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On-Site SEO Basics

Title Tag

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1. What is a title tag?

  1. A title tag, also known as a "page title" or "title element," is a short description of a webpage's content that's visible on:
    1. search engine results pages (SERPs); and
    2. at the top of a browser window, or tab, if you have multiple tabs open.
  2. In a page's source code, a title tag is coded as: <title> TITLE GOES HERE </title>

2. Why is a title tag important?

  1. The keywords used in a title tag are one of the factors that determine how a page ranks in a web search. The title tag can also determine whether or not someone visits a site, since it's the first thing people see in SERPs. A poorly written title tag can reduce clickthrough rates, which is an element that search engines use in ranking webpages.

3. How to optimize title tags:

  1. When writing title tags, one should be mindful of the title length, targeted keywords, branding placement, and creating a compelling title.
    1. Length: If titles are kept under 55 characters, one should expect at least 95% of titles to display properly. SEO mofo is a useful tool to see how a title tag will display in a SERP.
    2. Keyword order: The primary keyword phrase should be used in the page's title as close to the start of the title tag as possible; this directly impacts the page's ranking on SERPs. Search engines will also highlight keywords in the title tag if any match the keywords entered in a search query. This makes the user more likely to notice and click through to a site.
    3. Brand placement: Typically, brand names are used at the end of a title tag as a trust signal to help improve click-through rates
    4. Make it compelling: The title tag is a potential visitor's first interaction with a website. If the title is compelling enough, it has the potential to pull in more visitors from the search results.

Meta Description

1. What is a meta description?

  1. A meta description is a short description of the contents of a webpage that appears below the title tag and URL in the SERPs
  2. Meta descriptions do not factor into Google's ranking algorithms for web search.
  3. In a page's source code, the meta description is coded as:

2. Why is a meta description important?

  1. While a meta description doesn't directly help a page rank higher in search engines, it plays an important role in getting users to click through to a site from SERPs. There's no benefit to ranking higher in SERPs if it doesn't result in someone actually clicking through to that website, which is why having well-written meta descriptions is still very important. It's also worth noting that clickthrough rate (CTR) does influence the search ranking algorithm, so in a sense, meta descriptions indirectly impact the ranking process.

3. How to write an effective meta description:

  1. Pay attention to the length: A meta description should be within 150-160 characters, as longer descriptions typically get truncated. SEO mofo is a useful tool to see how a meta description will display in a SERP. Since a meta description is essentially just a suggested search engine result, there is a chance that Google will create its own for you based off of the query that is used. This is typically taken from the contents of your webpage, but can be pulled from third party sources that Google deems trustworthy.
  2. Make it compelling: You can think of a meta description as an advertisement meant to draw in visitors to a website. This is an opportunity to write a compelling and concise description of what readers should expect if they enter the website. Google will bold keywords or keyword synonyms in the meta description field if they match the search query, so it's important to keep that in mind when creating a meta description. Additionally, a meta description should end with a call to action (CTA) that will persuade potential visitors to take action and click through to the site. "Call us today!" is a good example of this.
  3. Keep it relevant: The objective is not only drawing visitors to the site, but keeping them on there so they can use its service or buy its products. If the description isn't an accurate depiction of what one should expect once they reach the site, there will be a higher bounce rate, which will hurt the site's SEO efforts. This is called matching the user's intent. Additionally, Google will also devalue sites that use deceptive meta descriptions to trick visitors into clicking through to their site.
  4. Make it unique: Ideally, every page on a site should have a unique meta description. If there's no time for this, it would be best to create a unique meta description for the most popular pages on the site, and leave out the meta descriptions for the rest of the pages, rather than having duplicate meta descriptions.

URL

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1. What is a URL?

  1. A URL, or Uniform Resource Locator, is the address of a unique resource on the Web, and is used by browsers to retrieve and display these published resources (an HTML page, CSS document, image, etc.) to your site's visitors.
  2. While not critical, it is beneficial to structure URLs - at least the important ones - to improve that resource's search engine rankings.

