Over the past couple of emails, we’ve been on a roll opening the big black box called SEO. Just like everything else, there’s no expectation that you’ll hit the same level as the Pros do. But, our goal is that if you want to tackle the basics, you can. And, when you’re ready to have a conversation with an SEO Pro, you’ll understand what they’re talking about.
In this tip, we’re going to cover taking a close look at On-Page SEO – the content of your website and how it’s structured, and important things to be aware of on your website.
As the term suggests, On-Page SEO has to deal with the things that you can do on your website outside of the technical arena that are a plus for your ranking. In our experience, if you know how to edit and make changes on your website, these are seven easy things that you can do.
- Have a Secure Site (SSL)
- Build Internal Links
- Customize Your Page URL
- Customize Your Page Title
- Customize Your Meta Description
- Organize Your Content with Headers
- Image ALT Tags
Use SSL for Your Website
Google went on a mission a number of years ago to enforce the use of SSL. And, with that enforcement came a number of companies that offer basic SSL certificates (the lock by the URL) for free. A free certificate doesn’t cut it if you’re doing eCommerce, but for everyone one else, you shouldn’t need to purchase one.
Having an SSL certificate in place is one of the ranking factors with Google. It will show results for a site with SSL over one that doesn’t
If you’re using a web service like Shopify, Squarespace, or Wix, SSL is automatic. For WordPress, if you’re not sure how to activate it/set it up, reach out to your hosting provider.
If you approach building internal links from the perspective of making your site better for your customers, you’ll also make Google happy. Of course, you have a sitemap that the Google Robot crawls. But, when it finds links on your pages to other pages on your site it realizes that those pages are related and takes note of that.
What does good “internal linking” look like?
Let’s start with the obvious. We’ve all been on websites where the Call to Action buttons say “Learn More”, and links to resources or other pages simply say “Click Here”. Changing these general terms into something that makes sense for your customer, and if possible, including a keyword in the process, will increase your engagement rate. We took a closer look at descriptive links in our tip “The Almighty Link”.
Do you have blog posts that work well as resources? Link to them whenever possible – from your main site pages, and from new blog posts you create. And, don’t forget to add links to your blog posts that send people back to your service pages.
Your Page URL
In WordPress, this is called your “slug”. It’s the individual URL of each page that is added to your domain name, creating the full URL to the page. By default, WordPress and other website services create the slug from the title of the page when you first create the page. But if you create one page and then duplicate it to create other pages, your slug will look like “my-first-page-copy”.
Your page URL simply needs to make sense. This used to be much more important, and Google would penalize websites that simply used a numeric code for page URLs. But, for the sanity of your website visitors, and for the small SEO boost, include the main keyword or keyphrase for that page along with descriptive words to support it.
If someone sees a link to your website on Google, the page URL should match the “topic” of your Title (blue and underlined link) and description.
A note of caution: When you change the URL of a page, unless you’ve got a plugin that will automatically create a redirect to the new page, make sure you create that redirect. Otherwise, any links you already have on your site to the page will break, and Google will think the page has disappeared because the robot will find a 404 (page not found) when it visits.
WPBeginner.com has an easy-to-follow guide for customizing your page URL.
Your Page Title
This is key, and we’ve talked about it several times in previous tips. This is the Page title that you can tweak using the SEO settings. This is the Page title that will show blue and underlined in the results found in a Google search. Here are a few key factors to consider:
- You don’t want to have duplicate (or repeating) page title tags.
- Your page title needs to include the relevant keywords for the page it represents.
- Make sure that you put the most important keywords at the beginning of the page title. While it can be longer than 60 characters, Google will show three dots “…” after the 1st 60, so people have no clue what you wrote.
- Your title should clearly tell what the page is about.
Here’s another tip where we talk about SEO and the Page Title and how to customize it.
Your Page Description
Otherwise known as the Meta Description, this element has been around since the dawn of SEO. Unlike other elements we’ve talked about, Google doesn’t use your Meta Description for ranking your website. But, it will highlight relevant keywords from someone’s search if they are a part of your description.
So, what’s the point of a Meta Description if not for ranking? On a Google search results page, the Meta Description shows directly below the Page Title (see above). If you don’t provide a custom Meta Description, by default, Google search will auto-populate this area with a random sentence or phrase on your page. Writing your own Meta Description gives you the opportunity to speak more directly to people who are skimming through their Google search results to find a good match. It should be the enticing factor that leads people to click through the link to your page. Think of it as the short, descriptive, warm, and fuzzy invite that wins people over to your website.
Here’s a tip that walks you through how to adjust your Meta Description using the Yoast SEO plugin with WordPress.
Organizing Your Content with Headers
Structuring your content is so important for a number of reasons. People don’t read, they scan – so your header tags highlight the importance of the sections of your content. And, Google loves your header tags – with the most important one being the H1 tag.
We dive into the details of header tags in our tip “How To Structure Your Content For Success”.
Image ALT Tags
It’s nice that Google thinks ALT tags are important because they are critical to basic accessibility, and will show on the page if the image doesn’t load. But, don’t think that Google is just giving out a handout. While your picture may be worth a 1,000 words, Google is still learning to read text that appears as part of an image. And, if your image doesn’t have any text on it, what then? The only way for Google to know is the filename and the ALT tag.
Don’t try and stuff your keywords into the ALT tag, just use a short phrase that includes your keyword relevant to the image.
A Plan to Implement Changes
We’ve covered a lot… and just handed you a triple-decker ice cream cone! We recommend that before you start this project you make sure you have your keywords organized and ready to go. Part two of our series walks you through the keyword research process.
Once you’re ready to start making the changes on your site, take each of your key pages and review them for each of the 7 items covered in this tip. Create a spreadsheet where you can track what changes you made. The plus about doing the work this way is that once a page is completed, you can track improvements in your Google search results.
Don’t forget, we’re here as your Partner if you get stuck, need feedback, or have questions!
Your Online Partner… for Success
Are you stuck with On-page SEO or other elements of your website? Book a free “20” session with Christy. Come with your questions and we’ll find answers and get you back on the road.