A Beginner's Guide to On-Page SEO
This post is a beginner’s guide to on-page SEO.
You’ll learn about how best to optimise your content, how to write title tags, great descriptions and much more.
It will help you you understand why your site might be invisible to Google right now and what you can do about it.
Right then, let’s get started…
Why am I invisible?
Have you ever wondered why, after slaving away on your web pages, pouring every ounce of emotion, creativity and insight you have into them, they are not being found online? You upload your best work to your website and nothing. You’re invisible.
We all rely on Google’s ever growing search engine to help us with our daily tasks, finding new information and answering our questions. As a business owner, have you considered how other people use it to find your website?
Even though the massive search engine can feel like a big soup of content at times, there are organised systems at work that determine which sites appear before others. This is where your on-page SEO comes in.
What is on-page SEO?
On-page SEO, or on-page Search Engine Optimisation to give it its full title, is a technical, analytical and creative process. It’s the process of optimising content on web pages that include things like title tags, image tags and internal links. It’s designed to improve the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results based on keyword searches. Its primary function is to drive more visitors to your website.
On-page SEO Is different to off-page SEO, which is based on things that happen off your website, like backlinks or social media.
How do search engines work?
A search engine, for example Google, is a website that allows you to type in a keyword, phrase or question. After hitting search, up pops a reply with a long list of links to web pages that could potentially answer your query.
Google and other search engines use automated software, called spiders or bots, to continuously crawl the web. The bots look for new web pages, updates to existing pages and check for any broken links. After crawling the pages, the bots index them and list them based on Google’s 200+ ranking criteria. These bots will crawl new pages automatically over a period of days or weeks, but as a site owner it is highly recommended that you submit your site to search engines to accelerate this process. Especially if your page is date sensitive.
When a person performs a search in Google (or Bing or Yahoo), the search engine will look through its stored index and return results relevant to the person’s search query, or keywords. It then displays links to all those indexed web pages, and lists them based on what it considers authoritative, relevant and well built criteria.
Authority is measured by analysing the number and quality of links from other web pages. Put simply, your web pages have the potential to rank higher in search engine results, if other web pages link to yours. It makes you look popular and have more authority. This is how backlinking works.
Relevancy is based on a number of factors, including:
- keywords on the website
- well written and relevant content
- title tags
- meta description
- alt tags
- well written URLs
- H1 tags
- bounce rate and much more
Whether your site is well built is based on numerous factors that Google factor in, such as:
- load speed
- user experience
- well written code and much more
Search engines can’t gauge the quality of your content just by crawling it. Instead, they rely on the relevance and importance of your content, and they measure that by tracking what people do with it. What do people discover when they read it, how do they react to it, do they comment on it, and do they link to it from their own site or social media?
To rank number 1 on Google, you can’t just develop a beautiful website, write great content and expect the world to come to your site. You also need to get your content shared and talked about. This kind of SEO is called ‘Off-Page SEO’. However, this guide is just concentrating on on-page SEO. If you want me to write a post on off-page SEO, just leave a comment below.
Understanding both the abilities and limitations of search engines allows you to correctly write and format your website content in a way that search engines can digest and understand. Without on-page SEO, your website can be invisible to search engines.
How to optimise your content for SEO?
Search engines are limited in how they crawl the web and how they interpret and understand your content. A web page will look different to a search engine than it does to you. They crawl your pages looking for things that helps them decide how to index it and they do this through keywords.
Keywords are the fundamental building blocks of SEO. As the search engines crawl and index through the content of your web pages, they keep track of those pages using keyword-based indexes. Hundreds of millions of small databases based on a keyword or phrase allow the search engines to very quickly retrieve data. This is much more preferable to storing tens of billions of web pages all in one database.
When we enter words into search engines, the engine matches and retrieves pages it has stored based on the words we entered. Spelling, punctuation and capitalisation provide additional information to the search engine and that is used to help it retrieve the relevant pages.
The best way to optimise a search engine’s ranking is to make sure that the keywords you want to be ranked for are correctly and prominently used in your web pages, in the form of page titles, content, headers and metadata. The more specific your keywords, the less competition there is and therefore should improve your search results and be given a higher ranking.
You can read more about choosing keywords in my blog post ‘The importance of keywords in your SEO’.
Where do I use keywords on my website?
You can apply some proven SEO techniques for keyword usage to help you create pages that are well optimised. these actionable tips will help you understand where to use them:
First 100 words:
This is quite an easy one as all you need to do is make sure your main keyword is used once in the first 100 words of your article. This is important because Google puts more value on words that are higher up on a page. Which, if you think about it, makes sense. If you write an article about a specific topic, you would surely mention that topic at the begging of the article.
The URL ( Uniform Resource Locator ) is the address that will be in the browser address bar. Your keyword should ideally be in the URL once and your URL should be as short as possible.
When deciding on your URL, place yourself in the mind of your customer reading it. If you think they could easily and accurately say what the content of the page is about before they click on it, it’s safe to say that your URL is descriptive enough. However, you don’t need to go into too much detail, a few words is best.
It’s always a good idea to have a keyword in your URL, but don’t add too many as overuse of keywords can have a negative effect on search results. With regard to your URL, It is always best to separate words with a hyphen. Search engines don’t like spaces or underscores.
Meta Title <title>:
A title tag is an HTML element that specifies the title of your web page. They are a major factor (arguably the number one factor) in helping search engines understand what your page is about, and so your title should be a good description of your page’s content. They are very important for usability, SEO, and social sharing and are the first impression people will have of your page. They are used in three specific places, search engine results pages, web browsers, and social networks.
