Last updated on August 23rd, 2022 at 11:14 am
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is crucial for your blog – it’s one of those things that you simply can’t ignore if you want your blog or business website to succeed. Sure, you can use paid advertising (PPC) like Google Ads to drive visitors to your website, but that’s costly and will have a big impact on the profitability of your website (especially when you’re just getting started!)
By using SEO techniques, however, you can drive traffic (and potential customers) to your blog or website without spending money on targeted ads. It sounds complicated (but it really isn’t), and using SEO to gain organic traffic requires time, effort, and patience, but it’s worth it in the long-run.
There are two main branches to SEO – onsite SEO and offsite SEO. As the name suggests, onsite SEO focuses on things that you can do on your website (such as content optimization), while offsite SEO is the tasks you do off your website (such as link-building). Because onsite SEO should always come before offsite SEO, I’ll be covering onsite SEO in this article, and explaining more about offsite SEO in another article.
In this article, we’ll be exploring more about onsite SEO, why SEO is crucial, what SEO tasks you need to tackle first, and some SEO tasks that you can take care of in 30 minutes (or less!)
What’s So Important About On-site SEO?
While having a strategy for both onsite and offsite SEO is crucial, you need to start with onsite SEO. Involving such things as meta data, URL structure, content, links, and image ALT tags, onsite SEO optimizes your website for both humans and bots.
You might think that it’s more important that your website or blog is optimized for your human readers -– they’re the ones that are (hopefully) going to generate income for you. However, never, ever forget about the bots!
Google and other search engines use bots to crawl millions of web pages – and use the data to ultimately decide whether your website is worth showing on search engine results pages (SERPS).)
Not only will your site visitors thank you for an easy-to-navigate structure and well-thought-out content, but your ranking will improve. Taking the time to make sure your onsite SEO is up to scratch is something that you can’t afford to miss off your to-do list. Even if you have a rather unique niche, almost every website has competitors and in order to get ahead of your rivals, you need to have an effective onsite SEO strategy.
Onsite SEO is crucial if you want your website to show up on page one of the SERPs. Research shows that only a small percentage of people will venture past the first page of the search results, and even if you make it onto the first page, for the best chance of success you need to be in positions 1-5 – after that, the click-through-rate (CTR) gets significantly lower!
Onsite SEO Tasks for Every Site Owner
Now you know what onsite SEO is, it’s (and why onsite SEO is so crucial for your website) it’s time to take a look at how you can execute it. The good news is that you don’t need to hire an SEO specialist to take care of your SEO (although you can, of course, do that if you have a big budget and don’t want to be hands-on with your SEO!) To help you get started, I’ve put together a list of the top 5 crucial onsite optimizations you need to make for your 2023 SEO strategy.
1) URL Structure
URLs are often forgotten about when doing onsite SEO. Don’t make that mistake for your website. Making sure you have a strong URL structure makes it easier for Google bots to crawl your site. This means that Google (and other search engines) will have a clearer understanding of what your site is about and can drive the right kind of traffic to your business.
Using keywords in URLs helps you to rank for your target keywords. Google looks for the keywords in your URL, so if your URL is generic or doesn’t really fit with your content, then you’re going to miss out. Shorter URLs are generally better, though getting the balance right between short and descriptive is important. Your URL should let Google and searchers know what your page/site is about. There’s really no benefit to being enigmatic when it comes to URLs.
If you’re doing an SEO overhaul of an existing website, be careful when changing any URLs if they’ve been indexed by Google. Make sure to do a redirect from the old URL to the new one (you can use a plugin to manage redirects easily) so you don’t lose out on any traffic or ranking you’ve already achieved.
2) Image ALT Tags
Hands up if you tend to forget all about your image ALT tags. You’re not alone. In fact, ALT tags are often the last thing people think about when we’re dealing with our websites. It’s all too easy to forget that whilst we humans can see what the image is, and don’t need a tag to tell us what we’re seeing, Google bots aren’t human. They don’t see images the way that we do. (There’s a lot of content that they don’t see the way we do, but images are the most obvious).
A good ALT tag will contain your primary keyword. If there are a lot of images on your page, vary the keywords in your ALT tags, or Google will think you’re being spammy. There are length considerations, too. Think in terms of being less than the old Twitter character limit and aim for less than 125 characters. Don’t try and get smart with Google, either – using “this is an image” in your ALT tags will not help your ranking!
