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The 7 key elements of on page SEO


Digital Marketing Wingman Podcast – Episode 4

In this episode we break down the 7 elements on a website page that you can easily optimise to rank better in Google.


Nathan George: Welcome to the Digital Marketing Wingman podcast, the podcast where we bring you helpful tips and advice on websites, Google, and social media. (singing) Hi, everybody. Welcome to the Digital Marketing Wingman podcast episode number four. I’m Nathan George, and I’ve got across the desk from me Nicholas Katsambiris.

Nick Katsambiris: Howdy, y’all.

Nathan George: And this week, we’ve decided to talk on the seven keys to on-page SEO. So search engine optimization, it’s a pretty big space. And it can go very, very technical at times, but today we’re just going to talk about what you can do on a page, all the key elements. And this is what any professional would do, but any amateur can do to help that page rank on Google.

Nathan George: So, to begin with, the first element, the first thing that you should look at when you’re trying to optimise a page for SEO, say you’ve identified a service or something that you offer as a product or service, and you want to rank for that term, so maybe it’s hot water services. Maybe you’re a plumber and you want to rank for hot water service in Geelong. The title tag is the little strip that appears at the top of the browser tab. And you can edit that. In WordPress it’s nice and easy. It’s generally just the name of your page. Or-

Nick Katsambiris: Or you could specify that inside an SEO plugin. If you’ve got something like Yoast, you could set say specific, not just the title of the page.

Nathan George: This is by far the most important place to get this right, the keyword in this title tag. And there’s definitely a preferred format or structure for doing so. So do you want to elaborate, Nick, on what you would do normally for a page title?

Nick Katsambiris: So if it was a plumber, you’d probably have something like “hot water services Geelong.” And then you’d have the little pipe symbol. And then you’d have your business name after that.

Nathan George: So the pipe symbol is kind of like a separator.

Nick Katsambiris: Yeah.

Nathan George: So you generally have the business name on the end of every single page on your website so that anyone who’s browsing or finds your page listed in Google, they can at least see your brand name. But it’s always at the end, isn’t it? A lot of people get that wrong, and they put the brand name first.

Nick Katsambiris: At the start, yeah.

Nathan George: But it should be the keyword at the start and the brand last.

Nick Katsambiris: That’s how we do it with the last sites.

Nathan George: And the separator, the pipe symbol, which is shift \ I believe, it’s a tricky one, there’s no real reason why the pipe is used as a separator. I think you can use any separator that you think.

Nick Katsambiris: I think it looks cleaner maybe.

Nathan George: It’s become sort of a d-

Nick Katsambiris: I think it’s just the way it looks, but I don’t think it has real impact.

Nathan George: There’s no impact, but it’s a defacto standard, I guess.

Nick Katsambiris: Yeah.

Nathan George: So I guess one of the best references online for SEO is probably Moz. And they just suggests using pipe. But they also admit that it doesn’t have any impact.

Nick Katsambiris: No.

Nathan George: Okay. And so you’ve roughly got 50 to 60 characters to fit into a title tag.

Nick Katsambiris: That’s not a lot.

Nathan George: That’s not a lot. But you don’t want to stuff it with keywords. It’s still got to be human readable. So you can’t just have “hot water service Geelong, Geelong hot water service.”

Nick Katsambiris: No.

Nathan George: “Water service hot.”

Nick Katsambiris: I don’t think that has any impact. I think Google would only rate that word once anyway.

Nathan George: Exactly, yeah.

Nick Katsambiris: So-

Nathan George: So you could have something like “hot water service Geelong best plumber” or “professional plumber.”

Nick Katsambiris: “Bob’s plumbing.”

Nathan George: “Pipe.” “Bob’s plumbing.”

Nick Katsambiris: Yeah.

Nathan George: Yeah, that would work.

Nick Katsambiris: Yeah, for sure.

Nathan George: And so you might get your primary keyword. And then you might have some secondary keywords that follow.

Nick Katsambiris: If you’ve got enough room for it.

