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SEO is a constant and ever-changing battle. But it’s the one that can be won by using correct techniques!
In this article, I will talk about on-site SEO. These are all the things that you need to take care of within your website, the content that goes on it and the code.
Keywords are not what they used to be
Search engines, just like the needs of their users, change constantly. Keywords used to be the phrases describing the topic of your content page, which you were putting in strategic places in your copy.
This allowed for abuse. For example, cram-packing websites with keywords or blending in a whole paragraph of a single key phrase so that it’s impossible to notice for users – the so-called Black Hat SEO. These could have really improved your rankings.
However, in recent years Google moved towards User Experience as the defining factor when ranking websites. This largely affected the way keywords are being interpreted.
Keywords or content topics?
Recently, Moz proposed a substitute name for keywords – content topics.
Search engines are far more sophisticated now and are able to interpret far more than just key phrases. Synonyms and context as well as are taken into account as well.
Good content is the key to nailing on-site SEO
I know, I’ve already mentioned that you need to create good content. However, it goes much deeper than just making your writing is focused and clear.
Write focused articles
User Experience is now a defining factor of SEO. That means you need to make sure that your content is always on topic.
There are probably plenty of aspects of your niche that can be turned into great content. Find them! Come up with a list of topics you can write articles/record podcast episodes/shoot videos about. Make sure that each of them covers a very specific, but a separate area and, most importantly, that your target audience will actually be interested in them!
On a purely technical side, focused content helps search engines categorize your page much easier. This not only applies to the topics, but also to the copy itself. Stay on the subject! Be thorough and avoid waffling!
Write unique content
It’s a rare thing to be the only business in a certain field. Your competitors probably create content as well. How can you make sure that you stand out from the crowd?
Visit blogs of businesses similar to yours. See what kind of content they post, what things they focus on and how do they structure their pages.
Then try to find a way to do something different from them. This is how you’re going to shine!
Let’s imagine that you run an independent clothing brand. Your competition is most likely to post pictures of models wearing their clothes. That’s obviously a great strategy, you should do that as well! But what about setting up a blog where you’ll talk about the fabrics you use or tell stories of your customers? The point of it is to find something that either hasn’t been done yet or is not being done frequently.
Another important thing with unique content is that you can’t copy topics, articles or paragraphs from other pages on your website. Every piece of content you post needs to be fresh and able to bring value in a new way! Remember that first of all, you are there for your customers. SEO is important and all, but all the things you create should primarily be focused on the people who might want your products or services!
Be relevant to search engines too!
Not only your customers want to get value out of your content! To truly rock the on-site SEO game, you need to prepare your website for a visit from search engines!
The URL is the little bit of text in your browser’s search bar. It’s not that important UX-wise – users can find out the topic of your content page much more conveniently from title tags.
The URL is, however, useful for the search engine to establish what your page is about. That’s why it’s important that is contains the focus keyword.
Have a look at IMBd’s URL for the page about The Fellowship of the Ring:
As you can see, it provides no information as to the actual contents of the page. And while IMBd, the world’s biggest online movie database, might pull it off, you need to take care that search engines have every chance possible to interpret and rank your website correctly.
Title tags or h1 tags are to your content like the title is to a book. They outline the topic immediately. Google actually pays more attention to your h1 tags than any other part of your content page. It is therefore important that you know how to create
A title tag should contain the focus keyword so that the search engine can categorize your page more effectively.
H2 and h3 headers
Their purpose is to further categorize the content page – they are like chapters and subchapters. Make sure that at least one or two of them contain the focus keyword.
H2 and h3 headers make it easier for the search engine to interpret your pages. If you were given a slab of text with no thematic parts, reading it all would be a pain. A thing as simple as indicating topics for each bit of copy would make all the difference when it comes to understanding the whole. Search engines work in the same way!
Speed up your website
People are impatient these days, aren’t they? But instead of being all bummed about it, you need to take action and make sure your website is up-to-date with the expectations.
And they can be pretty strict. According to Kissmetrics, 47% of the Internet users expect a page to load in two seconds or less. If it takes more, they are likely to leave. If they stay, they probably won’t take your whole business as seriously as if your loading times were better.
The stakes are high, but don’t worry – there are solutions!
Optimize your pictures
Visual content is a must-have on any website. It cuts through the text and makes the whole page lighter, easier to read and friendlier. I mean, imagine reading an article with no photos, graphics or infographics whatsoever. That would be a daunting experience for sure.
In order to make your visual content search engine-friendly, you need to optimize it. That means you have to reduce the size of each graphic or photo you put on your website. It will allow the browser to process them more quickly and cut the loading time.
A great tool for optimizing pictures is optimzilla.
Have a look at the code
Whoa, wait, isn’t it like, a job for an IT guy?
No, it’s actually pretty easy! And it’s worth checking out to make sure that all the most important elements of your website are up to speed.
To access the code of your website, click Ctrl + U on a PC and View -> Developer -> View Source on a Mac with Chrome.
