On Page Optimization Checklist
On page search engine optimization is without a doubt, one of the most important things you can do to both slay your SEO competition…and bring super targeted traffic to your website. If you are a dentist, a lawyer, a real estate company or any other locally based business…this post is for you!
Especially in light of recent crazy Google algorithmic updates like Penguin, Panda, Gorilla, Zebra (what fuzzy black and white animals are next?), having a solid on page optimization checklist to refer to when writing new webpages and posts is more important now than ever.
What Are “On-Page Optimization” Factors?
Think of it this way: if you want to rank in the search engines for a particular keyword phrase…wouldn’t it make sense to make sure your website actually has content about that keyword phrase?
For example, let’s say you’re a dentist with a successful dental practice in Live Oak, Texas just outside of San Antonio.
Business is good…but you want more.
You just KNOW that if only the good people of San Antonio knew of your dental wizardry, you would not only provide a great service to them…BUT (maybe more importantly) you’d tap into an enormous new market to expand your dental practice and pay those tuition bills.
You know a little bit about SEO, so you go to the Google Keyword Tool and see that there’s lots of people searching for that exact phrase “San Antonio dentist” every month…patients that could be yours!
So what do you do?
You could just hire an affordable search engine optimization company to get you there…:-)
But if you’re more of a “do-it-yourselfer”, and you’d rather do it on your own, then here you go…we won’t be offended.
The On-Page Optimization Checklist
So you want to rank your website for “San Antonio Dentist”.
But one problem…your dental office is in Live Oak, Texas just outside the downtown San Antonio area.
In fact your whole website talks about how your office is located in Live Oak, Texas and all the ways in which you serve customers in Live Oak, Texas.
You even have a nice Google Places ranking under the search term “Live Oak Dentist”.
All a good start…but its not gonna get you any patients in San Antonio…at least right now it won’t.
So here is the on-page optimization checklist to get you there.
1. It All Starts With Content: Create A Content Rich Page
The written content on a page is what makes it worthy of the search result position. The search engines scan the Internet, once every three or four days and file every single webpage on the Internet into categories related to search terms.
Once you create a content rich page that includes the search terms “dentist in San Antonio”, “San Antonio dentist” and “dentist San Antonio” in the body of the page, it’s only then that the search engines will recognize your website as being relevant to those search queries.
Google is trying to find the best match for any singular search query on the Internet and you can give them what they want by creating compelling content about how you serve patients in San Antonio. It’s really just that simple.
When you’re creating this content, however write it so it so irresistibly good that other sites on the Internet want to link to it.
Boring page copy doesn’t attract, it repels. So make your content as compelling as you possibly can so other websites find it useful and link to it.
If other websites can’t link to it, then the search engines will be less likely to rank it. So make your content is interesting and as detailed as possible.
Sit down and think of the person searching for a “San Antonio dentist” – put yourself in their shoes for a second:
- What would you want to read about to convince you that you should visit your office?
- What makes your practice different from everyone else’s?
- What kind of symptoms may they be having right now?
Compelling content that is informative and linkable from other sites is your starting point.
2. Create the Perfect Title Tag
The title tag of your webpage is the first thing that the search engines see, so it’s very important.
It’s second only to on page content in the on page optimization checklist.
Think of the search engines as reading a webpage just like you would read a letter: you start from the upper left-hand corner and work your way down all the way to the lower right-hand corner.
The search engines read a webpage the exact same way and the first thing they see is the title tag because it is located in the upper left-hand corner:
When you’re writing your title tag, make sure you don’t stuff it full of the keywords that you’re trying to rank the webpage for, the search engines just don’t like this. You may rank that webpage initially, but eventually they will discount it because they see you’re trying to “game the system”.
Another important part of a title tag is that for your primary keyword phrase that you are trying to rank for, try to get that phrase first in the title tag. It lets the search engines know that this is the most important phrase of the entire webpage.
