SEO Tutorial (17 Easy Tweaks & 34 Best Practices For On-Page SEO)

by Steven Liew

in Internet Marketing,Search Engine Optimization

On-Page SEO Tutorial

By now, you would have heard from people the few common SEO lingo such as: SEO Strategies, SEO Techniques, SEO Blueprint. These terms apply to techniques that you use to expose your website to the search engines, and thus gaining chance of getting higher positions, and traffic.

If you are doing search engine optimization for your website, there are 2 major areas that you will need to cover – On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO. The difference between these 2 is that for on-page SEO, you are applying search engine optimization techniques to your website, whereas for off-page SEO, you are applying search engine optimization techniques out of your website. The off-page SEO is generally recognised as Link Building.

In this article, I want to share with you the on-page SEO techniques / tweaks that I have tried and they have proven to work for me:

  1. Keyword Density
  2. Domain Name
  3. Page Title
  4. Meta Tags
  5. Header Tags
  6. Bold Tag
  7. URL Structure
  8. URL Redirection
  9. Internal Link Structure
  10. Image Optimization
  11. rel=”nofollow”
  12. Canonical URLs & Duplicate Content
  13. HTML Sitemap & XML Sitemap
  14. robots.txt
  15. Anchor Text
  16. Audio & Video Content
  17. Google Webmaster Tools

1. Keyword Density

Keyword Density is a percentage of how frequent a keyword phrase appears on a web page compared to the total number of words. For instance, if a web page has 1,000 words and it contains 20 keyword phrases “seo”, then it means that the keyword phrase has a keyword density of 2%.

I listed this first because there has been many theories about keyword density. Some people say that it is not important at all; some people say keyword density is that thin line of balance between keyword stuffing, and keyword optimization.

As a matter of fact, I found a very interesting paper that was written in 2005 about keyword density by Dr. Edel Garcia – The Keyword Density of Non-Sense.

Here is an extract of the paper:

If two documents, D1 and D2, consist of 1000 terms (l = 1000) and repeat a term 20 times (tf = 20), then a keyword density analyzer will tell you that for both documents Keyword Density (KD) KD = 20/1000 = 0.020 (or 2%) for that term. Identical values are obtained when tf = 10 and l = 500. Evidently, a keyword density analyzer does not establish which document is more relevant. A density analysis or keyword density ratio tells us nothing about:

  1. The relative distance between keywords in documents (proximity)
  2. Where in a document the terms occur (distribution)
  3. The co-citation frequency between terms (co-occurance)
  4. The main theme, topic, and sub-topics (on-topic issues) of the documents

I wouldn’t dig deeper or attempt an experiment to compare the differences, but I for one believe that keyword density does play a part, even if simple, because there has to be balance between spams and pure content. Personally, I have been crafting web pages with a keyword density of 3% – 4% for every page that I want to optimize ever since I started doing SEO. Till date, my websites have been ranking well and up to expectations.

Tweaking your website by placing your keywords at the right places is the main crux of on-page SEO. So let’s take a look at the elements of a HTML document in which we can optimize our keywords with!

2. Domain Name

A domain name is basically a name used to identify an IP address. For example, the domain name for this blog is stevenliew.com. Domain Names are NOT URLs! Do not get confused between these two terms. A URL is a full address of a web document. For example: http://www.stevenliew.com/seo-tutorial-on-page-seo is a URL, and the domain name of the URL is stevenliew.com

Exact Match Domains (EMD)

In the eyes of both the users and search engines, having your keyword phrase in the domain name is certainly advantageous for two reasons. Firstly, your keyword phrase will be bolded in the search engine results pages if it is the search query your users have entered. Another reason is that having your keyword phrase in the URL will help in the boosting of your rank in the eyes of the search engines.

In essence, an exact match domain would be a domain name that contains only your keyword. For example, if you are trying to optimize for “professional seo”, then you would want to get a domain name professionalseo.com for best boosting results.

Domain Extensions and Their Authority

Earlier on I provided an example on the domain name for this blog. A domain extension is basically the “.com” of my example. There has been many theories floating around from many people saying that the .com has more weight over .org and .net, and that extensions such as .info is useless, etc.

I have seen many .info domains ranking #1 on Google myself. As a matter of fact, I am in the midst of an experiment to see if I can rank 3 .info domains of different competition, and 2 of them are already on the first page of Google. Hence I can conclude that .info domains CAN get into the good book of Google, but perhaps not as good as a .com domain. However, the difference is MINIMAL.

Best Practices for Domain Names

#1: As much as it is important to get Exact Match Domains, you should always try to use medium-tailed keyword phrases. This allows you to expand your keyword phrases to long-tail keywords.