2. Why is URL structure important for SEO?

  1. It is helpful to both humans and search engines if the text within the URL is semantically correct. In other words, it accurately describes the page it links to. A person is more likely to click on a URL if they know what to expect from it.
  2. Another benefit is that webmasters are more likely to get search engine-referred traffic from the relevancy of the keywords in the URL. That being said, keywords in the URL are not as strong of a ranking factor as they once were.
  3. Additionally, descriptive yet brief URLs are able to serve as their own anchor text when copied and pasted as links in forums, blogs, or other websites.

3. How to best structure a URL:

  1. Make the URL easy to read: The school of thought in SEO that making something easier and more accessible for humans is also beneficial for search engine rankings is very applicable here. Search engines will take note if users are engaging with links because they are clear and compelling (if they contain keywords searchers are looking for). A common and useful method to create clear, insightful URLs is to match them to the title of that page (without having to be a perfect match). Here are three examples of a very readable, somewhat readable, and not readable URLs:
    1. Very readable: http://wpromote.com/how-to-do-seo
    2. Somewhat readable: http://www.wpromote.com/pub/post?ID=77&kw=how-to+do-seo
    3. Not readable: http://cdn07.example.cc/9rf7e2/i?HXID=iaj34089jgt30hgqa3&qry=f#loaddelay
  2. Include keywords in URLs: It is still beneficial to include targeted keywords in URLs even though this is a declining factor in rankings.
    1. Keywords are a good indicator to those who see a URL on social media, in an email, or as they hover over a link that they're going to end up where they want to be - so naturally it contributes to the semantic correctness of the URL.
    2. When URLs are shared, the URL itself serves as the anchor text when there's no anchor text used.
    3. URLs are displayed on SERPs between the title tag and the meta description. The keywords in a URL get bolded on SERPs when they match the terms used in a search query. This plays a very important role in the decision making process when searchers are deciding which site to select.
  3. Keep it short and sweet: If a URL contains 100+ characters, it should probably be rewritten so it's about half as long or shorter. A good way to shorten URLs would be to leave out stop words when they're not necessary (and, or, but, of, the, a, etc.). While search engines have no trouble processing long URLs, shorter URLs are easier for users to read, copy and paste, and embed on other sites. The goal here is improving the user experience.
  4. Avoid extraneous characters: Some characters can convert into hard-to-read code when included in a URL. It's best to avoid using these unsafe characters. Not only does it contribute to poor readability, but it can break certain browsers and make it more difficult for search engines to crawl a website.
    1. Reserve the use of hashes in URLs for when they are being used to direct visitors to a specific location on the same page. They shouldn't be used in URLs to link to a separate page.
  5. Use hyphens/dashes - not underscores - to separate words: In URLs, hyphens are recognized as word separators, or spaces. If underscores are used, the search engine will combine the words in the URL with no spaces for indexing purposes.
  6. Letters should be lowercase: To avoid creating case-sensitive URLs, which can cause the same keywords to be interpreted as separate pages when cased differently on different servers, use all lowercase letters in URLs to avoid any problems occurring.
  7. There is no benefit to the repetitive use of keywords: Not only do search engines no longer value keywords appearing multiple times in a URL, but a potential visitor is less likely to click on such a spammy-looking URL that has duplicate keywords.

Image Alt Attribute

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1. What is an alt attribute?

  1. An alt attribute, or alt tag, is used to describe the content of an image file. It is not visible on the front end to the visitors of a website. It describes the image to a search engine, which is used to help determine the best image to return for a user's search query. Alt tags also display when users have blocked images within their browsers, or when visually impaired or other disabled users rely on a screen reader to describe what's on a site.

2. Why is an alt tag important?

  1. Alt tags are the most important component of SEO optimization for images. They describe images to a search engine, allowing the engine to combine that knowledge with other textual information on a site when evaluating a keyword-based request.

3. How to optimize an alt tag for SEO purposes:

  1. Be brief, but descriptive: Use a concise (10 words or less), keyword-rich phrase that accurately describes the image, which will in turn be relevant to the content of the site. If the image and content around it isn't coherent, a different image should probably be used instead.
  2. Use keywords naturally: Make sure to use the keywords appropriately and in context, as opposed to "keyword stuffing," which is filling alt tags with keywords, as this can result in appearing spammy and incurring a penalty from Google.

Content

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1. What is the content of a page?

  1. The content of a page is what the browser renders as visible to your site's users. It can range in format from a video, an image, sound, or text; but it must meet your visitor's need and help them to take the actions you want them to take on your website.

