remote work, use a list format to boost snippet potential. Instead of writing bulky paragraphs concerning your topic, break them up into numbered subheading slots.

Backlinks Build Credibility

Backlinks are one of the principal ranking factors employed by Google, so it is vital to building relationships with credible companies that may favorably write about and link to your site. 

Backlinks build your domain authority and page authority. These are SEO metrics that essentially establish the credibility of your site. The more quality businesses and bloggers that link to your website, the more authority you obtain.

  • What this means for you:

Some light research on how to obtain backlinks for your specific field may help you decide which route to take. Some possible solutions include building internal links to other articles on your site, contacting relevant bloggers to promote your product, earning an interview, and serving as a guest contributor. 

As a communication student, it is plausible to reach out to former professors, colleagues, employers, and peers. These people could help grow your online portfolio by linking to your site on their writing platforms.

The more buzz you create around your business with backlinks, the more successful you will be — both on the SERP and in the word-of-mouth community. 

You’ve done all the hard work. You’ve put years into your education, preparing yourself for that dream career. You’ve built your personal brand through hours of commitment to reach perfection. 

Now, with SEO, let’s make sure the right people see that. 

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