Updated 11/2017 for accuracy.
Here’s a list of 10 items that are standard parts of web pages and how they affect your ranking in search engines, primarily Google, but they also affect Bing, Yandex, and Yahoo.
First a few definitions:
- Keywords are the words you want to rank well for in Google.
- The process of making your site rank well in searches on a search engine is known as Search Engine Optimization or SEO for short.
- If it’s part of your web page, it’s called On-Page,
- Off-Page are things like links to your site from other web sites.
On-Page SEO Factors:
- Keyword Density: Don’t over use keywords. If you were talking to me about Rachael Ray’s cooking show, you wouldn’t use Rachael Ray 400 times in the conversation. You’d use her name a few times and you’d use pronouns most of the time. A normal way of having a conversation. Your web pages, articles, and blog posts should follow that same pattern of normal conversation when it comes to how many times you use your keywords. Keyword density used to be a very important factor, however, the algorithms that modern search engines use are much smarter than they were then, the best advice now is just be natural and don’t over do it.
- Don’t “stuff” keywords. Very similar to not overusing them, “stuffing” refers to trying to use your keywords without it being obvious. For example, hidden text, or text that’s the same color as the background, making strange entries in the non-visible portions of a web page such as the head section, or putting your keyword in a link’s “title” tag or an image’s “alt” tag 20 times.
- Keep the page title short. This implies that you should have a page title. A page title is a tag in the head section of the web page. Your page title should be relevant to the subject and contain your keyword phrase. If you’re trying to optimize for multiple keyword phrases then you can alternate which keyword phrase you’re using across different pages instead of trying to put them all the title of all the pages.
- Keep the page title unique. This implies that you should have a page title and it should not be the same as any other page title on your site. If you have a blog, then this is usually, or at least can be, handled automatically by combining the post’s title with a base title to create a unique title for each page.
- The Keyword META Tag is a tag in the head section of the web page that contains a comma separated list of keywords. It’s not used all that much these days by most search engines because of how much it was overused in the past by people trying to stuff keywords and game the system. However, some search engines still use it, and other software will look at it as well, so you should have a short to medium list of keywords in your keyword META tag. Now notice I said short to medium. Don’t list every keyword under the sun that you can think of, keep it as short and concise as possible. I still add keywords, a lot of people do not. When I do, it’s just 1 to 3 keyword phrases.
- The Description META Tag is a tag in the head section of the web page that describes your site or your page. Again, short to medium length is better than long and definitely better than way long. Google will use this description in the short snippet of text that it displays to someone searching for your keywords, IF, your description contains the keyword phrase that they searched for. This fact alone makes this a very, very important tag – it is in effect a headline/call-to-action and you should spend some time crafting it to get as many people to click on your site’s link when listed in the results of a search.
- Garbage is Trash. Make sure you don’t have junk on your site. Have quality content, links that work, no links to illegal sites, porn sites, questionable sites, etc.
- Comments: If you accept comments to blog posts, then you need to make sure that these do not contain any junk or spam. Do not automatically approve comments, each one should go through a review to make sure it’s not spam and that any URLS contained are legit.
- Link Title Text: When you create a link you can specify an optional parameter to the link code called a title tag. This is the text that you will see if you hold your mouse over a link without clicking. Its purpose is to farther describe the link to the user. You should make moderately conservative use of this tag for internal linking. Internal links are links to pages on your own site. Again, don’t over do it, but do use it by sparingly putting some keywords here and there.
- Alt Image Text: When you put an image on your web page, there’s an optional parameter to the image code call alt text that is used to display descriptive text when image display is turned off in the browser, or, when you hover the mouse over an image. Again, you should make moderately conservative use of this tag. Don’t over do it, but do use it by sparingly putting some keywords here and there. If you want an image to be listed in the image search portions of the search engines, definitely put some descriptive text in the alt image tag.
How important are these on page factors? Not as important as they used to be, but they’re important. If you have a page ranking that’s nowhere to be found, these changes may help it get found, but it probably won’t put it on the first page of results. But when used as a part of an overall plan that includes other items, then it can make a big difference.
Example of Off-Page Factors:
- In-Bound Links: Do not accept inbound links to your site in a link exchange directory, article directory, or other pages that have lots of links to sites. Now you can’t stop people from linking to your site, but, when looking at your analytics if you see referrers (sites linking to yours that someone clicked on a link), if the site seems questionable, then you should checkout the site and if needed contact them and ask for the link to be removed.
To learn more about Search Engine Optimization you can read my SEO Brain Dump.
Other related Search Engine Optimization blog posts.
Until Next Time,