How To Manage On-page Optimization Effectively
In the old days, many approached on-page optimization as simply keyword stuffing; that is, you mention the keywords you would like to rank for as many times within the content as possible. This made for a bad user and reading experience. These days on-page optimization includes smart keyword targeting, where keywords are mentioned in key elements while still providing good user experience. This means that the reading experience needs to be good and also that your content satisfies what the user is actually looking for.
On-Page Optimization plays a significant role in the rankings process. Changes are made through a Content Management System, meaning a non-technical person should be able to do it. If you have a modern Content Management System like WordPress, it should be easy to target keywords in key elements. We’ll cover the key elements shortly but they include making images, headings, main body copy, meta description tags and title tags.
Time investment is split between up-front work and ongoing maintenance.
SEOptimer, Mozbar and SEO SiteCheckup are SEO tools that are all able to grab the important on-page elements from the HTML for a webpage. This is useful when we want to quickly review whether an existing page has been optimized or not. It also saves time in having to dig around in the source code.
Mozbar is a Chrome and Firefox extension created by Moz.com. It has more functionality in Chrome as do many other SEO browser extensions.
1) When installed, you can click the M icon in the top right of the browser so it is selected and turns blue (you can click it again to toggle it off when finished).
2) Then click the Page Analysis icon on the top left to inspect the most important on-page SEO elements.
Pre-click on-page optimization as the name suggests is optimizing for what’s visible to the user before they click on a result. This includes:
- The title tag
- The URL
- The meta description
As you’d expect, part of this process involves encouraging the searcher to click on your listing, rather than the others.
Post-click on-page is everything the searcher sees after they click on a listing and when they visit your site. So this is what the visitor sees when they land on your webpage. It includes optimising keywords and the user intent of keywords into the main copy, headings, hyperlinks and images.
Before starting on-page optimization you need to decide what page you are optimizing and what keywords you wish to target. This requires keyword research and ideally prioritizing the keywords like we did in an earlier exercise. For the upcoming on-page optimization lessons, we’ll show examples of how you would optimize the snowboard sizing page.
Portent’s SERP Preview Tool is an excellent way of visually seeing what a Google search result would look like before you make the pre-click on-page optimization changes. This way you can make sure your snippets are the right length and that they look enticing for the user to click through.
Amazon is incredibly dominant in SEO and there are lots of reasons for this. They provide a great user experience on their site, have a big product range and have a colossal domain authority. Although as we can see from the above slide, their title and meta description tags are a little on the long side and get truncated which isn’t ideal for click-throughs.
Aside from the main body copy, title tags are the single most important on-page element to get right. They are the first part of a listing a user sees after they make a search and search engines pay close attention to what words are provided which influences how well your web pages will rank.
You can see the title in the source code by right-clicking on the webpage and selecting “view source code”. It will appear as <title>Corporate Training | Digital Marketing Institute</title>
Why Title Tags are important:
- It’s a heavy-weight on-page SEO signal and the single most important place to include keywords
- Getting it right has a direct impact on higher rankings
If you look carefully at the top of an internet browser, you can hover over the tab which is next to the address bar and see the full title tag.
The most important part when optimizing title tags is to get the right blend of keywords. If it looks like one long keyword list, you may be considered a spammer, but if it includes your main keywords (your primary (P1) and secondary (P2) keywords) and is written in natural compelling English, then you should be on track.
One of the reasons we prioritize the keyword research is for the title tag optimization. This is because it’s hard to work more than three or four keywords into a title tag, so we tend to just focus on the primary and secondary keywords; which are three keywords in total. Often the tertiary keywords (P3) are closely related to the primary and secondary keywords, so they are fairly well represented.
How to optimize title tags:
- Work in keywords (this is the most important part to get right)
- Include main (primary and secondary) keywords
- Main keywords nearer the beginning help
- Don’t keyword stuff
- Use the space provided
- Max space is 600 pixels (around 70 characters including spaces)
- Over 600 pixels gets truncated off the SERP listings
- Be descriptive and engaging
- Describe the page in a natural human-friendly language
- Make enticing enough to encourage click-through
Some extra info:
- Common sentence separators are “|” and “-”
- Brand is optional and commonly used after a sentence separator at the end. The exception to this is for the homepage where the brand is typically at the beginning of a title tag.
