On Page SEO In 2014
2013 was an eventful year for the SEO biz. Google made headlines with constant algorithm updates that upended the entire SEO industry almost overnight. Online marketers are still unsure what additional steps Google will take and how it will further impact the marketing landscape. No matter where you stand on Google’s search algorithm updates, you cannot deny that the search giant has made their point loud and clear: STOP USING SEO SHORTCUTS (link farming, keywords stuffing and spam blog comments). From now on, the only valid way to give your site an SEO boost is by having original, relevant, high-quality content and delivering a great user experience.
Google’s algorithm updates throughout 2013 bore cutesy names like Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird. Online marketers, however, were not amused at the effect these updates had on their sites. Failure to comply with Google’s new On-Page SEO requirements can have devastating consequences on a site’s search engine ranking. Unfortunately, many marketers still stubbornly cling to the old ways of doing things. Their On-Page SEO strategy still largely consists of putting high value keywords in specific areas of the page that search engine crawlers look at. This goes completely against Google’s new directive, which states that On-Page Optimization has to benefit the end-user rather than a search engine crawler.
There is a lot of misinformation floating around on the topic of “Effective SEO Techniques in a Post-Penguin/Panda/Hummingbird World”. Hopefully we can dispel some of the myths.
Here is a quick and easy primer on On-Page SEO Best Practices for 2014 and beyond.
Keyword Elements to Fix:
1. Page Titles (Displayed in the search results only)
Page Titles are a crucial element for your site’s SERP (search engine results page) performance. Having a good Page Title is vital to convince the user to click on a search result. Search crawlers also look at Page Titles to determine that page’s relevancy to a search query.
Sample Page Titles : Keyword (cars for sale christchurch)
Used Cars for Sale – Christchurch European – Auto Trader
- Make sure your primary keyword is present in the Page Titles, preferably at the beginning.
- SERP only show the first 70 characters of any title, so make sure you keep your titles to 70 characters or less.
- Pipe symbols ( | ) are a good way to divide specific keyword phrases. Just remember not to over-do it – Page Titles should be easily readable.
2. Page Descriptions (Displayed in the search results only)
Page Descriptions (also called meta descriptions) is another vital part of page that affects SERPs. Page Description is the little blurb of text that shows up below the title in a search engine results page. A good Page Description should convey everything about your page at a single glance. Having a poor Page Description, or even worse, no Page Description will result in users ignoring your links when they show up in search results.
Sample Meta Descriptions: Keyword (Auckland Accommodation):
Auckland accommodation bookings and last minute deals for hotels, motels and more. Great rates for Auckland on Travelbug.
- Be sure to use your primary keyword at least once, in the description. Place the keyword in the first half of the description if possible. Don’t go overboard – a limit of 2-3 keywords is ideal.
- Descriptions longer than 155 characters will be truncated in the search engine result page, so try and keep them within that length.
3. Body Headlines
This is the main headline for your page, usually marked with the H1 tag. A user clicking into your page from the search results will immediately look at the headline to see if it is relevant to the topic of the page. The best headlines are those that succinctly describes the content of the page without simply duplicating the page title. Having the keyword title in the body headline is recommended.
Sample Body Headline:
- Use your primary keyword.
- Do not use headlines that exceed 70-80 characters.
- Keep a close match to the page title without copying it.
4. Body Copy
The body copy is basically the main content of your page. This is the most essential part of your page, since this content is what your users come to the page for. Having the best SEO in the world is useless if your page offers nothing of real value to the end-user who arrived at your page from a search engine.
While it is important to have both the primary and secondary keywords throughout the text of the body – it is vital that this is done naturally. Modern search engine algorithms are adept at detecting keyword stuffing. If a search engine thinks you are merely randomly inserting keywords throughout your text without any consideration towards quality or relevance, your page will be penalised.
- Keep the text relevant, useful and easy to read. Also keep it concise and to the point. You will not gain any SEO benefits from writing a novel on every page.
- Don’t include more than one primary keyword and two or three secondary keywords per page.
- Nobody likes to read a large block of text. Break up the copy with additional headlines – make liberal use of the H2 and H3 tags.
5. Page URL
One advantage of modern blogging and CMS platforms is that they auto generate page URLs for you. These auto generated URLs are based on the page title, meaning if you had followed the above directions on how to write an effective page title, your URL should already have the keyword phrase.
While page URLs are no longer a major factor in determining SERPs, they still have an impact on search engine relevancy. A page URL with the keyword is always preferable for SEO.
- If you are using a CMS that auto generates page URLs, all you need to do is write good page titles that includes the primary keywords.
- If you still want to customize URLs, make sure they are free of strange characters that are difficult to type. Include a dash between words.
You may be surprised to learn that website images are the most under-utilized page element as far as SEO is concerned. Having great images adds another dimension to your site’s online visibility. It is a great way of getting your pages to pop up in image search results. Many search engines take image optimization techniques into account when determining page rankings.
- Try to insert titles on top of or below each image, if possible.
- Make sure you have descriptive captions for each image.
- Make the image file names one of your primary keywords, for e.g. primary-keyword-001.jpg
- Don’t forget to add alt text to each image, and make sure the alt text has at least one primary keyword. Do not exceed 125 characters for image alt text.
7. Internal & External Links
This should not be confused with link-building, which is Off-Page SEO. Internal and external links, in the context of On-Page SEO, refers to:
1. Internal Links – these help the user jump from the page they’re on to any other page on the site. A website with a good internal linking structure should be able to take the user to any other page in the site with three clicks or less.
2. External Links – as the name suggests, these are links to external websites that are related in subject matter. While it may seem counterproductive to offer links to competing sites, overwhelming evidence shows that sites that link to other sites with valuable content tend to do better in search engine results.
- Make sure you use the ‘nofollow’ attribute when linking to internal pages, since using ‘dofollow’ for internal linking might incur a penalty from search engine algorithms.
- When it comes to external sites, be selective about who you link to. Don’t squander dofollow links on unworthy or spammy sites since this will negatively affect your page rank. Link only to leading, credible sites with a strong search engine rank.
8. Meta Keywords – It’s the End of the Line!
After years of abuse by spammers and black hat SEOs, the end is nigh for meta keywords. Google stated as far back as 2009 that their algorithms would stop taking keywords in the <meta> tag into account when calculating pagerank, and as of 2013 they finally let it go. It’s time you did too. Forget about meta keywords and focus on aspects of on-page SEO that Google actually takes into account.
If you would like to learn how SEO can help your business grow by increasing your websites traffic, then please visit the SEO Services page to learn more.