Important: Want the top tips on getting your online business off the ground? Then 'like' our Facebook page (link opens in new window) for all the latest tips and advice. Come and say hi. 🙂
Ok, I’ve just put together the ultimate guide to onsite SEO (On page search engine optimization) and I’m sharing it with you for free!
You may have heard the saying “focus on your onsite SEO before you worry about your offsite SEO”. This basically means before you even think about building your first backlink, you need to make sure you’ve structured your website and pages to be capable of ranking for a term or keyword.
In order for your page to rank for a keyword, the search engines need to deem your content highly relevant for a specific search term. You can make your page appear relevant to search engines by doing three things:
- Making sure the content really is about that subject,
- Adding your keyword in specific places and in specific ways, enough so to boost your relevancy factor, and
- Having a good internal linking structure.
If your keyword doesn’t appear on your page at least once or twice, there is next to no chance you’ll rank for that term in search engines (Unless you have a lot of quality anchored backlinks for that keyword, but that’s not always easy to achieve). Because of this, it’s important to incorporate your keyword and variations of your keyword into certain parts of your page.
In this step by step guide, we look at how you should do this in order to maximize the chances of your page getting ranked for a term. But first, let’s look at what onsite SEO is.
What Is On-Site SEO?
- On site SEO
- The things you can do directly on your website that will effect the way search engines rank you. If you have good on-site SEO, you will have a better chance of ranking higher for certain keywords in search engines.
Now that’s out the way, let’s look at some of the things you can do to improve your onsite SEO score.
Add Keywords In Your Headers
You headers are some of the most important parts of your page. It is a lot easier to rank for a term if you’ve got it in a heading, as this shows search engines that you will be talking about the header’s subject in the coming paragraph. Because of this, they put extra weight on what you put in the header tags. While it is possible to rank for keywords that are only in the text body of your page, getting your keyword in a few header tags make things a LOT easier, and will allow you to go after some harder terms.
So how exactly should you use your headers? Well, while you don’t want to overdo your page with headers (This will appear ‘unnatural’ and like you’re trying to force a ranking) you will want to include your main keyword at least once in the top three header tags. So if your keyword is ‘black trench coats’, you’d want to include that at least once in the h1 tag, and once in the h2 tag.
Please note that the below methods work for any keyword, not just a product one. You can just as easily use these methods for ranking ‘how to play a guitar’ for example.
But anyway, here are some examples of how you can use the ‘black trench coats’ keyword in your headers:
- H1 = Buy Black Trench Coats On Sale.
- H2 = Black Trench Coats For Men.
You may also want to include it in a H3 tag as well:
- H3 = Where Can You Buy Cheap Black Trench Coats?
There are a few things you should notice about the above headers. First of all, I didn’t just name any headers ‘Black Trench Coats’ and be done. It’s becoming harder and harder to rank for terms straight out of the Google Keyword tool, so making your pages more user friendly benefits users, search engines, and essentially the money in your pocket.
If you search for some popular terms in search engines, you’ll find that most of the results have other words as well as the keyword in the title. Pages that have strictly keyworded title are getting ranked down more and more these days, so make your page more user friendly and you will find it’s easier to rank.
Secondly, I added in keyword variations and buying keywords. The keyword variations (Black Trench Coats For Men‘ in the h2) will allow your page to rank for more keywords as mentioned above. If you can get them in the headers this is ideal.
Same with the added buying keywords (‘Buy Black Trench Coats On Sale‘ in the H1). If you’re trying to rank for a product name or something people can buy, this will allow you to easier rank for these terms and get the right kind of customer to your page. If however you’ve more of a social site, you won’t have to worry as much about using buying keywords. They are more for product based sites.
Finally, in the header 3 I also added a question that people may search for in order to find out more information about buying a trench coat. While people may type in variations of this question, it will probably rank for a few different variations as there is probably not a lot of competition trying to rank for it.
On top of having those two or three headers, if you’ve the space due to you writing a long article, you should also add in variation of your main keyword. For example, instead of Black Trench Coats, you could use Trench Coats In Blue. Or Long Trench Coat. You will of course need to make the header more the just the keyword so it’s clear for your readers, and doesn’t look like keyword stuffing.
Once again this will allow your to rank for more longtails, and pull in more traffic to your page. We talk more about keyword variations later on in this article.
Internal links are a very important part of onsite search engine optimization Not only do they help your user get around your site, but they also help pass authority from your stronger pages to everywhere else. I’ve written a full guide on internal linking (Link opens in a new window) so check it out.
Put Keywords In The First And Last Sentence
One thing that will make your page seem more relevant for a specific keyword, is if that keyword is used exactly in the first and last sentence of the page. What this does, is give the search engines the impression that your whole article is about this keyword. It also implies you’ve been talking about the related subject the whole way through.
So let’s say your main keyword is ‘black trench coat’. You could incorporate it in the first sentence like this:
- If you’re looking for a black trench coat, you’ve come to the right place.
In the last sentence, it may look something like this:
- Good luck in finding the black trench coat that suits you.
