On Page Optimization Best Practices
Part of the powerful trifecta of SEO skills (technical, on page and off page,) on page SEO can easily be the one factor that gets your pages ranked in the SERP’s (Search Engine Results Pages). On page SEO is essentially the optimization of your web pages’ content – for both bots (spiders) and humans – in an effort to increase rankings. It’s called on-page because the majority of the optimization changes you make can be seen right on the page.
With on-page SEO, your goal is to create content around a set of related keywords and then apply the optimization tactics below so that the page has the best chance possible of ranking for said keywords. In comparison, technical and off-page SEO work behind the scenes and generally isn’t visible to readers.
With over 20 years of experience creating strategic SEO and digital marketing solutions, we have a few pieces of advice we’d like to share to help you on your way to creating or redesigning your site’s content.
Create Valuable, Relevant Content
As with any SEO practice, it’s important to create content that matters. With on page SEO, you need to create content that answers specific questions. To know what questions your customers are asking, conduct keyword research using tools like Google’s Keyword Planner, Google’s People Also Ask section of the search results as well as a free tool called Answer the Public. Using these tools, you can suss out what keywords have the most search volume, how your competitors are ranking for these keywords as well as getting some insight as to how competitive the keywords might be to rank for. You can also uncover other keywords and phrases that you can incorporate into your content to help boost your site’s visibility.
Use the Right Keywords in the Right Places
Use your main keyword in the first 100 or so words of your page. It’s a classic SEO tactic for a reason. It works because Google’s crawlers still put value on keywords that are closer to the beginning of the content.
Well-written content will allow keywords to fall in naturally throughout the text. In contrast, cramming in as many keywords as you can will have search engines and visitors eyeing your site suspiciously. If your text is littered with keywords, they probably won’t click through from the search engines or read what’s on your site if they do. Adding many keywords in an attempt to game the system and get ranked without doing the necessary work, is called “keyword stuffing”.
An example of keyword stuffing:
Here at Brewster’s Coffee Co, we have the best coffee available. If you like really good coffee, you’ll love our delicious coffee. Stop by and try our newest blends of premium coffee and pick up a one-pound bag of savoury coffee to take home and enjoy.
This kind of text reads suspiciously, irritates visitors and will get you penalized by the search engines. It’s obvious that you sell coffee, so it’s not necessary to repeat that one keyword so often. Instead, its best to play around with terms related to coffee like java, espresso, mug, mocha etc and other words that your customers associate with their cup of coffee.
Keep Content Updated
Once created, content needs to be kept fresh and relatable. Evergreen content is content that’s typically timeless, but even that might need a tweak now and then. On the flip side, a post from 2016 about top shoe trends will need a total overhaul, since so much will have changed in the footwear world in that time. Set aside a few hours every week to go through and refresh wherever it’s needed.
Organize Every Layer of Your Site
What you name your pages and how they’re organized is an important element of on-page SEO. Like a roadmap shows how to get to your destination, the mapping of your site should lay out where everything is located. Called site structure, this will not only make it easier for readers to find and access pages but it will also make your site more crawlable for the bots.
Page titles and meta descriptions are the text that appears for each page listed in the search engine results. Not only are they a factor in whether your page will catch the eye of potential visitors and customers, but they also play a role in the optimization process. Meta descriptions should be between 160 and 220 (max) characters. Most smartphones and tablets cut meta descriptions to 120 characters. This makes 120 a good number to aim for, since a large majority of customers now browse online using mobile devices.
In the meta description, include your keyword phrase or single keyword in a complete sentence. Try to use text only, since alphanumeric characters ($, %, &, +) don’t always translate well.
Page titles should be a maximum of 60 characters and should also contain your page’s main keyword.
Add Keyword Optimized Headings
Headings act as signage, directing reader’s eyes down the page and making your content easy to navigate. The difference between headings and page titles is that page titles can’t be seen on the page (they are only seen in the search results) while headings can.
On each page, the headings should include target keywords. Your page’s main heading should be an H1 heading while the lesser headings should be H2, H3, H4 etc. Try to use these headings in order and not, for example, use an H1 heading three quarters the way down the page.
