What we continually encounter is mistakes made over and over again at the onsite level. More emphasis is always placed on offsite SEO even though onsite SEO is equally if not more important, and the best part is that you have total control of everything that is onsite. Every SEO campaign should start with a thorough onsite review to inspect and correct any necessary issues. Onsite SEO can get very complex for those who are not fully versed in the industry; however below I am going to cover ten onsite optimization tips as a quick checklist that can have a significant impact on your sites quality and your keyword rankings in the major search engines. For more information you may also read Google’s quality webmaster guidelines. As a rule of thumb, always ensure that your onsite SEO is perfected before building a single backlink offsite. Better onsite SEO will often lead to far less work offsite.
#1 – User and Search Engine Friendly Permalinks
With new web standards and content management systems almost every link is now a permalink. Permalink is short for the word permanent link, which is a link that is permanent for the page it is on and will not change. With some content management systems like WordPress, the default setup looks something like this: http://example.com/?p=345. This may be nice and short but it is terrible for SEO. The best SEO permalinks would include a silo structure and the pages name with dashes like so: http://example.com/sample-post-title. The title of your page is a very important indicator to search engines what your page is about, and is also an ideal place to include your targeted keywords. The second example has SEO value while the previous does not.
#2 – Avoid Keyword Stuffing
While it is very important to include keywords that are searched each month relating to your websites homepage or internal pages, it is also equally important to avoid keyword stuffing. With new clients who sign up for our internet marketing campaigns, we often encounter some form of keyword stuffing present on websites that haven’t been evaluated or updated in many years. In the past if you wanted to rank for “buy widget x” you just needed to include it on the page, and it didn’t matter where or how many times. Today you can be penalized for this practice and just writing at the bottom of your website all of the areas you service, or repeating your keywords over and over will do more harm than good. Include keywords in the proper places and naturally within the text on the page and you will avoid keyword stuffing penalizations. Each page should have a general focus, and if possible be limited to one to three focus keywords for best results.
#3 – Include Your Keyword in the Page Title
Whether it’s your homepage or an inner page, include your targeted keyword in the title. A website or pages title is a strong factor and indication to search engine algorithms about what the page will be about. Obviously you need to make sure your title matches what your page is about or you could run the risk of being flagged as spammy. For illustration purposes we’ll use the “buy widget x” keyword again. The title may look something like this: “Buy Widget X From Example Company.” Keep titles to 65 characters or less if possible as Google will truncate the rest.
#4 – Create Unique and Catchy Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions are the short sentences under the title that you see displayed in the search results. While this has been limited in recent times as far as the power for ranking, it still helps and can also be used as a tool to generate more clicks to your website and is often ignored by website owners. In 160 characters or less you should include your keyword(s) once or twice naturally and create a compelling sentence or two that catches the searchers attention. Your goal is to again provide another indication to search engines that your page is about “buy widget x” and also entice a user to seek more information. Even if you are ranked third rather than first, a compelling title and description to a person skimming the page may catch their attention and receive the click versus a higher ranking position.
#5 -Use Header Tags Properly
Header tags are the H1, H2, H3, H4 and so on tags that are used for titles. In HTML they look like this: <H1>Example Title</H1>. These not only break the page up to help users/readers understand what each section is about, they also are an indication to search engines what the page is about. Refrain at all costs from using an H1 or other tag for the purposes of having larger or bolded text, and never use more than one of each kind on the page. They should also be used in succession and not out of order. Include your main keyword in the header tags if possible on the page in a natural way. Most significance is given to H1-H3 although H4 is becoming increasingly popular.
#6 -Ensure Each Page is Linked to by Another (Interlinking)
Search engines have robots or spiders as they are sometimes referred to which crawl your website and index pages in their search results accordingly. To strengthen your website and guarantee that each page is actively crawled and indexed you should always make sure that each page is linked to from another within your website. If your website has hundreds of pages or is organized by category, create a silo structure where pages are grouped by similarity.
#7 – Avoid Duplicate Pages and Content at ALL Costs
Most search engines have strict guidelines and penalties for duplicate content. Some common problems that we encounter with duplicate content is when a business has two or more websites with verbatim content on each separate site, or when the platform their website is built on allows the homepage to be indexed in two different forms; such as http://example.com and http://example.com/default.html for example. Other times, we encounter content that has been taken from another third party website and used on their own word for word. In all of its forms, duplicate content will only hurt your website and its rankings in the long run.
#8 – Relevance!
I touched on this for a moment in #3 above. The tone and relevance of your website should remain constant throughout. There are many black hat techniques that try to get around relevance such as ranking a page for a certain keyword like “buy widget x” and then redirecting the page to “buy widget y.” This practice and others are deemed as spammy, and usually don’t last very long. Focus on keywords that relate to your websites overall topic. If your website was all about “widget x” or “service y” you wouldn’t want to rank for “how to peel an orange.” Keep your website consistent, informative, and relevant.
#9 – Include Authoritative Outbound Links
Google and other popular search engine algorithms actually value outbound links in proper quantities. You should have some hyperlinks within your content that links out to authoritative and relevant sources. The higher the PR (trust and popularity) of their website or web page, the higher quality that outbound link will be.
#10 – Bold Your Keyword on the Page
The bold element shows importance which is read by the search engine spiders. This is why it is important to bold your keyword one to two times depending on the length of your content on the page. Bolded keywords provide more relevance as to why your page or website should be ranked accordingly. Google for example, wants to provide its users with the best results possible. Through onsite optimizations you can instruct the spiders and algorithm that you are the most relevant source for that keyword and the expert in the niche.