These days any business that's serious about competing in the online marketplace begins with search engine optimization (SEO).
Using the right keywords helps search engines to understand what your content is about. That makes them more likely to recommend it by placing it high up in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for your product or service.
Of course, it's possible to have too much of a good thing, which is why search engines also penalize "black hat" methods such as keyword-stuffing.
Complete on-page optimization, on the other hand, is about making the most of the opportunities to place SEO keywords throughout your content. In particular, you will be putting them in the places that search engines pay most attention to. Get this right to see the best results from your SEO while keeping your content readable for humans.
Optimize Titles and Content
Content optimization is the place to start. If your budget won't stretch to full on-page optimization, at least make optimization of the titles and content a priority.
When search engines crawl your site to analyze its content, they rely heavily on what's between the HTML heading tags, especially <H1>, <H2>, and <H3>. In other words, titles and subtitles are important positions for keywords.
As search engines have become more sophisticated, they have started paying more attention to the page content as a whole. However, text near the top of the page and at the beginning of paragraphs has always been another hot spot for SEO. It pays to give these a little extra attention.
You can double-up on your subtitle SEO efforts by also including them in a contents list of clickable links.
As an example, take a look at how the Singapore online fashion store Ziccy.com describes the Ziccy Reward Point System. The <h1> heading tag makes it clear this page is about a "Reward Point System." Points and Reward Points are mentioned in four of the six sub-headings as well as multiple times throughout the content. The page is also introduced by a four-line index of clickable links, two of which say "Reward Points" and two "Points."
This isn't the easiest page to find on the Ziccy.com website. But if someone typed "Ziccy reward points" into a search engine, you can bet they would be directed straight to this page.
Optimize Meta Tags
The role of meta tags is to instruct search engines on how a particular web page should be indexed. They offer you an additional way to tell the major search engines what your content is about.
Some search engines pay more attention to meta tags than others, and they are just one of the factors that feed into complex algorithms. That said, optimizing your title tag and the description meta tag is something well worth doing.
On the other hand, leave the keywords meta tag well alone. These days the content of this tag is ignored by almost all search engines. An empty keywords tag can do your site no harm, but there's an outside chance your site could be seen as spammy if you do fill it in.
Let's use online shopping mall Rakuten Ichiba as a case study here. Now, if you were an overseas customer looking to buy sake from Japan, you might not think to go direct to Rakuten Ichiba. But, based on the meta tags, you have a good chance of landing on the sake page of their site.
The title tag of this particular page tells the search engines that it is about "Rakuten: Sake - Shopping Japanese products from Japan - Sake, Shochu, Ume Liquor, & more." The description tag backs this up with: "Sake, Sochu, and more. Rakuten Ichiba is the Internet online shopping community in Japan, which has the largest selection of products."
The page URL has always been an important part of on-page optimization. Don't miss the opportunity to include your most important keywords in it, provided of course they are relevant to your content. If your competitors have neglected to do this, it could give you the edge over them.
Major search engines will index your keyword-rich URLs and both Google and Yahoo will also bold matching portions of the URL in the SERPs. This means a good, relevant URL can not only help your search engine ranking but also convince a human visitor that your site offers what they want.
If you have a well-organized site structure that uses keywords in its categories and subcategories, your URLs will naturally be both descriptive and keyword-rich. For example, http://www.asianpaints.com/ideas_makeover/decor_ideas.aspx tells you exactly what to expect in this subsection of India's Asian Paints website.
If you start with keywords in mind and know where they carry the most weight on the page, you'll find complete on-page optimization is not difficult. It can also boost your SERPs ranking and send more relevant web traffic your way. Why not give it a go?
Optimizing image on home page via Shutterstock.
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Christian Arno is the founder of translation services provider Lingo24, Inc. Launched in 2001, Lingo24, Inc. now has more than 200 employees spanning four continents and clients in more than 60 countries. Follow Lingo24, Inc. on Twitter: @Lingo24.
December 12, 2013
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