While Google's and other major search engine's algorithms change anywhere from 500 to 600 times a year, the strategies of basic on-page search engine optimization (SEO) have remained fairly consistent. Ensuring that your own page's content is fully optimized is big step towards improving your site's search rankings and increasing your brand's web authority. On-page content optimization is the first step in a strong internet marketing campaign, providing the foundation for strong SEO. In many cases, a website's traffic can double in just one month by making some simple changes.
Below are six of the most important best practices for optimizing your content. For more in-depth advice, you can also read our white paper – but these strategies will put you on the right path:
1. Meta descriptions. While often overlooked, meta descriptions play an important role in attracting traffic to your website. The meta description provides both search engines and their users a description of what a given page contains. Meta description tags allow for 150 to 160 characters (including spaces) to "sell" your webpage to the user, so be sure to create a description that catches the eye of a search engine user. Treating your meta descriptions as small bits of compelling ad copy can maximize the click-through rates of your page. Original, accurate and appealing descriptions that include a couple keywords related to the page's content can encourage more users to click on your page.
2. Image alt attributes. Images provide more than an aesthetic appeal to your webpage. Buried within the source code, the image alt attribute is the text of a photo that a search engine will recognize. Adding alternative text to your images not only provides accessibility, but can also help search engines better index the images on your website. Being as specific as possible as well as targeting keywords can help increase your search engine rankings. Relatively short image alt attributes will not only ensure you are using one or two relevant keywords, but will also make it easier for people with disabilities to "read" your photos through access programs.
3. Body word count. Finding the right balance of word count, keyword density and quality content is one of the most important practices in search engine ranking. Generally, a body word count of 300 words can be a basis to effectively communicate almost any idea on a webpage while keeping users engaged. Body text that targets keywords while staying relevant to the page's purpose can help guarantee that your content will not only attract search engine rankings but also the people looking for your site.
4. Page titles. Title tags help both users and search engine robots know what the topic of your webpage is. Your title should contain the search terms for what a user may be looking for. Title tags that accurately describe the content of your page ensure that users coming to your page will stay longer and continue browsing. Using a different and original tag on each page will help a search engine to recognize the differences in content on your site. This will allow for each page to rank individually for a different topic. Short and concise title tags focusing on a few important keywords close to the beginning of the tag often work best, as many search engines will cut off your tag after 60 to 75 characters (including spaces). Title tags take very little time to define, but they have a big impact on how effective your page will perform in search engine rankings.
5. Header tags. Header tags provide a quick and simple way to break up content on your page. Strategically placed headers can help make your page more readable for the user. Furthermore, search engine robots will "crawl" your web page and recognize these headers, making it important to use proper keywords at the right moment. Your overlying header, or
, should be an umbrella keyword outlining the entire page's content with all headers following (
, etc.) focusing more on specific ideas or topics. Using too many headers or long, rambling headers littered with keywords will decrease your search rankings. Outlining a page's content and using the topics as header ideas can help add structure and increased readability.
6. Avoiding duplicate content. Search engines like Google are adamant about each web page providing unique and original content. Whether you duplicate content from your own website or copy the material from another website, Google's Panda update aims to weed out low-quality and duplicate content protecting search engine users from "fluff." Intentional or not, duplicate content will cause your website's search engine rankings to suffer in the end. Following these steps can help you avoid the penalty of duplicate content:
- 301 redirects: A redirect can be used when you restructure your site or if you provide users with several access points to the same content. Instead of several different destinations with the same content, a 301 redirect will keep all traffic coming in to one destination. See the Google Help page for more information about the use of 301s.
- Go top level: For country-specific web pages, make sure Google can separate the pages by using URLs like www.xyz.de rather than www.xyz.com/de.
- Syndication: Careful syndication of your material and making sure Google understands your purpose can help avoid the penalties of duplicate content. Including a link back to the original content and asking for the use of a noindex tag can help to let Google know not to include the data in its searches.
- Boilerplates: Instead of adding a boilerplate to each individual page, include a link to a single page providing information about the company or service.
Avoiding multiple pages with similar content, the copying of content from other pages, placeholder pages and unoriginal content from contractors can ensure your site is 100 per cent original.
Following SEO best practices is one of the best ways to stay on top of on-page optimization, keeping your website's rankings towards the top.
Phil Laboon started the multi-million dollar Eyeflow Internet Marketing, a Pittsburgh-based SEO firm, from the ground up when he was 20 years old. Eyeflow has grown rapidly, recently being named by the Pittsburgh Business Times as one of 2012s Top 100 Fastest Growing Businesses in Pittsburgh, with over 100 per cent revenue growth in the year.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.