Do you know how well your website is performing?
SEO experts know the importance of regular audits, but for many of us who only have a basic knowledge of SEO, it may seem like a daunting task. However, in today’s world of digital marketing, it’s becoming more important to have a clear understanding of this.
In this blog, we’ll give you tips on how to perform an SEO audit (like an SEO audit checklist) and learn more about the latest tools and get tips for a better understanding of the what, where and why behind the process.
What is an SEO Audit?
So what is an SEO audit? It’s a way to check the health of your website to prevent spam and look at suggestions on how to optimize it. SEO audits are important for many reasons, primarily because Google changes its algorithm frequently in accordance with new technology and search patterns.
Conducting a thorough SEO audit is an essential starting point for any digital marketer, whether you do so in-house or outsource the task. This is because it allows you to analyze your current SEO efforts, no matter how prolific or sparse they are, and take immediate action off the back of those insights.
How much does an SEO audit cost? That depends on the tools you want to use and the size of your business and website. Prices vary depending on the agency you work with so make sure to seek out a few quotes to compare.
How important is an SEO audit?
It’s important to check a website’s overall health to ensure its usability in both an internal and external context. You’ll need to have an internal investigation of several factors, including the sitemap, anchor text, and even social media platforms. Load time is big, and doing a thorough audit will also bring up red flag issues that you need to address.
One of the reasons that doing this is so important is to make sure that you’re not getting penalized by Google for doing something that might damage your site ranking. There are a lot of little details that can result in this, and if you’re not an SEO expert, you could do it without knowing it. When you get an external audit, you can receive detailed feedback about best practices with your content, linking, and so on.
Doing a full SEO audit is quite complicated and technical, and you can find many more technical descriptions of how to complete one. It may not sound like the most fun activity in the world if you’re not a techie, but it can boost your revenue in ways that you might never imagine if done right.
You must investigate the overall performance of your website regularly. Do a check once a month using some of the tools mentioned above, and get an expert to review your website on an annual basis.
Find out what an SEO Manager does to get an overview of the responsibilities.
Areas an SEO Audit will cover
An SEO audit is essentially a checkup for your system to see how well it’s functioning in comparison to the market. Below are some of the most important areas that an SEO audit will cover:
- Keyword Usage: An audit will help you figure out whether your keyword usage is on point, placed well, and poised to bring in the optimal amount of traffic. Check out our Ultimate List for Keyword Research Tools to help improve your search engine rankings.
- Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI): LSI is a term that refers to the context and intent behind a given search. As technology, specifically AI, progresses, it can understand more and more in the way of specific meaning so it can account for things like secondary and long-tail keywords with more frequency.
- Organic Search Rankings: If you’re paying for sponsored ads, you’ll want to always look for ways to cut down on this spending. An SEO audit can check to see how well you’re doing in organic searches, and lessen the need to do paid advertising. You can also use the insights to continue with more strategies that ensure organic reach.
- Keep up with Competition: The competitors in your marketplace should also do an audit regularly to check their SEO rankings, keyword placement, etc. They will check their meta tags, links, and everything else, so to keep up with them, you need to also follow suit.
- Industry trends: You should also look at industry trends to stay on top of new developments in your sector. This will help you find content trends and opportunities along with finding out how your brand is mentioned on your site and third-party sites.
- Understand Problematic Code: An SEO audit can help to review the back end of your site for bugs and other issues that may be slowing it down or pushing you lower in search rankings. You’ll want to get a technical expert like a web developer to help you with this if you don’t know.
Steps of an SEO Audit
There are a few key steps involved in an SEO audit to ensure maximum optimization. Let’s look at each of them in more detail.
Crawling and Site Audits
So how do you do an SEO audit? Every effective audit starts with a comprehensive site crawl. This allows you to assess the current situation and identify any issues your website might have. Essentially, a crawl will help you to set a baseline for the rest of your audit.
It’s good practice to do an automated scan once a month just to monitor basic factors like bounce rate, conversions, and page views. This will be often enough to bring up major issues, like any on-page errors in the form of broken links, page titles and meta-data or duplicate content. If you find any significant issues, you can contact a professional for a detailed audit. A more thorough check should be done annually.
