On-page SEO is extremely important, yet often poorly executed by many website owners. As the name suggests, on-page SEO consists of factors that are directly part of the website and therefore fully controllable by the user. The better the on-page SEO the more effective off-page SEO becomes (covered later in this series) which ultimately leads to better rankings in the search engines.
In this post I will discuss the different factors and best practices that make up good on-page optimization.
The title tag is one of the most important on-page factors because it helps search engines determine the relevancy of the content on any particular page.
The title tag is what you see in the tab of your browser for the current page your viewing.
When you bookmark a page it is typically used as the reference text for that given page.
The clickable link you normally find when searching for something in Google or other search engines is almost always the title tag that was set by the user (with a few exceptions).
When setting your title tag you should always keep it relevant to the content.
The length should not exceed 70 characters; most search engines only display 70 characters and leave out the rest.
The keywords you want to rank for should be placed early in the title.
Do NOT excessively repeat keywords in the title tag. This is known as keyword stuffing and it has a negative effect on your SEO.
Have unique title tags for every page on your website.
Consider how users see your title tag. Is it readable? Would someone want to click on it?
Utilize the full extent of the title tag whenever possible.
Consider how someone might search to find your content and write your title tag in a way that will give you the best possible chance of appearing for that query.
Because the title is so important in helping you rank your website it’s absolutely necessary that your website allows for full customization of title tags on individual pages.
Meta Description Tag:
<meta name=”description” content=”Example Description” />
The meta description tag won’t help you rank higher the way a title tag will but it has a huge impact on how people interact with your website in the results. A well written meta description will have a better click-through-rate (CTR) than a poorly written one, therefore, it is critically important to write a compelling description that will appeal to your audience.
The meta description tag will show below your title in the search results.
Keep the description relevant to the content of the page.
Incorporate some of the keywords found in your title tag into your meta description.
Add a call to action if applicable (book now, call today, set an appointment, etc…)
Try not to exceed 155 characters.
Create unique meta descriptions for every page on your website.
Do not use quotes in the description, Google will cut off the description if you do.
Do a search for the keywords you want to rank for, review the descriptions of your competitors and see if you can improve yours in a way that will make it the most compelling to click on.
Do not lie or overstate any details in your description, it will just result in a high bounce rate which is something you don’t want.
The content of your page is actually the most important on-page factor. It tells the search engine what your website is all about and it helps you rank for many different terms within the content itself.
Your content should always be unique. Do not copy and paste content from other sites or you will eventually be penalized.
The content should be in text format. Avoid substituting large portions of text for images. Search engines cannot tell what text is in an image. If you wrote a big paragraph and placed it as part of an image you would be hurting your potential to rank for terms included in the image.
Your content should utilize heading tags. As the name suggests, heading tags are used for any headings in your content. Typical the title will be enclosed in a <h1></h1> tag. Less important headings can be enclosed in <h2> and <h3> tags.
Image Alternate Text:
Images in your content should utilize the alternate text tag. An alternate text tag helps you rank your images in the image section of most search engines. It will also substitute the image for the text you specified if the device being used is not capable of viewing images or if images are disabled.
Image alternate text should be relatively short. Avoid using paragraphs.
The alternate text tag is typically inserted in the image tag and looks like this <img src=”example/test.jpg” alt=”alternate text”> Most content management systems will have a field for where you can enter the alternative text.
Proper URL Structuring:
It’s important that your website utilizes static URLs and that you, the user, have input on how the URL is structured. Some CMS platforms will create ugly looking URLs, ideally what you want is to be able to put actual keywords separated by dashes into the URL of any given page. The URL of this page is a good example of how things should be structured.
If you already built your website and just noticed all your URLs are poorly structured then don’t change them right away. An existing site will require URL redirects to ensure a proper transition. This is typically a more advanced technique and is beyond the scope of this article. Consult an SEO professional before doing any type of URL changes on your existing website.
At the end of the day a well optimized web page will have the targeted keywords throughout the different elements mentioned above. For example, if the website is about On-Page SEO then those keywords will appear in the title tag, heading tag, URL, alternate image text and throughout the content.
That being said, you don’t want to get caught over optimizing your content which can have a negative impact on your SEO efforts. How do you avoid over optimization? Easy, just write it naturally with actual readers in mind. If you notice that every other word is the keyword you’re targeting then you’ve over optimized your content.
Keep in mind that there are more on-page factors than the ones mentioned in this article, however, the ones I outlined are the most important. By implementing the best practices found in this article you will have a well optimized website, and as a result you will have a much easier time ranking in search engines.
What Is SEO & How Does It Work? (Part 1)
How You Build Your Website Matters (Part 2)
On-Page SEO Factors & Best Practices (Part 3)
Search Engine Algorithms (Part 4)
Link Building Explained – Off Page SEO (Part 5)