On Page SEO Guide
The theory behind on-page SEO is simple: make your site easier for search engines to crawl and rank. This can be taken literally: don’t block search engine spiders from your site; and a bit more philosophically: create a site that search engines want to rank highly and serve to their users.
The number one problem I see with sites trying to rank in Google for even medium-difficult keywords is content. Google doesn’t want to serve your super thin, spun content site to its users. It didn’t get to be the #1 search engine by sucking.
As we’ve shown before, in previous on-page related posts, just improving and optimizing your existing pages can create massive improvements.
Use this guide to crush your site’s on-page SEO and watch the rankings improve (especially if you’re using our services).
- 1 On Page SEO Guide
- 2 The 80/20 of Optimizing Your Site
for On-Page SEO
- 2.1 Content
- 2.2 Meta Data
- 2.3 Page Tags
- 2.4 URL Structure
- 2.5 Media
- 2.6 Page Speed
- 2.7 Schema Markup (for Local Sites)
Unique content on all pages
You must write unique content for your site. Stop stealing other people’s content. Google does not rank stolen/scraped content unless your site is CNN or Amazon.
You need unique content on almost all of your pages. A Panda Penalty can be tripped if even 30% of the pages on your site are low quality (FYI, panda is a site-wide penalty, so you can kill your entire site–or never even rank in the first place if you get a penalty like this.)
It’s like your grandma always said…
Write Long Content
The longer the content on each page, the better. Aim for 1,000 words on important pages, but use 2,000 words if you can and it if makes sense.
Here’s a screenshot of two side by side website pages. One of these sites ranks far better than the other:
(hint: the site on the left ranks higher)
Use industry related keywords within your content: if you’re trying to rank for “Apple computers,” then be sure to include related keywords in your content (“Steve Jobs,” “iPad,” “iOS,” “better than a PC,” 😉 etc.).
Here are some ways to find related keywords:
If you navigate to Google.com and start typing in your main keyword (in this case, “Apple“) Google will supply a short list of related words:
Do not keyword stuff
You do not need to mention your target keyword over and over. You can, and will, get penalized for doing this. Use your keyword naturally a few times within your content, that’s it!
Build a big site
You need a healthy-size site. Your website should have at least 20 pages of quality content. 30 pages (and more) of content is ideal.
If your site is only 1-5 pages, you will have an uphill battle trying to rank, and when you DO rank, getting any results will take 3x as long.
Create engaging content
Making a big site of boring stuff is not the answer. Google is smarter than you. It can tell if the content you are writing is engaging or not. In fact, it tests your site anytime anyone visits it. It’s testing the user metrics (and that is not only time on site). If you are not creating good, quality, engaging content, your users will peace out and Google will never rank your site. In fact, I would say you could ignore half of this guide if you would only create hyper-engaging super ninja awesome content that people would love. If you get people to engage, you will always win.
Theme and Intent of your Content
When you’re looking to rank for a certain term, I recommend Googling the keyword. Look at the type of content that is currently ranking. It should be very easy to see if Google is treating it as an informational query or a buying query (commercial). Tailor your content to match what Google shows. If Google treats it as an information query (a.k.a. it’s not trying to sell you anything), then you will have a hard time trying to rank a site that doesn’t fit in with that intent.
Example of an Informational Query:
Here’s an example of an informational query, where Google is ranking pages that convey information. You’d have a hard time ranking a page that was explicitly trying to sell something for this keyword:
Example of a Buying Query:
Here’s an example of a buying query, where Google is ranking pages that convey information. You can more easily rank a page trying to sell something for this query, and, as you can see, you’d have a better chance of ranking a page trying to sell something than not:
Meta data serves two important functions:
1) It helps to tell the search engines what your site is about and
2) When your site shows up in the SERPs, it helps convince people to click on your site vs. another
The meta title should sum up what your site or page is about.
Example: Apple Computers – Buy Them Here
It’s short, simple, and to the point.
The meta description gives more details as to what your page is about. Use this text to convince people to click on your site vs. another site when searched for, and listed in the SERPs.
