Perhaps one of the most confusing and misunderstood aspects of ranking a website in a search engine is On Page SEO. Even the title sounds a bit scary.
It needn’t be, as it’s actually pretty straightforward.
What Does “On Page SEO” Mean?
Basically, “SEO” in general is about optimizing your content so that search engines will rank it higher. Due to various changes in the way Google ranks websites these days, SEO is now really just about telling Google what your content is about.
The better your on-page optimization, the more likely Google is to find your content appropriate. It’s up to you and your audience to convince Google to give you good rankings however.
On-Page SEO basically sets up your site so that you’ll have the best chance of getting ranking for the keywords you want to rank for. It also involves linking (or ‘weaving’) your pages together so that search engines will identify all your content and choose which posts/pages are the most important, among other things.
What Does It Involve?
Despite a lot of misinformation out there about things like Keyword Density, LSI Keywords, and all sorts of other technical jargon, all you really need to worry about are a few things:
- On a particular page, you need to use the keyword in the Title.
- You also need to use the keyword somewhere near the top of the article.
- You need to write the rest of the article naturally, focusing on the topic.
- You need to link your article to other relevant articles on and off your site.
- You need to use decent formatting.
That’s about it! It’s a cinch really!
Keyword Stuffing & Keyword Meta Tags
Because people used to try to trick search engines so much in the past by cramming keywords all over it, nowadays Google doesn’t reward people for that (if you try it, you’ll likely get penalized).
Similarly, the “Keyword Meta Tags” that you still see in WordPress have no function. In the past you could write some content then use the meta area to tell Google which keywords were relevant. This is kind of like using #hashtags on Twitter nowadays. It no longer works like that.
Google will instead just scan your content and index it, then use this when somebody searches for a term that you have on your page.
All we need to worry about is helping Google identify the topic of our content.
Here are some simple steps for making sure you can properly engineer on-page SEO without messing up your article. Remember, you want to improve it.
Write The Article First
Assuming you’ve done your keyword research and chosen the topic of your article, you should just go ahead and write it. If you want to pay attention to SEO as you write, then stick the keyword somewhere near or in the opening paragraph of the article, but otherwise write it naturally. This is what Google wants to see anyway.
In my experience, you won’t be able to write half as well if you’re trying to work around keywords and SEO, so just write it first.
Formatting and Headings
Assuming you’ve put the keyword in the title and near the top of the article, your next task is to make sure your formatting is decent.
Notice how I try to make a new paragraph every 3-4 lines? This is to make it more easy for you to read, and you should do the same.
Also make good use of H2 and H3 subheadings. WordPress makes it easy to do. “Implementation” above is an example of an H2. It makes it easier for you to scan, and also makes it easier for Google to “guess” what the topic is about.
Try to put your keyword, or a partial keyword (like part of the phrase for example) in one of your headings as well. This isn’t as important, but if it fits with the article, put it in.
Linking Internally and Externally
This is actually more important than it used to be. You want to try to make every post/page on your site link to 2-3 other pages on your site, and 2-3 other websites. Let’s face it, good articles always link to other resources, so you need to do the same.
Find a few other relevant and good articles on your topic, and link out to them. It’s useful if they are not your direct competition though. Wikipedia pages are always a good one to link to.
There is a massive benefit to a good internal linking structure (learn more here). You’ll be able to send your users to view more of your stuff, which means they’ll view more pages, and stay on site longer. This will reflect in better Google rankings (and better user experience).
It will also benefit your most important pages. You’ll naturally link to them more often, which will gradually boost their rankings too. If you can get your most important pages to page one of Google, you’ll be getting highly targeted, free traffic.
Show Google that your pages deserve it by linking to them often (but not always).
Sidenote: I usually have external links open in a new tab/window, but not internal links. If someone is staying on my site I don’t want to force them to open a bunch of tabs unnecessarily.
