On-Site SEO StrategyMediotype On-Site SEO Strategy and Explanation
There are hundreds of Search Engine Ranking Factors that come into play when when determining a websites overall ranking. Many of those factors rely on on-site SEO in order to be optimized or made better. Without this knowledge and the understanding of how these pieces play and fit together, you are likely not going to be able to affect your rankings as much as you may hope for. Conversely however, if you intimately understand the various components, their importance, and how best to affect them, the results are almost always guaranteed.
When doing keyword research and figuring out content to add to pages, the most important point to keep in mind is that user intent matters more than keyword focus. Keeping things natural and focusing more on improving the user experience rather than putting every keyword in it’s exact perfect place will provide more value to the user, and as a result, help increase search engine rankings due to user satisfaction.
Keyword connectivity is important as well. For example, If you are describing the best running shoes for sale in 2014 on your blog, and do not mention the makers of what search engines deem running shoe manufacturers (Asics, Nike, New Balance, Adidas, Vibrams), different materials used in running shoes (specific fabrics and rubbers), running shoe designs (light weight, ankle support, flex fit, trail shoes, etc), then there is no connectivity from what you are writing about and the topic that’s being covered.
Just because it may not seem that certain keywords benefit you specifically, that does not mean they cannot be used to help promote the keywords you are targeting. Consider keyword connectivity like SEO for your keywords. This helps to provide greater value to users and allows search engines to help rank that content based on location, relation, and most importantly, being authoritative. Having a full scope, having topically relevant terms, and not keeping keywords exclusive from their kin proves to search engines that you are not over-optimizing, and rather are providing useful and wanted information in a natural form.
Targeting the correct set of keywords is much easier than it has been in years past. It used to be marketers would look to see what people are searching for and generate keywords lists around user search query volumes. They would then attempt to insert all of the keywords they found into the content they create. This may seem intuitive, as you want to target what people are searching for right? However there has been a paradigm shift recently in how keywords are not only chosen but also used. Rather than targeting user search queries, you should be using keywords that best describe your topic, specialty, business, or interest. Don’t focus on what people are searching for; focus on what sets you apart from your competitors.
The natural use of keywords in your on-site content is much more appreciated by search engines and users than keyword stuffing. In fact, over using keywords will actually result in being penalized if it’s taken too far. A few points to keep in mind when using keywords are:
- Titles are useful for implementing keywords, but something that is more “click-worthy” or tempting is just as important as keyword usage.
- Keyword use in content on pages is critically important and this is especially true for Headers (H1, H2, H3, etc.) That said, never sacrifice user experience for keyword implementation. This means you should not implement keywords just to add them in, but make sure that first and foremost the keywords are used correctly and properly coincide with the content. User experience trumps everything for SEO. What good is a perfectly keyword targeted title if it doesn’t interest a user to click on it? That does not mean to dupe a user with a misleading title however. The same holds true for content. What good is content optimized with keywords if no one actually reads it?
- Keyword use in Meta Descriptions and Meta Titles is a must. Again, don’t stuff or over-optimize but use what would naturally fit in order to accurately describe a pages content.
The main point to take away is that you shouldn’t overthink keyword targeting. The keywords you use should be naturally placed and relevant to the page they being used on. That’s it. If you truly want to target keywords focus on longer tailed phrases as these are becoming increasingly more important nowadays. This is especially true considering search engines now have a better understanding of syntax. Their ability to understand phrases and sentences rather than words and word arrangements allows marketers to stop trying to convince search engines what’s on a specific page. Now search engine bots can read and find out for themselves rather than having to be told. That’s an important and rather remarkable difference.
Considering that most keyword data is now “Not Provided” by Google, simply imagine how you would search for your products or services if you were not an expert. Rather than using industry specific jargon akin mostly to industry professionals, think in layman’s terms. This is of course unless you are selling to industry professionals themselves. For example, John Doe is looking for a Horseback Riding Class for his daughter and has never once heard of the word “equestrian.” So using that keyword, if you’re hoping to target Mr. Doe at least, would not be advised. Conversely, if you are marketing to horse owners for horse training, you could imagine that this group of people would not only be familiar with the word “equestrian,” but would use it as well when searching for “equestrian trainers.” This point, though seemingly small, is the most important aspect of keyword targeting. If this is understood, you won’t need to do keyword research because all of your keywords will be naturally placed. You just have to understand your customers and how they make searches.
