SEO is an ever-changing game, but there are a few rules that will always be fundamental. While some of the supposedly smart tactics of the past – like keyword stuffing and shady backlinking – have thankfully disappeared like yesterday’s meme, there will always be beneficial “white hat” tactics you can apply to your SEO campaign, the better to increase your organic traffic and improve your brand’s online reputation.
We’ve always argued that the best way to boost your SEO is to provide high quality content that audiences actually want to read. And, fortunately, one of the best tactics for packaging quality content also helps your site appeals to search algorithms - keywording.
Keywords are the backbone of your successful on-page SEO strategy. They help you quickly and efficiently make your points, both to your readers and to the search engines that they’re using to start their research.
But you have to be smart about your keywords! Remember, shoving in keywords inorganically will actually turn off your readers and damage your chances at future SEO success. Instead of overloading your content with keywords, think strategically, and target these five areas on your page:
Let’s start from the top! Every piece of content you publish to your blog comes with a unique URL – the more you customize and optimize each URL, the more likely you are to pull in traffic from lots of unique searches.
With this in mind, focus on the back half of your URL. Don’t buy a long, keyword-stuffed domain like “seoanddigitalmarketinginchicago.com” – this will turn off your reader and search algorithms, both of which will see that URL as super shady (which it is).
Instead, have a clean, reasonable domain (a la brandname.com), and then focus on the unique tail of each of your posts (i.e., BrandName.com/content-content). Optimize these tails for searchers: Stick to a few crucial keywords that convey the meaning of your post, separated by hyphens. And be sure to cut out extraneous words (like “a” or “the”), which add nothing but SEO-killing length to your URL.
Your title is the first thing that your searchers will see when they find your site on Google or Bing: It is the HTML element that they will see on their rankings and on their browser tabs, succinctly and accurately describing the contents of the page.
The key word there? Succinct. You don’t want your title to get cut off on search engine results pages (SERPs), so keep them brief and focused. Try to limit them to about 65 characters or fewer (the approximate optimal length for Google, though it measures in pixel width, rather than character count), and make sure that your target keywords are prominently placed to catch your searcher’s eye.
The next thing a searcher will see immediately after your title on a SERP is the meta-description, a brief paragraph describing the contents of the page in a little more depth, or else offering an irresistible tease to encourage clickthrough.
While descriptions do not actually appeal to search engine crawlers or bots, they’ve proven time and again to be extremely important to people – so don’t let this space go to waste! Include keywords here to highlight just why your content is the most relevant result for your audience. Make it pretty but keep it short – like your title, your description will get cut off after a certain length.
Now that your SERP-facing elements are optimized, it’s time to take a fresh look at the content of your page. Are your keywords prominently placed in your headline and subheadings (for geeks, these are your H1, H2, etc. tags) to encourage your readers to scroll all the way down your page? Are your keywords – and relevant phrases associated with them – placed organically and authentically in your text? Not only will considering your keywords help you to optimize your content for search rankings, but it will leader to tighter, more focused copy overall – a win for your readers, as well!
Alt-text and Titles on Images
No piece of content is complete without an eye-catching image or multimedia element! Make sure that search engine crawlers and bots know that your images are relevant and value-creating by optimizing the alt-text (which tells search engines what the image is about, and appears in place of your content in case an image file should break) and title tags (a “pop-up” that appears over an image when a user hovers their cursor over it) for all of your visual content.
The more accurate and descriptive – but succinct – your alt-text and titles, the better!
Have any more questions about best on-page SEO practices? Want to get started with content creation but don’t know quite where to start? We’d love to keep the conversation going! Feel free to drop us a line or reach out on Facebook or Twitter with any follow-up questions or thoughts.