On-Site Web Design and Search Engine Optimization
In our Article 5 Ways to Improve Website Ranking, we discussed On-site SEO, also known as On-page SEO. In this article, I’ll cover more about it and discuss our SEO Checker tool, that gives you a free and instant score of your on-page SEO.
What does Google want? The search engine says its goal is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” and it considers many different on site SEO factors that affect rankings
Search engine optimization (SEO) uses web design to make every feature of your site easy to use, effortless to navigate and full of rich content. When you do, you help Google succeed, and Google ranks your site accordingly. Your SEO friendly on-site web development leads to higher conversion rates and more leads.
Understanding On-Site SEO vs. Off-Site SEO
On-site SEO, or on-page SEO, consists of many factors that tell what your site or page is about. Off-site SEO factors indicate your site’s domain authority, trust factor, and popularity. All are important.
An Advanced Web Rankings study found over 67 percent of clicks on search engine results pages are on the first five listings, and 95 percent of web traffic occurs on the first page. In other words, to get traffic to your site you need everything about your online presence to sizzle so you’re front page news.
Web designers work with these basic elements of on-page search engine optimization:
- Your page’s technical information
- Visual material
- User experience factors
- Titles and headings
We’ll cover off-site factors in our article Off-Site Elements that Improve Site Ranking, but these are the main search engine optimization components:
- Links from other sites
- Social media participation and mentions
- Outside marketing activities
What You Should Know About Titles
Your page title is the clickable link that appears on search engine results pages (SERPs) for desktop and mobile friendly web design. For example, we recently wrote about one of our favorite services, brand identity, the article is entitled 5 steps to creating a cohesive brand identity, and if you Google those words, here’s what you’ll see.
Content management systems automatically format your title, or you can set it yourself by surrounding the desired words with the <title> tag in your HTML.
Page titles matter in web design because they tell both people and search engines what your page is about. If you click on the above result, you’ll find an article about exactly what the title promises. Your title is the biggest, most obvious part of your SERP listing and one of the most important elements of on-page SEO. When users look at SERPs, most of them scan titles.
Once you’ve clicked on it, the title will turn purple so when you search again you can remember where you’ve been.
Page titles appear in other important places. You’ve probably conducted a search where you’ve left tabs open to compare several items. Your page title stays on tabs to let users know what’s on each.
Good titles improve conversion rates and attract leads.
If you share your page on social media, the platform you use will import the title and description from your site.
If there are external or internal links to your page, the web designer or person creating them will often use the page title to create the link. For example, if I were linking to the article 5 Steps to Creating a Cohesive Brand Identity, I would use the title when I created the link.
A good title grabs attention and entices the reader to click. Be as accurate and concise as possible and use your keywords close to the beginning. Your title should be between 50 and 60 characters long, with that count including spaces between the words.
Each page needs its own, unique title. While you want titles to get user attention, don’t make them vague or so creative it’s hard to tell what your page is about. Use as few words as possible so searchers see what they’ll find at a glance.
Have you ever clicked on a webpage that has what looks like an endless amount of text and felt overwhelmed? You scroll and scroll, and before long the words blur together. Nothing stands out. Unless that’s the only possible source of information, most people hit the back button.
If that’s what your page looks like, most users will leave and your ranking will drop.
Your title entices users to click on your page, and once they do you only have a few seconds to convince them to stay. Headings tell visitors immediately whether they are where they want to be.
Like the title, headings should be brief and descriptive. If it makes sense to use keywords in your headings, do so, but not at the expense of readability.
Headings break up the text to make it user-friendly. This article has a lot of text, but if you didn’t want to read the whole thing, you could easily locate just the information you were looking for.
The main reason headings are important to on-page search engine optimization is because they improve the user’s experience with your site. Website developers use them because when people see well-written text broken into manageable chunks, they are more likely to stay and read it.
Search engines evaluate web design text much like users do. They look at headings to see what your page is mainly about. For on-site optimization, give them what they’re looking for.
Header Tags and Web Design
People get confused when website developers and SEO experts start talking about header tags. When you start researching search engine optimization it looks intimidating to see discussions on where to put your <H1>, <H2>, <H3> and so on.
Your title should always be your H1, then think of the rest of your page like an outline. The structure of this article is something like this.
- On-Site Factors that Affect SEO <H1>
- On-Page Web Design and Search Engine Optimization <H2>
- Underneath you’ll see body text about this heading. Body text doesn’t get a header tag.
- Understanding On-Site vs. Off-Site SEO <H3>
- Here’s where you’ll find an explanation on the difference between the two.
- What You Should Know About Titles <H3>
- This section tells you what titles are, why they’re important and what they should include. It carries the same weight and importance as the previous heading, so it’s still an H3.
