Secrets of Successful On-Page SEO
On-page SEO refers to the various techniques and methods for optimizing a page within an HTML document so that the page itself has a good presence in SERPs. It specifically refers to SEO on a certain page instead of referring to the site’s overall SEO.
On-page SEO is a more technical aspect of SEO, but you can’t have one without the other. You can’t have good on-page SEO without a site that follows, or at least approaches, some of the basics of building a site with SEO as a priority. This article will focus mainly on technical optimization tips instead of content optimization tips, although some of them could be considered both.
Basics of On-Page SEO
All of this assumes that you have a basic understanding of HTML and the limits that various aspects of the language place on you as a web developer. These limitations will help to ensure that your site’s SEO does not suffer from hacked code, which has been responsible for some very effective search engine spam over the years.
We’re going to assume that you’re familiar with the process of adding Title tags and meta tags to your web pages. You should also be aware of how to edit the HTML source code of those pages so that you can directly edit these elements and others.
On-page SEO, as previously said, refers mainly to techniques for optimizing individual web pages. Each page of your site needs to be considered individually when optimizing it. This can be seen in the various tips, tricks, and techniques that we will cover shortly.
There are also certain areas of any given page where you should not focus too heavily on optimization. For example, there is little reason to put much time into optimizing things like image file names or anchor text within links on a page. While this sort of optimization does matter, in most cases, you won’t see an immediate improvement in SERPS by using them in your SEO efforts.
On-page SEO Techniques
The following list covers some common techniques for doing effective on-page SEO with HTML documents:
Always use the <title> tag to give each page a brief but descriptive name in the SERPs. The text specified in the <title> tag will appear in search engine results and browser tabs when a given page is opened. Keep this text down to about 70 characters or less. Otherwise, you risk pushing important keywords off the first page of search results and pushing your site’s actual web address off that same list of results.
Ensure that you include all appropriate keywords (a maximum of three to five per page) within the <title> tags of each page on your site; don’t forget to include some form of H1 heading for each one. Using more than three or four different keywords can make an individual page look like spam, or it might get your pages tagged as such should you get caught trying to do it.
Whether or not to include the name of your site in the <title> tag is a common question, and there isn’t a simple answer for it. However, if you decide to include your site’s name in its <title> tag, make sure that you keep it down to between five and ten characters at most; anything more than that and SERPs will push your keywords off of the first page.
<META DESCRIPTION> Tag
This tag can be used for both on-page SEO and off-page SEO, but we’re going to focus on just its use for on-page SEO here. This text appears directly under your site’s description when viewed on search engine results pages.
This tag is an often under-utilized area of on-page SEO, but it really shouldn’t be since the text within it has a lot of potential for gaining you higher rankings. It can also help to increase clickthrough rates for any given page if done correctly.
It’s usually advisable to keep your meta description tags down to between 150 and 160 characters or less so that you don’t accidentally cut off important keywords at the end of each one. If you do happen to write something longer than this, try breaking up the text across two lines yourself before submitting it; this will help Google (and other search engines) better determine what your site is about.
The description meta tag is another area where you shouldn’t use more than three or four individual keywords as part of the text. If you do, SERPs will push your site’s name and address further down on the results list instead of allowing those keywords to rank higher.
The main text on your pages is what search engines look at most when ranking a site, and one great way to optimize this area of any given page is by means of the <body> tag itself. This tag lets you include some specific HTML code that can help to highlight certain keywords above others; it works like this:
Since search engine spiders only analyze the main content on each page (and not hyperlinks, images, or other such elements), they will usually prefer text that appears near the top of your pages. This is why it’s a good idea to prioritize keywords in this area whenever you can by placing them at or near the beginning of any given paragraph instead of later within it.
Another important usage for the <body> tag is its ability to specify a target keyword for each page, which makes it an essential part of your on-page SEO efforts when done correctly. You can use this tag in much the same way that search engines do when determining what a specific page should rank for; if you’re able to include one keyword per page that relates directly to content on that same page, then you will ultimately accomplish more with your on-page optimization overall.
