On-page SEO can be defined as optimizing the various parts of your website with the goal of increasing the organic (non-paid) traffic to your website by ranking higher in search engine result pages.
This includes both the content of your website as well as the source code of your website. It is part one of two for a complete SEO strategy and is different than off-page SEO.
The 12 areas we’ll look at today are…
- Optimize your website’s content
- Update title tags
- Make URLs short and descriptive
- Update image alt text
- Ensure fast load times on all devices
- Create an intuitive navigation structure
- Have an awesome design
- Optimize for mobile device usage
- Use schema markup
- Make it easily shareable on social channels
- Optimize meta description
- Link internally and externally
1. Optimize Your Website’s Content
If your small business already has a website, but you’ve not taken the time to do keyword research, this is a great place to start. Find a good keyword research tool and figure out what your customers are searching for (i.e. what they care about).
Once you’ve generally gotten a good idea for the main topics and keywords that you want to target, start reading through your website pages and see if there are any sections of content that need to be rewritten in order to incorporate your keywords.
Be careful here. You shouldn’t try to stuff keywords into every sentence or paragraph. Google’s search algorithm is way too advanced to be tricked by this.
Your goal as a small business leader should be to use the keyword research to understand your customers better, and then in turn serve them better with more relevant content that is detailed, transparent, and relevant to their concerns, questions, and desires.
Make content easy to understand
Aim for an eighth grade level writing style with simple sentences. This is how you want your content to be written.
This style of writing isn’t about dumbing down your content; it’s about making it easier for your audience to consume. This helps keep your visitors engaged with your content longer, which improves the chances of developing educated leads for your small business.
Many of us tend to write more formally than we would speak, and with longer sentences that can be hard to follow. When writing content for your website, focus on finding ways to break up content and keep things brief.
Be sure that your content is up to date
There are a surprising number of small businesses that completely neglect their website content, leading their site to quickly become outdated.
Locations have changed, closed, or altered operating hours. Services and products have evolved (or simplified). Events that have already taken place are forgotten about and still live on the website. Links stop working. Images break.
You name it, and we’ve seen some variation of it. But we completely understand! When you’re an SMB operator wearing all the hats, the last thing you’re able to direct your energy and attention to is updating your website content.
If your business doesn’t rely on its website to drive revenue or bring in new leads, you may (incorrectly) think it doesn’t really matter whether you regularly update your content.
When website content isn’t up to date, you’ll lose the trust of your customers because you give the impression you’ve either forgotten about your website or just don’t care, which is perceived as a reflection of your overall business practices.
If you don’t know how to update your website yourself, ask your web developer to show you how. If you have a developer who wants to charge extra for this type of work, find a better partner for your business.
To avoid doing this type of work yourself, the next time you go through a new web design process, make sure to hire an agency who includes ongoing maintenance and support as part of your package.
Regularly Post High Quality Content
This is the part of on-page SEO that people usually know is very important, but aren’t willing to make the time for.
For your SEO to continually improve, you need to regularly create helpful, thorough, transparent content for your audience.
Of course you need to optimize all content on your website, but this is different. Google appreciates high quality content that is currently relevant. This means you need to be posting often about topics that are relevant to your audience.
Naturally, many things for most industries are changing, and your business’s content (normally expressed in a blog) needs to continue to adapt with your industry.
The good news is that a regularly maintained blog has multiple positive effects for your business:
- You stay up to date on new trends because you’re writing about them.
- Your customers stay informed because you’re educating them.
- Google stays happy because they can continue to deliver the most relevant content to users (i.e. improved SEO).
Quick tips on how to approach a blog for your small business
I recognize that it might seem like your business isn’t a great business to write about week after week.
That’s just not true.
Every business can put together topics to write about that will add value to customers.
- Pull together key leaders, sales people, client facing staff
- Brainstorm every question you ever remember being asked
- Organize those questions; start with the most commonly asked questions
- Write detailed and fully honest articles of at least 800-1000 words about one question or topic
- Have the title be some variation of the question you’re answering.
It’s that easy.
Don’t make this common mistake when starting a blog for your small business
The most common mistake that business owners make is writing about what they care about, rather than what their customers care about.
Don’t do that.
Address your customer’s questions in long written blog posts that are fully transparent. If your competitors have a service that is better than yours (be objective!) list them in a head to head comparison blog with all honest pros and cons.
That means you need to both honestly praise their pros and honestly list your cons.
2. Update Your Title Tags
Title tags should be clear and concise titles for a page on your website. These titles are displayed on search engines as the blue link that you click. It helps a search engine and user understand what your page’s content is about.