A high click-through rate will increase and solidify your rankings. Make it sexy!
Examples: Save up to 45% on all Apple products. All iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers on sale. Free shipping limited time!
See how you are giving the searcher an incentive to click on your site? That’s what you want.
You can use your main keyword in the meta description or not. I personally like to use variations of the main keyword combined with buying keywords.
Here’s an example of meta descriptions:
Meta Data Tools
You can easily start customizing the meta title and meta description if you’re using WordPress by installing one of these two plugins:
All in One SEO – use this if you’re an SEO rookie
Here’s how to install and setup All in One SEO Pack
Yoast WordPress SEO – use this if you’ve got a decent understanding of SEO
Here’s how to set up the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin (produced by the Yoast.com team):
H tags (<h1><h2><h3>etc…) are used to structure the information on your page. The search engines definitely use this as a ranking factor.
How to put these in your posts
H1 – The role of the H1 tag has changed over the years. Former “best practices” would tell you to always put your main keyword in the H1 tag. Now, it all depends on whether or not you are doing link building.
If you are NOT doing link building (this means you are not using our service), then you should put your main keyword in the H1 tag.
If you ARE doing link building (a.k.a. using our service), then you should NOT put your main keyword in the H1 tag. The reason: it can possibly lead to an over-optimization penalty or a Penguin penalty more easily of you are engaging in link building.
For the following examples, the target keyword is “Apple Computers.” This will show you how to use H tags to structure your page.
H1 Tags – Since you are building links to this page you want to keep your H1 tag generic. I recommend using “branding” or “generic” keywords in the H1.
Example: Check Out Our Full Selection Below
H2 Tags – These are for the main sub-headings of your content. This is now where I like to use my main keyword(s)
- Our Apple Computers On Sale
- The Macbook Air
- Macbook Pro Retina
H3 tags – Sub-Sub-headings
Other Tags: You don’t really need them, but feel free to use them if you have an actual need for the structure. They look good if nothing else.
Full Example of Usage (imagine there is relevant text after each heading–this is just showing the bones of how a page is structured with H tags:
Whenever possible, keep your URL slugs short and simple, preferably with a main keyword in it as long as it’s not spammy looking. (A “slug” refers to part of a URL that follows the domain name. Consider www.coke.com/drink-coke <— “drink coke” is the slug.
Example of a short and simple URL slug: www.yourwebsite.com/buy-apple-computers
Ranking Homepages vs. Inner pages
Do a search for your main keyword and make note of the type of pages Google is ranking. Are the majority of the pages homepages or inner pages? If the top 10 is currently full of inner page blog posts from sites, and you’re trying to rank your homepage, you’ll have a much more difficult time making it work.
Here’s an example of a search query where the majority of the results are the homepage. In this situation, you should try ranking your homepage for this keyword if you were targeting “ice sculptures.”
Here’s an example of a search query where the majority of the results for the search “wood working tools” are inner pages:
This refers mainly to the images and videos found on any given page of your website. You definitely want images and videos to be present. It absolutely helps with ranking sites.
Simple: embed a relevant youtube video. This is one of the best things you can do to improve relevancy of a page AND improve on-page metrics!
Just search youtube.com for a relevant video (for instance, search for “apple imac review):
Click “embed” and copy the code:
In the WordPress editor, click “text,” then paste:
Name the image your file name before uploading it to WordPress.
Use an “alt-tag” on your image with your keyword. (Click on the image you inserted in your post and click “edit”–it’s the pencil icon.)
Example: Apple Computers
Image Title Tag
I don’t even bother with this, so ignore it. Too often people just use this as a place to keyword stuff.
Important! I like to optimize maybe one or two images, and make the other images be other relevant keyword variations of my main keyword. You don’t want all the images/alts/titles to be about the exact same thing, using the same keywords, as then it would be considered keyword stuffing, and you could get a penalty.
You want to “compress” the image file size before posting (not necessarily the size of the image, only the file size). This will make your site load faster.