When you do a scan or a full audit, your site is assessed, and bugs can be found, plus it gives you key indicators to optimize your site for better SEO and building brand awareness.
Here are a few key areas to consider when doing a technical SEO audit:
- URL Structure: Are all of your URLs unique, clean and simple?
- Content: Is your copy well-written, formatted, informative and fresh?
- Meta descriptions: Are they unique on each page, and the right length?
- Links: Do you have an average of 5 per page? Do they all work?
- Images: Are the descriptions on point?
- Website structure: Is it clear and easy to navigate?
A thorough check will analyze your landing page and how it relates to other pages, the overall user-friendliness of the page, the menu, and whether ads and banners are effective or in the way.
Page speed is also huge when doing an SEO audit, so it’s important to test and benchmark your page load time. A fast site speed promotes a positive user experience, whereas a slow one will result in higher bounce rates in our age of limited attention spans! This is far from ideal if your website is one of your primary channels for conversion.
Here are some of the best SEO audit tools that can help you with page speed. Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to analyze the speed of your website as it renders both on desktop and mobile. YSlow is another tool that will check your web pages and provide suggestions that you can easily implement, such as correctly formatting and compressing images. Pingdom Website Speed Test examines every part of each web page and provides a detailed list of the items on a page, their size, and individual load times.
The importance of a speed test lies in the fact that you can determine which elements of your website are acting as obstacles from an SEO perspective. Once you know which areas you need to improve, you can optimize your site’s performance.
Assess your Site Architecture
Another factor that will improve your site’s SEO is ensuring it has a solid structure. The better the architecture, the better the user experience, both in terms of website visitors and the bots that crawl it to determine search ranking.
It’s for this reason that having a clear, logical, organized structure that is reflected in a complete, accurate sitemap (that has been submitted to your webmaster tool accounts) is essential. A strong URL structure is equally important.
Make sure that it relates to your site hierarchy and that you adhere to clear and simple naming conventions, avoiding any symbols or numbers where possible.
Another component of a strong site architecture includes making sure all your main web pages are listed in the top navigation menu of your website, so site visitors and bots can find everything they need easily and efficiently.
For the same reason, you should also include internal links that will take users and bots from one page of your website to another in one simple step. In these ways, you’ll be able to guarantee a strong site architecture that will benefit your SEO.
Check your Site’s Content
Content is a fundamental on-page SEO factor and one that will strongly influence the effectiveness of your site. Google prefers regularly updated, unique content that is relevant to the needs and preferences of a searcher.
This means that you have to make sure that your website’s content fulfills this brief, so you can enjoy enhanced brand visibility and higher rankings. A content SEO audit is a key part of that so make sure you check existing content along with putting your SEO hat on when creating new content.
When creating content, you should use keywords in a consistent, natural manner. You need to strike a balance between using targeted keywords but not conveying your brand to be ‘spammy’. When it comes to creating content for SEO, value and relevance are key!
Use a content calendar to keep track of relevant keywords in each content format and keep an eye on content marketing and SEO trends to ensure you’re up to speed.
Check your tags
Concise, descriptive title tags that accurately convey the purpose of the webpage in question. Longer titles will be cut off by search engines so less is more. Try to include a relevant keyword where possible.
A meta-tag serves as a description of a webpage’s content. If optimized, they will incentivize a searcher to click through your listing on a SERP to your website.
Alt tags for images are a text description that is essential for bots when crawling a website. If you include accurate descriptions of your site’s imagery (and again, use targeted keywords if it feels natural), this will significantly impact your SEO and indeed your digital accessibility.
In terms of other important tags, make sure each of your pages includes a rel=”canonical” link (otherwise known as the canonical tag) in its HTML to prevent duplicate content issues, while blog post tags will help you to organize your site’s content for crawling.
Check your Backlinks
Sometimes, it’s not what you know, but who you know. Often, search engines can determine the quality of your website, and its perceived value to searchers, based on the quality of the websites that link to it. Historically, there was a practice known as ‘link farming’ that involved exchanging reciprocal links with other sites to enhance SEO.
