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Tech Blogging

Get Started with On-Page Search Engine Optimization

Dan King
Dan King

Table of Contents

For many years Search Engine Optimization was a mystery to most folks.  SEO and
marketing specialists tried all kinds of things like keyword stuffing, creating
pages for every variation of a keyword, and creating multiple linked websites
that basically offered up the same content.  Some of these things actually
worked, but the end result was a really messy web that search giants like Google knew had to be cleaned up.

These days there is quite a lot of published information on this topic (even if
a lot of it is still speculation) and Google, Mozilla, and Microsoft all
contribute to the conversation often enough for us to know at least the
fundamentals that need to go into each site.  There are a few basics that we
can cover here that anyone can do to make their website rank higher in the search engines.

Illustration of man saying SEO

Please keep in mind that there is no magic formula for ranking number one in
Google.  If your site only gets a few visitors each month, it is highly unlikely
you will ever rank at the top of any search unless it is an extremely
specialized search topic.  However, if you follow these simple steps, you will
be setting yourself up for success as they are strategies that are considered
foundational and proven to work. There is no hocus-pocus here - just good solid
information that every website can benefit from.

Include the Essential Meta Tags

Depending on your tech stack, the meta information can be located in a few
different places.  Most commonly it is located in the <head> of each HTML page.

There are three essential meta tags:

<title>Page Title Here</title>
<meta name="description" content="The description of the page goes here - usually one or two sentences."/>
<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1">

Note:  The meta keywords tag is essentially deprecated at this point and is of virtually no value.  Please leave it out.

Create a site map and submit it to both Google and Bing

A sitemap is an XML file that lists all the pages of your website and gives search engine web crawlers a kind of "road map" of how to crawl it.  It allows the crawlers to index every page of your website so you get maximum benefit from your content.  If, for some reason, you do not want a search engine to index certain pages of your site, just leave it out of the sitemap.

A sitemap helps your site build trust with search engines  because they can index more of your site.  If you have specific content you really want to have out there and indexed, be sure it is in your sitemap!

Check out this link for more information on sitemaps:

Build and Submit a Sitemap | Google Search Central | Documentation | Google Developers
Google supports several sitemap formats. Follow this guide to learn about formats, how to build a sitemap, and how to submit a sitemap to Google.

Make sure all of your image tags in your markup have alt tags

Alt text within an image tag provides search engines with context for images and allows them to index your images properly.  If for some reason an image cannot be loaded, the Alt tag will be displayed in place of the image by the browser.  Here is an example of well executed Alt text in an image tag:

<img src="root/img/cat.jpg alt="small black and white kitten staring at the camera" />

Make sure every page has one <h1> element.

The <h1> tag is usually used for the title of a page or post in a blog and should be the first header element on a page.  The <h1> element is similar to the title which we covered above, but it is used for a different purpose.  The title tag is shown in (SERPS) Search Engine Result Pages and tells the search engine what the page is about, while the <h1> element is shown to users when they are browsing a page and signals to them what the page is about.  Each element serves a different purpose but both are important and should be optimized.

Create Great Content

This is the best thing you can do to improve the SEO of your website. Better content draws more readers, and more readers improves the Authority of your website.  The reason this works is through backlinks.  Backlinks are links back to your website and its content.  A lot of backlinks signals to search engines that your website is one that a large amount of people trust, so they create links back to its content.  As a result, your website gains Authority and rises in its search result ranking because the search engines want to offer the best content to its users.

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