Website Content

San Francisco State University follows branding and accessibility guidelines on its websites. Strategic Marketing and Communications (SMC) offers direction in these guidelines as well as training and additional resources. 


As you write content for your website, think about the average visitor that will come to your site. What do they want to know? What do they want to do? How do they want to do it? Think about how you, as a web visitor, navigate sites to help inform you on the structure and content of your own department website. 

The following information will help ensure your website features high-quality and relevant content. 

  • When creating and managing webpages, web editors should understand what the user is expecting to find and follow the user’s expectations. Typically, they want access to internally focused information, such as resources, forms, current events and happenings, etc. 

  • Users should not have to work for their information; make the content clear and concise. 

  • If the page does have a specific audience, make sure that audience is clearly stated, but remain aware the content is accessible to everyone. 

  • Do not write for an internal audience or post private information. This includes department or division internal information such as meeting minutes, staff schedules and personal information. 

  • Do not consistently refer to the University and/or its entities. That information is already in the header and users do not need to be reminded that they are viewing a university website. 

  • Always stop and ask yourself whether someone outside the University will understand what you have written. 

  • Make sure to update and remove outdated content on your site. Nothing is more annoying to a visitor than to encounter information that is irrelevant or obsolete. 

People consume information differently on the web than with other written forms. They don’t read, they skim, looking for highlighted keywords, meaningful headings, short paragraphs and scannable lists. 

Since they’re in a hurry to find the very piece of information they’re looking for, they will skip content not relevant for them. Don’t expect people to read content that is not easily scannable. Therefore, long text blocks, unnecessary instructions, promotional writing and “small talk” should be avoided on the web. 

  • Use simple and commonly used terminology. Avoid abbreviations and academic jargon. Do not use department slogans or marketing phrases as page titles. 

Web Content Writing Tips
Effective Avoid
Graduation Requirements  Things Needed for Graduating 
Student Conduct Policies SFSU Policies
New Student Programs NSP
Proper Interview Attire “Suit”-ability
Tips for Effective Writing The Write Way
  • Sentence case is much easier to read than uppercase. Do not use UPPERCASE for anything except abbreviations or acronyms. To emphasize an important point, use bold. However, use it sparingly to bring attention to key phrases. 

  • Use quotes to indicate book and magazine titles. 

  • Do not use underlines; users will assume they are links. 

  • Each block of content should be preceded by a descriptive heading. Headings should be used to give the copy structure and to help navigation. Headings need to follow the appropriate order of hierarchy and can’t be placed out of order (H2, H3, H4, etc). 

Sentence Structure 

A needlessly complicated approach to composing text that includes unnecessary verbiage and sophisticated vocabulary generally result in an inferior amount of comprehension for the user. In other words, write simply. 


Smaller paragraphs are easier to skim than larger paragraphs. Separate long blocks of copy into smaller paragraphs, each describing one topic or idea. Several short paragraphs are preferable to one long one. 


  • Lists are easier to skim and understand than paragraphs. 
  • Use them when describing a series or a list of steps to be taken. 

Spelling, Grammar and Abbreviations 

Grammar and spelling must be perfect. All text must be spell-checked prior to being inserted into a page. Any website submitted for review with spelling errors will be automatically rejected from the approval process. References to the University, job titles, abbreviations and times should follow the SF State Editorial Style Guide.

Editorial Web Style Reminders
Approved Avoid
San Francisco State or SF State  SFSU
10 a.m. – noon 10:00AM to 12:00PM
red, white and blue red, white, and blue
B.A., B.S. and M.A. BA, BS, and MA

Timely Updates 

The University’s websites are living documents. All content editors are responsible for updating their department content so it stays relative and up to date.

  • Make sure to check that all dates and calendar events are current. 
  • Content that is semester specific must be updated.

Pages should not include:   

  • Excessively large graphics that cannot be compressed for faster display or better resolution   

  • Links to commercial entities; avoid linking to commercial websites unless that company provides goods or services specifically for SF State   

  • Copyrighted material in any form unless permission from the original copyright owner is explicitly granted

  • Any information pertaining to other individuals who object to their information being placed on the internet  

  • Consistently referring to the university and/or its entities; that information is already in the header and users do not need to be reminded that they are viewing the university website

  • Unimplemented links and links to pages informing users that “this area is not yet developed” or are “under construction”

All web content must comply with the SF State copyright guidelines. Text, images and videos that do not meet these requirements must be deleted immediately. 

In cases where copyrighted material is posted with the permission of the content owner, that permission must be attained in writing and be available for verification if needed. 