However, as time has gone on, the practice of SEO has refined and algorithms have become more sophisticated. In terms of backlinks, focus on quality over quantity, and if a search engine believes that questionable websites are linking to you, it could bring your site into disrepute. Similarly, it’s important to verify that your links are coming from a variety of domains, rather than the same website as this will also impact your SEO.
SEO Audit Tools
Fortunately for most of us who aren’t SEO experts, there are quite a few tools out there that can help you perform an effective audit. Here are a few of the best SEO audit tools out there.
Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider
You can crawl up to 500 URLs for free and then a license is $209/£149 per year. All you need to do is enter the URL you want to crawl – in our case, it would be www.digitalmarketinginstitute.com – and the tool will carry out an analysis for you.
This is a must-have for any digital marketer in any industry. It will give you key indicators of all kinds of metrics and will guide you towards better SEO in many ways. It’s something that can be used continually to track and monitor traffic. Google Analytics can be integrated into Screaming Frog so you can compare site data such as sessions, page views and bounce rates, which will give you a more granular, all-encompassing insight into what’s happening with your site.
Google Webmaster Tools (Search Console and Google Trends)
Google provides several affordable tools that allow anyone to do regular SEO checks and help you see your page ‘as’ Google sees it as a way of checking the performance of your site.
Check My Links
This extension tool allows you to do a check on your links to make sure they are all working in favor of traffic rather than against it. For instance, Check My Links will point out any broken links, appropriate density of links, and structure of both internal and external links. While this is fairly easy to do manually, this takes seconds to do.
SEO Report Card
SEO Report Card will analyze your site to see how well it’s shaping up in comparison to the competition. It will go through things like rank analysis, link-building structures, trust metrics and authority baseline. It will also assess your site’s overall speed and user-friendliness.
MOZ’s Crawl Test Tool
When you get a pro subscription with MOZ, you’ll also get a tool that helps you boost your page ranking for particular keywords and gives you growth reports. What this does is use MOZ’s crawler to analyze your pages and then send a report. It ranges from $99 a month to $599 a month depending on company size and needs.
Browseo will let you view your web pages just as a search engine will read them. This will let you audit the more technical elements of your content and refine them where necessary.
Majestic is a tool that is self-described as ‘the planet’s largest link index database’, and will help you discover who is linking to you, so you can see if they provide a relevant and valuable connection.
This is a powerful SEO tool but can be particularly useful for measuring the performance of your visual content. For example, you can conduct a YouTube SEO audit by using its Keyword Magic Tool and site audit tool. Plans go from $119.95 a month to $449.95 a month.
Defining Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Let’s start by asking an obvious question: what exactly is SEO? Well, SEO stands for ‘Search Engine Optimization’, which is the process of getting traffic from free, organic, editorial, or natural search results in search engines. It aims to improve your website’s position in search results pages. Remember, the higher the website is listed, the more people will see it.
- Good SEO involves many different activities, such as:
- Identifying relevant keywords with good search traffic potential
- Creating high-quality, useful content and optimizing it for search engines and for users
- Including relevant links from high-quality sites
- Measuring the results
These days, SEO is considered an essential marketing activity.
Differences between paid and organic search
From the outset, it’s important that you understand the differences between the organic, natural search synonymous with SEO and paid search. There are five key differences:
The first difference is that paid search results appear at the top of search engine results pages, and organic results appear beneath them.
Another key difference between paid and organic search is time. With paid search, you get near instant results, sometimes in minutes; whereas, with organic search, results take more time – often weeks, months, and even years. So you have to play the medium to long-term game with organic search.
When it comes to paying, well, as the name suggests, with paid search traffic is paid. You pay-per-click (PPC) on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis. What that means is, you pay a fee every time a user clicks on your ad. So instead of relying on organic traffic to your website, you buy traffic for your page by paying Google to show your ad when your visitor does a search for your keyword. For organic search, traffic is free, although it does require an investment of both resources and time.
In terms of the return on investment or ROI, it’s actually much easier to measure with paid search. That’s partly because Google provides more keyword data that you can capture in Google Analytics. However, with paid search, ROI can stagnate or decline over time. With organic search, ROI is a little bit harder to measure, but it often improves over time. Over the long term, organic search can offer a very good return on investment.
