On-Page SEO for Content Marketing Success

On-page SEO is only one part of effective website marketing, but it’s a critical part. Here are some guidelines for improving results.

Since Target Marketing is in the process of moving to a new publishing platform, and I’ve been reviewing the new features and tools, I thought it might be a good time to review best practices for on-page SEO.

There is, of course, quite a lot more to getting the most marketing return out of the content you publish, but on-page optimization is almost always a key part of the equation. Here are a few areas to pay particular attention to.

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Credit: Pixabay by Pete Detlef

Keyword Density

If you search the intertubes, you’ll find all sorts of formulas and calculations for how often you should use your primary and secondary keywords. I won’t go so far as to tell you to ignore those rules of thumb, but will say that you’ll be better off if you focus instead on staying well short of the point where your copy sounds stilted or algorithm-generated.

Keyword Usage

More important than density is placement. Using your keywords strategically is likely to yield much better results. This means that in addition to using your keywords in your pages’ body copy, you should also place it in your pages’

  • Page titles
  • Headlines and subheads
  • Page URLs

Beside being helpful for your optimization efforts, these all have the added benefit of helping your human audience understand how your content and your site is organized.

Just remember that your site should be organized from your prospects’ perspective, not your internal structure. (Nobody really cares about your org chart or how you group services together into service lines, etc. They care whether you can help them solve their business problem.)

Meta Tags

The keyword meta tag isn’t critical the way it once was, but your description meta tag is not only an important part of how the search engines see you but they can make or break whether users click on your link when it shows up on a search engine results page. (SERP) That’s because the description is frequently what is displayed on the SERP along with the page title and link.

Be sure you take advantage of the available space, which has recently been increased from the old 160-character limit by most search engines. You have somewhere between 250 and 300 characters.

And don’t ignore the alt text fields for editorial graphics. Describe all photos, charts, graphs, and illustrations. This is too often overlooked by marketers optimizing their pages.

On-Page SEO Tools for CMSes

Depending on the CMS you’re using, there are tools to help you with your on-page optimization efforts. There’s no need to count characters on your fingers and toes, for example. Most CMSes have modules, extensions, or plugins that count characters for you as you type or paste copy into fields that the search engines limit. (Description, page title, etc.)

Who’s In Charge of Your SEO?

Keep in mind that the search engines sometimes make decisions for you, and will display description copy based on the page content and SEO focus, rather than what you’ve entered into your description meta field. There’s no appeal process that I know of, or any way to override the search engines’ choices. An annoyance to be sure, but overall it’s a good thing, as it helps to limit the black-hat tactics that were prevalent in the early days of search marketing and SEO.

Site-wide Considerations

Though not strictly a part of on-page optimization, ensuring that your site is mobile friendly and fast-loading are both important factors in how well you will rank. There are various tools available, including some excellent free tools from Google, that will help you fine tune your site on both of these scores, but at the very least you should begin by reviewing how quickly your site loads and how well your content displays on various devices – new and old, big and small, Mac or Windows or iOS or Android.

Technical vs. Creative: Who Should Manage On-Page SEO?

“Good fences make good neighbors.” That is a line from Robert Frost’s early 20th century poem “The Mending Wall,” and it’s also a relevant philosophy when determining who’s responsible for your on-site SEO.

“Good fences make good neighbors.”

That is a line from Robert Frost’s early 20th century poem “The Mending Wall,” and it’s also a relevant philosophy when determining who’s responsible for your on-page SEO.

Whoa — sounds like quite the leap, right? Not really. Frost’s poem is about two neighbors who, despite having no livestock or overhanging trees, meet each year to repair a stone wall that separates their properties. One neighbor implores the other to give up their annual ritual, while the other simply repeats,

“Good fences make good neighbors.”

The full meaning of Frost’s poem is up for interpretation. The neighbors carry out their task of reinforcing the barrier between them. But in doing so, they collaborate and work together. They meet at an agreed upon boundary and debate without conflict. Then they go on, maintaining their separate lives, one as a pine tree grower and the other as an apple farmer.

How does this apply to your website’s on-page SEO? Read on, and I’ll explain.

SEOs and Content Creators: Farmers of Different Crops

Farming isn’t just a career path — it’s a lifestyle choice. You can draw many general similarities between farmers, such as they love working outdoors, they enjoy living in the country and they like to work with their hands. They appreciate the cycles of growth and harvests. They are experts at monitoring, analyzing and adapting to produce the most bountiful crops.

Similar things can be said about people who work in SEO. They’re tech savvy and prefer constantly evolving, fast-paced environments. They enjoy the rush of earning high-ranking search results. They tend to be balanced creatively and analytically; they don’t shy away from complex data, yet they’re artistic enough to understand how websites, social media pages and other online assets could be made more engaging for visitors.

Look closer, though — especially at SEO marketers and webpage content creators — and they are far from mirror images.

Multiple Niche Keywords: Taking On-Page SEO to the Next Level

Building your webpage content to target multiple niche keywords is more challenging than writing hyper-focused articles and blog posts, but it’ll take your semantic SEO to the next level.

Writing for multiple niche keywords is essential to ranking well in today's context-based semantic search algorithms. Until four years ago, Google’s search algorithm gave preference to webpages built around similar-but-different keywords. This approach was good for SEO, but ultimately led to websites with bloated site maps and repetitive content.

Then Google’s Hummingbird update introduced semantic search to its algorithm. The concept of semantic search is simple — rather than determine relevance by connecting keywords, the updated algorithm determined relevance by evaluating broader context. Focusing on user experience became more important than keyword terms.

That said, building your webpage content to target multiple niche keywords is often more challenging than writing hyper-focused articles and blog posts. Read on to learn more about how to target multiple niche keywords to take your SEO to the next level.

