Onpage and Technical SEO
The one area of SEO that has seen considerable change in recent years is on-site SEO, and if you really want to learn about SEO in 2020, this is something you need to be completely familiar with. Five years ago it was mainly concerned with meta tags, headlines and content which was often so over-optimised, it was unreadable. The checklist and the changes to it are quite significant, but it is one of the most exciting aspects of SEO.
Google and the other search engines’ algorithms have become much more sophisticated, as digital marketing agency, we ensure that we always provide quality content. It is something that we relish and fully appreciate the human aspect, along with the fact that our work is all about user engagement. The results of our on-site endeavours are more visible, something our clients like to see, but it is also something that we can stand up and shout about.
What are Meta tags?
Meta tags are an essential part of HTML coding and describe the content that you have on a web page or your website overall. The most important forms of meta tags are meta titles and meta descriptions. It is fair to say that their importance has diminished over the years, certainly from the technical side, but they still have a role to play. Keyword cramming in the description will not influence your ranking, contrary to popular belief. However, they have a significant psychological impact on your CTR and user engagement.
Meeting the needs of Google’s algorithms is essential, but a more critical factor is the human element. Google’s latest algorithm changes titles and descriptions and ranks them due to relevance. Plugins such as Yoast offer some excellent suggestions regarding your technical content, but they can’t take into account the human element. When you do your SEO, you need to give equal weighting to both aspects.
On-site SEO Checklist
As the majority of sites are now in WordPress, we will focus mainly on this, but the same is applicable for any content management system.
Before you start writing, you must know what people are searching for. You could write awesome content, but if no one is searching for that topic; your efforts will be in vain. Once you know what queries people are submitting, think about how you can write something that offers a unique spin or offers different information. It needs to be factually accurate, but can you add value, or offer something that will capture readers’ attention. Of course, timing is crucial in making your content more relevant.
Landing pages and blogs both require some degree of keyword research, and this is a topic that we will look at in greater depth in chapter five.
1. Title tags and headlines
Headlines have been used long before the digital era to capture the attention of readers, and that is still the case. Making your title tag, headline, and, of course, the meta description appealing is vital and include your main focus keyword wherever possible. It will help readers know what the webpage is about. Call-to-actions (CTA) are essential when it comes into increasing conversion rates, and the meta description gives you the perfect opportunity to drop one in.
The goal is to be persuasive without being pushy. You want to search engines and users to feel compelled to click on your website. Reaching the end-user is the priority, so make sure and titles, description or headlines match the image you want to convey. Always take note of what your competitors are doing and find out what is working. There is no shame in including this in your SEO strategy.
Key points about title tags and headlines:
- Titles should be less than 70 characters and meta descriptions less than 155 – this is all that will be shown in Google
- Use the correct structure when it comes to H1 and H2 headings – they also need to have good readability for the user
Use WordPress plugins and SEO Site Checkup to get an indication of SERPs
2. Keep your URLs SEO friendly
All URLs are automatically generated and will contain a series of figures and characters that will mean nothing to a user, for example: www.abctrading.com/2019/post256e7a357g8.
For SEO purposes, the URL should relate to the content on the page as well as its title, for example, www.abctrading.com/how-to-peel-an-onion. In WordPress, permalinks can be set in common settings.
Although opinion is split on the length of URLs, SEO in 2020 is focused more on user experience, so relevance is more important than size. That being said, a URL that is 20 words is far from ideal for many reasons.
Videos have been proven to be an excellent way of engaging with browsers with higher levels of engagement recorded along with lower bounce rates. Of course, written content is still essential, but videos are other forms of multimedia, including images, infographics and charts are also extremely valuable. They also make it far easier to read large blocks of text.
Live streaming and video streaming has become incredibly popular and is arguably the hottest trend when it comes to SEO and overall digital marketing. Videos are shared, liked or commented more frequently than other posts which will also indirectly benefit your SEO.
Key points for multimedia
- All images should be optimised in terms of their file size, alt image attributes and their filename (how-to-peel-an-onion.jpg)
- Interactive multimedia including videos and charts should be embedded
- Transcripts will not only make it easier for some users to follow but will allow you to maximise your keywords
4. Links – internal and outbound
Using links in your blogs and your landing pages is a critical part of your SEO. Outbound links to relevant as well as authoritative sources will send a relevancy signal to Google. Meanwhile, internal links promote user higher engagement as you can link to other pages or articles within your website. The links play a role in helping Google’s bots to recognise and understand the structure of your website. As one of our main target keywords is SEO Company, we link this back to the relevant target page for this keyword.
