Get Started with On-Page SEO

For many years Search Engine Optimization was a mystery to most folks. SEO and marketing specialists tried all kinds of things like keyword stuffing, creating pages for every variation of a keyword, and creating multiple linked websites that basically offered up the same content. Some of these things actually worked, but the end result was a really messy web that search giants knew had to be cleaned up.

These days there is quite a lot of published information on this topic (even if a lot of it is still speculation) and Google, Mozilla, and Microsoft all contribute to the conversation often enough for us to know at least the fundamentals that need to go into each site. There are a few basics that I would like to cover here that anyone can do to make their website rank higher in any of the search engines.

Please keep in mind that there is no magic formula for ranking number one in Google. If your site only gets a few visitors each month, it is highly unlikely you will ever rank at the top of any search unless it is an extremely specialized search topic. However, if you follow these simple steps, you will be setting yourself up for success as they are strategies that are considered foundational and proven to work. There is no hocus-pocus here - just good solid information that every website can benefit from.

Let's dive in:

1. Include the essential meta tags.

Depending on your tech stack, the meta information can be located in a few different places. Most commonly it is located in the <head> of each HTML page. There are three essential meta tags:

<title>Page Title Here</title>
<meta name="description" content="The description of the page goes here - usually one or two sentences."/>
<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1">

Note: The meta keywords tag is essentially deprecated at this point and is of virtually no value. Please leave it out.

See this link for further reading on this topic:

2. Create a site map and submit it to both Google and Bing.

A sitemap is an XML file that lists all the pages of your website and gives search engine web crawlers a kind of "road map" of how to crawl it. It allows the crawlers to index every page of your website so you get maximum benefit from your content. If, for some reason, you do not want a search engine to index certain pages of your site, just leave it out of the sitemap.

A sitemap helps your site build trust with search engines because they can index more of your site. If you have specific content you really want to have out there and indexed, be sure it is in your sitemap!

Check out this link for more information on sitemaps:

3. Make sure all of your image tags in your markup have alt tags.

Alt text within an image tag provides search engines with context for images and allows them to index your images properly. If for some reason an image cannot be loaded, the Alt tag will be displayed in place of the image by the browser. Here is an example of well executed Alt text in an image tag:

<img src="root/img/cat.jpg alt="small black and white kitten staring at the camera" />

4. Make sure every page has one <h1> element.

The <h1> tag is usually used for the title of a page or post in a blog and should be the first header element on a page. The <h1> element is similar to the title which we covered above, but it is used for a different purpose. The title tag is shown in (SERPS) Search Engine Result Pages and tells the search engine what the page is about, while the <h1> element is shown to users when they are browsing a page and signals to them what the page is about. Each element serves a different purpose but both are important and should be optimized.

5. Create great content.

This is the best thing you can do to improve the SEO of your website. Better content draws more readers, and more readers improves the Authority of your website. The reason this works is through backlinks. Backlinks are links back to your website and its content. A lot of backlinks signals to search engines that your website is one that a large amount of people trust, so they create links back to its content. As a result, your website gains Authority and rises in its search result ranking because the search engines want to offer the best content to its users.

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