How you Would optimise a typical page of your website for “better SEO”
I get asked this often, in a myriad of ways and so I finally collated all that I’d written in mails, documents, and over an americano+biscotti at some quiet café in Newlands Village. Outlined below are the basics of optimising any page, whether it’s a blog post, a fancy article on some online newspaper, or the chiefly important home or contact page of your website.
This is in no way exhaustive, it may get there one day, but for now it’s so that you can know the basics about getting your own website to be appealling in the search engines’ eyes. And yes, there is more than one (ie Google) and yes again, we mainly focus on that as most English-speaking countries use it. Another day we can talk Naver, Yandex, Baidu, and Spandex – guess which one isn’t a real one? Prize: £100. Competition ends: yesterday. May the best time-traveller win.
Get ready, the information is going to be coming in hot and fast. It’s also a little boring and can slip under the radar* that is your mind as there is no Instagram hashtag (#octothorpe) or brilliant visual coming your way. Ok, first up:
URL Make sure your url is pretty user-friendly, so mike.com/seo-guide/ is great but a jumble of letters and numbers not as much. Chuck your keyword in there if you want, too. Don’t use an underscore, rather use a hyphen.
Title In your browser, beside the favicon is the “Title” and you will also see it on SERP’s (Search Engine Results Page – ie. the “suggestions/answers Google spits out”) and you’d want this to be helpful and enticing, without being misleading too. Make sure it sums up for the user what they can expect else they will be disappointed, leave the site, and Google will essentially penalised your site, in the sense that they will show other sites higher up in future, as yours didn’t fulfil the user’s need, evidently.
Meta Description Again, with the SERP, under the title you will see what is called the “meta description” which should explain a little more what the page is about. You can’t always get it across in five to ten words, so here you have another chance to explain it with 165 odd characters, which is maybe 30 words or so.
- None of these things appear on your actual page yet. I mean, they do in that you can find them if you inspect the page, and you will see the url in the top (if not hidden by your browser), and the start of your title too.
- Next, we will get into the parts you actually will see on the page, for the most part.
The point of this visual is twofold. One it serves as a nice visual break for those bored readers, with oblique radars. Two, your job is to right-click on it, choose inspect from the menu, and then search within the code/text for the “alt tag”. Play around; have fun.
H1 Heading Your H1 heading is your most important heading, this will be your main focus, even though you can have up to seven different size headings. You have a range of these headings, as you can imagine sometimes you have headings within headings. This is called “nested headings”. You could nest anything, I guess, but here we want to think about nesting headings. Nest them from 1 down to 7; H1 = most important to the H7 = least most important.) Typically a page will have H1 tags – shown like this in code “<H1> My Important article is below, read it!</H>” – and then some H2’s, and then maybe H3’s. Very rarely do pages have all seven, or even five. Only ever have one H1 heading! Very key takeaway. Like Steers on a late Friday night. Try have your main keyword in the heading, but don’t “shoehorn” it in there, only do it if it sounds natural – literally say it out loud if need be. Make sure no one is watching. Unless you’re busy eating Steers because then it will be: funny.
Body Everything that is text that is not a heading is technically part of the body. It may be in a list, or a table, or as a caption as above, but to Google, it’s a heading or not, really. Here you want to include your keywords very naturally and not too often. Don’t try optimise a page about “selling dinosaurs” by mentioning that phrase 23 times, they will hate it, and your readers too. There is also this SEO adage that ‘Content is King’ meaning: have good-quality, long-form content. Said another way: the site with the best content will win. Google’s initialism for it is ‘EAT’ – Expertise, Authority, and Trust. Ensure your site’s content ticks those boxes and you’ll box your competition on the ears.**
Images To a human, we can see an image and know what it is. Unless you are blind, and then I am truly sorry for you, but grateful Google has made provision for this via “accessability” – which means sometimes a site can tell you what it going on if you can’t see/read it. Text is easy for them, images much less so. So, what they’ve done is each image must be “alt tagged” – the idea being: “If I were a robot or blind person, what is this image of?”. Your alt text should describe it. You can use that space in your site’s settings to insert this; it equates to “ten brownie points” from Google! Jokes, no idea the rating but it is worth adding.
NAP “Name Address Phone Number”. This is helpful too. Add these three to your site so that Google again can ratify that you are really where you claim to be. I typically do it once on my various clients’ about or contact pages.
Embed maps This is a bit of a strange addition but if you embed a map, it can help Google know more about you, and if you really are where you claim you are.
Anchor text When you link to other pages of your own site (and external sites, ie. not the one with the same domain you are on) try have what is termed “descriptive text” – meaning, the link conveys some meaning if you were to read it. So not “read more”, “click here”, “website” – but rather “Five Ecosystems”, “The ten principles”, “Contact us today”.
Internal Linking Speaking of which, try and make it easier for Google and more importantly your users by giving them easy ways of navigating around the site. No page should be more than three clicks from the home page, or landing page – the latter being the one the user initially “lands” or starts on.
Performance It’s probably worth mentioning here that although you may have the above sorted but it’s also helpful that your web page loads in under two seconds – under one is even better – and anything over five or ten seconds is disastrous nowadays. Learning how to see how this works is perhaps vital if you are a budding web developer or designer and want to impress your clients. This short article I put together might help you begin.
External Resources It’s likely also helpful to know that you don’t want to have to pull tonnes of resources externally. This often happens with things like loading bootstrap, or fonts, or YouTube videos, and other things. The inspect tool mentioned above will show you a waterfall of all the problems.
WordPress Many folk are on WordPress, which is great in some applications, but don’t just keep adding plugins to make them go away, if you do that, ten more will appear! Build sites well so that only 2-3 are needed. And, if you want the best SEO plugin for WordPress, stick to one named “Yoast SEO”.
Well, I hope that helped you somewhat; if stuck, feel free to mail me for some advice or ideas on other content you’d like to see. I will occasionally revisit this article (and others) and update them with further info as it comes to me, but this should help you in the right direction.
*This is a legitimate acronym, not an initialism. See the next point below.
**Here is a good example I made up on the spot regarding EAT – I will try and show my authority and expertise in the world of English language/linguistics/vocabulary by distinguising between an initialism (eg. NFL, BBC, ESPN) and an acronym (eg. radar, scuba) by explaining that the latter came from a series of words but is now known as a word on its own, eg. scuba was “self-contained underwater breathing apparatus” but no-one says that anymore, sadly, perhaps because if you’re James Bond (likely fighting the Russians in a cold war off the coast of a hot, tropical island) and your air is running out you don’t have time to yell all those extra syllables out…?] Write informative, unique content like that and Google will love you! If you are wondering what radar came from, you can either Google it like an SEO wannabe or read that it came from “radio detection and ranging”. A little too lazy, take a look see what sonar is.