On-Page SEO: A Primer

Most websites ignore On-Page SEO, either because they don’t understand what it is or how it can benefit them. On-Page SEO is extremely important and is probably the easiest way a small business website can start ranking well in search engine results now. Search engines are not very good at figuring out what a page is about. They don’t understand visual factors, images or videos. They rely heavily on computational methods to determine what a page is about. A few simple On-Page SEO changes and your website could start out-ranking your competitors.

Understand What Search Engines See

It’s a good idea to understand what search engine see when they index your page. I’ve found this to be rather enlightening. It’s also a good start for fixing an On-Page SEO issues you have. If you want to see what a search engine sees, just view the source HTML of a page or try a search engine spider simulator. I like the simulators because they strip out most of the HTML code and leave just the copy.

What’s the first thing you see when you check out your homepage? Poorly structured sites will show ad copy, sidebar copy, and maybe even footer copy before they show they show the main content of the page. If this is the case for your site, you probably need to look at a redesign of your site. Nonetheless, On-page SEO improvements will still benefit you in the interim while you go about redesign.

If you are seeing your content in roughly the order of importance you would give it on your page, great. That means you page is structured properly. Good page structure will display meta information, main copy, sidebar copy, and then footer copy in that order. Your page may be visually very different, but since search engines don’t understand visual layout we want to ensure the structure of the page displays content in the order of importance.

Keyword Density

You probably have a good idea about keywords and their important to search engine optimization. On-Page SEO takes this a step further and is concerned with keyword density. That is, the number of times a keyword shows up in the copy of page. If you have a page with a hundred words and your keyword shows up 5 times, you have a keyword density of 5%.

Google typically prefers a keyword density between 2% and 4%, though Bing will accept higher densities. There are several tools online for checking your keyword density, though I personally like the density checker by SEO Book. If you want to specify the keyword, then I suggest Keyword Density Analyzer. These tools will probably you with a really good sense of how well you are using your keywords.

Title Tags

The title tag defines the primary focus of the page and every page should have one. The title is not actually viewable directly, though the content is displayed in at the top of the browser window. What makes the title tag so important is that Google and other search engines use it to index and display your page in their results.

Since the title tag indicates the primary focus of the page, it should contain your keywords and the keywords should be used at the beginning if possible. Every title tag on your website should be unique. Keep in mind that Google only recognizes the first 60-70 characters in a title. Many websites also include their name in the title tag. That is acceptable, though it should be last, not first (for example, “On-Page SEO: A Primer ‚Äö√Ñ√Æ Amprewave Media”). This will ensure you are ranking for your keywords and not your business name, which you would presumably rank well for anyway.

URLs

The URL of a page is another important area of On-Page SEO and helps you rank well in search engine results. The URL, or Uniform Resource Locator, is simply the address of the page. This page’s URL is http://www.amprewave.com/search-marketing/on-page-seo-primer. Some websites use unreadable URLs like http://www.somesite.com/?p=5343242. You’ll want to avoid that and use real words. Make sure you use your keywords. You don’t have to use you page title as the URL, but if you do it is best to clean up unnecessary words. You’ll notice that the title of this post is “On-Page SEO: A Primer” but that “a” is not present in URL. It’s also best to use hyphens (“-“) instead of underscores (“_”) in the URL as Google prefers them because they are more easily read.

Heading 1 Tag

The heading 1 tag is similar to the title tag, except it’s viewable to page viewer unlike the title tag. Every page should have one, and only one, heading 1 tag. This does not need to be the title of the page, though it often is. As with the title tag, the heading 1 tag should contain your keywords and they should be at the beginning.

The heading 1 tag is probably the most important On-Page SEO tool. Since this is readable by the page viewer and describes the primary purpose of the page, Google and other search engines give it a lot of weight in their rankings.¬¨‚Ć Take the time to ensure that you heading 1 tag is meaningful, catchy and interesting to readers. Avoid a heading 1 tag that is stuffed with keywords and unreadable. Google will most likely penalize you, and if they don’t then the reader will‚Äö√Ñ√Æbad headlines don’t entice readers.

Body Content

You have heard that creating high-quality original content is what Google and other search engines like. To improve On-Page SEO you will want to organize your body content in a certain way. Search engines believe that copy that displays early in HTML is more likely to be what the page is about, so they give it more relevance than copy further down the page. Google seems to also favor the last paragraph in body copy. Thus, you should make sure that you use your keywords in the first and last paragraphs of your copy in a natural proportion (i.e., avoid keyword stuffing).

If you are using images on your page the alt and title tags should be used. Alt, or alternative text, describes the image and tells search engines what it is about. The title tag provide a more detailed description of the image. It’s also a good idea to use a descriptive name for the image, without space and using hyphens (for example, “red-basketball-shoes.jpg” instead of “IMG00734.jpg”). If you are using video, include a transcript below the video so you gain the SEO benefit of what is in the video.

Meta Tags

Meta tags are used to describe the page and its content to search engines (people don’t see them). Some tags are no longer used and others are given less weight, though they should all be used on your page. The most common meta tags are description and keywords. There is some debate of the usefulness of these tags since Google states they don’t use the keyword meta tag and they will change the description tag if their search algorithm determines it does not correctly describe the page contents. Nonetheless, provide an accurate description of the page of around 140 characters using your keywords. Also include your keywords in the keywords meta tag. All metadata should always be unique. Avoid duplicating metadata across your website.

Open Graph meta tags are another metadata that may help with search engine ranking. Open Graph is used primarily by Facebook and makes it easy for users to share your content on Facebook. As social media sharing continues to grow and search engines continue to use social signals in their search ranking, using Open Graph will help you content be more discoverable and readable, thus easier for search engines to index. Facebook provides information on how to add Open Graph meta tags to your website here.

Dublin Core meta tags are semantic web metadata that compliment your existing meta tags. While most search engines probably don’t currently assign much weight, if any, to Dublin Core metadata, its use will prepare your website for semantic web. The semantic web helps search engines match results with requests. If and when search engines make use of Dublin Core, you’ll be ready. Some SEO expects even suggest there is a direct benefit now since websites that make use of Dublin Core are not likely to be spammy or defunct, and have owners that are interested in providing valuable content. Either way, adding Dublin Core meta data won’t hurt and probably will help your On-Page SEO.

On-Page SEO is an easy way for small businesses to have a quick win in search engine rankings. So few websites bother to optimize their pages that employing the simple methods above could be enough to rank your page above your competitors in search engine results. The best part is that you have complete control over On-Page SEO and there is little to no cost in making the changes. Within a month you should start to see the benefits of your On-Page SEO improvements. You might also check out our Easy Guide to Search Engine Optimization for more tips to improve your search rankings.

Need help with your On-Page SEO? Reach out to us and we’ll help!