Guide To On Page Optimization
In this post I’ve got a quick guide for on page optimization for small business websites.
Now I know some of you reading this will already be scratching your heads and asking what on earth is ‘On Page Optimization’, but it’s a really important subject.
But it’s also very straightforward.
So don’t be put off by the jargon because in this post I’m going to explain:
- What is On Page Optimization and why it’s so important
- What are the most important elements to fix
- A step by step guide to fixing the on page elements of your website
So let’s get stuck in and start by asking that important question:
What Exactly Is On Page Optimization & Why Is It So Important?
Have you ever done a search in Google?
Silly question. Of course you have. So you’re already familiar with On Page Optimization then aren’t you?
Why? Because the Google results show content from a website that has been inserted there by the website owner (or their designer).
It’s called On Page Optimization because it’s happening inside your website and these elements are called ‘Metatags’. To be more precise they are the ‘Page Title Element’ (Title Tag) and the ‘Page Description’. It sounds complicated when you start to give them fancy names doesn’t it.
Can you see how something simple starts to sound complicated.
Here’s what they look like:
Now don’t ask me who came up with these names – probably some really smart folks back in the good old days of the 90’s.
But all you need to know is that these are ‘things’ that appear in the code of your website that help Google (and the other search engines like Bing and Yahoo, bless ‘em) to understand a) who you are, b) where you are, c) what you do and d) what’s on that page.
That’s all there is to it.
On Page Optimization is just you telling these search engines about yourself and your business.
Think of it as being like an open book exam – there are free points on offer here but you do need to make the effort to answer the questions.
When you think about it like that it’s much easier to get your head around isn’t it?
On Page Optimization is just about adding some different elements to your web pages.
So what are these elements? Good question, here they are…
The Most Important On Page Elements
To show you how important they are we did some research in 2016 where we analysed over 540 UK B2B websites like Accountants, Printers, etc..
One of the important findings was that on page factors were really important in determining who gets a top ranking and who gets zero traffic.
For example the use of the industry and the location in the Page Title was clearly a factor as shown below.
Also the number of pages was a factor too:
Now before we get stuck in you’re going to need to identify some keywords for EVERY page of your website. These are the words that people are going to search on in Google.
Now there’s a huge amount of content on keyword selection out there mostly aimed at really competitive markets.
But if you’re a local business all you need to keep in mind is that you need keywords that describe a) the type of business you are, b) the services you offer and c) where you are located.
So let’s take an example of a printing company based in Maidstone. They’re going to need keywords like:
- Business Type: Printer, printing company, lithographic printer, digital printer, digital printing services, litho printing services, etc..
- Services Offered: Flyers, leaflets, business cards, brochures, report printing, on demand printing, green printing, poster printing, canvas printing, business stand printing, pop up printing, etc..
- Location: Maidstone, Medway, Chatham, Rochester, Medway Towns, etc..
Now this is by no means a comprehensive list but can you see the importance of keywords? Think of keywords as being like a fishing net. If you go fishing with a small net you limit yourself to catching a few fish at a time.
Take a huge net and you multiply your chances of catching more fish.
One or two keywords is like a tiny net whereas dozens of keywords is like a bigger net.
OK, not the most elegant analogy I admit but I hope you see the point.
For now make a list of keywords and we can start to put them to use.
So when it comes to the most important On Page Elements they are as follows:
- Page Title / Title Tag
- Meta Description
- Keyword Rich URL
- H1 and H2 Headings
- More Pages
- Keyword Rich Copy (i.e. text)
- Internal Links to Other Pages
- Image Tags
- External Links to Authority Websites
Let’s run through them one by one (in plain English!).
Step 1: Page Title / Title Tag
If you do nothing else then you must get this right because the Title Tag is THE most important metatag. It basically tells Google clearly what each page is about.
As we saw above it’s the first line in the search results.
Use a MAXIMUM of 65 characters, but do use all the space provided – what I mean is it’s a mistake to use 80 characters but don’t limit yourself to 30 – use all 65 or so characters.
Use different Title Tags for EVERY page. Don’t just copy and paste one Title Tag and re-use for all pages.
Make your Title Tags UNIQUE for every page and RELEVANT to the content on that page. If you have a page for ‘Lithographic Printing’ then use that in the Title.
Put your main keyword for each page close to the start of the Title Tag.
Include your Industry AND your location (e.g. Printing Services Maidstone).
Step 2: Meta Description
The Meta Description isn’t as important to Google as the Page Title but it does get read by people and can encourage them to click on your website so it is important.
You get more space – around 180 characters, so do use it.
Use the Meta Description to sell your services and make it read naturally rather than just stuffing in keywords.
It’s like a little advert in 180 characters so make it sound appealing.
Step 3: Keyword Rich URL
URL or Uniform Resource Locator means web address. I know, I know – jargon alert!
OK, obviously this doesn’t affect your home page because you’ve already chosen that. If you haven’t check our guide for choosing the best domain name.
But your internal pages need to have unique URLs. Now there’s nothing stopping you calling your pages 1 or 2 etc.. eg: yourdomain.com/1 or yourdomain.com/2.
The trouble with doing that is that you’re missing a chance to tell Google what page ‘1’ or page ‘2’ is about.
Best practice is to include your keywords in the URLs. So in our printing case we could use yourdomain.com/litho-printing-maidstone.
URLs send important messages to Google so don’t miss this opportunity.
