On Page SEO Factors: Optimization & Checklist

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On-page SEO factors are crucial to your SEO efforts. We examine everything from focus keywords to anchor text in our master class on on-page SEO.

Every Page Needs Focus (Enter The Focus Keyword)

The first thing you want to be aware of when building and structuring your website is that when search engines index pages, they look at each page as having its own identity. In other words, a page that talks about “Search Engine Optimization Tips” will be indexed under just that, “Search Engine Optimization Tips.” A page that talks about multiple topics (for example: organic search, paid search, and how the two can successfully be used together) will be indexed under that whole concept. It’s important that you only talk about related topics on one page, and start a new page once you begin a new topic. Why? Because you want each page to have its own unique identity. If it doesn’t, for example if your page is about organic search and organic bananas, it will get indexed under a category that virtually no one searches for (ie. organic search and organic bananas). And while a page can get really long and detailed and attract searches for many different keywords, it helps your overall “content portfolio” if the majority of your traffic isn’t all going to one page (similar to how portfolio managers balance an investment portfolio). Therefore it’s important that you split multiple topics across multiple pages, so each page ends up with its own topic, and therefore its own unique “identity.” The keywords that combine to make up a page’s identity are referred to as the page’s primary keyword phrase, or focus keyword.

Group Your Pages Into Categories, Or Silos

It helps to then group your related pages into categories or silos, which you can use as part of your overall website infrastructure to emphasize certain areas over others. Each silo will have a main cornerstone page which you can build up to become a powerful page with many backlinks and high Page Rank. More on that later.

On Page SEO Factors: What Are Search Engines Looking For?

What exactly do search engines like to find in a site? Here are some key factors to keep in mind when building your website pages that are essential to SEO. Pay careful attention to the list below – you can use the knowledge of your site’s SEO structure to create pages that are more effectively optimized for search engines. Next to each tip you’ll find advice on how you can take advantage of your site’s SEO structure when creating new pages.

Decide On A Focus Keyword For Your Page

We use the term focus keyword to describe a keyword phrase that is the main concept of any given page. It may well be that as the page grows in popularity it will attract searches for many related keyword phrases (at least, you hope this will be the case). But as you market your page and grow its presence on the web, you should always keep in mind its primary focus keyword to keep you on track. For example, the focus keyword for this page is “On Page SEO Factors.” We did keyword analysis(more on that later in the series) that showed us that this was a term was not only searched more often, but had less competition than other potential focus keywords. Nevertheless, the page may attract traffic from related keywords such as “SEO for Beginners” “SEO Page Optimization,” etc. As the page evolves and we promote it to help boost its rankings, we will always try to keep in mind that the focus keyword identity of the page is “On Page SEO Factors.”

Engaging Page Titles Reflect Your Focus Keyword

Your page title should reflect the focus keyword of your page, but also be unique and engaging. If your page is about SEO 101, for example, don’t name your page simply “SEO 101.” Choose a creative name that is engaging for your users (and that you think will grab their attention and entice them to click through to your page) that also contains your focus keyword or a variation thereof. Expert content marketing companies will literally spend hours coming up with a good title for a single article. In this case, we didn’t spend that much time, but you’ll notice that the title of this page is “How to Optimize Your Webpage for SEO.” We actually took a related search and tweaked it a bit to be our title. A more engaging title might be something along the lines of “Want to be Number One in Google?”, but that phrase is way overused and it’s too general a version of our focus keyword.

Make Your Page URL Identical To Your Focus Keyword

While evidence shows that it’s not absolutely necessary to have your URL exactly match your focus keyword, it’s our practice here at We Rock Your Web to make our URL identical to our focus keyword. Not just from an SEO perspective, but it helps us keep track of our page identities. The key is that your page title, URL, and headings all I be slightly different. Google will think you are keyword stuffing a page if they are all exactly the same (and your reader will get bored quickly and think you lack creativity).

SEF (Search Engine Friendly) URL’s/ Filenames

It’s important that your URL actually include keywords (and not numbers or gibberish) so the reader can tell from just the URL (without actually seeing the page) what the topic is. For example, a page about “Search Engine Optimization Tips” should have a URL like “example.com/search-engine-optimization-tips/”, and not “example.com/p.aspx?id=4233.” A URL that is keyword friendly is referred to as a Search Engine Friendly (SEF) URL. This is one of the many rankings factors search engines like Google use as well, and it becomes even more important during your backlinking efforts, as the URL can help guide what anchor text people will choose when linking to you.

