In the previous steps of this small guide, we decided a list of the pages we would like to optimize. Having that list we will need to pick one to three keywords / terms that each page talks about and for which we would like this page to appear in search results. Why one to three? Because you will find that with more target terms, it will be much more difficult to perform all on-site SEO tasks.
Having the list of pages along with the target keywords per page, we need to include them in :
• The page’s title
• The page’s url
• The page’s meta description and meta keywords
• The page’s first paragraph and the body text
• The Heading 1 and Heading 2 elements in the body text • The body text in a density of 2 to 4 percent
• The alternative text of the images
• The links that this page has to external websites
Of course this list is not that clear. Let’s go through each one of those element and explain the exact process.
To make things more clear, let’s say that our example is a services page of our website, where we list our attorney services. Our services include criminal law and trade law. Our office will be in London UK.
Web page’s title or else Meta-Title
Each of our website’s page has a title. Its the one you see on the web browser when browsing your website. Here, you should include the target terms but at the same time, write the title in a “human” format. This title will display as the blue clickable text on the search results page of search engines.
In order to correctly write an optimized title, you should keep in mind to :
- Include the terms on your title, as to the left of the title as possible
- Write the title as a sentence, in a “human” format
- Include your website’s name at the end of the sentence, not a must but you could
- Never go above 70 characters of the title in length as search engines will not “see”
what’s included in the page’s title after 70 characters
For our services page we will have the terms “criminal law” and “trade law”.
A correct title would be : “Criminal and Trade Law Services”. A better title would be “Criminal and Trade Law Services in London UK”. If we want to include our brand name on the title that’s fair and one title would be “Criminal and Trade Law Services – Our Brand, London UK”.
Keeping things simple, before forming up your website’s title, think of how you would list that particular page in your post box or after I asked you “what do you do, tell me in a sentence”.
A wrong title would be : “Criminal Law, Trade Law, Services”, why? Because we made the mistake of keyword stuffing on the title, which is something search engines consider like an effort on our side to “trick” them.
Don’t overdo it with terms and keywords on your web pages’ titles. If you add too many keywords there, then is highly possible that engines will “flag” this page for keyword stuffing and will skip it from the search results. Also, never use capital letters in all of your title, keep capitals as the first letters of words if you need but never use capitals in all letters, search engines think this is an effort to make this page more visible in the search results and will flag you.
Your title should be clear, provide the page’s content in a snap and be interesting to the user so they can click it when they see it on the search results page. This will increase your CTR2 in search engines thus bring more people into your website. Its not only about being in the search results but also for users to click your website.
Page’s web address or URL
Another important “place” where we should have the target terms, is the web pages URL or more simply, its address on the internet. Each page of your website has a url which is unique, no other page has the same address. So let’s say our website is called “asimplelawfirm.com” and we have a services page, its url could be http:// http://www.asimplelawfirm.com/services. Its a nice address, easy to remember, intuitive as users may think this is where your services will be. It is not SEO optimized though.
An SEO optimized url for the services page and based on our example would be :
Why better? Because it contains our three main & important terms “criminal”, “trade” and “law”. An even better title, stripping it from the un-important3 ( without much interest or relevancy ) words would be :
An even better ( not in all cases ) title, considering the local way in which people search would be :
URLs should not exceed the length of 75 characters as some search engines will only take the first 75 characters and analyze them, skipping everything in the url that is after the limit of 75 characters.
Remember, no page on your website can or should have more than one url.
Web page URLs and broken links
Search engines visit your website every day, multiple times, they take each of your pages and list its url and their analysis on that page. They store this information on their database so they can propose it or not in the search results when a user searches for something relevant.
Since the urls are the main parameter via which each of your website’s pages is distinguished from the others, changing those urls will cause problems to both the search engine and your visitors. For instance, if you already have a web address like :
which is not SEF6 and you need to change it to something else ( as above ), then what will happen is that search engines will try to visit the old url ( since they already know it ) and when they do, nothing will be there ( since you will have changed it ) thus the action will result in a “Not found” error, or in web terms a “404 error”. This is bad, if 404 errors are not corrected in time, the search engine will decide to remove that page from the possible results since it does not link to anything, surely nothing that the user could be interested in.
Whenever we need to change our web urls on our website so we can optimized them and in order not to lose them and result in 404 errors, we will have to perform a process which is called “301 redirection” of every old url to its corresponding new url.
