On-Page SEO Basics
Do you ever look around at different articles on the web, searching for a bit of help with SEO, only to find article after article promising the world and then delivering very little?
I know when I am looking for a bit of information or trying to keep my knowledge up to date with the latest trends, some of the articles I read are confusing, to say the least!
In my opinion, when a ‘normal’ person is looking for a little help with SEO, it is at a basic level about how to perform SEO on a website, without having to be bamboozled with jargon and technical gobbledegook.
So I thought, why not write a post that is super easy to understand and will only cover the essential basics of SEO, that anyone can complete on their own website.
Without further delay, here are the main SEO areas to improve, which will greatly boost your performance!
The page title is the number one area of SEO on your website. This, unsurprisingly, is the title of your page. Often, the title of the page does not use ideal wording for SEO purposes (think ‘Home Page’ rather than ‘Ironing Services Chorley’). This is where a little tweaking can be effective.
When thinking of a page title, try to think what words people would use to search for your page. You will need to match up the page title with words your audience uses, to describe the services that page is selling. If it doesn’t match up, then there will be a disconnect between your web page and the visitor’s search term. This means a lot of people who are searching for your service won’t find you on Google.
A mistake many business owners make is to use technical terms to describe their business. Working in the industry day in day out can often make it difficult to take a step back and understand how non-technical people would describe your offering.
What Page Title Should I Use For SEO?
Here’s an example of a search not matching up with a web page. A customer is searching Google for ‘Binman Chorley’. There is a page that would be perfect for them, but it calls itself ‘Refuse Engineers North West’. It’s unlikely that the customer will see that page in their search results.
There is a disconnect between the wording that may allow a competitor to hijack the searches by matching up their page titles with customer’s searches.
This may seem like a silly example, but we see lots of page titles that are like this or worse. Think, what does a page title such as ‘Home Page’ or ‘About Us’ actually mean to Google? If that is the first thing that Google reads about your website, then it will take longer before it can figure out what your website is actually about.
Another mistake people make is to give strong weighting to the business name in the page title. Most of the time you would be top of the rankings for your business name anyway, so it isn’t helping in ranking for different keywords. Additionally, the only people who will search for the keyword of your business name are people who already know you exist.
You really need to be competitive for the searches relating to your business services or products, rather than your brand name.
The Interact Digital home page title is:
Web Design & Digital Marketing Agency | Chorley, Lancashire
This quickly describes the main overview of what we offer.
If you use WordPress, a plugin called Yoast SEO can be added to the site to give you the ability to edit and change the page title. Please follow the link if you need help installing a plugin.
At the bottom of the WordPress page or post you are editing, you can change the default page title and meta description. Yoast also provides you with SEO and readability suggestions for that page, based on a ‘focus keyphrase’ that you enter and the content on the page. Yoast is not perfect by any means, but it is definitely worthwhile using.
Other CMSs will also have a way of changing the page title, but this may be through a paid plugin or module. If your site is in HTML and you are editing it yourself, the title is in the < head > section of the webpage and looks like this:
“< title > This text would be the page title you can edit < /title >”
A web page is made up of three components:
< head >
content in here will include style sheets, tracking codes and the page title, meta description
< /head >
< body >
Content in here will be the page content – banners, text and images etc
< /body >
< footer >
Content in here will usually be additional menu links, social media icons, copyright notices etc
< /footer >
The header and footer are on every page, and most websites will require one change to update the header or footer on every page. Some HTML sites require a change on every page, which, to be honest, is a pain in the backside.
The body is the content on the page and is variable. This means it changes page by page, whereas the header and footer are static as they tend to stay the same on every page.
Most of the time, you won’t need to worry about any of this, as a CMS such as WordPress already makes it easy to manage. However, if you are editing a HTML site then it is information that you will need!
Page Title Best Practises
- Keep the title under 60 characters including spaces.
- Your main keywords should be read first – if you do include your business name, put it at the end.
- Check, then double-check spelling and grammar.
Meta Descriptions For SEO
A meta description is the snippet of text that you see on Google when you perform a search. A meta description isn’t actually used to help you improve rankings on Google. However, it is the first text people will read when they are deciding to click on your link, or a competitor’s. It is therefore still very important.
All CMSs (Content Management Systems), will have the ability to edit the meta description, but each CMS works in a different way. We will talk about WordPress here as it is the most popular CMS. WordPress sites need a plugin (such as Yoast, other SEO plugins are available…) to edit the meta descriptions.
Without defining a meta description, Google will often take the first 160 characters it finds on your website and use that. If you’re lucky, it will be something relevant. If you’re not, it could be anything. If you are doing a search on Google and see random text where the description is, this is usually a sign that the meta description has not been filled in.
Google is getting better with meta descriptions, often showing a relative part of the page relating to somebody’s search, but I think it is still much better to have control over what is shown by default, rather than leaving it to chance.
Meta description best practises
- Keep descriptions under 160 characters to make sure it fits the space Google allows.
- Include the main keywords within the description. Google will highlight words in the description if they match the person’s search term.
- Include a call to action in the description such as: “Find out more here”, “Call us today”, “Book an appointment online” etc.
Heading tags are used by Google to describe the upcoming paragraphs. To use an easy to follow example, the heading tags in this post are:
Heading 1: The Basics Of SEO
Heading 2: Page Title, Meta Descriptions For SEO, Heading Tags, Images For SEO, Content
Heading 3: What Page Title Should I Use For SEO, Page Title Best Practises, Meta Description Best Practises, How To Optimise Images
How To Change Heading Tags
To change the heading tags, just highlight the text in your WordPress page and click on the drop down menu above the section you’re editing. You can choose from ‘Paragraph’, which is used for all the main content, or any heading tag. The SEO priority of the heading tags lowers the further down the line you go. This means that Google will see h1 tags as the most important information, then the h2, h3, h4 etc.
