Google and other search engines look for specific elements on web pages that are common to just about every page. There are formatting elements on pages, image elements and keywords that search engines index and use to decide the relevance of a page or blog to a user’s search query. There are other factors such as the popularity of the page, the number, and quality of other sites that link back to that page that help search engines determine the quality of the page relative to common search terms. Welcome to the worlds of on-page and off-page SEO.
On-Page SEO: Keywords and Relevance
There’s much more to a website than meets the eye–literally. What goes on behind the pages you see online is often more important than what you can actually see. One the most important of these elements is “on-page” SEO. On-page SEO is found in the back end of a website and is used by search engines to determine how relevant the page’s content is to a search query. This is where your keywords do some heavy lifting. Basic elements of on-page SEO include:
- Focus Keyword: The search term you want to optimize your page around. This is not read by search engines but is a reminder for all who will edit this page.
- Page Title: Name of your website page that appears in the browser when your page is opened.
- Slug: Same as URL but appears under the Meta Title.
- Headline (H1): The main headline in the body of your page content that acts as a title.
- Image Alt Tag: The name of an image and how search engines identify the content of images.
- SEO Title: Also called the Meta Title, the headline description that appears in search engine results. It does not appear on your site but is a critical SEO element. This is the main headline that users will see when your page comes up in search results. Limited to 70 characters.
- Meta Description: This is the description of a website page that appears in search engine results. It does not appear on your website and has no effect on page ranking, but it does have an impact on whether people click on your link. A well-worded meta description is more likely to earn a click. It is an important description for users to add context to your meta title. Limited to 156 characters.
These basic elements (with the exception of Image Alt Tag) are easily found when creating or editing a page in WordPress. Other web authoring programs have similar fields to use for on-page SEO when creating your pages.
Alt Text is slightly more difficult to find because it identifies the image, and not the page content. Alt Text is typically entered when an image is imported into a web building platform.
Building out these on-page SEO elements is fairly straightforward and consistency is key. Pick a word or phrase that best identifies the content of the page, and incorporate into each element. Doing so will help search engines, and potential customers, find your page.
Off-page SEO: Inbound Links and Page Authority
Think of off-page SEO as the credibility of a website page. Off-page SEO is created when other websites link back to the website page. The off-page SEO value is determined by three factors:
- The number of links linking back to the website page
- The relevance of the linking website domain to the content of the website page
- The credibility of the page that gives you a link
There was a time when it was possible to trick search engines into ranking pages higher by creating lots of low-quality links. One way this was done was by going to random blogs and posting links in the comments section. Google figured out how to tell the difference between low-quality and high-quality links, so that doesn’t work anymore.
When it comes to backlinks, quality is much more valuable than quantity. It is fairly easy to increase the number of links, but difficult to earn links from credible sources. You can increase the number of links by:
- Including them in social media posts
- Adding them to online directories
- Strategically embedding them on related pages throughout your site
- Including them in public forum posts as support for a statement
- Participating in a link exchange scheme
Search engine consulting company Backlinko analyzed a million search results and found a strong correlation between the number of backlinks and SERPs.
The best way to earn links from credible sources is by creating useful, well thought-out, and valuable content. This means publishing information that others deem valuable enough to share out and give you credit for. Credible sources know the power of off-page SEO and will not link away from their site unless the content they link to is valuable and directly relates to their content. By linking to invaluable, irrelevant content, their off-page SEO score would decrease. The same thing can be said for you, so be sure to consider quality and relevance when linking to another website. Backlinko’s research confirmed that the quality of the link, measured by the authority of the linking page, impacts SERPs.
When a user enters a search term, search engines may thousands of decisions very quickly to determine what web pages to deliver. They scan millions of pages’ on-page elements, and off-page performance. Two of the most basic SEO tactics to improve ranking are well aligned on-page elements–tags, headlines, titles and descriptions; and quality content that wins links from authoritative third party websites.
For a complete guide to SEO and how to help your business’ pages rank higher, download the Alaniz Guide to SEO for 2017.
This blog post is part of “The Ultimate Guide to Lead Generation” blog series.