Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is broken out into the two main categories of “on-page” and “off-page”. On-page are those things that change the content, appearance and/or coding of the pages on your site. Off-page refers to links to your site pages from other sites on the web. This document addresses on-page SEO only.
Keywords, Keyphrases, Themes – The first and most important step in SEO is finding the keywords, phrases and themes that you will be targeting. The term “keyword” is actually a keyphrase, referring to a set of words, typically from 2 – 5 words long. For example “Search Engine Optimization” would be considered one keyword or keyphrase. “Red Patent Leather Shoes” is one keyword or keyphrase. Keyphrase will be used in this document to make it clear that it is not a single word. The ideal keyphrases will be relevant to your site contents, highly searched and low in competition for that keyphrase.
That ideal is rarely achievable these days, so it is a compromise as to the keyphrases chosen. Variations of the keyphrase can also be used as search engines can recognize the theme of a page from the related terms also.
Keyphrase research is always the first step. Do not use your intuition … there is data available! Google and other sources offer good keyphrase (keyword) analysis tools for finding the right ones for your site.
Each Page is a Portal – Although search engine results pages (SERPs) tend to concentrate on the home page of sites, each page is a true portal into your website and needs to be optimized as such. Structure all the information in this set of guidelines on a page-by-page basis. You should target many similar keyphrases on different pages on your site to maximize your site’s search engine rankings and exposure.
The URL – The domain name and directory/subdirectory folders and page file names should contain your keyphrases. A good domain name and folder structure would look like:
Meta Title Tag – The meta title tag is the set of words that appears at the top of your Google SERP results as the clickable blue link. It needs to contain your page keyphrases and be informative to the search visitor.
- Don’t use stop words like “a”, “and”, “or” and “that”.
- Don’t repeat the same keyphrase twice.
- Write the title tag with relevant keyphrases that are in the contents of the web page.
- Use different title tags for every web page.
- A good title length is around 12 words. Google displays the first 50 – 60 characters in the SERP results, so those would be the most important part.
A typical title tag will be like: (Start with primary keyphrases)
Search Engine Optimization | SEO | Optimization Methods | Search Engine Rankings
Meta Description Tag – The meta description tag should be a couple of short to medium sentences and contain about 150 – 160 characters or 20 – 25 words of information that describe the contents of the webpage and be in sentence form. The meta description is what is typically displayed under the meta title on SERPs and should be attractive and informative to search visitors.
- The meta description should contain the primary keyphrases and secondary keyphrases.
- Don’t repeat the same keyphrase more than twice in the description tag.
A typical meta description will be like:
We offer quality search engine optimization, search engine marketing and pay per click solutions. Request a free SEO quote online.
Meta Keywords Tag – The meta keywords tag is not used by the major search engines for determining the keywords or theme of a site page and many SEO’s choose not to use them anymore for that reason. For these search engines, they cannot help your rankings. Some lesser trafficked search engines do you them though. So they are optional. But if they are used, be sure that the words used in the meta keywords tag are relevant to and ideally, contained in, the body text.
- The meta keywords tag, if used, should contain the primary and secondary keywords used on that page, separated by commas.
- Do not just use a long list of terms that do not appear on the page, as that can actually harm your rankings as it appears “spammy”.
A typical meta keywords tag will be like:
search engine optimization, search engine marketing, pay per click, free SEO quote, optimization methods, link building
Body Text – The text content of a page should be at least 300 words for SEO effectiveness. The first sentence in the body text and the first words used per sentence are the most important ones for on-page SEO. Use your keyphrases in the first and last paragraph on the page. Use your keyphrases at the beginning of each page.
- Keyphrase Density – Repeat the use of your keyphrases. 3% – 7% of the words on the page is excellent and doesn’t seem spammy to a search engine. For instance, if you have 500 words on a page, then 15 – 35 of those words should have variances of the search term(s) you are targeting.
- Keyphrase Proximity – Keyphrase proximity measures how close in the text the words making up the keyphrases are. It is best if they are immediately after one another (e.g. “search engine optimization”), with no other words between them.
- Synonyms – Optimize for synonyms of the target keyphrases, in addition to the main keyphrases. Search engines are smart enough to use synonyms when ranking sites.
- Unique Content – Having more content and relevant content, which is different from the content on other sites both in wording and focus, is a boost for your site’s rankings.
- Keyphrases formatting – Bold and italic are other ways to emphasize keyphrases and phrases. However, use bold, italic and larger font sizes within reason.
Heading Tags – Heading tags are the way that the web page designates the importance of the heading information on a page. They are identified as H1, H2, H3, etc. in order of decreasing importance. In particular, the H1 and H2 headings are highly important. They show the search engines the main subjects for the content. Make these keyphrase rich and reflective of your page’s title tag and content. Your content and headings must have the same keyphrases in them.
- Only use one H1 on a page and put it at the top of the content.
- Use no more than 2 – 3 H2 tags as subheadings.
- Use H3 – H6 as needed for readability
An example of a pair of H1 and H2 titles would be:
Search Engine Optimization is Critical for Rankings. (as the H1) SEO Best Practices (as an H2)
Internal Link Anchor Texts – The hyperlinks connecting the pages of your site should have your targeted keyphrase terms in them as well as all links throughout the site, including menus and sitemaps. Keyphrase rich link text makes navigation of the site more intuitive for visitors and lets search engines know the keyphrases you are targeting. Use your primary keyphrases and variations to your targeted keyphrases when linking to other pages within your site. An example of using a keyphrase as anchor text for an internal link would be:
It is critical that you use Search Engine Optimization as the key driver in your site design and content.
Image Alt and Title Tags – Your images should include Alt and Title tags containing the keyphrases you are targeting. Alt tags were originally designed for display if the image could not be displayed but have become a useful method of telling search engines what an image is about. The image file name should also be keyphrase rich. If you have an image about polar bears, have the image file name be polar-bear.jpg in your images folder and the Alt tag be “Picture of Polar Bear”. Google Image search uses the Alt tag for image search.
SEO is a very involved and complex task. We know you will have questions and this guide could not possibly answer all of them. So please contact us to talk about what we can do to improve the search engine rankings of your site.