As you now know how to do keyword research and tap the target audience, it’s time to learn the on-page SEO so that you can create pages that answer the searchers’ queries.
On-page SEO is multidimensional and it is a lot more than just creating content. What it includes other than content creation are things like meta tags, schema etc. which are somewhat technical in nature but for you, we have explained everything in layman’s terms so that you can easily master the on-page SEO. So, let’s begin with on-site optimization and first understand the concepts of creating content.
Utilizing keyword research
In chapter 3, you learnt about the various ways through which your target audience searches. Now, let us utilize the keyword research learning and put that into practice. Here’s how you can begin with utilizing your keyword search:
- The first step is to identify the keywords which are similar in topics and have somewhat the same intent from the user’s point of view. Group these identified keywords as this would help you in the creation of pages.
- You can also evaluate the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for every keyword or the group of keywords to gauge what type or format of content should you be creating for that particular keyword or the group of keywords. While doing this, it is better to cross-check if:
- The pages already ranking have lengthy content or short and crisp content?
- The pages already ranking have video content or image files?
- The pages already ranking have content written in paragraphs, sorted in bullet points or displayed in lists?
Once you have analyzed this for the respective keyword or group of keywords, you should ask yourself what unique value will you be offering on your respective page(s) so that they can be better than the pages which are already ranking for your targeted keyword.
There’s no doubt that on-page SEO allows you to convert your research into appealing content that your audience will like but you have to beware of the low-value tactics which may harm your website rather than benefiting you.
Let’s know the low-value tactics which may adversely impact your pages.
Avoid these low-value tactics
The core purpose of your website’s content should be to answer searchers’ queries, help them in understanding your website’s purpose and educate them through your platform. You should never consider just being on the higher rankings of the search results pages. Rather, your content ideation and entire strategy should focus on helping the searchers.
The SEOs should be well-aware of the low-value tactics which may badly impact your site’s reputation. Let us now go through these low-value tactics in detail so that you can avoid them.
1. Duplicate content
“Duplicate” content is the content that lacks uniqueness. If the content is shared between different domains or between different pages of a single domain, it will be called duplicate content. “Scraped” content is one step further. It refers to the unauthorized use of content placed on other websites. Websites who scrape content, take the content from other domains and paste it as it is on its own platform. Such kind of content lacks any original content or value.
However, there are at times some legitimate reasons when you want to consume a duplicate content from your internal pages or from an external source. In such a case, Google recommends you to use a rel=canonical tag so that you can point the original source of the content. The rel=canonical tag will be discussed later in our SEO course for beginners. For now, you have to understand that your on-page strategy needs to have its own unique content planned for your website pages so that it is able to earn its own value in the search engine space.
A common myth related to duplicate content penalty
Google doesn’t penalize for duplicate content. Take an example, you are a news publication website and you pick a news story from an associated Press. The same story is then published on your website. Now, in such a case, Google won’t take any manual action and penalize you. Rather, Google will filter the duplicate results for the same piece of content from the search results and will utilize the canonical URL to show it in the search results. Thus, it will hide the duplicate results. Google doesn’t penalize the results which have been hidden through its filtering. It is rather an effective filtering to improve the searcher’s experience and show him only one result for that piece of content.
2. Thin content
For different topics, websites usually have their own unique pages. The creation of such pages has been a part of content strategy for many years now. It allows the websites to target all the possible keywords for some highly specific queries, thus creating higher chances of ranking on the 1st page.
Let us take an example. You are into a crockery selling business and for your website, you have created individual pages for plates, cups, saucers, coffee mugs etc., despite the existence of these pages interpreting nothing unique.
Manier times it is seen that websites create different pages regardless of the core category being nothing different. Such pages do not add value to the website and even may reside duplicate or no content at all. These are thin content pages and they do not offer any additional value to the visitor.
