SEO Basics – On Page Optimization
The previous article Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for Beginners provided an overview of the basics of SEO. It used the approach of distinguishing between on-page and off-page optimization. This post explains the basics of on page search engine optimization. This part of SEO is very easy to apply as the website operator can take all the necessary steps.
There are basically two factors, which need careful review. First of all, you should take a look at the architecture of your website. That includes a clear link structure, meta tags, and alt tags. It is important to provide certain information that makes your site readable to 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 on your pages. A great way to ensure the quality and freshness of your content is Blogging.
Following these basic SEO ideas will help your website rank higher and eventually drive more visitors to your website. The mentioned implementations will mainly help search engines to better index your page. But your main focus should always be to provide good content for human visitors!
Website architecture is essential for on-page SEO
Not only the webmaster appreciates a clearly structured website; search engines do too. Imagine how spiders crawl your pages and try to pick up a noise from 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 greatly improve your relationship with search engines:
- Place important content in HTML language
- Use title tags, bold text, or (un)ordered lists to emphasize important parts
- Don’t duplicate content, instead use 301 Redirect’s (“moved permanently”)
- If necessary, create a robots.txt file to show search engines which sites are no longer relevant
- Most search engines offer manual URL removal or blocking of their search results.
- The easiest way is to remove websites that are no longer valid and create a 404 error page (“non-existent pages”).
Delete link structure
SEO architecture starts with the URL. That includes the domain name and the suffix of a hyperlink. It sounds very simple, but there are still many websites with absurd URLs and broken links. Naturally, you need to make sure that all internal and external links work. Creating readable URLs is an advantage for visitors and search engines. That means the use of categories and subcategories (www.website.com/category/sub/page.php) is highly valued. Search engines check URLs for keywords, so be sure to include the main keyword of the page.
Dynamic URLs are often used in blogs (eg http://www.website.com/blog?id372) and can be changed to a keyphrase-rich version through URL rewriting. To separate words in URLs, use a hyphen “-” instead of other separators such as underscores or spaces. Internal links help your visitors navigate and search engines check the importance of particular sites. It is recommended to use absolute and not relative links (www.website.com/page instead of /page). Finally, you need to upload a sitemap in .xml format to support search engines and ensure that all your pages are indexed.
HTML meta tags provide information to search engines
Meta tags are partially invisible lines of code that describe the content of a website. It helps search engines rank your page and is an essential part of your SEO efforts. Unique meta tags are an essential part of every page on your website. Meta tag management includes page title, page description, and keywords. The lines of your meta tags belong to the main section of your code.
The page title should include the brand name and the most important keywords (eg, main keyword + category | brand name). Limit the length of the title to 65 – 75 characters, depending on the browser. It is visible to the human eye in search results and in browser tabs. The page description can be up to 150 characters long and is also visible in search results. It is important to give unique titles and descriptions to each of your pages. Keyword meta tags are only visible to search engines and have lost some importance in recent years. Still, it doesn’t hurt to include them. You should not exceed 7 keywords per page.
Another type of metadata is Rich Snippets: descriptions of your page, which are visible in search engines. Rich Snippets are structured markups that provide search engines with information about people, products, reviews, businesses, recipes, and events. It is highly recommended to include Rich Snippets on your website to make it appear more user-friendly in search results. Schema.org provides 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 understand unreadable media, such as images, videos, or flash. Especially images are an important factor in SEO and need short but descriptive Alt attributes. Also think of a meaningful file name for the images and include a title tag, which becomes visible when you mouse over them. Anchor text for media is best when it is descriptive, avoid “click here” or “article”.
Content relevant to your target group
After setting up the basic SEO architecture of your website, it’s all about your content. People who visit your website to view content and search engines try to find the best matches for your users’ search queries. You need to offer suitable content so that it is relevant to your target group. On the other hand, your content should be searchable, based on keywords. Therefore, think about the search terms that people would use to find your products or services. What you need is to find these keywords and know how to correctly integrate them into your content.
Tracking and Integration of Keywords
All search engines work with keyword indexes. You need to find keywords that have fairly low competition to make it easier to achieve higher rankings in search results. “Long tail” keywords produce billions of different search queries, but often convert better as visitors with specific searches are closer to making a buying decision. Try to track and attract qualitative visitors instead of large numbers.
If there are a lot of search ads in your search query, it usually indicates 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 is getting per day or month, and how dense the competition is. Wordtracker is also a good tool to get keyword suggestions and statistics. Another way to get search term ideas is from your competitors. See what keywords they are targeting while reading their meta tags in the source code.
Once you have found the right keywords for your website, you need to use them accordingly. As described before, they are effective on titles, text, and metadata. Focus on one or two keywords per page. These words must 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, the headers and spread it in your content. Again, keep your content readable for visitors and don’t over-stuff keywords. Only people who find what they were looking for on your website have the potential to convert it into a sale.
Blogs guarantee the quality and freshness of the content
Your keywords are only worth something when they are embedded in rich content. Great content is still the best way to develop higher search engine rankings. The best way to guarantee fresh and qualitative content is to write a blog. Offering solutions, advice, answers, or insights to satisfy visitors’ search intent 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 on its own and will be covered in a later post. For now, just a few basic ideas about blogging from an SEO perspective:
- The blog post title must be unique and less than 75 characters.
- Blog post summary in 150 characters
- Integrated RSS feed makes it easy to keep returning visitors up to date
- Social sharing buttons help spread the word about your content
- Engage readers to comment on articles
- Write easy-to-read text primarily for humans, not search engines.
- Create fresh and unique posts.
- Focus on one or two keywords per post