When you’re building a website for someone, the whole point is that it can be found on Google and other search engines.
And yet, I often get brought in after someone else has built a website to perform an SEO audit and find the missing pieces. Do you want to know something? I find the same missing pieces in most of the websites I review.
Get ahead of your peers and churn out higher-quality projects by following these 5 easy steps to improving on-page SEO.
Use Correct Heading Sizes
This came up a lot in a website I just audited. As you know, you’ve got 6 options for heading sizes – from H1 down to H6. Google looks at the H1 and views that as the main topic for the page. You should definitely include some target keywords or part of your keyphrase in it, but you should only have one.
That’s right – one H1 only on each website page. More than that can mess with what Google sees as the main “point” of your page and confuse their bots.
Your H1 should be your top headline and the largest font size. Then your H2s should introduce sections on the page, with H3-H6 nested under each H2. Think of it like a college term paper. You can have as many H2-H6s as you’d like on each page, but they need to be nested within the sections so Google can better understand the structure of your page.
Add Internal Links
In order for Google and other search engines to have an accurate picture of your sites, it needs to be able to crawl to all of the pages. While obviously your header and footer navigations can help with that, it’s also good practice to include links to other pages throughout the website.
In-text links can be really valuable to let Google know what those targeted pages are about and pass a bit of “SEO juice” around. Examine the copy on the page. Is there a piece that makes sense to link to another page on the website? Grab that text and link it! Bonus points if you can include that page’s targeted keyword or key phrase as the link text. For instance, if I were to talk about the fact that I teach digital marketing to web developers, I could link that to my homepage. (Oh look what I did there!)
And don’t create a link text that just says “Click Here.” Honestly, that tells Google (and your customers) absolutely nothing beneficial.
Use ALT Tags and Descriptive Image File Names
I’m going to preach about this until I stop seeing web designers and developers forget this. Every image you upload to a website should have a descriptive file name and a descriptive ALT tag.
No image should be image-01983.jpg, for the love of the coding gods.
Instead, the filename should be descriptive of what’s in the image, with dashes between the words. For example, red-ford-truck.jpg. Your ALT tag should also be a description of what’s in the image, so Red Ford Truck for that same image.
You can definitely use keywords and key phrases in the image file names and ALT tags IF that makes sense for the image. Just don’t keyword stuff them.
ALT tags and descriptive file names not only tell Google what’s in the image, but they’re also HUGE for digital accessibility and that’s more important anyway. Images that are purely decorative don’t need ALT tags, but that would be like a background image or patterns.
Add Meta Titles & Descriptions on Main Posts & Pages
Another one I see when I run audits ALL of the time. The homepage should not have a Meta Title of Home. Those titles and descriptions are great for giving Google a basic idea of what they’ll find on the page and a way to geotag local businesses, but also orient your clients’ customers and get searchers to click on their website in search results.
The biggest reason for good meta titles & descriptions? Those are what are shown in Google’s search results pages. They’ll give searchers an idea of what the result is about, giving them a reason to click and explore your clients’ website.
Titles are short – only about 60 characters – and should include what the page includes (with some keywords) and the company’s name at the end. There’s not really a best practice, but I prefer to use a | to separate out ideas in the title. For instance, this post’s meta title will be 5 Ways to Improve On-Page SEO | Captain of the Coders (you can check that in the tab).
Your meta descriptions are longer, about 150 characters. With the description, you’ll want to hit on a pain point of your client’s target audience and give them a call to action to entice them to click.
Force an SSL Certificate
This is an easy one, but it’s becoming more and more important in Google’s ranking system. SSL certificates help to protect the privacy of your clients’ customers, and Google will openly showcase a website doesn’t have one by even listing it as Not Secure in their Chrome browser.
You can get a Positive SSL for only $9/year or even free ones and they’re becoming even easier to install so there’s really not a point to not get one.
If you have a WordPress site, you can use a plugin like Really Simple SSL to force the website to only display over https (which is what you want).
If you’re adding an SSL to a website that didn’t have one, you’ll want to update Google Analytics and Google Search Console to crawl the secure version of the website.
SEO Isn’t Magic
I hear a lot of people complain that SEO is a bunch of magic tricks and some unknown formula. But creating good, on-page SEO and optimizing the sites you build isn’t magic, it’s simply following some basic best practices.
If you want to learn more about on-page SEO and how you can improve the websites you’re building, Moz has a really great beginner’s guide to get you started!