Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
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SEO Execution

Once you’ve determined your audience and developed your final list of keywords, follow these steps to fully optimize your design, content and coding for strong search engine results. Remember that many page elements that seem to have little to no impact on the reader can actually do a lot to improve SEO. 


Using keywords in your site's navigation is an easy way to drive up keyword density, which can help your SEO.

Our URLs, navigation bars and breadcrumbs (the line of text that shows the site hierarchy at the top of the page) are all derived from your folder and file names or hierarchies within Cascade. Name these folders and files using keywords whenever appropriate, and use hyphens between words to make them easier for search engines to read.

 Page Title

Search engines give more value, and therefore result page prominence, to pages that use keywords in their titles. The title should be six to seven words and include a keyword near the beginning.

Remember that an informative page title is the beginning of a conversation with a reader. Make the title as descriptive as possible.

For example:

  • Weak: What Do You Want to Learn?
  • Strong: Educational Programs in Dermatology

The display name should also contain keywords and may either match or be shorter than the full page title. This field populates the navigation and breadcrumbs.

Take a look at our Cascade Frequently Asked Questions for detailed information about the distinctions between the page name, page title and display name.

 Page Description

Some search engines (including Google) use this field to display a summary of your site on the search results page. Well-written, informative descriptions can make the user click on your listing.

Make the description action-oriented, brief (no more than 150 characters) and descriptive (e.g., “Discover what makes Feinberg’s Cardiology Residency Program unique; hear from current residents.”).

 Writing Choices

Get to the Point

Readers scan the material presented — mostly the first two paragraphs, subheadings and bullets — to find the information they want. Get to the point of your page within the first two paragraphs, or your reader will lose interest or assume he’s in the wrong place.

Structure Your Writing

Using subheadings makes content easier to scan by giving the reader a quick look into what the content beneath them will convey. For example, the heading “Application Process” should be followed by complete application information, including key dates, contact information and a listing of requirements.

Setting these subheadings in Heading 2 and Heading 3 formats also inserts HTML tags that search engines rank higher than regular text. Therefore, if you have subheadings that make the content easier to process and use your keywords, you win with readers and search engines alike.

Put Clarity Before Creativity

Search engines don’t know what to do with wit or sarcasm. Most of the time, readers aren’t looking for more than facts in your web content. Aim to make your content literal, direct and succinct. 

Keep Your Writing Updated and Honest

A search engine's priority is its users’ trust. With that in mind, your job is to develop content that users can trust: well-written, current, accurate and error-free.

Beyond that, search engines prefer “fresh” (newly updated) web pages. Updating your pages frequently can help push them to the top of the rankings.

Make Your Links Informative

“Click here” doesn’t tell us anything about where we are going. Use keywords in your link’s text so users and search engines can follow along and have a good understanding of where your link will take them.

Seek out backlinks, incoming links coming to your site from an outside source. They’re especially valuable, as search engines read them as endorsements of your content’s credibility. Easy ways to introduce links back to your Feinberg site include:

Use Keywords with Intention

Don’t overload your pages with keywords — this can make your page look like advertising to search engines. You want to use keywords frequently, but they should not make up more than 4 percent of the content on your page. 

Limit your bolding as well. Search engines are more likely to mark bolded content as advertising. Instead of bolding, focus on creating meaningful and eye-catching subheadings that include keywords.

 Image & Document Names

Graphics and images should be used for illustration and decoration, not as clickable pieces of navigation. Before you upload images to Cascade, give them meaningful names (proper names, event names and dates) and use hyphens between the words instead of spaces.

Similarly, give your PDFs and Word documents descriptive titles prior to uploading them in Cascade. Again, use hyphens between the words.

 Social Media

SEO also plays a role in how you share your content on social media sites. Social media is a great way to develop your online presence and get people to share your content, which improves SEO. When developing your content for any social media channel, remember these universal tips.

File names

Include keywords in the file names and descriptions of videos and images.


We can assist you in adding social media icons to your site, and be sure to connect your social media accounts back to your Feinberg site.


Using relevant, meaningful hashtags makes your content more searchable.

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