On Page SEO – What I do to Optimise Websites

On page SEO is the process of making sure that all elements of a web page are fully optimised in order to rank as high as possible in the search results. A web page is comprised of various different aspects. On page refers to the content of a web page and the HTML used to create the page.

To optimise something simply means to gain the best possible performance or use out of it, in other words, to maximise the full potential of something to ensure that you have the best possible version of whatever it is that you have created. This is exactly what we are doing when optimising a web page. We want every element of that page to be utilised in the best possible way in order to maximise performance and get the desired results.

There are various things we need to look at when optimising web pages. These are all the things that I look for when aiming to improve the ranking position and search visibility of a website.

Note: On page SEO alone is generally not enough, particularly in a competitive niche. SEO is a combination of many different factors, on page being one of them. To really cement your website as an authoritative source within your niche, you will also need to build backlinks to your pages.

 

Title Tag

The title tag or page title simply specifies the title of the web page. When writing this, you should make sure it accurately describes the content of the page. The title won’t be displayed on the page itself, however, it will be displayed in the search results.

It will look something like this:

An example of a page title tag

You can see the importance of writing accurate titles for your pages as this is often the first thing that people will see regarding your site. Search engines will also use the title tag to understand the content of the page.

The title tag is very simple to implement. If using a web builder or content management system, you are generally given a section or box to write the title of the page.

To get a deeper understanding, the title tag looks like this:

<head>
<title>Emma Schwartz | Content Writer and SEO Specialist</title>
</head>

Anything in the head section of a website isn’t displayed on the page itself, this is where the title should be.

Don’t worry too much about the source code though, all you need to do is make sure that your titles accurately describe your web pages.

 

Meta Description

The meta description is also displayed in the search results along with the title . If we look at the example above, the description you see below the title is the meta description. This is unlikely to help with your ranking position however it is still very important as it is visible in the SERPS (search engine results). This is your opportunity to grab the readers attention and entice them to click through to your site. Once again, keep it relevant and make sure it accurately describes the content of the page.

This is the meta description for one of my blog posts:

an example of a meta description

There are various ways to add meta descriptions to your pages. Most web builders will have built in options for this. If using WordPress, there are various plugins available. I use Yoast SEO but you can also use All in One SEO Pack or The SEO Framework. There are other options available as well but these are 3 of the most popular ones.

 

Headings

There are 6 different heading tags, H1-H6, H1 being the most important (it is unlikely you will need to use them all.) The H1 heading should be the main heading of the page and you should never have more than one H1 on each page.

H2s and H3s should be used as subheadings.

Headings are important because they establish hierarchy within the page as well as structure and order. Make sure that you utilise page headings in the correct order,  ie, never use a H3 before a H2.

Including your primary keyword in the H1 can help search engines (and your readers) understand the purpose and subject matter of the page. You should use a unique H1 on every page. Your heading should provide an accurate representation of what the page is about.

The following diagrams show the basic structure of a web page using headings:

 

A diagram explaining the use of H1, H2 and H3 html tags

 

An image showing what a H1, H2 and H3 heading looks like on a web page

 

Keywords

There are various ways to research the best keywords (or key phrases) to target based on search volume, relevance and competition.

Once you know which keywords you are aiming to target, it is then a case using those keywords correctly within your web page.

Keywords are less important than they used to be. Their purpose is largely to inform search engines what the page is about. With the increasing sophistication of search engine algorithms, search engines can understand the topic of a web page without stuffing the content with lots of keywords.

That being said, keywords are still used for SEO, however they should be used naturally and sparingly. You can place your target keywords in the page title, url, H1 and within the body content of the web page but make sure you don’t over optimise by using the keywords too often. When using keywords in the body content, a density of around 2-3% will usually be sufficient.

Conducting keyword research will help you to decide which keywords or phrases to target. Keyword research will help to establish which keywords have a high search volume and low competition.

 

Image Optimisation

It’s not only the text you need to optimise, it’s also important to optimise all of your images. These are the things to be aware of:

  • Image size
  • File name
  • Image title
  • ALT text

Most web pages will contain images. You could have a blog post with one featured image or a gallery with loads of pictures. No matter how many images you have, you should optimise every single one.

How to Optimise Images

If your file size is too large, this will slow down your pages. You can easily compress your images without losing the quality by using a tool such as Tiny PNG. All you need to do is upload your image and the application will compress it for you.

The file name should describe the image. File names such as IMG_6570 have no relevance to anything. If your picture is of a blue butterfly for example, name the image ‘blue butterfly’. This won’t have a direct affect on ranking but it’s far more organised to get into the habit of accurately naming your images.