Keyword density refers to the number of times a specific word is seen on a single page as well as throughout an entire site. High density is what would also be referred to as keyword stuffing or keyword over-optimization. There are only a few points to keep in mind in regards to density:
- Do not worry over keyword density as a metric. It is no longer a factor in increasing rankings. Rather, if you stuff, over optimize, or over use keywords you can actually be penalized if those keywords do not truly relate to the page. Unique and valuable content is important, and that cannot stressed enough.
- There is no need to stress keyword repetition throughout a site unless those specific keywords are pertinent specifically to a page.
Cannibalization occurs when you have two pages competing over the same keywords. The problem arises and is noticeable when you have a targeted landing page that is being outranked by another page that you deem to be of less value.
- Having unique targeted keyword phrases is important for individual pages. Try no to use unique keyword phrases across multiple pages.
- It’s ok to have “parts” of these unique keyword phrases across multiple pages.
- – Unique Keyword phrase can “Best Running Shoes for the Outdoors”. Other phrases can be “Best Outdoor Running Shoes for under $100”, “Best Waterproof Runing Shoes”, or “Best Trail Running Shoes”. The Best Running Shoes keyword phrase was used in all four examples, however would not be in jeopardy of cannibalizing each other as they are each unique.
- If there are a lot of pages where similar keyword phrases are in use, you can use appropriate anchor text to internally link to one another which will help to show hierarchy.
- Ie.- If your content piece, Best Running Shoe for the Outdoors, linked to the other three example pieces and they did not link back in return, that hints at a hierarchy. This is also what would be considered best practices for internal linking structures.
If you have older content that you wish would stop ranking as well, because it’s outdated or no longer relevant, you should create more content to replace the old. If you still wanted to have the outdated pages content somewhere on site, but want the value of the old page to remain but with new content, you can shift the old content onto a new page, and update the older one. This keeps the older page value, while updating the content, and still keeping the old content around even if it’s only for references sake.
Site Health Management
Site health refers to a websites overall ability to provide pages to users that are functioning as intended as well as allow search engine bots the ability to correctly crawl and index all intended site pages. There are many components to site health to be concerned with, and include but are not limited to:
- 400 Errors
- 500 Errors
- Soft 404 Errors
- Robots Management
- Page Load Times
- Meta Information
- Titles, Descriptions, & Keywords
- Image Information
- Titles, Alt Titles, & URL
- Site Application Functionality
Content is King! If you’ve looked into SEO at all you will have no doubt run across this commonly used phrase. The reason is not because it is catchy, but rather it stresses the importance of creating quality content that users will enjoy or find useful. Content is more than the King. It’s everything! It literally makes the Internet what it is. Without content, you wouldn’t have videos, pictures, blogs, journals, games, tools, or any other widget, distraction, or joy the Internet has to offer. Content is the picture painted… without it all all you have is a canvas.
Creating quality content should be priority number one for any website. The content itself should be easy to come up with as you no doubt understand your industry well and have a lot to add to the overall conversation. The difficulty is not writing content on a particular topic in general, but creating quality content that users will appreciate and engage with. You have to remember, you’re not writing blog articles, updating landing pages, creating videos, and uploading infographics for your own amusement. You’re creating this content for your existing and potential customers to use. So understanding what your user base is interested in, the things they enjoy learning and sharing about, makes the difference between creating content and quality content.
In order to create the absolute best content you can, you first have to come up with a content strategy. Content strategies will obviously differ from business to business, and more so from industry to industry. But there are a few points that need to be considered by everyone.
- Purpose: Every content piece must be created with at least one of these four purposes in mind. Informative, Educational, Entertaining, Promotional. You soon realize that no matter what you create it will fulfill one of these purposes, but knowing which purpose you have in mind for creating content is important for staying focused on the point of the content piece.
- Scheduling: The more often you are able to share quality content the better. But more specifically, there are times when certain content pieces should be released, such as holidays, new seasons, topical events, and for promotional sales. Once you figure out the times that you would like to content pieces to be released, you must be diligent and stick to the plan. This is of course not to be done by sacrificing the quality of the content for it’s timing to be released. Meaning don’t over extend yourself by planning to create more than you can handle.
- Voice: Knowing the voice you will be using, either overall or for specific content pieces, is important for not only branding purposes, but for uniformity. If you have an ongoing blog segment that was written by one author in a fun-professional tone and received a lot of positive feedback for the first 4 weeks. Then another author writes that segment piece in a serious-professional tone, perhaps with heavy industry jargon usage… you might find that people don’t enjoy it as much. They were expecting to read another great article in the same tone and voice as they had before. Only to find out it’s not the same nor enjoyed as much. Knowing the voice and tone you use that users appreciate and engage with, and keeping that in line with everything you create, makes all the difference for creating quality content.