To find the most important elements of any content page, access the code, then click Ctrl + F and type in:
To find the title tag: <title> Your title tag </title>
To find the meta description: <meta name=”description” content= “Your meta description”/>
To find headers: <h1>Your h1 tag</h1>, <h2>Your h2 tag</h2> or <h3>Your h3 tag</h3>
Use website analysis tools
Unless you’re a super savvy web design person, measuring the actual speed of your website as well as noticing any inconsistencies may be a tough and time-consuming job.
That’s what we’ve got free online tools for!
Neil Patel, the leading digital marketing specialist offers a free website analysis tool on his homepage. Simply paste your URL and get a whole list of improvement suggestions that will make your website more SEO-friendly.
Another great tool is the Pingdom website speed test. It highlights the problems within your page structure and code that, if solved, will improve your website’s loading speed.
Have a look at Hotjar too. It’s an analytic tool that allows you to take control of your User Experience. Some of the features include tracking down the parts of your content pages, which get the most engagement or a feature that allows you to ask questions about your website to the visitors.
Take care of the User Experience
User Experience is the most important factor Google takes into account when ranking pages. To put it simply – if your website is badly designed, your SERP position will suffer.
Here’s a couple of things you should pay attention to.
Write informative and trustworthy content
That’s pretty self-explanatory. Creating content gives you a unique opportunity to establish yourself as an expert in a certain field. But to do this, you need to provide something for your target audience that will allow them to trust you and follow you.
Don’t half-a** your content. Take extra time to do a proofread and fact-check. Remember that quality and not quantity should be your priority!
Headers are not only important for the technical side of your on-site SEO. They allow for an easy and quick navigation through your website.
Make sure that your headers are always on topic and relevant. There’s nothing worse than a misleading headline!
They indicate the topic of your content page. According to Neil Patel, they should be between 20 and 70 characters. Make them punchy and encouraging to scroll down and read more.
H2, h3 (and so on) tags
Once you give your content page a topic, you need to highlight specific parts of the text. This works exactly like chapters and subchapters and allows for even better orientation within your website.
Graphics and photographs usually supplement the written content on your website (unless you’re a photographer of course!). That means it needs to fulfill two functions. First of all, it needs to be relevant to your target audience and second of all, it needs to suit the copy.
For example, if you write a blog about sailing, you’re not going to put a picture of mountains in your article. Not only this doesn’t reflect the topic, but will also leave your audience confused.
Design your website
Make your website visually appealing. Right now, minimal designs are all the rage and “less is more” should be your motto.
Don’t stuff your website with text, images, ads and menu fields. Let it breathe!
Go here to read about the importance of the right colors.
Mobile version is a must!
You absolutely need to adapt to that and have a mobile-optimized version of your website. There’s nothing worse than going on a website that’s only adapted for desktop use on your smartphone. Scrolling not only up and down, but also sideways, zooming in to be able to read anything and clicking miniature boxes (while wondering if they were made for ants) – it’s a nightmare! Not only that – it’s also an instant UX blow and, what follows, a lower place in SERPs.
AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages. It’s an open source project by Google, which aims to make mobile websites faster, more responsive and more user-friendly.
AMP websites are supposed to use content frameworks, which cuts the amount of code, making pages quicker to load. You should seriously consider adapting it into your mobile website!
Having a mobile-optimized website might not be enough. Our lifestyles change and we often browse on-the-go. We need quick and responsive mobile websites. That means, cutting down the features to the essentials. There’s nothing wrong with that. A functional website is not one with plenty of different things going on, but rather one that actually works the way people expect it to – quickly and smoothly.
Links, links, links!
If you’re writing an article on a certain issue where you only mention something else, it’s better to insert a link where you talk about this thing in detail. Otherwise, everything you post would turn into a whole book.
Using internal links is a great way to not only increase the traffic on your website, but also to improve your User Experience. If people are interested in knowing more about a certain thing, a natural step would be to provide more information on it. That’s exactly what internal links do!
What if you mention an issue you don’t have an article about? Link to another website’s content that explains it! It’s a great way to increase your trustworthiness.
On the contrary, if you don’t provide a source to things like data or quotes, people might get the idea that you made that up. Avoid that!
When it comes to both internal and external links, be sure to put them in places that are appropriate. Don’t just link to your blog articles in random places to increase the readership. Provide value!
Succeeding in an on-site SEO game can be a time-consuming and laborious process. But after all, it’s all about allowing your website to reach its fullest potential.
Let’s recap the things you’ve learnt from this article:
- As search engines got more advanced, keywords are a much broader thing now,
- Writing good, researched and unique content will make all the difference!
- How to manipulate headers and URL to be more search engine-friendly,
- The techniques to make your website faster and more responsive,
- The importance of and techniques to improve your User Experience,
- The absolute necessity to have a mobile-optimized version of your website,
- The difference between internal and external links.