Each page should only ever have one h1 tag. H1 tags are used to help describe the overall focus of that particular page. If you have more than one h1 tag, it can confuse Google. This can lead to it promoting you higher for a term that you are not interested in, or even reducing rankings for your actual service.
Heading 2 (h2) tags are then used to split the page up into different sections. This blog post can be used as an example.
‘Page Titles’ was the first h2 tag used, as that was what that section was about. I then used a h3 tag, ‘What Page Title Should I Use?‘ followed by another h3 tag, ‘Page title best practises’ as they were sub-sections of the page title section.
After this I moved to a different subject – ‘Meta Descriptions’. Here I used the h2 tag again, as I was changing the subject, but still staying within the topic of the overall page – SEO basics. H2 tags can be considered as subheadings.
A mistake people make when it comes to heading tags is to use them for design purposes. People who don’t know what they’re doing will often place multiple h1 tags on a page. This is because the h1 tag has a bigger font size by default, or uses a different style of font (Helvetica rather than Ariel for example). This makes a section look nicer, or stand out more.
This shouldn’t be done. The font size and font family can be changed on the h2 or h3 tag, to match the style you like without using an h1 tag.
Images For SEO
The SEO advantages of using images are often overlooked. A picture taken on a camera phone or digital camera and uploaded to a website without any alterations will cause issues.
Images on phones or cameras are at a good enough standard for print quality. Due to the quality, the physical file size of the image is quite large. A website doesn’t need this level of detail.
There are ways to alter an image, that can reduce its size without losing any quality. We’ll explain how to do this shortly.
Images can provide a substantial amount of SEO power but are often ignored, as people think images are there solely there for decoration.
Take a look at the Google search and you will see there is a way to use Google via images, imaginatively called, ‘Google image search’. This is widely used and is essential if your product or service is visual.
If you are a florist, for example, you want examples of your work in the Google image search, as people will use images to look for pretty flowers. If Google doesn’t understand what your image is, how can it show it to people searching for flowers?
How To Optimise Images
Underneath are the three types of optimisation you can make to images. These will help to improve SEO via Google’s understanding and loading speed (which is a ranking factor!)
- Image Size
The size of images – even ones taken on a camera phone – are huge! The size of these images can slow your website down significantly, often making it seem like you’re on dial-up internet. This is because the picture takes a long time to display. The size of an image doesn’t need to be so large. Screens are not actually that big, so there is no need to have an image that would look perfect projected onto a wall hosted on your website. You can compress images using sites such as https://imagecompressor.com/ to a smaller file size without losing any quality.
- Image Name
As descriptive as IMG_4011 is, it doesn’t actually tell anybody anything about the image. Google doesn’t know what is on an image. It just knows that it has to show the image in a particular position. Although it is getting better at understanding what’s on an image, giving a helping hand by assigning images a real name will benefit your site massively! Many people now use Google Images to search. If Google doesn’t know what your image is, it can’t put you in the mix.
- Alt Text (alternative text)
Similar to the name of the image, alt text helps Google understand what an image is about. It is also used for screen readers (for those with visual impairments) and is shown when there is an issue with the image displaying for whatever reason. As mentioned, Google doesn’t really understand what is on an image, but it can understand the image title and alt text and use that as a way to rank the image. If your website is visual, improving the image title and alt text could really improve the number of visitors who are exposed to your site. Simply click on your image and type in a couple of descriptive words in the box labelled ‘alt text’.
The actual ‘meat’ of the page! If your content is not engaging or is full of spelling mistakes and grammar errors, not only will Google rank you lower, but people will look elsewhere.
When I am writing content, I ask that it is proofread by a few people and ask for feedback before releasing it onto a website. I would recommend everyone doing this before hitting the publish button.
Here are some pointers on how to create good content:
- Provide Value. Try to answer a problem that someone has. For example, in this post, I have tried to explain simple SEO tips that you can complete on your website. I haven’t given a little teaser, then asked you to get in touch to find out more. I have thought about the SEO areas that people may struggle with and provided an easy-to-follow plan to improve your on-page SEO. If you can provide value, in the form of an answer to questions or struggles, then you are halfway to creating great content.
- Content length. Often, SEO ‘experts’ will tell you that a blog post should be at least 300 words. This isn’t really true. There is no minimum or maximum length of a post. It should be as long as it needs to be, in order to answer all the questions and cover the entire topic. If this can be done in 100 words, then great. If it needs 5000 words, then that’s how long it needs to be.
- How people read. When people are reading a website, they don’t do so the same way they would read a book. Long paragraphs of text is a quick way to turn people off. Have you ever read a full Wikipedia page? If so, you will understand how difficult it can be to concentrate for that long. Studies have shown that people concentrate on the top left, and then focus down the left spine of the page in a capital ‘F’ style pattern, as shown below. This tells us that short paragraphs with image breaks will work best to keep a persons attention for longer. Highlight the most important sections in this layout, so that skim readers can quickly find what they are looking for, and you will improve your readability.
How people read websites highlighted via this heat map
Creating content is often harder than you think. Getting a new page or post to read well, with perfect spelling and grammar and a call to action included can be a task that is more work than you initially thought. The use of a professional copywriter can be a better use of your time and get you better results.
If you are looking for inspiration on what content to create, or help with new keywords, take a look at this post, detailing some cool places to find new keywords and generate blog ideas.
If you have read this far then, WOW! Thank you. Hopefully, there is enough there to get started and make a real impact on your SEO. Please let me know if you have any questions or queries and I will get back to you with answers or help as soon as possible. Thank you for reading.