Second in a series on practical SEO for non-experts. Part 1 covered SEO good practices.
Here you are, with a nice, shiny new website. Looks so beautiful you could hang it over your sofa. But no one comes to visit.
Google can help you get visitors, but you have to speak Google, so that its bots know what’s on offer. You have to know how to do onpage SEO.
In my prior article about SEO good practices, I explained something about the way Google thinks. The important thing to know for how to do onpage SEO is that it doesn’t “read” your site as a visitor does. It doesn’t see pictures or listen to audio or video. It doesn’t care about the colors or layout. It just reads the text and the code on your site. It also measures your site performance.
This post will offer insights into three aspects of how to do onpage SEO:
- How to write a post or page so that you communicate your purpose to the search engines.
- How to write your contact information so that it it’s optimized for display in the search results
- The importance of site performance and security for SEO
Do You Speak Search?
No matter what language your readers speak, the search engines speak code.
That doesn’t mean you have to read code (although it helps at times), but you need to use coding to convey signals.
First, choose a relevant keyphrase that fits your topic and has high traffic and low competition. Traffic and competition usually go up together, so you’re looking for the best balance you can find.
Use that phrase in your headline, your description of the post, and within the first 50 words of the page. Use it again in at least one subheading and several times throughout your article.
If it makes sense, use the keyword in the file name of your image, as well as in the title, alt text, and — if you use one — caption.
There are a number of other tweaks you can make to your text to create onpage SEO for your website. There are enough of them that a checklist is handy.
Some Resources for Your Onpage SEO
Here’s an online SEO checklist from Altitude Marketing that you can use to make your page or post work best.
Another popular option if you have a WordPress site is the Yoast SEO for WordPress Plugin. It comes in two versions, free and premium, and the free may be all you need.
The tool I’m using to write this is WebTextTool. It gives me the prompts I need to remember all the Google signals, and also tracks pages so that I can see how they fare in the climb to the top of search results. It has tools to help you pick out your keyphrase and to check the mood and readability of your writing.
Show Your Contact Information with Style
As I explained in part 1 of this series on search engine optimization, the Google bots don’t see pictures or videos. They only read the code on the page.
Aside from that code — and the frequency the information appears — the bots have no idea what’s important.
But what if it’s your name or your company’s name? If you repeat those too often, it will seem very weird — and not in a good way — to your reader.
The way you tell the Google bots what that means is with — you guessed it — code.
There’s a set of code established by Schema.org, that categorizes many different types of information. I’m going to focus on what tells Google about your business.
You can use the code at Schema.org to create your own company information block. Or you can use the schema markdown generator at Hall Analysis, and add it to the heading of your site. If it’s not in your skillset to do this, it will take your tech person about 5 minutes, so it won’t be a huge investment.
Getting your name and company information in front of Google? Priceless.
Website Speed and Security
Google bases its rankings on many factors, some in your control and others not. But in 2010, a spokesman announced that page loading speed would be one of those factors.
It’s a closely held calculation (for more information on the ranking factors, see How Website Speed Actually Impacts Search Ranking), and you don’t want to go overboard geeking out about it.
But check your site on GTmetrix. If it comes up with a bad score, it’s going to affect your human visitors as well as Google bots. GTmetrix offers suggestions to fix speed problems — some involving high-level geekery, others not so much. It gives priorities and good explanations. If your site needs to be fixed, you can take care of it yourself or get help.
Another change to the Google algorithm is taking place in 2017. Google will penalize sites for not having SSL (secure socket layer) certificates. SSL ensures that your visitor’s communications from his or her computer to your site are encrypted, so that they can’t be captured by a third party. The certificate also assures your visitor that your site really is your site, not some spoof site claiming to be yours to capture their information.
SSL certificates used to start at about $50 per year, installed, but now the better web hosts are making an open source (free) certificate available from Let’s Encrypt. Ask your web host about it.
How to Do Onpage SEO
Google keeps its formula for calculating site rank as a proprietary secret. It includes both onpage factors and offpage testimonials to your authority (which I’ll cover in the next post).
Knowing how to do onpage SEO gives you control of the factors you control — the text of your site, how your identifying information appears, and the security and speed of your site. It’s the foundation of getting your content listed high enough in the search results to be found.