Lesson Four: Understanding On-Page SEO
Lesson four is focused on teaching you the principals of on-page SEO.
This can seem quite daunting but it needn’t be as it’s actually quite simple and in this video we walk you through every single important on-page factor you need to be mindful of and we keep it all in plain-English.
We use our own agency website as a live example and share one or two very useful – free – tools to help you get to grips with things as quickly as possible.
Watch the next lesson: Lesson Five: Optimising Your Website
Hello and welcome to lesson four of module one where we’re going to be learning about on-page SEO as it’s essential that you understand what it is and how it affects your website.
Now, optimising your website is one of the most important and most involved parts of this course, but don’t worry. I’m going to walk you through every stage of this process. Now, during this lesson, you will get the opportunity to install one or two tools and plugins that will help with the on-page SEO phase.
I’m going to keep it jargon free and explain everything as I go. Now, the first question to ask yourself is what are you looking to accomplish with your website? Are you looking to generate more leads and inquiries or are you looking to boost sales? It’s important that you understand and are mindful of your primary business goal before we get into auditing your website.
Now, whatever your primary goal, we need to make sure that your website is easily accessible across all devices and has the most important information readily available. We want to highlight your company and your expertise. We want to let people into your business and really show your personality. We want to highlight your products and services so that they’re easily found on Google. So how do you go about auditing your website when you’re not an SEO expert?
Well, it’s not half as scary as it seems, I promise, and I’m going to walk you through exactly how to do this and what we’re going to cover right now in this lesson. So firstly we’re going to look at page titles, then message descriptions, then heading titles, subheading titles, page content, paragraph text, URL strings, internal linking, external linking, images and anchor text and menus.
These are the 12 on-page ranking factors that we’re going to be focusing on to significantly improve your website’s visibility. Now I’m going to hop onto my computer in just a couple of minutes and show you exactly what each of these are because I know it can be confusing understanding the difference between a page title and a heading title and a meta description.
Once you feel comfortable with those on page elements, it will make it much easier for you to optimise your website both now and in the future. We do have one quick task first though, which is to instal a web browser and a plugin. This will make the auditing and analysis phase much quicker and it will ensure that you and I are on the same page as we work through this lesson. Firstly, you need to instal Firefox web browser. Now, depending on your computer, you may already have the Firefox web browser installed.
If you do not, a quick Google search with the option to download it will get this installed for you. Okay. With Firefox installed, we need web developer plugin called Firebug. If you hop onto Firefox and simply Google search that term and get that installed, it’s a web developer tool, as I say, and we’re going to use it for a very simple task, but boy, is it going to save you some time. I promise. Go ahead, search that and get firebug installed.
These tools and web browsers work exactly the same whether you’re on a Windows or a Mac computer. So I’m going to hop onto my computer now and quickly recap how to instal both Firefox and Firebug and then we’re going to get into looking at exactly what are these 12 on-page SEO elements in a real life website.
Okay, so firstly I want to quickly recap how to instal both Firefox and Firebug, two tools that are going to be really useful when we’re optimising your website. So if you hop onto your preferred web browser and simply look up Firefox download, they should bring up a search result and just look for free download. Click into this, free download. Click that, follow the instructions, and within a few clicks you should have Firefox installed on your computer.
As I say, there is a Windows and a Mac version. Once you have that installed, quickly hop back on Google again and this time look up a Firebug for Firefox. You need to do this from within the Firefox web browser. Click on this first link, and you see here, because I’m in Chrome, it’s saying to me only available in Firefox. But if you open this within Firefox, it would just say add plugin or add this tool. Click that, it will then automatically instal.
And once you have it all installed, it will then appear as this little icon here, you got a little bug icon, which when clicked, will bring up this bar at the bottom. Now this is a web developer tool. It looks scary, but it really isn’t. And we’re only going to use it for a very simple task, but it will greatly improve the speed with which we can identify tags on your website. So get those installed. And then we’re going to move on to identifying the 12 key on page elements right now. So there is just one more adjustment we need to make to Firefox.