2. Why is page content important?

  1. The content of a page is what makes it worthy of a search result position. It is the reason a user visits a website. Valuable content can solve a problem, answer a question, entertain or amuse, or provide unique insight into something. Not only will good, linkable content make a website rank higher in search engines, but it will help the website build authority with its audience.

3. How to optimize textual content for SEO:

  1. Length: Google favors longer pieces of content that thoroughly cover a topic, while mobile users have a tendency to prefer more concise content that sticks to the point and can be consumed quickly. The ideal length of content is however much is needed to sufficiently provide the user with what they are looking for. No questions on the topic should be left unanswered. The more content the better, but avoid filling pages with fluffy content.
  2. Coherent, well-written content is necessary: A poorly written page riddled with spelling and grammar errors is viewed by Google as untrustworthy and will result in a lower ranking. Website visitors also consider poorly written content to be unreliable and are unlikely to stay on the page as a result.
  3. Let keywords happen naturally: Don't keyword stuff content in an effort to achieve the best keyword optimization. Since content should be an accurate reflection of the page it's on, good content will attract visitors who make up the target market due to the inclusion of long, specific, low-competition keyword phrases that would have been difficult to research and target in the first place.
  4. Proper formatting matters: Ensuring that a page is formatted in a way that makes it easy to skim is a simple strategy for optimizing on-page content. Proper use of headers, bolds and italics, bullet points and lists, and concise sentences and paragraphs is a good way to ensure easier readability. Not only can a page be penalized for poor formatting but, once again, site visitors will value a page if it's optimally formatted.
  5. Supplement textual content with multimedia: Visual content will make a site more likely to get social media shares, inbound links, time spent on page, and user engagement. While it's not certain whether Google takes multimedia into account when ranking pages, it definitely considers the number of inbound links to a page as one of the most important ranking factors.
  6. Encourage customer engagement: Enable commenting on the website, but filter out spammy comments to avoid degrading the website's credibility. Another way to help build up brand reputation is to also open up customer reviews on review sites such as Google+ and Yelp.
  7. Keep it original: Having the same content at two different URLs is bad for SEO because it can bring down the page's rankings, among other problems.
  8. Author rank and YMYL pages: The more content an author publishes on trusted websites, the higher that author's content will rank in Google search results. This is why a lot of authors participate in guest blogging to build that reputation. When selecting content creators for a website, it is important to ensure they are experts in their respective fields in order to maintain a credible reputation. While this is important for any webpage, this is particularly important for YMYL pages. Google classifies pages relating to well-being and safety, such as those including financial, medical and legal information, as YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) pages. YMYL pages must meet very high Page Quality rating standards in order to rank highly in search results because they deal with information that can have a big impact on a person's current or future well-being.

<h1> Tag

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1. What is an <h1> tag?

  1. The <h1>, header, or heading tag is one of the largest and most important tags on a webpage. It is usually the header that introduces the content of that page. <h1> tags are compared to newspaper headlines in terms of the role they play in the structure of a page. There can be up to six different header tags (<h1> to <h6>): <h1> is usually styled the largest in size and defines the most important heading; <h6> defines the least important subheading and is generally the smallest in size.

2. Why are <h1> tags important?

  1. <h1> tags play an important role in the ranking of websites because they tell both search engines and site visitors what the content of the page is about. The likelihood of the page ranking for important keywords is increased since <h1> tags should contain relevant keywords.

3. How to optimize <h1> tags for SEO:

  1. There should be always be an <h1> tag on each page: If visitors land on a page without a header, they might not know if they are on the right page and this would likely increase the bounce rate.
  2. Write unique and descriptive headers: All <h1> tags should be as unique and informative as possible. Avoid duplicates at all costs. Instead of writing "About Us," try, "About Dracula's Spatulas."
  3. Include relevant keywords in a coherent manner: Make sure to target keywords for higher rankings, but avoid keyword stuffing. <h1> tags should read naturally and cater to human visitors, not search engines.
  4. It's OK to have multiple <h1> tags per page: In the past it's been frowned upon to use more than one <h1> tag per page. Thanks to the <article> and <header> tags in HTML 5, however, it's OK to use multiple <h1> tags on the same page if they fit contextually within the page, like to divide content sections. Previously, <h2> tags were used to divide content sections; but now they can be used solely as subheadings for an <h1> section. The key takeaway is that Google is encouraging websites to cater their content to humans, and sometimes having multiple <h1> tags makes more sense for the organization of a page. As Google Software Engineer Matt Cutts put it, "If there's a logical reason to have multiple sections it's not so bad to have multiple H1s. I would pay attention to overdoing it... if you just throw H1 everywhere on a page, people have tried to abuse that and so our algorithms try to take that into account so it doesn't really do you that much good. I would use it where it makes sense and more sparingly, but you can have it multiple times."