This problem of thin content is often seen on the websites having region-based/local businesses. Such local business websites usually create multiple content pages for each region or city, from where they desire to get the visitors. Such “geo pages” usually have either duplicate or somewhat same content but only the location name remains unique. These pages do not offer any additional unique value to the visitor.
Such tactics were not useful for the visitors and even then the websites continued doing it for quite a long time. And the reason was that Google was not as strict at that time as it is today. The websites continued to create lots of thin content pages, having low-quality content, until Google came up with its Panda update in 2011.
The effect of the Panda algorithm update was such that it started penalizing the sites with low-quality pages, thus allowing more quality pages to rank higher on SERPs. Post Panda update, Google has been consistently working on improving its capability to promote high-quality content and depose the low-quality content.
Google has made it clear that websites should focus on publishing topic-based comprehensive pages rather than just dumping multiple low-value pages for the keyword variations.
3. Keyword stuffing
Keyword stuffing is another low-value tactic which adversely impacts your website’s reputation. If you place a keyword numerous times and try to stuff it in a piece of content, it will not educate the user. Instead that page of your site will lose search engine’s credibility.
There is no doubt that Google considers keywords as well as related concepts to rank a site’s page, but keyword stuffing isn’t appreciated at all. There are parameters other than keywords which derive a page’s value.
It is essential that a page that you create looks valuable to a visitor. The content should look natural and keywords and phrases should be used naturally in the sentences. In short, your content should educate/inform your visitor about your product/service and shouldn’t appear as if it is written by a robot.
Here’s an example of the keyword stuffing method which was quite common a few years back. Let us assume that the target keyword is “Sony speakers”. So here’s how a paragraph stuffed with this keyword will look alike:
For those who wish to buy Sony speakers, here is the deal. Buyers of Sony speakers can now take advantage to buy these entertaining sony speakers at low cost. Here, on our website, you will get the best deal on Sony speakers. So, don’t wait. Buy Sony speakers at a cheaper price.
Now, in the above paragraph, you might have noticed how the keyword “sony speakers” was stuffed in the lines just for the sake of increasing the keyword density. There was no literal sense in the paragraph and all the lines seem to be very robotic. Keyword stuffing like this can lead to a terrible user experience. Therefore, it is necessary that your site’s content looks very natural and has some literal meaning for the users to understand your website or its offerings.
Search engine guidelines emphasize that your website should show the same content to the crawlers which you would show to a human. It underlines that you shouldn’t hide the text behind HTML as this would restrict people from viewing the content.
Cloaking happens when you show different pages for a single URL to search engines and users. It could be done for both positive as well as negative reasons. It could be positive if you’re doing it to improve the user’s experience, however, if you do it just to bluff the search engines, it may have a negative impact on your website.
5. Auto-generated content
Auto-generated content is considered to be one of the most offensive types of low-quality content. Such kind of content is created to manipulate the search rankings and is not intended to help the users.
The pieces of auto-generated content are programmatically created to increase content density on the pages, thus augmenting the chances of achieving higher search rankings. The content which is auto-generated may appear senseless to the readers. In auto-generated content, keywords are placed with some other words so that the sentences appear natural. However, it is very easy to recognize as these sentences appear slightly different from the sentences written by humans.
The advancements in machine learning are allowing the websites to create auto-generated content which looks quite sophisticated and nearest to human written content. It is expected that with consistent improvements in machine learning, the creation of auto-generated content will become easier. To counter increasing tactics of auto-generated content, Google has specified its quality guidelines on automatically generated content. These guidelines underline the auto-generated content tactics which websites need to avoid, otherwise, they could be penalized.
What is the alternate way to rank higher on search results?
It is to be learnt that there is no magical potion which helps you to rank higher on the search results. Think from Google’s point of view once. Why is Google ranking the pages higher? It is because Google has evaluated that they are the most appropriate answers for the searchers’ queries.
