Introduction to On-Page SEO
Recently, someone asked me how to do SEO for a website. What a great question! But, one that has no easy answer. SEO, the well-known acronym for Search Engine Optimization, is the practice of setting up your web pages so they can be found more easily in search engines. While there are many search engines, Google is used by a large majority of searchers according to many sources. In fact, some research firms indicate that Google accounts for 90+% of searches. In essence, it is the defacto search engine champion.
So, how does one help to ensure their web pages are more readily found in a collection of thousands, if not millions, of search results on Google? To begin, it is important to think about on-page content and methods. This is a bit different from off-page SEO, which I will cover in a different blog post. But first, it's important to get on-page SEO right!
On-Page SEO includes optimizing page elements that we can directly control like Page Titles, Page URLs, Meta Descriptions, Headlines, links between pages, the content itself, images, and the efficiency of the page's HTML code. All of these elements are - these days - part and parcel of most content management systems (CMS). If your content management system doesn't allow you to control any of those elements, you're already at a disadvantage.
Let's Get Started with SEO
Without further ado, here are some best practices for On-Page SEO.1.) Consider Your Page Name
- When creating pages, use a keyword-focused page name and be sure to enable SEO-friendly URLs. So, if you have a page about Youth Camps in the Northeast, name the page simply "Youth Camps in the Northeast" or "Northeastern Youth Camps." In many cases, the page name will also act as the Page Title, one of the most important on-page SEO elements. Additionally, the URL that is generated should look like "yoursite.org/youth+camps+northeast." Sometimes, a CMS will be configured to use ugly looking numbers, special characters, and wonky phrases, like "yoursite.org/template123?=12345." Check with the website administrator to have that URL setting changed.
Pro-tip: Add a modifier to your title such as "2018" or "Best" as many people may search for "Best Youth Camp," or "Youth Camps 2018," etc.
2.) Now that you have a good page name and URL with a keyword focus (and perhaps a modifier), you're ready to move down the page into the content, starting first with Headlines.
Headlines, known by webmasters as H1 through H6 tags, are important distinguishers for the content that falls below it. H1 tags are generally reserved for use by the page title and you should really only have one H1 tag on a page. Sub-headlines below the title might start with H2 and go down progressively to H6. It's important to include easy-to-read, yet keyword-focused 'H' tags on your pages. Sub-heads give weight and relevancy to the page topic and lets your readers know what they can expect in that portion of the page.
Pro-Tip: Keeping your readers engaged helps to keep the time on the page longer, which has a small impact on ranking.
3.) Add a Meta-Description.
The meta-description is the small blurb that appears in a search result under the page title and URL. It is generally not noticed on the page by readers (i.e., it is behind the scenes) and it may not directly influence ranking. However, a well-written meta-description can help searchers make better click-through choices. As more people select your page (and stay on it) from a list of results, that is a potential indicator to Google that your page is very relevant.
Pro-Tip: Google may not necessarily use the meta-description, as written, if it finds a better description within the page content itself. Be sure to write a Meta-Description that supports the bulk of the page content and Google is more likely to use it.
4.) Now that you have a page title and headlines, dazzle readers and search engines with a good page intro.
Be sure to inject a couple of keywords and synonyms that can be quickly seen at the top of the page. But, make the intro readable. A bunch of keywords jammed together don't really help as that can be tagged as spam.5.) Be sure to include some media on the page.
Video is preferred, probably the most desired, but also any other type of diagram, photo, or other graphic is awesome too. One trick - be sure to include a caption around the media so Google can pick up more easily on the content. When using images, be sure to use an Alt tag. The Alt tag isn't normally seen by a real user, but search engines use the Alt tag to confirm image relevancy to the keyword being searched. So, if you have a photo from the Youth Camp in Upstate New York, give it an Alt tag like "Youth Camp Upstate New York."
Pro-Tip: Also, name the image with a relevant keyword, like "upstate_new_york_youth_camp.jpg"
6.) Google may give you a little page relevancy boost if you link out to other resources on the web. For example, you may want to link to another page about "How to Prepare for Summer Camps" etc. from your own or other online sources, or, if your summer camps have their own websites, create some links to them - perhaps in a sidebar or in a list of links on the page.
7.) Provide an easy way for people to share the page on social media. Social media may not have a direct SEO impact, but the more people that see the content, the more they will share or link to it from other places, including other web sites.
These Technical SEO Steps will Help Too!
Having fun yet? So far, we have created a Page Title, URL, Headlines, an Intro and provided an image - all optimized for search. Let's continue looking at some technical settings that will help.8.) Increase your page load speed.
Google and other search engines love, love, love speedy pages. There are many ways to increase page load time, but perhaps the most important is to have a webmaster use optimal coding for the HTML, Style Sheets and Scripts. There are plenty of online speed test web sites to check on speed. Just Google "Website Speed Test" and you'll be set.9.) Be sure your pages are optimized for mobile devices.
Google started giving preference to mobile-optimized pages a few years back. Most current CMS templates have the ability to provide mobile-friendly pages "off the shelf."10.) If your site is not yet secure, secure it!
There is a slight bump for secure pages. Your webmaster can help you set that up.
Pro-Tip: Be sure to change any related Google tools - such as webmaster tools - that you use to reflect the change from non-secure pages to secure pages. By the way, set up Google Webmaster Tools!
11.) If you move a page or change your site's organizational structure, be sure to have your webmaster put in 301 redirects
(one for each page) to let Google know that you have moved the page.
So, there you have it...The basics of on-page SEO. Please feel free to add your own tips and techniques in the comments below.