Those of you that have been researching or running SEO will no doubt have come across ‘TheHoth’, a very useful site that provides all sorts of information and services, whilst also running a very good blog.
Their latest post is all about ‘On Page Search Engine Optimisation’. It covers a lot of the ground that has been ‘well trodden’ over the past few months, but is nevertheless, a useful read.:-
The cover what they define as the top 3 Steps to getting On Page SEO right:-
- Keyword Research
- Optimising the Titles, Description, and H1 (Header tags)
- Not stuffing the pages with the target keywords
There are other issues that are connected, such as using ALT tags for images and using ‘descriptive URLs’ for both file and image names (i.e ‘picture-of-dog.jpg’ rather than ‘image001.jpg’), plus of course ‘technical SEO’ issues like the speed the site downloads and ‘geographically tagging’ images (very useful for Local SEO).
Getting Keyword Research Right
This is an essential part of any SEO project, you simply cannot guess what people are using to find the sort of service or product you are selling. Even if you did guess correctly, without other research into the ‘power’ of the sites you are competing against (and you can bet your last pound that you will have lots of competition) you could well select keyword phrases that you can just not get a good rank for, the competition simply out gunning you.
In their blog, TheHoth, point out the value of using SEMRush (this now being added to their services). I can only agree with them about this tool, it providing a host of information about what keywords are being used, together with an idea of how often they are used and the competition levels. Also, and this is VERY important, it allows you to see what your competition is being found for, this being especially useful for Local SEO.
But, there is another set of tools that you should also know about, these being provided by Mangools (https://mangools.com/). Their suite of tools is most useful indeed, covering not only Keyword Research (with a lot of information about the power of the competition included), but also data on the strength of sites too. All very useful and well worth a look if you are looking to carry out SEO on your own site.
Optimising Your Titles, Description and Header Tags for SEO
If you want a page to be ranked for a certain phrase, then you simply MUST ensure that the Title contains some relevant words (normally the phrase that you are targeting). There is some debate as to whether this needs to be in the form of a sentence, or whether you can use the keywords as they are, separating them with a pipe symbol | . Either seem to work, but it is possible that the sentence version could increase conversion rates (from being listed in SERPS to getting a click).
As with everything in the SEO World, you should not use your target words too many times in the Title, and it is best to keep to about 70 characters, even though Google, for example will read / index many more.
On a side note, I am AMAZED at the number of sites that do not use these areas of a page ‘correctly’. This seems to be madness to me, as they are quite simply denying themselves lots of free, targeted traffic….
The Meta Description
TheHoth goes on to mention that you should then make sure your Description is completed, but don’t tell you that the Meta Description is not used that much for SEO (as the words within it are not taken into account in the same way as the Title or Body copy). The main thing to do here is to NOT REPEAT the same Meta Description throughout the site as this looks ‘lazy’ and can reduce the overall ‘Quality Score’ for the domain (this being a different ‘Quality Score’ to that used in Google’s Adwords system).
The other thing that TheHoth says, is that you should not repeat the keywords in the Description. I am not sure of that, although of course, you should not ‘stuff’ this area either.
The Real Purpose of the Meta Description Tag
By the way, the real purpose of the Description text is to act as the ‘elevator speech’ for a page, the idea being to get the viewer to click the link when it is displayed in the Search Engine Results.
The Header Tags
Looking at TheHoth’s article we see that they mention the importance of the H1 tag. Again this is an area of contention, as I have seen many pages performing very well with no H1’s, or with tags that do not use any of the target keywords (or anything like them).
However, I agree that it is best practice to use H1’s (and only one per page), whilst also using H2’s down to H6 in a cascading manner, as best fits the way the copy is divided up.
They also point out that you could over-optimise a page by using the target Keywords in the H1. Again I am not sure that this is totally true, as I have seen that work too. I feel that the best approach is to write the copy, some Good Solid, Useful Copy and then add Headers that look ‘right’, all the while making sure that you do not ‘over-cook’ the area of keyword usage.
Variations of Target Words
This is where the use of variations (synonyms) of the target words come into play, and it pays to use them throughout the site’s pages, especially in the body copy, for the simple reason that Google ‘likes it’. It is therefore reasonable to also use these variations in the Title / Description and Headers, if it looks OK.
This leads nicely on the third area that TheHoth covers, that of Keyword Density.
Keyword Stuffing and The Use of Synonyms
In the old days of SEO, you could quite happily repeat your target keyphrases again and again and again, and the Search Engines would reward your site with lots of top ranks. However, in the game of cat and mouse that SEO is, things have changed quite dramatically in this area, now of course repeating your keyphrases has dire results…
This change, like the majority, has been made with one aim in mind, that of increasing the quality of the pages listed for any given phrase, in the Search Engine Results. The other reasons are because there were many SEO’s who were gaming the system and skewing the results, which was something that Google was not prepared to put up with.
Hence the many changes to how pages are ranked – this including Off Page SEO, which is another topic.
The problem Google had (has) is how to calculate quality, especially when copy / an article that is deemed great by one, is thought of as rubbish by another. This being made even more difficult when a computer is being used to score pages, after all, ‘English’ is not exactly the first language of a Computer….
To this end, Google (being the front runner here) built a sort of Artificial Intelligence into its algorithm, its job being to deduce the real ‘meaning’ of a page from the words on the page. Here it was not looking from the angle of ‘what keyphrases’ does this page target, but rather ‘what is the page talking about as a whole’. To this end it was trained to look for words that are associated with each other, so that for example, a page that uses the words ‘cat’, ‘feline’, ‘kitten’, ‘purr’, ‘pet’ and ‘bed’ would automatically be associated with the phrase ‘cat beds’, in a stronger way than a page that just used the words ‘cat beds’ would be.
How to Deduce What Synonyms to Use
One way is to spend your life looking at a Thesaurus, but the perhaps the best way is to examine the words used on the pages that Google is known to like (we can tell because they are ranked well for any given phrase). The list that is created from such research can then be used in the copy in the knowledge that they must be relevant to some degree. This is the way that Serendipity Online Marketing goes about the matter of copy creation and it has been seen to work.
Long Tail Keywords
Any site gets a huge percentage of its non Brand traffic from what are called ‘long tail keywords’, these being phrases using 3 or more words. Often these phrases are not used very often, which in turn means that they do not appear on the ‘SEMRush radar’ and thus cannot be directly targeted.
Instead, what you have to do is to write the copy with a view to providing information to the reader, copy, which if it is good enough, WILL be associated with many of the relevant long tail keyword searches made, whether or not they actually use the words in question.
There Is More of Course
TheHoth’s article finishes at this point, but there is of course a lot more too why pages are ranked and why they are not. This includes Off Page SEO, and this is an area that cannot be ignored, as a page which uses the very best of copy, placed on a site that uses the Titles, Descriptions and Headers to full effect, is more than likely to be beaten to the top spots by other pages, simply because they have more links…
This is one reason why Keyword Research is so important, as when selecting the target words, it is vital, especially for a new domain, to select the possible, rather than the impossible.
About the author
Graham Baylis was born in 1957 and has therefore seen the birth of the Internet and experienced at first hand, just how it has changed the World we live in. He has been involved with computers since 1983 and helped set up the first electronic mail system used by the Civil Service in 1986. He has gained several qualifications in Computing and Marketing and has written hundreds of blogs which you can find around the web, many being on customer’s websites. He has over 19 years of experience with Pay Per Click and SEO and has an answer for most Search Marketing questions, and, for those that he hasn’t is quick to find one. Continually coming up with solutions, Graham is one person it is worth having a chat with.