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 got a good idea for the main topics and keywords that you want to target, start reading through your pages and see if there are any sections of content that need to be rewritten.
Be careful here. Your not trying 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 customer’s better, and then in turn serve them better with more relevant content that is detailed, transparent, and addresses their concerns, questions, desires, etc.
Make content easy to understand
Think of an eighth grade level writing style. This is how you want your content to be written. Simple sentences, just like the past 3.
It makes things easier to consume for your audience. Which helps keep them engaged with your content longer, ideally leading to educated leads for your small business.
If you’re like me, this is hard. I tend to write more formally than I would speak, and with longer sentenced that can be hard to follow. When writing content for our web design firm, I focus on finding ways to break up content and keep things brief… though I don’t always do this!
Be sure that your content is up to date
There are a surprising number of small businesses that totally neglect their website content, and before you know it, things are outdated.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. I get it, though! When you’re an SMB operator wearing all the hats, the last thing you want to do is to update your website content after that big event takes place.
You may be thinking, well my business doesn’t rely on our website to drive revenue or bring in new leads, so it doesn’t really matter if the content is not updated.
You’ll lose the trust of your customers. It looks like you’ve either forgotten about your website, or worse, just don’t care.
If you don’t know how to get in and update this yourself, ask your web developer to show you how. What if you have a developer who wants to charge extra for this type of work? Find a better partner for your business.
For those who don’t usually have time for this type of work, next time you go through the web design process hire an agency who includes ongoing maintenance and support as part of the package.
Post High Quality Content Regularly
This is the part of on-page SEO that people usually know is very important, but aren’t willing to carve out 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 relevant today, not yesterday. This means you need to be posting often about topics that are relevant to your audience.
Naturally things for most industries are changing, and your business’ content (normally expressed in a blog) needs to continue to adapt with the 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, 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…not to mention you’ll drop in search rankings because your SEO will suffer.
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. Ideally, a user shouldn’t need to click more than 3 or 4 times to find what they’re looking for from any given spot.
You want your site structure to be simple, clear, and easy to use so that UX is flawless.
If you feel like you’re stuck on 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 more important things 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% start the 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 result with a 4 star rating that shows up, is using Schema to enhance their results page listing.
Moz goes into more depth on Schema for those interested in learning more.
10. Easy to Share Content on Social
Top performing blogs that are creating 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.
11. Meta Descriptions Optimized
Meta descriptions are the snippet of text that is below the title tag and URL on the SERP.
Most 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 websites content, you should also take the opportunity to see if you can find ways to add links to internal (i.e. other pages on your website) sources that users may be interested in.
Pricing, product details, FAQ’s, blog topics, etc. These are all common pages that businesses link internally to.
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 the best resources possible to them, whether you offer it or not.
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.