SEO is a topic that can be very confusing for many people. The internet is filled with plenty of “experts” who all have a unique formula to get you ranking #1 in Google in three days or less, money back guaranteed. While there are plenty of scam artists providing their two cents, there are also plenty or true experts sharing a wealth of information free of charge.
That said, there is often a lot of confusion among business owners and marketers about what SEO practices really work and what practices are – like Harold Camping’s End of the World predictions – RIDICULOUS!
In order to combat the confusion, I am going to start blogging about basic and intermediate SEO best practices. Without further adieu, let me start by explaining about on-page SEO.
What is on-page SEO?
On-page SEO refers strictly to changes that you can make to your website. Typically on-page changes are very straightforward and easy for people to do without any technical knowledge, provided that you have a content management system (i.e. WordPress, Joomla, Drupal).
Historically speaking, on-page SEO had a significant impact on keyword rankings; however, search engines soon developed more complex algorithms that are not so easy to manipulate. From my experience and research, I have found that on-page SEO accounts for a loose estimate of 25% of keyword ranking factors, while other off-page factors (link building and social media) account for about 75% of ranking factors.
With that very brief introduction about what on-page SEO is, let me discuss some of the key elements for on-page SEO.
Highly Important On-page Factors:
Perhaps the most important on-page factor for SEO is the page title. It is essential that the targeted keywords are placed in the page title. Additionally, it should be noted that the page title should be no longer than 66 characters long because search engines oftentimes do not reference characters after that. Also, it is a good practice for small and medium-sized businesses to include their geographical location and their brand name.
If you want to see the page title, you can look at the source code, or page titles are usually displayed in the top of the internet browser that you are using.
Another very common mistake comes from multiple versions of the same exact webpage. For example, if you type into your browser http://www.example.com and type http://example.com and both aliases exist independent of each other, you likely have a canonicalization problem. There are multiple ways to fix this problem.
First, you can do a 301 redirect to only allow one alias, or you can put in a rel=canonical tag to tell search engines what page to index. If you do not do either of these things, search engines will only index one version of the page, and your off-page SEO efforts will be diluted.
This is a very brief and probably poorly communicated point, so maybe I will write another blog post to explain this in more detail.
As you can imagine, appropriate keyword usage is essential. It is important to use the targeted phrases about 4-5 times. Don’t get ridiculous though and just continually repeat the same key phrases. If you do that, you will have frustrated readers and upset robots. Google and other search engines will likely punish your site if you practice keyword stuffing.
As a good rule of thumb, consider your readers before your SEO optimization.
The manner in which your URLs are structured is very important for SEO. It is best have static urls with many strings or sublevels. Try to avoid having dynamic urls, and make sure that you do not have more than four sublevels. Additionally, use keywords appropriately within the URL structure.
- Good URL Structure: http://www.example.com/puma-shoes
- Bad URL Structure: http://www.example.com/brand.php?object?type?shva=puma
Most content management systems have a setting for “clean urls,” so make sure that you properly enable this if you are using a common CMS.
Important On-Page Factors:
Image Description Tag (ALT Text):
ALT texts are a great place to target strategic keywords for your page. According to research done by SEOmoz, Alt texts correlate surprisingly well with rankings. Once again, you do not need to know HTML to put these in if you have a CMS, just make sure you fill in the proper form when adding images to your WordPress or Drupal site.
Site Load Speed:
This topic is a little more technical, and I will not go into much detail on it now. Basically, you do not want your website to take forever to load. Make sure your files are properly compressed, avoid coding errors, and steer clear of excessive flash to maintain optimal site speed.
Number of Links:
While not a huge factor, the amount of links on your webpage plays a small part in SEO rankings. If you run a smaller site, you should keep the amount of links to under 100 per page.
If you are still reading, I am impressed! J. My preparation time for this post was very brief, so I apologize for the many grammar mistakes. I will likely be adding and editing this post much further and will be writing posts to explain some of these on-page factors much further.
In the meantime, I would like to know your comments and questions. Please feel free to leave feedback in the section below or shoot me an email. Thanks!
*Thumbnail Photo credit: toprankonlinemarketing (Creative Commons)