Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Technical Tips

Updated on May 15, 2017

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process by which you make your Web pages rank higher in the results of Web searches made with search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, and others. This process involves writing effective content that promotes your website and including that written content in appropriate HTML tags on your Web pages.


In this way, SEO involves effective writing, clever marketing, and proper HTML coding, so it is both a technical and a creative endeavor. While the technical part can be relatively easy to explain, the creative part takes practice and feedback.


The following list of tips covers the most general technical issues you should consider to help improve your website’s SEO and make your Web pages more search engine friendly. There are many more technical issues to explore, and SEO is covered in more depth in Portland Community College’s Search Engine Optimization class (CAS 180) which is offered in class and online.


SEO Tips

  1. Write good, clear text content without typos. The text should include words (keywords or keyword phrases) that are likely going to be used by people in search engines to find pages like yours.
  2. Have a relevant title (title tag text) on all your pages. Consider using the site/company name (not the URL) in conjunction with what the specific page is about. It’s also important to have different titles on other pages, although they can all include the site/company name. If your company is Nifty Tours, and the page is a contact form, a good choice is:

Nifty Tours | Contact
Contact us about your tour and travel needs | Nifty Tours

Title standardization is also a good idea and this is less about SEO than it is for user experience. In other words, if you have

Nifty Tours | Contact

on one page, don’t switch the order to

About | Nifty Tours

on another page, nor alter the punctuation to

Nifty Tours — About

on another page.


It’s also preferred that you have the company name after your keywords, not before them.


The W3C has determined, for the compliant browser, that the title should be no more than 64 characters. Some search engines cut off titles that are over 40 or 50 characters in their databases.

  1. Use keywords in your text content on pages, and it’s best if the keywords are higher up in the HTML, particularly in the title and header (h1, h2, etc.) tags.Don’t use the same keyword phrases on every page. Try to alter their order or grammar and use synonyms as appropriate. In other words, if you say “a Portland independent film company” on one page, use “an indie film company based in Portland” on another page.Avoid keyword stuffing which can have your site excluded from search engines. This Wikipedia article about keyword density can help you determine how often you should use certain words on your site. This keyword analyzer can show you how your pages rank in terms of density.
  2. Always have alt text on all your images. The alt text should be relevant to the picture and in proper English. Also, it’s best that the alt text on every picture of your site is unique — if the image is duplicated on every page, like a logo, you can still use different alt text on each one on each page.

The HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) specification does not define a maximum length for values of alt attributes. Current versions of the leading screen reader programs have no limits on the amount of alternate text they will read. However, some screen readers (or automated services that translate written data to audio) divide the alt attribute text into distinct chunks of 125 characters each (excluding spaces), and read those 125 character chunks separately. Due to the way it’s divided and read, it will give the feel to the listener that the 125 character chunks might go with separate images if more than one is read per image. So this provides you with one technical justification for keeping your alt text to a minimum (125 characters or less).

  1. Do not use hidden text: text the same color as background, div with visibility: hidden property or display: none, or have text placed outside of normal browser window. Search engines, like Google, can detect this and will either lower your ranking, or remove your pages from their databases. (This is considered “Black Hat” SEO.)
  2. Straight-forward HTML links are preferable, not Javascript links.
  3. The text used in your a tags should include text related to the target and, if possible, keywords related to the content of your site/page. This gives you a double bonus because the text is considered text content and is read by the search engine in that context, then the search engine reads it a second time as link content.
  4. Avoid duplicate content on separate pages. Google and other search engines take into account the number of links pointing to your page to determine how important your web page is. If you have identical content appearing on two different pages on your website, some sites will link to one page while others will link to the alternate page. The result is that neither of those pages will be regarded as very important in the search engine’s index since you have effectively halved the links pointing to your article.
  5. Validate your HTML and CSS.
  6. Meta tag descriptions are useful for many search engines. They don’t usually affect ranking directly, but they are displayed in the SERP of Google. For this reason, they can influence click-through-rate, so crafting appealing descriptions is important. Never use the same meta descriptions from page to page. Alter their order or grammar. It’s also best to craft the meta description text after the text content on the page has been written so the description relates to the text.

