On-site SEO strategy: How we can grow your bottom line by optimizing your site’s structure, content and metadata
Yes, there are different kinds of search engine optimization (SEO). We talked a bit in Chapter One about SEO in general just to give you a big-picture idea of what it is.
But SEO is a topic so vast and so complex that you could literally write a book on it. So we did.
The first three chapters of this guide are dedicated to the various types of organic search engine optimization: on-site and off-site SEO.
Let’s launch into this chapter’s topic: on-site SEO.
On-site SEO is the process of optimizing the metadata, coding and content of a page to quickly communicate to Google the purpose, intent and value of individual web pages.
Along with off-site optimization (covered in Chapter Three) on-site optimization will help drive traffic to your site and, more importantly, convert visitors into cold, hard leads.
Generally speaking, there are three overarching aspects of any optimized page:
- The structure (including both the navigation and the technical, back-end coding)
Clean page and site structure—how users navigate your page—improves the user experience and allows search engine bots to more quickly navigate and index your pages, which can improve both your rankings and conversion rates.
Metadata quickly communicates to Google what your site is about. By including targeted keywords in your title tag, meta description and image alt text, Google better understands the purpose of your page. And, if done right, meta descriptions and title tags also entice a searcher to click on your link.
Content—especially well-written content—is the crux of on-site SEO. Good content will always win over sparse, keyword-stuffed content. Pages, blogs and downloadables that are shareable, informational and worthwhile will achieve big SEO wins for your company.
Below, we’ve explained the guiding principles we’ve found most helpful over years of executing SEO strategies for companies big and small.
Does the user know what your site is about and how to use it?
We put this first because users always come before search engines.
In the old days of SEO, there were ways you could structure your site to ”trick” Google into thinking your site was better than it was.
Google’s—and all search engines, for that matter—goal is to provide its users with a good experience. Otherwise, they risk losing traffic to other, more helpful search engines.
That’s why search engine algorithms have changed over the years to account for usefulness to the user.
Google already tracks how its users engage with your content. If searchers continually click out of your site the moment they enter, Google will be less inclined serve up your site in search results and you’ll lose out on potential leads.
Search engine algorithms are getting smarter by the day, becoming better able to exactly match search intent with search results.
Looking to the future, your on-site SEO strategy will become a push for optimized user experience—clear, well-thought-out content and an intuitive site structure will win. Black-hat tricks and runarounds will not.
It’s always important to remember: Search engines don’t pay your bills. Your customers do.
Even if you already have a steady stream of traffic, you aren’t guaranteed conversions.
To convert site traffic into leads, you need to lay out your on-page SEO strategy first and foremost for the user.
Gear your site toward your target audience—publish useful, keyword-driven content and structure it logically—and search engines will take notice. Sales will follow.
At the beginning of any client relationship, we look at how your site is serving your customer.
Then we’ll make recommendations that will improve user experience and increase conversion.
Can the search engine easily determine what your page is about?
Meta tags tell search engines what your page is about.
Search engine algorithms are getting smarter every day, but they still rely on clues—meta tags—which give the overarching idea of your page.
Title tags are the most important meta tag. The title tag appears as the blue link in Google search results. It should include the keyword you’re trying to target for the search engine. But it should also be readable and enticing to the user, or they’ll scroll right past your result.
Meta descriptions—another type of meta tag—aren’t really a Google ranking factor, but they increase the likelihood that a searcher will click on your site. Meta descriptions are essentially teasers for the awesome content you have on your site.
Basically, search engines look to your meta tags to determine the purpose of your page and the value it will offer to its users.
We write meta tags that will not only increase the appeal of your site to search engines, but also to users.
We will repeat: sales, leads and traffic come from people. Not search engines.
Is your site structured in such a way that the search engine—and user—can easily navigate it?
When a user comes to your site, she should quickly be able to find what she is looking for.
It’s the same with search engine crawlers—they should be able to navigate and parse through your content quickly.
No page should be more than a few clicks away, no matter where a user lands on your site. There are two ways to go about this: intentional site navigation structure, and interlinking.
Good site navigation establishes an easily understandable hierarchy of your website’s pages. It can be in the form of tabs, interlinking structure, buttons, etc.
Your navigation should be strategically structured, so anyone on your site can quickly determine your key services, products, markets, as well as any uniquely valuable resources—blogs, whitepapers and guides—that they might find useful.
Internal links are another way to aid in navigation. As site visitors skim your content, they might find a topic that piques their interest and want to learn more about it. If you have a page that explains this topic in greater detail, you should link to it.
Not only does this aid in user site navigation, but helps search engine bots quickly find and index your most useful pages.
The best way to improve your structure is to perform a site audit. By looking at a map of your current site structure, you will more clearly see ways to improve your site’s navigation and usability.
Does your page load before the searcher gets frustrated?
Searchers expect sites to load fast.
With every additional second your site takes to load, the risk that a user bounces—meaning someone hits ’back’ the moment they hit your site—skyrockets.
And page speed affects conversions, too. Conversions can plummet by 7 percent after even a 1-second delay. Searchers do not want to wait.
Remember: Google’s goal is to give searchers the answer to their question without frustrating them in the process. Page speed is, therefore, one of their ranking factors.
So how do you increase your page speed? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but clean code, compressed images and browser caching can go a long way toward reducing page load time.
Is your site optimized for all devices—desktop, mobile, tablet?
In 2016, mobile internet usage overtook desktop internet usage. Now, more searches are made on mobile than on desktop.
And Google has taken notice.
Currently, your site ranks because of its desktop version.
That will change, and soon.
Google is changing to a mobile-first index, meaning that if your site isn’t responsive on mobile devices—iPads, Surface tablets, iPhones, Androids and the whole host of other products on the market—you will fall behind the competition.
As responsive web design becomes a competitive SEO factor, mobile-readiness is not a ”nice thing to have”—it’s an absolute necessity.
Useful, keyword-targeted content
Is your content optimized for what your target audience is searching for? Does your content satisfy the intent behind the search?
This might seem obvious, but if you want to rank for what you do, you need to write useful content about what you do (your services or products) and who you sell it to (your markets).
You also need to anticipate—and answer—any questions your ideal buyer might have at all point of the buying cycle. You also need to talk about your services and products using the words and phrases your ideal buyers use. That’s where keyword research comes in.
There are a variety of tools—Adwords Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, SEMrush and others—that allow you to see how your audience is searching for the products and services you sell.
Once you know how your audience talks about your business, you can use the same keyword phrases they’re using in your content.
That way, we create the opportunity for your site to appear when users search products and services you provide.
If, for instance, you use the phrase ”residential roofing contractors”—which your target audience is searching for—1-3 times in a really useful page about residential roofing, you stand a chance—along with a robust link profile—of ranking for that term.
But it’s not as simple as just choosing keywords and writing about them. Keyword targeting should also take into account the intent of a term.
For example, someone looking up ”how on-page SEO works” has a different intent than someone searching for the ”best SEO agency.”
The first searcher is looking for information, while the second searcher is looking for a service. These two pages should, therefore, look very different.
If your site uses the phrases your audience is using, and answer’s their questions, leads and sales will follow.