Share of traffic
When it comes to the share of traffic, roughly 20% to 30% of searchers click on paid results, and 70% to 80% of searchers click on SEO results. So the lion’s share of clicks are actually on the organic results.
Similarities between paid and organic search
It’s not all about differences – there are also similarities between paid and organic search:
- Keyword research: You use a search engine for both paid and organic search, and both require a user to enter a keyword. So you need to do keyword research for organic search and paid search.
- Landing pages: Both types of search require you to create landing pages. For SEO, the landing page needs to be connected to your website. For paid search, it can be the exact same landing page you use for organic, or it can be a completely separate stand-alone page that sits off your website.
- Traffic: Generating traffic is a major goal of both paid and organic search. Most importantly, both paid and organic search traffic includes user intent. That is, someone is asking Google a question or searching for information – they are in an active mindset and as a result they are more likely to take action once they find this information.
The three pillars of SEO
As a digital marketer, knowing how to get your brand, website, or company found by searchers is a core skill, and understanding how SEO is evolving will keep you at the top of your game. While SEO changes frequently in small ways, its key principles do not. We can break SEO into three core components or pillars that you need to be familiar with – and action regularly:
- Technical Optimization: Technical Optimization is the process of completing activities on your site that are designed to improve SEO but are not related to content. It often happens behind the scenes.
- On-Page Optimization: On-Page Optimization is the process of ensuring the content on your site is relevant and provides a great user experience. It includes targeting the right keywords within your content and can be done through a content management system. Common examples of content management systems include WordPress, Wix, Drupal, Joomla, Magento, Shopify, and Expression Engine.
- Off-Page Optimization: Off-Page Optimization is the process of enhancing your site’s search engine rankings through activities outside of the site. This is largely driven by backlinks, which help to build the site’s reputation.
How do search engines actually work?
Search engines are used by people when they have a query and are searching on the internet for the answer. Search engine algorithms are computer programmes that look for clues to give searchers the exact results they are looking for. Search engines rely on algorithms to find web pages and decide which ones to rank for any given keyword. There are three steps to how search engines work: crawling, which is the discovery stage; indexing, which is the filing stage; and ranking, which is the retrieval stage.
Step 1: Crawling
The first step is crawling. Search engines send out web crawlers to find new pages and record information about them. We sometimes call these web crawlers ‘spiders’ or ‘robots’. Their purpose is to discover new web pages that exist, and also to periodically check the content on pages they’ve previously visited to see whether they’ve changed or been updated.
Search engines crawl web pages by following links they’ve already discovered. So if you have a blog post and it’s linked from your homepage, when a search engine crawls your homepage, it will then look for another link to follow and may follow the link to your new blog post.
Step 2: Indexing
The second step is indexing. Indexing is when a search engine decides whether or not it is going to use the content that it has crawled. If a crawled web page is deemed worthy by a search engine, it will be added to its index. This index is used at the final ranking stage. When a web page or piece of content is indexed, it is filed and stored in a database where it can later be retrieved. Most web pages that offer unique and valuable content are placed into the index. A web page might not be placed in the index if:
- Its content is considered duplicate
- Its content is considered low value or spammy
- It couldn’t be crawled
- The page or domain lacked inbound links
Step 3: Ranking
The third step is really the most important step, and that is ranking. Ranking can only happen after the crawling and indexing steps are complete. So once a search engine has crawled and indexed your site, your site can be ranked.
There are more than 200 ranking signals that search engines use to sort and rank content, and they all fit under the three pillars of SEO: technical optimization, on-page optimization, and off-page optimization. Some examples of signals that search engines use to rank web pages are:
- Keyword presence in title tag – Whether the keyword or a synonym was mentioned on the page and within the title tag
- Loading speed of web page – Whether the web page loads quickly and is mobile-friendly
- Website reputation – Whether the web page and website is considered reputable for the topic being searched for
Ordering and ranking results
Google’s main search algorithm is called Google Hummingbird, and it is responsible for deciding how to order and rank search engine results.
Google also has a machine-learning search engine sub-algorithm called RankBrain:
- If RankBrain sees a word or phrase it isn’t familiar with, it uses artificial intelligence to understand it better by connecting it to similar search queries.
