Search engine optimization – On Page Factors

by Anthony on May 18, 2006

On Page Factors – what does that even mean?

Well, its everything on your page. Lets look at the basics first…

  • Title tag
  • Meta tags
  • Heading tags
  • Keyword density
  • Meaning HTML markup

Thats the short list, now lets look closely…

Title Tag

Simply put, this is the [title] tag of your post. It is, as the tag suggests, the title of your page. Its what shows up in the blue (conveniently named) title bar at the top of your web browser. When a visitor adds the page to their favourites, thats the ‘suggested’ name of the shortcut. Search engines will use it as the heading of the result snippet they show searchers.

You should absolutely used a few keywords in the title tag, no questions asked. But make sure it makes sense too.

Pro tip: Its my experience that you’ll get a better response from search engines if you phrase the title as a question. This won’t help your rankings at all, but does seem to provoke a better response when people see that question in their search results.

Meta Tags

First, what is it? Lets try: [meta content="Describe your site here, using lots of keywords" name="description" /]

There jury is out on the importance of this one. Meta data used to be very relevant, until people figured out that thats all the engines looked at. You know, back in the day. The engines quickly realised that people could write anything in there, and it wasn’t always accurate – so they stopped relying on it. Do they still use it? Well, that is the question!

Google will sometimes show the meta description in the results page, but will also sometimes show a snippet of actual content from the page. Popular theory (and it looks this way to me) is that Google uses the description until it has a chance to index the page content, at which point it uses that instead.

Pro tip: Don’t keyword stuff your meta data. That would mean a meta description of “cards vegas poker blackjack gambling online”. Instead, try something like “Poker.com is the best online casino, with secure transactions and honest games”. Meta data might not count for much, but every little bit helps! If you employ questionable tactics like keyword stuffing, you’re just going to set off alarm flags.

Headings

The heading tags! See how the word ‘headings’ is big and bold? Thats a [h3] tag. Simply put, its a level 3 heading. Headings indicate importance of the page. But its vital you keep your page well structured! You should have one h1 tag. Then a couple of h2 tags, with h3 and content grouped underneath.

Basically, look at your page with the CSS turned off. (You are using CSS, right? Of course you are, have a cookie!) If it still makes sense, and is set out like one of those boring research papers you had to do back in school – you’ve done it right.

Keyword Density

Experts debate about things like optimal density of keywords. All it means is that if you are optimizing for the word ‘poker’ – a 1% density means that for every hundred words on the page, you use the word poker once. Experts debate about a 3% vs a 6% density. The theory is, a higher density is better, but only up to a point. Just write naturally! If you’re writing about poker, you’re going to achieve a decent density anyway. And the principal of the engines is that you shouldn’t have to spoon-feed them content – write for your users, and the engines will pick you up and appreciate it.

Meaningful HTML Markup

This part is important. For example, a lot of editors will bold words by putting [span style="font-weight:bold;"] around the words. And sure, it looks bold. It IS bold. Or they use the [b] tag, for shorthand. This is no good. What they should be doing is using the [strong] tag. That tag has meaning to the engines!

Same for [i] vs [em] for italics. Use the meaningful tag wherever possible (strong or emphasised), because the alternatives are just presentational – they do not add any weight or meaning to the words, which is what your intention should be.

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