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On-Page SEO: The Complete Guide

Believe it or not, writing excellent content is just the beginning, there is lots more to do to your web page in order for it to rank. This post is all about on-page SEO, why it is important and how to implement it on to your own website. Let’s kick things off.



Page Headings


Headings or ‘header tags’ as they are often referred to are HTML elements that are used as headings on individual web pages. If you visited a website, the first thing that would come up is the main heading, above any other content and often above images. In SEO terms, this is called H1 (heading one).


Although many website building platforms give you the tools to create H1 tags, it is useful to see what it looks like in coding:


<h1>Your Web Page Main Title</h1>


A web page is built up of these titles of ‘H’ tags and include subheadings from H2 to H6. It is important to note that you are not required to use all of them. H tags are always presented on a web page in descending order of importance, with H1 at the very top, going down the page and finishing with H6.


When deciding and writing your H tags, there are a few things to consider.


- The H1 heading should describe the main topic of the page.

- Include keywords from your research.

- Don’t use H tags to display navigational buttons (example: phone numbers)

- H tags should be used to introduce what the next section of content is about.


Here is an example of a travel company in Paris using H tags.


<h1>Paris Travel Guide</h1> <h2>Paris by the Seasons</h2> <h3>Visiting in Summer</h3> <h3>Visiting in Winter</h3>


As you can see, the H1 tag is used to describe what the page is about and includes their keywords. The subheadings that appear underneath begin to get a little bit more specific the further you scroll down the page. You’ll notice that H2 is an overview of what Paris is like during different times of the year and then it is followed by specific sections that go into more detail about the different seasons to visit Paris.


Using optimised headings on your web page will benefit your efforts of gaining those all-important top spots on search engines but they don’t come close the importance of high-quality content and backlinks. Don’t spend hours thinking of the best way to describe different sections of your page, your time will be better spent on other tasks.



Internal link building


We have all heard of backlinks and their importance, well if you haven’t you will hear a lot more about them further on in this course. So, what is internal link building and why is it important?


- Internal links are crawlable links that allow search engines to find more of your website and give you more opportunity to rank.

- These links are often useful and allow visitors to easily navigate around your website.

- You will share link equity to other pages which gives them more power to rank.


Any SEO expert will tell you how important these types of links are but what they may struggle with is telling you what the most effective way of this looks like and best practices.


Internal links have a variety of different forms but only some offer SEO benefits. Navigation drop-down links, like the ones found on menus are usually hidden from search engine crawlers so if these are the only internal links that you have going to other pages on your website then search engines might have trouble finding them. As a result, they won’t get indexed and you will lose opportunities to rank and receive traffic.


Anchor text is the most common form of internal linking because you can pretty much have links everywhere if you have the right content. Here is an example of content that could be used to input an internal link.


We have several different wedding photography packages available with prices to suit all budgets.


The bold text in this sentence is an ideal spot to place an internal link directing search engine crawlers and website visitors to the pricing page on the website. This text is called anchor text.


The anchor text is used to send signals to search engines, more specifically, the content of the destination page.


When scanning through your content, add internal links or anchor text naturally. Don’t write your content with anchor text in mind because it might appear to search engines that you’re trying to manipulate a page’s rank. Just like other aspects of SEO, you want your website to be built for humans, not robots.



Volume of internal links


In the most recent update of the General Webmaster Guidelines from Google, they have stated that you should limited the number of links on a page to a reasonable number. This is a maximum of a few thousand.


As this is a section of Google’s technical guidelines and not that of the quality guidelines, it is safe to say that creating too many internal links will not increase the chances of getting slapped with a penalty. One thing to consider is that the more links you do have on a page, the less equity can be shared to destination pages. There is only so much equity to go around so make sure you don’t water it down too much.


Remember you are building this website for humans, so it is worth considering how a searcher might feel when they land on your web page. Too many links are a lot to process, dilutes the content and makes it more difficult to read. Here is an example of too many links, the text in bold are internal links.


Welcome to our paint website. We have many articles on painting, how to paint and helpful tips on painting wood, furniture, walls, and metal. Learn more about painting from our painting blog.


Ensure to focus on quality and helpful internal links and place them at the forefront of your link building strategy.


Redirects


Renaming web pages is a common occurrence so it is vitally important that you update any links that are pointing or directing traffic towards the old URL. If you have a web page with hundreds of links directing towards it, then it can be painfully time consuming to update them all.


Be sure to redirect the URL to its new location, so if anyone does click on it, they will head straight to the new web page. It is important to update all internal links to that URL at the source, so you limit the number of redirects a user or robot must pass to arrive at the desired web page.


Best practice is to maintain all your internal links, so they go directly to the designated web page. If it is unavoidable and you choose to redirect, be careful to avoid redirect chains. This is where several redirects are used to finally arrive at the destination. Google has stipulated that web masters should keep redirect chains low with no more than 5 in use.



