On-site SEO

03 / On-site SEO

If you hope to attract traffic from the search engines, optimising the on-site elements is crucial. Where design and content are about communicating meanings to users, SEO is about communicating with robots. On-site SEO is about organising your content so that search engines know where to find it and what it’s about, whilst maintaining a flow of authority across your site.

1 – Site Architecture

SitemapSite architecture can make or break your on-site SEO efforts, but fortunately, a good experience for users is very similar to best practice for Googlebot.

The terms you use for your navigation should reflect the language that your visitors use, which should in turn align with your keyword research. Similarly, your site should be organised into thematic ‘silos’ based on semantic relevancy.

Typically, you want to aim for a flat site structure that utilises silos and cross-silo contextual linking, with no more than 3 clicks to the deepest level of the structure. This ensures that link juice is passed down, up and across the site, whilst ensuring high indexation rates for even the deepest buried pages.

Recommended Further Reading

2 – URL Structure

URL StructureKeyword-rich URLs are still considered to be a ranking factor, and although you should not keyword stuff, it does make sense to include your target keywords in your page URLs.

Whilst search engines can now crawl and index most dynamic URLs, they are very rarely user-friendly, and since most CMS platforms can handle URL rewrites very comfortably, it is considered good practice to employ URLs like this:

http://www.example.com/keyword-rich-page-title

OR

http://www.example.com/section/sub-section/keyword-rich-page-title

There are no significant SEO benefits to either, so it normally comes down to personal preference, although the latter can be more user-friendly in particularly large sites.

Most importantly, poor URL setup can cause serious syntax or duplication issues.

Recommended Further Reading

3 – Title Tag

Title TagYour Title Tag is very important for SEO, in terms of keyword relevance, CTR and uniqueness. Most CMS platforms can auto-generate your titles for your, based on database entries such as product names or attributes. Typical examples of this include:

Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword – Brand Primary Keyword – Brand – Secondary Keyword Primary Keyword – Value Proposition – Brand Primary Keyword – Unique Selling Point – Brand

Your Title Tag should be 70 characters or less, and each page title should be unique – at least for every page you wish to rank.

Recommended Further Reading

4 – Meta Description

Meta DescriptionsThe META description is considered to have no impact on rankings, so it should mainly be considered in terms of CTR and social shares. The META description, which should be no more than 155 characters, is what display on the SERPs underneath the page title. It is also used as the default description copy for Facebook or Google+ shares.

Your META descriptions should compel your users to click, by using relevant, engaging copy, highlighting benefits and using active, imperative language. As per the META title, you should be able to configure your CMS to auto-generate unique descriptions for each page if you need to scale the process.

Recommended Further Reading

5 – Header Tags

Header TagsAlthough H1 tags are thought to carry negligible SEO value these days, it makes sense to optimise your header tags as it is so straightforward to do. Use one H1 tag per page, to include your primary keyword, and use secondary keywords or synonyms in H2/H3/H4 tags.

Recommended Further Reading

Contextual linking should be considered part of your core internal linking structure, as they allow you to pass PageRank to deep pages and cross-silo. Contextual links should be semantically relevant and beneficial to the user, and can also be used to upsell or cross-sell products.

Recommended Further Reading

7 – Alt Tags

Alt TagsAlt tags are used for basic image optimisation, and allow you to tell search engines what your image represents in crawlable text. Search engines don’t ‘know’ what an image represents, so we use alt tags (or attributes) to specify the ‘alternative’ text, which describes the image. Without alt tags, the search engines can’t assign a meaning or value to an image, so they remain an important aspect of on-site SEO.

Recommended Further Reading

8 – Video Hosting & Sitemap

Video HostingUsing video on-site can have a significant CRO impact, and they can also be used to increase SERP click-throughs via the use of rich snippets. Video rich snippets show a small video thumbnail within the search result, which draws the searcher’s eye and encourages clicks. However, you can’t achieve video snippets simply by hosting your video on YouTube and embedding a player in your site.

Instead, you need to become the canonical source for the video – either by self-hosting your videos or using a third party solution like Wistia or Vimeo Pro. Hosting on YouTube or Vimeo Pro will simply allow their versions to outrank your page, or steal the video snippet. Support your video content with schema.org markup and by submitting a video sitemap, which tells the search engines all the information you want associated with your video, such as the video title, description and thumbnail image.

Recommended Further Reading

9 – Sitemap

SitemapXML sitemaps are used entirely to aid page indexation in search engines, and allow site owners to specify the URLs they would prefer to be indexed first. Simply put, an XML sitemap is a list of URLs in a machine-readable format, that convey additional information about a URL through the use of tags. A typical entry looks like:

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<url>
                                <loc>http://www.example.com/page-1</loc>
                                <lastmod>2013-01-01</lastmod>
                                <changefreq>weekly</changefreq>
                                <priority>0.7</priority>
                                </url>

Although the search engines will crawl and index your site even if you don’t have one, sitemaps allow you to tell them how and what you want them to crawl.

Recommended Further Reading