How do you ensure that you’re getting as many relevant visitors as you can to your site from the right search engines? The answer is withsearch engine optimization (SEO).
SEO can be confusing if you’re new to it, especially if you don’t have any help. The easiest, most effective way to optimize your website is to create a simple checklist that you can refer to time and time again. Once you determine which focus keywords are most relevant to your business, you’ll then need to add them to your new and existing website pages so the search engines can understand what they’re about. Then they’ll start returning to your pages for relevant queries, resulting in more visitors, who will convert into your new customers.
Before getting started though, you need to understand how to choose your focus keywords, by doing the research. We will write more articles on keyword research soon, but for now, check out the great article from Ryan Kettler.
On-Page SEO Checklist
To help you with the process, we have created a simple checklist of six important on-page SEO items you need to make sure to address on every page of your website.
1) Page Titles
The first item on your optimization checklist should be the page title. A page title, or title tag, is the main text that describes a web page. It’s an extremely important on-page SEO element because it’s often the first impression a visitor gets of the page. It is often the easiest SEO element to edit and it appears in three key places.
a) The Browser: The title tag shows up in both the top of a browser’s window as well as in tabs. Here’s an example. I’ve hovered over the tab with my cursor to make the full text appear.
b) The Search Engine Results Page: Title tags also show up in the search engine results as the links that your potential visitors will click after conducting a search. Here’s the same Fanatic Tourist blog title in the search engine results page (SERP).
c) External Websites: External websites will often use the title of a web page within the text, and link it to that page. Here I have a screenshot of the Fanatic Tourist Blog link on an external search directory.
2) Meta Descriptions
Let’s say that Google is a potential sales prospect and your web page is a salesperson. If that’s the case, then a meta description can be thought of as a first quick pitch for prospective customers. It should help them quickly understand what a page is about, and why the information on that page will benefit them.
You should write a unique, one to two sentence meta description for every page on your website. This allows you as a web page author to give your pages a more meaningful description. This comes in handy if the search engines were unable to automatically create their own descriptions based on the page content. Make sure you include the focus keyword and a call to action when applicable. Here is a look at the meta description from the Fanatic Tourist Blog.
Notice the meta description highlighted in grey. We write descriptions to fit the Google character limit of 156 characters. Originally it did fit, however Google has added more information that they feel is useful to the searcher – the 5 days ago – at the beginning of the description. This shows the searcher that this page was updated 5 days ago – but it does truncate the full meta description. This is not something that we can control, but Google adds what they feel is useful information for the searcher.
No two meta descriptions on any page within your website should be the same. It needs to match the content of the page.
3) H1 Headings
When you first look at any web page, most of the time the very first text you read is the heading, like in a newspaper article.
These headings are extremely important when it comes to getting your visitors’ attention and persuading them to read the rest of your article or page. If you don’t grab them with a strong heading, chances are they will leave your site immediately.
When used in conjunction with your page title and meta description, headings also help improve search engine ranking for specific focus keywords and phrases. Here’s a look at an H1 heading from a blog post on Fanatic Tourist:
We always limit H1 headings to 1 per page and we lead with it, and we avoid headings that are not relevant to the post’s main focus and content.
4) Body Copy
Of course, all the items mentioned so far are important for on-page SEO, but for better results, use your focus keyword at least a couple of times in the body copy too.
However, don’t just stuff the focus keyword in as many times as you can. Let it flow naturally, as if in a conversation. Make sure that your actual page text is interesting, valuable, and relevant to your audience. Doing items one through three above doesn’t matter if your content is dry, dull, boring, or overly promotional. Try reading it to yourself out loud before you publish.
It’s always a good idea to make sure the URL of your page contains the relevant focus keyword for SEO. The search engines will bold the relevant focus keyword in the URL when it matches the query:
As you can see, it’s a very simple URL that contains the focus keyword. It’s unique. It’s structured nicely based on where the article is located within the blog. There’s not a lot of extra technical stuff that doesn’t make sense to a human reader.
6) Image Alt Tags
When you have images within your pages, you should make full use of the image alt tags. An alt tag is a clear text alternative to the image. It provides descriptive information about the image for the search engine crawlers as they navigate your site. It is also helpful to visitors if the image cannot be displayed or for those who are visually impaired as screen readers will read out this text, thus making your image accessible to all.
Adding your focus keyword into the alt tag of your image is good practice as Google places a relatively high value on alt text to determine what the image is, but also to determine the topic of the surrounding content. So make sure your alt tag is descriptive of the image – and if the image pertains to the content on the page, ensuring the focus keyword is included should not be a problem.
Notice the image alt tag highlighted in yellow. My focus keyword is fanatic tourist and the image is a screenshot of their website. So my image alt tag is fanatic tourist website screen shot.
The six items I have mentioned in this article are the perfect on-page SEO items to add to your checklist as a business owner, because they’re going to give you the best return for your time. I also recommend them because I’ve found that as a web developer you often have the most control over these fields in your respective website content management systems (CMS). So why not use them to their full potential?
There are many other on-page and off-page factors that will contribute to your overall search engine optimization and audience building success.
Here are a few extra tips to keep in mind:
- How many relevant websites are linking back to your site? If no one is linking to you, Google doesn’t deem you as an authority on the subject matter.
- How fresh is your content? Are you adding to it frequently? Growing websites are rewarded more than static websites.
- Does your content contain useful, valuable information? Content that is too thin on substance will not do you any good.
- How fast do your pages load? If your pages take more than 10 seconds to load, that tends to annoy visitors, making them likely to leave shortly after arriving.
- Do you have any social signals pointing to your content? If you have industry professionals who are promoting your content with links via social media, this will benefit your SEO.
- How large is your website? Well-established, reputable, large sites often have the most authority. 400 pages is a key inflection point that you can aim for.
Coughlin Enterprises knows that it can be a daunting task to think about everything that goes into creating, maintaining and getting good rankings in Google, as well as consistent and regular social media signals.
We are here to help and we can design a package to fit your small business needs and budget.