3) Meta Tags
Meta data is really important for onsite SEO – although it’s a hotly debated topic in SEO circles. Some experts argue that there’s less value in meta data than there used to be, whilst others insist that it’s still crucial. There’s no knowing who’s actually right, since Google isn’t exactly open about its algorithms for ranking.
My advice is to use meta data regardless of the debates – it’s not going to hurt your ranking to have a meta description with your target keywords and a couple of action words (e.g. “read”, “find out”, “check out”, “discover”, etc.
Meta data helps search engines understand what your site is about. There are different types of meta data, but the one we’re focusing on here is the meta description. This is the snippet that Google shows in the search engine results below your title and URL.
Whether or not the meta description is valuable information for Google bots isn’t the issue. Think of it as a way of telling your readers what your page is about, what problem it solves for them, and why they should visit it. Keywords are important here. It’s also essential to keep it short and sweet – Google will cut your description off after a certain number of characters. Imagine that you’re describing your page in an old-style Tweet and you’ll be okay.
4) Title Tags
Title tags are how Google bots get a glimpse of what your page is about. Therefore, it’s important to go about them in the right way. The title tag is what Google shows as a blue link in search engine results. It usually includes your business or brand name. Every character counts in title tags, so use them wisely. You only have 70 characters to use – that’s the maximum, but recommendations are to keep it at around 55 characters.
As well as being useful to Google bots, your title tag is important for your conversions, too. Because your title tag shows up in search results, you want to make it enticing to your potential customers. Generic or auto-generated title tags are okay, but they’re not going to boost your business. Use your primary keyword and then get creative with whatever characters you’ve got left.
It’s also a good idea to look in the SERPs to see what title tags your competitors are using. You could also check out Google Trends to see if there’s a particular phrase or set of words related to your keyword(s) that are more popular than others.
5) Keywords and Content
You don’t need to be an SEO expert in order to optimize the keywords and content on your website. Keyword research and content optimisation is something that anyone can do – and there are online tools to make it even easier. There are keyword research tools, and for content optimization, you can use apps like Hemingway and Grammarly to improve the readability of your content.
One of the best starting points for keyword optimization is to put yourself in the shoes (or mind) of your target audience. What are they likely to type into a search engine when they’re looking for your kind of product or service? Build a list of short-tail and long-tail keywords that your target visitors will be searching for. Your site analytics can be helpful with this.
An important part of onsite SEO with regard to keywords is to look at search intent. Is the reader looking for an answer to a question (informational), looking for reviews about a product (commercial), or wanting advice on the best products or services to meet a specific need that they have (transactional.) You want to match your content to the search intent – not only for your human readers but also for Google. Search intent plays a significant role in search engine ranking, so make sure you’re looking into that.
Long-tail Keywords for Success
Specific search phrases are known in the SEO world as long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are a great way to get ahead of the competition. Unlike short-tail (or broad) keywords, long-tail keywords are much more specific and easier to rank for. There may be less search volume for these keywords, but there’s less competition, so in the long run they’re better for your business. Long-tail keywords also tend to get better conversions because people using these search strings are looking for something specific that they want or need.
Long-tail keywords also tend to have lower levels of keyword difficulty (i.e. there’s less competition). When you’re looking for keywords, I’d advise using keyword research tools such as SEMRush or Ahrefs. Alternatively, you could use a keyword research tool designed for smaller businesses and bloggers, with more targeted keywords, such as RankIQ.
Content is King
If you’re reviewing your website content in terms of SEO, then you might want to consider rewriting sections (or whole pages) that aren’t performing well. Content marketing is now a hot topic, meaning that the quality of your content is more valuable than ever before. Some SEO plugins will tell you that pages with 350 words of content are acceptable, but whilst technically true, this isn’t going to get you ahead of the competition.
Web content has to be high quality to be viewed favorably in Google’s eyes. If your writing skills aren’t the best, then you might want to consider hiring a copywriter to write the content for you. Yes, it’s an added expense, but quality copywriters offer a great ROI in the long term.
