Unfortunately there is no absolutely clear cut answer when people ask how do I build the perfectly optimized web-page. However, there are elements of best practice that we can draw from and constantly update to help us get close to such a goal. In this post, I’m going to share best practice recommendations for achieving on-page and keyword-targeted “perfection”, or something close to it. As with all things SEO, I suggest constant testing and refinement.
The Pefectly Optimized Page
(Example for the keyword phrase Chocolate Biscuits)
Chocolate Biscuits John’s Bakery
Meta Description :
John’s bakery chocolate biscuits are possibly the most delicious chocolate biscuits ever made
Chocolate Biscuits from John’s Bakery
_________________________chocolate biscuits ________biscuits____________________________________________
Page url: http://www. johnsbakery,com/chocolate-biscuits
*Using the keyword term/phrase as the very first words in the page title has the highest correlation to high rankings.
HTML Head Tags
Title -One of the the most important on-page keyword elements is the page title, it should always contain the keyword term/phrase as the first word/(s).Meta Description - although not used for rankings by any of the major engines, the meta description is an important place to use the target term/phrase due to the bolding that occurs in the visual portion of the search results. Usage has also been shown to help boost click-through rate, thus increasing traffic.Meta Keywords - Yahoo! is unique among the search engines in recording and utilizing the meta keyword tag for discovery, though not technically for rankings. However, with Bing taking over Yahoo! Search, the last remaining reason to employ this tag is now obsolete.Meta Robots - although not necessary, this tag should be sure NOT to contain any directives that could potentially disallow access by the engines.Rel=”Canonical” - the larger and more complex the site (and the larger/more complex the organization working on it), the more I recommend employing the canonical URL tag to prevent potential duplicates or unintentional, appended URLs from creating a problem for the engines and dividing up potential link juice.Other Meta Tags - meta tags like those offered by the DCMI or FGDC seem compelling, but currently provide no benefit for SEO purposes with the major search engines and therefore, add unnecessary complexity and often slow download speeds.
URLLength - Shorter URLs appear to perform better in the SERPS and are more likely to be copied/pasted by other sites, shared and linked to.Keyword Location - The closer the targeted keyword(s) are to the domain name, the better. Thus, site.com/keyword outperforms site.com/folder/subfolder/keyword and is the most recommended method of optimization (this is by no means a massive benefit to overall ranking)Subdomains vs. Pages -I already discussed that despite the slight URL benefit that subdomains keyword usage has over subfolders or pages, the search engines’ link popularity assignment algorithms tilt the balance in favor of subfolders/pages rather than subdomains.Word Separators - Hyphens are still king of keyword separators in URLs, despite promises that underscores will be given equal prowess, the inconsistency with other methods makes the hyphen a clear choice. This definitely should not apply to root domain names, where separating words with hyphens is never recommended (e.g. www.johnsbakery.com.com is a far better choice than www.johns-bakery.com).Number of Keyword Repetitions - It’s simply impossible to pinpoint exactly the optimal number of times to include a keyword term/phrase on a page, but this simple rule has served me well for a long time – 2-3X on short pages or 4-6X on longer pages and never more than makes sense in the context of the copy. keyword stuffing is useless and will be penalised by the search engines.Keyword Density - Although a complete myth as an algorithmic component, keyword density nonetheless still perplexes the sharpest of SEO minds. While it is true that more use of a keyword term/phrase can potentially improve targeting or ranking, there’s no doubt that keyword density has never been the formula by which this relevance has been measured.Keyword Usage Variations - Long thought to influence search engine rankings has been given to the thought that varied keyword usage throughout a page can help with content optimization and optimization in general, nevertheless it is actually only worth a small amount of effort. I recommend employing at least one or two variations of a term and possibly splitting up keyword phrases and using them in body copy as well / instead.H1 Headline - The H1 tag has long been thought to have great importance in on-page optimization. Recent studies however, has shown that it has a very low correlation with high rankings – near zreo in fact ! Despite this evidence, correlation is not causation and therefore for semantic and SEO reasons, I still advise proper use of the H1 tag, as the headline of the page and preferably, employment of the targeted keyword term/phrase.H2/H3/H4/Hx - Even lower in importance than the H1, these tags appear to carry little or no SEO value whatsoever.Alt Attribute - The alt attribute, long thought to carry little SEO weight, has been shown to have quite a robust correlation with high rankings in studies. Therefore I strongly advise the use of a graphic image/photo/illustration on important keyword-targeted pages with the term/phrase employed in the alt attribute of the img tag.Image Filename - Since image traffic can be a substantial source of site traffic, image file names appear to be valuable for this as well as natural web search. I suggest using the keyword term/phrase as the name of the image file uploaded.Bold/Strong - Using a keyword in bold appears to carry near or no amount of SEO weight at all, and thus it’s suggested as a best practice to use the targeted term/phrase at least once in bold.Italtic/Emphasized - Surprisingly, italic/emphasized text appears to have a similar to slightly higher correlation with high rankings than bold/strong and thus, I suggest its use on the targeted keyword term/phrase in the text where appropriate.Internal Link Anchors - No research has yet to find that internal anchors are picked up or even counted by search engines.HTML Comments - Don’t bother ! Simple.