Just like when you create an outline, if your content is broken down into additional sub-sections, you can use H4, H5 and H6 to let search engines know they’re headings related to the one above.
Why On-Site SEO Is So Important
On-site elements are the ones over which you have the most control. You can’t always regulate what people share on social media, what sites link to yours or how users interact with your brand off-site. You have complete control over what web designers use on each page.
On-site is especially important to search engine optimization when it comes to local SEO ranking. When all elements are present and NAP is correct and consistent, you are much more likely to be on the first page of search engine results.
Compared to off-page techniques, on-page SEO is more time-effective. While search engine algorithms are constantly changing, some on-page elements will always be important. No matter how frequently Google updates signals, a well-written title will lure in leads and headings will make content readable for improved conversions.
On-page search engine optimization allows you to improve click-through rates, draw more organic traffic and leverage long tail keywords. Lay a foundation for improved rankings on-site so it’s easy for search engines to crawl and readers to process.
Important Web Design Elements for Ranking
You’ve lured users to your page with an irresistible title and given them an idea what’s on the page with headers, now you’ve got to keep their attention. Useful content is vital for SEO.
Keywords let search engine crawlers know what your page is about, but they should occur naturally. If the main topic of your page is kombucha, that word will occur repeatedly in your article and images.
Whether users view your home page, product listing, blog or other pages, make sure your content is unique, fresh, engaging and a good length.
When web crawlers index pages, they look for duplicate content. It doesn’t help your ranking to recycle information you found on another site.
If it’s similar to the material listed somewhere else, search engines get confused. They can only choose one best result, and they don’t know which one to rank.
The more copies there are, the less visible each piece becomes. Google says scraped content provides no value and may be copyright infringement. Don’t post it if it’s not unique.
Engaging content makes a connection. Users can relate and they want to interact. It might offer a fresh perspective, helpful information, a desirable product or entertainment. Be relevant, tell a good story and make an emotional contact.
The more frequently you add content to your site, the more often search engines will come by to check it out. Googlebots are always looking for something new to index, so regularly added material is good for search engine optimization. Users also like fresh content, but always prioritize quality over quantity.
If users don’t find helpful information and search engines don’t see anything unique to index, your page has thin content. Make your page a comprehensive resource for your target audience instead. Search engines look at how many words are on your page and how long users stay to decide whether your content is thin or dense.
If you blog, we cover Blogging for People and Search Engines in a separate article.
Other Important Elements of SEO
The URL is what you type into your browser bar. Keep them short and structure them to include keywords if possible.
A meta description is the text that appears on SERPs underneath your title and URL. They matter for on-page SEO because, like your title, they serve as a preview for what’s on your page and entice users to click.
Meta descriptions used to be limited to 160 characters including spaces. Last year that length grew to 275. If you make them too short you won’t provide the reader with enough information. Run over the limit and Google will chop off your meta description and end it in ellipses… Maximize click-through rates by including your keywords, infusing them with urgency and concisely presenting your page’s value to the user.
Alt tags describe images. When search engines encounter a photo or graphic, they don’t “see” it like people do. Alt tags are HTML elements that explain what’s there. If your page is about soccer balls and you have a photo that serves as a visual aid, your alt text should say, “soccer ball.”
Alt tags also help people with disabilities like visual impairment. Search engines use alt text to decide the topic of content around your image. Use your focus keywords in alt text where appropriate.
Security is important to ranking, so make sure you have an SSL certificate. Google said in 2016 it would start marking websites non-secure when they are HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol) instead of HTTPS (hypertext transfer protocol secure). This doesn’t mean your site has to be completely rewritten, it has to do with the way data is transmitted. Talk to your website developer about whether or not your data is currently encrypted when it’s transferred. Last year 65 percent of domains that ranked for high-volume keywords were HTTPS.
Internal links connect users with other information on your site and help search engines understand what it’s about. Here’s an example of an internal link to our article, How Load Speed Can Make or Break SEO.
Speaking of speed, Google includes site speed as one of the signals in ranking algorithms. Faster sites improve the user experience and reduce operating costs. Speed has impacted search engine ranking for desktop since 2010, and mobile friendly web design becomes factor in July of this year. If your pages are only built for desktop, it’s time for a website redesign.
Does your website have the technical elements, visual material, UX design and strong content it needs to rank on the first page?
Is your website optimized for users and search engines or do you need a website redesign?
Spade Design has created a tool that lets you know for sure.
Try our Instant SEO checker for free expert advice on how on-page SEO can improve your website today. Just give your URL, and the keyphrase you want it to rank for and see how you’re site is performing. If all of the on-page SEO factors are done, and you still aren’t ranking, then this is probably a sign that you need to start working on Offsite SEO- or contact us for expert help.