A few years ago a client texted me about one of his favorite pizza shops. He knew the owners pretty well and asked why their shop wouldn’t come up when he searched Google – even when he was close by.
So I took a look at the site...
While Local SEO includes some additional on-site steps, this site didn’t even have the basics on-site SEO completed.
Before you even try to set up your site for local search, your site needs to be set up so that the search engines can find and understand what your site is about.
I have personally ranked pages in Top 10 of Google for low to moderate keyword competition with only on-site SEO.
Whether you are selling pizza or blue widgets, there are basic on-site SEO that you must complete to give your business and site a chance is the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs).
What Exactly is On-Site SEO
You might have previously heard of SEO, or search engine optimization. You might even know what it is.
But do you really understand it?
When I first started in internet marketing in 2002, the only thing people said about SEO was that you need links. Many business still focus much of their SEO budget on link building.
Here’s the deal with SEO…
The truth is that SEO starts on your site.
While links are still one of Google’s top 3 ranking factors, any off-site SEO will be magnified by your on-site SEO.
So let’s jump in and start with the basics of on-site SEO.
Let’s Get Technical with Meta Tags – It’s Actually Not That Difficult
Of all the on-site SEO that one has to do, the meta tags are probably the most intimidating. But they shouldn’t be.
What are meta tags?
Meta tags are part of the html code between the <head></head> of your webpages.
There are actually a whole host of different meta tags that help tell search engine about your page, site and who made it.
I am going to talk about three different meta tags in this post.
The first meta tag has been depreciated and has been rendered obsolete.
The second meta tag can help increase the number of people that click your SERP entry while
The last one is really the one that has direct SEO benefit.
I figure I would start with the obsolete meta tag and go from there.
This is what the code looks like:
<meta name="keywords" content="SEO, linkbuilding, SERPS, search engine optimization, search engine optimisation">
You can see the name is keywords and the content is a bunch of keywords.
Years ago, Google used to use this meta tag to understand what a site is about. The thing is that people would stuff this tag with so many keywords and keyword variations (search engine optimization and search engine optimisation) along with misspelled words that sites that weren’t even relevant to the keywords in the tag were ranking for those keywords.
Also, thin and low quality sites could rank just by having the right keywords in this tag.
Google’s algorithm has become incredibility smarter over the years and no longer uses this tag.
Instead, your entire article and on-site SEO is what tells Google and other search engines what your site and webpage is about. This tag is obsolete, and you have no need to worry about it.
Remember how I mentioned that only one tag has direct SEO benefit?
Well, the description tag isn’t it. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore this tag!
While it doesn’t affect your rankings, it can directly affect the amount of people that click-through to your website.
The Description Tag looks like this:
<meta name="description" content="Looking to rank your business website in Google? Check out this post about SEO Meta Tags and On-Site SEO first.">
The description should explain what the particular page is about. Since the page should be about some keyword phrase, that phrase should be used if it can be used naturally.
The reason you want to use the keyword phrase is because if that keyword phrase was used by the searcher, it will be in bold print when on the results page. That can easily pop out among other entries that don’t have the keyword.
The length of your description is important because Google will only use around 160 characters. Ideally, your description would be 1 – 2 sentences 140-150 characters long, but you should be fine if you are under 160 characters.
Also, the description should be naturally sounding and not stuffed with keywords. If it isn’t, or Google doesn’t like your description, they will use some other words from the page.
Meta Description Tips:
It should read well and natural while being relevant to the site and webpage.
1-2 sentences with the keyword phrase naturally used once or twice. Synonyms can also be used.
Up to 160 characters.
Include a compelling description and a call to action to help increase click through rate.
Use a city, state or other geography qualifier if you are targeting a certain location.
Read No. 4 Again
This is how you can potentially earn more traffic than the first ranked site in the SERPs.
Think of your description as an ad, and then tell the person what to do. It can be as simple as Read this post to learn the secrets of _________, or Learn the best way to do ________.
I personally like to use a two sentence approach where the first sentence explains what the page is about, and the second sentence includes the CTA and benefits the reader will get for clicking the entry.
I have been saving the most important of the meta tags for last.
The title tag looks like this:
<title>Your Article Title</title>
Google and other search engines will use the wording in between the tags for the title of your entry in the SERPs. And what keywords and phrases that you rank for directly relate to the words that you use in your title tag.
You don’t only want to use the keywords that you are trying to rank for, you want to include Modifiers and Magnet Words.
Modifiers and Magnet Words are words that encourage people to click by providing an extra emotional punch. Because of this, you’ll likely see an improvement in CTR when you use them.
Title Tag Tips:
Use your keyword phrase in your title.
Title should be less than 600 pixels or 70 characters (see below one more about this).
Use your brand if possible and if it fits.
Use a Geographical qualifier if you are dealing locally.
One More Thing about Title Length
Many people will tell you that your title tag should be up to 65 to 70 characters. But it looks like Google’s actually goes by pixels, not number of characters.
I first read this in 2013 in Neil Patel’s article on how to perform a SEO audit. Back in 2013, Google was using 520 pixels Arial font type with a font size of 12. However, in 2016, Google is increased the Title Tag to 600 pixels and is now using a font size of 18 of the Arial font.
The most basic on-site SEO that will directly affect your ranking is making sure you correctly use meta tags to help increase both your ranking and click-through rate. This is why a tag audit is one of the first things I do for a new client.
While the title tag has the most SEO benefit, creating a good description can also help your click-through by telling potential visitors exactly what you they will read and why they should click your entry.