Search Engine Optimization 101: On-Page SEO
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a term you’ve probably heard a great deal about since deciding to launch your own website. Companies all over the country are now making substantial sums of money by helping small businesses to get the most of their on-page content and increase their search rankings. Although there are a number of SEO techniques that may be best left to professionals, a great deal of on-page SEO is something you can do yourself once you know the basics.
Titles, Meta Tags and Keywords
SEO is all about ensuring that search engines can find your content, and will then list it because it provides information relevant to the product or service that you’re selling. All SEO starts with the most basic elements of your Webpage: titles and meta tags. Each page on your website should have unique and descriptive title, rather than simply “page 1, page 2” or “My Company”. By giving each page a title that indicates what it contains, it will be easier to find for both customers and search engines.
Meta tags, specifically keyword and description tags, are also important – these are pieces of HTML code on your website that are not visible to viewers, but that help search engines classify and rank your page. They should contain basic descriptions and keywords relevant to your website, without over-stuffing, as engines will ignore content or words that are endlessly duplicated.
You also need to consider what goes into your URL, and add descriptive elements or your brand name to foster recognition. You may wish to purchase a generic keyword-rich domain name that speaks to what you sell, if your brand name is not reflective of your market.
HTML Optimization and Your Sitemap
HTML tags are also an important part of ensuring that your Webpage is found. The tags are used to denote headings on your page, with <h1> as the most important, down to <h6> as the least. Tags such as bold or strong are also useful, as they can help to emphasize or highlight keyword text.
Also consider that everything you put on your page matters – including the tags on photos. If you have a keyword-rich page, tags, and content, don’t forget to include these same keywords in the image filename you use, as well as within the IMG tag’s ALT attribute.
The XML sitemap you use also plays a role in how search engines find you – this sitemap is a file that lists all URLs that can be crawled by a search engine and it is crucial that this map be consistently updated as new pages are added, or new content is uploaded.
Content is King
It’s important to understand that most search engines only “crawl” for text, and may not index images or videos. Some, such as Google, have begun to analyze image and video files, but the bulk of crawling, indexing and ranking happens because of words written on a Webpage. To make the most of your content, it’s important to understand not only what to write, but how to write it.
First, this means finding out what your target audience is searching for. Do the research and ensure you know what keywords are being entered in search engines by your customers, and tailor your text content around them.
Next, make sure that the content you write is actually relevant and rich. Avoid repetitive “keyword stuffing” or the creation of derivative content, and instead focus on writing articles or blog entries that are up-to-date and deal with the product or service you are selling.
A recent update to the way Google crawls webpages – known as the Panda/Farmer update – has significantly lessened the ability of content that is stuffed or repetitive to achieve high rankings with search engines. If your content is thin and not information-rich, it is possible that search engines will pass it over entirely or that no one will find it interesting enough to read, meaning that no one will visit your site. Always remember – content is king, and text is what matters. Keywords and descriptions can’t take the place of well-written, focused articles.
SEO is something must be considered in order for a website to perform optimally. While some traffic will come your way organically and by word of mouth from customers who already know your work, taking the time to properly craft your on-page optimization strategy can lead to quicker indexing and higher traffic volumes.