Web accessibility ensures that people with disabilities can navigate, understand, perceive and interact with the web. The Disability Programs and Resource Center (DPRC) provides several guidelines to ensure your web materials are accessible. You can find resources regarding accessibility for websites, social media, content, documents and emails. Visit the Accessible Technology Initiative (ATI) to learn more.  

Please keep in mind that all uploaded materials, image or document, must be accessible in order to be placed on the web. If you are unsure if your image or document is accessible, please send the items to so they can remediate your documents and/or give suggestions on how to make your image(s) accessible. 

Note: When you have a document you are thinking of uploading to the web, first access the content:

  1. Is the information for an external or internal audience? If it's internal, perhaps the document can be shared within your own department using Box instead of housed on a website.
  2. How often will this document need uploaded? If it's often, then keep in mind, each time changes are made, the document will need to be checked again for accessibility, which is costly and time-consuming.
  3. Can this information be placed as a webpage instead of a document?
  4. Can this information be used in a Qualtrics form instead of a document?
A few quick reminders about web accessibility:
Accessibility Web Reminders
Accessible Content Avoid
Learn more about SF State Click here or 
short, descriptive text for images  using the word ‘image’ or ‘picture’ in the alternative text field 
H1-H6 heading structure in order  using an H3 first because you think it looks better
tables have a caption  no caption for a table
Unique text linking to a unique URL using different text on the same page going to the same URL

Accessible Document Training

The CSU Chancellor’s Office sponsors an online training on accessible document training series. “WebAIM Document Training” is a resource for anyone on campus responsible for document publishing. The course is open to the CSU community. 

This training is provided in monthly cohorts, and completion awards a certificate. Accessibility concerns us all, and this program provides the most up-to-date information on creating accessible documents.



San Francisco State University follows our four pillars: inclusivity, diversity, empowerment and access.  When placing content on your website, ask yourself if your content and what you are trying to convey, follows these pillars. Review more about the pillars and how to communicate our brand on the SF State Brand page. Be sure to review this website to learn more about our brand in relation to logos, the editorial style guide and more. 



Currently websites are overseen by Information Technology Services (ITS) and Strategic Marketing and Communications (SMC). There is a Web & Mobile Governance Committee and a Technical Governance Committee that also help oversee the structure and content of all websites that are housed within the University. It’s important that our websites, representing SF State, are all following ATI and branding guidelines.


Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

When you are finished updating your content for the page, add in the page title and description to let searchers know what your page is about.

Page title

Remember that searchers are scanning SEO titles for relevance, clarity and keywords to quickly assess the content.

  • Accurately reflects content on page
  • Think of keyword(s) you want to highlight
  • 60 characters max


Searchers are seeking clear, informative summaries that address their search intent and encourage further engagement with the content. 

  • Summarizes the content of the page
  • Write to entice users to click on result
  • Have a CTA
  • 150-160 characters max

Header tags build out the structure of the page and section out your content for search engines. Header tags are like the titles and subtitles of a webpage. They help organize the content, making it easier to read and understand. 

Think of header tags as titles and subtitles for webpages. The main title is marked with H1, and subtitles use H2, H3, etc. They help visitors and search engines understand what the page is about. Using them well makes your webpage clearer and more likely to show up in search results.

Using the keywords in the web address and content is important. They help people find your page when they search online. By including keywords in the web address and writing about them in your content, it's easier for search engines to understand what your page is about. This can make your page show up higher in search results, helping more people find it.

Notes: Use keywords naturally within your content! Overusing them can actually negatively affect your SEO score.

Strategic Marketing and Communications (SMC) is excited to introduce Google Looker Studio, a real-time, customizable dashboard reporting tool for web analytics. Looker Studio allows website editors and contributors to make informed, data-driven decisions to enhance their web strategies.  

What is Google Looker Studio? Google Looker Studio is a powerful tool that transforms raw data from Google Analytics into easy-to-understand reports. These reports provide valuable insights that help website editors and contributors optimize their web content, track user engagement and improve overall website performance.  

How does it help with website decisions? With this initial rollout phase, SMC will provide snapshot reports that distill the essential information from Google Analytics, eliminating unnecessary data and highlighting key metrics. As your web presence grows and campaigns are launched, Looker Studio can scale up its reporting capabilities to deliver deeper insights and more detailed analyses.    

Benefits of Google Looker Studio:  

  • Real-time data updates  
  • Customizable reports tailored to your needs  
  • Simplified data presentation  
  • Scalable reporting as your web presence expands    

Request Access: To request access to your Looker Studio report, please fill out the request form.  

For more information about Google Looker Studio, please email SMC Digital Content Specialist Kevin Perez at