- Very occasionally Google will write its own Title Tag in the SERPs
This is for a fictitious snowboarding company called “SnoWayBro”. Normally, we pay most attention in optimizing the P1 keyword and P2 keywords. But in this case, because many of the keywords are so similar in meaning, we managed to accommodate all of the P3 keywords pretty well, asides from “what size snowboard do I need”. That’s because so many of the P3 keywords were close variants of the P1 and P2 keywords, e.g. synonyms or plural/singular differing.
The chosen Title tag is: Snowboard Sizing Guide, Charts & Calculator | Sno Way Bro
You can see we have used Portent’s SERP preview tool which helps illustrate what the title tag will look like and whether it’s within the recommended size limits.
Meta description tags are only visible in the SERPs and the source code. You cannot see them when you are viewing the main content of a page. As you’ll find out in this SEO module, there is quite a bit of work involved in ranking for a keyword but one of the most overlooked aspects of SEO, is improving the click-through rate in a search engine listing where you actually rank.
You can see the meta tag description in the source code by right-clicking on the webpage and selecting “view source code”. It will appear as <metaname=’description’ content=’ Transform your business by providing digital marketing & social selling training solutions to your employees. Find out how it can impact your business today. ‘ />
Why Meta Tags are important:
- It’s a medium weight on-page SEO signal although it doesn’t have a direct impact to higher rankings
- It plays a big role in enticing the user to click-through to your listing
If you have an uninspiring or keyword-stuffed meta description, you may get half the clicks of a well written and more click-worthy one. So they really are worth the time and effort.
The meta description can be thought of as your chance to sell the page, so it encourages the searcher to click on your listing. If the page has any unique selling points that none or few of the competitors have, then list them here.
How to optimize meta description tags:
- Make descriptive and engaging (this is the most important part to get right)
- Try to make your listing stand out from the crowd. Does the page contain any unique selling points?
- Describe the page in a natural language and enticing enough to encourage click-throughs
- Keep short and concise
- Max space is 156 characters (around two short sentences)
- Be careful with keywords
- Include main keyword or close variation
- Keywords in meta description DO NOT directly improve rankings, so avoid keyword stuffing.
Some extra info:
Occasionally Google will write its own Meta Description tags in the SERPs if one hasn’t been written or isn’t deemed relevant enough to the keywords used by a searcher.
This meta description includes some benefits, that the process is going to be quick and easy. It’s written with the user in mind with “your specific riding habits”. It includes the main keyword but in a way that makes the snippet relevant to the user and not spammy.
The chosen meta description tag is: Quick and easy snowboard size calculator and sizing charts, to help you find the right gear for you and your specific riding habits.
In this example, the user searches for “snowboard sizing” and even though that exact phrase isn’t mentioned, a close variant (snowboard size) is mentioned, so Google choses to bold the text. When text is bolded, this improves the chances of the listing being clicked on.
Over time a page will build up trust and authority which is assigned to its URL. Changing a URL without redirecting appropriately can lose trust. Because of this, it’s best not to change a URL where possible and to try and get them right from the start.
Why URLs are important:
- It’s a light-weight on-page SEO signal
- They are seen in the search results so they can attract click-throughs when relevant
- Search Engines index and retrieve pages based on the URL – and build up search engine trust through them.
By default, URLs are often generated from the main heading of the page by the CMS. This is good as a default as relevancy is added but the downside is that they often become long and repetitive, so ideally they need to be changed to something different and shorter.
How to optimize URLs:
- Include main keyword or close variations
- Keep short and concise (around 70 characters before truncation)
- Set URLs right at the beginning
- Stick to conventions
- Use dashes “-” instead of underscores “_” to separate words
- Use lowercase characters
In this example, both URLs would score about the same for relevancy.
The first one (“/snowboard-sizing”) is the simplest to do but the second one (“/snowboards/sizing”) would be better for larger sites with lots of different types of products because it gives an idea of the relationship of products to their parent categories.
The two suggested URLs: 1) www.snowaybro.com/snowboard-sizing and 2) www.snowaybro.com/snowboards/sizing.
Headings help outline what a webpage is about. They are used in a similar way as Microsoft Word. The main heading should be within a H1 tag, secondary headings in H2 tags, tertiary in H3 tags and this can go all the way up to H6 tags.
Why headings are important:
- Headings are one of the first things a user notices and the main heading (H1 tag) needs to be relevant to what they have searched. Users scan a page’s headlines before deciding whether to read the whole page or go back to where they have come from.
- It’s a medium weight on-page SEO signal and adds relevancy to the page.