So in our example here for San Antonio dentist you may want to make your title tag:
San Antonio Dentist | Dentistry Services for the Greater San Antonio Area
Not exactly exciting stuff, but it gets the point across. It tells the user what the pages about and it also tells the search engines what the pages about.
3. Create a Logical Website Category Hierarchy
Of third most importance in the on page optimization checklist, is your category hierarchy of your website.
We are not talking about kings and queens here…
In your website’s internal hierarchy, there are categories. If you are attempting to enter new markets, it stands to reason that you should have separate categories for the separate services.
Creating a new category for “San Antonio Dentistry” is a wise idea.
At some point, you may want to expand your practice to other localities around San Antonio, including Hollywood Park, Castle Hills or Terrell Hills. In this case, you’ll want to make categories for each of these localities as well. And when you write any blog posts or additional content that is relevant to any of these locations, you want to tag those pieces of content with their individual categories,
The search engines are very logical, so make it easy for them by making your website structured very logically. Search engines like logical websites and logical webpages.
The following is a good example of URL structure:
This main domain at dmoz clearly shows a logical categorization of the information on the page.
If you’re running a website on business, it makes sense to have a category called accounting, maybe another one on marketing and so on.
This logical hierarchy just spoon feeds content in a straightforward way to both your visitors as well as the search engines. Important stuff for good search engine optimization.
4. Create Relevant H1, H2, and H3 Tags
When you’re writing your page on “San Antonio dentist”, the next most important factor in the on page optimization checklist is categorizing the content on your page and this is largely done through “header tags”.
Header tags or “H” tags are code in the HTML of your webpage and gives the search engines clues as to what your webpage is all about.
These tags follow a logical sequence throughout the entire content of your webpage and should contain keyword phrases that are relevant to your content.
Sometimes this isn’t always possible, because if you try to force it into each tag, the page doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The search engines look at this as “keyword stuffing” and it’s a big boo-boo search engine optimization.
Just make your H1, H2 and H3 tags sound normal and makes sense in the context of the content. If you can put the keyword phrases that you’re trying to rank for in those tags, all the better.
If you can’t seem to fit your main keyword phrase into your age to an H3 tags, then don’t worry. The H1 tag is really the most important out of all three, so don’t force it.
Just make it sound and look natural. If you don’t, your site will look spammy and no one, including the search engines will like to read it.
And if they don’t like to read it…they don’t like to rank it.
5. Make Your Images Interesting and Alt Tag Friendly
Many search engine optimization specialists think that images really aren’t that important. We disagree. We have found that excellent, relevant and alt tag friendly images can sometimes be the difference between a first page ranking and no ranking at all, which is why we include it here in the on page optimization checklist.
Our friends over at SEOMoz agree with us as well.
Like us, they have found that the alt attribute or what you name your images had an extremely robust correlation with high rankings in the studies that they performed.
Not only do images make your webpage more interesting, but they make more relevant – especially if you are writing a webpage about “San Antonio dentist”, doesn’t it make sense to put an image of a San Antonio dentist on the page?
Most people on the Internet don’t really read, they just scan – which makes the usage of images both optimization friendly as well as just plain friendly.
If you have any interesting info-graphics, this makes the page even more robust and easy to read. Make sure you give the images relevant names to what they are about. And it stands to reason. If you are writing a page on dentistry in San Antonio, then your images should be related to the content.
You can also get a surprising amount of traffic to your website just from your images, as Google indexes them nearly immediately in Google Images.
We have a website that gets nearly 50% of its overall traffic just from images alone.
Bottom line: insert images onto your webpages
6. Insert Internal Links and Make Them Logical
This one may go under the category of “logical hierarchy”, but as far as the on page optimization checklist goes, we have found this extremely important when optimizing a webpage.
This is for two reasons:
- The anchor text in your links count as links to other pages
- Links from one webpage to another page of your website. Allow the search engines to “crawl” your website more easily.
So in your writing of your page for “San Antonio dentist”, insert a few links to your homepage for anchor text like “dentist”, “dentistry” or even “Live Oak dentist”, if it fits in naturally. This helps the search engines to understand your website all the better.
