SEO used to be about manipulating your website and its relationship with the other websites, for the sole purpose of pleasing Google’s algorithm. In some ways that is still the case, but as Google’s algorithm becomes more and more advanced, the focus of SEO is shifting to a more authentic purpose of pleasing the user and engaging them in natural and organic ways. It is important to understand that Google’s fundamental goal is to deliver the most valuable and relevant content for each search query. This too, should be the underlying goal of any SEO strategy.
The following touches on some of the essential aspects of on-page and on-site SEO, providing insight into some of the fundamentals of a successful SEO strategy.
1. Keyword Research
Keyword research and selection lie at the very core of any SEO strategy. The goal is to select key words and phrases that have high traffic volume, strong commercial intent and at the same time are competitively reachable given the current state of your website’s rankings and authority. Once selected, it is generally best to be committed to the successful ranking of the chosen keywords and build on their success.
2. Website Backend
The platform and code with which your website is built, needs to be SEO friendly. The website needs to be easily crawled and indexed by the Google bots and ideally easy to mange in order to optimize the URLs and other SEO elements of the website. The URLs need to follow best practice, be customizable, and not duplicated. Any old web pages that are of value, whether from a previous website or from within the current website, need to be 301 redirected to their new location.
3. Target Pages
There can be great value in selecting or creating designated target pages within your website, that can be the focus of specific keywords and phrases. Depending on the semantic and topical relationship between your selected keywords, it is usually best to only target 3-5 keywords per page. Keep in mind that the home page is the most important page of the website so it is often best to focus this page on the most important keywords.
4. Keyword Targeting
There are certain aspects of each web page that need to be specifically targeted for keyword inclusion.
URLS: The main keyword or keyword phrase should appear in the page URL. This assists the search engine from determining page relevancy for the search query.
Page Title: The most important keyword for the page should feature in the page title at least once and ideally be as close to the start of the title text as is appropriate.
Headline (H1): It is considered best practice that the primary keyword phrase for the page, appear in the main headline (H1) of the page.
Images and image alt attributes: It is also considered best practice to have at least one image on the page. An image infers a comprehensiveness of the information on a page and also provides an opportunity to optimize the image with the page’s main keyword(s) through image title, filename and alt attribute.
Meta description: Although the content of the meta description isn’t considered to be a direct factor in Google’s algorithm, they are incredibly important in determining click through rate and user engagement. The meta description is your advertisement in the search results, so it needs to be keyword relevant and also appealing and engaging.
5. Page Content
Each target page should be at least 400-600 words, contain the target keywords at least twice and also include any appropriate semantically and topically related keywords and phrases. The content should be unique, valuable and more than just self-promotional. The page content should be appropriate and relevant, such that a visitor would be unlikely to go “back” to find an alternative and more relevant page or website. Ideally the content of the page should be of such value to the visitor that they share it socially or link to it.
6. Site Wide Content
The selected keywords for the SEO strategy and their semantic and topically relevant keywords and phrases, should also be appropriately placed throughout all the pages of the website–directly in the content and in the page titles. From a more organic and authentic perspective, the content of your website should be rich in valuable and useful content, that relates to the target market and industry that surrounds your chosen keywords. The content should establish the website as a credible and authoritative resource within it’s industry and address the intrinsic needs and questions of the target market, beyond the products and services that your business provides.
7. Internal Linking
The quantity and quality of internal links to a specific page and the anchor text used in those links, can assist in determining the authority of that page relative to the other pages within your website. This can help build the authority and power of certain pages and also assist Google in selecting which page it delivers in its search results for particular queries. Ideally, each of the target pages should have a direct link from the home page and the footer. Additionally, there should be a high proportion of contextual links to the target pages from other pages within the website, with anchor text that closely relates to the target key words for the page that is being linked to.
8. User Experience
Google is not just assessing the content and code of your website, it is also measuring how visitors are interacting with the website–the user experience. The website navigation needs to be clear, logical and intuitive. Information should be easy to find and easily understood. Ideally, you are trying to present the visitor with the information they need before they know they need it. The web design should be aesthetically pleasing and attractive, and the website should display well on any browser and any device.
9. Social Sharing
Signals from social networks are increasingly becoming an important component in SEO. Social signals have a direct effect on the search results, but they can also play an important role in getting links to your website. For these reasons, it is important that it is easy for visitors to share your content. This primarily means having obvious social sharing buttons on the page. An important precursor to social sharing is ensuring that you have content that is valuable and worthy enough to be shared.
What I have covered here are some of the fundamental on-page and on-site SEO strategies and factors that make up a successful SEO campaign. On-page and on-site factors (including domain name components) only make up approximately 35% of the total weight of factors that contribute to ranking in SEO. The remaining 65% involve “off-site” factors that include the quantity and quality of links to your website, social media metrics, traffic and user signals, and brand name/domain name mentions.
It’s important to be aware that when it comes to SEO, doing too much of something can be just as bad as, and in some cases worse than, not doing enough. A good SEO professional will always ask themselves these questions: “Does this appear natural and organic? Is this providing a good user experience?” Funnily enough these are the same questions that the Google algorithm is asking itself.