By Geoff Jackson on 20 October 2011 @ 5:50 AM.
A few times recently I have been asked what I feel are the five most critical elements to on-page SEO and by 'critical elements', I'm thinking the five most important aspects that should be considered, addressed and optimised by the owner of the website, the SEO company and affects the visitor.
The first part of a page that potential customers will see is your page title (in most cases). And this is before they even view the page itself. From the SERPs, the page title will be the bold blue underlined part of a listing in the search results. This should be optimised for the most relevant description and keywords for that particular page, if it isn't, then chances are you won't even see this listing in the SERPs anyway.
Carry out the necessary keyword research using whichever tools you are familiar with to conduct a list of the relevant keywords to that page and their search volume. Then optimise your page title prioritising keywords in search volume order only if they are applicable and relevant to the pages content.
Remember: Your page title will be the first part of your websites pages a person will see, so make sure it is wrote for people and not optimised for just search engines. It has to be readable, legible and make logical sense. A common format used is the following:-
Keyword 1 | Keyword 2 | Keyword 3 - Company/Brand Name
Always ensure your content (that you wish to rank well) is unique, your own and provides the most helpful, useful information possible to its intended audience. If your copy is copied from another website or scraped from another source, then search engines will detect this as the same content as another page in its index and will not reward your page with any worthwhile ranking anyway.
If writing copy professionally, clearly and error free is not your strong point, then hire a professional who can supply this for your website. Trust me; it makes a world of difference, both for the search engines, and your visitors.
Remember: Don't be tempted to automate copy by spinning articles and mass submitting these throughout your website or elsewhere on the web. The end product only results in a mass of illegible useless garbage that no-one wants to read and just adds to the millions of spammy content submitted on the web every day.
Regardless of whether your web pages are ranking in the search engines or not, the end result with running a website is to ensure it a) converts and b) gives your visitors the best possible experience. Fail to get this right, and the SEO knock on effect will ensure that your website doesn't rank anyhow. There is nothing more disheartening that trying to navigate a website whose pages take more than 5 seconds to load, for me, I don't wait. I will go to another website that can offer a better experience, and for many, they do exactly the same.
Over the past year, Google has made it very clear that the speed of your websites page load plays a significant role in the ranking of your web pages. They only care about what sites web users enjoy using and benefit from the most; And this comes down to usability and speed:-
These kind of questions are all too easy for the likes of Google to answer by assessing how long a visitor stays on a website/web page and what the bounce rate for web pages are.
The format of your URL structure across your entire website is important, most platforms can cater for search engine friendly URL's these days but if you are unfortunate to have a website using a dated platform, then it's simple enough to rewrite your URL's using .htaccess.
Not only does this install an element of trust in your visitors as they can get an idea of what a page on the other side of a link is about, but this also lets a search engine know what the linked page is about. This plays an important role on how search engines gage the natural flow and relevancy between pages however this touches on the subject of link architecture which you can read about below.
It's a well known scenario that a website / web page that contain its target keywords in the URL will increase its chances of ranking for those keywords. Of course many other factors are considered and onsite optimisation doesn't just end at optimising your URL's but get basics such as these right and you're doing yourself a favour from the very start.
Remember: If your URL's aren't already optimised for search engine friendliness and you're going to make sure you get this done, always 301 redirect your old URL's to your new ones to ensure that no website traffic is lost either by backlinks to these pages already existing on the web or via existing indexed pages in search engines. Any competent web developer can write a php script to 301 redirect your URL's or there are a number of alternatives including .htaccess or setting up server side redirects.
Internal linking is where you link to other pages of your website from within the same site. The frequency and nature of how you link between pages is important as when done right, this will give a search engine more information on what you feel the relevancy between pages is and also play a large role in how the authority and page weight is distributed throughout your site.
Ensure you don't excessively link to the same pages of your website and also ensure that you are only linking to a page of relevance to the current page or for your visitors benefit (usability factor). Avoid using the anchor text such as "click here" (for example: "click here to contact us"), it's unhelpful for search engines. Instead, ensure the anchor text is helpful and clear for humans and search engines (for example: "Contact us today to make an enquiry") - where "Contact us" is the anchor text of the link to your contact page.
Remember: Always vary your anchor text to your internal pages. This not only ensures that you are giving your pages a better chance of ranking for a wider range of keywords and terms but also does not make your site appear over-optimised to a search engine.
Google have made it public knowledge recently that social sharing (often referred to as social SEO) will have an influence on your ranking. To gage the popularity of any online content, evaluating its traffic and how many times it has been shared online is an effective method. Make sure your content is easily shareable, add your Facebook ‘Like', Twitter ‘ReTweet' and Google+ buttons to your web pages so at the click of a button, visitors can share this on their social media accounts.
Be active on social media, build a following, and engage with your customers/clients. Establish a presence in social media for your brand/products. It doesn't just end at putting some social media sharing buttons on your website. It's a long-term commitment that's going to play a large part in the success of your website.
Remember: Google recently introduced social engagement reporting in Google Analytics to monitor your websites social presence, get this set up and integrated on your website so you can really analyse the power of your site in the social sphere. Again, with any of the above, if you aren't sure how to do this yourself, call upon a professional who can help.