The SEO practitioners need to think beyond the common concepts of SEO — spamming, duplicate content, broken links etc. They need to brainstorm on how their page can provide more value to the searchers than any other page for the same topic which is currently shown by Google on the SERP. Here’s how you can achieve higher rankings on search results:
- Start with identifying the keyword(s) for which you want your page to rank.
- Analyze the pages which are currently ranking higher on search engines for those keywords.
- Study those pages and their qualities.
- Create content for your page that looks more valuable than the already ranking pages.
You are very likely to earn Google’s rewards if you create pages which are multiple times better than those already ranking on search results. Pages with quality content attract a large number of audience and are very like to get an advantage over their competing websites on the SERPs. There is no doubt that good content takes efforts to be created, but it also rewards you with better organic rankings.
People often get confused with the word count for the pages. It is to be understood that there is no rule of thumb for word count on the pages. You should just be focusing on providing the users with answers which satisfy their intent. Some queries could be easily answered in 300 words while some queries may require elaborated descriptions which go beyond 1,000 words.
Smarter content evaluation
If your website is rich in content, you should spend time in evaluating which of its pages are able to bring a higher number of organic traffic and also converting fairly. Redevelop this content and place it on different platforms to attract more visitors. Also, you can analyze the content which is not able to bring traction on your website. Improve such non-performing content pieces to make them more valuable for the visitors. Rather than creating new content pieces, improving the existing ones could be a better strategy.
Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP): Attention drivers for local businesses
If you run a business which requires personally dealing with customers, it is recommended to display the name, address and phone number (NAP) of your business. This contact information should be accurate and highlighted prominently on your website. Also, your contact details need to be displayed consistently throughout your website. Usually, local business websites place this information on the header or footer, or on the contact us page. You can also mark up this information through local business schema. We will be discussing the utilization of schema and structured data in detail in the latter part of this chapter.
If your business operates at multiple locations, it is good to create unique and optimized pages for all the locations. Here’s an example, dhirenvyas.com is operational in the major cities of the United States, which includes Washington, New York and Los Angeles. So, for this, the website would create separate pages such as:
All these pages of the website will be optimized for its specific location and will also have its own unique content including things like the location, the products/services offered at the specific locations, the NAP for the location, customer testimonials etc.
If you have multiple outlets in a single location, consider implementing a store locator widget which includes detailed information of each store like NAP, store video, hours operational, products or services offered at the location, social media links, driving directions, interactive map etc. This will allow customers to get more detailed information about your specific store and will increase the chances of conversions.
Local or National or International: Where does your business operate?
Your business has its own target region and therefore, you should know which type of SEO should you consider — local, national, or international. For e.g., a coffee shop needs to focus on local SEO as it wants customers to come from nearby areas or from the same city, however, a site like alibaba.com will focus on international SEO as it sells goods across the globe. Similarly, a particular country’s railway website will focus on national level SEO.
Optimizing your website largely depends on your audience’s presence, therefore, ensure that you focus on your visitors while crafting the content.
On-page SEO has a major role to play in ranking your website on the search engine results. Therefore, other than the content of your website, it also includes some effort consuming tasks which we will now discuss in this chapter. So, let’s walk through all these on-page to-dos (other than content), and learn how can you implement them on your website.
Other on-page optimizations you should learn
Let us now go through all the other important on-page elements which you should focus on, other than content.
Headers aka Header tags
Header tags are used to designate page headings through HTML. The main header tag is known as the H1 tag and is utilized as the page title. Here’s how it looks like:
<h1>Enter page title here</h1>
Other than the H1 tag, there are also sub-headings which are H2, H3, H4, H5 and H6. It is however not mandatory that you use all of these sub-heading tags on a page. You may keep in mind that to designate content from heading to sub-heading and to further categorize the content, you can hierarchize the header tags from H1 to H6 in the descending order, as per their importance.
For the main topic of the page, you should have a unique H1. This is usually the title of the page and is automatically created. You should use the page’s primary keyword or phrase within the H1 tag. Header tags represent how the content of your page is designated, therefore, do not give header tags on elements such as your site’s phone number, call to action button etc.