Use this simple, free service:
Or this one for PNGs:
Which leads us to…
Fast sites rank better. Even more importantly, users will not stay on a super slow site. That’s one reason why I suggested compressing your images, above. Huge images take a lot more time to load than smaller or compressed (size) ones.
What to aim for (speed-wise)
Make sure your site is at least in the 80th percentile for load time and loads under two seconds. Having a site in the 90th-100th percentile and a sub-one second load time is definitely better, but I personally don’t see evidence of needing to be higher in the 80s to get the benefit.
If your site is coming back as SLOW, follow the advice that Pingdom and GTmetrix gives. If you’re using WordPress there are some very simple steps you can take to see massive speed improvement with three minutes of work.
W3 Cache Plugin
Install the W3 Cache Plugin and activate it (unless you’re using WPengine).
In the WP dashboard, go to Performance > General Settings
Enable “page cache” and “minify.”
Now, check to make sure your site is working properly. “Minify” can sometimes mess up a site. If it did mess it up, deactivate “minify” and the problem should be solved instantly.
After you’re done, check your page speed again to see how much it has improved.
Lazy Load Plugin
If your site is displaying a lot of images, try the “lazy load” plugin. It delays the loading of an image until the visitor scrolls to that page. So if your article uses 10 images in a long post, it will only load the first few images, and will load each image after that as the visitor scrolls down.
Here’s the link: Lazy Load.
Plugin relation to Site Speed
Keep an eye on your plugins. If you’re not using a plugin, deactivate AND delete it. Plugins, even deactivated ones, can slow your site WAY down.
Feeling adventurous? If you’re comfortable using WordPress and are a bit more tech-savvy than a beginner, you might check out Cloudflare – a CDN (content delivery network). It distributes your content to multiple servers around the world, delivering your site faster to your visitors.
It’s really not complicated, and I recommend that you use it. Set up time is about five minutes. If you’re a media-rich site, it can cut your load time in half. Half!
Here’s a quick tutorial if you want to give it a try:
Fast Website Hosting Companies
If you’re using WordPress, then I cannot recommend enough that you use WP Engine. It’s an all-in-one WordPress managed hosting solution. Speed up your site instantly! It has a built-in CDN, and is completely managed for you (updates are automatically downloaded and installed).
Another highly recommended managed WordPress host is Traffic Planet Hosting. It offers the same quickly-loading site as WP Engine (probably faster actually), but is much cheaper. I will say that if I wasn’t already on WPengine that I would go with Traffic Planet.
Schema Markup (for Local Sites)
If you’re targeting a specific location, you need to use a “schema markup” to give the search engines information about what you are and what locations are relevant to you business. Schema is an accepted form of structuring data that our search engine friends can use to understand your site.
Schema markup is very easy to add. If you’re like most local businesses, you have your name/address/phone number/website (NAPW) in your footer. Just replace it with the following code.
<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/LocalBusiness”>
<a itemprop=”url” href=”http://www.YourWebsite.com”><div
<span itemprop=”description”><em>Keyword Keyword Services</em></span><br>
<span itemprop=”telephone”>(854) 288-9215</span><br>
<div itemprop=”address” itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/PostalAddress”>
<span itemprop=”streetAddress”>2885 Make Believe Rd.</span><br>
(Replace all the info with relevant info to your own business in the above example)
There are actually countless things that you can markup if you’re feeling adventurous (videos, images, etc), but the above code for local sites is a must.
Testing your structure
Once you’ve added the markup, test it to make sure it is implemented properly by visiting http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets
Double check index with Screaming Frog
Finally, check your site for major errors by running a search using the Screaming Frog SEO Spider tool. It’s free, and an awesome, powerful tool. There’s TONS of things you can look for, but the most important will be making sure the status codes say either “200” or “301.” If you see anything else, then you or someone you know more knowledgeable should take a look at getting those fixed. They can cause really big problems.
Here’s a video we did a few weeks ago that gives you a quick introduction and walk through to Screaming Frog SEO Spider.
So this concludes the 80/20 of On-page SEO. Kinda simple huh? I should probably put some sort of catchy ending and a call to action, but instead…