You’ve done your research and made sure search engines can crawl your website. Now it’s time to make sure search engines will love your content. You can optimize the content on each website page, also known as “on-page SEO.” This seems to be what most of my clients think of SEO, but if you already read the first two posts in this series, you probably know that on-page SEO is just one part of a larger puzzle. Let’s take a look at all that on-page SEO entails.
This post is part three in a five-part series about SEO that covers the following:
- Do your keyword research
- Make sure search engines can crawl your website
- Create content that search engines will love
- Build authority so search engines will trust your website
- Implement best practices for your website
Optimize Your Title Tags
The title tag is a bit of HTML that contains the title of your page as the search engine sees it, and it looks like this:
<title>My Awesome Title</title>
When you look at results in a search engine, the titles in those results often (but not always) come straight from the title tag of each page. You need to optimize the title not only for search engines but also for people. The title needs to let people know what is on the page to see if it will be worth visiting. Here are a few ways you can optimize the page titles:
- Keep it short at 50-70 characters. You don’t need to stuff everything in there.
- Keep it simple. The short part helps with this. You don’t need to make the title overly complicated. Instead, simply state what is on the page.
- Use one or more keywords. Remember those keywords you researched? Make sure you use them in your page titles but don’t just “stuff” them there. Only use the ones that are relevant to the content on the page.
- Put the keywords at the beginning of the title. That way, search engines, and users can decide if the page is relevant very quickly.
- Make it unique. If you have five different “About” pages, each with different content, use the titles to let people know they are different.
- Use your brand name carefully. Put the brand name at the beginning of the title for the homepage. Put the brand name at the end of the title for everything else.
I use WordPress for my websites, and if you’re doing the same, you can use the free Yoast SEO plugin to check your page titles. The image below indicates that I kept the title short and used my keyword (SEO). I also like Yoast because it gives me a preview of what my page will look like on the search engine results page (SERP).
Optimize Your URLs
URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. It’s a web page’s address on the internet. Depending on how you built your website, you can probably set the URL to what you need it to be before publishing it. Typically you won’t change the domain name for a new page, but instead, you would change the last part of the URL or the “slug.” The slug is the URL part that indicates the specific web page. Each content management system handles differently. The image in this section shows how WordPress handles it (by default, the slug for a WordPress post or page is the page heading written all lowercase and using dashes instead of spaces).
Here are a few tips for optimizing URLs for both search engines and users:
- Keep it short. Some apps might truncate long URLs, so a user can’t see the whole thing. The image also illustrates that.
- Make it relevant to the content on the page. The URL should let users know what they can expect to see on a web page. For example, which URL would be better for a “Contact” page? https://pongos.com/contact or https://pongos.com/page-1.
- Use all lowercase. Don’t mix cases in a URL. Lowercase will be easier to read and type.
- Separate words. Don’t make users try to guess what’s on the page. For example, https://pongos.com/optimizeimageswithtinypng is hard to read, but https://pongos.com/optimize-images-with-tinypng lets users know the page is about optimizing images with TinyPNG.
- Use dashes instead of underscores to separate words. Have you ever noticed that URLs get underlined when you add them to some applications? Underlines can hide underscores, so it’s better to use dashes to separate words.
Optimize Your Heading Tags
Page headings are HTML tags that help break up your web pages into sections. They work like headings in Microsoft Word, and they look like this:
<h1>Main heading for the page</h1> <h2>Next level</h2> <h3>Another level</h2>
You have six levels of headings to use (h1 to h6), but you need to make sure you use them correctly. Don’t use a heading tag in place of a paragraph simply because you like the heading’s font, color, or size. Instead, use heading tags to mark specific sections on your web page. They should briefly summarize the content of each section. That will not only help a search engine read through the page, but it lets your users scan the page for important information more quickly. For example, you can easily see all of the sections on this blog post because I used heading tags (specifically, h2). Here are some tips for using heading tags with on-page SEO in mind:
- Use only one h1 tag for each page. The h1 tag should indicate the main heading for the whole page. That’s not necessarily the same as the page title, but sometimes it is. For example, the h1 tag and title on this particular web page are the same (“SEO Tips & Tricks for Beginners: Create Content Search Engines Will Love”).
- Structure the heading tags correctly. You can have multiple h2 tags, and each can have one or more h3 tags following. Those h3 tags will be sub-sections of each h2 section. Don’t just throw an h4 tag in somewhere because you like how it looks. Instead, use styles to make text look the way you want it to look.
- Try to include keywords in the headings. Don’t just force them in there. Make sure they look natural. At the very least, you should have a keyword in the h1, preferably at the beginning of the heading. If you can also add the keywords to subheadings, even better!
Optimizing Your Meta Descriptions
The meta description is the text that often appears below the page title on the SERP. It is another HTML tag, and it looks like this:
<meta name="description" content="This is my meta description"/>
While the meta description doesn’t necessarily help directly with SEO, it can help with a page’s click-through rate (CTR), which measures how often people click on the link in the SERP. So I recommend optimizing it anyway. Here are some tips for doing that (many are the same as the tips for titles):
- Keep it short. 1-2 sentences should be plenty. Try to keep it under 160 characters so it will fit in the space provided on the SERP.
- Use your keywords. While this won’t help with SEO, it will help let users know that the content is relevant to the keyword. Some search engines even use bold text for those keywords on the SERP.
- Make it unique. If every page of your site has the same meta description, it will be tough to know what’s on them when someone is looking at the SERP.
- Make it actionable. Tell people what they should do when they read the description. For example, should they download your e-book? Read your blog post?
- Make sure the description matches the content of the page. You don’t want to annoy your users by promising them one thing and then delivering something else.
Optimize Your Images
Optimizing your images for SEO is essential because you want search engines to be able to load your pages quickly and read all of the content on the page. When you optimize images for search engines, you will also improve the user experience. Here are some tips for optimizing your images for SEO with on-page SEO in mind:
- Use descriptive filenames. If you add images from your camera or a stock photography website, the filenames are probably automatically generated and don’t describe what is in the picture. Fix that before you upload the image to the website.
- Use alternative text. The HTML image tag has an “alt” attribute that lets screen readers and other programs know what is in a picture:
<img src="cat.jpg" alt="Picture of a cat" />. Adding alternative text is good for SEO, but it’s also essential for accessibility.
- Resize images. If you know you have an 800×800 space to put a picture, don’t upload a 1080×1080 image and hope for the best. Instead, use image-editing software to resize the image properly. Don’t know how? I explained the process in my Optimize Images Without Photoshop blog post.
- Compress images. You can use a tool like TinyPNG to compress images, significantly reducing their file size and making them download faster.
Optimize Internal Links
Internal links, which are links to other pages within your website, can help search engines index your site. They can also show search engines that your content is relevant. When adding links, you need to be strategic. Here are a few tips for doing just that:
- Use descriptive text. This is important for both SEO and accessibility. The text for your link should actually say where the user will be going when they click it. Don’t use text like “read more” or “learn more.” Instead, tell the user (and search engine) what they will be reading or learning more about.
- Use keywords. Your link text should include keywords when possible.
- Use relevant links. If you’re on a blog post about SEO, it might make sense to link to another post about image optimization, but it probably wouldn’t make as much sense to link to a post about virtual meetings.
Take Action: Optimize Your Web Pages
Now that you know a bit more about on-page SEO, I want you to take action and check a few pages on your website. You don’t have to go through and optimize all of them at once. After you finish a few, feel free to share your thoughts on the Get Your Business Online Facebook page.
Need More Help with on-page SEO?
Are you feeling overwhelmed? Pongos Interactive can help you with your SEO needs. Contact us to get started.