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The Importance of On-Page Optimization
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Well this is something that sometimes online marketers tend to overlook. On-Page optimization. I have written about this on a number of occasions, but thought that the time was right to re-explore this topic. We tend to receive a number of questions about on-page optimization, so it definitely needs further clarification. We have received questions such as:
  • Would you know, or be able to find out, approximately how much lift in conversion/page views is usually experienced from optimizing pages? and
  • Do you have any high level data to share regarding the optimization of page content?
  • Is on-page optimization more important than off page optimization?
All are great questions. However, it is difficult to answer as SEO and on-page optimization are simply not as easy to measure as is a sponsored ad where you know what you put in and you can see "what you get out" (of the paid ad). In addition, to it becomes difficult to isolate on-page optimization factors. Furthermore, there are a number of items that work hand in hand when in comes to optimization of your website. On-Page optimization is just one piece of the puzzle to factor in. There are off page factors and items such as building your external link inventories that will contribute to the success that you have in the online world.

Here's what we do know:

Fact: On-Page Optimization is necessary to gain visibility in the Search Engine Results.

Without optimized title tags, meta data, URLs and page copy, you are not going to be found in the search results.

Fact: Search Engine crawling and indexing is all about finding relevant content.

Without on-page optimization and promotion of relevant content that speaks to your target audience, your web property will have a difficult time in being treated as an authority for a given topic. Without being an authority, chances are you will lack that oline visibility. Without visibility you will miss out on traffic and thus page views.

Fact: Without an optimized "SEO landing page" being found in the Search results, the chances of a conversion are virtually nil.

You simply will not be found in the prime real estate of the Search results without on-page optimization. If no one (i.e. the Searcher) cannot find your page in the first place, the chance of a conversion happening disappears.

Fact: Search Engines (and searchers) are looking for unique & relevant content.

Part of on-page optimization means creating and communicating content that is relevant and useful. Google is not just a place to "spit a webpage" of copy out. The engineers at Google and the other major Search Engines work hard to try and return the best results that they can given the search query. Content is the key to your online success.

Just What is On-Page Optimization?

On-page optimization is the process by which various elements on an individual web page are established and structured so that the page can be found by the search engines for a given keyword or key phrase. The part of SEO that deals with page level creation to help inform search engines about the topic of a page.

While on-page optimization will not guarantee top billing within a search engine result, it does have a direct impact on what is shown in the results pages and can entice click through via title and meta description. Based on my experience in Organic Search, on-page optimization will always get you farther than the lack thereof. On-page optimization is a critical component of SEO and although some may feel that it contributes very little to online success (especially when it comes to conversions), the reality is that without on-page optimization you are going to have an uphill battle trying to reach your target audience. I have previously discussed the difference between B2C and B2B SEO, where I touched on the importance of on-page optimization. One of the items I touched on was that as a fundamental component of SEO, on-page optimization is often overlooked by large business. For whatever reason big businesses understand SEO and the importance of on-page optimization yet they fail to leverage it. The question is why? Why are so many companies and web sites overlooking on-page optimization as part of their search strategy? Perhaps it's the shiny new object syndrome where the fascination is with items such as Twitter or widgets or other technologies. Perhaps it's because these sites use proprietary content management systems they are limited to what they can do in terms of on-page optimization. Whatever the case may be, on-page optimization needs to be addressed and should be addressed prior to all other organic marketing efforts.

With the client that I have worked with, the ones that have had the greatest success are the ones that have addressed the fundamentals and have taken care of on-page optimization issues. For example back in 2005 we helped a client re-optimize their website. We worked with them to create unique and relevant title tags, meta tags and consulted with them on page URLs as well as page copy. The result? Within a matter of months, the number of pages indexed in Google (and other major search engines) increased and items such as page views increased by 125% from when we started working with the client to current. At the peak pageviews increased by 191%. With this particular client, organic search engine traffic is up by 1200%. This is due in no small part to the on-page optimization efforts.

