On-page search engine optimization is a way for anyone to do their own SEO on their own content. The old “trick the search engines” SEO is bunko now, but there’s one solid principle left that you can utilize – make your content easier for search engines to index properly, and they’re more likely to index it properly, resulting in better search results on the average. When you occasionally create new pages and routinely create new blog posts, here are six “poor man’s SEO” steps – that is, search optimization steps that don’t require you to spend money or have any technical knowledge.
- 1 Localize Your Post With a Local Example, Comment, or Case Study
- 2 Use Good Headlines, Properly Selected
- 3 Use Bold, Italics, Underline Judiciously
- 4 Give Your Titles a Focus Keyword
- 5 Use Internal Links with Key Phrases (instead of “click here”)
- 6 Use External Links Only When They are Needed for the Story
Localize Your Post With a Local Example, Comment, or Case Study
Even if you’re not a local business, citing a place name means you’ll do better in searches involving place names. That’s a lot of searches! If you are a local business, it’s not just a good idea – it’s essential. Call up another local person of note – artist, business owner, professional – and ask a key question related to your page or blog post. Get a quote. Utilize an example or case study – it can be as simple as one sentence. In a blog post about fishing for a tour service in Maine, for example: “The fishing bypass in the Howland Dam in Howland, Maine, reintroduced 11 new species into the river system…” You might cover a wide area with your services, but you’re going to write more posts too, so feel free to use different locales each time. No need to treat any one post like it’s the only chance you’ll get.
Use Good Headlines, Properly Selected
Every paragraph of your blog post or page can be broken up by a headline. We’ve already written a thoughtful guide to good headlines, but suffice it to say that the styling of the headline matters too. In your CMS (your blog writing tool), make sure you mark your headlines as headlines. Don’t use HEADING-1 (h1) for that, because you only get one of those per page, and that’s reserved for the page/post title. It’s usually automatically part of any page. Search engines don’t like it when you use more than one HEADING-1. But any of the other Headline styles are fine. Try Heading-2 or maybe Heading-3 for (sub)headlines.
Use Bold, Italics, Underline Judiciously
When you emphasize something with a style, you’re telling search engines that it’s really important compared to the other text in your article. It’s like a headline without being a headline. So instead of making the word “really” italicized, why not put asterisks around it and save the style emphasis (bold, italic, underline) for when you’re mentioning a major search phrase for you. Like plumbing categories or legal jargon. Don’t overdo it. No stuffing 3-5 of those things into your article and playing with the bold button. Write naturally, or you’ll get the article dinged for search over-optimization. Just be real, be natural, and bold when it makes sense and *also* includes a nice search term for you.
Give Your Titles a Focus Keyword
You get one word or maybe two for the title of a blog post that are going to be key in a search. You can’t stuff it full, or search engines will ignore it, and the search result will look awkward and get no clicks. The title needs to be enticing to actual humans. That’s it’s core function. Write the title for that purpose first, then look and see where you’ve used unnecessary words that are better replaced with a search word. After all, if it doesn’t come up in a search, that portion of your audience won’t see it. The social portion will, but the search portion won’t. The title is not the end-all be-all, so it can still be searchable, no matter what the title. But the title helps. Think of it on its own, as if there were nothing else. If you’ve got “Make Things Better With Four Easy Solutions”, you’ve got two words that aren’t particularly clear or precise if the title stands alone – “things” and “solutions”. Even the word “better” is kind of nebulous. If it were an article on choosing better plumbing materials when replumbing a house, how about, “Make Your House Last Longer with Four Easy Plumbing Solutions”. Or shorten it to “4 Easy Plumbing Solutions for a Longer Lasting House”. Our focus keyword is “plumbing.” The earlier your search term appears in the title, the sooner readers get the context, the more likely you are to get the click, and search engines also have an easier time of indexing it properly for that search.
Use Internal Links with Key Phrases (instead of “click here”)
Link to other articles you’ve also written on related topics, as long as they are useful to the flow of your page or post, and they provide the reader a genuine opportunity to drill deeper for more insight or information if they want. But don’t spam it up with too many internal links. A handful are fine – you’re not trying to link every other phrase. So, if you wrote an article on wind storms, and somewhere in there it mentions how housing stock gets damaged during wind storms, you might link the phrase “housing stock gets damaged” to a previous piece you’ve written about a time that happened. Keep in mind that some of your content is dated, and some is “evergreen” (it will always be relevant). Link to dated content when there’s a historical reference that makes it relevant (e.g. you’re writing about car accidents, and you link to a piece you once wrote about a specific accident). Link to evergreen content whenever it provides the reader a natural opportunity to extend their pursuit of your insight and analysis on the current topic. E.g. if you’re writing about creating a legal will, and in the place where you reference beneficiaries, you link to a previous piece you wrote about pros and cons of who you choose as beneficiaries. If you can’t think of any interesting phrases to link in the text itself, you can put a few “related articles” links at the bottom of the page.
Use External Links Only When They are Needed for the Story
Internal links are links to other posts or pages on the same URL/web site. Those are fine, in moderation, but don’t make the mistake of linking out to a lot of news articles, unless your article can’t do without them. A couple are OK, but too many of those external links pass the search value of your page onto someone else’s page. There are exceptions, and ways of doing it without passing your search ‘juice’ to someone else, but we’re only talking about things that require no technical knowledge. That way, they’re sustainable, because you don’t have to stop and make a technical case out of your blog post – you can do the more useful thing of moving on to the next one. Giving away a couple of links now and then is fine, and can even be a nice way to reward content writers you like (similar to a tip jar) with a link, provided your page is reasonably well valued by search engines and has some of that ‘juice’ left to spare. We don’t have to keep it all. Too many external links, though, tell search engines that your page or post may have a lower proportion of inherent value to a reader vs. the value of off-site content it’s linking to.
The basic rules of SEO aren’t technical:
- Keep it authentic: write content for humans, not search engines, and the search engines will reward that. Be relevant, enticing, and genuine.
- Keep it moderate: any one optimization step can be taken too far, and get dinged for “over-optimization”.
- Don’t game the system: if you overdo a good thing, it becomes a bad thing. Return to #1, and read 1-3 again!
For more do-it-yourself SEO consulting contact MadPipe.