On the Page SEO
In our previous guide we introduced the concept of SEO, discussed its top level principles, and took a look at the reasons why SEO is so important for any commercial website. In this short guide we will take a slightly deeper look at on the page SEO.
What is on the Page SEO?
On the page SEO refers to a handful of practices, which aim to make the actual physical website as search engine friendly as possible. When a search engine visits a site or a page, it has to index it, so that it retains a basic knowledge of just what the page is about, so that when people search for a particular term, it can be matched against this index, and relevant sites returned as search results. Properly performed on the page SEO will ensure a site is indexed for optimal results.
On the Page SEO Basic Principles
The basic principles of on the page SEO are quite straightforward, and they all revolve around making a website as easily readable to a search engine spider (the automated software which visits websites and updates the search engine index). Imagine you were scanning a row of books, looking for one which might give you the information you needed, how would you do it? Well you would take a quick look at the title, this a good starting point, when you found a possible title, you would flip the first page open and scan a few lines, looking for key bits of information which would let you know this book might contain what you need. Search engines and their associated indexes don’t work all that differently. So let’s look at the main factors involved in on the page SEO in more depth.
The Importance of the Domain Name
There are two important factors regarding the domain name. The first is the actual name itself, and the second is the age. It is generally believed that a relevant domain name is helpful, but not crucial. Certainly for short term SERP gains for a new site it helps, but as the domain ages it becomes less important. For example, if you had a company which sold books online, the domain name www.buybooksonline.com would be just about perfect. Also note that most SEO experts agree that .com .net and .org domains are best, in that order. Domain age comes into play later down the line, when we start talking about authority sites. Search engines love older sites, as it means they have a proven track record and are likely to continue to offer fresh content for their visitors. This being said, both of these issues are often less important than people sometimes stress. They are useful, not critical.
URLs Make a Difference
Search engines look at the actual URL of a page, in much the same way we would look at a book title in the previous example. For instance, a URL of “http://www.buybooksonline/com/fantasybooks.htm” makes perfect sense to search engines; they extract the words “buy books online fantasy” and use it as a general guide to what the page contains. Therefore it is important to always give pages a proper URL. This can be tricky with some CMS and ecommerce systems, as they often use generated URLs such as “http://www.buybooksonline.com/search.php?act=result&q=a” which obviously makes no sense to anybody. Luckily, most CMS and ecommerce systems have the inbuilt ability to rewrite URLs dynamically, but this falls outside of the scope of this guide.
Set the Correct Page Title
In much the same way the URL of a page acts much like a book title, so does the page title. A page should always be given an entirely relevant (and key phrase rich) title. For example, a title of “Buy fantasy books online” would be a perfect title for the example page we have been using.
META Keywords and META Description
META keywords and META description used to be very important, but have become less so since Google decided they were no longer relevant. However, Google only make up around 60% of the search engine market. So make sure your META data is correct, don’t ignore the other search engines.
When it comes to filling your pages with content, then the current vogue is to concentrate on keywords or key phrases are a set density which has proven to be attractive to search engines. The real problem here is that density has changed over the years. Just two years ago a keyword density of 6% was the rule of thumb. Google decided this was too easy to exploit, and started penalizing these pages for keyword stuffing. Now people seem to feel that 2% is proper, which incidentally would be around the right percent for content which is written without key phrases in mind. Google are not stupid.
This has been a very basic introduction to the key facets of on the page optimization. In many ways too brief, a proper guide would take up a few dozen pages, but it will give those new to SEO a general idea of what on the page SEO is all about.