With another client,we spent the better part of a year consulting with them on their pending website redesign. Part of the focus was to address lingering on-page optimization issues. Three months post redesign, where part of the focus was on on-page optimization, the client saw an increase in pages views of 7.3% as well as an increase in revenue generated from search by about 36% when compared to the previous year (and this is a down economy). While not all of the this can be entirely attributed to on-page optimization, there is a definite boost from optimizing their site pages to ensure that titles, meta data, page copy and interlinking were addressed.

So what does it take to address on-page optimization issues? Well there are no secrets here. There are really five or six items that need to be addressed.

Components of On-Page Optimization

At the very least there are six main components of on-page optimization that should be addressed to assist you with gaining visibility in the search results of the engines. Until the search engines make algorithm changes that may affect these items, the following should be considered when optimizing your web pages.

Title Tags - A site’s title tag is by far one of the most important on-page optimization element. Titles should be around 60-70 characters (although Google has been known to index around 1,100) and feature important key phrases near the beginning with a branded element at the end. Ideally you want the title to read well and be differentiated from the competitors as this may help entice the click from a search results page where the title is currently shown.

Meta Tag Optimization - meta data is simply data about data. It lets the search engines know about what your information is about. Meta data helps communicate what the topic of your page is about. You may remember that the search engines when crawling your web pages look for mini themes to help determine what your site is an authority on. A descriptive meta description can help inform the engines as to what the page is about.

On-Page Headings - ideally each web page that you have should be about a single topic. As a result this topic can be highlighted in the main heading of the page. Some keys to success include placing relevant keywords in the heading and having the heading in an h1 tag as these tags carry the most weight with the search engines. The heading tag should also be placed higher up within the page coding to help the search engines crawlers access this content.Page Copy - I'm not sure how many times we can emphasize the importance of page copy. This is why people come to your site. They are looking for information as are the search engine crawlers. Providing well optimized copy that is keyword rich, somewhat unique and informative will help your site gain visibility in the search engines. You want to become an authority on a given topic? Create content about it. The cool thing about page copy is that is can take different forms. HTML text is still preferred for search engine optimization, but this can come in the form of blog content, user generated content, articles and news releases. In addition you can have images and videos to provide a richer content experience on your site. When writing actual page copy try to include your important key phrases two to three time ideally as high up on the page as possible to help the search engines determine the topic /theme of the page. It is important that the content is unique and not just re-purposed from another site or from some vendor material that you were presented. As a general rule of thumb try to feature at least 150-200 words of unique content on your site pages. In some case 400-600 words will do even better. Page copy allows to to ensure that you have adequate keyword density for important phrases again helping communicate the theme of the page to the search engines.

Page URLs - This is key, even more so as of late. Having a relevant search engine friendly URL can go a long way in terms of on-page optimization. Having relevant keywords in the URLs doesn't hurt and keeping the URL short and memorable is beneficial as well. Try to limit the number of dynamic parameters in your URLs and if you have the ability to re-write your URLs into clean ones, do it. While the engines will index dynamic strings, short static URLs will resonate better with the user.

Anchor Text - ahh linking the lifeblood of the Internet. As part of successful on-page optimization you need to get into the habit of using keyword rich anchor text to interlink your site pages. This is a key factor used by the algorithms to determine the Inbound Liking Quality of links. This is one of the key factors used when by the engines when ranking web pages. Well interlinked pages can help increase page views of the site as users can easily navigate the site to find the information that they are looking for. When measuring site stickiness, things like page views per session can let you know how many pages users are viewing.
>We could get into greater detail in each of these areas, but we have done this previously and there are also some existing resources that provide additional insight including:


So if you are asking yourself why is on-page optimization important just remember that On-Page Optimization has a direct impact on Search Engine activity. From search engine crawlers to indexing of pages to the ranking of results, on-page optimization will impact where you show up and how users engage with the content that they are presented with.

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posted by Jody @ Tuesday, May 19, 2009  
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About Me
Name: Jody
Home: Kelowna, BC, Canada
About Me: SEO guy by day, family man 24/7.
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