The Perfect SEO Landing Page
Optimize for Google
Whether you have an existing website or you’re looking to create something new, this post will walk you through the essential steps for making sure your webpages are SEO optimized. Before we jump into the key factors, I always think its important to be realistic about SEO. What I am covering here is the foundational aspects that you should try to apply to every page across your website.
If you do these consistently then you are putting your best foot forward to be successful, but this doesn’t guarantee in isolation that you will suddenly start ranking for all of your target keywords. Use the numbered reference points in the below image to find out more information about each of the key elements for on page SEO optimization.
(1) Relevant, Keyword Rich Page Title
From an SEO perspective, the page title tag is without doubt one of the most important elements to get right. It informs the search engines what the overall page content is all about, and is most commonly leveraged in search snippets as shown below.
A well written page title can not only help you rank on the right keywords, but it can also support improvements in the click through rate when your listing does show up in search.
- Place target keywords at the front of the page title
- Ensure titles are written for humans first
- Aim for between 60 – 65 characters in length
- Remember the page title is also an advertisement
- Leverage separators and special characters to maximize character usage
Place target keywords at the front of your page titles
Generally speaking, best practice is to place your target keywords at the very front of the title tag as you can see in the below example.
Consider your title tag as an advertisement
You should always bear in mind that your title tag is the primary element that will jump out to consumers if you do appear in the search results. Therefore, consider how you can target your keywords whilst also providing a compelling reason for someone to click on your listing over and above any others. This really boils down to solid marketing and copy writing skills.
Leverage separators and special characters effectively
The ideal page title is around 60-65 characters in length, which means you need to be short and snappy. Instead of using stop words such as and / or you can consider some little tricks to reduce character wastage. For example, break up your title with separators such as: /or | or –
You may also consider leveraging special characters to further reduce character wastage. For example, and would become & and copyright would become ©. Just remember to use proper HTML markup to ensure these display properly when rendered by Google.
(2) Effective URL Creation & Formatting
Well structured URLs are good for everyone, not just search engines. Following a few best practices can help you achieve user friendly URL strings that improve your click through performance when your listings show up in the search results.
- Keep them as short as you can – below 100 characters
- Include your target keywords where possible
- Make them easily readable for consumers
- Remove any special characters to avoid problems
Include target keywords in your URLs
Whilst the majority of SEOs (myself included) would not highlight this as a ranking factor, it still remains a general best practice to try and incorporate your target keywords into your URL string. Even if it doesn’t positively impact rankings, it does have the potential to support improved click through rate when your snippet does appear in the search results.
Keep your URLs readable and avoid special characters
This basically means creating URLs that are nice and readable for you and I. You also want to avoid any special characters from getting injected into the URL strings, such as %, &, $ and @.
When creating URLs you should have dashes to separate folders (for example, /products/glitter-ball) and leverage hyphens to separate words (for example, canvas-stretching).
You want to avoid leaving spaces in your URLs as this creates special characters which are poorly rendered. Here is a couple of examples for reference:
Spaces in URL: https://merlin.com.sg/canvas%20stretching BAD
Hyphen instead of spaces: https://merlin.com.sg/canvas-stretching GOOD
Keep URLs short whenever possible
As a general rule of thumb, shorter URLs are preferable, but you don’t necessarily need to start rewriting all of your URLs. If you have URL strings that are pushing say 100+ characters, then there is a good chance you could optimize these to make them shorter. There is no definitive guidance from Google to say this is a factor, but it stands to reason that shorter URLs are generally more readable for users.
Common issues occur when people leverage system generated URLs off the back of how a page, post or product has been titled. Most modern web platforms allow you to edit the URL (or slug) and you should check this before publishing to live.
The first step is to remove common stop words such as and, but, a, the, + others. Then consider if there is any other elements which you could remove to articulate content of the page, but in a short/snappy way.
Another common issue is lots of sub folders in a URL string. Again, you want to minimize the need of having lots of sub folders where appropriate.
> https://merlin.com.sg/framing/services/canvas-stretching BAD
would be far better served if it became:
> https://merlin.com.sg/canvas-stretching GOOD
(3) Implement SSL Certificate for HTTPS
Did you know that over half of the web is now encrypted? resulting in better protection of information online. Google has been pushing a big agenda on encryption for a number of years now, so whilst the ranking benefits may not be overly apparent, suffice to say that its preferable both from a security and search stand point to have an active SSL certificate on your site.
The great thing these days is that many hosts offer a free SSL certificate within their hosting packages, or you can leverage someone like CloudFlare (also free) to provide this facility. Implementing and running HTTPS is fairly simple with most common CMS platforms like WordPress, but on less standardised or enterprise level platforms this may be a more major undertaking.
If you aren’t sure about your sites current SSL certificate you can simply visit your website and check the browser. You should see something like the below if it has an active, and properly installed SSL certificate. There is some occasions where you may have an active certificate, but it may not be properly installed. If you need assistance on this please feel free to get in touch.
(4) Optimized Header Tags (H1, H2, H3 etc)
Header tags are basically a way of creating a content hierarchy within a web page. I always think back to my university days when you had to create an essay or a dissertation with a table of contents.
The table of contents would be built automatically from your headings and would help inform the reader of the structure of your document. Header tags within HTML is very similar in that sense.
- You should only include one header 1 (H1) tag per page
- Try to introduce your target keywords into your H1 tag
- Leverage H2 -> H6 tags for sub headings
- Use CSS or other styling options to control font size of H2 -> H6 tags
In the example below you can see the main opening header in the page on the left and the subsequent code view on the right. This text is encapsulated within header 1 tags. This is visible in code by looking for <h1> </h1> elements.
(5) Including Target Keywords in Content
If you want to rank on the keyword ‘canvas stretching’ its generally a good idea to mention this phrase and other related phrases in your content. That said, please always write for the end user first and weave in appropriate target keywords as part of this process.
There is no hard and fast rule to this element, use common sense.
- Write content for people first and foremost
- Introduce some of your target keywords into the content
- Don’t go overboard, Google can spot intentionally spammy content
- Think about related keywords and how to apply them into your copy (i.e., canvas framing is related to canvas stretching)
(6) Include Alt Text on Images
Image alt text is basically an element of code that can be leveraged to explain the appearance or function of an image on a webpage. It exists primarily for accessibility, allowing visually impaired individuals the ability to use a screen reader to understand the full context of a webpage.
It can also be leveraged appropriately to introduce additional references to your target keywords.
- Describe images accurately, but keep it relatively short (below 125 characters)
- Try to introduce your target keywords into at least one of the images
- Avoid stuffing lots of keywords into the alt text tag
- Don’t use words like ‘image of’ or ‘picture of’ as this is wasted characters
In the example below you can see how the alt text displays when the user hovers the mouse over the browser and also how it shows in the source code of the page.
(7) Excellent Loading Speed
Everyone likes websites that load fast, particularly on slower connections or over 3G/4G. Google recognizes the importance of well optimized websites and have been actively encouraging business owners to raise their game in this area.
This is simply one of those factors that you should forget about in terms of SEO opportunity and just come at it from a pure consumers perspective. Faster loading websites equal better business outcomes.
- Make sure your images are scaled down to the right size for purpose
- Use image compression (save-for-web) to reduce image size further
- Consider a CDN such as CloudFlare to improve site load performance
- Get your server response down below 200ms