- Types: As mentioned before, content isn’t simply the written word. Content comprises everything from videos and images, to audio files and games. Content can be interactive, a tool or widget, or anything else that allows a person to engage with a webpage. As without content in some form, there would be nothing on a page to engage with. Understanding the type of content your users will enjoy, the cost of creating said content, and the frequency by which it can be published are all considerations that need to be made.
- Uniqueness: Creating unique content is important for 2 reasons. 1. Search engines hate duplicate content. You should ABSOLUTELY NEVER repeat word for word what has been said before, but if you have to, keep it to a strict minimum. The rule of thumb is that if you are writing content on your site, keep it 80% unique where no more than 20% of the content can be linked or matches another website. 2. If you’re writing what’s been said before, what difference is it going to make? Being a business/site owner, it is assumed you are the authoritative voice in your field. Make that apparent with your content. Share what you know that sets you apart from everyone else. Don’t repeat the conversation… add to it.
- Topics: When determining the topics to cover for your content, you must obviously first determine what the topics are your users will enjoy. This will take a little time and testing but will be apparent when you’ve hit the mark. As clicks, views, shares, likes, and every other engagement metric will be higher than before. Furthermore, try to create content with a more narrow focus where niches can be targeted. Broadly speaking, nearly everything has been covered on the Internet by someone before. Much of it has been covered well too. Nowadays in order to create quality content that is unique, you really have to be specific and narrow in on subjects. Otherwise you’re simply repeating, perhaps in a different voice, what has already been said.
- User Demographics: When creating content, you have to keep in mind your user demographics. Typically this isn’t an issue, but for some businesses where demographics are widely varied, you have to be careful when crafting content as it must reach a wide audience. Take for instance Google. When you see any of their ads they are happy, fun loving, up beat, a little hip/trendy and mostly friendly. They are trying to allure to everyone and have successfully done so. If you see an ad for a lawyer… they are never smiling, always stern, and imbue very professional characteristics. They are not trying to allure to everyone, but people who need legal aid, are in trouble, and need to be able to trust that the lawyer they choose will help win their case. Knowing your user demographics dramatically helps to determine the topics, types, voice, and purpose of your content pieces.
- Promoting Content: Finally, what good is creating content if no one views it? If your site receives enough organic traffic where your content receives the exposure it deserves, than kudos to you. Though a great number of other websites have to rely on promoting their content themselves. This can be done one of a few ways online. Either through Social Media usage, or email/newsletter sign ups. Typically you don’t see paid advertisements promoting content pieces, however when you do, those content pieces are extremely useful to users and often lead them to complete a sale elsewhere on the site. Legal information is a common example of that for Lawyer’s websites. That said, even email/newsletter sign-ups require users to have visited the site once before. This then leaves you with Social Media, which is why using as many platforms as possible, as often as possible, is so important. Social Media promotes content… and it promotes it well.
Page Click Optimization
Would you imagine you could have every component of a page made perfectly, yet not present it in a perfect manner? Images could be attractive, all the right links have been made, text copy is perfectly formulated and useful for users, yet you notice when people land on the page they don’t travel elsewhere onsite. Perhaps they even bounce off the page immediately after landing.
Page Click optimization is the study of user behavior on an individual page. It looks at what users engage with when on a page and where they tend to click next. If bounce rates are high, then there are not going to be any clicks. Which means a user who entered the site either immediately knew what they were searching for wasn’t there, or simply didn’t like the site for any number of reasons (page load speeds, excessive ads, pop-ups, broken elements, etc). Now if there is traffic to a page that doesn’t bounce, but it also doesn’t convert or travel elsewhere on site, this typically means that the user couldn’t navigate the site properly or there was nothing else they were actually looking for.
If the latter is the case and you sent a user away fulfilled and happy because they found what they were searching for, than well-done mission accomplished. But if you expect that a page should be converting in some fashion, whether for sales or email/newsletter sign ups, than the case may be that a link is not distinguished or noticeable. Perhaps the text is hard to read or view, or maybe your call to action is masked by numerous other links, ads, or buttons.