Another often forgotten part of On-Page SEO is to include images. Like most on-page SEO, it’s not just good for Google, but also for users, so don’t forget it.
Images help break up text, help make your content easier on the eyes, and generally offer more quality. Google knows people like to see images, so it favors content that has them.
You don’t need to go overboard though. Try to include an image at the top of the page, something that represents that article’s topic. Other than that, only include images where they are necessary. I like to start each article with a 630 x 420 pixel image, and then forget about it.
You can’t just go into Google Image search and steal what you want. Sooner or later you’ll steal an image that is owned by Getty and you’ll find yourself facing a lawsuit.
Besides, images in Google Image search are often pretty low quality or are the wrong size.
All of my images are bought at Fotolia, but if you do want to go the free way, here are a few resources.
– Flickr Creative Commons (Free to use as long as you put a link back to the image owner. You can put “Image credit: Link” at the bottom of the article if you like).
– Stock Free Images (Good directory but not a huge amount of images).
– Wikimedia Commons (Similar to Flickr, attribution needed).
I prefer to use paid images as they make my sites look more professional, and tend to have a much wider variety available. In the end it saves time and doesn’t cost a huge amount. Read my Fotolia review to learn more.
Sidenote: Make sure you know how to edit the dimensions of your images too. On some themes, using the wrong size image will mean that the blogroll looks awful. 630 x 420 pixels is a common size.
Indexing Content – Sitemaps, Webmaster Tools, Analytics and Authorship
Once you’ve got all your base content on your site, formatted it nicely and checked that the on-page SEO works, you want to do a couple of things to make sure Google will come say hi, and will check all your content.
To do this, there are four things I recommend you do.
Step 1: Create A Sitemap
Using WordPress, install the All In One SEO Plugin. Mouse-over the All In One SEO button on your dashboard (near the top) and choose “Feature Manager”.
Once that’s done, you can go into the XML Sitemap section added to AIOSEO and follow the instructions. You basically just have to click “Update Sitemap” and it’s done.
What this does is create a “map” of your site that Google will look for and go on to crawl all your pages. It’s essential the “index” page of your site, and automatically gets updated in future when new pages are added.
Later, once you’ve verified your site with Webmaster Tools, you can submit the sitemap, and Google will come index your site in due course. Your sitemap address will be domain.com/sitemap.xml
Step 2, 3, 4 – Webmaster Tools, Authorship, and Google Analytics
Setting up Analytics will let you see traffic statistics for your site and show you how many visitors you’ve had, and what pages they viewed (among other things).
Webmaster Tools is your way of telling Google that your site exists. This is also where you can “submit” your sitemap so that Google will come and visit.
Authorship is a Google+ feature that allows you to claim to be the author of the content on your site. This will help Google identify who wrote it. It’s hard to measure, but it’s generally believed that sites with authorship will rank better, especially if you have a good author profile (builds up over time).
Doing all of this can be fiddly, but luckily there is a fantastic video at Wealthy Affiliate that teaches you how to do all three:
Please note: Authorship has changed now so Google no longer displays your profile image in the search results. It is still worth setting up Authorship though.
Once you’ve done all of that, your site is set up and ready for Google to find it.
That’s all there really is to On Page SEO. Not that complicated is it?
A major part of On Page SEO is also making sure your pages are rank-worthy. This means focusing on the quality of the content!
Once your pages are quality, and have good format and structure, Google will be able to understand your content. This means that when you start actively promoting it (which we’ll cover in the next chapter), things will go much more smoothly.
P.S The articles that come from our outsourcing service have already had On Page SEO taken care of. All you’d need to do is link them together and hit publish.
P.P.S Check this page out as an example of great on-site SEO. Notice the great interlinking and structure of paragraphs?
I bet it feels great to understand all of this complicated jargon! You probably have some major questions remaining though….such as how to actually get traffic!
Well, this is what we’ll be covering in the next chapter. Take a break, get a notepad, take some notes.