Much of the search engine optimization (SEO) world revolves around generating backlinks that point back towards your website, but there’s a whole other set of best practices you need to be applying to your site as you build it in order to ensure success with the search engines. So today, let’s look at on-page SEO and how it can improve your site’s chances of generating traffic through the natural search results.
The first critical thing to understand about on-page SEO is that it operates at the keyword level. And although this might sound intuitive to seasoned SEO veterans, it can be a tough concept to grasp when you’re building your first website.
Here’s what you need to know…
The pages that display in the search engine results pages (SERPs) do so because the search providers feel they’re the best match for the given keyword phrase the user has typed into the search field. For example, if you were to type the keyword phrase “dog training toys” into Google, the search engine will return the websites in its index that are most relevant to this phrase – not the best results for the pet niche in general.
So if you want your website to appear in the natural search results (and you definitely do, as this is one of the best ways to generate free traffic), you need to optimize for keyword phrases. Even if you decide to build your website with a general niche in mind, you’ll want to choose narrower target keywords to improve your chances of appearing on the SERPs.
And while a full discussion of keyword research and the best way to choose keyword phrases to target is beyond the scope of this article, it’s enough for now to simply know how important it is to build your site around specific keyword phrases.
Once you’ve determined which phrases you want to target, the next step to getting your website ranked in the SERPs for these keywords is to complete on-page search engine optimizations for your site. By improving your on-page SEO, you increase the likelihood that the search engines will notice your site and store it in its indexes as a good potential match for your target keyword phrases.
The following are a few specific tweaks to make to the way your keywords are deployed on your site in order to improve your chances of getting ranked on your keyword SERPs:
Page Name and Extension
When you create a new page on your website, its name appears in the address bar of your browser with a file name and extension like this:
When creating your new pages, you have the ability to specify the text of “pagename”, either by uploading an HTML file with the desired “pagename” text as your file name or by setting your permalinks manually within your Wordpress dashboard or other site hosting platform’s back-end.
As you might expect, this is a great place to include that keyword you decided to target earlier in the article – in fact, this is one of the most important places to deploy it! For example, if you’re targeting the keyword phrase “dog training toys”, as in our earlier example, you can set up a page that’s labeled as follows for the maximum on-page SEO benefit:
Another important place to include your target keyword phrase on each page of your site is within the page’s title tag. If you’re programming your site in HTML, you can do this by simply adding the following code within the body section of your page:
<title>Your Page Title Here</title>
By setting this information, the phrase you identify as your page’s title will appear on the top-left corner of a visitor’s web browser, as well as within the results blurb that appears any time your site is listed in the natural SERPs.
For maximum SEO benefit, put some effort into writing a compelling title that contains your target keyword phrase, but that also catches your readers’ attention, as this will be a vital part of increasing your clickthrough rate in the SERPs.
As a side note, plenty of on-page SEO guides recommend including your target keyword phrase in your description and keyword meta tags as well. And while this won’t hurt, know that it isn’t as important as it once was, given how frequently overzealous webmasters abused this benefit. If you do decide to include your target keyword phrase in these locations, do it once – don’t keyword stuff your tags, as this can lead to an SEO penalty.
Headline tags are pieces of content on your website that are coded slightly differently in order to emphasize their importance. If you think about a traditional newspaper, you know that it isn’t just large blocks of text – separate stories are broken apart by headings and sub-titles that highlight key points within the content.
These types of headline tags are used on websites as well, and are demarcated by the following tags:
As you might expect, H1 tags are reserved for the most important headlines on a given page, while the remaining H2-H6 tags should be used for sub-titles of lesser importance.
As a rule, for best on-page SEO, the H1 tag should be used once on each page and it should contain the target keyword phrase. It’s also a good idea to have a few H2 and/or H3 tags on each page to break up text and improve the user experience. Each of these sub-titles should have either the target keyword phrase or a version of it to improve the latent semantic indexing (LSI) value of the content.
Content Keyword Density
The idea of having a “best possible” keyword density within your web content has come under fire recently, as different experts recommend different values. In fact, Google would rather you not focus on this metric at all, and stick to writing good content in the first place.
it’s absolutely important to include your target keyword phrase within your website’s content, as this is one of the only ways the search engine spiders know what your site is about and where it should rank in the SERPs. But instead of focusing on some arbitrary value – say 2%, 5% or even 10% keyword density – put your time into crafting good content that’s valuable for your readers.
According to Damien Willis, one area often overlooked when writing a new blog post is not only adding an image but then optimizing that image for SEO so that you rank better in the search engines.
Adding images to your site is a great way to both enhance the visual appeal of your pages and take advantage of additional SEO opportunities as well. Here’s what you need to do every time you upload an image to your site:
- Ensure the image’s file name contains some variant of your target keyword phrase
- Add alt text to the image that contains your target keyword phrase
- Consider adding a caption with your target keyword phrase, as text in this location is some of the most frequently read text on any site
By taking the time to implement all of these on-page search engine optimization tactics on your website, you’ll increase your odds of being seen in the natural SERPs, leading to a steady stream of free traffic back to your page.