Optimising Your On-Page SEO – A Simple Guide for Small Business Owners
At Gorilla Marketing our senior management team alone have collectively been doing SEO in Manchester for over half a century and being
absolute geeks as passionate about SEO as we are, we love the opportunity to share titbits and tips to help small business owners out with their SEO efforts. With that in mind, our Senior SEO Manager Dave Anderson has put together a simple but effective guide to optimising your website for search engines (and users!) from an on-page SEO perspective…
SEO has Three Main Pillars – Technical, Off-Site, and On-Site:
Technical SEO improves the way that the website is crawled and indexed by Google. It gives the website the ability to rank in the first place.
On-site SEO involves any work on your website that could influence how well it’ll rank in SERPs (search engine results page).
Off-site SEO (also known as outreach or link building) is to do with any promotion methods happening outside your website to improve its ranking – like link acquisition and brand mentions.
This guide will walk you through the basics of optimising your on-site SEO. You should be able to complete the work yourself, and it means you should start to see some improvements in organic visibility and therefore, traffic.
Optimising Page Header Tags
Page headers are the first way of communicating the purpose and intent of a page to both users and search engines. So getting these right is crucial. Incorporate the page’s primary keywords to give yourself the best chance of ranking – and the best chance of being found by your prospective customers.
The main header of the page should always be a <h1>. It should succinctly describe the page’s purpose, using the main keyword term(s). Then look at <h2>s like chapters of a book, breaking up the content to be more digestible for users – while adding further keyword weighting for search engines, too.
Any further subsections should descend through <h3>, <h4>, <h5> etc. The page should always begin with a <h1> and contain only one of these tags unless the page has been coded to split into sections.
The quality, depth, and value of content is key for search engines to understand the topic and relevance of a page. In the past, webmasters wrote copy solely to improve their organic rankings. But as search engines’ ranking algorithms have matured – just look at Google’s machine learning, and natural language processing capabilities – genuinely useful content will always beat keyword-stuffed,low-quality content.
In short, good content is no longer as simple as including a few choice keywords within the copy. We need to consider engagement, conversions, value to a user, and the overall written quality, too.
Use well-researched keyword data when writing the copy for the site’s most important pages. Incorporating the right keywords – so not overusing or “stuffing” – and keeping the content natural can be an art; as long as you make the user your primary concern, you will not go far wrong!
Good copy should also answer any question a potential customer has that could prevent them from buying your product or services.
There are many different theories on the ‘perfect length’ of content. But in reality, this means writers chase word counts instead of quality content that caters to the user – i.e. the ultimate goal. With this in mind, our only suggestion would be to ensure a minimum of 200 words on important pages. Any fewer and you’ll run the risk of falling into the ‘thin content’ category, which is held in pretty low regard by Google.
Internal Linking Optimisation
Internal linking and content optimisation normally sit as two separate strategies. But it makes perfect sense to look into linking whilst content is being edited, as going back to incorporate internal links can affect the tone and readability of the copy you have already created.
Internal anchor text links in your copy are a great way of improving the ‘crawlability’ of your website for search engines. Search engines read the anchor text (the words you have selected as a link) to interpret what the page they’re being led to is about.
It’s important not to simply ‘stuff’ these links into the website copy. Search engines – Google in particular – reads the copy that surrounds the anchor text to gain a deeper understanding of the context and purpose of the page it is being led to. It’s important to work links in as naturally as possible.
Optimising this text can, therefore, improve the relevance of the pages on your website. So you should avoid anchor text like ‘click here’ in favour of text more descriptive and keyword-focused.
Hubspot wrote a really useful article on how to optimise your anchor text that’s worth reading and an excellent go-to as a bit of an internal linking crib-sheet.
Images are a great way to break up the text on site pages and ultimately make the content more digestible for users – thereby improving interaction and conversion of the pages. But images also offer an extra way to target keyword optimisation, through the implementation of alt tags.
An alt tag’s primary purpose is to assist sight-impaired users – the alt tag is read to users as a description of the imagery. However, they also let us add extra keyword mentions in the source code of a page, which helps the page to show up for these terms in the SERPs.
Keywords in alt tags can also help images appear in Google’s image search, or in image snippets in the primary SERP – all of which are extra ways to attract visitors to your website.
Page Title Optimisation
Google now allows us 512 pixels for a perfect, concise, enticing page title for their SERPs. Page titles are a ranking factor (omitting an important keyword will make it very difficult to rank well for it) and your final chance to stand out amongst your competitors and grab that all-important click.
As a general rule, SEOs suggest ending page titles with the brand name. This can build brand recognition, or invoke brand trust as a click-grabbing tactic. However, many brands have stepped away from this, in the interest of making the most of the limited digital real estate on offer.
You could consider this tactic for those important pages targeting more or longer keyword terms.
SEO Mofo has a handy (and free!) tool for testing out your page titles and meta descriptions. We’d recommend using the SERP tool to ensure your pages have the best chance of ranking while also grabbing those all-important clicks.
Meta Description Optimisation
Meta descriptions have no direct impact on whether your page ranks for a certain term. But they can be your final chance to ensure that it’s you getting a user’s click, and not your competitors.
As a helpful guide, the paragraph below is precisely 156 characters long (the number of characters Google allow before truncating meta descriptions):
We only have 156 characters to work with, so it’s important to be concise. For us, the best formula for the most effective meta description is as follows…
And as promised, our tried and tested meta description formula is below:
- A succinct description of what the page is about, or the search term that would get a user there.
- A unique selling point (USP) – What makes you different from your competitors? Why you and not them? If you have multiple options, test variants – PPC collaboration is great for analysing this, too.
- A call to action (CTA) – Tell users where to go next. You’d be amazed at the difference in click-through-rate when you add an invitation to your website to your listing! Again, test variants of your CTA until you find which is most effective.
How to Effectively Monitor the Impact of These Changes
Making these initial changes is only the start of your SEO work. If the improvements you’ve made push you above your competitors in the SERPs – or you start enjoying a share of their user clicks – they’re not going to just accept it and cut their losses.
SEO is not a one-time effort. It’s an ongoing task in an ever-changing landscape that you neglect at your peril!
As previously mentioned, testing variations is a great way of getting the most out of the organic traffic available in the search engines. And to do this effectively, you’re going to want to keep a close eye on your keyword rankings.
For this, we’d recommend checking a rank tracker, your page traffic in Google Analytics, and your impressions and click-through-rate in Google Search Console.
The initial goal is improving rankings and visibility. This then becomes maintaining those positions and improving CTR to their optimum levels. And this is where we test out the variations mentioned above of USPs, CTAs etc.
The great news is that Google has become far more helpful in this regard over recent years. Google Search Console provides pretty accurate data on the number of impressions your pages are getting – along with the number of clicks and therefore, the CTR. They even give some data on the keywords that are bringing visits to those pages and their average position.
Of course, while implementing these changes is likely to result in an uplift in your organic visibility (depending on the competitiveness of your market) SEO is a far more complex beast than could be explained or taught in a single blog post. Many businesses simply do not have the time to invest in the effort it takes to execute an effective SEO plan.
Fortunately, Gorilla Marketing has SEO packages and specialist teams for businesses of all sizes and budgets. If you’d like to discuss how we can help move your business to the next level organically, or even reach out for some advice – contact our friendly team here today.