With the creation of search engines, an entirely new process (and industry) was born: search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is the way to improve your website’s visibility on search engines. These days, the practice of SEO can be broken down into two main parts: On-page and off-page. In this post, we’ll give you a basic guide to understanding and improving your on-page optimization.
For many people, we’re talking about the settings on their website that they never really use. You know, the SEO panel that maybe you’ve been hesitant to touch. But by taking just a little time to implement the right titles and descriptions on your site, you’ll improve your SEO by leaps and bounds. In fact, of the five main factors that influence on-page SEO, four of them can be dealt with in just a few minutes.
First, a little background. “On-page” SEO refers to parts of your web page that influence how search engines see you. These factors include things like title tags, meta descriptions, headings, alt tags, and the actual content of your pages. (If you don’t know what any of these terms mean yet, don’t worry, we’ll cover that.) “Off-page” SEO refers to factors that happen outside of your website that influence your search ranking, like inbound link building and social media sharing.
If you ignore your on-page SEO, you’ll miss a great chance to influence how search engines see your website—and how new visitors can find you.
Optimizing for keywords vs. topics
If the mention of keywords makes you want to run for the hills, don’t worry. Keywords used to be the favorite tool of “old-school” SEO. You would research different combinations of words and phrases and try to insert those into your website in lots of places: “dog walking Seattle”, “dog sitting Seattle”, “pet care Seattle”, etc.
Today keywords still play a role. But Google has gotten much better at recognizing what a website is about without depending on keywords alone. With new machine learning and AI, search engines can understand websites based on broader topics and concepts. This gives them a more “human perspective,” which is great news for us humans. It takes some of the keyword pressure off and means that you can now do SEO by thinking and writing like a human being (how convenient!) rather than trying to think like a machine.
Does this mean you can ditch the keywords? Not entirely. The best approach is a bit of a hybrid: combine your keywords with more topical, conversational, and human text as well.
On-page SEO starts with knowing what your page is about
Let’s get to it, then. Before you can improve your on-page SEO, you need to know exactly what a page is about and what keywords describe it. If you haven’t figured out what your keywords or search terms are, be sure to check out my post on how to do keyword research. Keyword research is always the first stop of any successful SEO campaign.
Once you’ve settled on your main search terms, you’ll want to optimize your various web pages. The first page you optimize will probably be your homepage. The associated keyword for that page should be the most relevant for your business. From there, you can work through other pages on your site and optimize each page.
Note: You don’t want to overdo your on-page optimization. But as long as your page doesn’t look spammy (or stuffed with keywords), this will only help your search engine rankings. For more information on keyword stuffing and what not to do, visit Google’s page on irrelevant keywords.
Here are the five main elements that you’ll want to focus on for each web page that you build:
1. Title tag
A “title tag” represents the actual title of a web page in your source code. You’ll see it as the clickable blue headline in search results. It’s a combination of your Page Title and your Site Title, both of which you can set manually in Jimdo’s SEO Settings.
If you never touch these settings, your Jimdo website will use the default titles from your navigation and your username. No huge problem there. But you’ll miss a chance to customize exactly what visitors see when your site pops up in search results. JimdoPro and JimdoBusiness users can set unique page titles and descriptions for each page of their websites.
2. Meta description
A meta description provides even more explanation of a particular web page. In your SEO settings, you’ll see this as the Page Description field.
While Google and other search engines have stated that they don’t use meta descriptions to rank websites, they can still be extremely valuable. Many marketers like to think of them as a web page’s call to action. They give people looking at search engine results a more detailed description of your web page and can help them decide if they should click on it or not. If you don’t update the meta description yourself, most search engines will just pull some other text from the page, which might not necessarily be the best page descriptor.
The recommended character limit for a page description is 155-160 characters. Additionally, if you include a page’s main terms in the description, Google will often put those in bold in the search results—and this can often be a big boon to click through rates.
3. Header tags (H1, H2, and H3)
Header tags aren’t just for making your fonts different sizes. They differentiate the various sections of a web page, and they help search engines figure out what your page is about. If you’re reading a webpage, you won’t see “H1” or “H2” written anywhere, but these tags show up behind-the-scenes for search engines.
A big on-page SEO best practice is to include a page’s relevant search terms in the H1 tag (this is your Large Heading Element). You should have one H1 heading at the top of each page of your website.
The H2 and H3 tags aren’t as important to your SEO, but that doesn’t mean you should completely disregard them. If possible, include a page’s targeted keyword in an H2 and/or H3 tag as well. They’re also helpful for structuring your page and making your text easier to read.
4. Alt tags
Alt tags (or alternative tags) are the descriptions you write for the images on your website. Though they aren’t visible to your average visitor, they give search engines a basic idea of what each image is about.
Whenever you add an image to your website, the actual raw file should be saved with a targeted keyword. For instance, if your photo is of a men’s suit in black, then you should save that file as something like “mens-suit-black.jpg” rather than the default “image_0016.jpg”. More importantly, you should add the relevant search term to the alt text of the image on your website. Using this same example, you would add “men’s suit in black” as the alternative text for the image. For more image tips, check out our post on optimizing images for design and SEO.
5. The content of the page
Ok, you might not be able to fix this last one in five minutes. But the actual content of the page is the most important on-page SEO factor. If you implement the other four factors listed above but you forget to add actual content to your web page, it will never rank in search engines. But if you take the time to think about, research, and implement the right content for a given page, you should be able to bring in consistent traffic from search engines.
Always remember that you should focus on writing content for human beings, not search engines. If you write content and build pages with useful information that accurately describes your topic, then you’ll be able to attract new visitors and entice other websites to link to your content. If you do this, Google and other search engines will take notice and you’ll begin to see an improvement in your website’s rankings.
Action Item 5: Take some time to write useful, clear text on each page of your website. It may be tempting to focus mostly on the visuals and design, but your text is arguably even more important. Text should answer common questions that people might have and it should describe your business and what you offer. Most importantly, you should write it in natural language, for human beings—no artificial keyword stuffing required.
A tried-and-true SEO strategy
Sometimes search engines can seem like black boxes with mysterious inner workings. However, it’s not hard to learn from and implement what has worked for countless websites to date. So look under the hood of your website and follow these on-page SEO tips. You’ll be one step closer to improving your search visibility.
Let us know if you have any questions about these on-page SEO recommendations in the comments section.