The meta tag descriptions should be 160 characters maximum and be written more like a sales pitch — use benefits-oriented language with you-focused sentences.


Here’s an example of a meta description on the contact page of
“Contact local Portland writer Greg Kerr for more information about screenwriting and independent filmmaking in Oregon.”

Some tips to avoid making meta descriptions sound too generic:


Stick with specific nouns and their relevant adjectives for your keywords. Avoid stop words such as “a”, “an”, “and”, “the”, etc., because they are so common they no longer are useful as keywords. For example, if you’re selling boxes on your site, be specific about what kinds of boxes. Instead of “boxes” use “cardboard boxes”.


Meta tag keywords are not used in any meaningful positive way by major U.S. search engines for ranking anymore. An interesting discussion about this is here:

Is The Meta Keyword Tag Still Used By Google, Bing and Yahoo?


  1. Use real URL links as opposed to Dynamic URL links as described in this article:
  1. Update your content regularly, if possible. Consider using an interactive forum or blogs on your site that have articles that are posted regularly. Having articles that users can comment on will cause your pages to update more frequently in search engines.
  2. Avoid frames (the deprecated frame tags). iframes are still usable and are required for embedded content like YouTube videos and Google Maps, but they won’t usually give your page any benefit to ranking.
  3. Use real headings with h1 through h6. It’s best to have only one h1 tag per page and have it close to the opening of the body tag. The h1 should also be unique content on each of your pages and be related to the content of the page. The h1 is really the topic statement that summarizes what the page is about, so it should be clear and related. The use of h tags is very important to how search engines categorize your content in their databases. Use them like you would an outline (that you may have learned about in a writing class):

1.  Main Topic of the page (h1)

A.  Sub-topic 1 (h2)

i.  sub-sub-topic 1 (h3)

ii.  sub-sub-topic 2 (h3)

B.  Sub-topic 2 (h2)

  1. Use links from your site that go to sites that are related. Broken links will likely hurt your SEO.
  2. Get linked to by legitimate sites. Avoid paying for links or getting links from sites that do not have similar content as your site.
  3. When naming Web pages, images, folders on your site, or even the domain itself, use keywords in their names separated by hyphens if possible. Never use spaces as separators. The folder that contains the blog for is called greg-kerr-indie-film-blog and the image of Greg Kerr on the home page of is named greg-kerr-portland-independent-filmmaker.jpg for example.This may seem extreme, however, these can provide more keywords and improve your search engine ranking in many search engines.Also, search engines view hyphens as separations between distinct words. On the other hand, underscores, like “greg_kerr_filmmaker” indicate that the separated words are actually one word, so this would be viewed by a search engine as “gregkerrfilmmaker”. Always use hyphens when separating words, and underscores if you want to combine words.


Film Networking Tips and Education in Portland, Oregon

Behind the Scenes of the series ExceptionalsIf you’re in the Portland, Oregon area and you want to work in the video and film field, there are many different ways you can position yourself whether you have little experience or a great deal of experience.

Listed below are some resources and tips to get you started.


Networking & Memberships

  • Practice telling people who you are and what you do (even non-industry people).
  • Be ready with 9 cards.
  • Go to networking events (Portland Film Festival has a major annual one, Jerry Bell has a monthly one where he showcases filmmakers’ short films/trailers, OMPA has networking events).
  • Join organizations: OMPA, Women in Film PDX (
  • Look for Meetup groups, like The Portland Independent Film Networking Meetup.

Put Yourself Out There

  • Have a good website.
  • Join OMPA and get listed in their directory Source Oregon.
  • Make a Facebook page for your services and post regularly.
  • Work toward creating a reel that showcases your talents.
  • Send your resume to film and video companies you want to work with.
  • Have a complete LinkedIn profile.

