On Page Search Engine Optimization - Google Guidelines

On-Page Elements

There are many options you can try today to begin improving your search engine rank. Your webpage is the bedrock of your SEO strategy, but it’s been said that your actual page may only be responsible for less than 20% of your rank on search engines.

Why is this you ask? Given that in the past there has been so much foolery with search engine results, apparently Google, Yahoo and Bing have been driven more and more to rely on offline resources to determine the efficiency and accuracy of certain sites.

That being said, completely ignoring your on-page aspect isn’t smart either. A great analogy is, your on-page aspect is like the foundation of your house. You don’t show off the concrete walls in your basement to the guests, but they’re immensely important; and without them, your house wouldn’t stand.

But good news, building those concrete walls isn’t as hard as you’d think – but you need to know where and how to begin!

Comprehensible Content

In order for search engine robots to comprehend the information on your site, it must first be written in their robot code. Meaning, keeping Flash or image content to an absolute minimum. You can pretty much assume that any Flash/image content will be unreadable by the bots.

Create it for the People not the Robots

Reputable SEO experts have often said that if you’ve created your page to focus on optimizing search engine robots, you run a very serious risk of losing site credibility and trustworthiness. Page owners, in the past, have sometimes used the tactic of creating extremely keyword heavy content that they hide from us humans, but is detected by the bots. This tactic, and other “blackhat” SEO tactics are a one-way ticket to being blacklisted from any and all search results if you ever get found out. Don’t try to cheat the system! The only one you will end up cheating is yourself – out of the possibility of a booming business.

Requirement Compliance

Creating your site in compliance with W3C (the internet police who make sure we all follow the rules and guidelines) is always a sound decision for several reasons. This way you can rest assured that people with disabilities can view your page along with people who might be using various other browsers and on various devices. However, it’s also super important from a SEO standpoint.

By abiding with the requirements, you end up diminishing the quantity of code you need to make up your webpage, which results in more emphasis on the keywords that you want to be searchable by the bots. The bots are also able to index your website faster and minimize any confusions with your site the more you comply with these requirements.

Flash vs HTML5: It’s On!

As soon as Steve Jobs (and Apple) proclaimed the iPhone and the iPad would not be using Flash, the worldwide web has been basking in the glory of HTML5 and the looming downfall of Flash. It is feasible that Flash will still hang around for a while, but your goal should be to avoid it if possible, due to the requirement compliances and it’s deficiencies with SEO’s.

Although Google has had many advancements over the past few years in a ditch effort to index Flash content, it remains very challenging and Flash-based sites are ranking much lower than HTML-based sites. With the arrival of HTML5, many of the compelling audio, video and animation capabilities that Flash rendered accessible are now also available with HTML.

The lesson to note here is that HTML5 can do almost everything that Flash can, but in a much more SEO friendly manner; so use HTML5!

Selecting Keywords

Some facets of SEO are very scientific, selecting keywords that you’d like to optimize for could be considered almost an art. Let’s say you’re a lawyer living in New York; you’ll probably have a hard time optimizing words like “legal advice” and “lawyer”. You could be doing everything right and taking all the right steps for optimization, but those words are just so common, and would turn up so much competition, that it would be almost impossible to get substantial results. SEO is aimed at getting your page in the first page of searchable results, and you just can’t do that using words that common.

Rather, you could try to optimize for something like “New York family lawyer” or “Brooklyn Lawyer” to get more specific. Optimizing for specific kinds of searches is less competitive and I’m sure you’d prefer getting traffic that is actually interested in your services, rather than getting an abundance of random traffic from people that turn out not to be interested.

How do you select which keywords to go for? Thankfully there are resources like [insert keyword resource link (Google adwords keyword tool?)] that make the art of selecting keywords just a little bit more enlightened. SEOMoz has created an amazing guide [insert link] on how to do useful keyword selection.

Keyword Density

How do you select which keywords to go for? Thankfully there are resources like [insert keyword resource link (Google adwords keyword tool?)] that make the art of selecting keywords just a little bit more enlightened. SEOMoz has created an amazing guide [insert link] on how to do useful keyword selection.

Webpage Title

This is very important for those search engine robots when they’re trying to figure out what your page is about. You should try to incorporate some of the keywords you chose into your webpage title.

Additionally, its very important that you decide how you’d like to structure your webpage titles. Given what we mentioned earlier about how SEO is not about people searching your exact company or business name, that doesn’t have to be the primary focus; it can be secondary, while you focus on the actual contents of the page in the title. For example, if your website is for your new cafe, here’s the best way to format your homepage title tag:

Los Angeles California’s Favourite Cafe: Just The Drip

And if your keywords are more precise, this works too:

Los Angeles’s Best Latte at Just The Drip 07081

Other than getting your keywords into your title tags, it’s imperative you know the other aspect of title tags: they are pretty much the salesperson for your page! When someone conducts a search, the first two things they turn up will be your site title and a meta description of your page. If it ranks highly, those two things are going to convince the user to click on it or to move on to the next listed result. Make sure you think about what a user might be looking for in that small bit of information about your site.

Headers

Your site header is usually within the <h1> tags in your HTML. This should contain the info you believe is most important for those bots to index. That could be your business or company name, but maybe think about having it be more keyword focused since <h1> is very important in SEO.