Platforms such as WordPress give you the option to add a title. By default, WordPress uses the filename of the image so if you have named it accurately you shouldn’t need to do much here. The title should be accurate, relevant and concise.

The ALT text is crucial. This has a variety of uses. It should provide an ‘alternative text’ to the image, in other words it should describe the image. You should ensure that it is relevant (as always) and accurate. The ALT text is useful when using a screen reader, e.g. for anyone who is visually impaired. The screen reader will use the alt text to describe the image. If you have written your alt text accurately, this will ensure that everybody gets a good experience when browsing your site. The alt text is also used by search engines to further understand the context of the page. Search engine can’t ‘read’ images, but they can read ALT Text.

Here is an example of an image in WordPress, it’s very simple to add ALT text, (other platforms should have similar options):

An example of where to include ALT text in WordPress

 

Mobile

If your site doesn’t provide a good user experience across all devices, it is unlikely to rank well. More people are now browsing the web on phones than via computer so search engines want to make sure that everybody is getting an optimum browsing experience.

Most web building platforms will enable you to create responsive websites as standard. If you are getting a website built by a developer, I’d be very surprised if it wasn’t fully responsive but it’s always good to make sure that every aspect of the site performs well on mobile as well as desktop. Google has a useful tool for testing how well a site performs on mobile devices.

Responsive simply means that the site responds to different screen sizes, this ensures that the site looks great when viewing on a desktop computer, a tablet, a mobile or anything in between.

You may also have come across the term adaptive design, this is similar, however, this enables you to display different bits of content on different devices. The important thing to be aware of though is to make sure your site functions well across all devices.

 

URL Structure

Your URL’s should be clear, concise and as short as possible. You should also make sure the URL describes what the page is about. Your URL’s should not contain numbers, symbols or anything else that might confuse the reader. A well written URL should provide a short, clear and concise idea of what the page is about.

 

Speed

A site won’t provide a good user experience if the pages load too slowly. No one wants to sit starring at a screen whilst a page loads. If the page doesn’t load quickly, your visitors are likely to leave the site before they have even had chance to read any of your content, resulting in a high bounce rate and a loss of potential customers. Faster sites are more likely to convert your customers, it is also likely that page speed is used by search engines as a ranking factor. It is important to make sure that your site is fast on all devices. There are various tools you can use which will assess the speed of your web pages as well as advise how to resolve any issues.

 

Internal Linking

Internal linking is a link from one page on a site to another page within the same site. Linking to other pages on a website helps readers navigate the site and provides further information for viewers to read. This will keep them on the site longer which is likely to increase engagement. Internal linking also establishes hierarchy within the site, which helps search engine crawlers understand the importance of the pages. Links are incredibly important for SEO, linking internally can help spread ‘ranking power’ which will be beneficial for your search visibility.

All internal links should be natural and relevant, you don’t ever want to direct your viewers to a page that has no relevance to the page they are currently reading. The link should add value to the reader. The anchor text should be descriptive and provide an overview of the subject or topic that the page is about.

 

Outbound Linking

An outbound link is a link from a website that takes the reader to a different website. It is widely considered that linking to authority sites from your web pages can help increase ranking. This is definitely something to consider doing. Providing further reading from authoritative sources can help solidify the points you are making in your own content as well as provide the reader with more information. I link to various sources within my articles if I feel that this will be beneficial to the reader.

 

Broken Links

A broken link is a link that is no longer working. If a page has been removed or the URL has changed, the link will take the reader to an error page (a 404 not found page). It is important to be aware of any broken links. The experience for the user wont be very positive if they encounter error pages instead of the content they are trying to read. This is likely to have an effect on conversion, engagement and time on site as users generally favour sites they can trust. Broken links also have an affect on the crawlability of a site. When a search engine bot encounters a broken link, it won’t be able to access the page. Any page the bot has missed won’t be indexed.

You can use Google Search Console to check if there are any broken links within your site. Select ‘crawl errors’ and this will display any 404 pages (you need to be verified as the site owner in order to do this). Small SEO Tools Broken Link Checker is also useful as you can type in a URL and it will display any broken links. Screaming Frog SEO Spider is another useful tool, it will do a full crawl of a website including notifying of any broken links.

 

Content

Content checklist with checked tick boxes, unique, well written, relevant, informative, detailed

Content is crucial for your visitors as well as your search engine ranking. A site with thin content will likely result in a poor user experience for your visitors. Search engines also need content to index in order understand your web pages. The Panda algorithm targets sites with poor quality content so you should aim to produce the best possible content in order to increase your ranking potential.