There are six header tags (H1 through to H6) which are used to outline the hierarchy of content. The main heading should be in a H1 tag. Secondary sub-headings should be in H2 tags. H3 – H6 tags aren’t used as often in body copy but work in the same hierarchal sub-heading way.
One of the key things to avoid with headings or any on-page optimization it trying to force too many keywords in and jeopardise the readability of the page. While you get more bang for your buck in making the main heading (H1) more relevant than sub-headings, you don’t always need to use the exact keyword(s) that you want to rank for; often similar meaning keywords can be enough.
How to optimize headings:
- Add headings and sub-headings for the user first, not SEO
- Adding keywords can work differently depending on the page type:
- Transactional pages: tend to be more keyword focused and usually includes the main keyword or close variant
- Informational pages: like blog posts tend to be more user-focused and sometimes include the main keyword or close variant
- Look for opportunities to add your targeted keywords or similar meaning keywords as part of a heading
In this example, we have used two exact keywords from our targeted keywords list. This is because it makes sense to do so and helps the user.
The two suggested Headings: H1: Snowboard Sizing and H2: What Size Snowboard Do I Need?
Note: while it won’t hurt having your keywords in headings, you should write them for the user first which means sometimes they will not contain keywords, especially for informative types of pages.
The main copy is ultimately where the user is going to find what they are looking for or not, so search engines pay close attention to it.
The main copy is text on a web page that features after the main heading:
- It’s also known as body text.
- It can include hyperlinks.
Why the main copy is important:
- It’s a high weight on-page SEO signal and adds relevancy to the page
- The main content is where the user is ultimately satisfied or not with what they are looking for
Matt Cutts says there isn’t an ideal keyword density formula and hints that thinking about it in such a way can be unhealthy and may encourage you to over-optimize and load too many keywords into your content. He does however say that including the keywords you’d like to rank for is a good thing, but it should be done in a natural way that enhances the readability of the page.
How to optimize the main copy:
There are no strict guidelines on length
- The content should be long enough so that:
- It satisfies what the user is looking for and
- Search engines understand what the page is about
- Ignore keyword density and don’t repeat keywords too often
- As a loose rule for 500 words, mention:
- Primary keywords two or three times
- Secondary keywords one or two times
- Tertiary keywords zero or one times.
- Use synonyms and close keyword variations
- Write in a natural human-friendly language
As Matt Cutts mentions in the previous Google video, there isn’t a special keyword density formula and when you mention keywords too often, search engine may see it as being spammy and count against you. That’s why this keyword repetition recommendation for 500 words should be taken quite loosely.
Using synonyms and keyword variations can help, so instead of saying “seo training” ten times, you could say it two or three times but then also mention things like “learn SEO”, “SEO workshop”, ”class”, “search engine optimization tutorial” and “how to get to the top of Google”. Even if such keywords were not in your targeted keyword list, they would help by being synonyms or close in meaning to your target keywords, so would add relevancy to a page – but again this should be done in a natural way that isn’t going to annoy your readers.
In SEO, hyperlinks help the page you are linking to. The way you link to pages internally plays an important role in search engine rankings. Linking to pages with descriptive and easy to understand anchor text, that doesn’t look spammy, will pass more relevancy. Also, make sure you are linking to your important pages regularly. E.g. If you wrote a blog post about “5 Things to See and Do in Paris”, it would probably make sense to link back to the Paris destination page.
The words you use in the hyperlink is called anchor text and pass relevancy to the receiving page
- So SEO training will pass more relevancy than click here
Hyperlinks also pass reputation:
- The more internal links a page has the more important it is deemed to be, so it will stand a better chance of ranking
- Although don’t over link where it makes for a bad user experience
How to optimize images:
- Add a description in the Alt text
- Try to accurately describe the image and this sometimes means including keywords
- Make them concise, typically two to five words
- Make filenames meaningful
- Make them concise, typically two to five words
- Filenames and Alt text can be the same but they don’t have to be
- Make images web-friendly
- Gif, Jpeg and PNG
- Balance of small file size and good quality
We need to be honest when describing images through Alt text and filenames, but where it makes sense we can sprinkle some keywords in to add to the overall relevancy. You DO NOT need to be really strict here e.g. sometimes you can include your P1 and P2 keywords but otherwise, you won’t be able to.
If you have multiple images, they should have differing Alt text/filenames, otherwise, this can look like keyword stuffing.
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