- It allows Google to understand these queries by converting keywords into known topics and concepts, meaning it can provide better search engine results – even when queries are unusual.
- Rather than attempting to be the best keyword optimized result, RankBrain rewards websites that provide user satisfaction and return the result that the user expects.
Getting the most out of RankBrain
A good SEO strategy is to optimize your website to improve user experience and satisfaction, and try to get the most out of the RankBrain ranking factor.
The three most effective ways to do this are:
- Optimize for medium-tail keywords (key terms consisting of two to three words).
- Optimize page titles and descriptions for clicks so that when someone searches, your listing is more likely to be clicked. The click-through rate is the percentage of people who see you on Google and then go ahead and click through to your website.
- Optimize content to increase dwell time (the length of time people stay on the page) and reduce bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who leave after only viewing one page).
Remember, Google’s top three ranking factors are:
Setting SEO objectives
Setting SEO objectives is a vital part of any SEO strategy. It is important to set SEO objectives – and to align them with your overall business objectives – because:
- They encourage buy-in from key stakeholders.
- They help you to formulate your SEO strategy.
- They en
- sure goals are met.
What should you measure?
While it can feel like a laborious task to set objectives, measuring them can really help you make progress with your SEO in the long term. So what types of things should you measure?
- Market share
- Brand awareness
- Lead generation
Setting objectives for different types of businesses
The focus of your objectives will vary depending on whether your business is transactional or informational.
If your business is transactional and you have an e-commerce element, you’ll want to set your objectives around tracking sales and lead conversions. However, if you’re a non-ecommerce commercial site, you’ll want to focus on lead generations.
If your business is informational, you are more likely to set objectives focusing on brand awareness or website traffic.
Finally, remember, even when you have fully implemented your SEO strategy, SEO is never finished. With SEO, you may need to change tactics midway through, play a long game, and wait to see the end results. But with a solid SEO foundation in place – and a little patience – the benefits of your SEO strategy should become apparent, leading to a better user experience for customers and more conversions for your business.
The Ultimate List of Free Keyword Research Tools
Keywords are an important part of your content marketing and SEO strategy. Using the right keywords that align to your website content to get it seen on search engines can drive leads, sales and ultimately revenue.
Despite this, new research found that only 30 percent of small companies in the U.S use SEO in their marketing. And many businesses may use keywords, but either do not use them effectively or use the wrong keywords for their audience.
This is why keyword research is crucial. It will ensure that you use keywords that will attract your audience and increase the online visibility of your brand and content. This blog will reveal a comprehensive list of keyword research tools to help you pick profitable keywords.
Why is keyword research important?
A keyword is any word or phrase that people type into a search engine to find out more about a particular topic.
Keyword research is important as it can get your brand noticed by an audience that will have an interest in your product or service. It is the process of researching and selecting words, terms and phrases users will search for when looking for the types of products or services your business offers.
Conducting keyword research helps you choose the most relevant keywords for your target audience. This then helps search engines like Google understand your web pages and serve your website as a suggestion for users searching for these specific terms.
When done right, keyword research can help you to:
- Get the right kind of visitors to your site: If you get the wrong type of visitor to your site, they are unlikely to click or become a sale. It may convert into leads, but it could be the wrong type of lead or one of low intent.
- Identify keywords with high search volume with low volume terms: Keyword research helps to identify and keep phrases that have good search volume, and disregard keywords with poor volume.
- Identify content gaps: This is more common than you might think. For example, when we design a website, it’s often a designer who leads the process, or maybe the CEO chose what content to include and where. But that’s not necessarily the content your users or potential customers are looking for so using keywords will help avoid a disconnect between your content and audience.
- Direct content creation: If you understand what keywords people search for, you can tailor content to match that search need.
- Target keywords within your reach: Make sure to target keywords that are not too competitive and realistic, based on your current SEO presence. Keyword research helps to differentiate between transactional keywords, which will be highly competitive to rank for, as well as less competitive informational keywords that may be useful for your business.
