ON-PAGE SEO—A PRIMER
You can create effective SEO (Search Engine Optimization—see our SEO page) in a variety of ways, including off-page SEO such as back links. But off-page SEO will not do much good if you do not pay attention to on-page SEO (also called on-site SEO). On-page SEO is the pro's focus, and it should be yours, too.
But first, you must know what on-page SEO is and how changes in search affect it. So, let us start with the basics.
WHAT IS ON-PAGE SEO?
On-page SEO means crafting the written content on your site to maximize its search rankings, along with images, titles, subtitles, headlines, and HTML tags.
Search engines read your website and identify its ranking much more effectively with on-page SEO. Not using best practices in SEO means your site will rank low in searches, if it appears at all.
WHY DOES IT MATTER?
Increasing sophistication in search engine algorithms means search relevance and the syntax and semantics of your content increasingly drive the search process.
For example, Google, still the most commonly used search engine, has improved its ability to understand what searchers are really looking in a typed search query so that it can offer results that meet that real intent. For example, is the search about information, or is it about shopping, or is it really a navigational search?
Understanding this increasing search engine sophistication is essential for your site, so make sure its content—both user-visible content and content like HTML tags that are only visible to search engines—is optimized for search.
Finally, make sure the site is monitored and adapted regularly as search engines update.
BEST PRACTICES FOR CREATING STRONG ON-PAGE SEO
1. Do a Content Audit
Do not lose site of existing content in the drive to add new content: auditing existing content is crucial to on-site SEO. You can use this process to assess:
- ROI for pages (and winnow out under-performing pages or sections).
- timeliness and accuracy and freshness of content.
- opportunities for new content.
Regular audits should be part of your site maintenance plan.
2. E-A-T AT GOOGLE
Google evaluates and ranks web content using 3 main criteria: Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (EAT). These criteria determine what Google considers high-quality, high-value web sites and content. Does your site demonstrate these qualities with bylines and bios, credible and supported information, high-quality links, customer reviews, peer reviews, links to your site from others, and other signs of EAT?
EAT shapes Google search results and must be considered in any on-site SEO strategy.
3. USE GOOD HTML HEADER TAGS
While header tags–HTML code elements that differentiate headings and subheadings from other types of text such as paragraph text—are less important in search rankings than they once were, they still impact rankings and the user experience by creating:
- keyword-rich information about content for search engines.
- Easier to read and cleaner content for visitors.
4. CRAFT INTERESTING HEADLINES
If you want your site to pop and perform well in searches, use compelling headlines or titles.
A good headline makes all the difference in visitor attention and impression generation.
Headlines should pique interest and curiosity in order to stand out on SERPs and entice users to click through and continue reading your site.
5. OPTIMIZE IMAGES
For users and search engines, an appealing website has lots of images. Not just any images do the trick though, and some can even interfere with search and slow down your website. Adding SEO-friendly images that properly sized, support content, and have descriptive titles and tags can make a huge difference in traffic. Doing it right means:
- additional ranking opportunities (such as Google Image Search).
- better user experience.
- faster page load times.
6. AVOID KEYWORD CANNIBALIZATION
Many sites believe the more pages they have targeting a keyword, the higher their search rankings will be for that word. Unfortunately, they are wrong.
When your site has multiple pages in a search for the same keyword, you are actually competing against yourself, which can cause what is called “keyword cannibalization” and lower your search ranking.
Make sure keywords are used strategically and carefully—if not, resolve redundancies as soon as possible.
7. USE META DESCRIPTION
Meta descriptions or meta tags provide brief descriptions of pages that are often displayed in the SERPs underneath the pages’ titles.
While Google officially says meta descriptions do not affect rankings, anecdotal evidence suggests otherwise, and that they can improve click-through rate (CTR), user perceptions of the search results, and user perceptions of what a web site offers.
8. WRITE FOR USERS AND FOR SEARCH ENGINES
Writing for the best SEO is more than just keyword research and filling in template blanks.
Remember that it is ultimately about the user and your site as a destination once SEO has done its job—content should be high-quality, substantial, relevant, and value-added for the visitor.
9. DON’T FORGET TITLE TAGS
A title tag—an HTML tag—provides an initial cue about the material on its page and appears in in the head section of each web page.
Search results pages prominently display this tag in results, often both as the clickable link and in the search window.
Sites often pay little attention to title tags as they have only small impact on search, but missing, duplicated, or poorly written title tags do have negative impact on SEO results as they can be read by users. Make sure your tags are not turning users away.
10. BUILD USER ENGAGEMENT
Understanding and deploying on-page SEO elements is only part of the job, however.
Once users are on your site, will they stay, and will they come back?
Make sure they do by offering high value content, fast site speed, seamless and inviting user experiences, and relation building.