In order to get a page to rank on Google for a specific keyword, you must master two components on page SEO and off page link building. Basically, on page SEO entails optimizing the structure of a page in a way that makes it easier for the web crawlers sent out by the likes of Google to find and associate the page with your desired keyword(s).
When it comes to on page SEO, some factors are more important than others. In this post we will discuss the most critical factors, right down to the little tweaks that will set your page apart from the competition.
This post is not written for those who feel like their content is a work of art and should be written only for their own pleasure. Instead this process is for those who believe that content should be written for both your audience and the search engines.
It is strategically important to make each page specific for each keyword. You do not want to be competing with yourself for search engine positioning. It is better to target a different keyword for each page to avoid ranking cannibalization.
For a visual overview of what is required, check out the below:
On Page SEO: The Process
Make your site accessible to search engines.
If a search engine cannot find your site you can optimize all you want but it will never appear. If you are using a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress you can quickly double check that your website is crawlable by logging into the WordPress portal and selecting Privacy under the Settings tab. When you are in the privacy settings make sure the ‘Allow search engines to index this site’ option is selected under the Site Visibility heading.
To confirm that your website is being crawled, whether you are using WordPress or not is to log into Google Webmaster tools. Once you have selected the site you will be brought to the Webmaster Tools Dashboard for that particular site. Now, click on Health then Crawl Stats on the left hand sidebar. Here you should be able to see if your site is being crawled and how often.
It is important to try to include your keywords into the body of your document at least four times. If you need to rearrange your keywords to make them fit into natural text for better flow, please do not hesitate to do so. Google is becoming more contextual, so an exact keyword string is not needed for all four instances. Make sure your exact keyword appears at least one of those four times.
To clarify, we are not saying the more the better. If you squeeze your keyword into your document 14.5 times it will not only hurt the readability of the page, but can actually hurt your rankings as well. A simple rule to follow here is to try to keep everything you write online written for humans but tweaked for search engines.
Lastly, you absolutely need to invest in your content and commit to at the very least 300 characters or 50 words. Anything less than this is considered light and to hold no value whatsoever. Don’t strive for the minimum though, your goal should be to write informative articles for your audience or prospective audience which usually requires 500 to 1000+ words – don’t stretch your articles out, just get your point across as concisely as you can.
If you have images make sure your keywords are in the alt tag of the image. Also name the image to match that of your keywords, for example keyword.jpg.
If you do not have an image in your blog post consider getting one as it will help you not only in the rankings, but if it is related to your content it can dramatically improve the readers ability to recall the information.
The page title is what shows up in the tab of whatever web browser you are using. If you hover over the tab it should display the full page title.
Ideally you should have your page title set to, “insert your exact keywords here | yourwebsite.com”. It is best practice to use your exact keywords and use them at the front of the title text Such as:
Kingston Web Marketing | NeuMarkets.com
Be careful though because your page title is what will be displayed as the title to your search engine results, so you will want to keep it easy to read and aimed at enticing people to click through to your website. Getting the top spot for any keyword is pointless if no one clicks on the result.
Avoid setting multiple page titles. This is usually a result from improper code by the developer. Having two page titles really confuses search engines because they cannot decide what the actual title of your page is.
An easy way to determine how may page title elements you have for any given page on your site is view the source code for your page. Here is how to do it in Chrome.
Click on the little wrench icon on the top right hand side of the screen, go to tools, then view source. You should only find one title tag in the head section of the document.
This is what appears after the title of your page in the search results.
A good meta description can increase the search traffic of your site. It is also important for your keyword to be present in your meta description and that the description does not exceed 156 characters in length.
Just like the page title there should only be one of these. Use the same view source technique as you used for page title to confirm that you only have one meta description.
A quick note about using meta keywords: Don’t. They will hurt you in the rankings.
The h1 tag is different than the title tags we discussed previously. It is very important that the keywords be in the h1 tag as well and just like the title, putting your keywords at the front of the tagged text is ideal. If you are using WordPress whatever you use in your h1 tag will default as your page title. If you need to differentiate the two download an SEO plugin that will allow you to write custom page titles, and meta descriptions.
Try to use the keyword only once in the h1 tag, twice if it is absolutely necessary but never three times.
At the very least you should try to have your target keywords in the slug of your URL for example:
http://www.xyz.com/keyword (where the keyword is the slug) or even better http://www.keywordvariation.com/keyword
A content management system such as WordPress can automatically set your h1 title text as the slug. It is easy to change these; simply click on the slug field and type in what you want.
It is best practice to use standard characters in your URLs; meaning letters, numbers, and dashes (-) in place of spaces.
Last but not least, your URL length needs to also be considered. Try to keep your URLs to 76 characters in length or less, as the search engines will often truncate after 76 characters – meaning, your keyword may not get picked up in the mess of characters.
Make sure to have as few subfolders in your URL as possible. This is a more difficult task and may require your developer to jump in, but a URL such as xyz.com/keyword is much better than xyz.com/blog/2012/02/keyword.
If after going this blog post you just realized that all of your slugs are nonsensical, you should go ahead and correct this (unless of course you have managed to rank really well as is). If you do go ahead and change the URL slug, the proper process to follow would be to set up a 301 redirect from your old URL to your new optimized URL.
For example you would 301 redirect; http://xyz.com/crazy_slug-that-doesnt_make-sense to http://xyz.com/keyword
This one is a bit more confusing. The easiest way to think of the rel canonical tag is to think of citing your sources in a bibliography. This tag is essentially the web friendly way to give credit to the original page where your content was published.
If your content is completely original, then simply set the rel canonical to the page you are publishing, which tells the search engines that you are the originator of the content.
If you are wondering how to setup a rel canonical for original content to point back to your page – not to worry WordPress takes care of it for you!
Please note that there is a difference between referencing content (don’t using the rel canonical tag) and blatantly copying content (done using the reference tag).
From time to time you may run into instances where direct copying a page on another site is useful, such as re-posting a press release on multiple sites that you own.
Linking internally to within your site, and to other highly relevant sources on the web not only helps direct users to content they may be interested in, thus providing more insight into a topic or to confirm a source for credibility but also helps your SEO!
However, like everything in the SEO game; do not link to internal or external content excessively, as this can be seen as manipulative.
When you do link to content within your site, be sure to include the keyword that the page is optimized for in your hyperlink so it is clear where they are going. For example…
If you haven’t already, check out this wicked blog post we put together on defining SEO.
I’m not sure if you noticed but this page is 100% optimized for On Page SEO.