Search engine optimization (SEO) helps search engines understand and rank the quality of your website.
SEO attracts an audience searching for the information your website provides.
Our smart tactics help you master on-page SEO.
You want your business to have a robust, functional web presence. To that end, you’ve designed an attractive, helpful, on-brand website. Time to sit back and watch the dollars roll in, right?
Except that’s not how it goes. Instead, you sit back and watch . . . nothing. You check your site analytics and realize it’s not a problem of conversion. The problem is that no one’s visiting your website.
What’s going on? It might be that your website—pretty as it is—isn’t optimized for search engines. Most people today find what they’re looking for online, whether that’s a diaper delivery service or a new pair of sustainably produced skinny jeans made from undyed organic cotton, by using a search engine.
But search engines don’t automatically know about your website. For them to find it and report it among their top results, you need to get serious about your website’s search engine optimization (SEO). SEO tactics are a huge topic—there are hundreds of factors in Google’s search algorithm—but there are a few easy things you can do with the content of your website to maximize your on-page SEO.
Why Is On-Page SEO Important?
There are two big reasons that it’s important to get the most from on-page SEO factors. The first is obvious: these are the characteristics that search engine algorithms are looking for to decide whether a website is a valuable resource. If you check these boxes, sites like Google are likely to recognize your website as an authority and give it a high ranking. That means it’ll show up higher in your prospective customers’ search results—which gives you a shot at making a sale.
But search results aren’t just about algorithms. Sure, top-notch SEO can get your site listed on the first page of results for a query, but at that point, you’ve got to win over a different audience. You need a website that works as well for humans as it does for algorithms. Fortunately, many of the 13 key elements of on-page SEO also contribute to giving you a website that’s clear, helpful and easy for your prospective customers to use as a resource.
The 13 Key Elements of On-Page SEO
1. Lock in an SEO-Friendly URL
The first decision you’ll need to make about your website is also one of the most important: what will your domain name be? Don’t try to be too cute or unusual with your domain name. Search engines—just like people—prefer short, memorable domain names that provide information about what the business does.
2. Use a Title Tag With Target Keywords
The title tag is the title of your webpage as it appears in your HTML code. This, oddly enough, doesn’t appear on your webpage itself (it might appear at the top of your browser), but it’s how your page will appear on a list of search results. Your title tag should include any essential keywords that you need to describe your business, such as “diapers” or “organic cotton jeans.”
The title tag shouldn’t just be a string of random keywords, however. You should research keywords to determine popular words that users search. Those words should accurately describe the content on the page and encourage a viewer to click through to your site.
3. Include Long-Tail Keywords or Modifiers in Your Title Tags
Your title tag should include important modifiers that narrow and focus the scope of what you’re talking about. If your service is the “Best diaper delivery service in Akron, Ohio,” both “best” and “Akron, Ohio” are modifiers—and they’ll return a higher rank for people looking for those attributes. By adding modifiers, you create what are known as long-tail keywords. These return more specific results that will be important to the people who are searching for exactly what you’re offering (such as “sustainable organic cotton skinny jeans”).
4. Insert One H1-Level Tag per Page
Remember how your title tag didn’t appear on your website? That’s why you need an H1-level tag: this top header serves as your on-page title. Headings in HTML come in six different levels, from this H1, or title level, down to H6 (for a sub-sub-sub-heading, if you get that far).
Search engines use the tags in headers—the section titles, as written in HTML—to recognize what’s actually on the page. You should use at least one H1 tag on each page within your website to designate the page’s title; for simplicity, this header should have the same name as your title tag.
5. Use at Least One H2 and H3 Tag and Include Target Keywords
In addition to the webpage title, designated as an H1 tag, you should include at least one H2 and H3 header on each webpage. Include target keywords, such as “diaper,” “delivery” and “jeans,” in your H2 and H3 tags. (For this page, “on-page SEO” is a target keyword.)
6. Mention the Target Keyword Early
Whatever your target keyword is, it should come up early. If you’re operating the best diaper delivery service in Akron, Ohio, you should discuss diapers starting at the very top of your home page. Make sure your most essential keyword appears within the first 100 words of your page’s text.
7. Set Up a Mobile-Friendly Page
Around 2 billion people currently access the internet only through their mobile devices rather than their laptop or desktop computers, and that number is expected to grow. But not all websites are designed to be viewed in portrait rather than landscape orientation on a small smartphone screen. Search engines preferentially rank sites that have a mobile-responsive design; make sure your website is optimized for all types of devices.
8. Use Both Outbound and Inbound Links
Links on a webpage may link to other pages on the same website (internal links) or to pages on a different website (external links). External links on your website are known as outbound links; links to your website from someone else’s website are known as inbound links (to you, anyway; to the other website, those are outbound links).
Confused? Don’t be. The bottom line is that you should incorporate all of these link types on your website. Link to other pages within your website and to other websites, and make sure that other sites—at least starting with your own social media pages—link back to yours.
9. Make Sure Your Site Speed Is Adequate
Site speed is one of the factors that search engines prioritize in ranking websites. Web users, especially those on mobile devices, pass over pages that are slow to load. Make sure your web hosting service is fast enough, and use caution when it comes to elements that can cause a page to load slowly, such as large image files, videos, plugins and external scripts.
10. Add Alt Text for Image Names
Search engines can’t “see” the images on your website. That’s what alt text is for; it allows you to add a few words that describe each image. Search engines evaluate this alt text in deciding what the page is about and in ranking it as responsive to a search.
11. Have Social Sharing Buttons on Each Page
Social sharing buttons—those small icons for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and more—are everywhere, and they should be everywhere on your website. Each page should provide social sharing buttons as a way for visitors to quickly share the page or connect with you on social media.
12. Allow and Encourage Comments on Blogs
Yes, comments add another task to your to-do list because you need to monitor and respond to them—but if they’re taking up a lot of time, that’s a great indication that your website is getting a ton of traffic. Search engines prefer sites that are frequently updated and fresh, and comments give you a great way to maintain engagement with a single piece of content. More engagement doesn’t just mean a higher search ranking; it also means (at least potentially) more sales.
13. Keep High-Priority Pages Close to Your Home Page
Your website’s structure can significantly impact its function and its search ranking; both Google and your site’s visitors will appreciate a well-organized site that’s easy to navigate. Make sure your most important pages—such as “About Us,” “Contact Us” and “Our Services”—are immediately accessible from your home page.
To Make the Most of Your Business Website, Master On-Page SEO
Don’t build a beautiful website only to let it collect dust in a seldom-visited corner of the internet. With these 13 key SEO elements, you can master on-page SEO and create a website that search algorithms rank high—and one that prospective customers find to be a valuable and helpful resource.
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Images 1-2: Shutterstock