What is ‘on page SEO’ & why does it matter?
The foundations of good search engine optimisation and on page SEO in particular, start deep within your website, which ultimately starts with the web designer as they have an obligation to build a sound, professional platform for their paying client.
Many technical elements are involved, including the quality of the content, user search intent, and off page SEO tactics such as building backlinks, directory listings, and increasing your domain authority. However, before implementing other strategies, your website needs to have a strong SEO foundation in place, Failure to implement SEO best practices when designing a website, not only reduces the potential for generating free traffic, it can also lead to additional costs for fixing technical SEO issues further down the line that could easily have been avoided.
What is on-page SEO?
On page SEO refers to the edits you can make on your website, like content, title tags, and image optimisation – these are the basic SEO factors that search engines really care about. Although on page SEO in itself won’t guarantee ranking in search engines for competitive keywords, it forms the basis of a well structured site, and provides considerable benefits when supporting the growth and on-going development of a new website.
On page SEO and webpage design
It is important to consider SEO as integral to your page design and layout and shouldn’t be regarded as an add-on. SEO needs to be built into the web design process.
Ensuring a search engine can easily crawl and understand your content is the first step to increasing your visibility in the search engine result pages, where the elements on a web page that are only visible to search engines – i.e., html and structured data are organised in line with the latest practices.
Additionally, the statistics of online search underline the importance of SEO for visibility in the search listings: According to Brightedge – 68% of online experiences begin with a search engine, and…stat
On page SEO and WordPress
I design websites using WordPress, a content management system used by millions of websites, which allows for a high level of flexibility and control when structuring a website for SEO. I also prefer to use the Divi Builder by Elegant Themes, because in addition to the efficiency of building websites with this framework, the Divi Builder allows full control over structural page elements, which is not available in most page builders and WordPress themes.
I have put together a list of factors I consider essential for on page SEO when designing a WordPress website specifically. I will show you the key points to pay attention to, so that important content is easily discoverable, understandable and sits in the overall structure, in a way that makes sense to both search engines and human visitors to your website!
Permalinks, are the technical name for the URL where your content is displayed on the internet,(sometimes referred to as “slugs”,) for example: http://futuretrace.com/web-design-portfolio/
In the initial WordPress install, the permalink structure that WordPress has a default setting = “PLAIN”, which is not user or search engine friendly . Fundamentally, this means your URLs will make no sense to your visitors or reach search engine crawlers, as they consist of numbers and not descriptive words.
To choose the correct permalink structure for your website relates to what type of website is being built. For content based or informational sites, “POST NAME” is the most suitable permalink type to choose. For news or blogging sites however, “MONTH and NAME” or “DAY and NAME” might be the best choice, since they support time related content.
Menus are the most obvious way to find relevant content on a site. Equally important, menus help search engine crawlers by providing a map of your website – so when designing the structure, a carefully planned and logically laid out menu structure will pay off in the future.
Websites should also follow the ‘3 click rule’…that is to say, all pages on your site should be accessible within 3 clicks, helping your visitor navigate the site and making it easy for crawlers to quickly understand what your website is about. If you have a lot of content, in order to keep your menus uncluttered, it is wise to make use of footer menus for essentials such as terms & conditions, Privacy and Cookies pages.
3. Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress.
There are several reasons why I consider Yoast an essential plugin for a WordPress site.
Yoast makes the creation of sitemaps simple for submission to the search engines for crawling the website and also informs numerous search engines including Google and Bing that a sitemap has been created. In addition, the tool provides a number of helpful features for optimising search engine content. including canonical tags to every page to help your site avoid duplicate content issues.
Another useful feature is the ability to update your page titles & meta descriptions, where you get to see a “Snippet Preview” of how your page will look in Google’s search results, giving you the ability to control how your page appears in Google search listings.
Yoast will show you SEO problems that it finds, it assesses your content’s reading level (and provides some tips on how to improve your writing) and even lets you know if your page or post has an SEO-friendly URL.
Another excellent feature is ‘Cornerstone Content’ This is when you have created your more important long-form content; and then when you publish new posts with related content, Yoast will make sure those new posts link back to your Cornerstone content.
4. HTML header tags
It’s considered SEO best-practice to build webpage layouts that use HTML H1 to H6 header tags logically. In effect this means H1 header tags should only be used once per page and show the main title. Heading tags H2 to H6 are generally used as subheadings that support the content displayed. Using this logical HTML heading structure will help crawlers identify the topic of the page and with the sub-headings, understand how the content all fits together.
5. Alt tags
ALT text also known as “alternative image text” is a tag added to images and helps provide important text information for visually impaired visitors, but also serves as an important SEO function: It gives search engine crawlers a text based description of what the image displays which can benefit your image search rankings. The best format for alt text is descriptive but avoids keyword stuffing. If relevant, include your keyword in the alt text of at least one image on the page.
6. Fast page load speed
Google’s algorithms are designed to help the searcher get the right information as fast as possible. Therefore it is understandable that slow loading pages are penalised and ranked lower in SERPS. (search engine results pages) Slow loading pages often require optimisation of media such as images and videos, but can also be affected by the quality of hosting, location and low coding standards. Tools such as Pingdom and PageSpeed Insights by Google are helpful to test your website’s load time.
7. Mobile-friendly design
Websites are now built from a mobile first perspective, rather than as an afterthought to desktop layouts. From September 2020, Google announced it will be switching to mobile-first indexing for all websites. Therefore, unless essential, the practice of hiding text and image elements from displaying on smaller screens should be avoided as this can significantly reduce the SEO potential of your webpage.
With the right SEO practices, building a new website with a solid “technical” foundation will potentially give you an important competitive edge, to reach new customers online. Using best-practice SEO techniques outlined above, will not only offer search engines what they are looking for, they will potentially generate more website visitors too.
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