Once your viewing the web browser, if you click this icon in the very top right hand corner and then click on customise, down here we have title bar and showing height toolbars. By default, Firefox will have various toolbars and various elements hidden so we just need to show them.
So make sure that title bar is clicked and then click on here and you want to show the menu bar and you don’t necessarily need the
bar, but you definitely want to show the menu bar. And then once you have the title bar and that’s selected, exit customization. Okay, that just ensures that this bar here appears and one or two other things as well. So now we’re going to look at the 12 key on-page elements that every page on your website needs. I’m going to use my agency website to demonstrate this. You may want to run and use my website also just as we work through this together or you can correlate it to your own website, either/or it’ll work absolutely fine. So from the top down, first of all, let’s look at page titles. Now, what is a page title?
Well essentially, it’s probably arguably the most important tag on your website for each individual page. And it is what is found here at the very top. Although it says it’s not within the actual confines of the website, but it’s actually found in the top of the browser bar. That is your page title. Okay, next we’re going to find the meta description. Now the easiest way to find that, you can right click view page source and find the meta description. That way, what I like to do is take your website URL, hop onto Google and simply pop in site colon website, enter that and your meta description is the two lines of text. And if you think of a meta description as a quick summary of what that page is and an introduction to that page. It’s the two lines that’s copy that you will see here.
Every page on your website should have a meta description and it should read really well and just give someone a quick synopsis of what that page is about. So if they read it, they can think this is the result for me or no, that’s not what I’m interested in. Okay, so that is your meta description and within, depending on your CMS, whether it’s WordPress or whatever, you will have an option for each page or each post to input a specific meta description for that page in addition to the actual copy for that page and it’s something that is often overlooked and it is important. So, a meta description doesn’t have any direct SEO value, but in terms of click through rates and improving the user experience, it’s definitely worth doing. Next, let’s look at heading tags. Now you probably recall that I’ve already said that each page in your website needs a heading tag.
What a heading is a H1 tag. There are up to six heading tags. H1 through to H6 and every page should have one H1. From tags H2 through to H6, you can have one or more of these. They kind of don’t really matter. You can have an H2 or not have a H2. You can not have H3s, H4s. They should really follow the hierarchy of your page but every website or every page on your website needs one H1. Okay, so mine is the most prominent header on the website. That is my H1. Okay, and now as you work for your website and you want to check that this is a H1 and it’s not just a paragraph text that’s just been increased in font size. This is where a Firebug comes into its own because what we would normally have to do is jump into the back end and try and figure out if this is an H1 or H2 or paragraph text or whatever. All we need to do is click on this and then in the bottom left hand corner, you’ve got this select icon, collect this and then it’ll bring up this. It’ll hover over wherever you’re going to click.
Simply click into this or you can hover it. I’m going to click that and this highlights this text, which is essentially that blue box above now and crucially, what I’m looking for here is you can see is H1. So all of this other is just all the styling. You don’t need to worry about all this, but you can actually see that it says, H1 there and H1 there. That is basically the opening and closing brackets for that H1, that heading tag. That may sound confusing, but it really isn’t. It’s just simply saying that that is your H1. That is your heading one. That is the main heading for that page. As I then scroll down, I’m looking for subheadings, so all this is just text, text, text. Now this is the second page, second title of this page. So again, I’ll just select this, I’ll click here and again, I’m looking for the H2, so again you can see it’s open there and then you’ve got the leading forward slash, it’s closed and so that is my H2. That’s my secondary heading. As we scroll down the page, I then have these headings here
As we’ve come further down the page, these are moving down the hierarchy of what I can consider to be most important for this page. You can see these are H3s, so all I’m doing is I’m working through these heading tags and making sure that they follow the hierarchy of the page and I only have one H1. I can have one or more H2s and then H3s, H4s, H5s as and when required. Now often I don’t even tend to use H4, five and six because I tend to just use normal paragraph text. Often my pages don’t have enough headings to warrant all those headings and yours probably won’t either, but certainly H1s, H2s and H3s should be used very prominently across your website. Again, if we continue scrolling down, you could see this is a H2 because I consider it a secondary heading on top of the main heading, but it’s more important than these headings here.
