SEO Basics: On-Page & Off-Page Optimization
By Marcus Howling
SEO is not dead. The exact opposite is true. SEO is alive and thriving.
Ask the tens of thousands of professionals who wake up and put on SEO white hats every morning. With more businesses paying for SEO services, on-page factors are becoming essential for online growth. Combine a sound foundation with off-page SEO to formulate the perfect balance. Continue reading to learn some major factors that can help improve SEO rankings.
On-Page SEO Basics: Content
When considering the company’s message, remember to put quality first. Take time to think of creative and fresh content with unique titles. Do extensive research on the target audience and the keywords they may search to find specific content. Make sure to include those words and phrases sparingly—yet strategically—throughout the text, once or twice every 300 to 400 words.
Avoid using reproduced or cloaked content with hidden text and stuffed keywords. This content will be penalized and removed from search. Remember to incorporate images with descriptive Alt Text describing each one. Videos should also be optimized and hosted directly on the website whenever possible. Third-party sites like YouTube and Vimeo can be used to promote video content.
On-Page SEO Basics: Site Architecture
Now that the content is ready, it needs to be easily crawled and indexed by search engines. Here are a few quick tips:
• Create descriptive URLs that describe the content on the page
• Make sure the page loads fast and there are no crawl delays set up
• Check the sitemap and make sure the page is included there
• Use Canonical URLs to let search engines know which version of the page you want to rank in the search.
If all is well and pages are still not showing up in search, check to make sure the page does not have a No Index tag in the code or robots.txt file. All of these elements will improve the amount of content that displays in the search engine result pages (SERPs). For a more in-depth look at site architecture, canonicals and URL structure, check out this, "Web Design for SEO" article.
On-Page SEO Basics: HTML
One thing many SEOs forget to take into account is the code. The content in a site’s HTML code is just as important as the content displayed to readers. Include relevant keywords in meta titles, descriptions, headings, sub headings and Alt tags. Bolding the text and making it bigger does not count.
On-Page SEO Basics: Internal Linking
An internal link is a link that goes from one page of a website to another page on the same site. Some examples are links in the top and side navigation, hyperlinks in the content and “call to action” buttons. These internal links create information hierarchy, disperse link juice and allow users and search engines to navigate a website. If there are duplicate internal links on a page going to the same page, remove or no follow one of them.
On-Page SEO Basics: Schema Structured Data Markup
Structured data is the association of a name with a value to help search engines categorize and index the content on a website. The one form of structured data that can work with HTML5 is Microdata. Schema contains tags (or microdata) that can be added to a site’s HTML to enhance how the page is viewed in the SERPs. Schema.org provides a complete list of items that can be marked up with such tags.
Off-Page SEO Basics: External Linking
The biggest contributor to search rankings outside of technical SEO done on a website is external linking. One of the fastest ways to a penalty is practicing black hat link building tactics. Best practices for external link building should consist of natural, authoritative links from related websites. This can be done through guest blogging, natural (aka spam free) press releases, local and national PR events, social contests, sponsorships and guerrilla marketing.
Off-Page SEO Basics: Social Media
It has always been about the buzz, right? Customer engagement translates into dollars spent. Use social media to build an extended brand community. Know the target audience, research to see which platforms they are using and create plans to interact with followers on each of them. Avoid posting too many times per day or flooding followers’ newsfeeds with self-promotional updates. It is important to maintain a balanced posting schedule that includes a mix of industry news, re-posts, company highlights and more. Use engaging images as well. Businesses that maintain a blog can post images from their articles and drive traffic to the blog from various social media channels.
SEO Basics: Recap
The basis for success online is a firm foundation. Designing a website that has a clear message, with original and compelling content goes a long way. Check to make sure search engines can crawl the website and index its content. Double-check the code for errors, proofread titles, descriptions, headings, and alt text. Add Schema mark up and utilize internal linking to spread link juice throughout the entire website.
Once all the technical issues are addressed, start generating buzz and engaging users through PR, natural link building and social media marketing. Finally, don’t forget to test and track the company’s success with analytics to ensure things are going in the right direction. By combining and utilizing on and off-page SEO best practices, any company can establish a presence online and start ranking.
Marcus Howling, The SEO Doctor, is an SEO specialist and a regular contributor to Website Magazine and other leading publications.