#2: Try to go for the following domain extensions (most important first): .com, .org, .net, .info.

#3: A lot of people give up on a potential keyword phrase when they see that the 4 domain extensions are taken. It’s not the end of the world! Consider adding a hyphen between your keywords – though you may not own an Exact Match Domain, but you will still have a great chance in ranking your web page with that domain. Hint: How did wikipedia get #1 for thousands of keywords without owning an EMD for them :)?

3. Page Title

Since the creation of title tags, its purpose was to allow an accurate and precise description of the web page. Hence, it is to be noted that the title tag actually tells BOTH users and search engines on the topic of the web page.

Here’s how the title tag plays a part in both a browser and search results, if I search for “steven liew”: Title Tag Title Tag

Users will almost immediately recognise the title from the browser, and also notice that the search engine results actually bolds the keyword in the title!

To add a title to a web page, simply use the <title> tag and place it within the <head> tag of your HTML document. Here is an example:

<html>
<head>
<title>This is the title of this web page</title>
</head>
</html>

Best Practices for Page Titles

#1: You should choose a title that best describes the web page. For branding purposes, many people (including myself) like to add their brand names to the title tag to increase brand awareness. For example, you can see that I used “Steven Liew | Internet Marketing Base” for my homepage title.

#2: Titles should be unique. This helps both users and search engines to differentiate your web pages.

#3: Be mindful of the length of the title. There is a maximum length of 70 characters before the search engines truncates the title in the search engine results pages. However, if you are ranking for a long-tail keyword, feel free to go for it!

4. Meta Tags

The meta tags are used to provide information of the HTML document and are not directly visible to the users. In SEO’s point of view, they are used for search engines only. You can use the meta tags to provide a description of your web page, or to tell search engines not to index your web page or not to provide the snippet of your description in the search engine results, and so on. You can read more here.

There are 2 meta tags that I use for all my websites: Description meta tag and the Keyword meta tag.

The description meta tag provides the search engines a brief description of what your web page is about. The wonderful thing about this is that like the page title, the description gets displayed in the search engine’s result pages as snippet. Also, it will truncate your description if it gets beyond 160 characters.

This is not guaranteed however, as search engines may choose to display more relevant section in response to the search query. A good example would be the screenshot I posted above for this website. However it is highly recommended as search engines will display this by default if they cannot find other relevant sections in your web pages.

In recent years, the keyword meta tag has lost its importance in the eyes of search engines as many people have misused it by means of keyword stuffing. However, I am still using it personally and I see no harm in doing that 😉 Furthermore, my favourite wordpress plugin is still leveraging on that as well!

Best Practices for Meta Tags

#1: Use unique description meta tags so as not to confuse both users and search engines. This is to avoid scenarios where you may have multiple pages of the same domain show up in the search engine result pages.

#2: Insert no more than 3 keywords in the keyword meta tag per web page.

5. Header Tag

Do not get confused with the <head> tag!. The header tags are HTML headings in a web document and are used to emphasize on important text. You will usually use them like “chapters” in a book.

There are 6 types of header tags: <h1>, <h2><h6>. The <h1> tag being the most important, and the <h6> being the least important.

Best Practices for Header Tags

#1: Use the <h1> tag which contains your keyword phrase at least once in the web page.

#2: Use it sparingly across your web page. Consider using the different types of header tags for your web page. For example, I use <h1> tag for the title of my blog posts, and I use the <h3> tag for sections headers of my individual blog posts. If there is a need to break my sections into sub-sections, I use the <h4> tag for my sub-section headers.

6. Bold Tag

When you want to strongly emphasize on some things, you will want to bold them just like that. The search engine crawler recognises this and this will help yo increase your chance of getting a boost in the rankings.

You can use either the <bold> tag, or the <strong> tag – they mean the same thing.

Best Practices for Header Tags

#1: Use the <bold> tag, or the <strong> tag on your keyword phrase(s) at least once in your web page.

#2: Use them sparingly in your web page. Both users and search engines don’t like a page with tons of bolded words. It’s annoying, right?

7. URL Structure

How you structure your URL affects both the users and the search engines. There are 3 places where a URL can appear: Search Engine Results Pages, Browser Address Bar, and as Anchor Text. So put yourself in your users’ shoes: How can we make the URL more noticeable without ruining their experience?

Best Practices for URL Structure

#1: KISS – Keep It Short And Simple. Your URLs should not be very lengthy, this is so that the URLs will be displayed on the search engines result page fully. Another reason is that it makes copying and pasting of your URLs easier (when users want to make a reference).