For e.g., if you have a page which talks Bentley Flying Spur luxury car, then its H1 tag could be <h1>Bentley Flying Spur</h1>. Its H2 tag could be <h2>Details about Bentley Flying Spur</h2>. Similarly, the H3 tag could be a little more specific about the car, such as <h3>Features of Bentley Flying Spur</h3>.
As you can see in the above example, the h1 tag highlights the main topic of the page, while the h2 becomes the sub-topic and denotes more specifically what the page is all about. And lastly, the h3 tag is more specific as compared to h2 tag and highlights that the page section is about the features of Bentley Flying Spur car.
Both search engines, as well as the visitors, can determine the outline of the page through the header tags that you give. Therefore, use header tags effectively and always keep in mind that you’re creating the content for a reader/visitor. This will give you better clarity on how to utilize these header tags.
Remember we discussed in chapter 2 about the significance of having a site which is easily crawlable by the crawlers? Here, we would like to emphasize again that the internal linking structure is one of the most crucial elements of a website’s crawlability. Linking to other pages on your site ensures that the search engine spiders are easily able to access your site’s pages, help visitors to easily navigate through your site and most importantly, pass link equity to other pages on your website.
It is an accepted truth in the SEO space that internal linking holds higher importance, however, as far as its execution is concerned, there could be certain confusions in the minds of SEO learners. So, let’s go through all the related aspects of internal linking and try to understand more about internal linking.
How’s your site’s link accessibility?
A site may have links that need a click action for a user to go to a different page. This could be a case wherein you have a navigation drop-down. In such a case, if the internal links of your site can only be accessed through such navigation paths, it could be impossible for the search engines to index the linked pages. Therefore, it is good to have direct links placed for the crawlers to crawl and index those pages.
Using anchor text
The text that you use to link to pages is called anchor text. SEOs preferably use anchor text to invite people to click on the text and route to its source link for seamless navigation from one page to another page. Here’s an example of HTML views of a hyperlink that has no anchor text and a hyperlink that has an anchor text.
- <a href=”https://www.dhirenvyas.com/“></a>
- <a href=”https://www.dhirenvyas.com/“>SEO Learning Site</a>
So, both direct link and anchor text link would appear like this on the live view:
The key advantage of using anchor text is that it notifies the search engines about the content of the destination page. For e.g., if we use anchor text “SEO Learning Site” on a page and link it to our website URL https://www.dhirenvyas.com, then the anchor text would indicate the search engines that the destination URL is a source where people can learn SEO. However, you need to be careful not to overdo the internal linking by stuffing keywords in the anchor text as it may appear to the search engines that your site is trying to manipulate the page ranking. It is therefore advisable to utilize anchor texts in the most natural manner.
Keep a check on link density
Google’s Webmaster Guidelines state that you should limit the count of links on a web page. It is more of a technical guideline and doesn’t fall under the quality guideline section. If you have placed numerous links on your website page, it may not directly penalize your website, however, it may have its influence on how Google discovers and assesses your site’s pages.
If there are higher number of links on a page, each link’s equity passed to the destination page will be lesser. After all, there is a limit to the number of equity a page can pass to the residing links.
Hence, it is always good to link only when it is necessary.
Other than passing authority from one page to another page, a link also allows users to navigate through your site’s page. Therefore, when you are internal linking for the search engines, you are also creating paths for the users to navigate. However, when the number of links are more, this could be very overwhelming for the visitors and may also weaken the authority of each link.
Here’s an example of how a user may feel when he comes across a page which is bombarded with links:
You are reading the SEO Guide, which is very helpful for SEO learners. You read about the basics of SEO in chapter 1, about crawling, indexing and ranking in chapter 2, keyword research in chapter 3 and here, in chapter 4, you’re learning about on-page optimization.
