A Complete Guide To On-page SEO

On-page search engine optimization (a.k.a. on-page SEO) is defined as the efforts one makes on his/her web pages, to enhance their visibility in organic (unpaid) search results. It is generally performed by web designers during the design phase or after the design by SEO providers. Search engine-optimized design is a very important element of SEO that every site owner needs to take seriously, if the person actually wants his/her web pages to gain high rankings on SERPs. It is important to note that on-page SEO cannot be done in isolation: it works in conjunction with result-oriented off-page optimization efforts to gain the desired results.

As a web developer, many people whose sites don’t rank well on SERPs have asked me many times how they could improve their web pages. Instead of answering them one-by-one, I made the decision to write this article, in order for others in similar position to benefit.

Here I will give you a complete step-by-step guide to what a website owner needs to do, with regards to on-page SEO, in order to improve search rankings. So, I encourage you to read carefully, grasp and implement the following techniques on your web pages:

Before you ever select a web designer for your online project, it is essential to first think about search engine optimization. On-page optimization works with off-page optimization, to make an impact in unpaid search rankings. I strongly recommend that you only choose an SEO-minded web designer.

Search Engine-optimized Web Design:

Now let’s take search-optimized web design bit-by-bit.

Keyword Research
Research for keywords that web searchers type into search boxes when they look for things related to what you offer and make a list of relevant keywords and key phrases in your niche. While keyword research belongs to off-page SEO, you have to do it before writing content on your web pages. Use those keywords on your web pages and prioritize them with proper HTML tags.

Title Tag
All major search engines like Google and Bing always start at the title <title> tag, when crawling a web page. It is the entry point of their bots (GoogleBot and BingBot). Any text found within the starting <title> and closing </title> tags are deemed as the most important keyword of the page. Never leave your page’s title blank or enter irrelevant or untargeted keywords. So, enter your page’s most-targeted keywords in the title tag. Note that whatever text you place there is mostly what search engines would display on their search results, whenever your page ranks for relevant search queries. Seasoned SEO specialists strategically, through research, use result-oriented keywords and key phrases that draw in web searchers and entice them to click on their listings. Ensure that each web page has a unique title that is relevant to its main text content. Having the same text as the titles of more than one page means duplicate content, and search engines frown at such practice. Ensure you mention the keywords used as the title at least twice in the body of the web page. Be advised that placing keywords in the title tag alone is not a guarantee that your page would rank high for those particular keywords. But it would at least help search engines to better understand the page’s most targeted keywords. I recommend that you make sure that the characters of your title should not exceed sixty (60), including spaces, to avoid truncating them on search results.

Meta Description
Most of the time, but not always, the text found in the Meta Description (<meta name=”description” content=”” />) is what search engines display on their SERPs as a short description of the page. This is typically a short sentence that strategically summarizes the content of a web page. So, write an interesting, keyword-rich description in a naturally-flowing sentence or two that would make a searcher want to click on your listing, instead of others. Note that Meta Description is not a search ranking factor, but it indicates to web searchers your page’s relevance to searched term. I recommend the length of your page description not to exceed one hundred and sixty (160) characters, including spaces.

Meta Keywords
Even though that for years now Google has removed Meta Keywords (<meta name=”keywords” content=”” /> as one of its ranking factors, it does not hurt to have the tag in place with your targeted keywords. After-all, there are still some minor search engines that use the tag. So, don’t limit yourself.

Heading Tags
Web designers use heading tags, namely, h1, h2, h3, h4, h5 and h6 to give priority to targeted keywords and key phrases in the body section of web pages for web crawlers. Major search engines like Google and Bing recommend that the h1 tag be used only once to prioritize the second most important keyword or key phrase of a page. To avoid confusing search engines about a page’s second most important keyword, don’t use h1 more than once. And you won’t be doing yourself a favour by not using it at all on a page. The h1 is the most vital heading tag, followed by h2, followed by h3, followed by h4, followed by h5 and the least important is h6. Apart from h1, the other heading tags can be used more than once, but wisely.

Always Create Unique Content
Search engines love to see original content on each web page and frown at those that consist of duplicate content. Duplicate content doesn’t add any value and it attracts penalties. So, ensure that each page is 100% unique, in order to avoid such penalty.

Use Authoritative Content As A Link Bait
If you create high-quality content with an air of authority, other relevant site owners will be encouraged to link to your site. Authoritative and compelling content interest people and search engines alike and often gets webmasters in the niche to link to it, if they have plausible reasons to believe the content would be of interest to their visitors. Do some research and think carefully regarding content creation. Make it is interesting and engaging to readers, and has authority, while using simple, grammatically-correct English. That’s how SEO experts use content as link baits!

Regularly Update Your Site’s Content
Google and Bing love fresh content and they frequently send out their bots to visit websites that regularly update their content, to ensure their indexes are up to date. I encourage you to update your site’s content frequently, in order to help search engines to discover more of what you offer. A website whose content has not been updated in years is an indication to search engines that the site has been abandoned by its owner. And so, there’s no need to rank it high on SERPs. There are two ways to frequently update a website: (a) regularly editing and tweaking the content (b) adding a blog to the website and making frequent posts.

There are two (2) types of sitemaps: XML (Extensible Markup Language) and HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) sitemaps. The XML type is more important to search engines, as it is used to tell them about the important pages of a website. So, ensure that your web designer creates one for you and uploads it to your server. It should contain all the important pages of your site you want search engines to index. The HTML sitemap is just an ordinary HTML page that links to all the important pages, and it helps both web crawlers and human visitors to easily locate the web pages that would otherwise be hard to find.

Page Speed
It is important to note that page speed is a Google’s search ranking factor. Web pages that load too slowly are not ranked high on SERPs. To ensure your web pages load very fast on the browser, trim your images, since large images take time to load. Stay away from excessive use of Flash and other RIAs.

Use the Alt Attribute
The Alt attribute is used by screen readers to help people with visual impairments to use the Internet with ease. If your pages do not have the Alt attribute, Google will not list them on its SERPs, when such people search for things related to what you offer. So, don’t limit yourself – take advantage of this attribute.

Canonicalization Issue
A web page is said to have canonicalization issues, if it can be accessed via more than one URL. For example, if your homepage can be accessed through http://yourdomain.com, http://yourdomain.com/index.html, http://www.yourdomain.com and http://www.yourdomain.com/index.html, that is bad for SEO – you need to fix it. It is a form of duplicate content issue that confuses search engines as to which URL to rank and the ones not to rank. It is simple to fix. All you need to do is simply use 301 redirects to point the undesired URLs to your desired one (canonical URL).

If you have knowledge of web designing, all the recommendations given above won’t be hard for you to implement. But if you’re not used to messing around with markup, I strongly suggest you hire a reputable web designer like Devzeal that fully understands the search-optimized design and exactly knows how to get the job done.