SEOs are starting to be more cautious with their link building, so more and more SEOs are turning to on-page instead. As search engines develop; on-page is becoming more sophisticated and tied to web considerations like UX. For modern SEOs, it’s all about combining visual design elements with good SEO practices. Here are some fundamental SEO techniques and lessons you can use to optimize your website.
Cover the Basics of Technical SEO
Technical SEO might not be a fun buzzword, but it’s central to the management of a healthy website. Technical SEO will help your website perform better and show up correctly in the search engine index. There’s a lot to it, but make sure you’ve got at least the basics covered on your own web page.
- There are loads of SEO plugins out there (like Yoast) – use them to help you add analytics to your site, submit a sitemap, and other crucial SEO housekeeping tasks.
- Technical SEO means things making sure that your site’s code is pruned and that you’ve used structured data and schema.org markup wherever you can to help your site rank better.
- You can change the search engine experience of your site with some clever index signposting. If your CMS has generated loads of URLs for the same page (often happens with product filtering), you can tell search engines to only crawl and index one version of that page – this helps you avoid any thin content issues. Take control of your site and crawl it with an SEO tool like Screaming Frog to see how you’re being indexed.
- A fundamental misunderstanding of technical SEO is that you can just buy a platform that will manage your SEO efforts for you. That’s simply not true. Sites age and decay, databases get bloated, 404s start to creep in… Good technical SEO is about being switched on and analyzing your website with tools like Google Search Console to pick up on any indexing issues. Good SEO practice is (thankfully) largely understood by web developers – but don’t assume that a professional web designer or developer will also ‘take care of SEO for you’.
Optimize Site Speed
In the days of accelerated mobile pages, speed is becoming more and more important for users and search engines.
Check your site speed now to see where you stand.
How to make your site faster?
This is the million dollar question – it really depends on how your site is built. If your site is built in WordPress (or a similar popular CMS) here are the key steps to take:
- Use image compression plugins to make sure your image files are optimized for fast downloads.
- Use caching plugins to enable browser caching.
- Remove any irrelevant ‘fluff’ like plugins or widgets you aren’t using (always keep your backend as streamlined as possible).
- Switch to a premium WordPress hosting service like WP Engine if your site is a bit more complex and has lots of imagery and content (see how they did it – WP Engine review here).
What is Good SEO Content?
Content is more and more important for SEO, but it can be hard to cut through all the hype to what good content actually means. Any good SEO content starts with thorough keyword research because it helps you get into your users’ heads and provide valuable content that fulfils their needs. Here are some hallmarks of good content:
- Unique: don’t copy your competitors, and if you do – improve on what they’ve done!
- User-friendly: uses your audience’s language, not jargon or corporate speak. Think of your keywords thematically.
- Content should be well laid out for web reading with headings and good online formatting.
- Engaging and interesting: invest in video content and visual formats to improve online engagement rates.
Implement a Good Page Structure
A good website is well structured with each page serving a specific purpose. If you try to target too many keywords on one page, search engines won’t find it easy to place your site. Always keep your page purposes clear.
- When you plan each page on your website, ensure that you have a clear idea of what key themes and keywords you are targeting. Keep your keyword research both broad and specific.
- Think about how your persona’s user-journey fits in with your site structure and make sure it’s logical and coherent and that you aren’t asking people to make too many choices.
- Headers and content markers are useful for both search engines and people, so use your headings wisely and include bullet points and bold text where relevant. Only include one H1 per page (preferably including your keywords) and never have empty header tags.
Use Metadata Correctly
Metadata helps search engines understand more about your website and its content. It’s worthwhile spending a good amount of time optimizing yours to match your most important keywords.
- Title tags are important SEO real estate. They tell search engines and users what your site is about. 60 characters is the optimal page title length and you will need a unique one for every page – read more about SEO title tags here. Try to find a balance between using your brand and keywords.
- Don’t forget to optimize your meta descriptions for every page – they will impact how your pages look on a search results page and social media. Write these for users to improve click-through rate. Leaving these blank is missing out on a key SEO opportunity for your site.
- Optimizing your image alt texts could take a matter of seconds, but it’s a great way to get image search traffic, as well as help users around the site. People using reading aid tools will rely on your image alt texts to make sense of images so always try to match content with relevant images. Image SEO really doesn’t take long but it’s an SEO admin task well worth doing.
Get Relevant Links
They still matter – but now it’s more important than ever to be relevant with inbound and outbound links, avoiding having a backlink portfolio that will dilute your website’s authority.
- The best kind of inbound links are ones that accurately describe the context of your page and come from high authority websites that are already trusted by search engines. You need to have links coming in to your website to prove its worth, but focus on quality and relevance over volume. If you have a brand new domain, you will need to start building links right away – directories and review sites are a good place to start.
- Internal links guide people (and search engines) around your website – make sure you include plenty of them and that they are user-friendly. Again, make sure a link is relevant and makes people want to click (avoid bland platitudes like ‘click here’ or ‘read more here’).
- Outgoing links are also important because they help search engines place your website within a context of other relevant sites and help the user.
Testing and Conversion Rate Optimization
A key parameter for SEO success is making sure that you keep on top of optimizing and testing your website with your users. Use analytics and metrics tools to see how your audience are responding to your web pages and measure rankings to spot any opportunities for better keyword targeting. Even spending thirty minutes on optimizing a few pages could make a tangible SEO difference.
- Good on-page SEO will help you make the most of the web traffic you already have. Focus on clicks and conversions as well as rankings and traffic.
- Always optimize for your users and don’t make any hasty SEO decisions without considering how they will impact user-experience.
The ultimate goal for on-site SEO is to have a site that both ranks and converts. Follow these guidelines and you will be one step closer to having more of the right kind of (converting) search traffic. There are loads of free SEO tools you can use to help manage SEO yourself, but learn to recognize when you’re in too deep and need some advice. What do you think is your biggest barrier to SEO success right now? Share your thoughts with us below.
Gareth Simpson – Technical SEO & Startup Founder
Gareth has worked as an SEO for almost a decade now and has recently started freelancing as a technical SEO in Bristol, UK. His SEO specialisms are content and blogger outreach…and he likes green tea.