Optimizing your page is one of the most important facets of owning and operating a website. Whether you hire a company (like IMPACT) or you intend on completing the work yourself, a significant amount of work must be done to achieve top search engine rankings. With that said, it’s important for you to understand what actually goes into the on-page optimization strategies.
HTML Head Tags
- Title — While some search engines have neglected the title in the recent past, this is still one of the most important aspects of on-page search engine optimization. The title should be catchy and engaging as well as include your keyword(s)/phrase. For best search engine results you should try to utilize the keyword as the first word(s).
- Meta Description — The meta description has somewhat lost luster over the past few years as search engines have veered from using it in their algorithm. However, it is still displayed on the results page and is a near necessity for making sure a website browser clicks on your link instead of your rival company’s.
- Meta Keywords — Yahoo! and Bing are truly the only two major search engines who consider the meta keywords at this point. In fact, Yahoo! has considered moving towards the ways of Google with not taking them into consideration as part of their SEO formula as well. The common theory behind the trend rests primarily with the idea that keywords can be found prominently in the page content. That said, you have the option of utilizing meta keywords, but (due to competitive research) I would suggest you avoid using too many niche key phrases.
- Meta Robots — This is a piece of search engine optimization that is overlooked by a significant number of SEO companies. While it is not a necessary tag to include, it is important that you utilize the tag to not “disallow” any access from search engines.
- Rel=”Canonical” — In an effort to reduce self-created duplicate content, canonical URL tags as strongly recommended. As your site grows, your content will increase and you are likely to run across either duplicate or similar content. It’s extraordinarily important that you avoid unintentionally establishing duplicate URL’s.
- Length & Keyword Location — When it comes to your URL and search engine rankings, (typically) the shorter URL performs better than the longer. You also want to include your keyword within the URL address or as close to the domain name as possible (i.e. http://www.domainname.com/keyword). The longer you stretch out your keyword location the worse your URL will perform (i.e. http://www.domainname.com/index.php/subfolder/1/keyword).
- Subdomains vs Pages — There has been a significant amount of controversy with regard to using subdomains or pages as you build your site out. The general findings have revealed that creating pages over subdomains is better (though not substantially better) for search engine rankings.
- Word Separators — With everyone and their mother jumping on the internet, domain names with your keywords are becoming a rarity. There is, however, a way around this if you utilize word separators (hyphen, underscore, etc). With that said, the hyphenated URL address is always preferred by search engines over the URL with underscores. As a quick forewarning, if you have the option of establishing a good domain name without using hyphens then please do so! You are only hurting your search engine rankings if you decide to go with the hyphenated URL (if you have the chance to go un-hyphenated).
- Keyword Repetitions — Due to the complicated algorithmic changes that search engines go through on an almost weekly basis, it is near impossible to determine exactly how many times you should utilize a keyword within your content. However, after reviewing a significant number of quality (and high ranked websites), I have found that if you position your keywords evenly (up to 4 times in a short page and 6 times in a long page) you cannot go wrong.
- Keyword Density — When it comes to search engine algorithms, keyword density just is not a part of the formula. Remember that you want your content to be enjoyed by readers and yet search engine optimized. In order to accomplish this, make sure you read through your content to ensure it is not too “spammy”.
- Keyword Variations — Some, if not most, search engine experts will gently suggest to play around with keyword variations. While it has not been fully proven, if you are able to utilize one or two variations of your keyword/phrase you could potentially experience an improvement in search engine rankings.
- H Tags — In the recent past, the H1 tags have been used non-stop to help search engine rankings. However, the only reason for the use of an H tag at this point is merely for stylistic purposes as many search engines have fallen off the bandwagon of including the H tags in their formula.
- Alt Attribute — While many lazy website owners and web design companies (no offense to anyone reading this) often skip the “alt” attribute, there is a significant impact that this tag has on search engine rankings. For example, if you implement an image please take the time to provide an optimized Alt tag.
- Image Optimization — Once again, this is an area of SEO that companies tend to ignore or forget about. Instead of letting the image optimization slip by the wayside, I would highly suggest that you rename the image file to one that includes your keyword(s), and then promote.
- Bold & Italicized — We have found out (as mentioned above) that header tags – H Tags – do not hold much value with search engines. The bold copy or italicized copy is regarded as much of the same as it has minimal effect on rankings. If, for nothing else, you can utilize these font styling strategies to aid in the user-friendly navigation through the site’s copy.
- Internal Link Anchors — While there is no proof that internal link anchors have an impact on SERP’s (search engine results pages), I still highly suggest that you take the time to anchor your internal links with keywords/phrases.
Internal Links & Site Structure
- Click Depth — This can get a bit challenging (especially for established sites that are already out there and running full boar). However, you ideally want to have your most competitive keyword pages toward the top of the domain. For example, your most competitive keyword page should be a mere 1 click away.
- Number of Internal Links — I cannot stress just how much of a debate; even though it is throughout the optimization industry. As a general rule, try to have (at least) 3 to 4 internal links (keyword anchored, of course) per page. Remember to not spam them, but to explode in the water when they are here.
- Content Links vs Navigation (Permanent Links) — I have to admit that I was incredibly shocked to discover this, but search engines across the board are starting to trend towards content-driven links instead of the permanent links found in the navigation bar.
Search engine optimization is, by no means, an easy thing to master, but it is an aspect of owning a website that needs to be understood. I am hopeful that this beginner’s guide to on-page search engine optimization has helped you get to the point of general understanding. However, if it hasn’t then please feel free to contact IMPACT for a brief consultation.
If search engine optimization (SEO) is something that you are interested in but don’t know how to get started, contact us today to schedule your free marketing analysis.
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Image Source: HubSpot, “The 2011 State of Inbound Marketing”, E-Marketer.com