Once you have researched keywords that you wish to optimize your webpages for, it’s time to finally optimize your pages. This requires some knowledge but is actually very easy to do. We’re going to teach you the basics in this on-page optimization guide.
When doing on-page optimization, it’s important to be careful not to “over-optimize.” Google, Yahoo!, and Bing all want you to write your content for readers (not search engines), so don’t go overboard with on-page optimization. Too much over-optimization can make your site liable to get “penalized” by Google, in particular, with its various quality-focused algorithm updates.
Optimizing Metadata (Meta tags) + Rich Snippet Listings
There are 3 common meta-tags: meta-title, meta-description, and meta-keywords. While meta-tags will help you describe the content of each page to search engines, all but the meta-title have very little effect on how you rank in search engines. Consider these tips when constructing your meta-tags:
- Meta-title (aka “Page Title” or “Title Tag”): Keep it under 65 characters if you don’t want your title cut off in Google’s search results. Place your most important keywords toward the beginning of the meta title, if possible. This will be your headline for your search engine listing, and using your primary keywords here will influence how well you rank for them. Avoid the use of prepositions and other unnecessary words that will eat up space in your 55 character limit.
- Meta-description: Keep under 156 characters and use this as your sales pitch to potential visitors who are considering whether to click through to your page from the search results. While implementing keywords won’t directly impact your ranking, having a well-crafted, compelling message that also uses the keywords that potential visitors are searching for will help them to better connect with your brand and influence to click through to your page. By increasing your click-through rate from search results, it’s possible that search engines will rank your page higher over time.
- Meta-keywords: Search engines stopped using these over a decade ago. Do not use them.
Rich Snippet Listings are great for eCommerce websites, in particular, but also useful for websites with business locations, user reviews/ratings, directory information, facts and information about noteworthy people, etc. Search engines aren’t using all of them quite as much as they used to, and they continue to evolve, but you should experiment with implementation as they can help to maximize your click-through rate in the search results.
Use Header Tags to Create Subtitles
Many online editors mistakingly ignore the use of header tags (<h2>, <h3>, etc), which can have a positive effect on your search engine optimization efforts. While search engines have evolved over the years and rely less on keyword placement when ranking a page, it’s believed that search engines still give some extra weight to header tags along with other specially-formatted text (i.e. – boldfacing), as they are a clue to search bots on what the page content is about.
More importantly, however, it makes the content more easily scannable to your readers. That’s important. Users might not stay on your page very long if your content is not easily scannable. So, be sure to break up your page content with the use of header tags and implement your most important keywords here for both search engines and users.
Optimize Body Content with Keywords
Ever since the Google Panda Updates started rolling out, Google has put more and more importance on authoritative content. So, you should ensure that your web pages are full of as much detail about the topic of the page that you can provide to your reader, within reason. If you run an eCommerce store, your product pages probably don’t need 2,000 words of content. Users don’t need that much detail, and it’s likely not necessary when search engines and users compare your page(s) to the competition. However, most of your blog posts will likely need in-depth content with a higher word count. Different types of content have different types of content depth needs.
Here are some helpful tips to remember when writing your online content:
- Minimum of several hundred words per page (100+ words for product pages on eCommerce stores can often suffice). There is no magic number, however. Compare your page to the competition. Be better than them by offering more detail for the user. You’ll build their trust and search engines will value (rank) your page more as well.
- Focus on your 2-3 primary keywords within the body content, and use variations (i.e. – plural/singular, synonyms, etc.) in order to keep it reading naturally and expand the possibilities of your target customer finding you in search via long-tail search terms.
- Link to other pages on your website from the body content, using keyword-rich links or using keyword proximity (using related keywords around the links that you embed). This helps both search engines and users know what the page (that you’re linking to) is about and helps the pages to potentially rank higher in search engines.
- (Sparingly) use boldfaced and italicized formatting on key messages within your content (for emphasis) on a page, especially when using your target keywords for that specific page, in order to draw attention for readers and give extra weight to search engines. It’s believed that Google, Yahoo! and Bing give a little extra weight to specially-formatted words. Keep it reading naturally, however. The last thing you want to do is create an experience for your users where they feel that keywords are just jumping off of the page. That’s just gross.
- Focus on your most important keywords within the first few paragraphs of your web page content. It’s believed that search engines give extra weight to the content at the top of the page, as it’s most likely to tell the reader (and them) what the page is about.
- Keyword density was a common SEO practice used to ensure that your most repeated 1-word, 2-word, 3-word, and longer phrases were the actual keywords that you are focusing on. This was abused by spammers, and can potentially lead to “over-optimization” penalties or ranking demotions in search engines. It’s advised to simply write extensive, authoritative content for the reader, and this will most likely happen naturally. Just ensure that you don’t stray from your core topic within the page content.
Optimizing Images for SEO
Search engines can’t read images. However, search engines can read “alt tags” and “image title tags” which are part of the image code. This is a great place to accurately describe the image and use your keywords where they fit. While these image tags are not a major ranking factor, every little bit helps and they will increase your chances of driving traffic from Google Image Search. Here are suggested approaches to image tags:
- Image Alt Tags – Users will never see these image alt tags, but the image alt tag will be read to blind users by their browsers. Search engines use these to help with their ranking of the appropriate images for related image search terms. It’s best to keep these short and sweet. Use as few words as possible to accurately describe what the image is.
- Image Title Tags – Users will see these when they hover their mouse overtop the image on your web page. Make them compelling, use your keywords. A single sentence that gives context to the image (similar to captions) work well here.
Interlinking Content for SEO
As mentioned above, it’s important to interlink your content with keyword-rich anchor text within the body content…not just your navigation menu. Think about it. You have someone your site, they are scrolling down your page, and you’d like to keep them engaged. One way to keep them interested is by suggesting other pages to them while they are reading. This can be done in a number of ways with either text links or image links (i.e. – a “call to action” button).
This is an example of writing for your readers, and this is exactly what search engines want. So, when you interlink your content, the search bots will also follow those links when they crawl your site and come across these internal links. By linking to your other pages with keywords that describe the page, you’re also telling search engines (and readers) what the page is about, further improving the ability of those pages to rank for those keywords. Consider the search volume of keywords that you use in the anchor text, but keep it relevant…first and foremost.
For more information on building one way links for SEO, we recommend you read the article we just linked to right there. See how that works?