You noticed, the number of links in the above three lines are way too much. It is required that you intelligently decide the density of links required on a page. Also ensure that the URLs are not unnatural or their source lacks content (thin content pages). Focus on users’ easy navigation where you think it is worth deserving to create paths to go from one page to another.
Websites usually have to remove or rename many of its pages. However, when moving a page from one URL to another, it is very important that you redirect the old URL to its new location. If you have created a new page, replacing it with the old one, it will be good if you can incorporate internal links in the new page as well.
While doing redirections, make sure that you avoid a higher number of redirect chains. Google also emphasizes that you should avoid redirect chains. Make sure that the redirect chains are low, not more than 3.
Let us take an example:
An original content page had URL dhirenvyas.com/content1 and then, this URL was redirected to dhirenvyas.com/content2. After a year or two, we decided to move the second URL i.e. dhirenvyas.com/content2 to a new location which was dhirenvyas.com/content3.
Now here, over the time a redirect chain was developed as we did not directly redirect the old URL dhirenvyas.com/content1 to dhirenvyas.com/content3.
The ideal practise could have been moving dhirenvyas.com/content1 to dhirenvyas.com/content3 directly, and excluding the middle URL dhirenvyas.com/content2.
Images have a bigger role to play in on-page SEO. You should consider optimizing your website images effectively to gain the SEO advantage. If your site faces the problem of slow web pages, images could be one of its reasons. Always make sure that you compress all the images. Keeping images under 100 kb is recommended.
You may consider image compression options like image resizing, “save for web” and tools such as ImageOptim (Mac) or Optimizilla.
You can also utilize various image formats to optimize the images and improve the page speed. You may consider using a GIF in place of animation. Similarly, if you think that you can compromise on the high image resolution part, you can also test different compression settings for the JPEG files. If it is necessary for you to show an image in high image resolution, you can consider using PNG files. Likewise, if your image has a lot of colours consider going for PNG-24 and if your image lacks colors, consider using PNG-8 files. You can use this Google’s image optimization guide to know about the selection of image formats for your website.
There are also other ways wherein you can keep users on a semi-slow loading page through images that have colour box or low resolution version while rendering. This gives users a feeling as if the site is loading faster. We will discuss such optimizing techniques in detail in the next chapter.
It is very important for the e-commerce websites to optimize even the thumbnail images, otherwise the site may confront serious page speed issues. So, optimize the thumbnails and retain the visitors.
Alternative text (Alt text)
For better optimization of images, it is always recommended to provide the alt text for all the images that you upload on your site. By doing this, you will not only gain the advantage of hooking the visually impaired visitors who use screen readers to understand the images, but you will also be able to attract the search engine bots when they crawl your site. Through alt text, crawlers will be able to understand your images better.
Make sure that you do not stuff keywords for search engines. Rather, focus on keeping your alt descriptions very natural. Here’re two examples that will show you a difference between a bad and a good alt text description.
Here’s how a bad alt text looks like:
<img src=”sonyxperiamobile.jpg” alt=”sony mobiles, sony xperia mobile, sony mobile price”>
Now, here’s how an ideal alt text should be:
<img src=”sonyxperiamobile.jpg” alt=”The new Sony Xperia mobile phone with price details”>
Image sitemap submission
To allow Google to crawl and index your images easily, make sure that you submit an image sitemap in your Google Search Console account. This will allow the search engine to discover your images, which might have not been crawled and indexed.
Formatting to improve readability & ranking in featured snippets
It is possible that your page may have the best content written on a particular topic, but it is also very important that it is formatted properly so that the audience can read it. Here’re some of the essentials that you should consider while formatting your content to improve readability:
- Proper font size and color for better readability – If you plan to revamp the page aesthetics of your website or if you’re planning to start a new website altogether, make sure that the font size of the page is 16 points or above. This is recommended by Google as it reduces the need to pinch and zoom the mobile screen. Besides this, also make sure that the font color promotes readability and doesn’t merge with the page background. You can also refer to Google’s web accessibility fundamentals to know more information on the text.