Optimising images for search engines


Behind video, images are the biggest contributor to slow web pages. To improve your page loading speed, which will not only please the visitor but also benefit you in search results, compress your images. There is no magic formula and we can’t sit her and tell you the pixel dimensions to use, you will need to test what works for yourself. Don’t worry, we won’t just leave you hanging like that.


The best steps to take are to use an image compressor. There are tonnes of them online and many are free to use. Here are five that we find useful.


- JPEG Optimizer

- Optimizilla

- Image Recycle

- Compress Now

- Trimage


Another tip to improving your page speed is by selecting the right format for your images.


Here are what the different image formats are best used for.


- JPEG – If you have no desire to preserve the image resolution

- PNG-8 – If you want to preserve a high-resolution image (with very few colours)

- PNG-24 – If you want to preserve a high-resolution image (with a lot of colours)

- GIF – If you require animation within your image


Look through your own website and point out ten images. Then use the rules in this section to determine which image format to use.


ALT tags


Alternative text (ALT text/tags) is the piece of text within an image that describes what the image is about. It is important to optimise all your website images with ALT tags so when search engine robots crawl your website, they will understand what your images are about and in turn, what your website is about.


Things to avoid are keyword stuffing and writing image descriptions suitable for robots. Remember, write natural text suitable for humans.


Image sitemap


To help Google discover more and new images on your website it is recommended that you submit an image sitemap in your Google Search Console. As there are so many different website platforms it would be impossible for us to show everyone how to do this. Simply search for ‘image sitemap’ in the help section of your platform and a detailed step-by-step guide will support you through the process.


Formatting content


There are several different aspects to consider when presenting your content on your website. You could have written the best content ever published on a specific subject and driven hundreds of visitors to a page, but if its not formatted correctly then nobody, or very few will read it. Here are some things to consider before you publish.


- Page Headings – Long pages of content can often seem daunting to a visitor so use headings to break up the text and allow for easy navigation.


- Make Lists – Just like how this information is presented, use lists to make it easy for the reader to skim through information.


- Text Appearance – Don’t go for anything too small, it is best practice to use a font that is 16-point and above. Make sure the colour also stands out from the page background. The use of italics and bold to emphasise important points.


- Relevant Media – When relevant, include different forms of media, like images and video to complement your content.


- Use Paragraphs – Avoiding long, drawn out sections of text can prevent the visitor from losing interest.


Using paragraphs can also increase your websites ability to rank in ‘position 0’. This is the featured snippet of text that appears at the top of Google which is usually the answer to a specific question.


There is no secret to ranking in position 0 but there are best practices to consider. For example, if you wanted to rank for “Volkswagen Polo v Ford Fiesta” then it would make sense to include a table in your content with the benefits and negatives of each car in different columns.


Using the right title tag


A web page title tag or META tag is a HTML element that describes the content of an individual page. They are quietly nested within the head tag of that page and look like this.


<head> <title>Guide to SEO 2020 Example</title></head>


Each page on your website needs to have a descriptive and unique title tag. Make sure you avoid keyword stuffing and organise the words in such a way that they will appeal to your target audience. What you put in her will be the first impression that you make on searchers.


Write a compelling, interesting, and engaging piece of text that draws people to your way page. Remember you are going to appear alongside thousands of other search results, so you need to make sure that you stand out.


You will attract more visitors to your website if you rank highly in search engine results and boast a compelling title tag. This only magnifies the importance of creating a website for humans and have the searcher experience at the forefront of all SEO campaigns.



Writing a title tag


Here are the three major aspects to consider when writing an effective title tag.


1. Length – Consider the length of your title. Typically, a search engine will display the first 50-60 characters of a title tag. If you run past the magic 60 then its not the end of the world as it will still be recognised by search engines but won’t appear in front of searchers. Although you can go longer than 60 characters, it is best practice not to exceed it by too many characters.


2. Keywords – Using target keywords in your page/META title is highly recommended. A little trick to this is to use them at the beginning of your title so it is one of the first things that searchers read, this is a proven method to increase the click through rate.


3. Branding – Add your brand or business name to the end of your title. This will build your brand awareness and make your name more familiar amongst searchers. Once searchers are familiar with you your click through rate will automatically increase.


META descriptions


Much like title or META tags, a META description is a HTML element used to describe the contents of a web page in more detail and a great opportunity to place more keywords. They are also placed in the head tag and look like this.


<head> <meta name=”This web page is all about learning SEO” content=”More about the description of the web page here.”/></head>


The META description will appear in the group of text, underneath the META/title tag. Having an optimised META description that focuses on your targeted keywords will increase your click through rate.


Writing a META description


It is important to know that Google has confirmed that META descriptions have no significant ranking factor so the only real benefit will come in the form of click through rate, which lets face it, is still extremely valuable. Here are some things to think about when you set out to write a META description.


