SEO 101: Top 3 On-Page SEO Elements You MUST Control

The SEO landscape is rapidly changing.  However, there are some basics that have not changed.  And they can make the difference in how you rank in the search engine results.  The key?  You need to take control of your website — control of the elements that matter.

This article was originally published by Kristin Knipp on the Inbound Internet Marketing Blog.

Search engine optimization, SEO, used to be the domain of internet experts and marketing agencies – but that hasn’t been true since at least 2005.  The keys to getting found online are at the fingertips of most small businesses and some don’t even know it!

Here’s a list of the Top 3 website components you MUST control to effectively target qualified online traffic.  Most modern website creation tools, or content management systems (CMS), can empower you to control these elements without technical or coding skills.  These tips are all about the content on your page – we’ll discuss Inbound Link 101 – a very powerful SEO element in a future post.

1) URL

The most powerful signal a page can send to search engines is it’s unique identifier or URL.  Since the URL automatically includes your domain name, which should be keyword- or brand- centric, you should complete it with the top one or two words the identify what is on the page.

For example, if I have a bed and breakfast called Kirsten’s Inn with a domain name of www.kirstensinn.com I can use URLs within the site to guide search engines and users alike.

URL1: www.kirstensinn.com/p2riss21qx vs.

URL 2: www.kirstensinn.com/room-rates

While the first URL is gobblydygook that calls out where the page can be found, it doesn’t give a human or a search engine any insight into what this page is about.  The second URL instead makes it obvious that you can find pricing details on this page, making it easier and faster for people to find what they want.  Most modern content management systems allow you to control your URL with simple editors that give you control over the properties of your web pages.

Custom URLs via HubSpot

2) Page Title

Second only to URL is your page title.  This is the block of text that shows up in the top of a browser window anytime someone clicks on the URL.

HubSpot Page TitleMany companies make the mistake of wasting their page title by repeating their brand name and generic descriptors when, in fact, you have a chance of improving your SEO with this small snippet.

Using the same example, let’s suppose that Kirsten’s Inn has a page about our gourmet breakfasts.  What do you think about these two page titles?

PAGE TITLE 1: Kirsten’s Inn Breakfast vs.

PAGE TITLE 2: Gourmet Full Breakfast Included, Fresh Menu Daily

With the second page title, my inn has the chance to rank well on terms like ‘Gourmet’ and ‘Breakfast’ or ‘Full Breakfast’ which travelers might be entering into search engines.

3) Headers – H1, H2, etc

Just like headings and bolded text in books or on menus, headers on a web page provide visual and contextual clues to your readers about the content that follows.  These headers let a reader skim the page to get to the content they value.  For that reason, search engines weigh header text more than the remaining content on your page.

But just because some bolded words look like a “heading” to humans doesn’t mean they look that way to the search engines. There is a special way to “tag” words on your pages so they look like headings to search engines when they crawl your page.  Most modern CMSs will let you format your text to look like a header to the search engines.  So, when writing headings for your pages, use target keywords and keep the headings as short as possible so that your target keywords get maximum weight.

For example, if I were creating that breakfast menu page for Kirsten’s Inn – I might use the following as my headers:

H1 (main header text): Gourmet Breakfast Menu

H2 (secondary headers, less SEO weight):

  • Eggs and Hearty Breakfast Entrees
  • Fresh Baked Breads and Pastries
  • Coffee, Tea and Juices

Header Tagging via HubSpot

BONUS! Not to be underestimated is the rest of the impact that your content, including images, has on your on-page SEO results.  So always be sure to write with your audience and their likely searches in mind.  Anytime you have an image, be sure to include ‘alt-text’, or text that describes the image so that search engines know the focus of your page.

As a small business owner, start 2011 off right by taking control of and optimizing the content on your site.  Once you’ve done that – you’re sending the right signals to the search engines about what people will find on your site and you’ll be ready to move onto more advanced SEO tactics using inbound link strategy.

If you don’t have control over your site today – think about how you can get that control.  That might mean working more closely with your current provider, designer or switching over to a content management system that gives you direct control over your website; that includes tools like HubSpot, WordPress, SquareSpace or Drupal and Joomla if you are pretty tech savvy.

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