- Use bullet points to list content – If your content has multiple lists that need to be highlighted separately, you can use bullet points. Bullet points help readers to easily find the information that they require.
- Use page headings – Segregating content using proper headings helps users to navigate the page. Especially, when the length of your page is too long, your readers may want to consume information from a particular section of that page.
- Use paragraph breaks – Readers usually have a tendency to read content which is proportioned into smaller paragraphs. If your site has text which doesn’t have any paragraph breaks, it may fail to drive a visitor’s attention. Remember, ‘white space’ is a friend of a reader, if you divide bigger paragraphs into smaller ones, the readers’ eyes will find the content more pleasing.
- Highlight text with bold & italics – If you want to emphasize on a particular phrase/sentence or want to make a phrase/sentence appear distinct from rest of your content, you may use the bold and italics formatting options. This can help you to highlight some of the most important points in your content.
- Other media inclusions – To further improve the quality of your content, you can include proper images, videos and other forms of widgets, wherever you feel including them would add value to the content.
Formatting your content not only pleases the readers, but also it also largely impacts your presence on the search results. If your page is formatted properly, it may earn the reward of ranking in the featured snippets, also known as “position zero”.
Here’s an example of content appearing on position zero:
To rank on position zero, you don’t have to do any special coding, neither you need to spend money. All you need to do is to gauge the intent of the visitors and format your page keeping the user in mind. If your content is of high quality, fulfils user’s intent and is formatted properly, you may achieve higher rankings on the search results.
Let’s take an example. A website is looking forward to publishing a comparison of two popular camera models, Sony A6000 and Sony A6500. Now, since the website is creating a comparison, it will be a great idea to include a table for the users to understand the difference between both the camera models easily. In the table, if both the camera models are shown in separate columns, users will be able to spot the differences very easily. If further categorization of tables is done, such as specifications, features, design etc., the page will become more informative and will help users to understand about both the models better.
Title tag is another important on-page SEO element and is placed inside the head tag of a page. This HTML component denotes the title of a particular page. Here’s an example:
<head> <title>Chargers – iPhone 7 Plus – Power & Cables – All Accessories</title></head>
It is necessary that each page of your site has its own unique and descriptive title tag. Content written in the title tag field appears in the search results, however, in some cases, Google might tweak the way a title tag is displayed in the search results.
Here’s how a title tag appears in the browsers:
Here’s how a title tag appears when you share a page link on external platforms:
The title tag is the key element that brings visitors to your website. As the title tag is the first glimpse of content visible to the searchers, it has to be engaging enough to attract the visitors. If your title tag looks interesting and is ranking higher, it may bring you a higher number of visitors. It won’t be wrong to say that SEO is not just about search engines, but it also includes the user experience.
How to write effective title tags?
Here’re the three key elements which can make your title tag appealing to the visitors as well as search engines:
- Use Keyword: You must include the targeted keyword in the title tag so that both search engines, as well as users, can have an idea about your web page. SEO experts suggest placing the core keywords at the beginning of the title tag. This not only increases the chances of clicks but also helps in ranking.
- Maintain Length: On search results, search engines show only a title tag’s initial 50–60 characters. If a given title tag exceeds in character count allowed on SERPs, “…” an ellipsis is displayed right where the title starts getting hidden. If you think that you are writing an appealing title tag which slightly exceeds than the given title tag limit, you may take the liberty to exceed by a few character counts. Although, the title tag will not be completely missed but you won’t be compromising on the quality part.
- Include Your Brand: Many websites also add their brand names in the title tags to increase brand awareness. For brands who have earned reputation over a period of time, this could be beneficial as users may find trust in their names, which could further lead to more clicks. Websites often place their brand name at the end of the title tag, however, for highly important pages such as the homepage, the brand name can be placed at the beginning as well. But make sure that your core keywords are also placed at the beginning for ranking purposes.
