Textual Podcast: Onpage SEO fundamentals
Welcome to the inaugural Clickthrough ClickCast, your number one source of SEO news, tips, and solutions that help you achieve more online! You are here with your hosts Lee and Timur!
This week we are going to be talking about how important on-page SEO is for your business. A lot of people in the SEO industry tend to complicate things or jump right in with brand building and big campaigns. They might even lead with backlinks without thinking about where the SEO campaign should begin.Start with onpage SEO
Your campaign should start with on-page SEO. Google needs to be able to read the page and understand keywords so they can rank you for what you want. For example, if you’re a plumber, you’re going to want to show up whenever anyone is looking for a plumber near you!
So, for the next couple of minutes or so, we are going to look at some details around that and how Google looks at your site. Google is alllwayyyys looking at your site and, right now, it might not like what it sees!
One thing you have to understand is that a real user and Google view your website in two very different ways. A user comes to the website, and they can easily digest what it is in front of them. You know they can see images, they can see site structure, they can see navigation, they can read the copy, and they have got a bit more of a full view of a website.
Google is looking to ensure pages are tagged correctly and optimised well with great keywords and relevancy in mind. A good way of looking at it is, we usually can see images, but Google can’t. It’s image blind.
All it sees is text or your URL that relates to the image. So, a good question to ask yourself would be: why don’t we tag that image correctly by putting image ALT text on it and describing what it is? For example, you’ve got a stock image of a plumber. Text to tag it could be plumber, plumbing tools, pipes, worker, hard hat, crevice, workboots.
And what about the image title? We could go further and actually name the photo. Just by doing those two things, we will help Google to understand what the image is, just by looking at the code.
What Exactly is On-Page SEO?
When you talk about or hear about on-page SEO, you’ll soon realise there are so many different factors are involved here. We can talk about things like URLs, for instance. Generally, URLs nowadays are fairly SEO-friendly. Especially if you use popular and decent content management systems such as WordPress and Shopify.
The meta title is important as well. A meta title is a line that you see at the top of your browser bar. It’s also what you see in the search results on Google when someone types something like “men’s trousers in Auckland”. Your search results pop up, and it will show the meta title, with often men’s trouser shops in Auckland the first results you will see. It’s like magic!
On top of that, you’ve got meta descriptions which work alongside meta-titles in the search results. You don’t see it on a website, but on the search results as it’s purely for Google.
When you incorporate meta descriptions and titles into your on-page SEO, there are various formats. You have got the header which shows up as h1 in code (for Google to read). You can then play with the formatting a little more with H2, H3, H4, and H5 headers. In a nutshell, each of these meta titles and descriptions have different formats for Google to read and display them in search results.
On-page SEO also incorporates copy and internal links as well. The links take the user from one page to another. For example, “find out more about us” on the home page could link to your “About” page. Internal links can be in various on-page elements like your footer, any web copy, and the navigation.
As you’ve probably worked out by now, there are all sorts of elements that work together to provide the full package for on-page SEO. If you can use all the elements and nail them well, you are on your way to good rankings. Basically, having a well-optimised website that Google understands fully is where you want to be. There’s no point in spending thousands of dollars on the prettiest website if it’s neither functional nor SEO-friendly!
Before you start your on-page SEO, you want to set your keyword strategy, which we are going to talk about in an upcoming podcast.
Ultimately keyword strategy will boil down to:
- Are we targeting the correct keywords for this page?
- Do they have a good search volume?
- Are they relevant?
- Are they highly competitive?
- Are they broad?
- Are they long tail?
There are so many things to consider! Before you jump into meta titles, meta descriptions, and every other element of on-page SEO, you must have an accurate keyword strategy in place.
You want keywords mapped to your relevant pages so that you know exactly where your keywords are going to go on each page. That will basically ensure that you have got the best keywords for each page you are optimizing.
Now, I am going to go into a little bit more detail about the various elements of on-page SEO we discussed earlier. Let’s start with the title tags.
As I have already mentioned, you can see title tags in your browser, and you can see them in Google search results. What do they mean? How do they need to look? You see them all the time in Google whenever you search for anything, but is there a method to all the madness?
Google guidelines state that you should ideally keep them below 70 characters. Keep them relatively short. They should also be unique for every page, which is definitely a big one.
What you don’t want is duplication, because that’s just going to confuse the crawler when it comes to the website. Generally, a good format for title tags is to have a primary keyword, secondary keyword separated by a dash, and then your brand or company name at the end. So, each page on the website needs to go by this format, and the keywords would be in your title tag.
The next thing is the meta description. So, as I said before, the meta description is not viewable on the website, you only see it when you get search results presented to you. Now, again, these need to be unique per page. Try to stay within one or two sentences, about 150 characters, and you’re good to go.
While that size limit won’t necessarily help with rankings, it’s in your best interests to make sure your meta description is describing the page in as much detail as you can within 150 characters. Otherwise, Google cuts it off, and no one gets to read the end of what you’re trying to say! It would be like reading about a bargain pair of pants for sale, but the text cuts off before that sale price!
Also, you don’t want to put too many keywords in which will make it hard to read. Think of meta titles as headlines, and the meta description is going to be the first paragraph of your page.
Another main tag on the page is the header or H1. If you think of Google visiting your website, the three most important things it’s going to look at are the title tag, h1, and the copy.
So, the header should match the title of the page. I’m not talking about duplicating it, but let Google understand that both of them explain the page correctly and make them sound natural. You want to write for the user, you don’t want to write for Google, but the text needs to be friendly for both.
You can have as many headings as you want as well, known as h2, h3, h4, and so on, They will just change how the copy looks on the page. If h1 is at the top, you are all good. It has got a logical hierarchy then.
Next, Image ALT text, we went there at the beginning. In terms of ALT text, you want to explain what the image is as descriptively as possible, and if you do that, then Google will fully understand the image.
In terms of a name, a lot of them look like a random set of numbers or letters by default, which ultimately doesn’t mean anything to Google. We suggest that you name them as what they are. If it’s a picture of a mountain, name it ‘mountain’, or ‘snowy mountain’. It’s a lot more descriptive than ‘IMG_7859’ and will help Google to rank those pictures in image search.
The other thing that tends to get overlooked I think is internal linking. We have done quite a bit of research and experimentation in-house, and we found that pages that have a lot of internal links pointing to them tend to do a lot better than the ones that don’t.
We think this is because when Google comes to the website, it can look at a page and then look at the contextual link pointing to it. Again, it’s just helping Google to identify the most critical pages on the website.
We recommend having about six links in the body of each page. You’ll also naturally have some links in your footer, header, and navigation. Internal links can be especially useful on blog pages because if you are talking about something and you add a product with a direct link to that product, it will help people to find the product that you think they would be interested in and you want to sell.
If you’re a bit stuck on how to plan and fix any errors, there are few good tools out there you can use. One of them is Screaming Frog. This tool allows you to crawl your website and download it an Excel file with all your URLs, and on page tags. You can then quickly look at them and find the missing attributes, duplicates, and any other problems you need to fix. That’s a clever tool just to have an overview of your site.
That’s all for today, guys! If you have got any questions or comments, email [email protected] See you soon.