Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a practice of improving the visibility and rankings of a website on search engines (such as Google, Yahoo etc.) by implementing search engine optimisation best practices.
How To Do On-Site SEO
Since every campaign starts with a website, if is not optimised properly (both for users and search engines) then your chances for progress and success are severely decreased.
Google’s algorithm is evolving constantly, with several updates that made the most impact in the last few years. These were Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird and most recently Possum. These updates brought many new rules and best practices that you should follow.
What Is On-Site SEO
On-site SEO is the most important aspect of SEO campaigns besides off-page SEO. On-site SEO ranking factors are those that you have a total control over and is a process where you are optimising web pages on your website in order to get them ranked higher and, as a result, get you more organic traffic. Examples of on-page SEO factors include title tag, Meta descriptions, headings, readability and keyword density.
If you don’t optimise your website properly, you have very slim chance of getting to top spots on Google search results for any competitive keyword. It is actually a very common mistake where people are completely ignoring the basics of on-site SEO and just go for link building, instead of focusing on what they can control-your website and how is optimised. On-site SEO is definitely a foundation to any SEO campaign so get it right from the start.
We are going to show you the crucial things regarding on-site SEO that you have to pay attention to in order to assist and boost your rankings and get more traffic.
On-Site SEO Checklist
1. Title Tag
Title tag defines the title of your page and is how your website title will be displayed as in search engine results, is definitely one of the most important on-page factors. The general rule is that you should put your main keyword and it’s variations in title, and the closer to the beginning, the better. (This way it holds more weight in the search results)
Think about which page title looks natural and will make people click on your website in search results. Best practice is to make it short, descriptive and very clear. There’s nothing worse than spammy titles that make no sense.
Length is 50-60 characters and if is longer than that, Google will display the first 60 characters. There are many different online tools can show you how your title tag will look in Google’s search results.
If your site is a WordPress site then Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress allows you to easily edit the Title Tag, amongst other items.
2. Meta Description
Meta description is a short snippet of text, simple HTML tag, which outlines the content of a web page. In search engine results page it is showed below the title. Google uses Meta description to gauge the topic of what the web page is about.
Meta description should be max 160 characters long and basically entice a user to click through to your website. (Many people read it and decide whether to click on your website or not)
There is no need to stuff keywords in Meta description (it can give you over-optimisation problems), just use LSI (related) keywords and don’t mention your main keyword more than once. You can find LSI keywords beneath search results in Google for your particular keyword.
If you are a WordPress user, then writing Meta description is very easy. Just use All-in-One SEO Pack plugin or Yoast SEO, then set up Meta description and title below your posts and pages. This provides SEO signals from your content which will help assist you on optimising your page to its full capability.
3. Heading Tags
You should look at H1, H2, H3 etc. tags as if they are the headings in a book. In a book, the chapter title is an H1 tag and subchapters have H2 tags. Be sure to have a clear hierarchy in your heading tags as if it will make it more user-friendly. Best practice is to start your web page with H1 and make sure that you are not over-optimising all headings by stuffing keywords. Including your main keyword in H1 tag is a good idea, but again make sure that it makes sense for the user.
Remember to use H1 only once and you can use other headings multiple times. Don’t repeat your main keyword in all tags, but rather use some variations which will make content more readable and easily digested by users. Creating content that is readable for humans, not for Google and that provides information to the user is best practice when creating content – so your headings should reflect this.
The best way to optimise a URL is to make it descriptive while including the main keyword once and keeping it short.
Don’t use random strings for URLs such as www.website.com/index.php?p223.
The much better version is www.website.com/your-page as it makes more sense for a user and search engines. Also, always use hyphens rather than underscores.
If you make URL changes to old pages, make sure to use 301 redirects from the old URL to the new one, otherwise, when someone visits your old URL, it will show 404 page.
Content is the backbone of SEO. Always write content first for the user and secondly for search engines, which means that you should not stuff keywords by mentioning the main keyword in every or every other sentence. There is no need for that, you should just naturally write about the topic of the article as long as is unique and not copied from other websites (copying quotes is ok).
You have to publish quality content that will drive traffic. This means that is: well written, in-depth and interesting to read, provides value to the reader, solves a problem and is easy to share. Writing in-depth content has a benefit that it contains many different long tail keywords that make up 80% of search traffic (only 20% of search traffic comes from main keywords with big search volumes).
