As search engine optimization continues to mature as an online marketing discipline, businesses and organizations are paying more attention to elements on their site that may factor into organic search rankings. Whether they’re educated on these factors by their in-house SEO, an outside agency or simply their own curiosity and entrepreneurship, it is pleasing to see "the little things" like properly formatted title tags and hierarchical usage of headlines in the body of a web page, is it not?
But, are these businesses missing a key element of their on-page SEO strategy? Are SEO’s also missing elements? Let’s find out.
Keyword Research and Targeting
Ok, this is pretty basic and should be included in any on-page SEO strategy. There are plenty of handy tools for researching and selecting keywords, such as the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. There are infinitely more blog posts and articles detailing various methods for SEO keyword research, so there is little need to beat that horse any further in this post. Suffice to say – make sure you are allocating time to analysis and selection of the most effective and relevant keywords for your SEO strategy.
Title Tags and Meta Description
You’ve selected the proper keywords and phrases, now you have to use them wisely. Title tags – and yes meta descriptions – are possibly the most important on-page element in your off-page SEO performance. Say what? Let me explain.
In most cases, these two elements are the equivalent of your paid search ad copy whenever your site/page surfaces in the organic results on the search engine. Sure, the engine can select a section of your content as the snippet, but a well written meta description is likely to trump that. What’s that, you say? Meta descriptions haven’t been a ranking factor in years? That may be true, but isn’t the goal to entice a searcher into clicking through to your site?
According to a 2010 eye-tracking study, users spend more time fixating on the snippet of a search result than the actual title. On-Page SEO simply has to be about more than presentation. It has to include engagement. Do you see where I’m going with this? Let’s proceed, shall we?
Status: Mixed Results
It’s great that you’ve researched the proper keywords. Also great: you’ve included these phrases in your title tags and meta descriptions. Look at you go! But, is your content great? Is it even good at least? Far too many times, the answer is: no.
In time, Panda may help to shift the balance towards deep and compelling content. Are you adding any unique thought/research/opinion through your content? If not, then you probably shouldn’t have written it. Over the years, I’ve developed a rather lengthy "content needs assessment" document to help guide content creation. It is lengthy and detailed because the decision to create a new piece of content should not be taken lightly. Content for the sake of content is like eating when you aren’t hungry.
On the other hand, a thoughtful and unique piece of content will likely engage your target audience – something that could also help to boost your organic rankings. Rand Fishkin at SEOMoz put together a really great illustration of how search engines may determine the value of a page using search behavior and toolbar data. If your content is weak and poorly organized, users are likely to bounce back to the organic results rather quickly. If your content is rich, deep, relevant and appealing…well, users are naturally more inclined to stick around and consumer your content, right? Heck, they may even take further action. Speaking of…
Conversion Rate Optimization
Status: Very Mixed Results
Here’s where even the "great content" conquerors sometimes fall down. Unless you are simply writing for the sake of educating others or trying to drive Adsense revenue, you likely have one or more actions that you’d like the visitor to take. Maybe you’re selling a product or service. Maybe you’re trying to increase subscription to a e-newsletter. Or, I don’t know, maybe you just want someone to comment on your blog post (hint) or share your content socially (HINT, HINT). Whatever the goal (or goals!) ask yourself these questions when you look at your content:
- Is the desired action visually apparent to the user?
- Do i provide any social proof (testimonials, awards, etc.) to persuade users to act?
- Once a user takes the first step, is the process/form clear and concise?
- Is my conversion funnel optimized for smartphones/mobile users?
- Am I tracking my conversion actions (and steps) in my Analytics package?
We could spend all day talking about the facets of optimizing your call-to-action and conversion process. Those should be a helpful first step, though. Including conversion optimization in your on-page SEO strategy is even more critical in a commerce setting. The most compelling argument you’ll ever be able to make to senior leadership for an increased focus on search optimization is to clearly articulate the revenue impact for organic search traffic. But, you have to convert those visitors first!
Jason Cook, (@thesearchguy), offers a variety of online marketing services to business in the Charlotte, NC area. 8HBY4Z24CUSS