In all my years of being an SEO expert, I'm still shocked at how often the basics of on site optimization are overlooked.
We take over SEO accounts from other agencies on a regular basis and the websites often come to us as a complete mess from an on site optimization perspective. Why? Often there wasn't a plan or strategy in place. Someone just jumped in, started editing title tags, writing random blog posts and did "work".
But was it the right work? First, let's review the most important items from an on site SEO perspective.
Let's dig deep into each of these sections and learn what needs to be considered to make each of these a success.
Optimization of URL's and Creating a Plan
The #1 thing you can do to set up a page for ranking success is create an optimized URL for the page. This means more than just a search engine friendly URL. Search engine friendly mean no random numbers, extra folders, question marks, etc. An optimized URL means something different. Let's take an example:
Using the page above, the "Grow Lights" landing page for HTGSupply.com, you can see the URL structure is maindomain.com/category/categoryname .
Often we'll see a page like this and the url would be incorrect in the following ways:
- /category/lights (non-descriptive and doesn't include the main keyword phrase or words in the URL. The word "grow" does not exist and "lights" by itself is too broad.
- /shop/category/grow-lights (this is the best URL of the bunch, but ideally you'd want to get rid of the folder "shop"
- lights35646.html (never have random numbers)
- /category/cat?=21 (never use query strings)
Let's assume now that you're set up like the first URL in the light above, /category/lights , and that you have the ability to edit your URLS (any half decent shopping cart platform should let you do this). What is the key to making this page rank for the main keyword of interest? Get all of the keywords or the key phrase into the URL. Simply changing this to /category/grow-lights will make optimizing this page and ranking for "grow lights" significantly easier. I may even go as far as saying this page would NEVER achieve its full potential without naming this URL properly.
Where does this page rank? Page #1 for "Grow Lights".
Also, take a look at all of the other top ranking pages. The #1 thing you're going to find when you Google any keyword is the pages that are at the top of Google have the keywords you searched within their URL.
Follow these steps:
- Assign keywords to each of your pages (3-5 keyword or phrases) - Read: eCommerce SEO Keyword Research
- Choose your main keyword or possibly 2
- Main sure those words are in the URL
Having an Excel document or some sort of document to track all of your website pages along with assigned keywords will be essential throughout the on site SEO process, so make it a great document that's easy to use.
Content Development to Build Authority & Boost Your Landing Pages
The old saying "content is king" is still true, but you have to build content in a certain way. To begin with, let's define why we want to build content.
- Building content helps you become an authority on the subject. The more you teach people and help answer questions, the better.
- Building content allows you to increase your traffic. If the content you building rankings, you'll gain visitors and then can work to convert those visitors in leads or sales.
- Good content that supports a main landing page (for example this article supporting our main eCommerce SEO page) will give you the opportunity to link from a relevant page back to your main landing pages, thus boosting rankings on those pages.
- Unique content on category pages and product pages is extremely important.
At a basic level, those are the main reason why content is very important on your website. So what kind of content should you build?
Articles / Guides / DIY Tips
- Think of FAQs in your industry and then write an article about them
- Start typing your main keyword into Google and then see what the suggested searches are. Write articles on those topics.
- Use this Blog Topic Generator Tool and get some ideas (example: We wrote a great article on SEO trends because that keyphrase has a lot of search volume. PS: You should read it.)
- Write articles in which the topics contain your main keywords (this may seems obvious, but I've seen a lot of bad irrelevant content)
- Build content that supports your main landing pages and then link back to your landing pages with relevant anchor text. If you build great content, you will be rewarded.
Expanded Content Blocks
- Create a paragraph or two category description for each one of your category pages (if you have an eCommerce website)
- Write unique product descriptions and list our product specifications (if you have an eCommerce website)
- Expand your service pages with FAQs, related articles and develop a lot of content around your service. Way too many services pages are lacking. Look at our eCommerce website design service page and see all of the content we've developed.
There are many way to create internal links. Most people when they think of building internal links they think of links in the middle of paragraphs, articles, blog posts and that's where they start the process. Remember, Google sees all links on your website. This includes:
- Your header navigation and drop downs
- Footer links
- Category links
- Related products links
- Featured products link from your homepage, etc.
Any links that is on your website needs to be thought about from an internal link building perspective.
So what's most important? The basics on general link building is to include your keywords within your anchor text (the text the link is on). In your main header navigation create descriptive links that include your keywords. For example our header navigation link to our eCommerce page is "eCommerce Website Design" and that would have been very easy to make "eCommerce", but then we'd be losing our on linking to our main landing page with our target key phrase.
If you're an eCommerce business, having related products on your product pages will help you to develop a ton of internal links. If you have 1,000 products and have 5 related products on each page, you've just developed 5,000 internal links. They to this is, be sure the related products are truly related in the best way possible. The more related they are, the more value Google should give these links. Also, if you've build out your product pages with unique content, these links from page to page should be more beneficial to your overall on site SEO success.
