On-Page Search Engine Optimization
On-page SEO optimization is a methodology to optimize SEO factors which are in our full control. On-page search engine optimization is performed with a vision to improve our site’s organic ranking in search engines. It is quite similar to creating a meaningful definition of your web page which is easily accessible and understood by search engines. Some of the known SEO factors deployed for on-page SEO includes titles, headings, tags, meta description, text to code ratio, keyword density, keyword distribution, image alt tags, effective use of synonyms and many more. Since search engines are seen as one of the best sources to generate natural website traffic, it gets more prominent for us to optimize our websites by following best on-page SEO guidelines.
Now, the million dollar question – What is the best format used by search engines to interpret web page structure for ranking it on SERP? Search engines employs some pre-defined format for interpreting a site’s content, site’s quality and site’s relevancy against the searched keywords. A good and effective on-page SEO strategy can help you not only generate quality content but it is also quite effective to push your content in front of the right audience.
Let us try to understand some of the best on-page SEO practices which can be easily implemented to improve our site’s web ranking not only for today but also for tomorrow. As a rule of thumb, never compromise the readability and usability of your site’s content at the cost of SEO because humans are always better decision makers as compared to machines.
Search engine web rankings are fundamentally based on keyword(s). You should consider only one or two keywords for any web page ranking. Moreover, if there is a need of more keywords, you should create new pages and/or posts to handle different keywords separately. The success or failure of on-page site optimization is highly dependent on the choice of your keyword(s) and the success of your keyword research.
The selected keyword(s) should be relevant to the overall content of your web page. It must be evenly distributed all over the page, although without doing any keyword stuffing. Using a variation of researched keyword(s) and its different forms as well as synonyms is also a highly effective method to on-page search engine optimization. Also try to use some related sub-keywords along with your primary keyword. Use of long tail keywords is also highly recommended to improve a site’s on-page SEO. Maintaining a right balance of keyword density is quite critical for the success of on-page SEO.
Optimize Page Title to Improve On-Page Site SEO
Page title tag is the first entity noticed by humans and search engines on any web page. It should always be self-explanatory so that the content of a page can be easily understood by search engines as well as humans. Moreover, search engines also use the collection of keywords used in a page title to perform a search engine rank analysis about its content.
Try placing the keywords at the beginning of the title to emphasize its weight. Carry your primary keywords and also some long tail keywords in page title to make it catchy to humans, although within a 60 character limit range.
Fix URL Structure for Best On-Page SEO
URL of your post or page plays a critical role behind practicing best on-page SEO guidelines. It should be small, but filled with right set of keywords. Only use – (hyphen), rather than _ (underscore) to separate out the words in URL. URLs must be neat and clean as well as self-explanatory not only to search engines, but also to humans. Stopwords should never be used in the URL.
If you are changing the URL structure of your old posts and pages then make it a priority to redirect all the old URLs to the new URLs respectively.
Meta Descriptions not Relevant to Search Engine Algorithms
Meta description is a small piece of summary text displayed on search engine results page (SERP). Google and Bing have already declared that meta descriptions are not considered as a search engine ranking factor. Although, certain studies have proved that a good meta description is quite instrumental behind increasing CTR (Click Through Rate) of a web page.
Meta description can be considered as call to action text. A good meta description should be able to capture the psychological interest of information searchers in order to raise their curiosity about the topic. Keep your meta description limited to 156 characters as anything written beyond this character count limit is not included in SERP.
Image Description is Interpreted through Alt Tags
Images are visual treats to our eyes but it does not mean anything to search engines. Search engines are completely blind to see an image visually. Search engines can only capture the value specified with an image alt tag to understand the definition of an image. Use of right keywords in alt tags of your image can help you improve on-page SEO.
It is a good on-page search engine optimization practice to include alt tags for all the images used on your web page.
Distribute Keywords among Various Headings
The placement of keywords in heading also plays a very important role in defining the on-page site SEO structure. Selection of right headers (with appropriate keywords) at the right places is also crucial for defining on-page site SEO success. One H1 heading tag and a couple of other heading tags are considered as good Search Engine Optimization technique.
Using heading tags H2 to H4 is also a good on-site SEO practice. You can repeat any of these headers as many times as required, although without over doing it.
Fix Broken Links
Displaying a 404 – Not Found error page against a broken link is one of the most popular practice used to mange broken links, but is it the best practice? No, it is always better to redirect a broken link to an appropriate page rather than showing 404 error message. You can use a simple WP plugin Eggplant 301 Redirects to selectively redirect all the broken links on your site. Google Webmaster Tools as well as Bing Webmaster Tools can be utilized to find broken links on your site.
Look at the crawl errors in Google Webmaster tools and crawl information in Bing Webmaster tools to detect the broken URLs on your site. Once the broken URLs are detected, you can easily redirect these broken links to appropriate pages.
Improve Site Load Speed and Page Load Time
Google hates slow Internet as we do. Even Google has officially declared a site’s page load time as one of the many search engine ranking factors deployed in its search engine ranking algorithm. Site speed optimization can also help your site gain up ranking on SERP. Appropriate caching techniques, optimizing images, use of appropriate compression technologies and optimizing many other site speed related factors can help you improve site load time.
You can also have a look at a four part WordPress Speed Optimization Guide to gain in depth knowledge on optimizing your WP website yourself. A fast loading website generates some positive SEO signals to search engines.
Sitemap.xml and robots.txt improves Search Engine Visibility
Robots.txt defines the accessibility of your site’s file structure to the crawlers. It defines folders and files allowed for crawling as well as files and folders which are blocked from crawling. It also defines the location of your site’s sitemap. Sitemap.xml contains the entire site structure which is used by bots and crawlers to collect your web pages for search engine indexing.
You should ensure that both these files (robots.txt and sitemap.xml) are well configured so that the crawlers have no difficulty in extracting information out of it. After all, search engine indexing is the first step to search engine optimization.
HTML Improvements to On-Page Search Engine Optimization
Google webmaster tools can help you discover areas which are in need of HTML improvements. You can look at HTML Improvements under Search Appearance in your Google Webmaster Tools account. Some of the key points to be fixed can listed as
- Missing title tags
- Duplicate title tags
- Long title tags
- Short title tags
- Non-informative title tags
Social Media Visibility
Apart from all the above mentioned tips for improving on-page SEO, increasing your web presence over social media is also quite beneficial. Facebook Page, Twitter account, Google+ profile and Google Business Page are some of the most prominent social media platforms that can be well utilized to increase your web presence.
You should also add appropriate images and all the necessary information on all these social media platforms.
On-Page SEO ROI
The results of on-page site SEO improvements may not be easily quantifiable in short term, but you will observe a substantial positive outcome in the long term. It may be quite difficult to calculate ROI related to your on-page SEO efforts, but you will see your SERP getting better over a period of time. Moreover, properly configured sitemaps will help search engine crawlers find and crawl everything available on your website.