This is Part 3 of a six part SEO series. A list of all the other posts can be found at the bottom of this article.
If you read last week’s post on what you need to know about how your website is ranked, you will no doubt be keen to know about how the fundamentals discussed convert into actionable strategies. That is in part what we are here to explore today.
As you know, there are two broad factors that determine your ranking – relevance and authority. In this post, we are going to focus on the first factor – how you should employ onsite SEO to make your site relevant to the search engines.
Of course, every site is relevant to something – but it is what your site is relevant to that makes the difference. If you are not methodical about how you craft your onsite SEO, if you do not focus on the intended relevance of your site, you will not rank as highly as you could.
Whilst it is true that many sites with poor onsite SEO rank well in the search engines, that is because their lack of solid onsite SEO is made up for by a healthy level of authority. It is a bit like a baseball pitcher whose lack of accuracy is compensated by a powerful fastball. He would be even better if he could throw that same fastball more accurately, right?
Onsite SEO Is Key
So make no mistake – onsite SEO is extremely important. Not only that, it is a darn sight more easy to implement effectively than offsite SEO (which we will discuss in a future post). The quality of your onsite SEO is entirely within your control – the same cannot be said for offsite SEO. Invest time in optimizing your site accordingly, and you will reap the benefits.
Just one more thing before we start – this post is deliberately not going to go into great detail on certain matters. Onsite SEO is a strategy that is subject to rife over-analysis, and it is not our intention to overwhelm you with little tweaks that may or may not make a small difference to your rankings. If you get the fundamentals right, that should be all you need to concern yourself with.
With that said, let’s take a look at the simple and actionable steps you can take to optimize your website for search engines.
1. Meta Tags
There are only two meta tags that you need to concern yourself with – title and the description. Whilst your page’s the title isn’t technically a meta tag, it is closely related to the description, and should be considered alongside it.
If you read our previous post on SEO, you will understand fully that search engines rank pages, not websites. Although they will consider your site as part of the ranking process when they assess a page, it is the relevance and authority of the page itself that is most important.
And so when it comes to your page showing up on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP), there is nothing more important than its title and description. Effectively utilizing these two meta tags is arguably the most important part of onsite SEO. There are two reasons for that:
- Search engines attach a great deal of weight to the keywords contained within the title and description.
- The percentage of click-throughs from the SERP will be affected by the wording within those two meta tags.
To put it simply, if you are trying to rank for the keyword “sprinkler system”, you must ensure that those words are contained within both the title and the description.
Furthermore, you should word the title and description in a manner that will promote more clicks from the SERP. Don’t just set your title and description to “sprinkler system”. You could for instance set the title to “How To Choose The Best Sprinkler System”, and the description to “Are you overwhelmed by the choice of sprinkler systems available? Find the right sprinkler system for you here!”
Put yourself in the searcher’s shoes. If I am interested in sprinkler systems and I come across a site with a title and description like that, I will be likely to click – even if the result is not number 1. Your position on the first page is not the sole factor in determining the click through rate.
When it comes to length, try to keep your title under 70 characters, and your description under 160. These are roughly the limits imposed by Google before they cut off your text.
2. Permalinks (Your Page’s URL)
Another factor that search engines consider alongside your title and meta description is the URL of the page itself. A classic example of the power of an URL in determining the placement of a page in the SERP can be found in a search for the keyword “credit cards”. Here is the very first result in Google for that search:
The top results isn’t Mastercard, nor is it Visa. It is a credit card broker. This site is far less authoritative in terms of offsite SEO than the main credit card suppliers, but it still beats them in the rankings on the strength of its domain name.
So picking the right domain is important. But it is very difficult these days to pick up “valuable” domain names. What you can do however is name your permalinks appropriately. Let’s look at the sprinkler system example again. The ideal permalink for such a page would definitely be “sprinkler-system”. You don’t need to worry about wording the permalink as you would the title – just include the exact keyword that you are targeting, and nothing more. The less words there are for search engines to take into account, the better.
3. Your Content
If you are targeting a specific keyword or keywords, you need to make it easy for the search engines to recognize that fact. We have already discussed how you can do so with the meta tags and permalink, but your content is also a vital factor.
The first place you should start is with your h1 tag. Just like your page title, the h1 tag is weighted more heavily than many other onsite factors, so you must ensure that it is worded appropriately. Typically, it is good practice to match your h1 header with your page’s title.
Secondly, you should consider the bulk of the content itself. This is an area that really gets over-analyzed amongst SEO “experts”, but you can keep things pretty simple and experience positive effects. Forget about keyword density – just aim to write with just two things in mind:
- Your keyword
- Your audience
It is that simple. You want to include your keyword appropriately within your content, but you also do not want to forget that you are writing for human beings – people will get turned off very quickly if you are stuffing keywords into your content in the hope that search engines will rank you higher. Moreover, “keyword stuffing” tends to actually have the opposite effect on your rankings to what you would wish for.
Search engines don’t just look at the words on your page – they consider media too. There are two good reasons for including photos and videos on your site:
- It increases user engagement
- It is good for onsite SEO
You should already be including photos as a bare minimum on your site. The key to optimizing images for SEO is in the filename and the alt text. Going back again to our sprinkler system example, the image should be named “sprinkler-system.jpg” (or equivalent), and the alt text should be “Sprinkler System”.
Want to see an example of how this can all come together? Try searching in Google for “ManageWP loves sprinkler systems”. See what comes up.
Ideally, you should be naming the alt text to compliment the context of the image itself, so don’t be afraid to mix things up. For instance, you might include a photograph of a particular brand of sprinkler system, and set your alt text as “[brand name] sprinkler system”.
Not only does this make your site far better in terms of accessibility (i.e. to those who cannot view images but instead read the alt text), but it offers you the additional potential to rank for “long tail” keywords (that are less searched for, but more specific).
Videos are also great to include on any given page. It doesn’t take long to search YouTube to see if there are any related videos available that may benefit your readers, and including one will do no harm to your onsite SEO.
All You Need
Yes – there is a lot more that can be said about onsite SEO. But to be quite frank, a lot of it is either misinformation, or not adequately proven to offer beneficial results. There is no such thing as perfect onsite SEO, and at the end of the day, we do not know exactly how search engines determine the relevance of any given page.
However, if you follow the common sense route and optimize your pages as per the suggestions above, search engines will be able to easily tell which keywords you should be ranking for. It is then just a case of getting your offsite SEO right to make sure that you can beat similarly-optimized sites (or lesser optimized sites with greater authority). So stay tuned for our guide on offsite SEO, coming soon!
What Do YOU Do?
Do you follow the strategy outlined above, or do you do things differently? Perhaps you have additional pointers for onsite SEO that can help other readers. Let us know in the comments section!
Read the Whole Series
- Why SEO Will Always Be Important For Bloggers
- What You Need To Know About How Your Website Is Ranked
- The 4 Fundamentals of Effective Onsite SEO Revealed
- What You Need To Know About Offsite SEO
- Keyword Research: Our Three Step Process
- 4 Link Building Methods Revealed and Reviewed
Creative Commons images courtesy of Â°Florian, Ian Sane, Robert S. Donovan and hj_west