Business development 7 April 2016

A guide to on-page optimisation for micro firm owners: Part two

meta description
If content makes sense to a human, it will probably make sense to search engines as well

In the second part of this guide to making the most of your content to drive traffic to your website, Business Advice SEO expert Paul Simms explains everything you need to know about meta descriptions, link structures and heading tags in six handy tips.

(1) Make use of the meta description to encourage clicks

A meta description is an HTML attribute which gives the search engines a brief description of the content on a web page. These descriptions are predominately used in search engine result pages as the snippet of information underneath the title link and URL. It should be no longer than 156 characters and unique on every page.

The attribute no longer influences your ranking position in the same way that the title tag does, however you should use this as an opportunity to encourage users to click on your listing. Be clever with the language you use and make sure that your meta description is better and more enticing than your closest competitors – you could benefit from more search traffic even if they rank higher than you.

(2) Use heading tags appropriately

Heading tags or HTML header tags are used to differentiate headings and sub-headings from the rest of the content on a page. The tags range from <H1> to <H6>, with H1 being the most important and H6 being the least.

As with the page title, the H1 tag has long been considered one of the most important on-page elements to optimise, with the others being progressively less important.

Every page on your site should have one single, unique H1 tag. The H1 tag should be descriptive of the page content and if appropriate contain the primary keyword. This will not only help increase relevance from search engines but it will help re-enforce to users what the content is about and that they are in the right place.

However, be sure to use these in moderation. There’s no point stuffing multiple keywords into the heading tags in an attempt to increase relevance to search engines.

(3) Implement a clean, search engine friendly URL structure

Your website URLs should follow a simple, easy to follow format that make it clear to users where they are and what the content is about. A URL that contains keywords is far better than one that contains file names or lots of seemingly random letters and numbers.

I recommend creating short, descriptive URLs that follow the sites navigation structure and ensuring that irrelevant non-descriptive folders such as /category/, /index/, /show/ etc are removed.

If you don’t know where to start, here is a simple structure to follow:

Yourdomain.com/category-keyword/subcategory-keyword/primary-keyword.html

Rand Fishkin from MOZ posted a great article last year with 15 SEO best practices for structuring URLs that can provide a detailed breakdown of how to structure URLs, while this SEO cheat sheet for the anatomy of a URL is also recommended reading.

(4) Don’t get too hung up on keyword density

Keyword density is the percentage of times a keyword/phrase is counted on a web page vs. the total number of words on the page.

It is not something I would recommend worrying too much about. You may read elsewhere that the keyword density for a well optimised page should be anywhere between one and three per cent. But in 2016 it is fair to say that keywords are not the be-all and end-all. Search engines are far better now at interpreting meaning and understanding overall relevance. With Google’s use of Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI), the search engine is capable of understanding what the content of your web page is about through the use of natural niche language for the subject and synonyms rather than exact match keywords.

Your content should all tie in together, the content on the page should be related to the page title and headings.

(5) Write for humans, not search engines

Write naturally for humans and forget about search engines. Create engaging, authoritative content that demonstrates your expertise.

Over 50 per cent of search queries consist of four or more words, therefore it is important to consider this when creating your content. People are asking questions so you need to make sure your content answers these questions.

Studies have shown that, on average, content that is over 2,000 words in length ranks higher in search engine results pages – but I always suggest that you create content to be as long as it needs to be. If you can cover a topic and answer the key questions in 400 words, only write 400 words – don’t write an essay if it’s unnecessary.

 (6) Create a strong internal linking structure

To help search engines crawl and understand all of the pages on your website you should ensure that you link to relevant pages from within the content of each page. Be descriptive and use keywords for these links – without overdoing it. This will help both search engines and users navigate through your site and understand what the content is about and how it is related to what they are reading.

If you are planning putting these tips into action and carrying out on-page optimisation soon just remember: if it makes sense to a human it will probably make sense to search engines as well.

Miss the first part of the series? Catch up here.

Paul Simms is sales and marketing director at Reflect Digital.

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