In my last post , I talked about tools and techniques for generating a keyword list for your organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts. Now that your list is complete, let’s learn about SEO best practices and what to do with the keywords on each page of your website.
Quick Review: What Makes Successful SEO?
SEO is an ongoing and iterative process that results in a website being more visible in the search engine results pages (SERPs). You can achieve good SEO by (1) customizing various elements of your website to boost rankings and (2) eliminating elements that depress rankings (such as duplicate content).
Good SEO involves elements that are both internal and external to your website. Some of those elements are as follows:
- keywords applicable to your website topic
- content ranking – is it fresh, unique, relevant, readable, informative, etc.?
- page titles
- page descriptions
- linking – inbound, outbound, and within your website
- age of URL
- page load times
- overall user experience
These and other SEO factors, along with their relative importance, are illustrated in the graphic below.
What Determines Organic Ranking?
Search engine optimization affects what is referred to as “organic” ranking. That is, which position a website ranks for on a particular search term on the SERPs, excluding ads. When a user performs a search query, there are many factors used by the search engine in determining which and how many results are returned. During a search, not only is the keyword considered, but a variety of other factors are also reviewed, including these:
- the location that the browser is set to
- any geomodifiers (country, city, state, zip code) used in the query
- search history
- perceived intent
SEO Best Practices for Each Page on Your Website
SEO result improvements do not happen overnight, but consistent application of best practices will always yield results. Moreover, results must be monitored and adjustments must be made as search engines change their algorithms regularly and competitors work on their own SEO strategy.
Let’s look at best practices for on-page SEO optimization, which include the following:
- There should be one focus keyword per page, and that keyword should not be the focus on any other pages. Too often we evaluate client websites and find a list of the same multiple keywords on every page. By focusing on a single keyword per page, you have a greater chance of ranking for that term, especially if you follow the rest of this list.
- Meta descriptions should contain the focus keyword and be compelling. Meta descriptions appear on the search engine results page and a great description can compel a user to click through to your website. Following up on the last post's example keyword of coffee beans, take a look at the descriptions returned on a search for that phrase. Excuse me for a moment while I get a cup of coffee…
- Title tags should contain the focus keyword and be greater than 40 characters and less than 70. Google has recently switched to a pixel count versus a character count for the title length. I recommend the following tool to see how title tags appear in a SERP listing: Https://moz.com/learn/seo/title-tag
- Focus keyword should appear in a subheading in the copy. It is important to reinforce to the search engines the focus of the page by using the keyword in several different ways on the page.
- Body copy should be 300 words or more. Users (and search engines) reward good content. Having an adequate amount of copy on a page increases your chances of answering the question that leads a user to your site initially.
- Outbound links should appear on the page, as appropriate. These are links that go to other pages in your site or to other websites that provide supplementary information.
- Images should have the focus keyword in the alt tag. Alt tags are an alternate means of identifying an image and are essential elements of good SEO practice. Web browsers display the alternative text while photos are loading or if they are missing. Alt text is also used to assist users with disabilities.
- Focus keyword should appear in the URL. Another way to reinforce to the search engine that your page focuses on the keyword.
- Keyword density should be good. Keyword density is the percentage of times a keyword appears on a Web page compared to the total number of words on the page. The focus keyword should be used multiple times on the page, however not so much that it will appear as “keyword stuffing” to the search engines (which is when a keyword comprises more than 5% of the total words on the page). The copy needs to be natural for the user but still needs to be mindful of the SEO criteria.
- Focus keyword should appear in the first paragraph of the page copy. This reinforces the topic of the page immediately for the user (and search engines).
If all of this is making your head spin, don’t worry—we’re here to help! If you’d like us to give your website an SEO review or if you need digital marketing services, please give us a call at 410-312-0081 or fill out the contact form.
- Terri Hesse, Digital Marketing Manager