Key points for internal and outbound links
- Although outbound links may not improve your rankings, they do enhance the user’s experience, so it is recommended that you incorporate them
- Depending on the length of your content, you should aim to include 2-3 internal links
- Search engine crawlers DO checks links, so frequently check for broken links and never adopt back hat SEO tactics
Use the “topic cluster model” for internal linking
5. Allow people to engage
Although excellent content still gets shared, according to BuzzSumo, the amount has fallen by around 50% since 2015. Always include a share button on any content to make sharing easier. The main social media sites are still Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, but topic related social media networks, including Reddit and Pinterest, should not be overlooked.
On-page (technical) SEO checklist
On-page SEO is the more technical aspect of SEO with a lot of the work happening “behind the scenes” or in the back-end of your website. Most of the technical stuff does require some knowledge of web development and coding. However, WordPress can do a lot for you and is perfect for those who are perhaps a little less technically minded.
The technical side can be never ending, if you want to be, but these are the critical parts of the technical on-page SEO that you should be concentrating on:
1. Google Search Console
Setting up and connecting Google Search Console should be top of the list of priorities. It is a simple yet highly effective tool that will help you to monitor and maintain your presence on Google. You can analyse keyword rankings, any Google penalties, CTRs as well as including lots of other useful technical data that can be used as part of your overall SEO strategy.
Google Search Console gives you information about mobile usability, deciding what you want to be indexed, errors on your site along with structured data errors and broken links. Essentially, it automates several very time-consuming tasks.
Key points about Google Search Console
- Each website needs to be verified before you will have access to the features
- Use Google Analytics in conjunction with Search Console
2. The speed of your website
As humans, we are becoming increasingly impatient, and that is certainly applicable to websites. It is estimated that 50% of website users expect pages to load in less than two seconds, longer than three, and they will look at another site. Of course, Google are aware of this, so it one of their well-known ranking factors.
Key points regarding website speed
- Use PageSpeed Insights to test the speed of your site
- Optimisation is key, optimise images, use HTML compression, GZIP compression, JS and CSS minification. Where possible, try to lower server response times
· Make sure that you use a quality and trustworthy web hosting provider as this will impact on website speed.
3. Mobile optimisation
With more searches conducted on mobile devices rather than on desktop computers, your website must be optimised for mobiles, if not it will harm your rankings. Mobile-first indexing was first launched by Google in March 2018 and will use the mobile version of your website for indexing purposes, so if your website doesn’t have a mobile version, you will be penalised.
Key points to consider for mobile optimisation
- You can test the responsiveness of your site using Mobile-Friendly Test
- Check how your keywords rank on mobile devices
- Frequently check that the mobile version of your site is functioning correctly
- Use Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) – a form of HTML code
Although only a minority of users will ever use your sitemap, it is one of the few areas of your website that will be focused more on the search engines needs rather than the needs of the user. It will help bots to crawl your site and is particularly useless if you have a large site that is rich in media content. It won’t improve your rankings, nor will you be penalised for not having one, but it is always beneficial to assist Google wherever possible!
Key points with sitemaps
- It is not essential to have one
- It doesn’t necessarily need to be an XML sitemap
- They shouldn’t contain over 50,000 URLs or be larger than 50MB
- The root directory should be https://abctrading.com/sitemap.xml
Robots.txt is something that most people may be unfamiliar with but something that is critical when it comes to telling the crawlers which parts of your website you don’t want to be indexed. It is useful as some scripts, files or images may be supplementary information and for your benefit rather than the end user’s or Google’s.
User-agent: * (e.g. Googlebot)
Disallow: / (e.g. /images/onion.png)
- Never use it as a means of hiding content from the search engines – black hat SEO techniques!
- Neither crawlers nor malware should be able to infiltrate robots.txt
Useful technical SEO hacks
The first part is to conduct a thorough analysis of the current state of your website. There are numerous sites that you use, Ahrefs is one of our favourites, along with Screaming frog, check out our Top 5 SEO Tools here.
If you set up Google Tag Manager, you can do your own advanced tag management without needing to call upon the assistance of an expensive web developer.
Always use HTTPS rather than HTTP as security of websites is a huge psychological factor with users and Google Chrome labels any site without an SSL as “not secure”.
URL/IP canonicalisation: The website should be indexed under both the domain name and IP address and should mean:
abctrading.com and abctrading.com/ should resolve to the same URL.
If you’re confused with the technical aspect of Onsite SEO, or what Content you should be producing, speak to one of the team on 02 038 5400.