Content freshness is a ranking factor. Google will more readily show the user content that is fresher than some other that hasn’t be updated for a long time. Google preferably looks for content that deals with trends, breaking news and other fresh content that is frequently updated. What you can do in order to boost your freshness score is to constantly publish new content. Ideally, you should be posting daily and make sure that is helpful for your target audience. If you are too busy, even 2 times a week will make sure that your website is fresh.
Make sure that you make your content more engaging. To attract the right clients or visitors, you’ve got to make sure that you are engaging them. Also, great content is much more likely to be shared on social media which in return can get you more and more traffic.
Interlinking internal pages and blog posts is a very important step that will enable the users to navigate your website more easily and it will help search engine spiders crawl your website’s pages.
Things to avoid:
- Thin content: you should be writing longer articles for your blog posts or pages, even if your content is high quality in terms of information. Statistics have shown that in-depth articles of 2000+ words rank much better than shorter articles.
- Low-quality content: make sure that your content is well researched before you write it. You can make content more high-quality if is one of a kind and doesn’t appear anywhere else if it provides information that is hard to get elsewhere and by making it on-topic.
6. Responsive Design (Multi-Device Friendly)
Making your website responsive will resize it to any device that the user is browsing with. Back in 2015, Google started to look at websites that are responsive in a favourable way and gave them an edge in rankings. Many websites that weren’t responsive saw a massive dip in rankings and organic traffic.
The biggest reason to make your website responsive is not for an increase in rankings, but rather because of a fact that majority of users will browse your website on a mobile device. Now is the best time to make your website responsive!
An easy way to check if your website is responsive is through Mobile-Friendly Test by Google.
7. Crawl Errors
You may encounter some crawl errors while you are performing on-site SEO on your website. This is nothing to be worried about.
You can check for crawl errors if you have your website added in Google Webmaster tools by clicking on “Health>Crawl Errors”. If there are some errors, it just means that a bot visited your website and that it was not easily accessible.
Best practice for pages with 404 error (you deleted that page, you have a typo in the URL etc.) is that if a web page has some good backlinks, you should 301 redirect it to the page the link was supposed to go or to a similar page.
8. Page Speed
Since page speed is a ranking factor in Google, it’s your job to make your website loads as fast as possible. You can speed up your website by compressing images, using a CDN, switching to a faster hosting service etc. The best solution is a faster and more quality hosting service.
Statistics show that 75% of users would not visit a website again if it took more than 4 seconds to load. What’s more, above half of US online shoppers won’t purchase from a site that loads slowly.
You can check your website’s loading speed with:
See the results for a list of suggestions on how to improve things. Try to get it as far above 90 as possible.
Canonicalization means that every resource on your website has a unique and single web address. (Every image, page, post etc.)
For example, your homepage URL can be:
The problem here is that Google sees all 3 versions and it hurts your SEO. You lose link authority in a way that different people can link to any of those 3 versions of a homepage instead of a single version, and this way you have a backlink to each version instead of 3 backlinks to a single version. It also makes it harder for a Google bot to crawl your website since there is multiple URLs and bot won’t crawl your website infinitely long and deep.
An easy way to fix this is to use 301 redirect to make sure that your homepage has single and unique URL. Also, make sure that you link to the same version of URL (for example http://homepage.com) within your website. You can find more instructions at this link: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/139066
10. Outbound Links
Using some outbound links (especially to authority websites like Wikipedia.org, Washingtonpost.com, Ehow.com) in your content will help make your site look better in Google’s eyes and it will help with suggesting what page topic is about.
11. Optimising Images
Here are some tips for optimising images on your website:
- Alt text: this is text that search engines use in order to know what the image is about. Search engines can’t recognise what’s in the picture like people can when they see it. You can add it to your image URL like this: <img src=”blue-car.jpg” alt=”Blue car” />. If you are using WordPress, you can edit alt tag in each image in your Media gallery or when you are uploading images.
- File name: use a descriptive title of an image and use a hyphen instead of underscores or spaces in between words.
- Compressing images: you don’t want your images to be too large as it can slow down page loading time. If an image is too large, you can simply use Tinypng to compress it. Tip: do not resize your images on your website, instead make it the desired size first, and then upload it.
HTTPS (SSL certificate) is a more secure protocol than HTTP. In 2014, Google announced that they started using HTTPS as a ranking signal. Using HTTPS has 2 benefits: making your website more secure (especially if you are collecting any personal data from the users), plus it can help a bit with ranking in Google.
13. Social Sharing
Getting links and social shares is not a direct ranking factor. But is essential to use social sharing buttons on your website because it can bring you more traffic and exposure and as a result is more likely that someone will link to you, which definitely helps with rankings.