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On-Page SEO for 2014

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On-Page Optimization affects the way we all view the internet.  With Google controlling 67.6% of all online searches made daily in the United States, there is a tough fight to reach the top and On-Page SEO will get you there. There is also a common misconception that Google does all the work for you automatically, which is simply not true. As Web Developers we must consistently strive to not only make great websites and user interfaces for people but also for search engines that index our websites. This article will outline a few key tactics when building a website that will help you get the most out of your pages.

The first major part of any website is the content, because without it you don’t have a website. The content for your site is very important, because it brings new and returning users to your site. We’re definitely witnessing a move toward Google preferring longer, meatier content, otherwise known as ‘long form’ content. Anyone can slap up a 400-word blog post and optimize it for a keyword or two, and Google is keenly aware of this.

If your site is currently not ranking well, and is made up primarily of short, generic articles, it may be time for a revamp of your current content. Ensure your content is well-written, and keep in mind that blog posts should generally be a minimum of 1000 words. This is particularly true if you have hopes of ranking for Google In-Depth Search (where I’d recommend a minimum of 1500 words).

If you have great content you want people on Google and other search engines to see what your articles is about before they get there. We accomplish this through meta tags. A meta tag is a bit of code in your header file that tells Google what to display when your site is returned by a search. The three major meta tags are Title, description, and keyword.

The title should tell people what the content of the page is about. It should include at least one keyword that you want the page to show up for during a search. A common mistake made by most developers is they put the branding of the site first in the title. The branding should be in the title but at the end instead. This will allow a person on Google to read more of the actual title of the page rather than your websites name. The title of the page should also be the first thing in the content section of the page and be the only heading in an h1 tag. Doing this affirms to Google that this is the title of the page.

Descriptions can be a little bit trickier. Normally with most SEO plugins the description will be generated from the first paragraph of the page. Which in some cases will work out just fine, but if you are really going after those keywords the description should contain a paragraph that has the highest density of those words. Google will only show the first 160 characters of the description and highlight the keywords that were searched.  You want to make sure your keywords are in the first 160 characters.

I have been talking about keywords through most of this article so far because they are important but the most important thing about them is to do them correctly. Most people have the wrong idea about keywords. You cannot simply put a keyword in your meta tags and expect them to get the results you want. Those keywords must also show up somewhere on the page more than a few times.

There is much more to On Page SEO than meta tags. Optimized URL structures are also essential to getting better rankings. There is preference given to static, keyword-rich URLs.

Best practices for URLs include:

·       Under 100 characters in length

·       Words separated by hyphens or dashes

·       URLs should include no more than 3 subdirectories

·       If you’re looking to rank for location-based keywords, be sure to include those in your URLs

·       E-commerce sites should append product numbers at the end of the URL instead of replacing keywords

Your image tags are still important for SEO; not only do they reinforce the relevance of the text content on the page; they also have a chance to rank in Google Image Search. But whereas, long ago, alt image tags were commonly thought of as primarily an SEO tool, marketers need to be keenly aware of using them primarily as a tool for labeling images for the visually impaired.

Where appropriate, your images should contain your keywords. If you’re finding that your images consistently aren’t relevant to your keyword, then maybe it’s time to rethink which images you’re choosing, rather than trying to ‘make’ them relevant.

When it comes to first optimizing your site, check your robots.txt file which will usually be located at www.domain.com/robots.txt to make sure no key pages are being blocked from being crawled by the search engines. If you see Disallow: / followed by any directory or page name, ask yourself whether it should be accessible to search engines. The best practice is to block admin panels and low quality pages which need to be in place but you don’t want search engines indexing, however if there’s anything you regard as a core page in there, take it out.

As you can see, some important SEO elements really haven’t changed much over the years, while others have. Perhaps our understanding of their importance has, but Google’s goal has remained the same all these years: to provide the most valuable and relevant content to the people who are searching for it.

Ensuring that your topic and keywords are clearly identifiable in your content, URLs, and header and image tags isn’t difficult (though it does take time), and will go a long way toward ensuring the best possible organic search rankings for your content. But most important of all, ensure that you’re publishing awesome content on a regular basis. That’s the foundation of on-page SEO in today’s modern era of SEO.

Written by Brad Bullard, Chief Technical Officer of DAASN.com

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