Kristopher B. Jones is the founder and former President and CEO of Pepperjam (sold to eBay), managing partner of KBJ Capital, and the founder and CEO of LSEO.com and APPEK Mobile Apps.

Google does not rank websites. It ranks web pages.

"On-Page" search engine optimization (SEO) refers to the process of optimizing the content, images, internal linking, URLs, and meta tags of each and every page of your website.

Through much testing with clients, which range from law firms to e-commerce companies, I've seen that the homepage is the most important page to optimize for, followed by pages that are most likely to convert into leads or sales. For instance, it's critical that all product pages and/or service pages include unique content and are optimized according to the SEO on-page best practices outlined in this article.

On-site SEO is opposite of off-page SEO, which primarily deals with link backs and other external web presence signals, such as social media and directories. Keep in mind that SEO is an ongoing process. If you optimize any page of your website and it doesn't appear to rank in the top 20 results over a period of time, it's best to modify and iterate each of the most important on-page factors until you achieve a desired search engine ranking.

But what are the most important elements of on-site SEO? The following best practices should help you leap frog the competition and rank higher for specific keywords on Google and Bing.

Keyword-Rich Content

The old adage, "Content is king" has never carried so much clout. From a search engine perspective, algorithms continue to garner more intelligence, and can quickly spot thinner content. But what's more important is the human factor: innovative and intuitive content keeps readers engaged, helping to not only build your company's brand, but also earn coveted link backs from third party websites.

All good content begins with a targeted keyword list. Optimize each page for one or two keywords. Besides using these primary keywords throughout the content several times (don't stuff the content with keywords), keep a list of thematically related keywords.

Title Tags

Once you have engaging, SEO-rich content, the next step is to optimize your title tag: the subject title of that page. Make sure it contains the primary keyword for that respective page, and if possible, a second primary keyword.

Also, make sure to set up your permalink structure to add your brand at the end, which shows up in search engine results but doesn't affect the overall minimal length for true optimization. For now, the optimal title tag length is 55-60 characters, or to be exact, 512 pixels (on Google).

URL Structure

A non-optimized URL structure can not only confuse search engines and viewers. The cleaner the better, from a hierarchal structure.

For example: https://example.com/category/sub-category/title-tag-with-primary-keyword-second-primary-keyword

Always use hyphens to separate keywords - not underscores, spaces or any other characters to separate words. All but hyphens appear like spam. Though character limits are around 2,000 for many search engines, the shorter the better. URL structure should be super easy to use, void of superfluous information, and contain your primary and secondary keywords.

A good way to think about URL structures is through anchor text, which represents the primary content and keyword(s) that any URL is ultimately pointing to. Newer tools make this process easier. If you're on WordPress, the Yoast SEO Plugin is one of the most effective tools for optimizing on-page SEO factors. It automatically builds clean URLs based on the category/sub-category/title of that particular page/post.

Internal Linking

Internal linking is simple. A link on a certain page points to another page on the same website. Internal links are vital to spread link authority throughout your website. Every page should link back to the homepage, which is usually done by having a static clickable logo on every page across the website.

This internal linking strategy is mostly completed through navigation and hyperlinked terms throughout the content. Remember to use strong anchor text terms that contain the respective page's primary keywords. At the very least, every page should link back to its category or sub-category page.

Image Alt Text

Images are a must-have for any page or blog post. They help strengthen the message and increase engagement. But for true optimization, it's not just a matter of simply uploading an image, but making sure to follow SEO best practices. Keep in mind that Google can't read images (yet) so you need to describe the image within the HTML of the page.

To start with, the image should have a title that refers to the action of the photo. Have a page on selling OEM car apparel dedicated to Tesla? That picture's title should have "Tesla Apparel" somewhere in the title. But even more important is the image's Alt Text. This is what the search engine bots read. Add "Tesla Apparel" for the image's Alt Text, but also further optimize by saying "Tesla Apparel For Sale."

Don't sway too far from the picture's description. Keep everything on-theme for what's exactly on that respective page. On-page SEO is vital for a successful website in any industry. It not only helps the actual search engine bots easily scan pages to rank them higher, but also aids in the human factor.

Remember, start with strong content, and then build that page out correctly. Watch traffic and brand loyalty rise, which naturally leads to increased conversion.

Published on: Jul 22, 2016
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