A Basic Guide To On-Site SEO
Make your site more accessible to search engines and users
Ranking at the top of the search results and positioning your brand in front of more prospects starts with on-site SEO. Here you’ll learn what on-page factors to optimise to boost your rankings in Google and gain a strong competitive advantage.
What is On-Site SEO?
On-site SEO (or on-page SEO) involves optimising factors on your pages for target keywords and the HTML source code to deliver an overall better user experience. A well optimised page stands a better chance of ranking in the search results and getting users to interact with your site. This one aspect of SEO can mean the difference between consistent sales or revenues that remain flat.
Here are the on-page factors to optimise to improve your rankings in the search results:
1.0 Title Tags
Perhaps the most important on-page factor is the title tag. It’s the first thing that users see in the search results and provides more context to search engines about your pages. Include your target keywords and keep your titles under 70 characters for them to display properly in the search results. Any longer and Google will automatically truncate your titles with ellipses.
An optimised title is a must but what ultimately matters are clicks to your pages. Make your titles appealing with a clear value proposition.
The title in this example includes its target keywords (“start an e-commerce business”) and gives a compelling reason for users to click through. Include your city name to improve rankings for local queries if your customers are locally based. Remember to keep your titles unique and relevant to the content on the page.
2.0 Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions are short snippets of text that appear in the search results and provide a brief summary of a page’s content. Optimising these won’t necessarily improve your rankings but they can give your pages a competitive advantage in the search results. A well-written description appeals more to online users, leading to higher click-through rates and more traffic.
Write unique meta descriptions for each page and include a strong call to action to increase your click-through rates. Keep the text under 165 characters to ensure it displays properly on the desktop and mobile search results.
The example here includes its target keywords, highlights a benefit that the service offers, and ends with an enticing call to action to bring prospects in. Optimising your meta descriptions is an important aspect of on-page SEO that shouldn’t be overlooked.
3.0 Header Tags
Header tags are used to emphasise text on a page and improve the readability of your content. Google also uses these tags to better understand the context and structure of a page. The header or tag may be the title of your blog post or page although this isn’t always the case. It can also be used to emphasise a value proposition.
The tagline “Work better, safe, together.” is used as an h1 tag on the Dropbox Business page. Limit your use to just one h1 tag on your pages. Just like your titles, keep your tags short and descriptive as they should support the provide users with a clear idea of what to expect. Use other header tags such as h2, h3, h4, h5, and h6 to create additional subheadings for your content.
Optimise your title tags for your primary keywords and the header tags for secondary keywords. But also remember not to stuff your tags with keywords as doing so creates a poor user experience and could have harmful SEO effects.
Optimised URLs are beneficial from both a search engine and user standpoint—A clear URL hierarchy helps search engines better understand a page and users can quickly identify what a page is about before clicking through. Examples of poorly optimised URLs are those with random strings of characters and number. A better approach is to keep your URLs short and easily readable.
Here’s an example of an optimised URL from a dental practice:
Right away it’s clear what the page is about. Users don’t have to guess what they’re clicking on and search engines get a better sense of the site’s structure.
Utilise your target keywords in your URLs and separate them with a hyphen to improve readability. For larger sites use categories and subcategories to organise your pages. Another added bonus is that just like with the title and meta description in the search results, Google highlights keywords that users search for in the URL.
The key to ranking for your target keywords is to deliver unique and authoritative content. Putting low effort into the quality of your content runs the risk of getting hit with a ranking penalty. What Google is ultimately looking for then is quality content and sites that deliver the best possible user experience.
Google doesn’t disclose the signals it uses in its algorithm but the questions below provide webmasters with some guidance to create better content:
As Google’s ranking algorithms become more sophisticated, quality content will continue to be rewarded with higher rankings. Focus on how you can deliver the most value to your users. Share unique insights, provide resources for your visitors, and address problems that your market is searching for. While there are varying opinions about how long your content should be, data from serpIQ found a strong correlation between content length and rankings. Aim to be as comprehensive as possible but avoid adding fluff just to make your content longer.
Just like with the meta tags on your pages, optimise your content for your target keywords and include related terms. Use Google’s Keyword Planner tool to identify potential keywords to target in your content. Also, think about how you can target different types of keywords:
● Informational keywords: Users are looking for more information about a topic. Examples include “How to…”, “Why do…”, etc. While these visitors may not be looking to make a purchase, targeting these terms can increase your reach online.
● Transactional keywords: These types of queries indicate an intent to purchase something. Examples include keywords related to the products or services your business offers.
● Location keywords: Users are looking for a local business near them. Examples include “locksmiths in ”. Optimise for location keywords to attract local customers.
Target a mix of different types of keywords that are relevant to your business. The goal is to drive more search engine traffic to your site and establish your brand as an authority.
Images help your SEO strategy by driving traffic from image searches and increase user engagement. While not a major ranking factor, optimising the images gives Google more context about your pages. Create a unique title and optimise the alt text with keywords that describe the image.
It may sound obvious but you want to use images that are relevant to your content. Another important consideration is the image size. Large images tend to slow down web pages which can negatively affect your rankings and increase bounce rates. Compress your images to reduce their file sizes and ensure your pages load fast.
7.0 Mobile Responsive
More people browse and search the web from mobile devices than ever before. Google has even made mobile friendliness a ranking factor to ensure a better browsing experience for its users. This means your site is at a serious disadvantage and will rank lower in the search results if it isn’t mobile friendly.
Enter in your URL into the Mobile-Friendly Test Tool.. You’ll see the following if your site is optimised for mobile devices:
If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, Google recommends implementing a responsive design which is based on a grid like structure that dynamically adjusts to all screen resolutions. Users will be able to access your site whether they’re browsing from a desktop, tablet, or smartphone.
Responsive design offers a number of other advantages as well. It’s more cost effective as there’s only one site to manage and for the Googlebots to crawl. This improvement in crawling efficiency helps Google index more of your content.
Mobile absolutely needs to be a priority if it isn’t already. Search engines will reward your site with higher rankings in the mobile search results and users will be able to easily navigate your pages from any device.
8.0 Site Speed
Today’s online users expect sites to load in an instant. If your site is taking longer than a few seconds to load, you could be losing potential sales due to visitors bouncing out in frustration. Site speed is also a minor ranking factor so your pages could rank lower due to poor loading times.
Enter in your URL into Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool:
The tool provides an overall score out of 100 for both the mobile and desktop versions of your site. It also provides recommendations on what you can do to improve loading times. Some examples include:
● Minimise HTTP requests
● Reduce server response times
● Use a CDN (content delivery network)
● Enable browser caching
● Minimise redirects
● Optimise images
● Minify resources
Even a single second improvement in loading times can have a huge impact to your bottom line. Take steps to optimise your site’s performance and provide a faster browsing experience.
The key to higher rankings starts with one of the most important aspects of SEO: Your website. Optimise the on-page factors as outlined here to gain a major competitive advantage in Google and reach more of your target audience online.