Step 4: H1 & H2 Headings
When you create a document in Word or in Google Docs have you ever split the page up using headings? You know where you click on the text format drop down and you can select options like Title, Heading 1, Heading 2, etc..
Well Google likes these Headings too because it helps it to ‘read’ your page and understand how it’s laid out and what it contains.
So you need to include your keywords in the H1 and H2 Headings.
Go easy on the H1’s though – best practice is just one per page.
With the H2 you can have several though.
Step 5: More Pages
Now for those of you who regularly read my blog posts (my wholehearted thanks) then you’ll know that I’m always banging on about adding more pages.
The proof is there that websites with more pages tend to perform better than those with just a few pages.
This is probably to do with the fact that these pages tend to be casting a wider net than smaller ones and picking up traffic for specific keywords.
Long term the best way to create more content is by setting up a blog. But the fastest way to address this is to create service specific pages.
Again, at the risk of repeating myself you need to avoid falling into the trap of just having a single ‘Services’ page that lists your services. If you do then you can fix that by creating individual pages for EVERY service that you offer.
I promise that Google will reward you.
Step 6: Keyword Rich Copy
By ‘Copy’ I just mean the text of your page.
So if you’ve created those extra services pages, excellent. Now you need to optimize them with the Title Tag, Description, Headings, Keyword Rich URL, etc..
But you also need to include the keyword in your copy several times. Now you need to resist the temptation to include it dozens of times – aim for 2 to 3%.
That will probably mean you need to make your pages longer – say minimum 500 words. If you can do 1,000 then don’t let me stop you.
If the thought of writing that much fills you with dread or you think it’s impossible then just use Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Imagine a phone call with a prospective client and all of the questions they ask. You can do it easily.
Also, include the relevant keyword for that page in the first sentence (or close to it) whenever possible. Obviously don’t make it sound unnatural but be sure to include it.
Step 7: Internal Links To Other Pages
One of the measures that Google uses to measure user satisfaction is the time spent on site. Therefore you should make it easy for people to navigate easily to other pages of interest to them.
You can also use keywords to create the links between the pages (Anchor Text) but don’t overdo it by contorting your text to create an exact match of your keywords for the link. Just link naturally to the page using appropriate text to describe the page you’re linking to.
Step 8: Image Tags
Google can’t ‘see’ as such so if you’re using images it needs you to tell it what they are. This is done through the use of the ‘ALT Tag’.
Adding your keywords to images is considered as On Page best practice.
Step 9: External Links To Authority Sites
For some reason Google seems to give some weight to external links to authority websites. One explanation is that it indicates that you are adding value for your reader.
Whatever the reason it is worth adding relevant links to authority websites. In the case of our Printer maybe there would be an opportunity to link to a WikiPedia page which explains what Lithographic Printing is or other such techniques.
You could link to well known suppliers who maybe household names such as printer manufacturers.
Maybe you are a member of a recognised industry association like a Guild or something similar. These are all good options for you.
Step 10: HTTPS
HTTPS is the secure form of browsing where the ‘S’ stands for Secure. It is achieved with the use of an SSL Certificate. The Certificate creates an encrypted link between your visitor’s browser and the web server you are hosted on.
Aside from the security advantages HTTPS is a stated Google ranking factor. Now as of yet very few websites use HTTPS but this is the direction of travel and will become increasingly important.
If you want to make the switch then check out our step by step guide to migrating to HTTPS.
Step 11: Website LoadSpeed
Another Google ranking factor is page load speed. Part of the reason for this is to reward websites that offer a better browsing experience. Google basically doesn’t want to send people to slow pages that take ages to load.
This is especially relevant for mobile devices which is the direction that the internet is moving (see point 12 below).
Now there are loads of ways to speed up a website but many of them are aimed at huge Ecommerce sites where millisecond delays can result in hundreds of thousands of £/$/€ in lost revenues. They usually involve expensive developers to tweak the code of the site.
However, there is a way for smaller businesses to get an instant upgrade in terms of speed and that is by switching to super fast SSD plan.
SSD stands for Solid State Drive and it is the future of data storage. With no moving parts and 100% electronic they operate hundreds of times faster than traditional hard drives.
Step 12: Mobile Friendly Website
Finally, your site needs to be mobile friendly. Nowadays more people access the internet via mobile devices (Tablets and Mobile Phones) than via desktops and laptops.
Google knows this and that’s why mobile friendliness is another Google Ranking Factor. You can check if your site is mobile friendly using a free tool from Google.
If it isn’t don’t panic. You have two options. The low cost option is to get a side by side mobile version of your website using a mobile website builder.
The other option is when you come to have a re-design and you should get a website built using a technique called Responsive Web Design. The way that this works is that your site ‘responds’ to the browser device being used and presents itself perfectly in the screen.
The advantage of this is that one design works for all types of browsers and devices.
On Page Optimization sounds complicated but it’s quite straightforward.
Start with your keywords first. Make sure you include them in key places to help Google understand what you do. Use them in the Title Tag and Page Descriptions. Also Headings and URLs send important signals.
Create more pages, make them longer and link them to other internal pages as well as external authority pages and optimize any images you use.
Finally consider speed, security (HTTPS) and mobile friendliness. Google values these points so you should take note.
It sounds a lot but any investment in On Page Optimization for Small Business websites is a wise move which will pay dividends well into the future.