#2: Include your keyword phrase in your URL at least once. This helps to increase relevancy in search engine results page.

#3: Keep your URLs static. This means that you should avoid using dynamic parameters for your URL. For example, http://www.stevenliew.com/?p=51 leads to my Keyword Research Article. However, if you go to the URL, it will get redirected to http://www.stevenliew.com/seo-tutorial-keyword-research. The reason why URLs should be kept static is because the URL’s ranking will be affected. Static URLs hold ranks better.

#4: Use hyphens “-“ wherever possible to separate words in your URLs instead of spaces, as the latter gets converted to %20 in replacement of spaces and this makes your URLs rather messy. This greatly improves readability.

#5: Use lower-case URLs. Users remember better this way.

#6: Don’t use deep-nested directory structure. It is not neat to see a url such as: http://nestedurl.com/d1/d2/d3/d4/d5/d6/hello.htm

8. URL Redirects

The URL Redirect is pretty self-explanatory. Basically what it does is that it redirects your visitor of that URL, to another URL specified. There are many ways to do URL redirects – You can use Parked Domains, Meta-Refresh Javascript Redirect, 302 and 301 Redirects, etc. Don’t worry on which method to use, I will recommend it in the Best Practices section below.

There are a number of reasons to redirect URLs. The very first reason is URL Structure. Remember in the previous tip, I mentioned in my example that I made a URL redirection for my Keyword Research Article. Another reason could be that your users may have already bookmarked your URL, but you may have moved it elsewhere. So you want do a URL redirect on your old URL, to the new URL.

Best Practices for URL Redirects

#1: Despite the many different methods available for URL Redirects, in the eyes of search engine optimization, the 301 Redirect is the only acceptable method. To do a 301 Redirect, you need to amend your .htaccess file in your web server. However nowadays, you no longer need to do it as your web host cpanel would already offer such a service for you.

#2: If you have the options to purchase multiple domain extensions for your Exact Match Domain, consider using 301 Redirect on the rest of the domains and point them towards your .com domain.

9. Internal Link Structure

As a website grows bigger, there might be site maintenance work that requires you to move URLs around, altering the URL structures, re-organising and re-categorising your content. With all these work going on, there will be times when one misses out on the little but important details of internal link structure. Here are 2 common problems that you should take note of: Broken links and Orphaned Pages.

Broken links happen when there are web pages linking to one another, but one or more of them is being removed, resulting in a broken link.

Orphaned Pages are pages that do not have any links linking to them. If there are no links linking to your web pages, no matter how optimised that web page is, search engines will never be able to pick up.

Best Practices for Internal Link Structure

#1: You can use Google Webmaster Tool to find broken links of your website. I will elaborate more about this as one of the tips below.

#2: Use a HTML sitemap and/or a XML sitemap so that you can list all the web content that you have. This way, both users and search engine will be able to navigate and find them.

10. Image Optimization

Crawlers cannot ‘read’ images. You already know that. But did you know that you can still ‘associate’ your image with your keyword phrase? You specify it with the alt attribute.

Let’s look at the image at the top of this post:

On-Page SEO Tutorial

If this image is not shown (for any reason), the alternate text “On-Page SEO Tutorial” will be displayed instead. Also, if I used this image as a hyperlink, the alt attribute becomes the anchor text of this image. Don’t worry about anchor text for now, I will explain about it as a separate tip below.

Another thing you need to take note is that the time a page loads affects the love search engines give you. This means that if possible, you should optimize your image’s size.

Best Practices for Image Optimization

#1: Use your keyword phrase in your images to increase relevancy. However, avoid keyword stuffing!

#2: Wherever possible, optimize your image’s size to greatly decrease the page loading speed. I recommend that you try this website – it’s free and easy to use.

11. rel=”nofollow”

If you set the value of the “rel” attribute of the <a> tag to “nofollow”, this tells the search engines to not follow, and to also not to pass your web page’s site reputation to the page that is linking to.

This is especially useful if your website allows visitors to provide their inputs with HTML content. It could be for blog comments, or even forums.

Best Practices for rel=”nofollow”

#1: Consider using the rel=”nofollow” attribute to combat spam. This will prevent search engines from thinking that your website is a ‘spam’ site.

#2: If you wish to make it such that the entire web page’s links are nofollow’ed, you can include the “nofollow” value in the “content” attribute of the meta tag.

12. Canonical URLs & Duplicate Content

If you have more than one page with similar content, you could tell search engines which is your preferred page to be shown in search engine results. Why do you want to do this?