Want to roll your sleeves up? Here’s a great guide to title tags.
3. Short and Descriptive URLs
Your URL for any given page should be descriptive and short.
This has multiple benefits, but like most SEO practices, the most obvious benefit is to the user. A good URL will make it clear to the user what they’re going to see when they click the link.
URLs do have an impact on rankings but it’s relatively minor when compared to other factors. One of the most important ranking factors when it comes to a URL is domain authority.
The more often other websites link to your URLs the more authoritative Google considers your website, which in turn gives you higher rankings in search results for your keywords.
It also makes your web pages more shareable on social. Which link would you prefer to click on?
You want to know what you’re clicking. So do you customers.
Again, there is some impact on SEO, but you will waste your time if you create new URLs just to stuff keywords into them without having new and valuable content to back that new page up.
4. Update Image Alt Text
Image alt text or alt tags are the descriptions used for the images across your website.
Google often pulls images that seem relevant to a search result, but for your small business to start to show up in those image searches, you need to update the alt text for each image.
Most content management systems (CMS) provide easy access to alt tags. Usually you can simply click on an image and the empty alt text box will appear.
Like with URLs, you want to be both descriptive and specific. Hubspot has an awesome resource on alt text that gives both good and bad examples.
5. Fast Load Times From Any Device
If you click a link that takes more than 10 seconds (honestly who even waits that long?) to load, do you stick around and see how long it will take? No. Neither do your customers.
53% of users will abandon a website if it doesn’t fully load in 3 seconds. Your website needs to load quickly on all devices. Tablets, phones, and computers should all load within 2 – 5 seconds.
Even if you’re ranking well for a given keyword, you may be losing traffic due to slow load times,which can lead to a drop in search rankings because your SEO will suffer as a result.
4 ways to improve load times
- Choose the right host for your website
- Enable compression to make things smaller
- Use a CDN
6. Intuitive Navigation
Similar to fast load times, this is about improving the user experience (UX). Ideally, a user shouldn’t need to click more than 3 or 4 times to find what they’re looking for from any given location on your website.
You want your site structure to be simple, clear, and easy to use so that UX is flawless.
If you feel like you’re unsure how to create a good navigational layout, we’d encourage you to look at industry leaders and learn from their website navigation.
7. Awesome Design
Sticking with the theme of great UX, the actual design of your website matters. Your website has to grab users’ attention, direct them where they need to go, and convert them into customers. That’s a lot of work!
Simple steps—like making important details bigger, enabling site-wide search, and creating visually appealing graphic design—matter to both users and search engines.
8. Mobile Optimized Design
Nearly everyone in the USA has a smartphone or tablet, or both. Did you know that mobile accounts for 92% of e-commerce growth?
On top of that, 87% of customers begin their purchase process with online research.
Your website needs to be built for mobile users, but also needs to look good on desktop browsers.
9. Schema Markup
Moz says that Schema markup is a semantic vocabulary of tags that you can add to your HTML to improve the way search engines read and represent your page in SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).
Effectively, Schema helps you create more rich and helpful snippets that show beneath title tags in search results.
The top search results you see with a 4-star rating are using Schema to enhance their results page listings. (Moz goes into more depth on Schema for those interested in learning more.)
10. Easy to Share Content on Social
Top performing blogs with great content always have easy ways for users to share that content on the social media platform of their choosing.
The idea here is for users to easily be able to share what they want to share. Again, improving the full user experience is so important to most on-page SEO factors.
This is usually as easy as adding a plugin to your website, or asking your developer to implement this step.
11. Meta Descriptions Optimized
Meta descriptions are the snippets of text below the title tag and URL on the SERP.
Most experts agree that optimizing this snippet of text doesn’t necessarily directly improve your SEO, but it does help improve your click-through rates, which can improve a page’s ability to rank.
You can update this in your CMS. Ideally, these are 50 to 160 characters, and the goal is to provide value to your users and drive clicks.
12. Link Internally and Externally
As you work on your website’s content, you should also take the opportunity to see if you can find ways to add links to internal sources (i.e. other pages on your website) that users may be interested in.
Pricing, product details, FAQ’s and blog topics are all common pages that businesses link to internally.
External links to other quality websites help improve your on-page SEO as well. This is most often due to the improved experience for you user, as it shows Google that you’re trying to provide customers the best available resources, regardless of whether you are the creator of that resource.
Naturally, this is not a completely exhaustive resource to on-page SEO best practices, but we believe it covers the most important ranking factors. Working on these 12 areas will certainly get your SEO moving in the right direction and, in time, start driving organic traffic to your website.
If you need expert guidance on where to start on the areas mentioned above, we’re here to help.