Most people new to search engine optimization equate on page seo as everything in seo. Terms like meta tags and keyword density are often some of the first encountered by seo newbies. Many myths still revolve around on page seo and while for competitive keywords link building will be your path to success you can still rank very well for many keyword phrases with on page factors alone. In the previous two posts to this tutorial I talked about keywords and some of the things you could do while building your site to improve your overall optimization. Today as you have probably figured out I’ll be discussing what you can do on the page itself to gain a higher position in search results.
Let me begin with a reminder. Always write your web page content for your visitors first and search engines second. It will make no difference how much traffic you can get to a given page if there’s nothing useful there for anyone. Keeping search engines in mind while you write is fine and something you should be doing, but give search engines and seo in general a backseat to your visitors when writing. You’ll find that often the same things work well for both. Ok so not that I’ve given you that reminder what can you do on your pages to optimize them?
Probably the most important place to have keywords is in your page title. Search engines put a lot of importance on what a page is about based on the title of that page. If you’re not using keywords in your page title you’d better have a lot of links pointing to that page. When writing page titles place your keywords as close to the front of the title as you can. This isn’t about stuffing one keyword after another in your titles. They still need to be readable and convince someone to click on them since it’s your page title that shows as the link in all search results.
You should write unique page titles for every page of your site and use the keywords for which you are optimizing your pages. There’s no need to include red widgets in the title for your blue widgets page though of course you should use the word widget. It’s ok to use your keywords more than once in your title, but again don’t overdue it. Too many keywords won’t help. Use your keywords 2 or 3 times max. Keep your page titles short as well. After a certain number of characters all search engines stop displaying them.
It’s not necessary to include your company name in your page titles for seo reasons unless your company name also makes use of your keywords. You may still want to include your company name for branding, but place it at the end of your title. Your page on swiss watches on your site might have a page title like:
Swiss Watches From The Swiss Watch Company | SwissWatch.com
Not necessarily the best title, but hopefully you get the idea.
When it comes to seo the only meta tags you should ever have on your page are the meta keyword and meta description tags and you don’t even need one of them. Ok you can also use meta tags for the character set and language of your page if you want, but none of the index=”follow” or “revisit” stuff. That won’t make the spiders come back any faster. You really don’t need to use the meta keyword tag anymore either. It suffered from spam abuse so much that the major engines don’t pay any attention to it anymore. Most seo experts aren’t using it and if they’re not why should you. You can use it if you want, but if you do make sure that any word you include in the keyword list also appears on the page. If not you may send off a red flag that you’re spamming.
Do use the meta description tag, not so much for seo, but to convince people to click on the link once it appears in search results. Not always, but often enough your meta description will be what appears beneath your link in the results pages and can help people decide whether or not to click on your link. Use your keywords in your description without overdoing it. There may be a minor seo benefit, but you’re really writing this tag for people.
Use page headings and include your keywords in your page headings. Once again it’s not about keyword stuffing. Mention your keywords once or twice and move on. Use headings the way they were meant to be used. As a way to structure your content. You should only have 1 <h1> tag on your page which can mimic your page title if it makes sense. You might have a couple or three <h2> tags and <h3> tags. you probably won’t get to <h4>. Don’t create heading tags just for the sake of seo. Use them as they were meant to be used, but when you do use them try to get a keyword in them.
Is it important to mention your keywords on your page? Absolutely. Is there a perfect amount of times to use them on any given page? Absolutely not. Do not worry about your keyword density. Don’t over analyze your pages trying to find that perfect amount of keywords. You won’t find it. Is there a single perfect keyword density you should use? Highly doubtful. Most pages that rank well typically have keyword densities between 2% and 7% Please don’t hold me to that though. I really don’t know or care what keyword density I should use on a page and neither should you. Adding one more occurrence of your keyword in your content isn’t going to change your position in search results. In fact you can rank a page for very competitive keywords without ever mentioning those keywords on your page. The classic example is a search for ‘computer’ for which apple.com will likely be #1. Check the Apple site and see how many times you find the word computer on the page and then decide how important you think keyword density is.
Use your keywords a few times in your early paragraphs and also include them in your closing paragraphs. Every so often mention them near each other. Use them throughout your content when it makes sense to mention them. Don’t spend your time over analyzing it though. The truth is if you write a page that is focused on a givem topic then you’ve more than likely used your keywords the right amount of times. It’s also becoming a good idea of late to use words that are related to your keywords instead of just using your keywords. Search engines are getting better and determining the relevance of your page copy to a given set of keywords so using synonyms may work just as well if not better than using your keyword one more time.
Some people will tell you that you want to make all your keywords bold or place them in italics. There’s probably a minor effect in either of these at best, but it is ok to do as long as it’s not overdone. Having every one of your keywords in bold is going to look spammy to a search engine and even more to your page visitors. Feel free to do it a couple of times if it makes sense to emphasize your keywords in a certain part of the page, but as with everything on page don’t overdue it.
On Page Links
Link to other pages of your site within your content. The anchor text you use can have an impact on how well both pages rank for a given keyword phrase. Not too many links mind you, but if you have a page with related content link to it. It can be a boost to both pages. Use your keywords in the anchor text of the link. It’s also both ok and a good idea to have links to external pages in your content. Again make sure to use keywords in the anchor text of the links. Links are a very important part of seo, both on and off the page. The anchor text you use in your links is especially important when it comes to optimization.
When you link to external sites make sure the site is a quality site that your visitors will find useful. Make sure the site really adds something to what you’re saying. It’s possible that visitors will leave your site through the link, but if you always send them somewhere good they’ll come back to see what other sites you’ve found for them that they may like. Linking to quality sites can also help your Google TrustRank score.
Alt And Title Attributes
It’s a common misconception that alt and title attributes (they’re attribute and not tags) is the key to the search engine door. It’s unlikely they would have anything more than a very minor affect on your ranking. Both are meant to be used for accessibility and not seo and stuffing them with keywords not only won’t help you it’s likely to keep visually impaired visitors away from your site. Most of the time your alt attribute will be blank (alt=”") and your title attribute not even there. Use them only to provide addition information. If you have images that are also links you should mention the page the link goes to in the alt attribute. This is the best resource I’ve found for how to use The Alt And Title Attributes.
On Page SEO Summary
For competitive keywords on page seo will only help so much, though it can still help. If you’re targeting less competitive keywords then on page seo can be all you need to get a page 1 rank. Write good page titles above all else and use your keywords naturally throughout your content. Include page headings with your keywords in them. Do not spend too much time over analyzing things and do not over stuff your page with keywords. On page seo is no longer the end all and be all of search engine optimization. It still plays an important part in optimizing a page and you should keep it in mind as you write your pages. The more you do the easier you’ll find it is to write your pages when it comes to seo and the less time you’ll have to spend on them
We’re almost there with our basic seo tutorial. The only major thing left to talk about is link building. Of course as it so happens link building is what will ultimately prove to have the biggest impact in seo. It’s that important and it’s what today’s seo is all about. Next time I’ll pick up link building in Part V of this tutorial.