Short-tail and long-tail keywords
Keywords come in two forms: short-tail and long-tail keywords. The main difference between the two is that while short-tail keywords have more individual traffic, approximately 70% of all search traffic comes collectively from long-tail keywords.
This is because searchers tend to be more detailed with their long-tail searches, as they are looking for specific results. For example, ‘digital marketing’ would be a short-tail keyword, while ‘what is digital marketing?’ is a long-tail keyword.
How to Conduct Keyword Research
Before moving to on-page optimization, you will need to conduct keyword research by following these crucial steps:
1. Pick a topic to research: Focus on one topic or theme at a time and think about what the webpage you want this content to feature on to look like. Think about imagery, headlines, CTAs, etc.
2. Brainstorm keywords: You should research keywords with similar meanings around a closely related topic. Make sure to focus on quantity over quality at this stage.
3. Review keyword value and difficulty: Gather keyword data from SEO tools to help decide how valuable the keywords are, and whether you can rank for them.
4. Prioritize keywords: Decide which keywords are the most important and prioritize the ones you want to focus on.
5. Choose primary, secondary, and tertiary keywords: Choose one main keyword and a few variations of the main keyword. For example, a primary keyword could be ‘content marketing?’ while a secondary keyword would be ‘how to create and distribute great content’
6. Create cluster topics: Having more than one keyword can help you create content and topic clusters.
What are the best keyword research tools?
Now that you know the steps to keyword research, let’s look at some of the free tools you can use.
- Google Keyword Planner allows you to enter a keyword and will give you a list of suggestions related to that keyword as well as search volumes. If you’re a Google Advertiser, you will get specific search volumes. Otherwise, you will see broad ranges. You can also use filters to customize your search.
Tip: Google’s autosuggests are based on where your cursor is, so try moving it to the beginning, middle, and end of a phrase to get more suggestions. You may need to add a space or asterisk (or star) after your cursor to see the full list.
- Keyword Surfer is a free extension for Chrome and allows you to view search volume within Google for a query and its autosuggestions.
- Keywords Everywhere is another free Chrome plugin, which can be used with Google Keyword Planner and other search engine interfaces. The free version allows you to see Google ‘related keywords’ and ‘People Also Search For Keywords; provides an Insight report for YouTube search and tags and analysis of URLs. It makes up for the broad ranges and gives more specific search volumes.
- Competitor keyword analysis allows you to look at the keywords your competitors use. You can conduct this research using a premium (and paid) tool like SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Moz, or a lower-cost tool like Ubersuggest (more on that below) and SE Ranking. SEMrush is a popular competitor keyword analysis tool that can be used to enter a URL and it will provide you with a list of the website’s most valuable keywords.
- Ubersuggest is a valuable keyword research tool that will provide you with data related to a keyword or phrase. It provides search volume, SEO difficulty, paid difficulty and CPC. It will also provide keyword ideas and content ideas along with demographics.
As it becomes more and more important to get your content seen and outrank your competitors, SEO keyword research and strategy will help give you the edge. Get valuable insights from these free keyword research tools to see your move closer to that coveted #1 spot on Google.
Keyword Research Checklist
Let’s say you’ve conducted your keyword research by completing the four recommended steps:
- Selected a topic
- Reviewed each keyword’s value and difficulty, and
- Prioritized the keywords
The Complete Guide to On-Page Optimization
On-page optimization is the process of ensuring the content is both relevant and provides a great user experience. In the past, many businesses approached it as simply keyword stuffing; mentioning their keywords as many times as possible within the content. This made for a poor user experience. These days, on-page optimization includes smart keyword targeting, where keywords are mentioned in key elements while still providing a good user experience. This means that your content reads well, and also satisfies what the user is actually looking for.
Changes are made through a Content Management System (CMS), meaning a non-technical person should be able to update it. Time investment is split between upfront work and ongoing tasks. If you have a modern CMS like WordPress, it should be easy to target keywords in key elements. This includes making images, headings, main body copy, meta description tags, and title tags.
SEOptimer, SEO SiteCheckup, and MozBar are free SEO tools that can be used to scan the HTML of a web page and identify important on-page elements, allowing you to quickly check whether the page has been optimized or not.
