The easiest way to optimize your website for better search engine ranking is probably by doing proper on page SEO for your website. This article is written with the aim of helping both newbies as well as experienced SEO professionals with some advanced techniques.
Before you decide to optimize your webpage with any strategies mentioned here, I want you to understand one simple concept. The idea behind optimizing the webpage is not just to appear on top of search results. It should be done to improve the usability of your site so that users get what they want. If you need to make a trade-off between SEO and usability, don’t be afraid to give priority to your users.
Table of Contents
- How a Good On Page Optimized Site Should Look Like?
- Tips and Tricks
- Mistakes to Avoid
- Web Page Optimization Myths
- Technical Aspects
- Advanced SEO Tactics
- Videos You Should Watch
- More Resources
Introduction to On Page SEO
On page SEO or page optimization for search engines is one of the factors that decide how well your website ranks in search engines. Since search engines are the best way to acquire customers at zero cost, you’d want to make it as easy as possible for search engines to crawl and rank your site.
Here’s what makes on page search engine optimization even more important. As you might already know, SEO comprises of mainly off page and on page optimizations. In most cases, we’ll be able to fully control only on page SEO factors and thus you run a higher chance of getting penalized for any tricks you use to “game the system”.
There are a lot of factors that you can optimize to rank better. Here are some of the factors involved
- Keywords in meta-tags such as title tag, meta-description tag, alt tags, and heading tags
- Keywords in URL, domain name
- Keyword order, proximity and prominence
- External links, URL canonicalization
- Keyword usage
- Size of page and loading time
- Freshness of contents, content uniqueness and value
- Age of domain
- Type of content on the page, readability level
The factors can change over time and I will update them as necessary. The above list just gives a brief overview. As you can see, there are a lot of keyword associated factors. If you are not fully aware about how to generate great keywords, read my keyword research guide which is over 6000 words long!!!
On Page SEO Tips and Tricks
- Always make sure that each page on your website has a unique title and description. I probably won’t worry too much about keyword meta tag since they are not used by most search engines
- Ensure that you have a sitemap on your website. This helps search engine robots crawl deep pages on your website
- If you haven’t registered a domain name already, try to get a domain name with keyword in it. However, try to avoid domains with hyphens or numbers just because you wanted a keyword rich domain. Also go for a brandable or semi brandable domain if you cannot directly get a keyword domain. It’s to be noted that keyword domains have an unfair advantage in Google rankings
- Title tag less than 60 characters, description tag less than 150 characters. That should be your goal for each page
- Include keywords in your title tag, description tag (not useful for SEO, but good for usability), and header tags. The closers the keyword is to the beginning of these tags, the better
- Every image in your page must have an alt tag and should include the keyword in it. For maximum page optimization, use the primary keyword as the file name
- Old is gold. Age of domain is something that cannot be manipulated. Older the domain name, better the chance of ranking the site
- Unique content wins. Make sure that the content on your page is unique. Check the uniqueness of your page with a free tool like copyscape
- Freshness wins. Search engines love fresh content and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to start a blog for your website to feed the search engines with fresh content regularly
- Optimize your sites to load faster. Google officially acknowledged that faster loading sites are preferred for better rankings
- Include keywords towards the beginning, middle and end of your web page content
- Keyword prominence is important. This means that keywords need to appear towards the top of the page
- Try to include keywords in your site URL if you are trying to rank an inner page
- Link out to trusted and authority sites. Link to other sites with relevant keywords and search engines will reward you
- Not using rel=”no follow attribute”. You must use this attribute in your external links if those are advertisements or affiliate links
- Leaving dead links on your page. If any of your external or internal links point to a page that returns a 404 error code (meaning the page intended was not found probably because it was removed or moved to another place), you are losing page optimization points. Run a frequent site audit for broken/dead links and remove them or update them
- Over optimization. Don’t just stuff keywords wherever possible. Make sure that the keywords are relevant to the context
- Not making the site easy to read. Google factors reading ability in the rankings. You can see that Google provides an option to filter results based on readability standards
- Try deceptive tactics such as link cloaking, doorway pages, scraping contents, hiding links in documents, and other such practices
- Excessive linking out. It’s good that you decide to link out to other sites, but Google suggests that you keep links to a maximum of 100 on a page. However, in my experienced I have seen sites and pages with far more links outrank sites with fewer links. So it’s not really that important unless you are linking to questionable sites
- Speaking of questionable sites, don’t link to content farms, links farms or other not so trust worthy sites
- Not doing anything in the tips section
Ah, a topic that goes well with any other topic. I can’t imagine a topic without a myth associated with it and on page SEO is not different.
