What are the best ways to optimize a web page for the search engines?
This is one question that a lot of people ask and it is one thing that you can test and change to help improve your search engine rankings. Today we’ll look at some the top recommendations for setting up your pages for keyword-targeting. Of course, there is no “perfect formula” but this should get you a pretty good start.
Page Title – As we’ve discussed before the most important element of your on-page optimization is the words and phrases you use in your page title. You’ll want to put your targeted keyphrase at the beginning of the page title. In my own testing I’ve seen swings in my rankings of 100+ positions just by changing the page title. Meta Description – The meta description doesn’t do anything for your rankings but it certainly helps with your click-through rates on the search engine results page (SERPS). The words in your meta description are highlighted when they match the search query. This draws the eyes of the searcher and makes it more likely they’ll click on your link.
Length – The shorter your URL the better. Shorter URLs seem to perform better in the SERPs and shorter URLs are more likely to be copy and pasted on other websites.
Keyword Location – The closer a match your keywords are to the root domain (www.RootDomain.com) the better. This means that www.Keyword.com does better in the rankings than www.site.com/Keyword. It is not a huge bump so you don’t need an entirely new website for each keyword but it is enough that you should consider this when starting a new website.
Subdomain vs Pages – You’ll want to use pages (www.site.com/page) over a subdomain (subdomain.site.com). You do get the benefit of having your keywords in the subdomain but the search engines look at subdomains at separate websites. That means that all links that go to subdomain.site.com don’t count towards the ranking calculations for www.site.com/page. Because inbound links are SO important (much more than having the keyword in your subdomain).
Hyphen Usage – Hyphens are the preferred choice to separate keywords in your URLs over underscores. (The search engines say they count the same but tests show something different.) This means a page URL should look like this: www.site.com/argyle-socks instead of www.site.com/argyle_socks or www.site.com/argylesocks. This DOES NOT apply to root domains. For the root domain www.ArgyleSocks.com is much better than www.Argyle-Socks.com.
Keyword Repetition – No one knows the exact number of times you should repeat a key term/phrase on your page but the rule of thumb for a long time has been: 2-3 times on a short page, 4-6x on longer ones and never too much where it doesn’t make sense as part of the copy.
Different Variations of the Keyword – Though no one has studied this enough to be sure, there is an emerging thought in the industry that you want to use different variations of your key phrase throughout your body copy. Google and the other search engines are smart enough to know that “argyle sock” and “argyle socks” are the same words.
H1 Headline –For many years many SEOs, including me, have thought that the use of a H1 tag was essential to having higher ranks. Recent studies by industry experts, however, show that there is little to no correlation between the use of H1 tag and a high ranking. However, you’ll still want to use them as they help your website visitor easily separate the sections of your website.
H2/H3/H4/Hx – The same as above but even less correlation. The reason to use them stays the same. Alt Attribute – This may surprise some of you but the use of alt text on images has a reasonably strong effect on your rankings. If you have images on your website, use alt tags. If you don’t have images then add them (your visitors will like them) and then add alt text.
Bold/Italic – Bold and italic words have a small effect on your rankings. While not great it is worth using these emphasis tactics on your targeted keywords Italics has a slightly stronger effect than bolding.
We’ll be adding a few more tips in a future post but these are some of the most important ideas to follow. Below is a chart that shows what the industry experts think holds the most weight in the SERPs.
Please leave your thoughts!