Nathan George: Okay. The second SEO element that you should focus on is the meta description. So that’s when you actually come up in Google search, that’s the text that describes the page below the title. Now, this has zero impact on your rankings. Adding content to this actually has no impact. So stuffing it with keywords really has no benefit. The main benefit of your meta description is that people are more likely to click it when they read it if they think it speaks to them.

Nick Katsambiris: That’s generally used if someone shares your website on social media; that’s generally the snippet that gets shared on things like Facebook. So you want to make sure you don’t just stuff it with keywords.

Nathan George: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so although it has, the words in the description themselves have no real impact on the rankings, how people react or behave with your results can have an impact. So it has this like indirect effect. So if it’s a really good description that people relate to, and they click it, that, the fact that Google can recognise that people are clicking that result more, and in turn that helps your rankings.

Nathan George: So think about this one in a more usercentric method, I guess, and write something that’s really going to appeal and draw them into your page. But best practise is to still include the keyword that you want to rank for in the description because the user is more likely to associate with that straight away if that’s the words that they typed into search.

Nathan George: The third element on a page is the URL or the address for the page. And if possible, you want to try and get that keyword in there. So if it was hot water services again, you would want to have your domain name /.

Nick Katsambiris: Bobsplumbing/hot-water-services-geelong.

Nathan George: -geelong.

Nick Katsambiris: Yeah.

Nathan George: And so you always separate words with a hyphen, not an underscore. And we’re really talking about secondary pages right now. The home page, there’s not much you can do about that because your domain is your domain. There was an old, old theory that having keyword-rich domain names helped you a lot. And it probably did help maybe 10 or more years ago by having hotwaterservicegeelong.com.au. And there is some benefit, but it’s very minimal now.

Nathan George: Google doesn’t give nearly as much weight to keywords in a domain name. So in WordPress, for example, you can change that. It’s called the permalink, and it’s usually based off of the title of your page. So hopefully that has the keyword in it anyway. But you can modify that URL to be whatever you like. The fourth one are headings within your page. So that’s the h1 tag, the h2 tag, all the different-sized headings. And this is the first thing that we look at-

Nick Katsambiris: Every single time.

Nathan George: Every single time. We go straight to the code. Has his page got a h1 heading? And if it doesn’t, highly likely they haven’t had any SEO done on their website before.

Nick Katsambiris: And if it is a h1 heading, why does it have the word “home” written in it or “welcome”?

Nathan George: Or something completely, yeah, [crosstalk 00:08:02].

Nick Katsambiris: Irrelevant to their business.

Nathan George: Yeah. So the h1 heading is really categorising your whole content. It’s saying to Google, “This is what all this content below this heading-”

Nick Katsambiris: Is about.

Nathan George: “… is all about.” And if you have “home” as a description of your content, unless you’re actually a home builder or a home designer-

Nick Katsambiris: It’s not going to have any impact.

Nathan George: Completely no impact. You’re just like all the other newbs that don’t have any-

Nick Katsambiris: Yeah, and there’ve been millions of websites that just have “Welcome to my website.”

Nathan George: Absolutely, so many. So important to really, especially on your homepage, but on a page that you’re trying to rank, to really summarise what that page is all about in a very succinct, clear h1 heading, I think. It’s-

Nick Katsambiris: Is there a recommended length for the h1?

Nathan George: I don’t think there’s a recommended length but just I guess short and sweet. I personally wouldn’t go any more than five- or six-word sentences. It’s not a be-all and end-all. I mean, you can get away … You still could get a page to rank without a h1 heading. But it’s all these little tiny little one-percenters that add up to really indicating to Google what your page is about. So-

Nick Katsambiris: And probably users’ point of view. If your website’s structured correctly, having that h1 tag with a relevant title would make it clear that that’s what that page or website’s about. So [crosstalk 00:09:21].

Nathan George: And realistically it should flow on so that you’ve got maybe a h1, some content, and then maybe a couple of h2 headings that go into even more content, and that they flow on, the topics flow on, so it’s not just “hot water services,” and then the h2 is talking about donuts.

Nick Katsambiris: [crosstalk 00:09:38].