We have not found this to be a anonymous on page optimization checklist factor, but we have noticed that it does help with your overall linking to your homepage and to internal links to other pages. This kind of optimization assists in logical back linking, which serves as a vote of confidence. The search engines that your website is about what it says it’s about.
7. Make Your “Keyword Density” SEO-Friendly… But Not Too Much
No one really knows how many keyword phrases a webpage should really have, but it’s important on page optimization checklist factor to consider.
Many search engine optimization specialist field that between 1 to 3% is the optimal range to have your keyword phrase contained in the content of the page. We just use this algorithm and it served us well for years:
Mention the keyword phrase to three times on short pages and 4 to 6 times on longer ones and never more than makes sense in the context of the copy.
Don’t go overboard here. Don’t stuff the keyword in their too many times so that it makes it seem unnatural. When you do this too many times, there is a diminishing return.
In fact, after about 4 to 5 to 6%, the search engines actually penalize your webpage.
When in doubt, use this excellent keyword density tool from our friends over at SEOBook.
Just keep in mind that you’re writing your page for humans and not search engines, so don’t stop all kinds of crazy variance of “San Antonio dentist” that make the page read incorrectly or worse yet…makes both search engines and humans not want to read it.
8. Put Your Main Keyword near the Tippy Top
If you’re writing a page on “San Antonio dentist”, wouldn’t it make sense to mention that keyword phrase within the first hundred words?
This is why it makes the on page optimization checklist…because it just makes sense.
If you don’t mention it in the first 50 to 100 words on the page, then Google may not think the page is actually about that keyword phrase.
This is why we advise that your most important keyword phrases should appear. Ideally in the first few words of the page, but at the very least the first 50 to 100 words of the pages text content.
Many search engine optimization specialists feel that you should bold or italic the main keyword phrase as well. This will accentuate it to the search engines as well as to your visitors. Your call, there.
In multiple on page optimization studies, the search engines do appear to favor webpages with the main keyword phrase in the first few paragraphs versus pages that don’t have the main keyword phrase in the first few paragraphs.
When in doubt, insert your main keyword phrase in the first paragraph…but only if it sounds natural.
9. Make Your Meta-Descriptions and Meta-Keywords Meaty…But Don’t Overdo It
If this were back in 1997, I would tell you to stuff as many of your target keywords as you possibly can into your meta-descriptions and your meta-keywords in this on page optimization checklist… right after I finished watching the brand new episode of Melrose Place…
So seeing that it is, in fact 2012, meta-descriptions and meta-keywords squeak in as our final entry on the on page optimization checklist.
Of the two, meta-descriptions are probably more important because often times they are taken by Google in the snippet used when categorizing webpages for search queries. So for meta-descriptions, make them less than 160 characters in length…if not shorter.
Brevity here is the key, so make your meta-descriptions short and sweet.
It’s wise to put your main keyword phrase in the meta-description, but don’t force it in their. Google and the other search engines are pretty smart about figuring out whether or not it’s important.
As far as the meta-keywords are concerned, it’s always a good idea to put your main keyword phrase in the meta-keywords, just don’t stuff then 27 of them all at once. The search engines really seem to hate that…they are not watching Melrose Place.
The On Page Optimization Checklist Conclusion
When in doubt, when trying to search engine optimize a page or to rank for a specific keyword phrase, use your common sense. Reread the page multiple times to make sure it flows correctly and doesn’t sound as if it was written by aliens or at the very least from cheap content writers from the Far East.
If there’s anything that the search engines really don’t like, it’s bad content that looks unnatural and reads poorly. So don’t make that mistake when utilizing the on page optimization checklist above.
Content is king on the Internet, and if you want to rank for specific keyword phrases eight you would like to expand your business into or accentuate specific services that you offer as a local business, then write good content and tell the world all about it.
When you utilize the on page optimization checklist above, the world will then realize your wizardry and beat a path to your door.
Of course, if you’d rather have somebody else do it… There are affordable search engine optimization companies (such as ours) who will be glad to help you.