Actors Chelsey Rae and Levy Tran step behind the camera for a change.

Join Facebook Groups

  • People are always posting “I need a DP, gaffer, P.A., etc. via these groups.
  • You can also share your work and Kickstarter projects on these pages.
  • You can browse members and see what they do and find people to work with.


Indie Oregon Films – 2,390 members
Oregon Media & Film Group – 1,947
Portland Film Community – 2,220
PDX Film Collective – 4,057
Portland Film & Video Networking – 4,490
Film & Media Community of Oregon – 1,887


Film Industry Network – 76,716
More… probably not as effective as local


Portland Casting Hub (for casting only) – 5,537
& other niches within filmmaking (ex. MUA groups, groups for producers/investors, etc.)
(List compiled and accurate as of October 2016)



Festivals & Competitions

Rochelle Muzquiz and Eva Lorelle prepare to film a scene inside a car.

  • Portland has several festivals every year: Portland Film Festival, Portland Oregon Women’s Film Festival, Portland International Film Festival, etc.
  • Submit work to festivals to be seen.
  • If you receive recognition at a festival or via a competition, it boosts your credibility and can be added to your resume.
  • If you’re just starting out, join or start a team for the 48-Hour Film Project (annual).




Full Brain Films filming in Death Valley.

Responsive Web Design – 7 Helpful Tips

Responsive Web Design (RWD) is the most common, industry-standard term for designing websites so they work well on mobile devices (cell phones) and desktop computers and anything in between. The website will scale to the size of the browser window on which the site is being viewed. Utilizing CSS3 media queries (@media) is the most common method of making a site responsive (scalable).

Here are some general principles and technical considerations you should make when creating a site with or converted a site to responsive design:

  1. Flexibility
    A common design concept is called “mobile first” meaning you should design your site first for mobile devices then alter the design for desktop browser sizes. The assumption with mobile first being that due to the increasing number of people who will be viewing the site on a phone and possibly only on a phone, it’s best to take that into account first. In principle this makes sense, however, a better practice is to design with fluidity or flexibility in mind regardless of whether you’re designing mobile first or desktop first. You should always plan for how it will look on various screen sizes and include this planning in your wireframes/mockups.
  2. Break-points
    The common three size ranges (or break-points) used in RWD CSS media queries are:

    • Mobile size range:
      @media (max-width: 480px) { …CSS goes here… }
    • Tablet size range:
      @media (min-width: 481px) and (max-width: 1199px) { …CSS goes here… }
    • Desktop size range:
      @media (min-width: 1200px) { …CSS goes here… }
    • Regardless of the standard break-points, you should always put in break-points to suit your content. If your content is flexible throughout, you may not need any. If your content looks awkward when the screen is around 700px, then an additional break-point may need to be added there. Set your break-points and style to what works for your content, not necessarily what might be the most common size ranges.
  3. Container Max-Width should Equal Desktop Break-point Media Query
    The container max-width on your site should be equal to the desktop size range (break-point) min-width value in that media query. In other words, if your container has a maximum width of 960px, then the break-point is @media (min-width: 960px). When the container has a maximum width in pixels, it makes no sense to make the desktop break-point smaller or larger than it. If it’s smaller than the container, then the container won’t fit and your site will have a horizontal scrollbar. If it’s larger than the container, then the container will have already locked out at the smaller size. It could be relevant if there was some other change — like font-size — occurring in a larger media query range, however, since most media queries adjust structural elements, then a desktop media query with a min-width larger than the container’s max-width is not likely to make a difference.
  4. Include Meta Viewport
    To ensure your site works and scales properly on iDevices (Apple iPads and iPhones), don’t forget to include this meta tag in the HTML head tag area on all your responsive web pages (note that you can customize the values here if necessary):
    <meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0, user-scalable=yes”> 
  5. Remove Width and Height Attributes for Img Tags
    For all img tags in the HTML, remove the width and height attributes in the HTML. Those attributes override the CSS and your images can’t be made to scale if those attributes are in there and set to pixel sizes.
  6. Set Max-Width for Images in the CSS
    In the CSS, create a tag selector to set the images to a max-width of 100%, otherwise they may scale to larger sizes than they were optimized for and pixelate. The selector would go in your general selector area and look like this:
    img { max-width: 100% }
  7. Media Queries from Smallest to Largest Ranges
    While this is not a requirement, it’s more common (though not necessarily industry-standard) to put your media queries in order in your CSS from smallest range (mobile break-point) first followed by the increasing size ranges, ending with the largest (usually the desktop break-point). There are Javascript programs written to target CSS media queries, and Javascript programmers indicate that smallest range first is preferable. Since the ranges don’t often overlap, it doesn’t matter what order they are in for the purposes of the browser, then it’s best to follow this common concept. Also, it’s important to always put your media query CSS below your general CSS (which should be below your reset CSS), because the media queries can often override the general style. This is a requirement. Bear in mind, that if the ranges do overlap (nothing beats the confusion of doing this!) then order may matter.