Well, let me give you some examples to get you started. These links are ALL of the same content:

  • http://www.stevenliew.com/
  • http://www.stevenliew.com/index.php
  • http://stevenliew.com/
  • http://stevenliew.com/index.php

However, you will notice that only http://www.stevenliew.com/ appears on search engine results page.

To do this, simply use the rel=”canonical” attribute in the <link> tag, and place this within the <head>tag of your web page that you prefer not to have it shown. For example:

<head>
<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.stevenliew.com/important.html"/>
</head>

Best Practices for Canonical URLs

#1: Combine the rel=”canonical attribute along with URL Redirect for maximum optimization. It will tell search engines the preferred URL you want to show in the results page, and it will also allow URL redirection should users choose to follow otherwise, or from their bookmarked pages.

13. HTML Sitemap & XML Sitemap

Making your site easier to navigate will certainly help both users and search engines around your website. By placing a HTML Sitemap, it is akin to placing a directory list in a busy shopping mall, thus improving users experience greatly. In terms of SEO, placing a XML Sitemap helps the search engines to navigate easier as well. In particular, Google created an open source project that allows you to generate the sitemap for your website. You can visit here.

Best Practices for HTML Sitemap & XML Sitemaps

#1: Use text links for your HTML Sitemap.

#2: You can use the Google Webmaster Tool to submit your XML Sitemap to Google. This allows Google to easily crawl your entire website, and if any errors found (such as broken links), you will be notified.

14. robots.txt

There are times when you don’t want the search engine crawlers to crawl certain parts of your website, such as when a not-so-useful web page appears in a search results page… And that’s where the robots.txt comes in. You can specify where exactly do you not want the crawler to access.

One important note:: Do not use robots.txt to hide confident/sensitive data! This is because users can access and examine your robots.txt file, hence having your sensitive URLs revealed. Instead, use .htaccess to password-protect your URL, or consider encrypting the content.

Best Practices for robots.txt

#1: Once again, Google has provided a simple service that allows you to generate your robots.txt for your website. You can access it here.

15. Anchor Text

You probably have been wondering what an anchor text since I’ve mentioned it a few times in this article already. Anchor Text is basically the ‘clickable’ text that you see as a link, and clicking it allows your users to be brought to the next page.

In the eyes of SEO, you have to be extremely careful with your anchor text. Because an anchor text not only tells users, but also search engines what the target URL (page you are linking to) is about.

Best Practices for Anchor Text

#1: You probably already know this by now, but if you still haven’t – use keywords as anchor text. This should be applied for both external and internal links. And once again, no stuffing! 😉

#2: Beware of Keyword Cannibalization. Imagine you open up a map (in our case, a website), and you have 50 locations (links/URLs) with the same name (anchor text). Which is which? It will confused both the users and search engines if you have 5 anchor text for the keyword cake. It is better to split them into long-tail keywords instead. In this case, we could probably use strawberry cake, chocolate cake, ice cream cake. You get the idea.

#3: Format links so that they can be spotted. For example, some copywriters like to highlight anchor text with yellow highlight to increase awareness and importance.

16. Audio & Video Content

To decrease page loading time, consider using buffering techniques for your video content. Like images, Audio & Video content cannot be ‘read’ by crawlers.

Best Practices for Audio & Video Content

#1: Adding a transcript of your audio & video content eliminates the problem of search engines not being able to crawl the content of them.

17. Google Webmaster Tools

Why use paid tools when the king of the internet has provided so many free tools for analysis on your websites?

Recommended Google Webmaster Tools

#1: Google Analytics – It provides a full-fledge analysis on the traffic / Return On Investment (ROI) of your websites. You can set goals, do traffic segmentation, and dig deep into your traffic and even down to their Browser versions! Knowing where they came from, and where they went after visiting your website allows you to pinpoint the weak points of your website and allowing you to further optimise to increase conversions.

#2: Google Webmaster Central – All you need to do is to submit your website and verify with Google, then you will be able to gain access to data for your further analysis such as the search traffic, crawling and indexing, and even important site-maintenance warnings such as errors generated or even malware. You will also be able to see who has linked to you. You can also submit your sitemap to Google so that the search engine crawler will know exactly where to crawl and index your site (hence increasing the speed of indexing your web pages). And much, much more!

Taking Action

Now that I have shared the 17 tips that I have used personally, and that it has taken me 5 days to finally draft this post out (a whopping 3,727 words, wow!), it’s time for you to take action and try them yourself!

If you have something that is working for you and I have not included in the list above, please feel free to share your on-page SEO techniques! What’s working for you so far? See you in comments 😉

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