Internal Links & Their Location within Site ArchitectureClick-Depth - My recommendation is that the more competitive and challenging a keyword term/phrase is to rank for, the higher it should be in a site’s internal architecture and so, the less clicks from the home page it takes to reach that URLNumber/Percentage of Internal Links - More linked to pages tend to attain higher rankings. For competitive terms it may be beneficial to link to these pages from a greater number of pages on the site.Links in Content Vs Permanent Navigation - It appears that Google and the other engines are doing more to recognize location on the page as an element of link consideration. Therefore, employing links to pages in the body content, rather than in permanent navigation can potentially provide some benefit. However, Google only counts the first link to a page that they see in the HTML.Link Location in Sidebars & Footers - Recent patent applications, search papers and experience from SEO practitioners suggests that Google may be strongly discounting links placed in the footer and to a lesser degree, in the sidebars of pages. So, if you are utilising a link in a permanent navigation, it’s more beneficial, for SEO purposes to use the top navigation – above the content.Keyword Location - I advise that important keywords should be featured in the first few words (50-100, maximum) of a page’s content. The search engines certainly appear to have some preference for pages that employ keywords sooner, rather than later.Content Structure - Some practitioners swear by the use of particular content formats for SEO, but I certainly have not seen any credible data suggesting these structures hold any value for higher search engine rankings and thus feel that whatever works best for the content and the visitors is likely ideal.
Why Don’t We Always Obey These Rules?
The truth is that in the process of creating great web content, we sometimes forget, sometimes ignore and often intentionally disobey the best practices I’ve laid out above. On-page optimization, while certainly important, is only one piece of a larger rankings pie: See below;
It most certainly pays to get the on-page, keyword-targeting pieces right, but on-page SEO, in my opinion, follows the 80/20 rule very closely. If you get the top 20% of the most important pieces (titles, URLs, internal links) from the list above correct, you will gain 80% of the value possible from on-page ranking optimization.
Best Practices for Ranking #1
Perhaps not surprisingly to experienced SEOs, the truth is that on-page optimization doesn’t necessarily rank first in the quest for top rankings. In fact, a list that walks through the process of actually getting that first position would look something more like the following:
- Accessibility - content that can’t be seen or accessed cannot even be indexed. Thefore crawl-ability is foremost on this list.
- Content - you need to have compelling, high quality material that not only attracts interest, but compels visitors to share the information. Making your content go viral is possibly the most important and valuable factor in the ranking equation because it will produce the highest link conversion rate.
- Basic On-Page Elements - getting the keyword targeting right immediately is the most important element (titles, URLs, internal links) providing a big boost in the potential ability of a page to perform well in the SERPS. All good SEO should start on a strong keyword strategy. The experience provided by a website strongly influences the links and citations it will earn, as well as the conversion rate and browse rate of the traffic that does visits.
- Marketing - A terrific powerful marketing campaign has the power to attract far more links than content may deserve, and though this might seem unfair, it’s a principle on which all of capitalism has functioned for cenuriest. Spreading the word is often just as important (or more so) than being right, being honest or being valuable – unfortunately -just look at the global politics and it’s politicians !
- Advanced On-Page Optimization - applying all of the above with careful attention to detail certainly isn’t useless, but it is, for better or worse, at the bottom of this list for a reason; in my experience it doesn’t add as much value as the other techniques described above.
I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences about the specific recommendations above and the general concept of the “perfectly” optimized page.