There are multiple elements on your website that you can control to make it easy for the search engines to index your content and understand what it is all about. Here’s what we’ll cover in Part 2 – On-Page SEO:
- Website Content
- URL Structure
- Title Tags & Meta Tags
- Headline Tags
- Internal Linking
As mentioned in the Content is King section, you want to write content that your audience will find valuable and engaging. Aside from the topical nature of the content, the way you format your webpages can have an impact on how the search engine bots digest your content. Every webpage you create should have a thought-provoking headline to grab the reader’s attention, and should also include the keyword or phrase that the webpage covers. Other body formatting, such as bolding certain keywords or phrases, can help stress the importance of phrases you are optimizing for.
The actual structure of your website URL can have an impact on the search engines’ ability to index and understand your website’s content. Opting for a more organized URL structure will have the greatest impact. Some website creation software will insert arbitrary numbers and code in the URL. Although this may be optimal for the software, it serves no other purpose. If you can edit the URL to include the title of your webpage, you should do so. In fact, some website creation software will automatically create URLs based off of your webpage content in order to eliminate this issue.
There is nothing worse than landing on a webpage and being faced with mountains of text. Not only are pictures a great way to break up sections of text, but they also serve as an opportunity to communicate with the search engines. Because search engines cannot tell what a picture is by scanning it, they look for clues in two places.
Every picture you upload to your website will have a file name. When the picture is inserted on your website, the picture’s file name actually lives in your website’s sources code, or HTML. Since the search engines scan your website’s code, you should use file names that describe the picture. For example, “red-tennis-shoes-velcro.jpg” is much more useful than “pic12345.jpg”.
Additionally, you can give the search engines an extra hand by including alt tags on all pictures on your website. Alt tags are short snippets of code that allow you to tag each photo on your site with a short text blurb.
Title Tags & Meta Tags
Besides an actual text headline on your page, every webpage you create has a title tag. This is the text snippet that appears in the upper left corner or on the tabs of your web browser. Also, the title tag is the blue link that the search engines show when they list your webpage on the SERP. Title tags max out at 75 characters, so choose your words wisely.
Meta tags are snippets of code you can include within your webpage’s HTML. The meta tags are usually located near the title tag code in the head of your HTML. There are two meta tags – meta description and meta keywords.
The meta description is a text snippet that describes what your specific webpage is about. Meta descriptions are usually the first place a search engine will look to find text to put under your blue link when they list your website on the SERP. If you do not have a meta description, the search engines will usually select a random piece of content from the page they are linking to. The meta description is limited to 150 characters.
Meta keywords consists of an additional text snippet in the HTML that allows you to list a few different keywords that relate to your webpage. Back in the day, search engines used this field to determine what keywords to rank your webpage for. Now, most search engines claim they do not even use meta keywords when indexing content. Some small or niche search engines may still use it though. As a best practice, it is recommended to put 5-7 keywords in the meta keywords, but don’t spend too much time thinking about it.
When the search engine bots scan your webpages, they look for clues to determine exactly what your webpage is about. Keywords that are treated differently than most others on the page show the search engines that they are more important than other keywords on the page. This is why the use of headline tags within your page is so important. By using various headline tags (each tag will produce a different size headline), you not only make your webpage easier to digest from a reader’s standpoint, but you will also give the search engines definitive clues as to what is important on the page.
Up until this point we have only referenced inbound links, or those links coming to you website from other websites. When creating content for your website on your blog or on specific webpages, you may want to reference other pages on your website. You can reference these other pages by inserting a link to another webpage within a specific webpage’s content. The use of anchor text is recommended when linking to another webpage or even another website. When anchor text is used, it implies that the page you are linking to is about the keyword or phrase you use as your anchor. This is yet another way you can help out the search engines.