Myth #1: Duplicate content penalizes your site.
No. Duplicate content does not penalize your site. If your site has content syndicated from elsewhere, your site will not be penalized. Instead, search engines will pick one result and show. However, I have seen several cases where syndicated content appeared on the first page for more than 3 spots.
If you have duplicate content on your site, that’s something you need to be worried about. Ensure that you apply URL canonicalization to prevent any issues of duplicate content within your own site. There are cases where a site can have the same content appearing in multiple places. Think of an article belonging to multiple categories in a site.
Myth #2: The optimal keyword density is 2%-3%
While this myth has been doing the round for quite some times, I really don’t believe that keyword density has anything to do with on page optimization. A popular example is when you search for “click here” without the quotes; we go to adobe’s PDF reader site which has 0 occurrences of the word click here.
However, if your keyword density is in the range of 10% or more, you might need to check why your keywords are appearing so frequently. Is it natural or are you trying to artificially make the keyword relevant to the page? If it’s natural, I won’t really worry too much about it. If not, bring it down.
Myth #3: Use the keyword meta-tag
Search engines don’t rely on keyword meta-tags nor do users see it. So why should you bother with it in the first place? Enough said.
Myth #4: Link out less and you will keep the link love to your own site
This has been proved wrong. Search engines do value your external links. If you page links to trusted and authority sites, your page stands a better chance of being seen as a quality resource.
Myth #5: Optimize description tag with keywords
Search engines like Google do not use description tag for ranking. It’s good when you want to have control over what gets displayed in search results and for usability. However, it’s not guaranteed that 100% of the time only your description will be shown. I have seen my pages on other sites shown with other description pulled from my page based on the query.
Below is a list of HTML code snippets that you will find helpful for implementing many of the on page optimization strategies mentioned in this article.
- <title>Insert title text here. Make sure it’s relevant to the site and includes the keyword as well.</title>
- <meta name=”robots” content=”nofollow” /> This code goes in the head section and <a href=”URL” rel=”nofollow”>anchor text</a> goes along with links
- <meta name=”description” content=”Enter a brief description about your page here. Make it informative enough for users to click through” />
- <link rel=”canonical” href=”Include the URL of the main page here. This should go in the head section of the duplicate pages. Remember this works similar to 301 redirects, but does not physically redirect a user” />
Advanced On Page SEO Tactics
Tactic #1: Use Rel=”Canonical” Tag
Rather than letting Google decide which duplicate page to show the users, now you can have control over your sites duplicate pages. You may have several of the same URL’s pointing to a same page. This is very common for blogs with multiple categories and also for ecommerce sites.
You can specify the canonical tag on the all other pages other than the main page. You must place the tag in the head section of the page document. For more information about canonical tags, refer to this Google page.
Tactic #2: Utilize Dublin Core Meta Data Elements
This is more of a “what-if” or” you-never-know” approach to on page optimization. Dublin core is yet another standard that you can use on your site which is similar to meta-tags. Although usage of this will not have an immediate effect on search rankings, it MIGHT have an effect in the future.
Below is the Dublin core elements I would have used for this page if I were to use it on my site.
<link rel=”schema.DC” href=”http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/”>
<meta name=”DC.title” content=”: A Definitive Guide for Better Search Rankings”>
<meta name=”DC.description” content=”My insight about .”>
<meta name=”DC.subject” content=”, mistakes, advice”>
<meta name=”DC.language” scheme=”ISO639-1? content=”en”>
Tactic #3: Make Usability a Top Priority
You might as well know that Google has quality raters who manually rate sites. Imagine what would happen if a quality rater reaches your site and see you doing over optimization, keyword stuffing and other sneaky tactics in an intelligent way? Sure there may be technologies to fool search engine crawlers, but can you cheat manual reviewers?
Let’s leave the case with manual reviews. Assume a user lands on your page and sees little or no value on your site. They would immediately move away from your site without doing any action which you would have liked them to do such as subscribe to your list or purchase your service or maybe even read till the end.
The reason why I listed this as advanced tactic is because most people only seem to care for anything advanced. I know a lot of people who claim to know SEO or even say are SEO experts when they cannot even rank for the simplest of terms. So, putting this point as advanced might, to some extent, reinforce the idea that SEO is not just about traffic, but also about user experience.
Tactic #4: Anchor Text Variation for Internal Links
Google and other search engines only take into consideration the first anchor text that they encounter in a page for a particular link. Say you have 1 link to your home page on the navigation with the text “home”, 1 link in the body with anchor text “example” and another link in the footer with anchor text “awesome”, search engines will only take into consideration the first encountered anchor text “home” and ignore the rest.