Making WordPress Testimonial Posting Easy with Word

If you are working with clients or customers and you want to make it easy for them to upload a blog post to your WordPress site, there are useful plugins that can help you do this. However, perhaps the easiest way is to have them do it in Microsoft Word.


You may have been in this scenario before: you just did work for a client who was pleased or you had a satisfied customer who you think will provide a written comment about your product. This is the perfect opportunity for a testimonial that you could put on your WordPress site or blog. You could just ask your client or customer to send you a comment by email and post it yourself, but that direct approach may seem awkward. Also, having them use a WordPress plugin interface to post it themselves requires some explanation and carries with it a learning curve.


Instead, you could send them a Word document that already has all your blog information in it and let them fill in the blanks, then publish it to your WordPress site themselves. Apart from writing the testimonial, the process of publishing it requires two steps and takes less than 10 seconds. Here are the steps to setting this up:


First, in WordPress:


  1. In the Dashboard admin panel, create a new user (Users -> Add New). Give this user a generic name, like Testimonial. Set their role to Author and give this user your own email address. A role of Author gives them limited access to your WordPress site if they somehow determine the password through Word.
  2. You’ll need to give the user a password, but make it something you don’t use for anything else (or anything important). It’s possible for someone to learn your password through the Word document you’ll create later, so it’s best to make it something that can be changed easily.
  3. Under Settings -> Writing, be sure to turn on (check the box next to) XML-RPC (remote publishing). This feature is enabled by default in WordPress versions 3.5 and above.
  4. Optionally, if you haven’t already, create a category (Posts -> Category) for your testimonials (something like testimonial makes sense).


The rest of the steps are in Microsoft Word:


  1. Create a new Blog Post document (File -> New -> Blog post).
  2. You’ll be asked to include your Blog Post URL (WordPress Web address) followed by a /xmlrpc.php.
  3. Put in the Author user name (the user example name here is Testimonial from step 1 above).
  4. Put in the password you created from step 2 above.
  5. Check Remember password. This will allow you to save the password as part of the Word document, so you won’t have to have your client or customer put that information in.
  6. The Word Blog Post document then comes up. You can make it very easy for your client/customer to fill out a testimonial by including the instructions on how to do it as part of the document.
  7. Be sure to provide them with a category. To do that click the button Insert Category — it’s the third one from the left on the main ribbon in the Word document (see the image below). The category you give them should be relevant to their post so it isn’t just published to the generic Uncategorized category in WordPress. This is a category you created previously, or the one you created in step 4 above.
  8. Here’s an example of the Word Blog Post document interface with the instructional testimonial text for your client to fill out — feel free to use any of the wording that makes sense for your purposes (click to enlarge the image below):


Word to WordPress Testimonials


  1. After you’re finished editing the document, save it with an appropriate file name. Avoid spaces in the file name if you plan to email it. A name like testimonial.docx is a good choice.
  2. Finally, send your client/customer this document. Ask them to fill it in and click Publish (first button on the main Blog Post ribbon) when they are finished. That’s it.


