Website SEO is also referred to as ‘Onpage SEO’ or ‘Onsite SEO’. When it comes down to basics, search engine optimisation uses keywords to determine what a page is about and uses links from other sites to determine how authoritative the page is. The higher the search engine algorithm ranks the authority of the page, the higher the page will appear in the search engine ranks.
The foundation of search engine optimisation is what is happening on the web page itself. It is where the search engine starts determining the topic of the page and whether it is authoritative or not. Website SEO is foundational for successful ranking.
The Myth and Truth Behind “SEO is Constantly Changing”
First, let’s address a persistent myth. Many people believe that the continuous changes made to search engines make optimization an impossibly moving target. Because of the perceived difficulty, many business owners get frustrated, overwhelmed and intimidated with SEO. It can get to the point where they don’t want to put the time, resources and effort into optimizing their website.
It is true that search engines make continual updates to their algorithms. Their goal is to offer the most relevant sites to users looking for a particular subject. They make changes to the technology to keep up with what users want.
What does not change about search engine optimization is its foundations. The search engines develop new ways to use those foundational elements. That is how they update their algorithms. But, the foundational elements remain relatively unchanging. And that is where you start building your SEO strategy.
The Four Elements
Search engines rely on four things to determine a page’s rank and relevance:
- Site structure
Most of these elements start on the web page itself. That is yet another reason why website SEO is foundational to successful digital marketing.
Search engines use something called a crawler to find your website and to index its contents. It is a little program, also called a spider or bot, that crawls the web 24/7 looking for new websites and updated web pages. When it finds your website for the first time, it saves an HTML version of each page to an index. When it comes back, it will update the index if any of your pages have had updates.
There are some things that can block the crawler from doing its job.
- Your website’s robots.txt can block the crawler’s visit.
- The webpage’s HTTP status code tells the crawler if the webpage exists or not. If the HTTP status code is 404, it indicates the page is not found. That is a dead end and stops the crawler.
- You can add a robots meta tag to an individual web page which blocks that page from being indexed by the crawler.
This is the most fundamental part of getting your website recognised. When we say website SEO is foundational, it starts here.
Another thing that a search engine crawler considers is your site’s structure. The crawler will follow every link it finds on a page. Then, they follow every link on the linked pages. When a crawler finds the same page over and over again by following links, the search engine ranks it as more important than others.
What does that mean for your site structure?
- You need to have a hierarchical structure to your website. Place the more important pages near the top.
- Allow one or two click access to your most important pages via the navigation menu. And have the navigation menu appear on every page.
- You can link to less important pages by referencing them on your more important pages.
What happens if you structure your website so that every page has the same importance? You are diluting the power of your money-making pages. And that will diminish all your website rankings.
When we talk about website SEO is foundational, most people think about keywords, and they are right. Your crawler needs to know what each web page is talking about. That is where keywords become important. It offers the clues the crawler needs to classify the content.
How do you need to use keywords to get the search engine rankings you want?
- Your content needs to answer real world questions.
- You need to use the terminology that people use in reference to your content.
- You need to use the keywords in the way the search engine thinks people use them.
- You should use one primary keyword for each page of content. You can add secondary ones, related to the primary.
- You should not repeat a keyword over and over again on a single page. Using it 2 or 3 times is good. Using it 10 or more times is not.
The search engine crawler wants to know how much of an authority your content is. They do this by seeing how many links people create to your content. These links, known as backlinks, tell the crawler that content creators think your content is notable.
Now, not all backlinks are created equal. Here are a few examples:
- Links from local and niche sites. These are the personal recommendations of back links. Local businesses linking to your site show that you offer something they value. Niche businesses linking is much the same.
- Links from well-known sites. If you get a back link from a highly trusted site, you are getting the strongest recommendations from the experts.
- Links from a lot of different sites. This is recommendation by popular demand. Your content is useful.
- Links from negative sources. This is the recommendation you don’t want. You can pay to have websites link to your content. Unfortunately, these low quality sites actually decrease the authority ranking of your website. Buying content is seen as a cheat to try to get a higher rank and you pay for it.
What You Need for Good On-page SEO
Building your SEO strength starts with building your on-page SEO elements. When we say website SEO is foundational, you need these key elements to make it happen. Let’s look at the key elements you need to build a solid foundation for your search engine optimisation.
- The page URL should be 3 to 5 words max. Google has indicated that these first few words are given more weight in their ranking algorithm.
- The page URL should be relevant. Giving your web page a number for a name is not relevant. Name it with real words that indicate what the page is about.
- The title should have the keyword in the first few words. As with the URL, the first few words have more weight.
- The title should have modifiers in it to help qualify for long tail keywords.
- The page should have one, and only one, H1 tag. That is the place where your title and keyword needs to be.
- The page should have subheadings encased in an H2 tag. It helps break up the content and makes it more readable.
- The page needs to use the keyword within the first 150 words. The search engine needs reassurance that your page is actually about the keyword in your title.
- The page needs outbound links to related pages on quality websites. This actually helps the crawler figure out your content’s topic.
- The page needs to link to internal pages. This shows the crawler that your entire website is built around the same niche of information. This builds authority, plus improves the ranking of the linked pages.
- The page needs to contain significant content. Longer content actually ranks higher than shorter pages.
What “Website SEO is Foundational” Really Means?
The way your web pages rank depends entirely on the foundational elements you place on each one. Taking the time to optimize each page with these fundamental elements and you will build the foundation for the rest of your search engine optimization. If you don’t add these elements to your web pages, you will have a very shaky foundation that will not support any other SEO activities you undertake.
So, if you want to strengthen your digital marketing efforts, build your foundation with strong website SEO. It will pay off with better rankings and stronger content. That is why website SEO is foundational to all of your digital marketing efforts.