Every small business wants to rank on the first page of the search engine results. Ranking on page one increases traffic to your website and, ultimately the chance of new customers finding you. But that doesn’t happen without investing in SEO. Implementing basic on-page SEO can be the difference between finding your next customer or them finding you.
What is on-page SEO?
On-page SEO is focused on optimizing each and every page of your website in order to rank higher in the search engine results pages. It is a component of an inbound marketing strategy that helps increase traffic to your website by increasing the visibility of your content in the search engine results. Since search engines deliver results based on their opinion of best fit for the query, you need to make sure that they understand the context of your content and that you are the most credible option.
This simple task helps both the search engine and the human. It helps the search engine better understand the content and context of your web pages. It helps the human to know what your web page is about when it appears in the search engine results. This helps drive more relevant traffic to your website.
If you write for the human and then implement the proper optimization for the search engines, your content will naturally become more visible.
Although simple to implement, many still take the lazy road and omit this piece of the process from their content marketing activities.
On-page SEO tips
Investing in original, quality content creation is no longer an option if you are serious about inbound marketing. Rather than play games with search engines, provide them what they want, written in a way that helps them index and rank your content more effectively. Develop a solid SEO content strategy for your business and produce the content your audience truly wants.
When you write the content for your website, it’s important to follow SEO best practices. Keep these following on-page SEO tips handy. The more you do them, the more they will become a habit, implementing them as you write.
Start with keyword research
Keyword research is one of the most important and valuable activities in marketing. It is the process of discovering the words people use to search and using that data to create your content marketing strategy. Those searches may be informational for research purposes or product and service related.
The goal of keyword research is to find suitable keyword phrases that align with your business offerings. You need to understand the user intent of the search and then provide optimized content so it ranks for those terms. Understanding what questions are being asked by your target prospects can also provide ideas for your blog posts and other content.
But keyword research is more than just finding words you can use to optimize your content. It also gives you insights into the needs of your target market.
Come up with a list of the top 10 keyword phrases that you absolutely want to rank high in the search engine results. Then focus on using those appropriately on your site, especially on your pages. For your blog posts, you most likely will have a longer list of keywords that you want to use for blog categories.
Quality content written to focus on specific keywords has several benefits:
- Content will meet the needs of your audience
- Clearly written content will enable your audience to better understand what you are writing about
- Search engines can index your content specifically for how you want to be found
Write quality content using variations on your main keyword phrase
SEO always includes the statement “create quality content”. Great, but what is quality content? It’s content that:
- Educates and entertains your audience
- Adds value to your website
- Encourages visitors to share it with others.
Quality content is determined by intimately knowing your target audience and providing content that is useful to them in some way. And yes, quality content also means grammatically correct with no typos.
But one thing is for certain – creating quality content is not an option. It is the marketing fuel that accelerates your visibility, determines your reputation, trust and authority and drives more search engine traffic.
Plan your content using an editorial calendar, you will be sure to write about a diverse set of topics relevant to your industry.
- Make each page or post of your website about a specific topic, which naturally optimizes the page.
- Incorporate the most important keywords early in the copy (within the first 50 – 100 words).
- Create long form, evergreen or cornerstone content as it ranks better than short.
Use heading tags (H1 through H6) strategically on your page
Use of heading tags in your content helps your content for both SEO and usability.
- The reader skim your content for areas of interest
- The search engine relevancy by comparing the heading to the content below
You should only have one heading 1 (h1 tag) on your page and that heading should contain your primary keyword phrase. Plus your h1 tags should be unique across all pages and posts.
Use heading 2 through 6 to break up the content to make it easier to read. Use your keywords in the headings naturally – do not practice keyword stuffing in the headings (or anywhere) ever!
Optimize your images (one of the most forgotten SEO tactic)
Including images in your content helps the user experience. But you can strengthen your on-page SEO by optimizing the images as well.
- Rename your image to include your primary keyword phrase
- Include your primary keyword in the alt text (and don’t forget to fill this in)
- Add a unique title to the image that stays relevant to the content
- Resize your images to ensure they are lightweight and load quickly
Search engines do look at the alt tags as another piece of data to determine the focus of your page.
Link to other content internally and externally
When you are writing content, you should have a mix of both external links to quality content and internal links to other content on your website.
Linking internally makes it easy for search engines to navigate. Internal links also helps the human to find more content to investigate, keeping them on your website longer.
But you should also link externally to other sites. Linking to reputable websites and supporting content provides your readers with additional information. And don’t over do your external links. Too many links that keep sending visitors to another site can be frustrating. Plus overtime, some of those links may disappear, causing broken links and a poor user experience.
Optimize anchor text strategically (and smartly)
Anchor text are the words you use to link to another piece of content. Crafting the text you use to link to content for both internal and external links can have a positive effect on your ranking.
Done wrong, however, and your site can be penalized.
How should you link to content?
- Make the link feel natural to the flow of your content. As seen above, I used “optimizing your images” as the anchor text to a blog post on image optimization.
- Don’t overdo keyword-rich anchor text. Keep the anchor text in context with the content but mix it up.
