The earlier article Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for Beginners offered a general overview about the basics of SEO. It used the approach of distinguishing between on-page and off-page optimization. This post explains the basic elements of On-Page Search Engine Optimization. This part of SEO is very easy to apply since all necessary steps can be taken by the operator of the website.
There are basically two factors, which needs a careful review. In the first place you need to take a look at your Website Architecture. That includes a clear Link Structure, Meta Tags as well as Alt Tags. It is important to provide certain information, which make your site readable for search engines. Secondly, and with equal importance, you have to consider your Content Strategy. In order to be found by your potential target group, you want to track and integrate relevant Keywords in your pages. A great way to ensure quality and freshness of your content is Blogging.
Following these basic ideas of SEO will help your website to meet higher rankings and eventually bring more visitors to your website. The mentioned implementations will mainly help search engines to index your page better. But your main focus should always stay in providing good content for human visitors!
Website Architecture is essential for On-Page SEO
Not only webmaster appreciate a clearly structured website; search engines do as well. Imagine how spiders crawl your pages and try to catch a clatter of HTML, PHP, Java and other code. A little support in terms of a coherent and well-organized site will result in better search rankings. Try to follow some easy rules that can improve your relationship with search engines a lot:
- Place important content in HTML-Language
- Use headline tags, bold text or (un)ordered lists to emphasize important parts
- Don’t duplicate content, instead use 301 Redirect’s (“moved permanently”)
- If needed, create a robots.txt file to show search engines, which sites are not relevant anymore
- Most search engines offer manual URL-Removal’s or blocking’s from their search results
- The easiest way is to remove websites that are not valid anymore and create a 404 Error Page (“non-existent pages”)
Clear Link Structure
SEO architecture starts with the URL. That includes the domain name and the suffix of a hyperlink. It sounds really simple but there are still many websites with absurd URL’s and broken links out there. Naturally, you should make sure that all internal and external links work. Creating readable URL’s is an advantage for visitors and search engines. That means using categories and subcategories is highly appreciated (www.website.com/category/sub/page.php). Search engines check URL’s for keywords, so make sure to include the focus keyword of the page.
Dynamic URL’s are often used blogs (e.g. http: //www.website.com/blog?id372) and are modifiable to a key phrase-rich version by using URL Rewriting. To separate words in URL’s use a hyphen “-” instead of other separators like underscores or spaces. Internal links help your visitors to navigate and search engines to check the importance of particular sites. It is recommended to use absolute Links and not relative ones (www.website.com/page instead of /page). Finally, you should upload a site map in.xml-format to support search engines and make sure that all your pages are indexed.
HTML Meta Tags provide Search Engines with Information
Meta Tags are partly invisible lines of codes that describe the content of a website. It helps search engines to categorize your page and is an essential part of your SEO efforts. Unique Meta tags are an essential part of every single page of your website. Managing Meta Tags includes the Page Title, Page Description and Keywords. The lines for your Meta Tags belong in the head section of your code.
The Page Title should include Brand Name and most important Keywords (e.g. Primary Keyword + Category | Brand Name). Limit the title length to 65 – 75 characters, depending on the browser. It is visible for the human eye in search results and browser tabs. The Page Description can have a length up to 150 character and is visible in Search Results, too. It is important to give unique titles and descriptions to each of your pages. Keyword Meta Tags are only visible for search engines and lost some importance during recent years. Still, it cannot hurt to include them. You should not exceed 7 keywords per page.
Another kind of metadata are Rich Snippets – descriptions of your page, which are visible in search engines. Rich Snippets are structured markup that provides search engines with information about people, products, reviews, businesses, recipes and events. It is highly recommend to include Rich Snippets in your website to appear more user-friendly in search results. Schema.org gives the documentation for microdata. Google also offers a tool to test the visual appearance of your code (Rich Snippets Testing Tool).
Make Media readable with Alt Tags
Alt Tags help search engines to understand unreadable media, like images, videos or flash. Especially images are a big factor in SEO and need brief but descriptive Alt attributes.Think also about meaningful file name for images and include a title tag, which becomes visible when you scroll your mouse over them. The anchor text for media is best when it is descriptive, avoid “click here” or “article”.
Relevant Content for your Target Group
After setting up the basic SEO architecture of your website, it is all about your content. People visiting your website to see the content and search engines try to find the best matches for search queries of their users. You need to offer suitable content to be relevant for your target group. On the other hand, your content have to be findable, based on keywords. So, think about search terms people would use to find your products or services. What you need is to find these keywords and know how to integrate them properly in your content.
Tracking and Integration of Keywords
Every search engine works with keyword indices. You need to find keywords that have a rather low competition to make it easier to achieve better rankings in search results. “Long Tail” keywords produce billions of different search queries but often convert better since visitors with specific searches are closer to a make a buying decision. Try to track and attract qualitative visitors instead of high quantities.
If there are many search ads in your search query, it indicates usually a valuable (competitive) keyword. You can use different Tools, such as the Google AdWords Keyword Tool, Google Trends and Google Insights for Search, to analyze how many searches a keyword gets daily or monthly and how dense the Competition is. Wordtracker is also a nice tool to get suggestions and statistics for keywords. Another way to get search term ideas are your competitors. See which keywords they target while reading their metadata tags in the source code.
Once you found suitable keywords for your website, you have to use them accordingly. As described before, they are effective in titles, text and metadata. Concentrate on one or two keywords per page. These words should have a density between 3-5% (keyword per 100 words). Include your keyword in the first sentence of your page, the title, preferably the URL, Headings and spread it in your content. Again, keep your content readable for visitors and don’t stuff keywords too much! Only people, who find on your website what they were looking for, have the potential to convert into a sale.
Blogging ensures Quality and Freshness of Content
Your keywords are only worth something when they are integrated in rich content. Great content is still the best way to develop higher rankings in search engines. The best way to ensure fresh, qualitative content is writing a blog. Offering solutions, tips, answers or knowledge to satisfy the search intention of visitors potentially leads to transactional queries. It will please your human visitors and search engines in the same way.
Of course, blogging is a whole topic for itself and will be covered in a later post. For now, just some basic thoughts about blogging from a SEO perspective:
- Blog post title has to be unique and fewer than 75 characters
- Summary of the blog post in 150 characters
- Integrate RSS Feed makes it easier to keep returning visitor up to date
- Social share buttons help to spread your content
- Engage readers to comment on articles
- Write easy-to-read text primarily for humans, not for search engines
- Create fresh and unique posts
- Concentrate on one or two keywords per post