I know. Search optimisation… it makes your head spin. Your website or blog goes live and you check Google to see your site ranking and you’re like Prince Charming searching for the owner of that damned shoe. Like Cinderella, it’s nowhere to be seen.

But a little patience is needed as the search engines have to crawl your website and index it. There’s not a red flag that goes up at Google and says, ‘I’m new, I’m new! Look at me, look at me. Come over here!’ Doesn’t happen. Google has a bot (the Googlebot) which collects information on documents to add to the Google index and they use computer programs to determine which sites to crawl, how often, and how many pages to fetch from each site. The¬†Googlebot discovers sites by following links from page to page.¬†You can’t control the search engines but you can control the type of content you put up and understand how best to optimise your on-page SEO to help you rank in search engines. The 101 basics below.

Write good content

If you haven’t heard it before, write good content. Don’t let your website sit there gathering dust, update it, blog on it, keep the content relevant and active. If you’re deserting it, do you think the search engines are going to pay it much attention? You can’t just put it up there and walk away from it, thinking it will take care of itself. It can’t. It needs you to pay attention to it. You want to be attractive to other sites. If they like your content, they’ll link to it. If they link to it, Google begins to think you might have valuable information on your site and are worth paying attention to, so they move you up the rankings.

Keywords, urls and meta information

Don’t stuff your content full of keywords, it’s not going to make it easy on the reader and your content has to be readable and appeal to your audience if you’re going to climb that ranking ladder. Keywords help searchers find you. You can use Google’s Keyword tool to help you find relevant keywords for your posts/articles.

Prince Charming, for example, wants to find the owner of that shoe and eventually turns to Google. He googles ‘lost shoe’ which returns 103,000 results and none on the first page are relevant. He can’t be bothered checking the other pages because he’s got a country to run, so he thinks maybe he should narrow his search.

In the interim, Cinderella has turned to her blog for solace. She had met the most wonderful man at a party but had to rush away and in the rush, one of her shoes fell off. So she blogs about the party, she blogs about the man, she blogs about her missing shoe because they were the most wonderful glass shoes and now she’s only got one left. No man, one shoe and three bitches.

Now Cinderella has always been good and tries to do her best whether it’s cleaning out the cinders or blogging, so she titles her post: Speed Dating: How to lose a man and a glass shoe at Romance Capital.
Her page url reads: cindy.com/blog/how-to-lose-a-man-and-a-glass-shoe-at-romance-capital
Her meta-description reads: Last night, I lost my glass shoe at the speed dating party held at Romance Capital. I lost it because I had to rush away from the most charming man I’ve ever met.
Her keywords are: glass shoe, romance capital, speed dating

Back with Prince Charming who’s taking a closer look at the shoe and realises it’s glass – that’s got to narrow the search down, he thinks. There can’t be many of them. Also, the party (he doesn’t like to call it a speed dating event) was held at Romance Capital, so he decides to include that in his search too and types in: glass shoe, romance capital

Guess what? Bing bada boom. Up comes Cindy’s blog post in the first page of Google’s search results. He finds Cindy. She finds her man. The glass shoe is returned and they live happily ever after.

And that’s exactly what you want to happen.

If you can… put a keyword in your title, in your page url and include it in your meta description. Add some meta keywords (they have lost some of their importance but it can’t hurt) just don’t stuff them in. Three is more than enough.

Links

You should try to include internal and external links on your page/post because they help search engines index your site. When linking, try not to use the phrase click here. Aside from the fact that everyone know’s what a link looks like (it should be a different colour to the rest of your text) it’s also because a descriptive link works better as it tells the search engines, there’s similar content on the linked page.

Cindy’s blog post had an internal link which read, ‘my step-sisters didn’t know I also went to the speed dating party.’ The link went to a post about her step-sisters. It could have read, ‘click here to find out more about my step-sisters.’ Internal links let you tell search engines which other pages are important and which are related to each other, this helps them to index your website better. This is a good thing.

There was also an external link that went to Romance Capital, the nightclub, where the event was held. Cindy did not write, ‘click here for more information’. She wrote, ‘it was at Romance Capital that I met the most charming man.’ When you link to an external site, they will usually see an incoming link. They might check you out and in turn link to one of your posts/pages/articles. Search engines also use incoming links to help determine ranking. Just don’t put too many up. It’s not a race to see how many links you can put on your page and you’re likely to be seen as spam instead. This is a bad thing.

Optimise, optimise, optimise

So, the top things you can do to get your on-page SEO right, are:

  • Write good, if not great, content
  • Use keywords in your title and content
  • Create individual page titles that are descriptive (no more than 72 characters)
  • Describe the page’s content accurately and uniquely. (meta-description – no more 165 characters)
  • Use simple and easy to understand URLS

Remember, when people search, specific webpages come up in the results, not entire websites. Essentially, you’re competing against other webpages, if that helps it seem a little less daunting. The more you get into the habit of optimising your pages as you write, the better they will rank… eventually. It won’t happen overnight but you will get there.