As mentioned previously, on-site Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to the actions you take on your website to make your site appeal to the search engines. These include actions like the words you choose to use in the navigation links, meta tags, and the words within your content.
Here’s a screenshot that shows a thoughtful use of the keyphrase dog training. It’s in the headline, the content (even used as a hyperlink) and over on the navigation menu. This site was ranking very high for the phrase ‘dog training’ (which is competitive). So that shows they’re doing something right.
Meta tags are snippets of code you can include on your website to give the search engines more information on what your site is about. Visitors to your webpage won’t be able to see this information, but the search engine crawlers that scour your site will appreciate the tip off. Here’s an example of what this meta code looks like:
Alternatively, you don’t want to frustrate the search engine crawlers by bogging down your site with loads of pictures and flash animations. Search engines rely on the words and phrases on your site to get a feel for what it’s about, so that they know when to pull your site up in response to user search terms. If the search engine crawlers encounter lots of images or movie files, with little to no content to serve as a label, they won’t be able to figure out what your site is about and as a result, your pages will surely rank lower in the search results.
It’s important to get your on-site optimization right because you control it (as opposed to the off-site strategies I’ll cover later). The following is a quick, but important tutorial covering on-site SEO principles to implement.
If you’re aiming for high search engine rankings, you’ll want to focus each page on a few particular keyords or keyphrases (you can go for just one, but within an entire page of content, it’s usually easy to target several).
As I mentioned earlier, an ideal keyphrase is not too competitive, but still searched for frequently enough in the search engines to make it worth your time. Once you’ve identified your target keyphrases, you’ll want to write content that includes these keyphrases at least one time.
Don’t go overboard – your content should still sound natural.
In the short run, you can trick the search engines by stuffing a page full of your target keyphrase, repeated over and over again, but this is a poor long-term strategy. Where it makes sense to include a keyphrase in your content, then use it, but if another word would sound better, use that instead.
What’s a Title Tag?
When you start building your actual site, one important on-site technique you can implement is the inclusion of a title tag in your web pages. Title tags are special snippets of code that are included before the body content of your site that contain information about your site’s name. This tag isn’t visible to visitors on your site (except that it is commonly shown on most browsers), but it provides valuable information to the search engine crawlers that determine which search terms to display your site for.
Here’s where it shows up in Internet Explorer:
As you can see, the Title tag for that particular page is ‘On-Site Optimization Tips’.
The title tag goes within your HTML code and is structured like this:
<Title>Insert your title here</Title>
The title tag helps the search engines scouring your site to figure out what the page is called and what should be displayed in the search results. For search engine optimization purposes, it’s important to include your page’s main target keyword or keyphrase in the title so that search engines will know to display your site when a user searches for that specific term.
While this isn’t exactly a meta tag, it’s usually categorized as one because it occurs in the “HEAD” area of your webpage (before the body region). There are a few meta tags you’ll likely here about as you learn about SEO. Many of these have been depreciated, but you can still use them if you’d like.
Keyword Meta Tags
Keyword meta tags are not recommended. Google states they do not use them because it became very common for them to be abused. Webmasters would stuff in as many keywords as they could in this meta tag, so Google began disregarding them.
If you’re going to include a keyword meta tag anyway, know that a good keyword tag includes no more than 2 keyphrases that are relevant to your page. Stuffing this tag full of 50 keywords won’t help you rank for more keywords. Be sure that any keywords you choose to include in this tag are actually used on the page.
Meta Description Tags
Many sites also make use of description meta tags – although many SEO experts disagree about whether they actually contribute to your site’s SEO. At the very least, description tags can help you control the paragraph of text that will be displayed below your site’s name in some of the search results. Here’s an example:
Sometimes the description that is shown in the search engine is pulled from your meta description tag, other times it’s the start of your content.
Description meta tags are structured like this:
<meta name=”description” content=”Meta Description Here”>
This meta tag controls what will be displayed in the search engine results when your site comes up in the rankings. Natural search results usually display the page’s title and description.
So even if meta description tags don’t contribute to improving your site’s rankings, writing a good description may help convince search engine visitors to click through to your site. You can even use this description as an opportunity to pre-sell potential visitors on any products you’re selling with persuasive, targeted language.