Biggest point to keep in mind with Page Click Optimization is that users most always prefer simplicity. The fewer items on a page that a person has to sift through the easier it then becomes to navigate. Here is a prime example. Have you ever wondered why Google took over the search industry? Because when they first came out and were competing against other search engines, they were the only search engine that didn’t bombard the eye with countless options once you landed on their page. They kept it neat, clean, and trimmed down. No whistles, no bells, no fuss. Sure at the time they didn’t offer games, financial advice, news articles, or advertisements. But they offered exactly what people wanted, and presented it to them in a clear and defined way. In other words, they didn’t allow your eyes to become lost on page, or mind to wander, when your sole purpose was to search for something on the Internet. Fewer options laid out in an easy to navigate form makes people happy. Choices are confusing, take time to determine, and can frustrate.
The only important thing to consider outside of which select few options on a page are going to be, is where the best place on a page to put those options. The human eye reads a webpage like a book, at least in most cultures, from left to right, and top to bottom. Therefor planning for a page being read in a certain way is important. This means you wouldn’t put your important links, or calls to action, buried at the bottom of a page. Using small icons that are barely distinguishable also doesn’t help.
Search Engines, as advanced as they may be or become, are still unable to know what an image is based on the image itself. Search Engines use Image Meta Information to understand the actual context of an image. Typically for every image, you will want to fill out the Title, Alt Title, Description, and destination URL. These four fields help Search Engines to categorize images for image searches, as well as help to rank and categorize the pages they are on.
Search Engines are unable to understand the context of a video, just as they can’t with images, and rely on Video Meta Information to properly categorize its content. This means filling in the Titles and Descriptions properly, and more importantly, completely. Often times you will also see full transcripts for videos written out, ensuring that everything the video had to offer is on display in text format.
Search engines can’t make sense of URL gibberish very well. Try and guess what this URL points to:
Now guess what this URL points to:
Just as your able to easily read and discern what the content on a URL perhaps contains, so is a search engines bot. It’s yet just another area where you can help users and search engines to better understand your website. You may not think that people look at URL’s often but there are many who won’t click on a URL until they’ve thoroughly understood where they are going. This is obviously in reference to a more tech savvy audience… but they do exist, and URL optimization does matter.
Internal Linking Structure
Internal links are all the links on a single website that point to various different pages within that website. Sculpting the structure of your internal links is important because:
Internal Links Denote Page Importance
If you have similar pages, having all less important pages pointing to the one you deem the most important, alerts search engine bots to which of all the similar pages should rank. You can also accomplish this with canonical tags, and to greater effect. But search engines take into account internal link structure when determining which of all similar pages should be ranked.
Funneling is Accomplished Through Internal Link Sculpting
The links you add to a page determine exactly where users can navigate. If you offer too many options, you limit your ability to funnel users down a designed and specific path. Typically this path would involve pointing to other useful pages with information, products, services, sign-ups, calls-to-action… really whatever it is you want. Funneling can become very complicated when taken to the extreme, but even on a very basic level, it is extremely useful.
Navigability is Dictated By Link Structure
How users move around your website is determined by the internal link structure you have in place. Excluding off-site/inbound link traffic, there is a direct correlation to the number of page views for each page and the number of links pointing to each specific page. If you had 10 pages on your website and each page had a link pointing to the homepage (as most do), while only 1 of those pages pointed to the donation sign-up page, where do you think the most traffic would travel? This is one of the reasons why if you look at any websites analytics you will find that the majority of on-site traffic revolves around the homepage.
You would think this to be intuitive, as the homepage is home base. It’s a good starting point. But when you consider you don’t actually make a sale on the homepage, and the actual sales confirmation page is perhaps another 3-6 clicks away (and that’s in a direct path), you soon realize you don’t want the majority of the traffic on your homepage. Especially not when they’ve already been elsewhere onsite. You want to drive traffic continually deeper into your site, and when at all possible, over to a landing page to complete a conversion of some form. Afterall… going to the homepage is starting over. The only reason that should happen is if they were so pleased with what they found before that they hoped to find more by going home.
Excessive Links Devalue Pages
The rule of thumb is limiting it to 100 links per page. 100 links is also the limit, not the goal. Search bots only scan through the first 100 links of a page, reading them from left to right and top to bottom. If all of your important links are in positions 101 and up, then the bots will not see them nor denote a value to them. Now if link placement is important, say its an image that performs well toward the bottom of a page, but the placement causes the link to be in link positions 101 and up, you can set the less important links above it to no-follow. This function does as it says, and stops bots from viewing the associated link as a link. The bot simply skips over it.
