Last month I introduced you to SEO and why it’s important to consider it when doing an online marketing strategy. This month we will look at 5 things you can do now to start improving your search engine results. I suggest you first set up a few tools so that you can see where you are now and more importantly how you doing once you have started to implement your online marketing strategy.
There are two areas you need to look at – those you can easily control (on-page factors) and those that require more effort (off-page factors). Both are equally important and in an ideal world done at the same time but for the sake of not overwhelming you with everything we will first look at the on-page (also referred to as on-site) ranking factors.
This month we will look at those in red above.
Onpage SEO Factors – Content
Remember this – CONTENT IS KING! Your content should be there for your visitors and not for the search engines. While there is no real guideline on how much content you should have I would suggest around 300 words (but don’t feel to have to write more to get to that count). More importantly though this content must be unique to your website and also to this particular page.
Let’s say I want to optimise my page for “food photographer”. This is a very broad term and probably highly competitive so since I live in Cape Town I will be using “Food Photographer in Cape Town” (more on the long tail keywords approach).
When writing your content you should:
- Include your keyword/s in your copy a few times
- Include variations of the keyword/s – “Cape Town Food Photographer” and ”Food photographer” and ”Cape Town” and ”food photography”
You may find that despite optimising your page for “Food Photographer in Cape Town” you could also end up ranking (even if it’s lower down) for other keywords. Add in some formatting such as bolding (more for your users than SEO) and make it flow as though it is a piece of content that you would want to read! Lastly keep it fresh and up to date.
Onpage SEO Factors- Title, Meta and Header tags
- Title Tag
The page title is the single most important on-page SEO (and marketing) factor. Most CMS’s (like WordPress) give you the ability to add in a title tag but if your website is static HTML then look for <title>Something</title>. Ideally your title tag should include your main keyword and also your brand (keep it under 65 characters, with spaces) – <title>Food Photographer in Cape Town | Your Name</title>. Lastly it again must be unique to this particular page on your website.
- Meta Description
The meta description won’t help with ranking but it can help with the click through rate to your website. Most CMS’s have a space for you to fill this in but it would look like this in the source code – <meta name=”Description” content=”My name is Awesome Larry and I am a food photographer in Cape Town. I have photographed and styled cook books and often have my work published in various magazines” />. Limit it to 165 characters (with spaces) otherwise it could be truncated. Include your keyword/s in the meta description but again make it flow.
Both the Title Tag and Meta Description show up in the search results page and is generally the first impression a potential visitor has of your website and therefore should not be ignored.
- Header Tags
These work the same as when writing a thesis or report. Your main heading (H1) is about your page (thesis) and should include your main keyword. The additional headers (H2 – H6) break up your content and make it easier to read. You should only ever have ONE H1 tag but you can have multiple H2 – H6 tags.
H1= My Food Photographs
H2 = Food Gallery
H2= Previously Published Food Photographs
H3 = The best Braai Recipes – Book
H3 = The only way to eat prawns – Article in Food & Home Magazine
H3 = What they say about me
Onpage SEO Factors – Images
Here you should look at two factors when using images on your website. First the file size and secondly the image meta data. Generally you have 7 seconds to impress someone when they land on your website and if your images are too big this will increase the load time of your page and, especially in South Africa with erratic internet speeds, this will most likely annoy the visitor and they will leave your website. Google uses page load time as a factor in their ranking algorithm.
Secondly you should add meta data to your images. There are two tags – the alt tag (important for SEO) and the title tag (no SEO value but good for the visitor). The alt tag shows when the image doesn’t load and lets the search engines know what the image is while the title tag gives the visitor additional information if they hover over the image. Once again your keywords should be used here. Some CMSs give you this option when you upload an image but for static HTML websites look for the following:
<img src=”path to image” alt=”bla bla” title=”blee blee” /> which would translate to <img src=”http://www.myawesomewebsite.com/images/food-bbq-ribs-and-beer.jpg” alt=”food photography bbq ribs” title=”BBQ ribs from my Food and Home shoot” />
Onpage SEO Factors – URLs
If you already have a website I would suggest only changing your URLs if you know what you doing and understand 301 redirecting rules. Having a descriptive URL is important but making them shorter will make them fully visible in the search results and allow for easy copying and pasting into text messages, emails and even blog posts. Lastly use hyphens to separate words.
Food Photographer in Cape Town
- Bad URL = www.myawesomewebsite.com/folder/page-1 or www.myawesomewebsite.com?images-catergory=food&sort=a-z&123de
- Good URL = www.myawesomewebsite.com/photography/food
Portrait Photographer in Cape Town
- Bad URL = www.myawesomewebsite.com/folder/page-2 www.myawesomewebsite.com?images-catergory=portraits&sort=a-z&123de
- Good URL = www.myawesomewebsite.com/photography/portraits
Onpage SEO Factors – Internal Links
Generally there are 2 types of links – external links to your website (or vice versa) and then internal links between your pages. You should have your keywords in your anchor text when linking to another page but this keyword should be your targeted keyword of the page you are linking to. Anchor text helps search engines understand what the linked-to page is about. Try to never use the words such as “click here” or “read more” when linking to another page. If you can’t help but have these types of words then at least add a title tag to the link. Most CMSs have a box to add in a title tag.
Good Linking Practice:
- My love for photography doesn’t stop here. See my portrait photographs.
- HTML = <a href=”destination URL”>portrait photographs</a>
Bad Linking Practice:
- I also do portraits for families, corporates and function. See my gallery here.
- HTML solution = <a title=” Portrait Photographs” href=”destination URL “>Click Here</a>
There is also a general rule that you should make sure all your pages are accessible within 3 clicks, at least to your important pages. While this helps with the search engines crawling your website is also helps with usability for your visitors.
So that’s the first 5 on-page SEO ranking factors you can do yourself. Next month we will look at the others and in the New Year start to tackle the off-page ranking factors.
Good luck and as always if you have any questions please leave them below and I will answer them to the best of my ability.