Which Niche Keywords Belong Together?

The first step is determining which niche keywords should be targeted using the same page.

First, write down a few questions that are relevant to each of your best keywords. If you owned a paint business, examples might include, “What is the best outdoor paint?” or “What is the cost of painting a house?”

Next, choose one of these questions and plug it into Google. You will likely see a featured snippet – a brief but fleshed-out answer to your search query – above the search results. Below that, you’ll also see a section called “People also ask.” This is where you’ll do most of your research to find the best collection of keywords to target.

Which Keywords are Most Effective?

First, open a keyword analytics tool like Moz or SpyFu. Then, one by one, plug each question from the “People also ask” section into your keyword tool. Look for keywords with favorable combinations of high volume and less competition. Keep an ongoing list of your winners. Better yet, compile them in an Excel sheet.

Dig Deeper

Click a keyword term in the “People also ask” section, and you’ll get another featured snippet with more related questions. Analyze these keywords just as you did previously, and repeat this process as many times as you’d like. Each new set of questions offers the chance of finding a low-competition keyword term that could bring loads of traffic to your website.

Also, keep an eye on featured snippets for each question you click on. Eventually, you might find snippets that seem vague or unhelpful. When this happens, it means Google’s algorithm can’t find a website from which to pull a suitable answer. Keep track of which of your analyzed keyword terms have weak review snippets. You’ll have a much easier time scoring high search rankings with these keywords later.

Sort Your Keywords

This step is easy. Look through your keyword list and sort out your terms according to topic. The simplest way to do this is to start with broad categories, then get more focused. To revisit our earlier example of owning a paint shop, you could start by sorting everything into either “indoor” or “outdoor” categories.

7 Principles for Redesigning Your Website (Without Hurting Your SEO)

Before you start rebuilding your site, it is important to sit down and consider how the redesign will impact your SEO. Here are seven principles to keep in mind throughout the redesign process.

Tom Marin blog website design illustrationIt is easy for any website to become unwieldy and difficult to manage, both for the webmaster and the visitor. As your business grows and evolves, your site must adapt, but with everything else going on your company, you might simply add new pages in a fairly haphazard manner. Over time, your site can become clunky and dated. While some websites can simply be tweaked, many times a complete redesign is the better option.

Before you start building your new site, however, it is important to sit down and consider how the redesign will impact your SEO. Anticipating issues and designing solutions is always better than trying to fix problems after they occur. Here are seven principles to keep in mind throughout the redesign process.

1. Site Structure
Your site’s structure, or the way it is laid out, is a very important part of SEO. One of the biggest mistakes people make during a redesign is to reduce the number of pages. By all means, get rid of pages that have thin content or unfixable structural issues, as well as those that duplicate better, higher-quality content. For the most part, though, it is better to keep those pages and set up 301 redirects to the new and improved pages.

2. Domain
Changing your website domain can hurt your website’s search engine rankings unless you plan a strategy in advance. If you don’t migrate your old website to the new one all at once, then you’ll have similar or identical content in two places so search engines will likely ignore the new duplicated webpages. The best approach is to hide the new website using the “noindex” meta tag until you’re ready to flip the switch. Then make sure to 301 redirect all of the old webpages to the new webpages on the new domain. This will ensure you don’t lose your webpage rankings during the migration.

3. Backlinks
Backlinks, or links from other websites to yours, are the lifeblood of your SEO. They show Google that yours is a relevant, important site that other websites respect. Yet other webmasters are not likely to search through their links and manually change them to point to your new website. This means that their links to your old site will result in the dreaded 404 Page Not Found errors. This provides a poor user experience and drags down your search rankings.

You can overcome this issue by following the guidelines set out in Site Structure, above. Make sure that all the old pages have a permanent 301 redirect. Use your web analytics and Google Webmaster Tools to search for any remaining 404 errors, and correct them as you find them.

4. On-Page SEO
On-page SEO remains just as important as ever after your redesign. Take the opportunity to thoroughly audit any pages you are keeping, paying close attention to Title tags, Meta descriptions, headers (h1, h2, h3, etc.), and of course the content on the page. When creating new pages, make sure they are rich in useful, authoritative content and 100 percent focused on the keywords you’re trying to rank for in the search engines. Also pay attention to your internal linking structure, making sure that it is clear, logical, and easy to follow.

5. Off-Page SEO
Off-page SEO refers to all the things that show Google that your site is worth visiting, such as the number of websites linking to your website. While you don’t have much direct control over these factors, planning for them is the same as it was for your previous website. Create high-quality content that people want to read and share, use interesting headlines to convince them to click, and make it easy for people to share your content via social sharing buttons.

6. Duplicate Pages
A lot of duplicate content on your website can hurt your SEO, so be sure to avoid it. If the duplicate pages are not necessary from a usability standpoint, then the best option is to use a 301 redirect to force all the traffic to the correct page. If the duplicate pages are necessary, then use the rel=”canonical” tag to explicitly tell search engines which page to rank in their results.

7. Theme, Colors, and Other Bells and Whistles
A website redesign is a great opportunity to change your website’s look and feel. In general, changes in colors and other aspects of the site’s design do not affect SEO. However, major changes in page layout and content could have an impact. To minimize these effects, try to redirect existing pages to new pages that have the same overall “purpose,” and roughly the same balance of text to images.

Redesigning your website does not have to mean losing your SEO. Take the time to map out your existing site and develop a plan for the redesign, and you should see only minimal impacts from the changeover.

Want more SEO tips? I created a simple checklist that walks you through specific actions you can take to improve your search engine rankings and traffic. Click here to get my SEO Checklist