Mozbar is a Chrome and Firefox extension created by Moz.com. It has more functionality in Chrome, as do many other SEO browser extensions. In this example of a results page from MozBar. You can see that the tool has found the URL, the page title, the meta description tag, the meta keywords, and the H1 tag.
Pre-Click and Post-Click Optimization
There are two categories of on-page optimization – pre-click and post-click.
Pre-click on-page optimization is what is visible to the user before they click on a result on the search engine results page or SERP. It includes the title tag, the URL, and the meta description. The goal of pre-click optimization is to encourage the user to click on your listing. This is why it is important to optimize your listing on the SERP to leverage Rankbrain for organic performance.
Post-click on-page optimization is what is visible to the user after they click on your listing and land on your web page. It includes the main copy, the main heading and sub headings, hyperlinks, and images.
After the main body copy, title tags are the single most important on-page element to get right. They are the first part of the listing that a user sees after they run a search, and search engines pay close attention to the words that are provided. This in turn influences how well your web page will rank. In Chrome, you can view the title tag in the source code by right-clicking on the web page and selecting ‘view page source’. The title for this web page will appear as <title>Corporate Training | Digital Marketing Institute</title>.
Title tags are a vital part of on-page optimization.
- Heavy Weight – They are a heavy weight SEO signal and the single most important place to include keywords.
- Higher Rankings – Web pages are ranked more highly if they are done correctly
- First View – They are displayed as a blue clickable link and are the first thing a searcher sees
As part of your SEO strategy, it is essential to add priority keywords to your page title tag: It is important to get the right blend of keywords when optimizing title tags. One of the reasons keyword research is prioritized is for title tag optimization. If the title tag looks like one long keyword list, you may be considered a spammer; but if it includes your main keywords, and is written in natural, compelling English, then it should work well.
Here are some tips:
- Include main (primary and secondary) keywords
- Position main keywords nearer the beginning
- Use the optimal format of ‘Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword – Brand Name’
- Avoid keyword stuffing
Use the Space Provided: There is a limited amount of space available in a title tag and this is different on mobile and desktop devices. Furthermore, this length can change periodically so it’s important to research what the ideal length before making any changes. Things like the Portent SERP Preview Tool can be used to develop optimized title tags.
Be Descriptive and Engaging: Describe the page in natural language and make it enticing for the searcher to click through. Again, CTR is important for Rankbrain.
Other ways to optimize your title tags include using sentence separators and including your brand in the title text. Occasionally, Google will write its own title tag for the SERPs
Meta description tags are only visible in the SERPs and the source code. You cannot see them when you are viewing the main content of a page. A meta description tag is the short piece of descriptive text that you see under the URL in a SERP.
Meta description tags are important for on-page optimization, but they’re not actually a direct ranking factor. Including keywords in your meta description won’t have a direct impact like title tags do, but it will influence whether someone’s going to click on your listing.
Meta description tags are a medium weight on-page SEO signal and encourage the searcher to click on your listing. If the meta description tag contains a searched term, it will be bolded, encouraging the searcher to click through.
Occasionally, Google will write its own meta description tag for a web page if it has been left blank or deemed not relevant enough, but there are ways that you can optimize your meta description.
- Keep it short and concise. Make sure it is two short sentences, at most.
- Max desktop: 156 characters (this may vary)
- Max mobile: 115 characters
- Use the SERP Preview tool to test length
- Be careful with your keywords. You’ll find that you’ve probably mentioned quite a few keywords in your title tag already, so to avoid keyword stuffing don’t include them all again in your meta description. As keywords don’t help with rankings, it’s best to include only your P1 keyword as it is likely to be bolded when searched for.
- Be descriptive and engaging. Make sure that your meta description is descriptive, but also engaging. If your page has any unique selling points, list them here to encourage click-throughs.
URL stands for ‘Uniform Resource Locator’, which is another term for a web address. URLs sit between title tags and the meta description tags. Over time, a page will build up trust and authority which is assigned to its URL. Changing a URL without redirecting appropriately can lose trust. Because of this, it is best not to change a URL where possible – try to get them right from the start.
Why are URLs important? URLs are light weight on-page SEO signals. They attract click-throughs from search results and are used by search engines to index and retrieve pages.