Meta descriptions are also an essential part of on-page SEO. The way title tags are used to communicate the search engine visitors about the topic of a page, meta descriptions are also used to inform the visitors about the page topic, but comparatively in more detail. In meta descriptions, you may highlight the key components of the page.
Similar to title tags, meta descriptions are also the HTML elements placed in the head tag. Here’s an example of meta description HTML:
<head> <meta name=”description” content=”Looking for best wedding photographers near you? Here’s the list of some expert wedding photographers in Sydney. Know wedding photography quotations, photo album catalogues etc.”/></head>
How to write an effective meta description?
Writing a meta description includes title tag writing techniques which we discussed in the previous section, however, it must be clear that Google doesn’t say that meta descriptions are a ranking factor like title tags.
But even if meta descriptions aren’t counted as a ranking factor, they may be very valuable and contribute to driving high click-through rate. Here’s what you should keep in mind while writing meta descriptions:
- Keep relevance in mind: It is required that the meta description is very relevant to the page’s content. It should be a summary of your key topic and should give the visitor a brief insight about what kind of information they are going to consume. It should be informative, however, at the same time, it should also not be revealing the key information as this would restrict the users from clicking on the link and visiting your website.
- Write within the character limits: The length of meta descriptions allowed on Google is 155 characters, therefore, it is better to sum up the meta descriptions under 155 characters. You may stretch up to 300 characters, if you think you need to elaborate more. However, only up to 155 characters would appear on the SERPs.
How to work on the URL structure of your website?
In this chapter, so far you’ve learnt how you can improve the on-page SEO of your website by including an effective content strategy, avoiding low-value tactics, using other effective measures such header tags, internal linking, image optimization etc. Now, in this section, you will understand how you can scale up your on-page optimization further by working on the URL structure of your website. So, let’s now learn how to name and organize the web pages through effective URL structuring.
Do you know what is the full form of URL? It is Uniform Resource Locator. A URL is a location or address for an individual piece of content available on web.
Similar to title tags and meta descriptions, URLs also appear on the SERPs and can impact the click-through rates. On one hand, the URLs play a key role in click-through rates for the visitors, while on the other, from search engines’ point of view they hold significant value as they are used to rank and evaluate the pages.
Let’s now learn what all URL elements should be focused to knit an effective URL structure for your website.
1. Have a clear page name
All the pages of your site are required to have their own unique URL so that search engines can display them in the search results. If you give your URL a clear name and structure, it can also help the visitors in knowing what the URL is all about. Here’s an example:
A bags & luggage accessories website, bags123.com has two URL options for their “gym bags” section. Which one of these URLs would you recommend their SEO expert?
First one, right? And why is it so? Because, the first URL highlights the page topic very well and has more CTR (click-through rate) value.
Although, URL is considered as a ranking signal but while naming the pages you should keep your audience in mind. How are they going to react when they see the URL? Will the URL give your audience a brief idea about the page category/content. Think and then take the decision.
2. Organize the pages
Websites may have multiple sections for various topics, product types or services etc. Make sure that you have listed pages under relevant folders. Here’s an example, a website chairstables123.com has listed ‘study tables’ (one of their products sold online) under the ‘office furniture’ section and here’s how the URL now looks like:
Rather, they should have listed ‘study tables’ under the ‘home furniture’ section. The ideal URL could have been:
It must be understood that other than the topics, folders also play a key role. In many websites, it is seen that people put date or year in the URL, or create folders which are year based. This practice could be okay for a news portal, but for websites which are into day to day business or create evergreen content, this may restrict the users from clicking on the links.
Here’s an example:
Now have a look at the above two URLs. The topic for which the page is created is very generic and evergreen i.e. “SEO for beginners”. However, in the first URL, the folder “2017” may hint visitors that the topic is outdated, even if the content on the page has continuously been updated over a period of time. The second URL looks perfectly fine.
By now, you must have understood how important it is for websites to rightly name the URLs and categorize them into right folders. This is not only helpful for the users, but also for the search engines.
