With so much information accessible, it’s crucial for brands and businesses to have the ability to stand out from the competition. Depending on your budget, a large marketing and advertising push may be beyond what you can afford. The question remains though, how do you get found for the right items or services? Regardless of your budget, your efforts should be spent building up your local presence in search engine rankings through search engine optimization, especially on-page SEO.
Consider the behavior of a typical consumer. When looking for a product or service, they search one of two ways:
Method One: Broadly search for a type of service or product
Method Two: Search for a brand/business/location near them
Ultimately, they have a question and are looking for an answer. By using a strategic SEO-based approach in your content, you can appear in the search results and offer them an answer.
What is On-Page SEO?
This post will break down the major elements that contribute to search engine rankings. We will discuss topics such as focus keywords, content formatting, meta information, local relevancy, and tools to use. While there are many facets of SEO, this guide will cover the foundations of On-Page Optimization.
Focus keywords are search strings and phrases that you want to be found for. They are the basis for on-page SEO tactics. An example would be a company selling clothes would use ‘clothing, apparel, or dress clothes,’ in a variety of focus keyword phrases. They are extremely important to search engine optimization. That said, Google and other search engines have become increasingly more attentive on SEO methods and will actually penalize a website for just ‘stuffing keywords’ into content that offers no sort of value whatsoever.
The solution? Make your content as genuine as possible. Always consider the user and how they would find the content you are providing. If you are trying to use the phrase, ‘clothing in New York,’ your content should talk about how your quality or methods make it the best (a reinforcing statement can go a long way) rather than just saying – ‘We have the best clothing in New York.’
Long tail focus keywords are full search phrases that could potentially be used. This includes stop words, which separate focus keywords and overall phrases such as ‘in, or, to, of, etc’ ← This is sometimes unavoidable and can benefit more than hinder (it’s much more organic/genuine)
An example of a long tail focus keyword phrase: ‘the best clothing in New York’
A short tail keyword is just the string of words you want to be found for. Using the example above, the short tail keyword would be: ‘clothing.’
While using a focus keyword throughout the content is important, you also need to use variations of it as well. The overuse of one keyword will hinder more than help while variations help you rank among other similar search results.
An example of the above in a different form would be ‘NY Retail shop’ or ‘New York apparel’
As stated above, keyword density plays a major role in your search rankings. This doesn’t mean use the keyword in every sentence, or even in every paragraph. The percentage should always be between 3-5% – meaning if you have a page with 100 words, the focus keyword (not including variations) should be used 3-5 times.
Finding a keyword you can compete for can be complicated or frustrating at times. Using Google’s Keyword Tool requires an Adwords account but there are some free keyword finders that can be helpful. When it comes down to it, it’s better to use the keywords you feel describes your brand, consider what you want to be found for in search results.
H1 H2 Formatting
One of the components to focus on during the content strategy phase is how you will integrate the focus keyword into each page. Consider the keyword as the framework and the content as the padding and finishing touches. At the start of each page, your focus keyword should be an H1 or H2 title, which also helps search engines rank the strongest pages. Basically, if you’re using the keyword in a header, Google will push your page higher than one that just has the keyword in the body copy. This is because a whole section devoted to the keyword is much more valuable than a mention in the copy.
Keeping the example going from above an H2 could be, “Find the Best Clothing in NY”
Remember the whole concept of making a good ‘first impression?’ The meta information for your page is what the consumer will see in the search results. It’s also what helps Google and other search engines pull the right results for the right keywords. This means it’s imperative that you have the focus keyword in the meta information.
The title of your page should reflect the keyword or phrase a person would search. If you are a local company that tailors suits and want to direct people to your contact page the Meta Title would be ‘Tailored Suits’ You have about 100 characters to work with. Our recommendation would be to format the title like this: A Perfect Fit: Tailored Suits from Brand Name
Your meta description needs to reinforce the title. Your title is the hook, the description is the line. You need to create a catchy meta description that includes the focus keyword to reel them into your site.
The page URL should also contain the focus keyword or variation of, to cover all bases. This also helps search engines weed out the good content from the bad.
When you think about your content, are you factoring in the visual assets you have on your site? Even the file names and alt tag fields of the media you upload onto your site play a role in your search engine rankings. It’s always good practice to save your images and videos under the focus keyword you will be using for that page, along with using a variation of the keyword in the alt tag field.
Getting ranked locally can be easy to do, but it can also be hindering. It’s extremely easy for someone to think that listing out each city or location along with the focus keyword would be the best way to rank. Years ago, this was definitely the case when it came to on-page SEO. Because of how rapidly SEO changes though, a lot of those old-school techniques will now get your penalized. Top on-page SEO factors now go for quality over quantity. Your best bet is to use some of the following methods throughout your content:
- Use the focus keyword and the overall local area you’re trying to rank for only once or twice.
- Integrate the local areas you want to rank for within the content itself, rather than creating multiple pages with duplicate content.
- Use variations of the area and keyword.
IF you are trying to rank locally, here’s one other thing you can do – Google, the most popular search engine tends to rank their own products above other sites. This means if you have YouTube videos (with a keyword title) or even a Google+ page for the location, it can amplify your optimization efforts.
Tools and Resources
For more information on getting started with on-page SEO, definitely check out these resources. Don’t get overwhelmed, there’s a lot to learn when it comes to SEO!
One of the many SEO resources we utilize. Their UI makes it extremely easy to assign focus keywords to pages, create meta information, and determine the strength of each page. It’s a great asset to have to ensure the basic SEO fundamentals are set on each page.
Brian Dean is a distinguished SEO influencer who has made a career in helping websites rank higher in search results. The information he offers in his blog is always full of great insights.
I had mentioned alternative solutions for Keyword research along with overall site strength. Moz and their product, the MozBar definitely helps accomplish these two tasks. Their Keyword Explorer works just as well if not better (although you need to purchase a plan – Definitely worth it!) and their MozBar shows you broken links, Domain and Page authority (both are major components to the overall strength and effectiveness of your website. They even have a collection of Local SEO tools you can find here.
Also, each Friday Rand Fishkin (one of the original Moz’zers) does a Whiteboard Friday discussing new techniques for SEO and Content. You can always find a lot of great valuable insights here.
Neil Patel is another major influencer in the website performance and SEO industry. He shares his insights and experience through his blog, where you can find a lot of great information and tips on how to boost your page’s performance.
Keep in mind
This is just one of the many moving pieces to SEO. Optimization efforts are always evolving though, which means certain methods can become irrelevant pretty quickly. As long as your ultimate goal is to provide high-quality content around a focus keyword, you should be okay in the long run. It’s always a good idea to keep a pulse on the industry as well which can help you get a leg up on your competition.