SEO or search engine optimisation, involves a whole range of things you can do both on and off your website which will influence how high your site appears in search engine results pages e.g. When someone Google’s “Best [that thing you sell] in [that town you sell in]”.
On-site SEO is great because it’s things entirely in your control that can affect how your site ranks in search. You can’t control the search engines; you can’t control your competitors; you can’t control external links. You can control your own website and content.
Here are 8 things you can do on your website now that will help you:
1. Do your keyword research
Find the keywords, phrases and questions your customers search for that you want to rank for. Careful though – lots of people search for “table” but are they searching for a coffee table? An HTML code table? The Premier League table? Perhaps the periodic table? What do you have content about? Match searcher’s intent to your content that helps with that query.
2. The URL
The Universal Resource Locator or “the bit you type in to your browser to go to a web page”. It’s the first bit search engines see of your page so the first clue on what your page is about.
For example mylovelywebsite.com/blog/post-12345 is not very helpful. Try mylovelywebsite.com/blog/how-to-do-onsite-seo – now you know what the page is about!
- Use your site structure to your advantage e.g. in your Blog section all your pages might start /blog/ – you don’t need to repeat yourself saying blog/blog-about-onsite-seo/.
- Use your keyword research here – get the focus of your content into the URL.
- Separate words with hyphens or dashes, not underscores.
- Make URLs descriptive but not essay length!
3. Page title
More than 10 characters, fewer than 70 (including spaces) – but this varies. It’s to do with the space a letter takes up. e.g. a letter “i” takes up less than a “w”. Aim at around 50-60 characters.
- This is where your keyword research comes in. Get your target keywords into the page title – as near to the start as your can manage whilst still making legible sense.
Write for people, optimise for search engines.
- Make it unique, meaningful, interesting, relevant to the content on the page and understandable by humans: “Write for people, optimise for search engines.”
- Don’t over optimise: “Hotel rooms in Barcelona, hotel rooms in Spain | HotelRooms.com” is over-egging it.
- Don’t be shy of putting your brand name in there at the end though. The ‘upright pipe’ (this thing: |) is common here but a dash is fine too – but be consistent.
4. Meta description
This is the bit that, usually, appears in the search results pages (on Google etc.) in black text with more information about what’s on the page.
- Use it to your advantage. Sell your page – imagine your customers seeing it in the Google search results; convince them to click and read your page.
- Google recently extended the character limit from around 160 characters to around 320 – but the job remains the same. Make it: unique, useful, descriptive, honest, engaging etc. etc. And written for humans – optimised for search engines.
- Don’t feel compelled to fill all 300+ characters. Optimal is the most effective – not the longest.
- Use this space to weave in (naturally) more of your target keywords (from your keyword research) – those that perhaps didn’t fit so neatly into your URL or Page Title. This can be a great place for synonyms or related terms.
Images are another great place to ensure your pages are seen by search engines as being ‘about’ a topic, keyword or phrase.
- Ensure your images have related file names e.g image123.jpg adds nothing. onsite-seo-meta-data-example.jpg is a bit more useful.
- Again, use dashes not underscores to separate words.
- Make sure all your images have alt-text. The primary aim of this is for partially sighted, the blind or other users who may use screen readers. The screen reader will use the alt-text to describe the image to the user – so make it descriptive not just keyword-riddled nonsense. If you can naturally and usefully add in keywords related to your content you can do that too.
6. Make it snappy!
Slow sites irritate users, slow down (and so deter) search engine crawlers and are disastrous to use on mobile devices.
- Images are often a big culprit here. Only upload them at the size you need them; don’t just default to the .jpg format (often .png files will look the same but be much smaller); investigate srcset to serve users an appropriate image size based on the size of screen they’re using.
- Strip out all the junk. Don’t fire tags, code, tracking or anything on a page unless you need it. E.g. if your checkout page needs complex script to make it work, only fire it on checkout pages – not every page.
7. Internal links
SEO is not just about getting links from other websites to yours.
- How you link to your own content is just as important – if not more so.
- Try and avoid the bland and undescriptive “click here”. Anchor text is the technical term for the words which are clickable links to another page. Search engines use these to give them clues on what that page is about e.g. “This page is about dog food” is not optimal. “This page is about dog food.” is much better.
- Don’t over do it. A page with 100s of links with the same anchor text pointing to it is over-optimised. Similarly, a page with hundreds of different synonyms with slight variations all pointing to it is likely to be seen as spammy too.
8. Schema for the win
Rich snippets and data mark-up deserves a whole piece by itself. So here’s a good one: How to use schema mark-up (note the useful, informative anchor text of that link!). In short, investigate schema to mark-up your content. There is a schema for almost everything – even Public Toilets.
By using mark-up you can make clear to search engines what each piece of information is: a name, location, price, colour option, size choice, latitude and longitude etc.
Don’t rush things – time spent on doing keyword research thoroughly, will be time well invested.
Don’t neglect off-site SEO too but by pulling all the on-site SEO levers you can yourself, you can make a significant difference to your site’s organic traffic. Good luck!