While not exactly classified as meta tags, in addition to these techniques, including your major keywords and keyphrases in heading (and subheading) titles and tags is a great way to help label your pages with your keyphrases.
Here’s an example of a subheading:
This subheading is within the content. By using ’heading tags’ you can call attention to the text used in the subheading, both for your reader, by making it visually different and for the search engines (because they see the heading tag).
Using head tags on your pages is simple – instead of just including your text and adjusting the size to make it larger, wrap it in a heading tag structured like this:
<h1>This is heading 1</h1>
<h2>This is heading 2</h2>
<h3>This is heading 3</h3>
<h4>This is heading 4</h4>
<h5>This is heading 5</h5>
<h6>This is heading 6</h6>
There are six different heading sizes – h1, h2, h3, h4, h5 and h6. The top heading of your page should be wrapped in h1 tags and should include a keyphrase you’re trying to target on the page. Anymore, it can be considered overoptimization to use all 6 of these heading tags. If you’re going to do so make sure you target different keyphrases in each tag (instead of trying to stuff the same one in each). Depending on how you’ve created your site, these h tags may be a part of your design. Again, just make sure you don’t over-optimize them and you should be fine. It doesn’t hurt to include a single keyphrase in any one of them.
Again, it’s important not to over-optimize any of these on-site factors. Google has gotten more sophisticated at determining what looks natural and what does not. You can actually see a reduction of your rankings if you go over-board and stuff keyphrases in every chance you get.
What is Anchor Text?
Anchor text is one of the most important factors you must understand in order to earn good rankings from the search engines. Specifically, anchor text refers to the linked text that’s displayed in place of a web address – the text you click on to be taken to a new web page. Anchor text is structured as follows in a website:
Examining this link structure, we can see two major elements – the actual web address of the site and the anchor text that the viewer will see displayed on the page. In this example, a visitor to this web page would see only the words: Money Saving Expert. Any visitors who clicked on this link would automatically be taken to the site www.moneysavingexpert.com as shown below( even if they weren’t aware that this was the link’s destination):
Anchor text can be used in both internal and external links – and it’s important to focus on both of these elements as part of your linking strategy.
Internal links are those that connect separate pages on your website. In this instance, you can use anchor text on the links that connect your home page to an article that’s posted on your site. The navigation links on your web pages are internal links. Here’s an example of navigation links (taken from SocialMediaExaminer.com):
If you click on any of these links, you will be taken to a different page on the SocialMediaExaminer.com website).
External links are those that come from sites outside of your own – if, for example, another site linked back to your own because you’re a good source of information. So here, SocialMediaExaminer.com is a good source of information so I’m going to link to them for you. That’s an externam link.
So why is it so important to use anchor text? Why not just include the link to your website or something generic, like “Click Here”? For one, using anchor text gives visitors more information on the benefit of clicking on your link and through to your site. Of course, for this reason, your anchor text should make sense – stuffing it full of three or four keywords will turn off potential human visitors, even if it boosts your rankings in the search engines.
In the link above, you can probably guess if you click on it, you’re going to be taken to the SocialMediaExaminer.com website. I could have also just used the following; Social Media Examiner as the anchor text. Either way, you can probably identify with the fact that you’re going to their website when you click on the link.
Secondly, using anchor text that includes your target keywords or keyphrases can help your rankings on the major search engines (especially for the exact keywords and keyphrases you use in the anchor text). This is very important when it comes to the internal links on your pages. You control these and can use whatever anchor text you’d like so it’s worth it to take the time to add in keywords where it makes sense to help with your rankings and your visitors experience (keywords can help them understand what they’re clicking on).
When it comes to external link building, anchor text can be a great branding opportunity. That means often you can just use your domain name in the anchor text (which more people are willing to link to you with).
For example, I use BusinessBolts.com in my anchor text where I can as it helps get the word out about my brand. Due to the fact that the pages on my site are optimized and I link between them with keywords in the internal anchors, I don’t necessarily need every external link back to my site to have keyphrase in it.
It all filters down which is why optimizing your pages is a crucial strategy for getting high rankings. A well optimized site will stand a much better chance of getting high rankings with fewer external links (and theses are harder to get because you don’t control them).
Further articles in the SEO Tutorial: