In today's post, I've decided to revisit On-page SEO (also referred to as “On-site SEO”) and produce what I hope will be a definitive guide. I've been mentioning more and more recently how important it is to get this right. Keyword research and on-page SEO are where you should be focusing the majority of your efforts now. Given what's happened with all the PBN stuff recently, it seems like a trip back to basics is necessary for a lot of people.
Constantly blogging and putting out consistent content is always good, but get the fundamentals right first. Content is NOT king, it's just very important. Let's call it a Duke, or maybe a small messiah since people tend to worship it. Keyword research is King, and On-site is Queen.
Nine Tips For On Page SEO
I'd like to offer a tip of the hat to the No Hat Digital team for their recent podcast which covered this in great detail as well. If you've got thirty minutes spare, go and give it a listen. I didn't want to put the structure or content of this post exactly in line with their podcast, but since Greg did it pretty much perfectly, it's hard not to.
The rest of this article is going to go over the fundamentals of getting On-site SEO right.
Keyword Density And Placement
People are still quite worried about keyword density and placement, so this is the place to clear it up. Here's some guidance:
Use the keyword somewhere in your title, and use it near the beginning of the article. After that just write the article naturally and if the keyword comes up, put it in.
It's almost easier to get keyword density wrong than right, so you need to consider a few things:
– Google looks at the entire page not just the content of your post. If you've got the keywords in the sidebar, or the domain/site name, footer, or even image alt-tags, it also counts towards the density count.
– Try to avoid more than 6 mentions of the keyword (on the whole page) or be under 1% density. If you NEED to mention it more, write it slightly differently. For example “On Page SEO” could be written as “Page optimization” or “Site SEO” etc to avoid using it too much.
– Use the SEO Quake Chrome addon to help you find all your keyword mentions.
Use Media To Present Your Content
People can argue until the cows come home how well Google can read the media on your page, but one thing you can't argue with is that for any given search, the top results always have a good balance of media. This is things like:
- Rating Stars
Things like this will help the end user and Google knows this. As well as using media, you should also make sure to avoid having walls of text. Try to avoid writing more than 3-4 lines per paragraph.
When you're using important data and want to show it in an infographic or image, consider using tables instead. Google can read that and will reward you for it.
Subtip: Use numerals instead of words when talking about finances or similar metrics. Ie “$100” rather than “One hundred dollars”.
Be Smart With Your Homepage
There are three or four different types of homepage really. The most common debate is over “Static” vs “Blogroll” homepages, and this really depends on the type of site you're trying to rank.
If you are constantly updating the content and adding posts at least once a week, I'd go with a blogroll. Building out an authority site means you want people to keep coming back and seeing your fresh content, so the homepage is the place to do that, and a blogroll is the easiest method.
However, if you're building a site that only has around 50 pages or fewer, you might want to go with a static homepage. Since there won't be new content added, there's little point in having a blogroll anyway.
For the static homepage, a lot of people just write a little introduction to the site, themselves, and the niche. Kind of like a front-facing about page.
Other people will just target their main keyword on the homepage (something I taught in my free niche site guide) and have a 2,000 word article aimed at that keyword. This is a pretty good way of ranking for the one keyword, but I've since learned that it's not the best way of utilizing the homepage.
What the NoHatDigital guys do, and something I will do more from now on, is to set up the homepage so it links to the main inner pages. If you want to rank three or four inner pages, then the homepage would have a section of text covering the topic of each page.
Let's say your site is about shaving and you wanted to rank pages on shaving equipment, shaving techniques, razors and so on, the homepage would have a paragraph about each topic, then a link to the page to learn more.
This would mean that any link juice the homepage has (which is traditionally the page with the most juice) would spread through to your key pages very well. It would also be great from a user-experience point of view as well.
This is a great way of spreading link juice around, keeping users on your site longer, and forming a well structured site. All of those things are super important from a ranking perspective.
What you want to do is find ways to link all of your articles to 2 to 3 other articles on your site. Use in-content links rather than sidebar links where possible, but make it as natural as you can. You can see in this article how I've linked to other parts of my site. I've done it naturally and relevantly. It's great for Google crawling my page, and also great for you. Win win!
You can also use things like sidebar “latest posts” or “category” widgets to help spread the juice around, or even a plugin called “related posts”. In most cases though it's really better to do via in-content linking though.
Mix it up and do both!
Another massive part of on-page seo that most people overlook. Link out to authoritative sites relevant to the articles! They're not stealing your link juice, they're backing up or reinforcing your content.
Think about it this way, you want to show Google that your page is the BEST resource out there for this keyword. Not only are you putting tables, images, videos and other media on your page, you're also linking out to additional resources for further reading. What an excellent resource your site must be!
If you're worried about linking directly to competitors, you have a couple of options:
2.) Link to relevant sites but pages you're not directly competing with (like their “about” page).
Seriously, go add 2-3 external links to all your pages and notice how quickly your rankings increase.
Table of contents
You only really need to worry about this for your main pages, the really big resourceful ones. Are you getting the hint about making really resourceful articles yet? 😉
Think about how sites like Wikipedia have tables of contents. They're incredibly useful for users and search engines a like.
I'd only consider using one on an article 1500-2000 words long, which is why I've included one on this page. By using a plugin like “Table of Contents Plus“, your H2 tags automatically get added into the TOC at the top.
You also get some good internal linking and anchor text benefits out of them as well.
Really though the benefit is that users love them and Google sees your article as a really resourceful resource.
Keyword in URL
This is actually one of the things that most people talk about. As you can see by the fact there are six tips before this one, it's not the only aspect of on page SEO that you need to worry about!
People often argue that the keyword in the title is enough, but I like to put it in the URL as well. I think the URL is arguably more important than the title.
Alt Tag, Description, and File Name On Images
Your image “alt tag” is a good opportunity for a keyword, and the description and file name should include something relevant to the topic. If your keyword is “Fishing in Alabama” and you've included a picture of a fish, the alt tag could be “Alabama fishing” the image name could be something like “fish caught in Alabama” and the description could say “This is the fish I caught last week while fishing in Alabama”.
This isn't the best example, but I hope you get the point!
A lot of people know that the minimum length an article should be is 300-400 words. However, for real optimization and seo benefits, I'd say you want your articles to be longer.
If you're going to follow the other eight tips, then you're going to need a few more words in order to get it all in.
There's no IDEAL amount. You want this article to be a great resource, but you don't want to just fill in words to get your word count up. I'm just saying that 400 words probably isn't going to cut it anymore.
Conclusion: Put In The Effort
I know a lot of people want to just keep blogging consistently and putting out content until they get the traffic. This has its advantages, as you'll be able to rank for more long-tail keywords in the future. However, from an optimization point of view, you really ought to be writing longer articles that are very useful, like I hope this one has been for you.
It will take you a lot longer to write, but the payoff will be much bigger. When your on-site SEO is this good, you won't need to worry as much about the rest of the SEO picture.
Got any question? Comments? Thoughts? Been fishing in Alabama? I'd love to hear from you!