URLs are often generated from the main heading of the page. This is good as a default, because relevancy is added. But the downside is that they often become long and repetitive and need to be shortened. When creating a URL for your web page:
- include your P1 keyword, or a close variation
- keep it short and concise (around 70 characters before truncation)
- set the URL right at the beginning
- stick to conventions, such as using dashes and lowercase characters
Headings, main body copy, and images are the key elements for post-click on-page optimization.
Headings help to outline what a web page is about. They are used in a similar way on a web page to how they are used in Microsoft Word. The main heading should be within a H1 tag, secondary headings in H2 tags, tertiary in H3 tags – all the way up to H6 tags.
Historically, it was considered bad practice to have more than one H1 tag, so that’s why it’s recommended to have secondary headings as H2 tags and tertiary headings as H3 tags.
Since HTML5, it can be technically correct to have secondary and tertiary headings as H1 tags and still be search engine friendly. This isn’t always easy to implement correctly, so we recommend the traditional way of using hierarchal header tags which are still valid and widely endorsed as best practice.
Headings are an important part of a web page. Users scan a page’s headings before deciding whether or not to read the whole page. They are a medium weight on-page SEO signal and add relevancy to the page. There are six header tags -–H1 through to H6 – which can be used to outline the hierarchy of content on a web page.
- Main heading should be in a H1 tag
- Secondary sub-headings should be in H2 tags
- H3 – H6 tags aren’t used as often in body copy but work in the same hierarchal sub-heading way
When creating headings for a web page, it is important to ensure that they are meaningful to the user and not just geared towards SEO. But including your P1, P2, and P3 keywords in your headers is a good idea too – they key is to include them naturally rather than stuffing them in!
The keywords used should be tailored to the page type. Adding keywords can work differently depending on the page type:
- Transactional pages tend to be more keyword focused and usually include the main keyword or a close variant.
- Informational pages, like blog posts, tend to be more user focused and sometimes include the main keyword or a close variant.
The keywords used should also be targeted accurately. Look for opportunities to add your targeted keywords or similar meaning keywords as part of a heading.
In SEO, hyperlinks help the page you are linking to. The way you link to pages internally plays an important role in search engine rankings.
Relevance: Linking to pages with descriptive and easy-to-understand anchor text will pass more relevancy to the receiving page, so make sure you are linking to your important pages regularly.
Reputation: Linking to pages internally is important for increasing reputation, so the more internal links your web page has, the more important it is deemed to be and it will stand a better chance of ranking.
Image optimization is important because it is a light-weight on-page SEO signal and adds relevancy to your web page. Alt text should be added to images because it is often read out to visually-impaired people who rely on screen readers. Search engines scan the alt text for images, providing a good opportunity to include additional keywords on your web page.
Three simple steps you can take to optimize your images are to:
- Add a description in the image Alt text in your website CMS
- Try to accurately describe the image and this sometimes means including keywords
- Make them concise, typically two to five words
- Give images meaningful filenames in the media library of your website CMS
- Make them concise, typically two to five words
- Filenames and Alt text can be the same, but they don’t need to be
- Make images web-friendly
- Use .gif, .jpeg,.png, and .svg
- Balance small file size and good quality
- Svgs are becoming more common, and because they are scalable vectors, they benefit from high image quality and low file size although they are mainly used for computer generated images rather than photographs
The Alt text and filenames should be descriptive and accurate first – and contain keywords or related words second. This example is an image used on a web page about snowboard sizing. The Alt text for the image is ‘snowboard sizing,’ which is descriptive. The filename, snowboard-measurement.jpg, is slightly different. In this case, the Alt text contains one of the main keywords, and the filename is a related word that will add to the overall relevancy of the page. You’ll also need to keep the size of images relatively low, and often much smaller than the original image size, to ensure it doesn’t impact on loading times for the web page.
User satisfaction optimization is a vital part of your on-page optimization strategy and relates to rank brain. Optimizing your website to improve user satisfaction means ensuring that your content provides the answers search engines users are looking for. This includes:
- Reducing bounce rate
- Improving dwell time
- Improving clickthrough rate
- Improving task completion