If you have a lot products setting up related products will also help you get all of your product pages indexed.
Optimization of Title Tags
Your title tag is arguably one of the most important elements on any page from an SEO perspective. The content of course needs to back up what you include in your title, but if your title doesn't include your keywords ranking for them is going to be very difficult.
Title tags are used for 2 main reason:
- Tell Google what the page is about
- Tell people searching on Google what your page is about and encourage them to click on your result
When optimizing a title tag you need to consider of these. If you write a title tag that helps increase rankings but looks really bad for the end user, your click-through rate may be low. But of course if you don't rank at all, measure a click-through rate won't even be on your radar.
The basics of optimizing a title tag include:
- Include your main keywords that you've designated for your page
- Don't use the same main keywords in a bunch of different title tags across multiple tags. Focus on a main landing page that targets this phrase.
- Don't stuff your title tag with a format such as "keyword, keyword, keyword" or "keyword | keyword | keyword". Be natural.
- In general we recommend starting your title tag with your main key phrase
Header Tag Optimization
The proper use of header tags can have a very positive impact on your rankings. The goal of a header tag is again, like the title tag, to tell Google what the page is all about. H1 tags are considered a main header tags, while H2, H3's, etc. are considered as secondary headers.
Where should H1 tags be used:
- Article name
- Category name
- Product name
- Main Header for a page / service name
Where should H1 tags NOT be used:
- On a logo
- Around text that isn't relevant to the page, such as "Newsletter Sign Up" (often developers will use H tags all over the place for no good reason).
- In multiple places on one page. We recommend only one header tag per page. (H2, H3, etc. can be used multiple times where it makes sense).
As a general rule of thumb your H1 tag should include your main key phrase, but can also include other descriptive text. For example an H1 for a page selling "kitchen cabinets" could read "The #1 Kitchen Cabinet Store Online".
Proper Use of ALT Tags
ALT tags are hidden tags that are meant to describe an image, but they are often over looked and underutilized. There is no reason you shouldn't have an ALT tag on every image.
The basics of writing an optimized ALT tag:
- Properly describe your image, don't just put the same keywords on every image and "stuff" your tags
- Think to yourself, if I needed to describe this image to a blind person, how would I describe it?
- Use the keywords that you've assigned to your page in your ALT tags, but be sure it makes sense for the image you're describing. After all, you should have visuals and image that correspond with the main topic of your page.
In many browsers you can view an images ALT tag by hovering over the image and waiting a few second. It will then appear as seen below:
Also, you can view source and look at image tags (img) and then the alt tag within the img tag.
Image Filename Optimization
Naming your images appropriately can have some major impacts on rankings, especially with the roll out of featured results. Often, as seen below, an image will be assigned to a featured result. The interesting thing is often the image may be from a different source than the copy and link. Why? Because it would seem Google couldn't find a relevant image, which probably means you didn't have your images named correctly and / or your ALT tags were lacking in optimization.
The basics on optimizing your image filenames:
- Don't use random words or random numbers, such as image1.jpg or 354364363.jpg . That means nothing to no one and nothing to Google
- Include the keywords selected for your page within the image name
- If you're optimizing for SKU numbers or part numbers, do include those in your product image filenames
Code Optimization & On Site Technical SEO
I don't want to get too technical in this section, because you'll need to be technical to do these things, but I'll go through some of the common issues I look at when running an on page SEO campaign.
What to look for when doing code / technical optimization:
- Double check your canonicals, and use them where needed! If a page is a duplicate of another, you could use a canonical tag in your header to tell Google which page is the original page that should be ranking. Canonicals are often needed on larger sites, database driven websites and probably most often eCommerce websites.
- I'm a fan of adding title tags to href tags, so check for these and add them with descriptions that make sense. Use the same ideas as you would when optimizing an ALT tag.
- Make sure the website is responsive and mobile friendly (pretty much a given these days, but thought I would include this)
- Submit a site map to Google and be sure it is updated frequently
- Check site speed and work to optimize the speed of your website. Speed is taken into consideration in Google algorithm.
- Put paragraphs of text within "p" (paragraph) tags. It tells Google what it is and it's just proper coding.
Coding your site with Schema.org and rich data
Be sure to optimize your code for rich data displays. Watch the video below for the basics and read Rich Data For Your eCommerce Website. Using rich data code around key elements such as reviews, pricing, stock levels, breadcrumbs, events and more, will help these items to be pulled into your organic listings. When these are pulled into your listing your results draw the each of searchers and you'll improve your CTR.
For more than 14 years we've been an award winning SEO agency with proven results. Talk with us and see how we can help your business.