You will of course want to add the specific keyword at least once more within the text body of the page, as well as adding a few variations of the keyword (We talk about this more later in this chapter). For why we bolded and underlined the keyword, check out the next section.
Bold, Italics, And Underline Keywords
One of the way search engines know what are the more important points on your page, is the use of highlighting tags. By highlighting tags, I mean using the bold, italics and underline tags in your body text. If you have your keywords highlighted with these tags, then that will show your keyword is relevant to that page.
The good thing about using this trick, is not many people do it. So if you’ve a page that’s equal in strength to a competitor in every other way, bolding, adding italics and underlining your main keyword once each will give you the edge.
On some of my sites, I add italics the first time I use my exact main keyword, bold the second time I use it, and underline the last time. I choose to underline the last time I use the keyword over the third time, mainly for the fact the underline tag can look a bit tacky. While the other two tags don’t take away from the appearance of the content, the underlining does. When it’s in the last sentence however, it seems to blend in with the content a lot more and not look out of place. This is of course completely optional where you put it, but to ensure the best user experience I recommend you place it in the last sentence too (You should have your main keyword in your last sentence remember).
I’d advice you don’t copy my exact placing of your highlighting tags however. If everyone starts doing it, it may start looking a bit fishy. 😉
You may want to highlight a couple of the keyword variations instead so it looks more natural.
Keywords In The Image Alt Tag
Search engines love images. Visuals help add to the user experience, and anything that benefits the users the search engines try and incorporate in their ranking system. While including images on your page can help boost your rankings, there is one problem: Search engines can’t tell what you image is about. While they can tell that an image is there, unless you include a text description they will have no idea what the image is of. This is where alt tags come in.
The alt tag will allow you to add a description of what is shown in the image. If our keyword is ‘black trench coat’, we’d ideally want a picture of a black trench coat and include a alt text that goes something like “buy a black trench coat”. We want to make sure our keyword is included in the image so it adds to our page’s relevancy, and at the same time we may as well make it into a longtail and / or add a buying keyword or two. This will boost up our relevancy for these other terms too.
Whenever you add an image, always make sure you add in keywords and a description in the alt tag for an extra boost. Don’t simply spam keywords in this tag however, as you could be penalized for it.
Adding Variations Of Your Keywords
If you were trying to rank for the term ‘black trench coat’, you’d also want add some variations to that keyword within the page. So as well as using the main term a few times, you’d also want to include terms such as ‘trench coat’, ‘black coat’, ‘trench coats in black’, ‘silver trench coat’ (Or any other color), ‘long trench coat’, ‘men’s trench coats’, ‘buy a trench coat for women’, and any other variations you can fit in naturally that matches the page’s theme.
There a two main reasons why you’d want to do this:
- You Can Rank For More Terms.
The more variations of a term you have on a page, the easier it’ll be to rank for those and other related keywords. Remember, even if someone is searching for a blank trench coat, they don’t always type in that exact keyword order. You’ll find some people will add an extra word or two, some will change the order of the search request, and some will have spelling mistakes in their search. While I wouldn’t recommend you go for the incorrectly spelt version of a keyword (Google usually redirects them to the correct way of spelling the word these days) you can add these extra keywords and different keyword orders in in order get your page found for more terms.
- It Makes It Seem More Natural.
If you are using the exact same keyword every time (Black trench coat, in that order) it will appear as if you’re keyword stuffing. Google and other search engines don’t take kindly to keyword stuffing, and often won’t rank a page that does this in excessive amounts. If on the other hand it seems like the page is an authority on all things trench coats, you will not only rank it for more terms, but the page will often rank higher as a whole. Ranking higher means more search traffic.
Keyword stuffing also appears unnatural for your website’s readers. If it doesn’t appeal to them, they won’t stay on your website very long. If you’ve a social site, this will of course kill your business. If you have a product website, it’ll help kill your rankings in the search engines (If a lot of people come on your site and press back / don’t stay on long, Google will notice this and rank you accordingly).
A Word Of Warning About Over Optimization
While optimizing your page for a certain term can help search engines determine what topics your page is about, you should be careful not to overdo it. If you ‘keyword stuff’, as in add your keyword an excessive amount of times, your on page SEO may actually do more harm then good.
A good trick is to write naturally. Write things in exactly the same way you’d say them, and you will usually be fine. Once you’ve finished writing the article, you can go back and see if you’ve used your keyword at least two or three times (For an article of a few hundred words). If you haven’t, you can make it so it’s at least twice in the header (A H1 and a H2 for example) and twice in your body. This should be enough to help your keyword rank but still look natural. You can add similar variations of that keyword so your article is still highly relevant to that keyword area. It will also look natural.
Onsite SEO Conclusion
And that’s how you optimize your website for search engines. Pretty easy right?
The main thing I will say it to make sure your content reads naturally. Even though you should include your keywords, you don’t want it to spoil the user experience. If it does, people won’t stay on your site long, and your rankings will be negatively effected. Write with the user in mind, and blend in your onsite SEO after.