1. Length – It is best practice to write META descriptions that are between 150 and 300 characters long even though a search engine will only usually display around 150 characters. Keep it under 300 and you are ticking another box.


2. Relevant – Remember what you’re writing about. Your descriptions should be exactly that, descriptive. You should write enough information for a searcher to understand if your web page will answer their query. Be careful though, giving too much information away will take away the need to click through to your web page.


Page organisation


A subject that is often overlooked in the world of SEO is page structure and organisation.

URLs are a great place to start. If you didn’t know already, URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator and please note that this is of no relevance whatsoever. Lets just stick with the acronym for now.


To bring you up to speed, a URL is a location or address for a piece of content on the world wide web. Much like a title tag and META description they are extremely useful when looking to improve a website click through rate. Not only do searchers take a websites URL into consideration when choosing a result to click on, but it is proven that a URL is a direct ranking factor for search engines.


Naming web pages


All search engines require individual URLs for each individual page on every website. Making a URL clear and concise will allow search engines to display your pages for different results. Use clear URL structure with the inclusion of targeted keywords to attract your target audience. Here is an example, which one is clearer for searchers:


Examplemarketing.com/digital/seo

Or

Examplemarketing.com/asdfq/465?=seo-38392-681


10 times out of 10 searchers will choose to click on a URL that provides clear information contained on that web page and less likely to click on URLs that are unclear.


Although URL structure is classed as a minor ranking signal, it is still something that search engines consider when they decide where to place you in their search results.


Organising web pages


If your website discusses multiple topics then you should make sure that information is relevant to specific pages and URLs. For example:


Examplevehiclesales.com/ford/transit


This URL clearly shows to a search engine and a searcher that if they click on this result they will be taken to a web page that contain information about the Ford Transit. It would not be considered best practice to fill up this page with content relating to a Citroen Berlingo.

Make sure that your URL corresponds with its specific page.


Choosing a URL length


While search engines do not express a guide to URL length, there have been many studies to show that searchers prefer short and concise URLs. It is important, much like title tags, to get the length right. Too short and you will miss opportunities to include keywords and too long will force characters to be cut off with an ellipsis. Do not sacrifice a URL descriptiveness to comply with a URL length you want to reach. Here is an example of how to correctly optimise a URL length.


Bad Example – examplewebsite.com/services/painter/house-painter/interior/living-room


Good Example – examplewebsite.com/painter/interior


The bottom example is far more appealing to searchers when they are scrolling through search engine results. Keep it descriptive yet refined.


Using keywords in a URL


When targeting a specific keyword, it is important to include it in the URL. There are, however, some things that you must watch out for.


Be sure to not go overboard by cramming in the same keyword more than once. You will also need to keep an eye out in subfolders for any repeat keywords. For example, if you have a photography business and the word ‘photography’ is in your main URL, avoid the use of the same keyword for any other URLs for the same website. Too many of the same word can look like keyword-stuffing to search engines. Here is an example of what to avoid:


examplephotography.com/photography/wedding-photographer/photography-packages


You’ll notice the over-use of words related to photography and it appears manipulative and spammy. When looking through your URL list, ask yourself if the URLs look natural and if you would click on the search result based on the URL.


Separating words in URLs


Search engines, although extremely clever, are not able to separate words in URLs when they run together without a separator. It is best practice, when building your URLs to use the hyphen character (-) to separate words. Here is an example with hyphens and without them.


Examplewebsite.com/search-engine-marketing


Examplewebsite.com/searchenginemarketing


As you can see, the first example is far easier to read for both searchers and search engines so make sure you include hyphens where needed.


Incorporating geographical terms


It is vitally important that websites that belong to local businesses specifically mention geographical terms in their content, on-site assets, and URLs. Don’t just assume that because your contact page includes a physical address for you that search engines will pick up on that. Be sure to mention the county, city, or town name across your website to maximise visibility to both searchers and search engines.


HTTPS or HTTP


The “https” or “http” that appears before your domain name is called the protocol. If you are currently working with “http” instead of “https” then its time to change. Google recommends that all websites across the world have a secure protocol which is clearly visible on any website. If a website domain has the “s” before it then it means the site is secure and safe to use.


To get that little “s” to appear, you must obtain an SSL Certificate which stands for Secure Sockets Layer. The purpose of running with an SSL Certificate is to encrypt data, both from the website and visitors and that any data passed between the browser and the web server remains private.


From July 2018, Google began displaying “not secure” for all “http” websites on their Chrome search platform. This immediately showed visitors that the website is untrustworthy and resulted in many, if not all visitors to leave.


Make sure that your SSL Certificate is valid and up to date. To check this, simply use the Chrome search engine, find your website, and check the domain bar at the top of the browser.


That’s it for this post, thanks for visiting and we hope to see you again soon!