A/B Split Testing
A/B Split Testing is the comparison of two duplicate pages with either minor or major differences between them. Often the content will remain the same, but themes, designs, and placements will change. This is all done to study page performance. Perhaps users react better to certain images or calls to action. Maybe they are more likely to click on one button over another because of their size or color.
You can target and test any thing a page to determine performance; the only hang up is you need enough traffic to generate the data to make an accurate and informed decision. Typically, you would need 1,000 visitors minimum per page in order to compare them against one another. Obviously, the more visitors, the more accurate your data… this is of course depending. Statistics have an odd way of being skewed, and our ability to skew the numbers we see doesn’t help either.
You really have to do A/B Split Testing with an unbiased and open mind. Often you may not expect, nor trust, what the data points to. It can seem counter-intuitive or strange, “Why would user’s prefer that obnoxious color over this more soft and elegant one?” Remember that preference is everything, and often time’s creators and designers can’t foresee what users will prefer unanimously. As they create and design, mostly, individually. Other times, site owners may want it to be pretty or sleek, or simply their own way. But who are you trying to sell to, other customer’s or yourself? A/B split testing is something every website that has the means to do it should try. It’s paramount, and in the end, it’s the only way to improve from being a good website to a great one.
User Interface Optimization
User Interface Design Optimization focuses on the user’s experience and interaction on a website. The end goal of User Interface Design Optimization is to enhance a user’s interaction and make it as simple and efficient as possible. These can be things as simple as changing mouse icons to reflect when you are hovering over a button or link, to showing a success page after a purchase has been made.
The difference between an image and an image that can be zoomed in on may not seem important, that is unless you are trying to sell something that is intricately made and detail is a selling point. Or even a sites navigational links, are they arranged and displayed in an intelligent and ergonomic manner? Countless things can be done to increase and enhance the user’s experience. It all depends on how great you would like their stay on your site to be.
Site Structure Evaluation and Development
There is nothing better than a site that has been well planned and laid out in a logical manner. A site where content is compartmentalized, categorized, and anything and everything the site has to offer is easily accessible. Have you ever visited a blog to find that everything on there is lazily clumped together? Where customer reviews, press releases, promotional content, product information, hints, tips, ideas, and everything else is all on the same blog roll. Or how about when product types start to bleed through different sections or categories and appear in places they shouldn’t. Or worse yet, when you need to find the Contact Us section, but simply can’t because it is not on every page, nor displayed well enough.
Site structure is the blue print layout of your website. How many pages you will have and what those pages will contain. Typically pages will be broken down into sections, and each section needs to be clearly defined, categorized, and kept together. This seems rather obvious, but when developing the structure of your site, you need to be mindful of what content is going where… and why.
Google Analytics is a service offered by Google that provides detailed statistics about a website’s traffic, traffic sources, and measurement of users interactions on site. If you do not analyze and study your websites analytics, you are literally shooting in the dark, not knowing the results of taking specific actions. You won’t know your audiences demographics or interests, how you acquired traffic, how that traffic behaved with your website, or what conversions were made. These statistics are vital for planning and optimizing a website. As far as SEO is concerned, without Analytics there can be no SEO. Marketers require data to make informed decisions, and ensuring your analytics is set up and working properly is vital to enhancing your website.
Mobile SEO & Responsive Design
More and more people nowadays are doing searches on mobile devices. It is believed that soon mobile search volume will exceed desktop search within the year. This is important to understand as it not only means what people are searching for will be different, but also the phrases they are using to make the searches as well.
On average, people don’t necessarily make online purchases with their mobile devices. Mobile search mostly revolves around either finding information and/or entertainment. Information wise, people search on mobile devises when comparing product attributes or prices, looking up addresses, locations, and/or phone numbers. Entertainment wise, people search on mobile devices to play games, read news articles, and watch videos.
That said it is important to provide content that people are going to search for on a mobile device in a mobile friendly manner. Responsive design has been in use for many years, but it hasn’t been until recently that marketers have realized it true importance. If you provide content in a way that anyone can view regardless of the device they are using, you ensure you cater to all possible users. Imagine how many websites you’ve left on a mobile device because the content on the page was too small or wasn’t legible, buttons couldn’t be easily clicked, or fields you have to fill out were too numerous or difficult to complete. When you consider that much of a sites traffic is arriving from mobile devices, you will soon realize the importance of catering to them. Otherwise that traffic is lost.