Page Headings And Sub-Headings In <h1>, <h2> Tags

Your page title, headings and sub-headings should all be inspired by your page’s focus keyword. Note that you don’t need to repeat verbatim your keyphrase in sub-headings (search engines get suspicious if your English appears fabricated and unnatural), but feel free to use variations of it or contain it in alongtail version of that keyword (a more specific version). For example, if your page’s keyphrase is SEO 101, a sub-heading might simply be one of those tips, such as Search Engine Friendly URL’s. You’d be suprised at how clever search engines, in particular Google, have become over the years. They are able to categorize terms and phrases based on semantics and more complex relations, independent of their literal association. At the end of the day, you can’t go wrong if you keep these basic SEO concepts in mind but pay the majority of your attention to your reader. In other words, write naturally and use headings and sub-headings that help organize and make the flow of your page smoother.

From a technical perspective, your page should have one title tag, one heading one or <h1> tag, and multiple <h2>, <h3>, <h4>, etc. tags (making sure that all <h3>’s fall under an <h2>, all <h4’s> under an <h3>, and so forth). It’s a common SEO consensus that pages should not contain more than one <h1> tag, and we follow this rule as well, but semantically it should be fine to have more than one heading one tag as long as you break up the page in an organized hierarchy. These days, search engines pay less attention to specific on page SEO factors and more to the quality of your content, your backlink profile (who is linking to you and how powerful are those links), social network engagement, etc.

Anchor Text

Just like neurons in your brain use neurotransmitters to connect with other neurons, hyperlinks are used to navigate from website page to website page, and from website to website. It’s important that your hyperlinks are inspired by the identity (focus keyword) of their destination. You do this by giving your links descriptive anchor text. For example, a link to the page “Search Engine Optimization Tips” should say, “check out our search engine optimization tips page for details” (the anchor text, or clickable link, is in italics), and not, “click here for more search engine optimization tips.” We should point out that the anchor text should be as naturally varied as possible. Just as with the title and URL, you don’t want to always be using the same anchor text.

Menu And Navigation Anchor Text

Your main menu or navigational links are the most important links on your website – as they tie all your content together and form the structure of your entire website. In other words, they clue the search engines in as to what your most important, or cornerstone pages, might be. Make sure that navigation links are named with appropriate anchor texts – in other words, that they reflect the identities of the pages they are linking to. However, stop short of making the menu items a pile of keywords that confuse the user. You can also use a link’s title tag.

<a title="SEO Tips" href="...">SEO Tips</a> 

to get more descriptive so your menu doesn’t get cluttered up with too many words. In other words, don’t be afraid of using the word home to link back to the homepage, as that’s just common sense. If you have a website about search engine optimization tips the home page anchor text doesn’t need to be all those keywords. It’s not a bad idea however, to set the links title tag to those keywords.

Image Alt (Alternative) Tags

Not all web browsers (particularly those on older mobile phones) can display images, and sometimes an image on a page will not load correctly or not load at all. You can give your images alternative text tags (alt tags), using HTML’s alt attribute, that describe the image, so the image’s alternative text will be displayed when the image can’t be. For example:

<img alt="green apple" src="/green-apple.jpg" />

There is a second advantage to the alternative text tag – that is that it clues search engines in as to the nature of the image. You’d be amazed at how much traffic can be gotten from effectively named images. A sizable portion of search traffic stems from a search engine’s image index, and if your images have descriptive alt tags, they are much more likely to be indexed in the image database. Some SEO’s will try to pile focus keywords into image alt tags. We don’t recommend this approach. In fact, we used alt tags to name our images as descriptively as possible, which also helps us find them when we need them. Search engines are more interested in well-balanced media supporting your topic (i.e. having related images, infographics, video, slide show, etc.) when it comes to using images for rankings.

Visible Text Content

Just like search engines need an alt tag to find out what an image is all about, they have trouble reading any non-text content. This includes not only images and animations, such as Flash – but scripting (text generated by code) as well. It’s vital that your pages’ content and navigational framework (main menus) are coded in simple text, and not generated by images, Flash, or complex scripts with fancy effects. While these might look cool to the user, search engines will have trouble understanding them and as a result they may fail to understand your site structure.

That being said – keep in mind the user first rule that we mentioned earlier. Visual elements can enhance a website a lot, when used sparingly. It’s fine to use Flash or HTML 5 effects as long as the website’s core structure (title, heading tags, etc.) and content don’t depend on it. Bottom line – use media here and there to accentuate and spruce up your layout, but don’t use it to house content.

