Basics of On-Page SEO
A great SEO strategy is focused on getting your entire website to rank well. Rather than using generic keywords across all of your pages, you can tailor your SEO page-by-page, giving each individual webpage the best shot at performing well in SERPs.
That’s what on page SEO is all about. When you focus on these SEO elements on each page of your website, you can spread the SEO wealth and work to get multiple pages ranking for specific, targeted keywords. Here are the elements of on-page SEO that every business should be thinking about.
Create a Legible URL
Every URL on your website should be short, sweet, and keyword-rich. Establishing the keywords for your homepage and main product pages are usually straightforward. Your homepage will likely be your business name. Your product pages might feature the names of the specific products. Your contact page should say just that in the URL.
Things sometimes get a bit more complicated when you’re creating URLs for content pages. How do you name each blog post? What’s the best URL for your latest podcast episode? The same basic principles apply here.
Keep the URLs as short as possible. Write them in plain english, avoiding number or letter sequences that might represent dates or mean something to your team behind the scenes, but that will read as gibberish to an outsider. And include relevant keywords in a way that makes sense. Don’t simply stuff keywords into URLs for the sake of hitting an arbitrary keyword goalpost.
Craft a Keyword-Rich Title
Each page on your website should also have its own title. Don’t get your title confused with your blog post headline; they’re two different things. Your headline is what appears at the top of your post, whereas your title is an attribute that affects your search engine ranking.
A title is the blue header that appears in Google search results, so you want it to be matter-of-fact and contain a relevant keyword early on. While blog post headlines should be created to entice the reader and draw them in, your title should cut right to the chase. What is this page about? The title will be read by both human prospects and customers as well as Google’s robots, which are looking to understand the content of your page.
There are a number of tools out there designed to help you create an effective SEO title for each of your website’s pages. If yours is a WordPress site, I’d highly recommend the Yoast plugin.
Write an Enticing Description
Your description is the other half of your SERPs metadata. While your title is the blue link that Google searchers click on to travel to your page, the description is the blurb underneath that gives them more information about what they can expect to find on the page.
As I said above, your title should be matter-of-fact; it’s the description where you can get creative and really work to draw the reader in. I like to think of descriptions as an ad for the page itself. In SEO strategies of yore, people tried to stuff as many keywords into descriptions as possible, thinking they’d trick the search engines into ranking the page higher based on their keyword-heavy word salad.
In reality, it’s the descriptions that are written for your audience, not search engine bots, that will win out. When your descriptions draw readers in, they click on the blue link. And actual attention from real readers is better than sneaky attempts to cram keywords in where they shouldn’t be.
Descriptions are another metadata component that the Yoast plugin can help with. The plugin allows you to change the description for each page, so that you’re not stuck with generic information that Google pulls from your site.
Include SEO Elements in Images
Images can do more than add visual interest to your website. By doing a little bit of behind-the-scenes work on your images, you can put them to work for your SEO strategy.
Whenever you include an image on your website, give the file a keyword rich title. If you run a lawn care business and are including a photo of a garden you worked on, rather than leaving the image file as the date the photo was taken, change it to something like “[Business name] garden care Denver Colorado.”
The same approach should be taken when including Alt text on images. Alt text is designed to help search engines understand what an image is about. A rich Alt text description that includes relevant keywords is yet another way to signal to search engines just what this specific page on your website is about.
Focus on H1 Headings
When you think about how you want to organize your on-page content, you should consider both human and robot audiences.
Think about how to divide the content up in a way that makes it easy for readers to understand. Let’s return to the lawn care company example. Say you’re writing a blog post about how to eliminate common lawn and garden pests. Before you write the post, create an outline. Where do you need to start when it comes to explaining this topic? What basics should you include for those who know nothing about lawn care? Consider the most sensible order in which to present the information.
With the lawn pest example, maybe you start by outlining signs a reader’s lawn might have a problem, with descriptions and photos to help them figure out just what kind of pest might be causing their particular issue. Then, you can detail specific courses of treatment for each type of pest.
Once you’ve decided how to divide up your content for reader usability, you want to think about how to organize that information in an SEO-friendly manner. Your headline should become an H1 heading. Your sub-points should be H2 headings, and bullet points can help organize information under each subcategory. While this strategy for organizing content makes it easier for readers to skim and settle on the information they’re looking for, it also helps Google to better understand your content.
Include Internal and External Links
A well-optimized page will include both internal and external links. Including internal links to other pages with relevant content can help Google to better understand how all of your content is related. When you include internal links, make sure the anchor text has keywords in it. That can boost your rankings with search engines.
Some people are hesitant to include external links on their site: “Won’t that just drive traffic away from me and to someone else’s business?” In reality, high-authority external links create a better user experience and are good for SEO. When you can draw a connection between your brand and a well-established and respected business’s page, it benefits you in the eyes of both your prospects and search engines’ algorithms.
On-page SEO is a critical component in your overall SEO strategy. It’s all well and good to have broad SEO goals for your site, but you also want to optimize each page individually to give it the greatest chance at standing out in SERPS in its specific area of focus.
If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to SEO.