You can send this same document out to as many clients or customers as you’d like to solicit testimonials. Since you haven’t given them the password — it’s encrypted in the Word document — it’s also more secure for you.


In case someone tries to abuse this Author role later (for example, by spamming your site), you can just change the password or delete the user.


By using Word to solicit testimonials from clients or customers, you can make it easy and fast for them and easy and secure for you.


Check out this article for more specifics about this process with Word — their article inspired this post.


Greg Kerr is a Web design instructor and faculty mentor at Portland Community College.

Positive Teaching Ideas for Instructors

By making some adjustments to the words you use with your students, you can change your negative tone into the positive and encouraging language of success.

Change Negative Terms into Hopeful Terms

I teach screenwriting and students demonstrate a wide variety of creative work in their scripts. The quality of their writing varies. (See, I’m already being tactful.) Less tactfully put, some of their writing or their ideas are just plain atrocious.


When you grade student work, and I’ve found this to be particularly true when grading student writing, you should phrase your criticism tactfully. Nothing demoralizes people more than to have their creative work referred to as weak, problematic or… atrocious.


Instead of using the word “problems” or “errors”, you can say “areas for improvement” — they mean the same thing, except the second one provides a sense of hope to the student that they can improve. I also allow students to rewrite and revise their work, so it’s another reminder to them that they should work to improve their writing.

Greg Kerr teaching writing.


Use Plus Signs instead of Minus Signs

This is the glass is half full or half empty issue when it comes to grading. When students get test questions incorrect, your first response may be to say they lost points.


A student who gets 9 points wrong on a 20 point test, may receive the dreaded -9 at the top of their test page. However, consider phrasing this in terms of how many points they received, in this example, +11 out of 20. It’s still 55% either way (likely a failing grade), yet the plus sign may soften the blow.


If you aren’t concerned about the emotional impact of a minus sign, consider the more fundamental impact: addition is easier than subtraction, and seeing a positive number may get the student thinking about their overall score in the class. The positive number with its emphasis on addition will be more motivational than a negative score.

Instructor Greg Kerr keeping it positive.


Avoid “But”

“I like you, but…”


Notice how the “but” in that sentence negates everything that occurs before it?


It’s something I’ve long endeavored to remove from my speech and writing. Reducing the “but” in your communication is the best way to turn your criticism into the language of success instead of the language of failure.


Now, if you think the “but” is a safer way to deliver criticism, it’s not. Let’s say you want to deliver the good with the bad when it comes to criticism. You tell a student


“I appreciated your creativity, but you have a lot of grammar errors.”


Again, “but” just negated the first positive thing you said. It also sounds like you are trying to sugar-coat the criticism, which may make your compliment seem insincere. If you want to keep it on a positive note, state the positive thing last and drop the “but”.


“There are a lot of grammar errors you should correct. Be sure to do that. Your writing is very creative.”


You can almost always use “and” instead of “but”. Consider this


“You have a good grasp of the mechanics, but your creative insticts could be improved.”


Instead, try this


“You have a good grasp of the mechanics, and if you work to improve your creative instincts, your overall work will benefit.”


Some simple adjustments to the words you choose as a teacher can turn your negative language into the language of success.




7 Tips for Writing a Critique of Peer Work


Greg Kerr provides writing tips for giving peers criticism


When you provide your college peers with constructive criticism, consider following these 7 useful ideas for making that criticism more effective and helpful, and less demoralizing and confusing.


  1. Write in present tense. You are describing the current state of the document you are criticizing.Incorrect – past tense: “The SEO assessment was missing the list of competitors.”Correct – present tense: “The SEO assessment is missing the list of competitors.”


