Unless you’re in the business of Search Engine Optimisation, you could almost be forgiven for thinking that not a lot has happened in the world of Onsite SEO in the last year or so. You would, however, be wrong. There have been multiple algorithm updates, debates and research studies in the last 12-18 months and if you’ve been keeping an ear out then you’re likely doing things differently than you were back in 2016/2017. But with that said, it might not be a huge departure from what it was given that Google, in particular, had already been pushing for natural, user friendly content, pages and navigation for quite a long time and their recent updates have been based more around better understanding what that means and assessing you against it than anything else.
However for those not in the know we may be getting ahead of ourselves, so let’s run through a quick explanation.
What is Onsite SEO?
To put it as simply as possible, Onsite SEO is how well your website holds up against what a search engine considers to be a site worthy of front page listings for the keywords people search for most. Whether it’s the text on a page or the broader context of the text across the site, to the way in which those pages are structured and navigable to, to the background tags that note everyone sees and even the media you utilise for the site. All of these things have best practice rules attached to them and if you want to maximise your chances at ranking well then you need to be aware of exactly what they are and how to build your site in a way that scores well against them.
These rules are constantly changing as search engines become more complex and better at understanding both what consumers want and how your website stacks up when compared to those expectations, so let’s run through a few of the most important elements of this and what the current rules and strategy around them are.
This basically refers to the way in which your pages are structured both in terms of how they link together and on an individual page basis. Getting this right is the most important thing you can do early on in the SEO/web design process in order to have a solid foundation. Having your information clearly structured and categorised in as user and keyword friendly a way as possible will do three main things that search engines love (because users love it):
- Make your menu and overall site easier to navigate, which will ensure more pages are indexed by search engines and no info or authority is lost or orphaned.
- Ensure that there are links from every page onsite to every other page onsite, which helps authority and relevance flow more freely across the site rather than being contained within particular sections or pages.
- Make your website a pleasure to read on a page by page basis due to its well thought out structure and relevant content.
It may not be every designer’s dream or a cutting-edge method, but we love to use menus where hovering over items pops up sub-menus of items categorised under it because this creates great internal linking between pages and means that you can get to any page onsite from any other page onsite. Say what you will about the method aesthetically, but the results will speak for themselves.
On top of this, we assign one main and two related keywords to each and every URL so that every page has a purpose with regards to relevance, whether that be contributing to the overall relevance of the site or creating great singular keyword focused pages designed to rank.
Body text is where the aforementioned keyword assignment can really come into play. We won’t bother going too much into trying to prove our case when it comes to what sort of word counts you should be aiming for per page except to say that after years of paying close attention to case studies and seeing the results of our own work for ourselves we can confidently say that you need to aim for a minimum of 800 words per page wherever possible (we know that it isn’t for every page and that’s okay), but ranging anywhere up to 2000-3000 words.
This might sound like a herculean effort, but think about it this way: If you can come up with 8 points about whatever you’re writing about on a particular page and write 100 words for each point (the paragraph above this one is 101 words long) then you’ll be done in no time and probably find that you’ll need to write more. We specifically wrote this blog around that approach and 800 words did not end up being nearly enough. (It’s 1,784 in case you’re wondering)
So aim for 800 words, include the keywords you have assigned to the URL you’re writing for (main keyword 3 times, related keywords 1-2 times, scaling up relatively for larger bodies of content) and you will be in good stead.
This is probably the one area where honestly not much has changed lately. So long as you are utilising your keyword assignment and including the main and/or related keywords in this data then you can’t really go wrong, however a few quick tips would be:
Include your main keyword and your business name and try not to be longer than 60 characters in order to avoid these tags appearing truncated (cut off) in search results. Click through rates (the percentage of users who click on your organic listing when it shows up on search engines) have a real impact on rankings, so you don’t want your attempt to entice clicks to only display half the message.
This is the information that appears below the title tag in your search listing and it follows much the same rules as the title tag. If it has keywords in it then they will be bolded in the listing if they match the search being performed, which encourages click through, but they should also be considered straight up marketing that is designed to entice also. 156 characters is the limit for these before they will be truncated.
H1, H2, H3, etc Tags:
Do not be fooled by the weirdly and often attached aesthetic changes that your CMS (Content Management System like Wordpress etc) will auto-implement as you pick different numerical values from the menu. These tags are meant to inform search engines of the intended structure of the information on the page and should appear in numerical order wherever possible. H1 is your main heading, H2 is the sub-heading and so on.
There is some debate with these tags around where to place the main keyword, but we won’t confuse things. Again just refer to your keyword assignment and follow it intuitively and you’ll be hard pressed to go wrong.
We can’t believe that people are still doing it in 2018, but long drawn out URL’s with barely any real words (let alone keywords) are a big no-no. If you have great information architecture, then your URL’s should by logic reflect that. The URL should contain the main keyword for the page that you’re on as a minimum, but it’s also great if they can reflect the path you took to get to where you’re going wherever possible.
So for example if you have gone from the homepage (www.example.com.au), to hover over a top level menu item (www.example.com.au/menu-item), to a product or service listed under that menu item then the path you took should be clear: www.example.com.au/menu-item/product-example
Imagery & Video
Video and image search is showing no signs of slowing down when it comes to search growth. As both become easier to produce and more essential to communications online, it’s important that even the most basic of sites try to include some image and video content. This is where template websites can sometimes as they often either don’t make room for this on their main page templates or communicate that it’s wise to include.
But that point aside, if you’re uploading imagery or video to the site, be sure to again refer to the keyword assignment you have done. From the file name, to the title of the video, or the alt tags on the image, every opportunity should be taken to attach keywords to these until image and video recognition technology is good enough that search engines don’t need to be told what these files are supposed to reflect or communicate. However given that there are multiple areas to attach keywords when it comes to these sorts of files (img tags, alt tags, video titles, file names, descriptions, transcriptions, etc) be sure to rotate through the keywords you’ve assigned to the page rather than just spamming the main keyword over and over again.
Onsite SEO is actually getting easier. The part that requires some technical knowledge is understanding what all of the above things are, but once you know that it’s really just about these 3 steps:
- Structure your site well around keyword research
- Once you know what your structure will be and how many pages you will have, assign each of these pages the best keywords possible according to the research in step 1.
- Keep these keywords in mind when implementing ever single thing outlined above so that you are consistent on the individual page level with regards to what keywords that page is targeting and in a sitewide sense with how that information all fits together and adheres to best practice.
And there you have it! Onsite SEO isn’t a hugely complicated beast and it’s getting easier on the day for anyone who focuses on purpose and keeps it in mind during all they do with their website.
If there was one caveat to all of the above, it would only be this: Do not get so caught up in keywords and adherence to the keyword assignment that you forget that this is real content for real people. Be as genuine as possible and make sure the content serves a user based purpose as well. It’s not as hard as you might be thinking to marry all of the above into great content provided you put in the effort to plan the SEO aspects of it all first.
As always, if you’d like more info on any of the above or to discuss how you can implement a great SEO Strategy then feel free to contact us!