Ranking a website generally boils down to onsite optimisation, and offsite optimisation.
Offsite optimization refers to any activity that takes place on someone elses website. The most well know method is creating backlinks. Simply put, the more backlinks a website has from other authoritative websites, the higher your website will rank.
This guide is about onsite optimization. Onsite optimization refers to anything you can do on your own website to increase the chances of it ranking in the search engines. This can include anything from the technical setup of your website (server response time), to the written content and images, to the pages meta data.
To rank well and maximize your organic traffic, you need to ensure your website is meets all the best practice guidelines, of which there are dozens of theories to follow.
The importance of on-page optimization isn’t just being preached by us at PULSE because we have product a site audit tool. SEO experts such as Aleh Barysevich at Search Engine Journal have written about the 4 Most Important Ranking Factors, and Matt McGee over at Search Engine Land has also covered the importance of on-page optimisation in their ranking factor write up.
The below guide explains all the onsite factors you need to consider when optimising a page.
Both humans and search engines prefer URLs which are easy to read and understand. Don’t fill a URL with unnecessary words, and keep it short and punctual. If you can, include a few keywords in your URL. When writing URLs also take consideration of the ideal URL length which we cover further below.
Summary: Make your URLS short & punctual. Use your target keyword in the URL.
Title Tag Keywords
Opinions vary on this, but I’ve had good success ensuring the keyword I want to rank for is included in the meta title. There should be no debate on whether title tags are important or not. Yes, they are important, and you should set a title tag on every single page of your website. A human can also write better meta titles than Google could (at least for now), so you are at a disadvantage if you don’t manually set and carefully write your own meta titles.
While you are setting your meta titles, also make sure you don’t have more than one title tag on one page. There have been a few reports of purchased website themes (typically WordPress of Shopify) having multiple title tags. Do your best to remove these, or ask your web developer to help.
Keyword: Red dresses
Good: Browse red dresses from our range online | RedStore
Bad: Browse our range of dresses online today | RedStore
Real World Example: When searching for Leopard Print Dresses the results include websites with titles such as “print dresses for women” and “animal print clothing”. However Polyvore.com gave their page the exact title I was wanting, so will likely get the higher click through rate from search, more traffic, and more revenue. If your page is about leopard print dresses, make sure your title says exactly this, and not a watered down version such as just’Print Dresses’.
Summary: If you can, place your target keyword near the start of your title tag.
Title Tag Modifiers
There are a range of words which people commonly append to their search queries. For example, people often want the latest information or guide, so they will put the current year in their search query, such as “which blender is best 2017”.
Instead of simple searching for “blenders” people typically will search “best blender” or “blender reviews”.
By adding these “modified” into your page title you will rank for these more precise words.
Good: Best Blender Reviews of 2017 | BlenderHut
Bad: Trouble deciding which blender to buy? | BlenderHut
Real World Example:
Summary: Rank for long tail versions of your keyword by adding modifiers like “guide”, “review”, or the year to your page title.
Title Tag Length
The ideal length of your meta title is something that not many people cant agree on, but the answer is always between about 60 and 75.
The problem with long title tags is that they get truncated in search. So you aren’t punished by Google for having a long title, you simply can’t guarantee the the title you set will be fully visible.
To ensure your title is 100% visible exactly as you write it, we recommend 60 characters. But if you go to 65 or 70 then that is still acceptable.
Good: Explore the Tanna Volcano | Vanuatu Touring Company
Bad: Travel to Vanuatu and see the amazing Tanna Volcano | Vanuatu Touring Company
Summary: To ensure your title tag is visible on all devices, aim for a maximum of 65 characters.
Unique Title Tags
Every page on your website should be about a slightly different topic, and targeting it’s own set of keywords. Therefore all your meta titles should be unique and clearly describe the page they relate too.
There is no reason to have multiple pages on a website with the same title tag.
If you identify duplicates, we suggest changing on of them to be more relevant to that particular pages content.
Summary: Every page needs a unique title tag. Check your website for duplicates.
Meta Description CTAs
Meta descriptions are one of the most important onsite aspects of a website that can be optimized to increase a websites traffic from organic search.
You have a limited number of characters to work with, so you need to make it as enticing as you can with the space you have.
One way to make more users click on your particular websites listing is to include a call to action in the meta description.
This could include “sign up today”, “read more”, “learn more”, or any other CTA that directly tells the reader what to do next.
Good: We have created the best seo spider tools on the market. Sign up for a free trial in 5 minutes today!
Bad: We have created the best seo spider tools on the market.
Summary: Include a Call to Action in your meta descriptions to boost Click Through Rate.
Unique Meta Descriptions
As with page titles, every page deserves its own meta description. If you have multiple pages with the same meta description, your users will be confused, as will the search engines.
Write a unique meta description for every page that relates closely to the content that is on that page.
Summary: Every page needs a unique meta description. Check your website for duplicates.
Ensure your Page Title is wrapped in an H1 tag
Check your sites code to ensure your page and blog post titles are in an H1 tag. I’m not referring to your meta title, but the actual title of your page or blog post.
This title should be the large main heading on your page. As it is the primary heading, it needs to be wrapped in a heading tag.
Summary: The primary title or heading of any page should always be the single H1 on that page.
Use H2 Tags for Subheadings
Wrap your subheadings in H2 tags, and try to use your keywords.
Use Outbound Links
Link to other authoritative websites to help Google figure out what your site is about.
Use Internal Links
Internal links are great for visitors and also Google. Use 2 – 3 internal links per blog post.
Optimize Image File Names
Tidy image filenames not only make the webmasters life easier, but also help indicate what the image is about. Avoid unnecessary characters or words, and keep it short and descriptive of what is depicted in the image.
Your image filename should be relatively similar to your images alt tag once you upload it to your website.
Summary: Ensure image file names are tidy and include your keyword.
Use Alt Text on Every Image
Alt text helps tell the search engines what is depicted in the image. It’s expected that every image should have a relevant and well written alt text. It should describe the image and indicate to search engines what the image, and therefore the page, is about.
Your alt text should be short and punctual without unnecessary numbers or characters.
Summary: Every image should have a well written alt text.
Post Longer Content
Longer content is preferred by search engines. Aim for at least 1800 words per blog post.
A good URL clearly states what the page is about, and where it sits in your website. Avoid long URLs with many different layers.
Summary: It’s recommended to keep all URLs under 90 characters
Ensure redirects from older sources come direct to the new page to avoid long chains.
A dynamic URL is what that contains variables. You can identify them by spotting a symbol in the URL such as = or ?. To ensure your page is indexable in search, ensure URLs contain no dynamic parameters
Summary: Avoid dynamic URLs wherever possible.
Avoid Thin Content
Google rewards longer content, and data from the first page of the search results support this. If you want a good chance of ranking highly for a keyword, your page content needs to be thorough. This means no more content under 500 words. Search Engines prefer at least 1800 words per post.
Summary: All blog posts you want to rank should be at least 1800 words.