Your page’s main heading (H1) should closely resemble your page’s title. This helps with continuity when someone clicks your page in the search results. Headings are ranked in order of descending importance. H1 is the most important, then H2 and H3. Unless your content is very lengthy and detailed, you likely won’t need to go any further than H3 or H4.
Formatting will go a long way in getting visitors to read your carefully created content. Try to add bullets and numbers where applicable, break up the content with headings, add bold and italics to help separate and emphasize key points and allow readers to skim and scan the page. Formatting is more for your human readers but it also plays a role for the spiders (bots).
Create Effective URLs
Use https in your domain name. Since July 2018, http sites show as “not secure” on most browsers which sends red flags to site visitors. To switch to https, you just need to add an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate which will encrypt the data on your site, keeping it private. To add SSL certification, contact your hosting provider. Generally, SSL certificates cost $0 to $99 per year. If this is something that you’re not comfortable installing yourself, you can always get in touch with us and we can help you out.
Other SEO Optimization Tips for URLs
- If local, use geographic mentions to make it clear where you’re located
- Avoid case sensitive characters for ease of use
- Include the page subject in the URL
- Avoid using dates in your URLs
- Separate words using hyphens to make it even clearer
- Keep the URL short and descriptive
Images and Multimedia
Use Quality Images and Video
SEO best practices often focus so heavily on text that it can be easy to forget about the visuals, which encourages readers to click around and stay on your site.
Visitors will be overwhelmed by a wall of text, so you’ll need to carefully consider where and when to place images and videos for the most impact.
The first thing to think of when optimizing your images for SEO is the filename. You’ll want to have a keyword optimized image filename before you upload the image to your site. Eg. woman-with-main-keyword.jpg
How to choose an image format
- Use a GIF if your image is animated
- Use JPEG for basic resolution images. Test out different settings to find the compression setting that works best for your chosen image
- To preserve a high-resolution image, or if a transparent background is needed, use PNG
You’ll want to remember to keep your images around the 100kb size so that they’re not bogging down the speed of your site.
Use Alternate (ALT) Text for Images
Known as image alt-text, this describes the images on your site to the search engines as well as visually impaired people (who use readers that read out the alt text). Not only is image optimization part of on-page SEO, it can also be a good alternate source of traffic. Often, when someone is searching for a specific product, they’ll click on the “image results” tab in Google or another search engine to see what images the search engine has turned up. Because images are so important for getting the attention of visitors, you should audit your site to ensure all the photos and product images are accurately described in the ALT text.
Example of a bad Alt-text:
<img src= “coffeecup.gif” alt= “coffee cup, cup of coffee, mug of coffee”>
Example of a good Alt-text:
<img src= “coffeecup.gif” alt= “Steaming hot Arabica coffee in red mug”>
Adding keyword optimized ALT text is a bit of a science as you want to describe the image as best you can while also including your page’s relevant keywords.
Internal linking is simply linking from one page on your domain to another page. It’s useful for visitors so they can get additional information and it also gives the linked page a bit of an SEO bump as it tells the search engines that the page is important (hence why you’re linking to it). Internal links are an often overlooked on-page SEO strategy. For the best example of great internal linking practices, visit Wikipedia.
Include a Call to Action
Lastly, each page should also include a call to action of some sort (contact us, find out more, view the product, sign up for a newsletter etc) to help guide your site visitors to take the action you’d like them to. This could be a phone call, sending an email, completing their purchase, or whatever your end goal is. In the following paragraph, you can see a call to action in the 2nd sentence.
Creating and maintaining an effective on page SEO strategy does take considerable time and effort. If you’d like assistance with improving the visibility and ranking of your website, IdeaZone can help. Located in Victoria, BC, we help website owners the world over create the highest ranking, most effective sites possible. Whether your goal is to boost sales, double your readership or do a complete overhaul of existing pages and content, our team of trusted SEO experts will create an effective and one of a kind campaign tailored specifically for your business.