How to Optimize Any Web Page for SEO

By Dan DelMain

How-to-Website-Optimization

So you settled on a blog post idea (or website page) and did your keyword research. Now what do you do with those keywords? You’ll sprinkle them throughout the page, of course, but it’s not quite that simple. You need to use variations of your keywords and make sure to put them in 7 different places so search engines can find them.

Quick aside: Google’s latest algorithm update, Hummingbird, emphasizes more conversational text and takes synonyms into account. Here’s an example. In the past, you might have put “lawyer” in your blog post 20 times. Today, you’ll have better luck alternating “lawyer” with “attorney” and “legal advice,” as well as using phrases related to your post, like “how to find a good divorce lawyer” or “best divorce lawyer chicago.”

Whether you’re creating brand new website pages, writing blog posts, or auditing your existing pages, this post will help you with on-page SEO optimization techniques. Follow these steps, and your page will show up higher in search results!

Before You Start

Look at your list of keywords and split it into two categories: primary and secondary. Your primary keywords are the main ones you want to rank for. Start with one to three keywords (or keyword phrases).

Your secondary keywords will be different versions of your primary keywords. These are called long-tail keywords, because there are fewer searches for them, but they pay off in search traffic over the long haul.

A dentist might pick these primary and secondary keywords for a new page about teeth whitening:

  • Primary keywords whiten teeth with secondary keywords how to whiten teeth and whiten teeth professionally.

 

  • Primary keywords teeth whitening with secondary keywords professional teeth whitening, get professional teeth whitening, and teeth whitening Portland.

 

  • Primary keywords whiter teeth with secondary keywords get whiter teeth and how to get whiter teeth.
     

When you’re thinking about how to optimize a web page, you might be tempted to cram in your keyword as much as possible. Don’t. It’s important not to overuse the same exact keyword. That’s bad for SEO and tiresome to read.

Instead, focus on one to three keywords, generate 5 to 10 iterations of those keywords, and sprinkle those throughout your page.

Optimizing Page Components

Once you’ve got your keywords and several different iterations of each, you’re ready to tackle these on page optimization techniques. Google doesn’t “read” your posts; that would take too long. But its spiders always check your text in a few different places. Here’s where to put your keywords.

1. Page Title

Importance Meter: High

Type of Keyword To Use: Primary

First, let’s talk about the difference between your page title and your page’s meta title. The page title is the one shown at the top of the page -- the same as a blog post title. For our site, it’s “DelMain Analytics - A Digital Marketing Agency.” You can see it at the top of the page:

on-page-seo-page-title.png

Your meta title, on the other hand, is invisible to visitors. It’s part of the HTML code for your page. A meta title tells Google, “Hey, this is what you should show as the title of this page in search results.” (More on that later.)

You want to put your keyword toward the beginning of your page title. And keep your title short -- it should be under 65 characters (use this free character count tool to check how long yours is).

Add your business name where appropriate. For pages other than your homepage, this might be at the end of the title rather than the beginning.

Above all, make sure the page title makes sense and is readable. Try to strike a balance of pleasing human readers -- your potential customers! -- and Google. If your page shows up first in Google search results but sounds like mumbo jumbo, no one will click on it.

Here are some good and bad examples for an optimized page title:

  • Bad: 97204 Pizza | 97204 Pizza Delivery | Sally’s
  • Good: Sally’s Pizza | Portland Pizza Delivery in 97204
  • Bad: Sally’s Pizza
  • Good: Sally’s Pizza - Free Pizza Delivery in Portland Metro Area!

2. Meta Title

Importance Meter: High

Type of Keyword To Use: Primary

Remember those tactics we did a second ago? You’ll use similar web page optimization techniques for your meta titles.

Earlier I said your meta title was invisible to customers. That’s only half true. It’s invisible when they’re looking at your page -- but it’s what will show up as your page title in search results. See the yellow highlighted text below? Those are meta titles:

on-page-seo-meta-titles-serp.png

Just like with your title, put your keyword toward the beginning of your meta title, and keep it under 65 characters. Otherwise your title will get shortened in Google search results, like this:

Try to work in your primary keyword naturally. It’s the same as with your page title or blog post title -- your meta title should read well, both to a human and a search engine spider. Check out these two examples. Both combine the company name with a primary keyword phrase:

on-page-seo-meta-title-serp-keywords-bold-text.png

3. URL

Importance Meter: High

Type of Keyword To Use: Primary

When you’re thinking about how to optimize a web page, don’t forget the URL. Your content management system (e.g., Wordpress or Squarespace) will probably create a URL for you. But it might not be what you want. Make sure your primary keyword (or keyword phrase) is toward the beginning of your URL, and separate multiple words with hyphens (-).

Here are some bad and good examples of URLs:

Bad: www.bohofashions.com/dresses/category=x903&item=PBD

Bad: www.bohofashions.com/shop/dresses/bodycon/purpledress

Good: www.bohofashions.com/purple-bodycon-dress

Bad: www.drjilkson.com/office

Good: www.jilkson-family-physician.com/portland-doctors-office

 

Important note: After your page has been live for about 30 days and indexed by Google, do not change the URL. If you do, you’ll be erasing all of the SEO power that page has built up since you created it. (That’s unless you use a 301 redirect, but even that will lose some of the SEO juice.) You may be tempted to go back and change all of your old URLs, but unless you have some serious time and money to sink into that, don’t do it. Just create better, more optimized URLs moving forward.