  1. Keep you and them out of the critique.Do not include “I”, “me” or “you” statements in your critique. Instead, go with third person and/or passive sentences. If you have to identify someone or something, use the title of the document or website you are reviewing, not the person’s name.Incorrect – first and second person: “I think you can add a more specific example of a threat regarding competitors. This can improve your SWOT analysis.”Correct – third person/passive: “Adding a more specific example of a threat regarding competitors will improve the SWOT analysis.”


  1. Passive is better than active.Normally, you should write in an active voice and not bury the subject, however, since it’s clear who (or what) the subject of the criticism is, then passive makes sense. Also, a passive voice will cause a less defensive response from the person you critique.Incorrect – active: “Your assessment could be improved by including more keyword phrases to your list.”Correct – passive: “Including more keyword phrases to the list will improve the assessment.”


  1. Make sentences short. Passive sentences tend to be more difficult to read because the subject is removed or dislocated. Be sure to keep your sentences short. Better yet, go with lists — numbered or bulleted — to make quick, clear points with your critique.Incorrect – long sentence: “The assessment could be strengthened by including a list of competitors, increasing the number of keyword phrases from 20 to 40 or more, and ensuring that external factors are the only ones present in the threat section of the SWOT analysis.”Correct – list:
    “Areas for Improvement

    – include the list of competitors
    – increase the keyword phrases from 20 to 40 or more
    – only include external factors in threat section of SWOT analysis”


  1. Reference outside sources when possible.In your criticisms, you should reference outside sources, such as a textbook, the instructor, or an external link. You’re probably not an expert on the topic — you may be a student doing a peer critique — and you may feel awkward about giving criticism because you feel that the person receiving it will not accept your personal opinion. Giving them an external, second opinion is a way to remove responsibility from you, and give them another source to consider.Incorrect – lacking sources: “Include the list of competitors.”Correct – using sources: “Include the list of competitors as described in the assignment instructions, Step 3.”


  1. Be specific.Give details wherever possible. Always provide examples when giving feedback if relevant.Incorrect – missing details: “Provide title text on the home page.”Correct – details and examples: “Provide title text on the home page, like ‘Full Brain Films | An independent film production company in Portland’.”


  1. Be honest instead of flattering.You may feel obligated to “give the good with the bad”, in other words, provide some positive statement along with criticism so you avoid hurting someone’s feelings. Avoid this impulse. If you’ve done everything listed above, you are already minimizing the potential for hurt feelings as best you can. Being flattering at this point is likely to undermine your criticism, or worse, be seen as insincere by the reader.

PCC Art Beat mixes local Actors and Indie Filmmakers with Traditional Artists


For the past three years, Portland Community College has included talented local actors and independent filmmakers with the Northwest artists whose work has been highlighted in the Art Beat event in May. I’ve had the privilege of identifying and nominating local actors and independent filmmakers. These actors and filmmakers have been able to show their work to the community and PCC students, many of whom are in the Multimedia program. Following the film and video presentations, the actors and filmmakers have conducted very educational and inspiring question and answer sessions.


During 2012, Art Beat has its 25th anniversary May 7th to 12th. This year, my plan is to bring talented actors in for a reading, either a rehearsed table reading or, if possible, a stage reading performed in the Moriarty Auditorium at Cascade Campus.



During past years, Art Beat has welcomed local film actress Audrey Walker and local theater and film actress Karla Mason.



Coup de Cinema, an independent film made in Portland by filmmakers Sean Parker and Austin Hillebrecht had its event premiere at Art Beat in 2011.



Portland filmmaker Steve Coker’s indie film comedy, Crackin’ the Code was in the Art Beat lineup for 2010.



In 2009, I had the privilege of premiering my micro-budget indie film, Unremembered, during Art Beat.



For more information about past and upcoming Art Beat artists and highlights, visit the Art Beat pages on PCC’s site.