Okay. We can see that again is a H2. So you can just start to work your way down the web page. Now, the most of the copy will just be normal paragraph text, but the headings are something you can easily check now with this tool and it’s really important that we have as I say, one H1, one or more H2s and then one or more H3s. Before I move on I just want to quickly recap about the page title once more as again, if you come back to the search results, you’ll see here that this tag here, that is the page title, which again is another reason why it’s so important that it’s well optimised because it’s the main thing that people will see when they click into the search results.
It’s what’s clickable and it’s the first thing people will read. So making sure that it is well optimised and that it includes your brand name, your business’ name. Really, really important. You’d be amazed the amount of homepages of websites that simply say home. It needs to be well optimised and it’s just another reason why the page title specifically is so important. Okay, so back to our list. Page content is the next area I want to discuss and quite simply this is ensuring that each page on your website has a focus, has a purpose. So for an example, this page here, my homepage is just to give people an introduction to my agency, what we’re all about and what services we offer. So you need to make sure that each page new website has a purpose and that the content on that page reflects that purpose and what you’re trying to convey and get across, whether it’s a product page or a blog post or a services page or on your about page, whatever it is, make sure it’s got a single purpose and the content on that page reflects that. As we move into paragraph text.
Now this is an area that is really, really important because the paragraph text is quite simply just, it’s the bulk of what’s going to be on your page. It’s the text essentially, and by default, all of your tags will be wrapped in P tags. Now you need not worry really about these. A P tag is simply just paragraph tags. They’ll happen by default. So even you don’t have to, it’s not like a H1 where you have to specifically make it H1 or H2. Paragraph tags, any paragraph, you just enter, anything you copy and paste into your website, anything you write will by default be paragraph text. So making sure that you’ve got enough text on each page, making sure that it doesn’t fall into the possibility of being a thin page where you’ve only got 20 or 30 words on the page.
Making sure that that content reads really, really well. And that, again, if you was to land on that page from the search results, would the copy on that page tell you everything you need to know? Would it answer your questions? Would it allay any concerns you might have about that product or that service or you as a company? Really making sure that read your content. Not enough people read their own content back and think, gee, you know what, this is actually pretty good. You know, I find this interest, it tells me what I need to know. So just read it back and make sure you’ve got enough content on your pages. Next I want to talk about URL strings. Now this one is really, really important. If I’m going to click into just any of my pages, it doesn’t really matter. The URL string is just this here.
Now we’ve got the home page, which is this, which is fine, and the one I’m talking about, the URL string specifically, I’m talking about this here. Now you want to make sure that all your URLs are SEO friendly, and by this it just means they should be as short as possible and that they should be optimised around whatever that page is about. So this is my about page. So quite simply it’s just about, I’ve tried to keep my or I have kept my URLs really, really simple. If I go into the services page, it’s just simply forward slash services. It doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that. Some people will have all manner of long winded URLs. You really don’t need it. So just go through your website and make sure that your URLs are nice and short and sweet and concise. The point is that you want someone to, even if they didn’t visit your website, just by looking at the URL, they want to be able to get a good sense of what that page is about.
Let me show you what I mean. So here we have a page, this is my SEO pages, this is selling my SEO services for my agency. Quite simply it’s just SEO Oxford. Why the Oxford part? Because I’m based in Oxford, I target Oxford. A lot of my customers are in Oxford. Simple. Okay. Our clients, again, this is just forward slash our clients, the blog, forward slash blog. It doesn’t need to be any more complicated that. If your URL strings have lots of numbers in them or random characters, you don’t need it. Depending again on your CMS, there’s some very quick ways. In WordPress for example, I refer to WordPress because I use WordPress and I know a lot of my clients use WordPress. If you’re in WordPress, there’s a very simple option in the settings to just change your permalinks, which is the URL strings.