- Avoid generic links such as “click here”. Don’t waste an opportunity to be more descriptive.
- When embedding links into your content, use naked URLs, brand names or phrases that relate to what you are linking to.
Make sure this text is created naturally. If your link text looks like you forced your keywords into them, they are over-optimized.
Anchor Text: Types, SEO Implications, and Best Practices from SEO PowerSuite
Create unique page titles using relevant keywords.
Although the goal is to write content targeted at the human, there are some specific things you can do to help the search engines understand how to better index each page of your site. On-page optimization is a technique that puts keywords in the right places to help search engines identify the context of the page.
The title meta tag is the most important tag on your page. The content in the title tag is what is displayed in search engine results in organic listings and in the tab of your browser. Make your title unique for every page. Remove your website name in your title tags for your content pages. Use that space for better, optimized titles.
Unlike humans that think of your Website as one entity, search engines rank each page independently and the title tag helps it determine what the page is about, which is then compared to the rest of the page.
You should be using an SEO plugin for WordPress. I prefer Yoast SEO but there are others that are also quite good. These plugins provide help optimizing the important parts of your content. Yoast SEO create your XML sitemap and a robots.txt file, adds schema.org information, applies “noindex” to the appropriate pages of your website and more.
Control the content that shows up in the search engine results
The meta description is important for increasing traffic to your website. Even though a study finds Google ignores meta descriptions over 70% of the time for pages on the first page of search results, it is still important to write your own. Writing quality descriptions for each page and post can increase click-through rates from the search engine results pages to your website. If you let the search engines pick the content for the descriptive text, you may not have the best content shown.
Create unique meta descriptions that represent the content of the page. The description should be a concise, keyword rich statement and call to action to encourage the reader to click through to your website.
Tips for writing meta description tags:
- Be specific about what is on the page or post so users know what they will get if they click
- Use your primary keyword phrase in the meta description
- Include a call to action for web pages, including a phone number if relevant
- Keep the description to around 155 characters so it appears in the search results completely
So although search engines don’t use the meta description directly for indexing data, a well-written meta-description will give the reader a reason to visit your site. Yoast SEO plugins help you write them more effectively.
Adding your keywords naturally to your writing, linking to other quality content, adding alt and title tags to your images and formatting your content for easy reading will add to the quality of your content.
Create keyword rich page and post URLs
WordPress creates page and post URLs based on the titles used. Therefore, think about what you want to call the page that gets you the most benefits.
Having a services page is nice, but everyone has a services page so what does that do for you?
Turn your “Services” page into one that is more descriptive “Inbound Marketing Services” or “Personal Training Services“. When WordPress creates the permalink, it will create the following:
Now when someone is searching for personal training services or inbound marketing services, your page will have a much better chance of showing up in the results.
For blog posts, let the URL be formed from the post title unless your title is long. For this post, I shortened the URL to /on-page-seo/, using my focus keyword phrase.
Add your XML Sitemap to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools
Your sitemap tells the search engines where to find your content to ensure that the important pages on the site get indexed. This is especially important on websites where content changes frequently (i.e. your Blog) or have a large number of pages. Yoast SEO plugin creates the sitemap for you. Customize your sitemap and only tell the search engines to index the pages and posts. Add no-index to pages you don’t want to have indexed.
Install Google Analytics and set up Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools
Knowing if your SEO is working is important. Doing the optimization is great but you need to know if it is effective.
Google Analytics provides the search data you need to see if you are getting more traffic. If you aren’t seeing an increase in traffic to your website, you may have some issues that need to be resolved.
Google Analytics provides a wealth of information. But I suggest you keep it simple and pay attention to website traffic at first. You can get overwhelmed with the amount of data it provides.
Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools can also provide information on issues with your website like 404 pages, mobility issues, pages crawled but not indexed or other technical mistakes that may have been made.
There are many reasons why you should block search engines from indexing a page, such as duplicate content via the category archives. But you should periodically check the list of excluded pages under the coverage report to make sure those pages that are excluded are done so on purpose.
Here’s a very complete guide to Google Search Console that explains the tool in great detail.
Keep your site structure simple.
Your website navigation should make it easy for visitors to find what they are looking for quickly. From the homepage, keep your content within 3 levels of the homepage. If humans can’t find your content, neither will the search engines. Important content should be linked directly from the homepage.
How important is on-page SEO?
Why spend time writing content if it isn’t visible?
Your content maybe awesome, but if no one knows about it, it’s useless.
Optimize images, remove unnecessary plugins, use minimal number of fonts and try to load them from your site directly rather than call them from Google fonts. Small changes can make a big difference in the performance of your website.
Don’t take short cuts. The goal of producing content is to help the searcher satisfy their need. And nothing feels better than having your phone ring and a prospect is calling you because they found you on the Internet and you helped them in some way.
Make it a habit to use these tips when you are doing the on-page SEO for your content. And if you need additional help, check out this 20 step guide to WordPress SEO. You will be rewarded with better search engine placements for greater visibility.