Another useful tool for getting better rankings with the <body> tag is using no more than three or four different H1 headings per page. Any more than that, and your site will likely end up being classified as spam by search engines; if you want to use more headings on a given page, then try breaking them up into subheadings instead.
Search Engine Spider Control
Now that you know how to use the various parts of the <body> tag for on-page SEO purposes, let’s talk about controlling which search engine spiders can access certain areas of your website. By default, any spider able to understand simple HTML can view anything on your entire domain no matter what directory it might be located in; however, you can block off access to certain directories and files simply by placing a file in each directory with the name .htaccess.
When you add this to the root directory of your domain, it means that any spider will be blocked from accessing anything that exists below that directory in the hierarchy. Simply repeat this process in each and every subdirectory on your domain to effectively limit all spiders’ access to just about everything on your site; only registered users will then be able to see these hidden directories.
One of the most important tools for controlling spiders using this method is restricting them from executing scripts on your pages since they are quite often used for malicious purposes. You can do this by placing 403 Forbidden code within a .htaccess file in any directory (or subdirectory) that you wish to block spiders from accessing; this will tell any spider trying to execute a script on your site to go away and not bother with such attempts ever again.
Webmaster Tools and On-Page SEO
There are dozens of different webmaster tools available online that were created for the sole purpose of helping webmasters track and optimize their sites’ performance in search engine rankings; some of these can be used as part of your on-page optimization process, but whichever ones you choose should always complement the efforts made through website development. No one webmaster tool is likely to do all of the work needed for successful SEO purposes, so take advantage of as many as you can.
In addition to the various on-page optimization tools available, you should also consider using webmaster tools for on-page SEO purposes. While most of these programs are likely to provide you with more information than you know what to do with, simply choosing a few key suggestions from among all this data can be useful when trying to boost your rankings in Google and other search engines.
Site Map Tools
When was the last time that your site map tool helped you boost your search engine rankings? Probably never, but it could help if used correctly by making sure that important content is always linked together within the sitemap itself. The more links between pages on a domain, the better they can usually rank for certain keywords; use this opportunity to connect your most important pages whenever possible.
In addition to using a site map to help search engines spider your website’s content, you might also want to use an XML sitemap for on-page SEO purposes. These special files are often used by search engine spiders themselves to locate and index individual webpages within a domain; this means that it is easy for a spider to visit a page simply by knowing its exact URL and reading the location from the sitemap without ever having been instructed as such from the website code itself.
Spiders love quality content just as much as humans do. Still, they will only reward you with good rankings if that content matches keywords specifically optimized for certain key phrases or topics related directly to what your visitors want to find when searching online. Therefore, you must work on crafting high-quality blog posts and other useful content for site visitors and include keywords that reflect the subjects you want to rank for.
Finding New On-Page SEO Tools
As long as search engines continue using an algorithmic equation to analyze website content, new tools will always be needed to help users discover this information easier whenever they search online. There are already so many different types of on-page optimization tools available today. Still, it might take years before every single one of them becomes available through your webmaster tools interface or directly within your website’s code itself.
There are likely hundreds of other good on-page SEO tools that have yet to be invented, and many of them will likely take years before they become available for widespread use. The best thing you can do in the meantime is to focus on the tools and techniques that already exist and continue to learn more about how search engines rank websites; this includes learning how your website ranks when someone types in a certain keyword phrase or search term related directly to its content.
No matter what kind of on-page optimization tool you end up using for your SEO purposes, remember that such programs can only work with the data made available through your website’s code itself; if you want better rankings, then look into optimizing these code structures first instead of trying to trick search engine spiders with inaccurate information or incomplete HTML meta tags!
The Bottom Line on On-Page SEO
As long as the search engine algorithm remains a secret, it will be impossible for webmasters to know exactly what Google and other search engines are looking for when they rank websites. While good keyword research can help you figure out which words or phrases offer the best chance of bringing in organic traffic from the major search engines whenever someone types them into a keyword tool, actually improving your rankings will require on-page optimization efforts that tie back directly to the specific keywords you want to rank for.