Another point you want to consider is that if a page has more than one link to an external domain in your page, only the first link will pass any major link juice to the external domain. The later links, even if are to different pages of the same external domain will pass little or no link juice to the other domain.
Tactic #5: Target Only As Many Keywords As Required for A Page
One of the most common concerns people have with choosing a keyword to target a page is when it comes to how many keywords to choose. If you have a health site, you may target a single page for the terms “diet” and “weight loss” by using title and description as “Weight loss through Diet” or something along those lines.
The intention of the people searching for both keywords might not be 100% the same, but still it’s OK to target a single page. However, if you have a keyword “weight gain” and “weight loss”, you should build independent pages for these sites as they are independent keywords.
Tactic #6: Utilize Keywords Properly
Aside from all the basic aspects such as not stuffing keywords and placing the keywords towards the beginning, I would like to expand on keyword usage a bit more.
When you use keywords in the URL, try to make it as short as possible while still conveying the meaning and ensuring keyword is present in the URL. You might want to remove common words like a, the, and etc.
Try to separate keyword in URL with hyphens rather than any other symbols (I have seen a lot of + and underscores being used to do this). Even though Google is getting better at differentiating words, it would be better if we stick to the hyphens for making it simple.
Use LSI keywords in your content. It helps boost the pages content relevancy. You may also want to include keyword variations in your page. Websites that use words that are semantically connected are ranked better than those that are not.
Tactic #7: Improve Your Site Architecture and Usability
It greatly helps if you can improve your sites architecture and usability for on page SEO. Not only are you making it easier for users to find what they want, you are also making it easier for search engines to find and index your site properly.
Users of content management systems like Joomla, WordPress etc. need not worry much about site architecture since they are also configured out-of-the-box. However if you have a very large static site, you may want to SILO your site. For more information on SILO, you can read this article by Bruce clay Marketing.
Google is constantly looking at how users are interacting with your site. Even though Matt Cutts, head of Web spam division at Google claimed that his team does not use data from the Google Analytics team, they have a lot of other sources to gather usage data from; Google chrome, Android devices, and much more.
Google can also look at bounce rate to judge the quality of your site. Although a bounce can never be a precise indicator of poor quality, certain patterns like many users going away from your site and spending time on other related sites might give the impression that they are doing things better than you. Although I cannot prove that it’s currently happening, I see no reason as to why Google will not use such signals to rank data. They already personalize our search results, so why not this?
Tactic #8: Optimize for Local Searches
You know Google strongly personalizes your search results. So, if someone from Manchester is looking to buy a car, chances are that the results from companies in or around Manchester are going to be more relevant to the user.
You can optimize for local searches by including your business in Google places or including address in your website. I will be writing more in-depth articles about local SEO as I have been experimenting with it for my real estate business website. But that’s for another time.
Tactic #9: Optimize Where It Matters
Make sure you link to all your important pages from the home page as most of the time home pages have the maximum authority compared to the other pages in a domain. At the same time, try to avoid footer links, sidebar links for the purpose of SEO. Google gives very little or no value to such links and you will be wasting your time trying to optimize them.
Although it may not be very evident, search engines trust sites with such pages more than sites which do not have such pages. The reasoning is quite valid. A website that has nothing to hide is beneficial for the users and thus for the search engines as well.
Tactic #11: Employ Copywriting Techniques on Your Title
While this may not be a very direct approach for on page SEO optimization, employing copywriting techniques for your title tags ensure readers click though to your site. High click though can indicate higher relevancy. Also, with shorter attention spans online, you should make the best of all resource to get eye balls to your page.
That being said, a click through is only good if the content delivers on the promise. So if you entice the user to click on the website link and land on your page to find nothing but irrelevant information or deceptive information, people will be annoyed and jump back. Now, would search engines want to deliver poor quality results? You decide!
Tactic #12: Don’t Rely on Any Tactic Too Long
Although I haven’t given any shady tactic here, you shouldn’t try to apply all aspects for each of your pages for the sake of it (If you do, good for you). Don’t wait for anything to be perfect. What may be valid one day may not be valid the next day. So just get out there and get things done.
- Tools to help you find broken links: Xenu’s Link Sleuth (Desktop based tool), Broken Link Check (Online Tool)
- Online tools that grade your on page SEO efforts: Marketing Grader
- Useful Tools for Measure User Engagement on Your Site: Google Analytics (FREE), CrazyEgg (Paid)