There are various header take in HTML (<h2>, <h3>, <h4>, etc.) and although they are important, they become less and less important as their numbers increase. Make sure to place your keywords in the higher ones for more efficiency.

Body

The body of your site is the place where almost all of your content is stored. It’s imperative that the keywords you’re trying to optimize for are incorporated here as many times and in as many variations as possible. I don’t mean you need to keep repeating the keywords over and over, but they should be seen a few times and should seem natural for the reader.

URL

A keyword used in the URL (www.mywebsite.com) of your page is a very strong SEO tactic. If it doesn’t work, or if it’s already too late, to use a keyword in your main URL, then maybe you should think about using it as many directories as you can (www.mywebsite.com/directory- name/) or in naming your page file (www.mywebsite.com/page-name.html).

Alt Tags

Given that image contents can’t be crawled, alt tags are generally used by robots to describe them. It is a great idea to use alt tags while incorporating any and all important keywords.

It’s also imperative that when naming your image files you use descriptive words for the image and keywords whenever it’s appropriate.

Meta Explanation

Every site should have a meta explanation, by this we mean a short synopsis (around 150 characters) that summarizes the content of your site. Meta explanations cannot be seen by the user within your page, but they are catalogued by the bots and appear only in search results just below the title. This means that like your page title, it’s one of the most important things to do when trying to sell your page and it’s contents, and its especially important to get it right.

The use of keywords in your meta explanation is definitely a good idea, but given that the meta explanation isn’t heavily weighed when determining your site’s ranking, you don’t need to inundate us with them.

Meta Keywords

Meta keywords are akin to meta explanations in the way that they’re not visible by the user on your page. Instead of a short, one or two sentence description, meta keywords are literal words of phrases, separated only by commas (metaphrase 1, metaword 2, etc.). Later in the 90’s, meta keywords were vital in determining your page ranking, but due to keyword spamming, we don’t give them as much weight anymore. However, the experts will tell you that they do indeed still carry some importance, so it is worth your while to incorporate some meta keywords in all pages of your website.

Optimized Profit

When you are creating a new page, using optimized profit, or the smallest amount of code as possible, is supported for SEO purposes. SEO pro’s use something that is called “Content to Code Ratio”, which becomes super useful when considering your profit. For SEO objectives, you should typically put more emphasis on the content since this is where you can earn your higher rank. Unnecessary code just weakens your site’s markup.

All over the internet however, you will find that many sites still use out-dated markup that waters-down their page rank. Make sure that your developer, or yourself, are implementing the latest coding techniques (HTML5, non-inline CSS, etc.) and are keeping the content to code ratio in mind.

Sitemap.xml

All the primary search engines back the use of sitemap.xml file for websites. What this file does is simply keep track of the list of URL’s for every page you’d like indexed within your website. However using a sitemap.xml file doesn’t guarantee that your page will be indexed and crawled, but it’s helpful for the bots who end up on your site. If you’re wondering why sitemap.xml doesn’t index, it’s because major search engines put more weight on what other sites have to say about your page, as opposed to what you say about your own. Make sense?That being said, sitemap.xml is still an amazing resource and something you should definitely implement into your SEO strategy.

Schema.org

Lately, the major search engines have invested their time into a new tactic that is geared towards further improving search results. This is from schema.org’s homepage: “Many sites are generated from structured data, which is often stored in databases. When this data is formatted into HTML, it becomes very difficult to recover the original structured data.”

Here’s an example to help you better understand the service that schema.org provides. When you see the word “orange” you may think of the color or the fruit. Before schema.org came around, there was no way to define which one you meant.

Although it is still quite early in schema.org’s life, it’s vital to consider implementing it in your SEO strategy.

What to Avoid

Even the most well-meaning site manager can accidentally do something that ends up hurting their page rank rather than helping it. Below are some well-known problems that you should definitely avoid.

Duplicate Content

Duplicating content from one site onto your own site is a huge no-no. Plagiarism can see students kicked out of school, and the search engines tend to feel the same way about it. Not appropriating content from another site should be basic common sense. It can be even more difficult if you re-write content from one of your site’s to use towards another. The search engines will most likely not know that you are the same page owner and author, so because it seems copied, they might hold it against you. Try to be very careful if you are ever doing this.

Keyword Overuse

Also known as “Keyword stuffing”, is using certain keywords far too often, and can render your site penalized by the search engines. The pro’s say that your intended keywords should be anywhere from 1% and 3% of your page’s content. It is not advised to create hidden from users, example; text that is too small to read, or camouflaged by the background, etc. Those are some very quick and easy ways to get penalized for keyword stuffing and should be avoided at all cost in your SEO strategy.

What you always have to keep in mind is that you are writing this content for site users, not for the search engines. If you re-read your content and it sounds way too keyword heavy, that might be an indication that you’re already over that 3% mark.

Keyword Misuse

Using faulty keywords to portray images or any other content on your page will just water-down the strength of your target keywords. It will also be discouraging if users come to your site expecting one thing, and get something completely different. Accuracy and honesty are key here, and you can rest assured your visitors will be thankful for it.