When performing on-site SEO, it’s important to understand the dos and don’ts of search engine optimization that can make or break your SEO campaign. Use this guide to ensure your success and watch your rankings soar!
Before you do anything, make sure the following areas of the page you are optimizing have your targeted keyword:
- Title tag
- Meta description
- H1 tag
- Image tags
- Body content
The top six areas require your target keyword if you intend on beating out your competition. But it’s not as cut-and-dry as simply placing your keyword in these areas. So let’s look at each of them more closely to see how you can optimize safely.
The Title Tag
Optimizing the title tag is pretty straight forward — the tag needs to contain your target keyword. However, case studies have consistently shown that placing the keyword near the beginning of the title is best. Furthermore, make sure your title is as short as possible while remaining human-readable as most search engines will cut off at around 60 characters.
Meta Description Tag
The meta description tag is not just used for search engines to understand what your content is about, it’s more importantly an advertisement to your users when your site shows up in search engine listings. Just like the title tag, however, it has a character limit in most search engines of about 300 characters tops, but should be as short and direct as possible. We recommend 50-100 characters with your keyword near the beginning to ensure your users see the relevance of your site immediately before scrolling past.
The H1 Tag
Header tags are very useful tags for page organization, but some people overdo their SEO by planting their keyword in every header tag on the page. This isn’t necessary as the only tag that really matters to most search engines is the H1 tag. That isn’t to say the H2, H3, or H4 tags couldn’t use your keyword, but we’ve consistently seen web pages with keyword-stuffed header tags lose ranking after enjoying a short-term high ranking. This is because the major search engines seem to penalize these pages for keyword-stuffing.
Unlike the title and description tags, we haven’t seen a difference in the placement of the keyword within the H1 tag, though, and this is probably because most often the H1 tag is fairly short and contains the title of the page (the same content that is in the title tag).
Image tags are also often over-stuffed with keywords and we’ve seen pages penalized by this as well. Place your keyword within the “alt” attribute of the IMG tag, but don’t do more than three IMG alts on a page, and it’s good to spread them out on the page if possible (i.e., not 3 images right next to each other). What image SEO is great for is not only telling search engines that your page is relevant, but image searches will also push your image closer to the top for your target keyword.
The Footer Tag
Not everybody uses footer tags on their web pages, however most CMS platforms such as WordPress automatically create them. Footers are great for placing your target keyword because it brings your keyword optimization full-circle in the eyes of the web crawler. Again, you only need your keyword there once, there is no need to over-do it. If you are not a coder (though you should be), there are some plug-ins for WordPress that offer custom footer tags per page.
Optimizing the Body Content
When adding your target keyword to your body’s content, it’s important not to get carried away. Many people are told to add their keyword as many times as possible, but that can easily be seen as keyword-stuffing and result in a penalization from the search engine. To stay on the safe side, adding your keyword once per paragraph should be fine. There is also such a thing as “keyword density”, which means there is a percentage of the content that is your keyword, and that each instance of the keyword is a safe distance away from the next in order to avoid keyword-stuffing penalties. Typically, around 2% of your content should be your keyword or “Latent Semantic Indexing” (LSI) keywords (i.e. keywords or phrases that are related to your target keyword). This way, you don’t have to stuff your keyword all over the place and give your users more useful content while providing the search engine more of an idea of what your page is about — two birds with one stone!
There are, of course, a litany of other on-site search engine optimizations you should perform such as interlinking and long-tail keyword page creation, but the most important aspects are these six above. Without them, you are missing the opportunity to reach your target audience, which is what search engine optimization is all about!