3. Keep a check on URL length
URL length is another thing that SEO learners should be aware of. It is not at all necessary to release pages with lengthy URLs. Sources reveal that searchers prefer clicking on shorter URLs as compared to the longer ones.
If you give longer URL to a page, it will also be hidden on the SERPs with an ellipsis, just like title tags and meta descriptions. Keep the URL descriptive only when it is highly necessary. Remember, shorter URLs have a higher click rate.
4. Include keywords in URL
If you are targeting a specific keyword or phrase on your web page, ensure that you also include it in the URL. But while doing so, make sure that you don’t overdo it just for the sake of SEO. Another important thing you need to keep in mind is to avoid repeating the keywords in multiple subfolders. For e.g., a fictional insurance website, insurancebook.com has the following URL that includes folders and subfolders which are:
Now, this is a URL with keyword overuse and it may appear manipulative and spammy to the search engines and searchers. The best way to check for keyword usage in the URLs is simply by reading it keeping a searcher in mind. Check if the URL looks natural to you and would you be willing to click on the URL if you’re a searcher.
5. Consider Static URLs
URLs which have can be easily read by searchers are considered to be the best URLs. When creating URL(s), avoid including symbols, numbers and parameters. If your site already has dynamic URLs, you can use technologies such as ISAPI_rewrite (Microsoft) and mod_rewrite (Apache) to convert them into friendly URLs. Using these technologies, you can transform a URL like https://dhirenvyas.com/blog?id=1143 to https://dhirenvyas.com/seo-guide-for-beginners/.
6. Use hyphens to separate words (h3)
In some rarest cases, websites include symbols such as plus signs (+), underscores (_) etc. to separate two words of a URL. Many web applications fail to interpret such separators. Hence, to separate words, it is good to use hyphen (-). Also avoid typing words without any space as search engines cannot understand two words written in a URL without any space.
7. Local business websites should have geographic modifiers in URLs
A local business might avoid usage of geographic terms related to their service area or outlet thinking that search engines can find this on their own. But that’s not a correct assumption. Always include city names, region details etc. in your local business websites’ content, URLs, and other on-site assets. This not only conveys your presence to the customers but also allows search engines to locate your business and show it in the nearby local business searches.
8. Avoid case sensitive URLs
Many websites highlight the URLs in capital letters (uppercase) or they keep the first alphabet of the URL words in capital letter. This should be avoided. Rather than opting for URLs like bags123.com/Bags/Gym-Bags, it is better to write URLs in lowercase — bags123.com/bags/gym-bags.
You can ask your developers to fix issues related to mixed case URLs. Developers add a rewrite formula called .htaccess file. This automatically converts uppercase URLs to lowercase.
9. HTTP vs HTTPS: Which website protocol is good?
Often website owners are confused whether they should stick to http protocol or upgrade to https. So, the answer is “https”. Google recommends that websites should have the “https” protocol. This ‘s’ in https denotes ‘secure’. To activate https:// protocol, you need to take an SSL certificate from your hosting provider. SSL denotes Secure Sockets Layer and is used to encrypt data. This certificate ensures that whenever a searcher’s data is passed between browser and web server, it remains private. Since July 2018, the popular browser Google Chrome shows all the http sites as “not secure”. This may restrict searchers to visit a “not secure” badged website.
BONUS! HTTP/2 is the new sensation
HTTP/2 is one step advanced as compared to the traditional HTTP and HTTPS. It is more efficient to send resources from your server to the browser. Through the HTTP/2 upgrade, the “fetch and load” issues related to rendering path are countered effectively. Its adoption helps websites to increase their security and improve overall performance. Your website should have an HTTPS protocol to migrate to HTTP/2.
So, this was our detailed guide on on-site aka on-page SEO. Now that you have learnt the SEO 101 basics, crawling, indexing and ranking, keyword search and on-page SEO, it is time to learn technical SEO in the next chapter.