Nathan George: It has to flow on: “hot water services.” Then it’s “hot water service installations,” “hot water service repairs,” and it flows on. And the content beneath those is relevant to the heading, and it really sets the structure for Google, but it sets the structure for the users reading the content as well. It makes it much more readable.

Nathan George: Okay. So that leads on to what you would assume would be the main one, but it’s. But it’s content, actually having the keyword in your content. Now, these days, you really, you don’t … I tell all of the clients when they’re writing blogs and content for their own website, do not write for Google. Do not write for SEO. But it is important to have some keywords in your page, but it’s got to appear natural. It can’t be forced, and it shouldn’t be repeated.

Nick Katsambiris: Or then it just sounds like a robot, and Google knows straight away.

Nathan George: And you can tell those sites. You’re ruining your customer experience. When I go to a website and-

Nick Katsambiris: And you can’t read it.

Nathan George: … I can tell that content is not intended for me, it’s intended for Google, I just know to think that it’s a dodgy website. It’s-

Nick Katsambiris: And it’s not relevant to you, so you just leave the website and move along.

Nathan George: Exactly. And that has an impact. If someone’s coming to your site and then leaving straight away, that has a negative impact on your SEO. So I definitely recommend that you write the content for users, not for Google. But obviously hot water services Geelong [in 00:11:02], I’d be writing in my first paragraph, “My company, Bob’s Plumbing, provides hot water services Geelong-wide,” something along those lines, or, “The best hot water services Geelong has ever seen,” or something that twists it but gets that phrase in in a natural way.

Nick Katsambiris: As natural as possible.

Nathan George: As natural as possible. All right. And then the last two elements are fairly related: images. Now, this is an easy one that a lot of people don’t do. A lot of people don’t think about this. The old description or the alternative description for an image is the obvious one or the easier one to do. So make sure when you’re inserting images in your website, there’s an appropriate description of what that image is.

Nick Katsambiris: Yep, and that’s the description that you see when you hover over an image and a little tool tip pops up and says what [inaudible 00:11:53] the image is.

Nathan George: Yep, or if someone-

Nick Katsambiris: [crosstalk 00:11:55] screen readers as well.

Nathan George: Screen readers, yeah, if anyone is disabled using a screen reader. So it’s important to do from a usability standpoint. But I’m going to say it can get a little bit dodgy here and get a little bit … This is probably where you can get a bit more keyword-stuffing.

Nick Katsambiris: It does. Yeah, it works.

Nathan George: You can get away with it. So I might have-

Nick Katsambiris: If there’s one or two images on the page, not 100 images.

Nathan George: I’d say three images on the page. Maybe there are pictures of hot water services, but I would have one of the descriptions says “hot water service Geelong,” maybe, “hot water service repairs Geelong.” I’d use the keywords in a little bit more of a spammy way because it’s less obvious. It doesn’t really affect, have too much of an impact on most users. And it still is a description of the hot water service. So you probably get away with just adding in locations and things like that into the descriptions of your images.

Nathan George: But the one, the last one which we’ll definitely skip over is the file names. So that actually sends another ranking signal that that image that’s within your page is about that topic as well, so similar to URLs, you separate the words with hyphens, not underscores. So I might have my image of a hot water service called hot-water-service-geelong.jpeg, insert that in the middle of my post, give it the same description without the hyphens in plain language, and that’s another thing also. That’s the seven elements. They’re all pretty easy to update. And once you’ve sort of identified what that page is all about-

Nick Katsambiris: That’ll take you 10 minutes to update your homepage, easily.

Nathan George: It’s the most broad, standard simple thing you could do, and it’s the most effective thing you can do to start ranking yourself. There’s no point in doing anything more advanced with SEO, getting-

Nick Katsambiris: Until you have the foundation, especially-

Nathan George: Until you have the foundation set up there’s absolutely no point. So the first seven elements, you’re really clearly identifying to Google what that page is about, and you’ve got a much better chance of ranking for that term. Fantastic. All right. Well, we’re going to leave it short and sweet this week. That’s our seven tips: title tag, description, URL, headings, content, the image alter description, and the image file name. Good luck with that. And we’ll talk to you next week on podcast number five.

Nick Katsambiris: See you, guys.

Nathan George: Bye.