Optimizing a website for higher search rankings is a methodical process that requires both off-page and on-page SEO.
Unfortunately, many webmasters focus on the former, believing that building high-quality backlinks alone will drive their site to the top of the search results.
While backlinks are essential, on-page SEO is equally if not more important. Whether you're launching a new website or updating an existing site, you should perform the following on-page SEO processes.
Optimize Title Tags
Search engines use title tags to create the headlines for their listings, so it shouldn't come as a surprise to learn that this HTML element is a significant ranking signal.
Found at the top of a web page's HTML code, between the Head tags, it provides search engines and visitors with a brief overview of the page's content.
When a user discovers your site in the search results, he or she will see the page's title tag displayed.
Create a descriptive title tag for each of your site's pages, describing its content while also including the primary keyword for which you want to rank.
When creating title tags, use no more than 60 characters for maximum visibility in the search results. Google and Bing typically truncate search listing titles longer than 60 characters, which may deter users from clicking and visiting your page.
Optimize Meta Descriptions
Another HTML element you'll need to optimize is the meta description.
Like title tags, each page of your site should have a unique and relevant meta description that accurately reflects its content. Meta descriptions aren't as influential as title tags in a page's search rankings, but you should still optimize them nonetheless.
Search engines display meta descriptions in their search listings, below the title headline. If you use irrelevant or generic meta descriptions, your site's visitor engagement metrics will drop, resulting in lower rankings.
While search engines only display about 60 characters of the title tag, they show more characters for the meta description.
In 2017, Google updated its search engine to display up to 320 characters -- more than doubling its previously supported length of 165 characters.
Take advantage of this digital real estate by creating long meta descriptions. That allows your website to consume more space in the search results, thereby boosting organic click-through rates (CTRs).
You can add meta descriptions within the Head section of your web pages' HTML.
Include Keywords in Content
Create rich, high-quality content that includes the keywords for which you want to rank.
If you're going to rank a page for the keyword "mobile automotive mechanic," for instance, include that phrase in your content.
You can dedicate the entire page specifically to this topic, or you can include as a side topic. Either way, you should add the phrase "mobile automotive mechanic" in its exact spelling throughout the content.
When Google and Bing crawl your page, they'll see this phrase, factoring it into their ranking algorithm.
Most SEO professionals agree that a keyword density of 0.5 percent to 3 percent is ideal, meaning your target keyword should appear between one to six times for every 200 words of text.
However, you shouldn't stuff keywords into your website's content strictly for SEO. If a phrase sounds awkward or irrelevant, omit it from the page's content.
Use Keyword-Friendly Permalinks
Your website's permalinks will affect its search rankings.
A permalink is a permanent URL associated with a web page's address. Some webmasters mistakenly use non-descriptive permalinks consisting of random numbers and letters. While these generic permalinks function just the same, creating keyword-friendly permalinks will help you rank for those keywords.
For a web page targeting the keyword "mobile automotive mechanic," for example, a useful permalink is Website.com/Mobile-Automotive-Mechanic.
That allows search engines and visitors to see what the page is about before visiting it.
Create a Sitemap
Some webmasters believe sitemaps are a waste of time.
Google can find web pages on its own, so what's the point of creating a document that lists all your site's pages? Well, uploading a sitemap to your website assists Google and other search engines in their indexing and ranking efforts.
If your website consists of hundreds of pages, search engines may struggle to find all of them. And if a web page goes unnoticed by a search engine, it won't appear in its search results.
After creating a sitemap, log in to your Google Search Console (GSC) account and submit it to Google.
You can also submit your sitemap to Bing via Bing Webmasters Tools. Once uploaded, the respective search engines will crawl all the pages listed in this document.
Make It Responsive
If your website isn't responsive, it will probably rank low or not all in mobile search results.
On May 26, 2018, Google launched mobile-first indexing to improve the quality of its search results for mobile users.
With mobile-first indexing, Google looks at the mobile version of a web page instead of the desktop version to determine its rankings for mobile search results.
Responsive websites encourage higher rankings in mobile search results because they provide a fluid, intuitive layout that's accessible on all devices.
Whether someone accesses your site on a laptop, desktop computer or a smartphone, they will have a positive viewing experience.
If your website uses a content management system (CMS), you can make it responsive by downloading and installing a responsive template or theme.
Add Links to Content
Don't be afraid to include links in your website's content.
Adding links to other pages of your site guides visitors and search engines to other relevant material. You can also add links to external websites in your content. If it provides value to your site's visitors, search engines may reward you with higher rankings.
Just remember to avoid linking to competitors' websites, which could otherwise boost their search rankings while subsequently hurting yours.
On-page SEO is essential to achieving and maintaining high search rankings. Most importantly, though, it promotes a positive user experience.
On-page SEO improves the quality and value of your website for human visitors. As a result, search engines will rank it more favorably in their search results.