On-page optimization is a formula of actions taken to make a page more search engine friendly.
When Google crawls through a well optimized site, it can more easily index and distinguish what keywords the site should show up for. However, if the site is not well optimized… then the search engines will have a hard time ranking it where it needs to be.
There are so many other sites out there for you to compete with so having a good strategy for on-page optimization is crucial if you want to stand a chance against the competition.
Having a good understanding of on page optimization will also help you better analyze how easy or hard it will be to rank for any particular keyword. Before I decide to build a niche site around a keyword, I always analyze the on-page optimization of the sites ranking in the top ten positions in Google.
Elements of On-page Optimization
There are several elements that make up your on-page optimization. As you will soon see, some of these elements will have a greater impact on rankings than others. Remember though, that in a competitive market, sometimes the small boosts can go a long way.
By taking the time to examine and optimized each of the elements listed below, your page will have an easier time shredding through the competitors.
Here are the elements that you’ll need to pay attention to:
1) Page Title
Impact on rankings = HIGH
The title of your page is one of the most important on-page SEO elements. It is advised that you use the primary keyword phrase that you are looking to rank for in the beginning of your title. At the same time, you’ll want your title to be eye-catching and descriptive of what your article is about.
If you were to type in “best video games” in Google, which of the links below would you most likely click?
If you’re like me, then you’d probably choose option 1. In the first option, the exact keyword “best video games” is included in the title. Seeing the exact phrase is enticing for me to click on and after reading the full title, I would assume that this article is relevant to the content that I’m searching for.
In the second option, we can see that the title is a little less appealing. Rather than giving me information on the best video games, it seems that it is linking to video games from best buy. Because of this, I would be less likely to click this link.
Keep in mind, Google wants to improve the end users experience, so utilizing proper titles on your page is a must.
2) Header Tags
Impact on rankings: Medium
A well optimized page should make use of the good header tags. Typically you’ll want your H1 tag to match your page title. This is not only good for SEO purposes, but it may also decrease the chances of your visitors bouncing off your page.
While the most important tag is the H1 tag, there is also some benefit in properly aligning your H2 and H3 tags as well. For the H2 and H3 tags, you may want to use some of your secondary keywords.
Let’s use this article as an example:
[H1] Understanding On-Page Optimization
[body paragraphs] …
[H2] Elements of On-Page Optimization
[body paragraphs] …
[H3] Page Title
[body paragraphs] …
Notice that as the header tags go further down, the topics become more specific. This is how you should be writing your articles.
3) Page Content
Impact on rankings: High
Guess what… the content on your page matters! If you want to appear in the search engines for dog training, then your content needs to be about dog training. Having highly relevant information on your page is a key factor in ranking for the keywords that you want.
Back in the day, relevant content simply meant spamming your keyword all over the page. However, nowadays, you’ll need to be a bit wiser.
As a best practice, keep the keyword density of your main keywords below 1%. In other words, if you are writing a 1000 word article, don’t mention your keyword more than 10 times in that article. Google recognizes that overuse of a keyword is unnatural, and it will dock you for it.
Also, your article should maintain a level of uniqueness. Google does not like duplicate content. If the Google algorithm detects that duplicate content is being used, then it will penalize the page/site.
4) Alt Tags
Impact on rankings: Medium
Alt tags are phrases that you can assign to images on your page. You may have noticed a text box pop up whenever you hover over an image. This text is known as the alternative tag, and it can be used to give your page an extra boost in optimization.
Alt tags can also help to get your picture to show up within the image search results. This can bring additional traffic to your page.
5) Matching URL
Impact on rankings: Low-Medium
Having a good url that is relevant to your keyword can provide an added boost to your rankings. The boost that it provides is not as strong as it used to be, but it still has an effect. Let’s go back to our “best video games” example:
As you can see in the first example, the url for the page includes the exact phrase match of the term “best video games”. This makes it easier for the search engines to index.
On the other hand, the second url contains parts of the phrase that we are searching, but it is not an exact match.
6) Meta Description
Impact on rankings: Low
Although meta descriptions won’t give you a huge ranking boost, you’ll want to pay extra attention to it. This is because the meta description is the text that shows up below the title whenever you search a term in Google.
If you write a really good description, you may see a hefty increase in traffic due to the increased click through rate. Using your keyword in the description will also provide an additional benefit since the search engines tend to bold this phrase if it matches the term being searched by the end user.
7) Meta Keywords
Impact on rankings: None – Negative
Meta keywords are additional keyword tags that you can add to your article. If you’re using wordpress or one of the many SEO plugins, this option is readily available for you to fill out.
However, I believe that you may not want to use these at all. According to Matt Cutts (head of Google Web-Spam team):
“You shouldn’t spend any time on the meta keywords tag, we don’t use it. I’m not aware of any major search engine that uses it these days. It’s a place that people don’t really see when they load the browser, and so a lot of webmasters just keyword stuff there, and so it’s really not all that helpful. So we don’t use meta keywords at all.”
Here’s the full video if you’d like to watch it:
There is some speculation that search engines are using these tags as a way of identifying spam. The following is a quote from Duane Forrester (Sr. Product Manager of the Bing Webmaster Program):
“The main thing people need to keep in mind if they decide to use the tag is to follow the known best practices. Ultimately, it’s the overt keyword stuffing that gets noticed and makes us want to look a little closer. If you’re willing to stuff pointless keywords into the meta keywords tag, what else might you be inclined to do?”
So there you have it. I know it’s a lot to take in, but just keep reading it over and start looking at how other websites are putting these elements to use.
As you gain more experience you’ll be able to quickly tell the difference between a well optimized page and a poorly optimized page. This will improve both your keyword research and your ability to build a quality site.
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All the best!
– Josh @ FormYourFuture.com