To do the 301 redirects ( and based on our website’s management platform and web hosting style ), we will need to “tell” the web server to move address A to address B permanently. This will then have our web server redirect all traffic from A to B and at the same time tell the visiting agent ( either Google, Yahoo, Bing or a user’s web browser ) that this is a permanent change, thus a code 301 redirection.
Website pages and sitemaps
Our website is to contain multiple pages, in most cases, many pages where each one will have a different URL. We will need to tell the search engine which urls it should visit and analyze7, to do this we can use something called “Dynamic XML Sitemaps”. You can generate dynamic sitemaps either via some online tools or via dynamic plugins, depending on which platform your website is built on.
A dynamic sitemap will let search engines know where to start with our website and which addresses to analyze first. Although the search engine will try to visit everything11, there may be some pages on our website that we don’t mind for the search engine to visit first, thus we will not include them in the dynamic sitemap.
If your website is a static plain HTML website, then you will need to use online tools to generate your xml sitemap. If your website is built on a CMS12 platform like WordPress or Joomla, you can use ready-made plugins that will take care of your xml sitemaps for you.
In either case, your xml sitemap(s) will have a url of their own, for instance, you main xml sitemap will ( usually ) be http://www.asimplelawfirm.com/sitemap.xml which search engines anticipate ( as most know that a website’s xml sitemap usually resides in /sitemap.xml ).
On another note, you can and should submit this sitemap(s) to each of the search engines’ webmaster tools ( i.e. Google Webmaster Tools or Bing Webmaster Tools and so on ) so you can help these search engines start with your website faster.
Robots.txt and blocking certain urls
Not all pages on your website are important for search engines, not all of your website’s files are also not important for search engines. You can “tell” search engines to skip ( not analyze ) certain parts of your website by adding a file called robots.txt to the root14 of your website on your server.
The contents of a typical robots.txt file are :
User-agent: * Disallow: /admin
User-agent: * means all agents, thus in simple terms, all web browsers, its a directive that tells the server which browsers to apply the following rules for.
Disallow: /admin is a simple rule that tells the search engine to skip the folder or part of the website with an address or /admin, in our example that would be www.asimplelawfirm.com/admin, thus not crawl the admin area of the website, depending on where the admin area is.
Another robots.txt file for a WordPress website could be :
Disallow: /wp-admin/ Disallow: /wp-includes/
which tells search engines not to analyze or crawl wp-admin which is the administration area of WordPress and wp-includes which contains residing files of WordPress required for WordPress to run and work on web servers.
The general idea is that sections of the website that are either system files or we don’t want them to appear in searches, we block them as such into robots.txt.
Web Page’s Meta Description and Meta – Keywords
Apart from the front-end, obvious and visible parts of a page, there are some hidden parts on it which are called meta-data. Two common meta-data elements which are important to search engines are meta-description and meta-keywords. Both should be included in our SEO process as they are important to search engines18.
Meta Description is a hidden field in which we write one – two sentences that describe this page. For instance, in our example of law services for our simple law firm, a meta description could be :
We offer Criminal and Trade Law services for individuals and businesses in the United Kingdom. Our experience and expertise are tested into our services with the maximum benefits for you.
Its important to remember to include the target terms into the meta description too. Also, our meta description should not be longer than 140 characters and there must not be two or more pages on our website that have the same meta description. Also, its highly important that we don’t leave the meta description blank as in such case, search engines will consider as meta-description, the first paragraph of text on the page. Do not copy and paste parts of your page’s text and meta description.
Meta description will be the black text below the url in the search results page. On our example, we used two sentences, the first one being the “interesting” one with the target terms and the second one in a more “marketing” way so we can convince search engine visitors to click on our website.
Although not all search engines consider meta keywords, some do. Meta keywords was something very important in the “old days” of search engines but now, its not the most important factory. Since some use it, we should fill it as part of our optimization process.
When we need to fill in meta keywords, we will certainly have to use our target terms for that page and maybe some more. In general, the number of keywords per page should not exceed twenty and should be more than 2-3, with an average of 9-10. When adding your meta keywords, do not add variations of the keyword as search engines know the correlation of such variations.
For instance, when adding “criminal” as a keyword, you don’t have to ( and should not ) add “criminals” too.
Meta keywords are separated by comma and can be single words, pairs of words and even three words as such :
criminal, law, trade, london, united kingdom, business, individual
In the “old days” of SEO, you would add many keywords, trying to benefit from their diversity and popularity, the more you added the more chances you got.
