In the early days of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), it seemed all you had to do to get the search engines to provide you a good ranking was to ensure you used keywords, had a good Meta title and description. Then the search engines realized that the content would have to be assessed to give users relevant results for their search terms. So content and headlines became vital too.
Then links became the focus of everyone’s efforts. No longer was on-page optimization the ticket to ranking well. For the biggest impact on SEO ranking, links were the key. All it took now was to make sure you had more links, using your keywords as anchor text than your nearest rivals did.
Then big changes came about as Google altered the way their algorithm worked. Sites that relied upon link schemes to outrank their competition were heavily penalized, losing ranking overnight. Millions in potential income were lost, and websites started disappearing. This style of link building was never to be seen again.
SEO had changed forever. There was a new style of SEO, and that came in the form of getting natural links to point to your page. These were links that would occur naturally within an article or post and it was no longer a requirement that they have anchor text that was loaded with keywords or phrases. The more natural-occurring, the better Google seemed to like it.
But if these new style ‘natural’ links didn’t have keywords or phrases in their anchor text, how was Google to know what the page was about? Going right back to where it all began – on-page SEO. While links still have a part to play in ranking, unless they are of the highest quality, they are seen as of little to no value. What the algorithms are looking at now is great content, H1 tags, titles, and descriptions. The combination of high-quality links and fantastic on-page optimization works well to improve Google ranking.
Often a thorough overhaul of the on-page optimization is all it takes to see a dramatic increase in ranking of a site that previously was going nowhere.
Let’s look at the most important aspects of on-page SEO:
Titles need to begin with the key phrase you are trying to rank for which is true for website pages and blog posts, particularly with blog posts because more often than not the post title becomes the title of the page also. Don’t try to stuff too many key phrases into your title. One or two are okay.
While Google claims that the description is not taken into consideration by their algorithm, knowledgeable SEO experts say that the algorithm does measure the listing click through rate. If what the SEO’s claim is true then making the description click-worthy is a good tactic.
Your main header tag (H1) should accurately reflect your title tag i.e. start with your key phrase. Blog post titles are automatically converted into H1 tags, so there is no need to create a header tag for your blog posts.Add as many header tags as you want i.e. H2, H3, H4 and so on, avoid using your key phrase in every one, and keep the content flow as natural as possible.
There has been significant discussion about content and how it is “king.” But how much content do you need to rank? The recommended length of an article or post is at least 1500 words. Length is crucial and depending on the competition, 1500 words may not be enough. If you are trying to compete for a top 3 ranking against some content-heavy blogs or websites, then you are going to have to provide even more content to stand a chance of beating them.
Another consideration, particularly the longer your articles become, is the number of times your key phrase should be included. While there is no particular rule, and in fact too often can hurt your ranking, once per every 1000 words is usually sufficient. For example, a keyword phrase for this site would be “Las Vegas SEO“. We wouldn’t want a page repeating that phrase over and over again. Don’t forget to add variations of your key phrase too. This way the page content will sound more natural and not as if it has been written expressly to get your keywords in. Variations of the keyword we mentioned could be “SEO in Las Vegas”, “Las Vegas search engine optimization”, or even “Las Vegas internet marketing”.
Linking both internally and externally is important. While including links that take the reader away from your content seems to be counter-productive, linking out to other content can be beneficial provided the content linked to is relevant and adds value to your content. Just as important are the links you create to other relevant pages within your website.
If your site seems to be stagnating and your ranking has not improved in quite some time, consider a complete overhaul of your SEO. You don’t have to do it all at once. Work through the list and see just how much of an improvement in ranking it provides!
James Blackburn is the founder of Canada West Internet Marketing, an SEO agency based in Edmonton, Alberta that has successfully implemented online marketing campaigns for many companies in both Canada and the USA. You can find him on Twitter @jamesblackburn.