4. Meta Description

Importance Meter: Medium

Those first three steps are the most important web page optimization tips. But these next few are pretty helpful too, if you want to rank high up in search results and get eyes on your page.

Type of Keyword To Use: Primary and secondary

If the meta title is the title Google shows when it pulls up your page in search results, the meta description is the two lines shown underneath, like this:

on-page-seo-meta-description-serp.png

Did you notice that the last meta description was cut off? Just like with meta titles, you have a character limit for meta descriptions. Use our friendly neighborhood character count tool to make sure you stay under the limit -- it’s currently 155 characters.

Did you also notice in the example above that certain words were bold (namely, “St. Louis lawyers”)? That’s because Google bolds the words in your meta description that match the search query. You want your meta description to use the keyword or phrase people search for. That way, when your page pops up, their query is bold. That sends the message you have what they’re looking for.

Write a unique meta descriptions for each page and blog post. Try to entice people to click by raising a question or leaving a little mystery. Here’s a great example of a meta title and description that make you want to click:

on-page-seo-serp-good-meta-description.png

If you don’t write a meta description, Google will pull random text that probably won’t entice the user, like this:

on-page-seo-serp-bad-meta-description.png

5. Content

Importance Meter: Medium

Type of Keyword To Use: Primary and secondary

Ah yes, now we’re finally getting to the actual text on your web page! Use all of your primary and secondary keywords in your site page or blog post.

Don’t shoehorn them in unnaturally, though -- Google has its ways of knowing. General consensus is that your keywords should be less than 10% of the total word count for the page. Your keywords should fit with the flow of the text.

Here’s an example of what not to do, and a better version (I’ve bolded the target keywords):

Bad: If how to wear stripes is your question, this blog post will explain everything about how to wear stripes. When you wonder how to wear stripes, pick horizontal stripes if you’re tall. How to wear stripes if you’re short is wearing vertical stripes to make yourself appear taller.

Good: Wondering how to wear stripes? We’ll explain it all in this post! Your height and weight will determine how to wear stripes in the most flattering way. Here’s what to do to avoid looking like you escaped from prison.

Got it? Let’s keep rolling!

6. Images

Importance Meter: Medium

Type of Keyword To Use: Primary and secondary

What do photos have to do with on page optimization techniques? Google can’t see them, so instead it reads the filename and description. The image description, called “alt text,” is what describes the image to people who can’t see (they may use technology that reads this out loud to them).

Put your keywords in the alt text and filename if possible. Your first goal should be being descriptive and accurate, and then adding keywords when they fit. Separate words with hyphens like you would in a URL. Here’s an example of some good and bad filenames and alt text for a roof photo:

on-page-seo-image-optimization-roof-photo.png

Bad:

Filename: roof-repair-seattle-wa.jpg

Alt Text: Seattle WA roof repair company

Good:

Filename: steep-slope-roof-seattle.jpg

Alt Text: Steep slope roof in Seattle, WA

Bad:

Filename: seattle-residential-roofing-company.jpg

Alt Text: Residential roofing company - free quote!

Good:

Filename: tile-roof-shingles.jpg

Alt Text: Tile shingles on a roof in Seattle, WA

 

Photo captions are less important. There is no direct correlation between image captions and SEO, but supposedly people are more likely to read captions than your entire body text. Images catch our attention, and a good caption can increase the time people spend on your page, which is good for SEO.

7. Header Tags (aka <H1>, <H2>, <H3> Tags)

Importance Meter: Low

Type of Keyword To Use: Primary and secondary

Whether in a blog post or site page, a long block of text is overwhelming and hard to read. Subheadings break up the text, making it more scannable and giving the reader an idea of key points. As a bonus, search engine spiders look at your headings and subheadings to see if your keywords are there.

You can create headings and subheadings right in the HTML code for your page, or you can create them with a WYSIWYG editor in your content management system (like Wordpress or Squarespace). You should only have one H1 tag on your page, for the page title, but you should put your keywords in H2 and H3 tags in the HTML.

Here’s what it looks like in Wordpress. The copy is on the left, and the HTML is on the right:

on-page-seo-header-tag-structure.png

Once You’ve Optimized Your Page

Finished those 7 on page optimization techniques? High five! The next step for SEO is to link to your optimized page. The anchor text, or hyperlinked words, that you use are very important -- make sure you include a primary keyword there.

For example, if you’ve just finished optimizing a new blog post about yoga poses, add links to the new post from strong, existing pages, like your homepage. If one of your primary keywords is “easy yoga poses,” you might say something like “And click here to read our latest blog post about 10 easy yoga poses.”

You can also do the opposite. Link from your new blog post to stronger pages that are already showing up in search results, like your homepage or contact page. Again, choose anchor text that includes your target keywords.

 

What about getting links from other sites? Yep, that’s essential. We cover all of that in our next post: How to Promote a Blog Post. Check it out, or leave your questions in the comments below


Dan DelMain has a history of helping businesses realize their potential through online marketing. Before developing DelMain Analytics, Dan DelMain managed the marketing department for an e-commerce company. He left that company to form DelMain Analytics in 2009, where he could share his digital marketing talents with multiple businesses. A graduate of University of San Francisco with a degree in International Business, Dan enjoys being active indoors and outdoors, traveling abroad and playing bagpipes.

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