Regularly adding quality content to your site can:

  • Help to establish you as an expert in your field
  • Provide opportunity for increased user engagement
  • Increase time spent on site, click through rate and conversion
  • Earn the trust of the reader / potential customer
  • Increase the potential for more social shares
  • Provide opportunities for gaining relevant, quality links from other sites
  • Provide more pages for search engines to index
  • Help with your ranking

Having a blog or news section on a website can be very beneficial for the above reasons. Content doesn’t just mean written content. Including images, charts, diagrams and videos within your blog posts helps create a better overall experience for the reader.

Note: High quality content doesn’t just refer to articles and blogs. Your web copy (the content on your web pages) should also be high quality, well written, easy to understand and informative.

When writing content for a website, the following points are important:

  • Write for users
  • Provide value
  • Keep it relevant
  • Make sure your articles are unique, well written and informative
  • Regularly add new, fresh content
  • Include relevant images, charts and video content to substantiate your articles

 

LSI Keywords

LSI stands for latent semantic indexing. This is just a rather long winded way of saying ‘similar’ or ‘related’ keywords. If we look at the way SEO was done in the past, having keyword written as many times as possible throughout the content was a common way to rank a web page. Fast forward to today, search engine algorithms are much more sophisticated and this is no longer the case.

Whilst it is still important to be aware of target keywords and to include them within the content, over optimisation and including exact keywords too often will likely have a negative effect.

Search engines aim to understand the context and topics of a web page rather than just focusing on specific keywords. LSI keywords help the search engine to provide the most relevant web page in response to a given search query. Including LSI keywords in your articles will help the search engine determine the relevance of your content.

As a simple example, if someone was to search for the term ‘orange’, google would determine whether they were interested in the colour or the fruit by the LSI keywords used.

 

No Index

Once a web page has been indexed by a search engine crawler, it has the potential to display in the search results in relation to a relevant search query.

The inclusion of the no index tag within a web page informs the search engine that you do not wish for a particular page to display in the serps. This is useful as there may be pages that you do not wish to be indexed as you may not want them to be found such as members only content or product offers that are only available to existing customers.

You should be cautious when using noindex. If you noindex your important pages by mistake, they will not display in the search results.

You can add the no index tag to a web page by adding the following code in the head section of the website:

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>

If using a web builder or WordPress, it’s very simple to no index web pages. Plugins such as Yoast provide simple settings to noindex a page.

 

Featured Snippets

You have probably seen many featured snippets when using a search engine. The featured snippet is the piece of text that is displayed near the top of the search result. It is an excerpt from a particular website which provides an answer to the search query. This enables the user to gain information without actually having to click through to the web page.

Featured snippets can be displayed as a paragraph, a list or a table. Below are a couple of examples of featured snippets:

An example of a featured snippet list as displayed in the search results

An example of a featured snippet paragraph

The featured snipped is desirable for website owners as the website is displayed towards the top of the search results without paying for an ad. After reading the snippet of information, it is likely that users will click through to the site to read more.

It’s not easy to occupy the featured snippet, google will aim to provide the best answer to a particular question or query and there is likely to be a lot of sites about a particular subject. The following tips can help grab the coveted spot:

  • Understand and determine what questions users are asking
  • Answer the questions users are asking
  • Make sure your content is detailed and specific
  • Provide the best answer to the questions you are writing about
  • Create exceptional high quality content

 

Schema

Schema is used to improve how a page is shown in the search results. It consists of specific code that is included within the html of the web page.

Schema is used to display more information about a web page in the form of rich snippets. Rich snippets add further information to the data that is displayed in the search results. This is very helpful for viewers as they can see more information about the web pages.

Scheme is a rare collaboration between Google, Yahoo and Bing. It exists purely for the purpose of enhancing the experience for the user, the more information a user has about the pages returned in the search results the better the experience. Websites that utilise scheme will often rank higher than websites without.

The schema.org website provides more information about how to incorporate schema into your website. The following articles also provide some further information:

 

Site Audit

A website audit is an analysis of a website. When I audit I site, I look for any on page factors and technical factors that may be affecting the visibility of the site within the search results.

Some useful tools for conducting a website audit:

The paid tools are more thorough and provide more info than the free ones, however the free tools are very useful for checking various on page elements.

 

UX (User Experience)

When creating a website, optimising a website or when a search engine is displaying web pages in the search results, the ultimate aim is to provide a good experience for the user.

Google takes into account the user experience and the quality of the website. The ever increasing use of machine learning to establish ranking factors and understand the quality and structure of a webpage means that low quality sites that are difficult to navigate are unlikely to rank well. A user friendly website with quality, useful content is also more likely to convert customers than a site with a poor user experience.

The above points all contribute towards enhancing the user experience. Following these steps for optimising web pages will help search engines to understand the content of your website. This should help improve your ranking position.