So it’s very easy to do. If you’re not sure how to do it or if you’re a bit nervous, again, speak to your web developer, your content manager or you know, fire me over an email and I’ll gladly help. Next I want to talk about internal linking. Now this is unbelievably important and an internal link is just a link from one page on your website to another. Now by default, your menu is internal linking. That is linking from this home page. It links to the about, it links to all these pages. So that in itself is internal linking, but you can take this one step further and add internal links within your website to other pages. This helps the user better navigate your website. It’s a quick win for you because you can highlight your services. So what I’ve done here, this is the introductory copy to my website and I’ve highlighted the pages that I consider to be most important and that I want to promote that and that I want to get the most people to visit.
So my most important page in my opinion, is my SEO page. So we’re experts in organic search SEO. So that is a link that when clicked, takes someone straight through to my SEO page. I’ve then followed up with a few, I’ve got to the paid agency, the content marketing, and then I’ve got a link here to the our clients page. And then as you work through the page, I’ve got more links here. So one’s to the contact page, ones to the services page, and then these again are images that are linking internally. So collectively this page probably has 30 or 40 links on it, which is absolutely fine. You don’t want to get into having a hundred plus links on a page because that’s a little bit overkill and it’s highly unlikely you’ll need it.
You may only have space or may only need three or four internal links on a page. That’s absolutely fine. But make sure with your internal links that they are using optimised anchor text. And by that you’ll see that I’ve chosen certain words to be the internal links. This is a little nudge towards Google to say, hey, this page is about organic search. It’s about SEO just by the fact that those are the keywords that are clicking through to that pages. It’s called optimised anchor text. And it’s a very quick, easy win. Now again, don’t go overkill on this. You’re not going to put the same keyword, you know, again and again and again and linked to the one given page because that’s spammy. It is not helpful to the user. It’s not going to look good. You’ll see that I haven’t got any keywords to the same. All of mine are short and different.
Some of them are short, just a couple of keywords, some of them might just be one keyword. Others will be whole sentences or you know, several words where I’m trying to encourage people to visit a given page. There’s no set way to do it. It’s just keep it natural. But remember the value of linking internally and it’s not just from your homepage either. You’ll see it within all the pages. I’ve added internal links through to the different pages. Again, there’s four or five in that structured content. That’s absolutely fine. It reads really well. I’m just helping people around my website. Now if we look at external links, now this is really important and what I tend to do with external links is I use them more when I’m making a case. So often you’ll use them within your blog, so if you have content where you’re talking about a given topic or you are covering something in great detail and actually you need to link out to another website to validate your point or to back up the case that you’re making or just to link up to further resources.
That’s when an external linking comes into its own and Google values external links very highly because essentially if you’re linking out to related and high quality information, then Google is going to think, well this guy must be, this website must be doing good things. It must be talking about quality stuff because it’s linking out to quality stuff. You know, it’s all about the neighbourhoods with which you’re hanging around in. If you’re linking out to cruddy sites and sites that are a bit spammy or a bit you know, aren’t related, then Google’s saying that doesn’t make sense. Whereas if you’re in the cake industry and you are linking out to other authority websites that or new sites that have talking about cakes and the food industry and you know, you’re linking out to different local bakeries and all that sort of stuff.
That is good quality staff. That is what Google wants to see and it helps. It would most definitely help with your SEO. So be mindful of it external links. You don’t need hundreds of them but my work, my agency website probably has 10 or 20 links out to external authority sites and you would add more with your blog as you’re writing more content and you can naturally link out, it’s all good. So definitely do that. The only thing I will add to that is when you’re linking out to external websites, make sure that the links open in a new window. There’ll be an option. When you go to add a link, it will say, open in a blank, the target will be blank or open in a new window. Click, makes you check that box. Essentially, it will show that when someone clicks, the website that they click to opens in a new web browser or a new browser tab and so they don’t leave your own website. You don’t want to be sending people away from your website. You just want to say, hey, check out this as well.
Let’s look at images now. Images are a funny old thing that people often forget about. When you’re uploading images, make sure that you upload the files as small as you possibly can. Now there are various online tools or some of you, you may have Photoshop or you may know someone that can optimise your images, but just make sure that you’re not uploading huge files because often if you take a photo on your camera or if you buy an image, often those file sizes will be massive and if you upload huge files, it will slow your website down and that’s not good for the user experience. Google won’t like it because your website will load slowly. So make sure the files you are uploading are as small as possible. So, these are only sort of 300 pixels, 400 pixels wide. I try to keep them as small as I possibly can to speed up the loading of each individual web page.