If you’re rewriting your content yourself, then there are some important things to know about the onsite optimization of content. Firstly, never fall into the habit of keyword stuffing. Google will know, and you’ll be penalized. Content has to read naturally and be relevant, or you’ll lose potential clients as well as ranking.
Secondly, your content should always be 100% unique. Do not – EVER – copy and paste from another site, or even from another page on your own site. Google likes original content. Nor should you be tempted to use article spinners. You’d be amazed at the number of people who do use them – with disastrous results. You can tell a ‘spun’ article from a mile away. They read like pidgin English and rarely make any sense.
Note: Don’t mistake AI content writing tools for article spinners – there is a difference. AI is growing in its capabilities for content writing, and while it’s a long way from being able to replace human writers, it can be a useful tool to use to help you write more content, faster.
The Hemingway App can help you when it comes to structuring your content. This clever (and free) app will tell you how readable your content is. It will also highlight complex, overly long, or difficult to read sentences. Using Hemingway, as well as the grammar-checker Grammarly, can really improve the quality of your content, even if you’re not a natural writer.
Onsite SEO Jobs You Can Complete in 30 Minutes or Less
I’m the first to admit that SEO strategy can be a long, boring and tedious task. There’s no getting away from it, though – you need SEO to succeed online. That’s why I’ve put together this straightforward checklist of the most time efficient onsite SEO tasks – and how long it should take to complete them. Set a timer on your phone and dive in!
1) Improve Your URL Structure
Time Estimate: 30 Seconds Per Page
Optimising your URL structure shouldn’t be a long and arduous task. It takes approximately 30 seconds per page to get this one right. Here’s what you need to do – ready, set, go!
- Create unique titles for every page.
- Have consistency between your URL and your page title. Match your URL structure to your page title.
- Use a brief by descriptive URL structure. Make your URL short and informative.
- Choose a title that is natural and communicates clearly your page’s content.
- Avoid unnecessary words that don’t add meaning. Don’t use punctuation, either.
2) Image ALT Tags
Time Estimate: 2 minutes per page
Getting your ALT tags sorted on your website shouldn’t take more than 2 minutes per page. See if you can beat the timer with this one!
- Use unique descriptions for every image.
- Summarise the image subject and/or what it represents.
- Add keywords that are relevant – but remember to use different keywords in different images, or you’ll be viewed as spammy.
- Keep it short and sweet – no more than 125 characters, please.
3) Meta Data
Time Estimate: 2 minutes per page
This one might stretch you a little bit. Meta descriptions require you to get creative with only a small amount of characters to play with. Are you up for the challenge?
- Make sure every page of your website has unique meta descriptions.
- Use keywords in your meta descriptions but make it natural.
- Your meta description is your opportunity to entice your target audience to visit your site. Can you sell your product or service in less than 160 characters?
4) Title Tag
Time Estimate: 5 minutes per page
Because you’ve got so few characters to play with, we’re estimating it will take you up to 5 minutes per page to get your title tags right. On your marks, get set, go!
- Start with your target keyword, then describe what users should expect to gain from your site.
- Make it sound natural – there’s a challenge for you.
- Keep your title tag under 60 characters – 55 is better – so that you don’t get denied by Google for being over length. Yes, the limit is technically 70, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!
5) Written Content
Time Estimate: 20 minutes per page
Content optimization can’t be rushed, unfortunately. We estimate it will take you around 20 minutes to do basic content optimisation. It really depends on how easy you find it to rewrite content. Ready to give it a go?
- Aim to have at least 2000 words of content on each page. Use keywords but don’t overuse them.
- Use H2, H3, and H4 tags to highlight your primary and secondary keywords, long-tail keywords, and variations you want to rank for. Your page should only have one H1 tag (the title tag!)
- Make your content relevant and useful for your visitors. Answer questions, solve problems, and guide them towards taking action. A web article should be a journey for your visitor.
- Always use a call to action.
- Make your content 100% unique – no copy and pasting or article spinning.
- Use short sentences and paragraphs to improve readability.
Onsite SEO is something your business and/or website can’t afford to do without. If you have 30 minutes to spare, you can work at making your website optimised for both human and robot visitors, increasing your ranking and your revenue. Some aspects of onsite SEO will take longer, and you might want to consider a copywriter or content writer (yes, there is a difference!) for top-quality content that Google will see as valuable and authoritative.