Your on-page SEO is the foundation of all your other SEO efforts. Do it right, and your page will have the strength to become a skyscraper. Do it wrong, and all your other SEO techniques combined will never get that page off the ground.
What’s involved in successful, targeted on-page SEO?
Choose your keyword
Start out on a journey without a destination, all the GPS, Google Maps and Waze won’t get you there. Before all else, you need to know which word you want your page to rank for.
Identify related words
Time to break out the thesaurus! For a few years already, Google has focused on understanding synonyms and context. If your page is about ice cream, you don’t have to use the keyword “ice cream” over and over to make Google understand your focus. You can talk about sorbet, frozen yogurt, sugar cones, frozen desserts… and Google will get it. In fact, the more synonyms and related words you use, your page will do better than if you only used “ice cream,” because you’re giving off lots of signs of being relevant and on-target.
Your URL should be short, sweet and contain your keyword. Matt Diggity of Diggity Marketing has found from his own tests that having other words in the URL besides the keyword produces better results (as long as you don’t get too long).
Example: If you want to rank for the term “buy popsicles”, an ideal URL could be: www.frozenfood.com/buy-tasty-popsicles.
(Note: If your page has been around for a while before you optimize it, and there’s a chance other sites might have linked to it, think twice and three times before changing the URL. Otherwise your site will lose all the juice those links were giving it. Plus, if anyone clicks on the links, they’ll get to a Page Not Found. You can avoid most of the problem by setting up canonical tags and/or redirects… but it’s complicated.)
The title you choose for the page will often become the H1 on the page, as well as the internal link text. Try to get your keyword and/or related words into the title, as long as you’re not compromising on having an engaging title that compels readers to read on.
In Google’s eyes, the SEO title is the title of the page. The above title is just the H1 and/or internal anchor text in menus. So what’s in this SEO title gets a lot of weight as to what the page is about.
Get your keyword in the SEO title. Towards the front is better, but only if it doesn’t sound awkward or make your title sound blah. The SEO title is the title for your page when it shows up in Google search results. It should compel people to click on it.
Clicking is really important. In addition to that obviously being what you want the searcher to do (you’re not doing SEO just to get an egostroke from your site showing up in the search results), a higher click-through-rate (CTR) is a positive ranking factor.
The meta description is the 2-3 lines of text you see after the SEO title in Google search results. If you don’t have a meta description (or if your description doesn’t have the keywords searched for) Google will just pull an excerpt from your page they feel is the best fit. That text may not be the best to compel your reader to click (and as mentioned above, that should be a priority).
Write a meta description that contains your primary keyword, is compelling and is under 156 characters (otherwise Google will cut it off).
Image Alt Text
Every image has the ability to add a brief description of the image in the code, called the “alt text.” This text is really for usability purposes, to enable people who are visually disabled to understand what the image is about (usually they have a browser that will read all text – including the alt text).
Google relates to alt text as text – so make sure you add it, and that what you add contributes to the thoroughness of the page. Write a short description of the image, and make sure it uses your keyword or related words.
There’s no magic length. Instead of “how long?”, think “ how thorough?” Did your page give a thorough treatment to your topic? The more thorough it is, the better you’re going to do. Just don’t write garbage so that it can look more “thorough.” If you covered the topic in 400 words, and a human reader would feel really satisfied, great. If you didn’t, and there are real topics or questions you didn’t cover, write on!
People get meaning and context intuitively. Machines don’t. If I write “5 cups flour,” you know that I’m writing a recipe. A machine sees “number” “word” “word.” “5 cups flour” and “5 Jasper Avenue” look very much the same to a computer.
Schema is a way of marking up human language so that computers can understand more about it. If I write “5 <measurement>cups <food>flour” and 5 <street>Jasper Avenue”, the computer can get that the first belongs to a recipe and the second belongs to an address.
The more Schema you implement on your pages, the more Google can understand what your page is about, and rank it in the relevant context.
Get on with On-Page!
On-page optimization is work, but it’s a critical foundation that you can’t skip or skimp on if you want your page to rank.