Anchor Text

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1. What is anchor text?

  1. Anchor text is the visible and clickable text that a URL is embedded in.

2. Why is anchor text important?

  1. For SEO purposes, anchor text helps search engines understand a page in order to gain relevant rankings. In the past, it was common for sites to inundate their content with links containing keyword-saturated anchor text. Google has since devalued content filled with spammy anchor text in order to encourage quality content containing natural uses of anchor text.

3. How to optimize anchor text for SEO:

  1. Reflect the page's content: Anchor text should include terms that accurately represent the content of that webpage.
  2. Link to credible websites: Make sure the content links to credible websites that aren't spammy.
  3. Avoid repetitive anchor text: Don't use the same keyword in every link. Aim to have links appear naturally rather than making it look like the intention was to add as many keyword-heavy links as possible.
  4. Avoid broad terms: General text, such as "Click Here," won't reveal much to search engines. It's best to include relevant keywords and phrases in anchor text.
  5. Internal links are encouraged: While the external links are great for SEO, it's useful to provide navigation within the site hosting the link. One example where this would come in handy is linking to an older blog post about the topic being discussed.

Social Sharing

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1. What is social sharing?

  1. Social sharing is the practice of sharing a link to content from a website on social media.

2. Why is social sharing important?

  1. While there isn't a direct connection between search engine rankings and number of social shares, the more a piece of content is shared on social media, the more inbound links and awareness will be generated. Since inbound links are a factor in Google's ranking algorithm, social shares indirectly play a role in how a page ranks and some importance should be placed on facilitating social shares.

3. How to encourage social shares:

  1. There are three ways to encourage the sharing of a piece of content on social media:
    1. Enable social media share buttons and counters on a webpage to encourage the social sharing process. Not having them is failing to utilize a popular tool through which many sites gain awareness and visitors. Lack of social counters (which display the number of times a piece of content has been shared on social media channels) can be a good indication that the content isn't good enough to be shared by its readers.
    2. Site owners should share their content to their own social media channels to facilitate and encourage the social sharing process for their readers.
    3. At the end of the day, if quality content isn't being published, people won't want to consume it, let alone share it. Strive for quality content and the rest will follow.

4. Resources:

  1. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2014/08/25/the-12-essential-elements-of-high-quality-content/2/

Additional Markup

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1. Schema markup:

  1. Schema markup is a code that can be implemented to a site's HTML to improve the way a page displays in SERPs. It is recognized by Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and Yandex. It is usually used for restaurants, upcoming events, and reviews, among several other types of search results. If a searcher looks up a movie, for example, the markup might include reviews, nearby theaters, and movie show times as snippets below the main result. Although a page's schema markup doesn't directly affect its search engine rankings, it increases the site's clickthrough rate, which in turn serves to improve its ranking position.

2. Hreflang tag:

  1. The hreflang tag indicates to the search engine what language is being used on a specific page in order to better cater search results based on the searcher's location. This is useful when a website has different versions of a page in different languages, for example. While hreflang does not directly improve rankings or increase traffic, ensuring that a user lands on a page with region-specific results in their desired language can decrease the bounce rate and increase the number of conversions.

3. Mobile Optimization:

  1. Mobile optimization is comprised of several actions taken to ensure mobile site visitors have the most seamless browsing experience possible. The elements that should be optimized for mobile browsing include improving page speed and not blocking CSS, JavaScript, or images. Also, simplifying site design, modifying titles and meta descriptions to accommodate less screen space, implementing schema markup, and optimizing content for local search are some of the most important ways to enhance the mobile browsing experience.
written by: Wpromote

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