This title of the page lives in the <title></title> tag and is seen in Google search results as well as by Google bots. It’s the big blue title that you see in Google’s search results. Put your keyword in the title tag just once and at the beginning. And try not to exceed 55 characters.
Header Tags <h1>:
The header tag, or the <h1> tag in your HTML page is like a mini version of the title tag. It‘s normally the largest piece of text on the page so that it stands out to your readers. There are several other types of header tags such as h2, h3, h4 etc. However, these are less important when it comes to ranking in search engines. Search engines generally give the h1 tag more importance over the other headings, so a good, descriptive header can help both your customers and the search engines find the right content. Google states that the h1 tag “helps Google understand the structure of the page”.
There should only ever be one <h1> tag on a page or post, so as not to confuse the search bots. Make sure your keyword is in the <h1> tag.
You’ll want to wrap your sub-headers in a <h2> tag. There are less important that a <h1> tag, but they do help with SEO so if you can include a keyword in them, great.
Keyword frequency is as it sounds, it’s the amount of times your keywords appear on a web page. If you use the keyword several times on a page, there’s a good chance Google will understand the importance of that keyword than if you only use the keyword once.
However, keyword stuffing is a no-no! Google doesn’t like it if you use the keyword too many times and your ranking can suffer because of it, so try not to go overboard.
These are links that are external to your website that go to relevant pages. So if you link to a web page that has a similar topic to yours, Google will be able to index you better because it has some information as to where to categorise the page.
While it’s a good idea to include your target keywords in your content, bombarding your content with forced keywords won’t help, in fact it will do more harm than good. Include your keywords in the first 100 words of your content, after that you should be trying to use variations of your keyword, known as LSI keywords. Latent Semantic Indexing are keywords that are semantically linked to a main keyword. Basically, LSI keywords are words that we generally find related to a main keyword. They are there to help search engines understand the content better.
The meta description is an HTML element that lives in the <description></description> tag and is seen in Google search results as an important part of your overall SEO and provides the summary of your web pages. It appears underneath the blue clickable links in search engine results pages.
Meta description tags should have at least one keyword, ideally near the beginning. However, the meta description tags themselves do not get used by the search engines for rankings, but rather they help attract people to click on your page by showing your customer a good description of what they can expect to find on your web page.
Highlight trigger words with capital letters and make sure it’s all under 156 characters. You could leave an ellipsis … at the end so people want to know what you are going to say next! i.e. Check out our FREE…
Use the description to entice people into your page. Be descriptive, be persuasive, be curious and make people want to click through to your page.
It’s a very good idea to write the descriptions yourself as you know your pages best. It can be automated, but this can often lead to poor descriptions. Try this as a template:
‘This is a [content overview]. Learn how to get [specific benefit] from this [content description].’
I.e. This is a beginner’s guide to SEO in 2020. Learn about on-page SEO, search engines, optimising content and how to rank higher with this in-depth post.
It’s a good idea to link to other internal pages that are on your website to give them a boost and to show that the site is connected. When you do, try to use keyword rich text as the anchor link. It’s much better to have a descriptive link than a simple ‘click here’, for both user experience and web bots point of view.
If you want to see a web page that uses internal links well, look no further than Wikipedia. They have so many keyword rich links to all their pages and they often rank number one in searches.
Google loves internal and external linking. It is called the World Wide Web after all!
Not everything on your web page is crawl-able by the search engine crawlers. For this reason your most important content needs to be in HTML ( Hyper Text Markup Language ) format, so that the search engines can read it. This means that non-text content, such as images, need to have HTML added. For images, this means an ‘alt tag’ or ‘alt attribute’ needs to be added. Any time you use an image on your site, make sure you include an ‘alt tag’ within the image tag. Writing a brief description of the image in the alt tag will provide a text alternative to the image that the search engine can read. The more descriptive the alt tag, the more the search engine can interpret the image.
These image alt tags are particularly important for web accessibility. Visually impaired users will use a screen reader to read your web page and if your images do not have a well described alt attribute, they are unable to make sense of what the image is or why it’s there. If you can close your eyes and have someone read the alt text to you, and you can imagine an accurate version of the image, your alt attribute is fine.
Voice search is growing very fast and one of the best ways to optimise your content for voice search is through FAQ pages. Studies have shown that Google’s voice search results often came from FAQ pages.
It kind of makes sense as users often ask their voice search device a question to get a simple answer. If there was a FAQ page full of questions and answers, this would be a better place for Google to search than a long, detailed article.
I decided to write this guide because I believe far too many businesses and entrepreneurs are not being found online because they’re not structuring their pages correctly for SEO. With a bit of basic on-page SEO knowledge and a few simple tweaks to your pages, you’re likely to see improvements in the ranking of your web pages in search engines results pages (SERPs) which means your customers can find you more easily.
You might not want to do everything in this guide, and that’s fine. Not all pages on your website have to be perfect for SEO. My suggestion to you is to focus on the real needs, challenges, frustrations and goals of your customers. If you do that, you are half way there. Focus on the pages that already generate traffic and pages that you want to have the most conversions.
If you take anything away from this guide, let it be this:
The better your site is structured to focusing on your customers, the better experience your customers will have with your site and the higher your site will rank in search engines with similar searches. The better your on-page SEO, the more likely your site will be found by customers that are more likely to buy from you.
If you are struggling with your SEO and need some help, why not download my SEO guide: Unlocking the 5 Secrets to Getting Your Business Found Online. Or, if you would like a one to one conversation, why not book yourself in for a chat and we can discuss your issues in detail.
If you have any questions, please add them in the comments below.
Until next time...
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