Nowadays, this is completely the opposite, the more you add the less possible it is for that page to rank higher and also the more you add the higher the chance for the search engine to flag this page for using too many keywords.
Body text and first paragraph
Mainly in case you don’t use a meta description, the first paragraph of the text of each page is very important. In all cases, your first paragraph should be descriptive and contain the target terms.
Use correct wording and a “human” text, readable, but include the target terms of your page.
Each website’s content and text can be organized into paragraphs ( like this document ) which in HTML is marked with an opening <p> and a closing </p>, each paragraph is enclosed into <p> and </p> and your web page’s first paragraph should too.
Your page’s body text
By “body” text we mean the main text of your web page. Based on various sources, the length of body text should be around three hundred words as you indeed can talk “enough” about your topic in three hundred words. In your body text you will have paragraphs, headings and sub-headings, links, maybe images, bolded words, underlined words and more.
In your body text, make sure you include your target terms in a density of two to four percent. This means that in every hundred words, each of your target terms should appear two to four times. If you have three hundred words, then each term should appear six to twelve times.
Its important not to go below 2% as the term will not be “recognized” as important and not exceed 4% as the term will be excluded as an attempt to highjack the search engine’s algorithm.
When writing your body text, you should segment a long text with the use of headings. There are headings and sub-headings or as in most major text editors, Heading 1 and Heading 2. Heading 1 should be reserved by your website’s designed for page titles or product titles, but you can use Heading 2 to mark different sections of your text. For instance, on our example page where we list our services, we would write it as such :
Criminal Law Services
< text here … >
Trade Law Services
<Text here … >
“Criminal Law Services” and “Trade Law Services” will be marked as Heading 2. Heading 2 elements in your text should contain your target terms like above. Not all of them in one Heading 2 rather than all your target terms should be appearing in the combination of Heading 2 within your body text.
Make some important words in your body text in bold and maybe underline so they are more visible to the user.
Body text links
When writing your body text, its important to allow the visitor to read more and get more information. This can be achieved by the usage of hyperlinks or more simply, links. You can mark a word or sentence on your website and link it to an external URL, so when the user clicks it, he/she gets redirected to that page to read more information. You can have internal links ( thus hyperlinks that link to your own website’s pages and urls ) or external links ( that link to specific pages in other websites ).
When adding hyperlinks to your web page’s body text, make sure those links are around words relevant to your target terms. Its important to remember to link only to websites that are :
• Of high quality, with good content
• Relevant to your terms only
• Not hacked or highjacked ( or your website will be proposing a website which can harm your visitor )
The more relevant the websites you link to the better for your website. The better the website you link to in terms of quality and “authority”20, the better for your website and user.
Body text images
When adding images on your body text, its important to remember to keep those images as compressed and optimized as possible as they can have a significant impact on your website’s speed, which can be a ranking factor as it can affect user experience.
Adding an image on your website will give you access to a field called “Alternative text” or “Alt Text” which you should fill in with a sentence describing the image and which should contain the target terms for your page. Distribute the target terms in all your images’ alt text when you add them on your website.
Mobile friendly websites and mobile searches
Google, in 2015, introduced a new raking factor in its algorithm which considers how mobile friendly a website is. This change, know in the circles of experts as “Mobilegeddon”, considers a website’s design and implementation from the mobile side of web browsing and ranks if higher if its mobile-friendly or lower if its not.
When viewing websites in your mobile devices ( smartphones or tablets ), there are parameters which are important to the user’s experience such how big or small your text appears on-screen or how fast your website loads on mobile.
Websites nowadays are designed to be either responsive or adaptive. A responsive website gets automatically resized to fill the screen it loads into, thus it responds to how the container gets resized. An adaptive website looks to see where its being loaded into before it loads.
If its being loaded in a desktop or laptop, it loads the “desktop” version of the website, the normal one. If its being loaded on a smartphone or tablet, it loads in its second version, the mobile or table one, thus it adapts to the loading container.
Both adaptive and responsive websites can be considered mobile-friendly by Google Search, taking into account some more factors too ( such as size of images, technical coding elements about mobile friendly guidelines and more ).
If you want to perform the on-site optimization process, then updating your website to be responsive or adaptive is critical to your website’s performance in search results, not only for searches that are coming from mobile phones21 but from the desktop/laptop too.
More to come on off-site SEO, if you have questions, we would be happy to answer!