Is There an On-Page SEO Formula to Follow?
Many people ask if there is a formula to follow to create SEO-friendly articles. The answer is an unqualified – sort of yes, sort of no. Back in the day, like two years ago (before Panda and Penguin), creating SEO-friendly content was relatively easy for anyone who wanted to spend the time learning the steps required to make a site more visible to the search engines. Today however, with Google leading the way for the other search engines, more care and creativity are required if you want to help the search engines find you.
This definitely does not mean that SEO is dead or dying, it means that SEO is changing, as it has done in the past years. Based on extensive research, there are a few best practices to keep in mind when optimizing content for the search engines…
· Remember who your audience is – for it is definitely NOT the search engines.
Your audience is the search engine client, the searcher, not the search engines themselves. When creating content, make sure that your highest priority is a quality experience for the user. Fill your articles with useful information and make it easy to read. Ultimately, your goal is to get users to “like,” “share,” and “plus1” your content, sending clues to the search engines that the social network finds your content valuable.
· It’s OK to help the search engines find you – but you must not overdo it.
Keep your content relevant to your chosen targeted keyword phrase, as a hint to the search engines that you are offering quality content. Relevant, timely articles are the key to building an audience, and to improving your ranking in the search results.
· Carefully use your keywords – and keep them relevant to your topic.
Although keyword density has lost value recently, that is, keywords as a percentage of word count, they remain a critical tool to help the search engines find you. They are the clue that lets the search engines know your subject and understand which words have value to the reader.
· Use your keywords strategically – and effectively.
Most readers will scan an article before they invest the time to read it. They will look for clues to help them decide if your information is what they are looking for. To do this, they will scan the same areas of your copy that the search engines will scan: titles, headings, bold text, links, and bullet points. Avoid using the same targeted phrase in these areas that you have chosen to use within your text. Today, with the focus on quality content, this might be seen as “keyword stuffing” or over-optimization by the search engines.
It’s of the utmost importance that you use your targeted keyword phrase in the title of the page or post. Really. I’m not kidding about that one. Also, place your targeted phrase at the beginning, middle, and end of your article and try not to use it more than three times, just to be safe. As of late I’m staying away from old standard on-page SEO techniques of underlining, bolding, italicizing, using them in H tags, overusing them in categories and tags, or overusing them as image alt text. Be very selective when you’re using those tactics, as the big G could be watching with a suspicious eye. For right now, keep things more simple as the fire dies down. I still recommend using similar and related keyword phrases sprinkled in the content, and in your image alt text and categories/tags, though. No harm there. Think “related”, not “repeated”.
· Focus on readability – not on being SEO-friendly.
As with so many things in life, when you focus on quality, the by-product is a benefit to you. Read your copy aloud and check the flow. If it reads naturally, you’re golden. If it sounds contrived to you, it will seem even more so to your reader. You might also want to check your text against a Readability Test Tool, to make sure your content will be comprehensible to the average reader.
· Ask for comments and feedback – from your readers.
Also, include social share buttons on every page of content you offer. People who comment on your articles are much more likely to share them with others and these social interactions are valued clues to the search engines that you have produced fresh, relevant, timely content for your audience.
We’ve all read articles which we quickly realized were written more for the search engines than for the reader. SEO-friendly articles read naturally. They do not feel contrived for the search engines. The search engines have spent decades learning to understand which sites are trying to manipulate them. By keeping your ultimate audience in mind, you are more likely to generate improved search results than if you try to game the system.
Since it is the goal of the search engines to provide the best possible search results to their client, it must be your goal to do the same. Post relevant, well-written, informative or engaging content, with just enough clues to the search engines to let them know that your copy is what their client is looking for. Creating SEO friendly articles is not as hard or complicated as one might be led to believe.
Are you still struggling with what to do or not to do when it comes to on-page SEO?