On Page SEO CheckList

I know I just threw a lot at you, so I’ve put together an On Page SEO Checklist as part of SEO 101 series which you print out and use to check the boxes of all the concepts I just discussed.

Following is a list of essential items to check off when optimizing your site structure and pages for SEO purposes as discussed in more detail in our article on On Page SEO factors. Print out and use this guide to make sure your pages are optimized and ready for indexing by the search engines. We focus on structure, performance, and integration into your overall content hierarchy.

Top 10 SEO Tips For Page Content

  1. Take the time to write a good title – A catchy title could make the difference between someone clicking on your link in the search results (and elsewhere) and passing over it.
  2. Stay on topic – Eliminate irrelevant content. In other words, minimize content and maximize quality (relevance). Your readers will only stay tuned in to your page as long as they’re interested. One way of gauging reader engagement on your pages is to check their time on page and website analytics logs or software (with Google analytics, for example).
  3. Each page should have one concept, ie. one or maximum two main keyword phrases that are more important than the rest. Having a focus keyword for each page can help you stay on point.
  4. Put yourself in the shoes of your reader – are you creating unique, engaging content that readers will want to share? Pages with quality content usually rank better (because they are linked to more, giving you a stronger backlink profile and higher PageRank) than mere online brochures or pages that focus on selling things.
  5. Your best content should come first – not just for your readers, but for the search engines. Make sure that in your source code your main navigation comes first, followed by your main content. These should appear before your sidebars, footer, and other less significant content.
  6. Keep your pages short, between 2 and 8 KB in size, and your articles generally don’t need to be longer than 500-1000 words. Google is known to provide rankings benefits for speed. Their PageSpeed Insights can give you instant feedback on your website’s performance and areas to improve.
  7. Place variations of your focus keyword, and related keywords, in your title, heading, and emphasis tags. But be careful not to overuse the strong tag – it is important that the strong tag be used to naturally emphasize important words, and not merely keywords. The same goes for the title and heading tags – use natural variations of your focus keyword, don’t repeat the same keyword phrase too many times. Use header tags (<h1>, <h2>, <h3>) for content hierarchy: h1 tags for the page topic (ie. use only one per page), h2 tags for a topical headings, and h3 tags for sub-topical headings. Make sure heading tags are nested (ie. an <h2> needs to be under an <h1>, an <h3> under an <2>, etc.).
  8. Minimize JavaScript, Flash, sound, etc. as, for the most part, these are not recognized by search engines. Quality text content is much more important. This is especially true for your navigation menu, one of the most important set of links on your page.
  9. Text links are more important than graphical links.
  10. Don’t use pop-ups, or use them sparingly – these may be penalized by search engines. Think about your visitor and avoid doing anything that’s too annoying, or worse that tricks them into doing something they weren’t expecting.

Meta Content

Well written meta description tags – you can use a meta description tag to influence what shows up as the description for your website in the search results. Most blogging and Content Management Systems should support this via a plugin or add-on, if not out of the box. A well-written meta description can make the difference between someone clicking through to your article and skipping it and going to a competitor. See the image below for an example.

wryw sugarsync meta serps

Top 5 SEO Tips For Page Structure

  1. Organize your content according to themes and logic based on your focus keyword. Use a book-like structure, with chapters and blocks delegating importance.
  2. Pay attention to styles (CSS) – search engines recognize stylesheet alterations to tags – use carefully. In other words, don’t create white font on white background, or blue font that could be mistaken for a link – the search engines might think you’re up to something shady.
  3. Short link paths – users should be able to access sub-pages of your site by traversing a minimal number of pages from the homepage.
  4. Navigation – have an identical navigation menu on each page, with navigation links based on keywords, but that are also user-friendly.
  5. Link structure – think about how all your pages link together. It helps to draw a flow chart showing the outgoing and incoming links of each of your pages on your website. This will reveal if you’re linking to one page too many times or not enough, as well as where your outgoing links are pointing to.

Best SEO Tools

If you’re familiar with SEO (Search Engine Optimization), you know how ever-changing and evolving the industry is. While anyone in this field needs to stay up on the latest industry trends, the most important part of the job is tracking and strategizing your SEO plan. Trying to do this without an SEO tool is a fool’s errand.

Our SEO tools comparison looks at the leading SEO software options and distinguishes what sets them apart from one another. You’ll notice that these solutions have free trials, but after that, there is a monthly fee involved. While there are free SEO tools out there, any experienced online marketer knows that to find a quality solution, you’re going to have to pay for it.

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