If you want your web page to be found through Google searches, it’s usually necessary to do some search engine optimization or SEO for short. This is the practice of optimizing your web page for Google (or Bing) robot crawlers so that they can accurately index your content.
While there are certainly some technical aspects to on-page SEO, it mostly comes down to making your web page easy to read and navigate for users. Because remember, Google is just trying to provide results that will provide a great user experience.
Here are the seven places to optimize your on-page content. (Check out the bottom of this post for a live video demo of these optimizations).
1. Keywords and Word Count
First and foremost, you want to ensure that you have intentionally written the content for the page.
This means having target keywords or keyphrases in mind before getting started. BEFORE your write your content, think about your topic, your audience, and what keywords they will search to find it. These are the keywords you’ll want to utilize in your page’s headings and body text.
You’ll also want to write a minimum of 300 words. Anything less than that could be flagged as “thin” content by Google, and actually penalize you. So aim to have at least one full page of text before publishing.
As Google’s search engine robots crawl your page, they’ll look for specific styling cues to help them understand what content is more important than others. One of the primary spots they look in is the “headings” on your webpage.
Here are the various types of headings they use:
- H1 – The most important styled heading is the H1. This is typically the page’s title and should be automatically formatted through your content management system. Each page should only have one H1.
- H2 – These are the subheadings throughout your content. Try to highlight transitions in the content and utilize keywords, or related keywords, in them as appropriate.
- H3 and Beyond – If you have sub-subheadings, it can make sense to use H3 or H4s to style the text. However, remember that some website designs do not have custom stylesheets created for increasingly fewer heading designations.
Nobody likes to read through a wall of text, including Google’s search engine crawlers. So it’s essential to break up text with various formatting techniques throughout your page.
Utilize list functions, like bulleted lists, numbered lists, etc., to make it easier to visualize content and create a hierarchy for your text. Google also uses lists to create “featured content” results, which are commonly used to display quick answers on the search results page, like the example below.
In addition to list functionality, you can use columns, bolding, or another CSS styling to break up walls of text or highlight specific types of content (like quotes or data specifications).
Links are critical for good Search Engine Optimization. In fact, without links, Google would be unable to crawl and index the internet! Their algorithm uses links to understand how content is related and provides authority metrics to web pages and sites.
There are two primary types of links you’ll want to include on your web pages:
- External Links – When you link to another website, this is called an external link. Try to use these to cite sources or provide additional information for your visitors.
- Internal Links – When you link to another page on your website, this is called an internal link. This is commonly used to reference other content on your website, or to be a call to action.
Try to use both internal and external links throughout your website where relevant. This provides pathways for visitors to stay engaged and offers valuable link signals to Google.
You’ll also want to be aware of “Anchor Text.” This is the text for the actual link. The Anchor Text is an additional signal to Google that provides them with an indication that the linked-to page has authority on. For instance, I’d want somebody linking to this blog post with the Anchor Text of “tips for on-page SEO” instead of “click here.”
It’s also good to include images or other multimedia elements on your web page. This is yet again another way to break up text and provide a better user experience to your visitors.
Try to include images that are relevant to your content and will provide value to your visitors.
Be sure to add “alt text” that includes relevant keywords to any images used on your web page. This is the text that screen readers use to describe an image to somebody who is visually impaired. Search engine crawlers also use it to understand what the images are about.
6. Body Text
Of course, you’ll also have plenty of “body text” or regular-styled text on your page. This is truly the meat of your content and is another part of the page that contributes to your search engine optimization.
Throughout your body text, try to utilize relevant and related keywords. Google’s algorithm is smart enough to recognize related words and phrases. For instance, if you are optimizing your web page for “George Washington,” it would be beneficial to also write about “presidents,” “united states,” or “founding fathers.”
DO NOT stuff keywords into text artificially. You could be penalized in search results for this, creating a bad user experience. This was an old SEO trick from back in the day, but it has not worked for a very long time.
7. Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions
And finally, there are Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions. It sounds technical, but I promise it’s not. These are simply how you provide titles and descriptive text recommendations for search engines to use for a page.
The Meta Title is the title that is used for the page. By default, many content management systems (website editors) use your existing page title as both the Meta Title and for the H1. Although, it can make sense to customize this if you want to add additional keyword relevancy.
The Meta Description is the description used for the page on the search results page listing. Search engines use this to get a brief summary of what they can expect on the page. It’s also another great spot to highlight keywords.
For instance, the image below is how my website’s homepage is currently listed on Google. You’ll see I have the Meta Title as “James Roloff – Digital Sales Consultant.” This appears in the larger blue/purple heading on the search results page. Then you’ll see my Meta Description, “Hey, I’m James Roloff. I’m a digital sales consultant. I’ll help you implement a digital selling strategy to grow your sales and marketing results.” below in grey text.
My recommendation for titles and descriptions is to put yourself in the shoes of your ideal search engine audience. What are they searching for? If they read your title and description, would they want to click it? Are you using the words that they are using?
Tips for writing Meta Titles:
- Short and Concise – Keep your titles short and easy to read. They should ideally be between 50-60 characters maximum.
- Call to Action – Writing your title as a mini call to action can be helpful. Make them want to click the link.
- Include Keywords – Be sure to include your primary keywords. Both for search ranking and so your listing appears relevant based on the user’s query.
Tips for Writing Meta Descriptions:
- Summarize the Page – A good meta description should summarize the page’s content. You can also use a snippet from the page to provide context.
- Tell Them Why – Use the description as an opportunity to tell them why they should pick your result. What’s in it for them?
- Include Keywords – Just like in the title, it’s also important to include keywords in the description. Use them naturally and provide some relevancy. Limit your total description to 150-160 characters.
Conclusion: Focus on the User
If I were to summarize all of the optimizations above, it’d simply be: focus on the user. If you can provide a good user experience through relevant content, thoughtful formatting, and descriptive calls to action, you’ll find that you are 80% of the way there with SEO.
As noted earlier in this post, Google wants to provide the best experience possible to its users. That’s how they keep people returning to Google for their web searches. Because of this, they are continually updating their algorithm to align with indexing for an excellent user experience.
The rest of search engine optimization is primarily small changes to cross your t’s and dot your I’s.