Also make sure when you’re uploading images that the file names are related to or to basically describe what that image is. You’ll be amazed the amount of images that get uploaded where they’ve just got a file name, which is just a bunch of random numbers and letters. That doesn’t mean anything. Simply giving your each image upload a related file name to what the image is about is a quick win and it will improve your overall optimization. And it may even get you appearing for image searches, which people never talk about it. They never think about, but image within Google, there is a whole section for image searchers. So, when you search something like SEO for example. There’s image searches. You’ve got a whole section of images, which if you’ve got images and you are optimising those, you stand a greater chance of being here.
Bring in more traffic to your website. Also make sure that when you upload an image, when you pop it onto your website, there’ll be an option to add a title for that image and an alt tag. Now, a title and an alt tag are really, really important tags. The title tag is just a title of what that image is and an alt tag is when, for whatever reason, if the image can’t be shown, the alt, alt stands for alternative, is an alternative tag. It’s what will it display instead of the image? If you leave it blank, it’s a missed opportunity. Simply popping in this image is about X. It will show that if it can’t show the images. Anchor text is something we’ve already covered. But I’ll just quickly recap on it and that is just the links both internally and externally.
Whenever you’re linking, just be mindful of the anchor text that you’re using. And as a little cheeky quick win, you can, if you’ve got specific services or products, what you can do is from your homepage is just include a couple of internal links to your most prominent pages and use the keywords or the key phrases, maybe a couple of variants of those terms on your homepage to drive internal links and traffic to those services is a quick win. And one I could have done here and what I’ve looked at doing is just say using the services, the SEO page. And so I’ve just got the organic search SEO because that’s one of my key services. So just whatever your primary keywords are, where it flows and fits naturally into the copy. And you’ve mentioned your primary services, X or Y, make that an internal link.
Even if that’s two, three, even if it’s five or six words, make that internal link. It’s a really quick win, but especially do that from your homepage because your homepage will be your most authoritative website page. It almost always is. It will be where most of your links are coming into. It will be probably the page that has the most authority and the most trust within Google. So leverage that power and that trust and make that flow through to your most prominent two, three, four pages on your website. Don’t go overkill, don’t cram internal links to your 50 different product pages. It’s not going to look good. It has to read well for the end user. Lastly on to talk about menus. Now again, depending on your website, what you’re selling and the size of your sites, you may have a simple menu with just a few options like I have, or you may have one of these sort of mega menus, which when upon hover shows all sorts of categories and options and children pages and you know, you can end up having 50 or 100 options on a menu.
With your menus, just try and keep them as simple as possible because you don’t want to overwhelm the user by just going onto a website and there’s just so, so many options. Try and keep it simple and try and think about the user journey that you want someone to take. Do you want that user to have 30 different ways in which to navigate through your website or do you want to funnel them a little bit more? Do you want to educate them? So the homepage is welcoming them in and then do you want to tell them about your services or about your products and then get them through to looking at that product and then through to the checkout page or through to the meat give us a call or contact us page.
Just think about the user journey that you expect someone to take and then try and make the menu reflects that user journey. It doesn’t need to be, you don’t need to have every different page on your menu. For example, my services pages, I’ve got a dozen or so services. None of them are listed in the menu. I’ve just got them. You click on my services pages and then you go into reading about the services and each of these is a page in its own right, but it doesn’t need to be on the menu cause I just thought that’s going to be overkill. So it depends on your type of website, but just think about the user journey when thinking about what to include in the menu and what to exclude.
There you have it. The 12 key on-page SEO elements. That wasn’t so scary was it? In the next lesson, optimising your website, we’re going to look at combining everything we’ve covered in this lesson with the keyword research that we did earlier in this module and fully optimise your website. It’s getting exciting. Go ahead and download the on-page SEO in 12 steps visual guide just below this video. It illustrates the 12 on-page ranking factors-