Last month I gave an intro to Search Engine Optimization (SEO); today we will dive into the details of on page SEO. This describes techniques used to optimize the content on your site. Reminder: the more findable you are the more patrons you can attract!
Use keywords to demonstrate the content of each page. I use Google’s Keyword Planner to find ideas and see how many people search each term monthly. You do need a Google Ads account to use the planner, but it’s free. Google Trends is another great tool. For this article I searched “on page SEO” vs “on-page SEO” and “onpage SEO” to see what people are actually typing into Google.
Note: Google isn’t the only search engine (duh). I focus my SEO efforts on Google’s algorithms, but you can find alternative sources here.
Moz Keyword Explorer is nowhere close to free. If you happen to be an organization with the funding to pay for tools, or maybe an independent artist with a marketing grant, go for it! You get details about keyword search volume, difficulty, click through rate (CTR), and more. You can create keyword lists that will amalgamate the data for a whole group of related words.
This is a screenshot of Moz’s analysis of my chosen keywords for a recent campaign. As small businesses with niche audiences artists can get away with using keywords that have lower search volumes but high CTR and low difficulty. The priority score is based on all the other scores combined. The search engine results page (SERP) features can show you your competition for the keywords you want to use.
Latent Semantic Iterations (LSI) keywords are phrases you can use that are similar to your main keyword. Varying the description has two purposes: 1) you won’t sound like a broken record to your readers, and 2) you will avoid . You could have an entire page with the same keyword written out 100 times, but that won’t help you. Your content is first and foremost for your human readers.
Latent Semantic Iterations (LSI) keywords are phrases you can use that are similar to your main keyword. Varying the description has two purposes:
1) You won’t sound like a broken record to your readers
2) You will avoid keyword stuffing
You could have a page with the same keyword written out 100 times, but that won’t help you. Your content is first and foremost for your human readers.
LSIGraph can give you ideas of how to diversify your descriptions for free, but only up to 3 times. For “on page SEO” it recommended LSI keywords such as: on page optimization, SEO practices, and on page search engine optimization.
Generally speaking metadata is data that describes other data. In digital marketing it’s used to help make a page discoverable. Your metadata includes page titles, page descriptions, keywords, URL slugs, and content headers. These pieces of information tell search engines what each page on your site is about. Some of this data, the snippet, will be shown to searchers so they can determine if this is the site they’re looking for.
I use the free Yoast plug-in on WordPress to help manage my metadata. I fill in the blanks and voilà, my title, description, and url are ready to go. Yoast will show green when the content is “Good”, followed by grey, orange and red ratings. It analyses your metadata and content and provides suggestions of what to fix and how.
Headers tell search engines and users what each section of your page is about by describing the content. It also assigns a hierarchy to each section. Your main header (H1) is your page title. Further headers (H2s, H3s, etc) are distributed throughout the page. For this article my H1 is the blog title Introduction to On Page SEO. H2s arrange subsections such as keywords and metadata. If I were to further split these sections into smaller categories those headers would be my H3s.
Links and Tags
Links demonstrate cohesion between your page and the page you’ve linked to. Internal links lead readers to other pages on your site. This could include pages covering similar topics, contact pages, reviews, etc. External links lead users to outside sites. This could mean leading them to your sources, collaborators, or useful tools. Both types of link inform Google of the content of your page, so be sure to link to relevant sites. For example, I link to SEO tools from this article, which tells search engines that this article is about SEO. If I linked to Disneyland, Wikipedia, and the CRA that would be confusing. Those sites aren’t related to each other or to my content and metadata. That may make engines think that my page is incoherent so it won’t rank as highly.
This is anchor text. A link is provided in the previous sentence, but you don’t see the URL. There are words representing what the link. These words should describe the linked page, either by describing what someone will find there are using it’s name. This is another way to use links to demonstrate your content to search engines. It’s also easier for users to read than long URLS like this https://moz.com/learn/seo/anchor-text.
Certain website building services will let you add tags to each new page. These tags act a little bit like keywords, but they aren’t part of your content. You can make a list of tags that include your location, name, and topic. This helps associate pages with each other, demonstrate the contents of the page, and allows all pages to be linked to the certain key tags. These are the tags I used for this page:
For your art gallery in downtown Vancouver you’ll want to use tags that will help people find you, such as: Vancouver, Art Gallery, Downtown Vancouver, Buy Art, Local Artist, Gallery Tours, etc. This way if someone searches “Downtown Vancouver Art Gallery” they will be directed to you.
We’ve discussed how to write for search engines so they can find you and direct you to the people looking for what you have. However, your real target is the person who performed the search. Write for humans first and Google second.
Readability is a score based on how easy your content is to read. Tools like Yoast or Readable can help make your site easier to read. They analyse your text and tell you if your sentences are too long, or your words too complex. Readable always warns me against using phrases like search engine optimization. If I knew how to write about SEO without naming it I would! Tools can point you in the right direction, but don’t compromise the essence of your work to make algorithms happy.
There are techniques that help get users doing what you want them to. The easier you make it for them, the more they will share your page, stay on your site, or buy your work.
Providing social sharing buttons on each page makes it easier for readers to share your content. One click and they’re done. Your content still has to appeal to the reader to make them want to share it. The presence of sharing buttons just makes it more likely that they actual will.
Internal links connect related pages on your site so users can jump to them easily. This helps keep people on your site longer. They will read more blog posts and be more likely to remember your site and come back.
Calls to action (CTAs) like “read more” and “buy tickets” prompt users to take action. Use CTAs to direct users to key pages, to checkout, or to complete any task that will help you reach your goal. Often CTAs are links but they don’t have to be.
So that’s your intro to on page SEO. Go optimize your site!