The need to know: On-page SEO
Like a suitor romancing a lady, your website needs to contend for Google’s affection
Here are the on-page factors involved in this passionate pursuit.
In part 1 of this series (also see part 3), we discussed what SEO (search engine optimisation) is all about and why this is something your business’ website can’t live without. We will now move on to look at how one would go about to achieve a high-ranking position on a search engine’s results page.
Being on good terms with Google inevitably comes with a great deal of ongoing research, as their SEO “rules” and the competition’s strategy are constantly changing. It will also imply that your website meets certain standards and that regular changes and updates are done. SEO is thus quite similar to a courtship – it takes loads of effort to get to know what makes your mademoiselle tick (and this might change from day to day), then to woo her, persistently secure her interest and keep the rivals at bay. There are two sides to this SEO romance: on-page and off-page factors. In this part of the series we will focus on the former. Although on-page SEO generally accounts for less of the success than off-page SEO, it is still crucial to your campaign. So, let’s take a look at how to romance a search engine, using on-page techniques related to content and architecture.
We all know how important words and appearances are in a relationship. Your website’s copy, pictures, videos, infographics, graphs, etc. play a big role in how Google views you. Your content sends out signals to search engines which they use to determine how relevant your website is: weak signals won’t bring you very far, yet overly strong signals might seem suspicious. Sounds familiar – right, guys?
Two elements to focus on regarding content are quality and keywords.
Is your content unique?
Search engines despise copy-pasting and have ways to detect it. (It’s like sending your woman a love letter written by another man – shame on you!)
Is your content fresh?
You need to update your content regularly. It’s the SEO version of saying “I love you” on a daily basis. Also, keep up with hot topics!
Do you have sufficient, meaningful content “above the fold”?
Viewers immediately need to see important content when they land on your page without having to scroll down. Don’t play hard to get! Moreover, ad-heavy content above the fold will cost you points – ulterior motives are a real passion killer.
Is your content not too “thin”?
Like with any declaration of love, you need substance: make it gripping and of adequate length.
Is your content visual?
Although not the most important factor, visual (or any form of multimedia) content will win you favour, especially because it can reduce bounce rate and increase time on site. Looks aren’t everything in a relationship, but they sure do count.
You want people to find your page when they type related search keywords into Google – i.e. the “matchmaker” will need to connect the search words with your page. By implication, you need relevant, descriptive keywords on your website in order to stand out as a good match.
To use a very elementary example – let’s say you are selling food for pet dragons… You want people to find your business when they search for “dragon food” online.
What to aim for?
Keywords in your URL make a really good first impression.
Example: The fictional URL https://www.petdragonfood.com contains the crucial keywords “pet dragon food”.
Keywords in your page title, <h1> and <h2> tags are also good pick-up lines.
It is especially good if the keywords are close to the beginning of the title and if the title is inside an <h1> (HTML) tag. Example: A landing page with the title “Great dragons need great food”, wrapped in an <h1> tag, and the subheading “Your pet dragon’s diet is the key to his health, happiness and obedience”, wrapped in <h2>, will accomplish this.
Having keywords in internal anchor texts
Internal anchor texts are the visible words in a link to another location on your own site) is another SEO aphrodisiac. Example: If the underlined words in “Learn more about your dragon’s ideal diet” will lead to another page on your website, discussing a dragon’s optimal food intake, then this would be an example of a keyword-containing internal anchor text. Consider dropping keywords in the first 100 words of your text and maintaining a balanced keyword frequency (high keyword density without keyword stuffing – like striking the balance between mentioning your good qualities to the object of your affection without constant bragging).
Scattering LSI keywords (synonyms) in your text
Example: Do not only use “food”, but “nourishment”, “diet”, “rotten snake flesh” – or whatever it is dragons eat? – etc. Same for “pet dragons” – alternate with “domesticated fantastical creatures”, etc.)
Keywords in image file names (as well as alt tags and descriptions)
This also scores points with Google. Example: Underneath your picture of a dragon devouring a big bowl of food, “dragon_eating_food.jpeg” may be a good title.)
Add modifiers to titles to create long-tail keywords
Make it more specific rather than general. Although this might seem to limit the potential visitors to your page, it actually means that you are targeting your intended audience. Example: The underlined modifiers in “The best snake-based food for medium-sized, Ethiopian dragons” will channel more specific, useful traffic to your site.
Keywords are needed in your meta description
The meta discription is the short summary of your page’s content – to prove the relevancy of the page.
Keywords in bold or italics bear slightly more weight.
The way your site is built and how it functions are hugely important when it comes to SEO. Your site’s infrastructure determines visitors’ experience and possibilities to engage. Designing a website is like setting up the perfect date – your target should have a pleasant time and it should create the desire to interact while also making this easily possible.
How does one captivate Google in this respect?
Responsive, mobile-friendly design.
Optimal viewing and interaction on any type of device is crucial to SEO – just like optimal interaction with your sweetheart from any platform (restaurant, cinema, park bench…) is crucial on a date.
Site speed and availability.
Page unavailability or long loading-time is really unattractive to Google. I mean, making your date wait or standing her up altogether is simply bad manners. Start with a reliable hosting provider.
Interlinking pages on your site in an authentic way, with appropriate anchor texts, is very important, but should not be overdone. Compare it to an evening that smoothly navigates from one thing (strolling the city) to another (having dinner) to another (watching a movie together).
Links to other relevant pages help Google figure out what your page is really about. Think of it as introducing your date to your relatives to get a better idea of who you are.
No broken links.
Broken internal or outbound links spoil your image. Deliver on your promises!
Social sharing buttons.
More shares of your content up your chances to generate links to your pages from other sites, which is one of the best SEO assets! It’s like having other people testify to the person you are pursuing about how great you are!
Flawless HTML code.
Google won’t penalise you too much for a few errors (just like any nice lady won’t dismiss a guy completely for spilling wine on her dress), but mistakes – especially a whole lot of them – will surely count against you in the end. Although much has been said, this is not even an exhaustive list of all the factors to keep in mind when planning your on-page SEO flirtation with Google. Figuring out which elements to focus on most is part of the romantic science of SEO. Luckily, there are SEO experts out there who already spent a lot of time on understanding Google’s heart.
Hopefully you now have a better grasp of how intrigued and complicated love… I mean SEO can be. In the next part of this series we will look at off-page SEO, which is even more important in your pursuit to win over the search engines.