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Now that you’ve built your SEO foundation to track key results and metrics, you’re ready to start creating or optimizing the content on your pages for best practices. In the 2nd blog of our series, we’ll break down key steps to creating and improving your on-page SEO across pages.
To look back on the SEO basics, check out this blog. Stay tuned and check back for updates on additional resources where we’ll break down key areas like Keyword Research and Technical SEO. Read on for our best SEO practices advice.
Exactly as it sounds, on-page SEO utilizes best practices in content visible to both the casual observer of your website as well as in the code of the website itself. This helps to better define the individual pages of your website, give that improved definition of the page to search engines, and ultimately, match that page to the searching user’s intent.
On-page SEO includes but is not limited to features like the header structure (H1, H2s, and beyond), the text and readability of the content, the meta description, the title of the page, and even the displayed URL!
Whether you’re starting from scratch with a new page or website or you’re looking to refresh the SEO practices of an existing page, it’s easiest to work from the top of the page and work your way down through its elements.
On most browsers, the first thing you see when you click and load a page is something you may not think of often — the URL structure. Are you more inclined to read the page with the URL “icecream.com/best-flavors” or “icecream.com/th190z4-1” when looking up the best ice cream flavors to try? These two pages could have the exact same content, but one will receive an inherently higher level of trust based on the URL structure alone.
Not only do URLs help improve the likelihood of a user clicking, but they also offer the perfect location to drop your desired keyword! Using the keyword of search intent you’re interested in attracting users with periodically throughout the page helps send the best possible signals to search engines that this page content addresses the users’ interests and needs. Using the same example as above, a user searching “best flavors of ice cream” will have an easy choice to make between the two above URLs. Once you use your keyword in your URL, wrap it up. URLs should be kept as short as possible but get your message across.
While the URL may technically be at the top of the page, the title is your eye-catcher to help draw users onto your page. The title greets your users both on the search results and within the article itself. So how do you help your title stand out?
Maximize your keyword usage! If you know exactly what your user is interested in and searching for by the keyword, use it to your advantage. Your title is your first impression, and even in SEO, first impressions matter. Your title should capture the user and appeal to their human instinct, not the robots behind a search engine. By immediately introducing your keyword while also writing to a fellow human, you maximize the title’s appeal. Which title are you more likely to click on?
We’ll cheat — like we are on our diet with all this ice cream talk — as technically the meta description isn’t at the top of the page, but it is still a key element to bring a user onto your page! Meta descriptions are your sub-160 character window of opportunity to compel a potential user to click on your link. While Google doesn’t necessarily use the meta description in their ranking algorithm, they indirectly help improve ranking by improving the click-through rate (CTR). If users see a page and click on it more, Google will place a higher value on that page and naturally improve its ranking.
We’ve talked about the very top of the page, but now we’re diving into the bulk of the page itself, the content. The content of your page is the meat and potatoes of your on-page SEO, as it’s the largest opportunity to make (or break) the search engine appeal. We’ll talk about some structural best practices for your content, but let’s start with the intangibles. These are factors that you may take for granted but are vital to the on-page health in the eyes of Google and other search engines.
We’ve mentioned it before, but we’ll repeat it — use your keyword early and throughout! The use of keywords throughout your piece helps search engines confirm that this page matches the potential reader’s interest and intent. In addition, it helps the reader see and understand in a quick skim what content they are interested in reading.
While your keywords are your breadwinners, don’t overwork them! It’s possible to keyword stuff and use your keywords too often. What does keyword stuffing look like? Let’s use our “ice cream flavors” example again as the keyword.
Well Written: “There are a variety of ice cream flavors covering different types of sweetness.”
Keyword Stuffing: “Ice cream flavors have a variety of flavors that you can enjoy in your cream like chocolatey, vanilla, and caramel flavors of ice cream.”
Headers not only help break up walls of text in your content, but they also help define the prioritization of your content and overall flow. Headers (also called header tags) are HTML snippets from H1s down to H6s that help users clearly understand sections of what they read. Note: there should only be one H1, and that H1 is likely the same as your title that we mentioned earlier. From there, you can choose your journey, but it is recommended to move from H1 to H2 to H3 and so on. Have a new section to start? Jump back to H2s and repeat! Let’s use an example of the HTML in our ice cream theme.
<h1>The Best 5 Ice Cream Flavors to Try Today!</h1>
<h2> Cookies and Cream </h2>
<h3> Where to get the best cookies and cream flavor? </h3>
<h2> Birthday Cake </h2>
<h3> How to make your own birthday cake ice cream </h3>
This kind of breakdown of content helps give a skimmable view of what a user needs. If you’re looking for content breaks outside of headers, don’t be afraid to mix in media! Images and videos offer a great way to change up your content and can be done in SEO-friendly ways, which we’ll talk more about in our technical SEO post.
You’re one of a kind. Let your content show that! Duplicate content is, unfortunately, a common issue with the vastness of the internet. It’s best to carve out a new niche to write on so that you offer a distinct new value to potential readers.
Duplicate content isn’t necessarily a penalty in Google’s eyes, but it does not give a vote of confidence that your website and content deserve to be ranked higher than pre-existing content.
As you can see, there are more than a couple of factors to assess and tackle when you’re looking to start or upgrade your on-page SEO. Whether you’re stuck getting started on the content or need that catchy title, our SEO-savvy digital marketing team at PHOS can help you tackle pages upon pages! Reach out to our team to get optimizing.