Overlooked But Beneficial On-Page SEO Elements

In my previous article I described the value of meta tags in driving organic rankings. In this article, I will review some other secondary “on-page” elements that—if used properly—may contribute to your site ranking more effectively in organic search results.

It’s important to note that these on-page elements actually play a very important role in creating a great user experience. This is not by coincidence: Google rewards sites that are able to convey their site’s content in a simple and concise manner.

Let’s take a closer look at the individual elements you can use for both SEO and user experience benefits.

Header tags (H1, H2, etc…)

Traditionally, header tags are used by copywriters to organize content within a page. These tags allow the author to break up content and make it more palatable for visitors’ scanning eyes. From an SEO perspective, header tags, often referred to as H1, H2, etc., further emphasize the topics conveyed in the META tags to the search engines. While still important, header tags used to be a bigger deal to search engines. These days, as reiterated recently by search reps at the recent SMX West conference, they are of relatively minor importance, though they still said it can make sense to use them as originally designed.

Header tags are represented in source code in the following format:

<h1>This is a header tag</h1>

They often appear in a slightly larger and boldfaced font than surrounding body text, acting as the “subtitle” of a given content area.

From an SEO standpoint, header tags rank in descending order of importance starting with the H1 tag as the most important, followed by the H2, H3 etc.

Boldfaced content

While less important than header tags, strategically bolding terms within your content can help emphasize the importance of terms to the search engines. Bolding content also assists in drawing attention to important terms and phrases while users scan your site’s pages, promoting a better user experience when used properly.

To bold terms on your page, enclose them with the tags:

<strong> This is important content that should be bolded!</strong>

Anchor text

Anchor text works in a slightly different manner than the elements previously discussed. While it is technically an “on-page” element, the SEO benefit is largely passed on to the page the anchor-text link points to (see Google Now Reporting Anchor Text Phrases for details of how Google uses this in its ranking algorithms).

For example, if I am selling “red widgets” on my generic widgets retail site, I may select and link an instance of the keyword phrase “red widgets” to my “/redwidgets.html” page. Let’s stop and think about the message we are conveying when doing this.

Essentially, we are telling the search engines or visitors that if they follow this link they can expect to find information on red widgets on the following page. Technically speaking, this text link is now considered a “vote” in the form of an internal link and should pass a portion of the parent page’s PageRank on to the receiving page.

Many site owners unknowingly forgo the potential benefit received from this simple technique by using more action-oriented text such as “click here” or “click me” to drive traffic to other pages within their site. While I applaud their effort for drawing attention to the link and insisting that the link is worth clicking on, “click here” does not describe the content on the linked-to page, thereby creating a less-than-perfect user experience.

The missed opportunity here is twofold: From the SEO perspective, keyword rich anchor text is not passed to the page that follows, and from a usability standpoint, “click here” is not conveying the topic on the linked-to page effectively.

Image alternative (alt) tags

The image alt-tag is yet another overlooked on-page SEO element that can assist in getting your site (or at least your images) properly indexed by Google. When appropriate, Google will use the alt-tag within its image search results if the search query matches your alt-tag.

An example of a well-executed and effective alt tag is as follows:

<img src="/images/EiffelTower.jpg" width="79" height="62" alt="The Eiffel Tower at night" /></a> </div>

Notice how the image filename “EiffelTower.jpg” and the text contained in the alt-tag “The Eiffel Tower at night” are contextually similar.

While no single on-page element will determine your success or failure in organic rankings, using these key variables in a search-friendly manner can help get you closer to your goal of ranking supremacy. It’s important to note that while the search marketer’s goal is to gain user traction via search engines and ultimately convert those visitors, you cannot ignore the role that usability plays. All of the on-page elements discussed above make it easier for not only the search engines, but for users to find and understand the meaning of your content and site’s pages. So remember, organizing and presenting content with your user in mind will actually also help you in search engine rankings in the end.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | How To: SEO


About The Author: is an SEM Analyst for Clickable. He began his career in search marketing in 2003.

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  • http://www.hugoguzman.com hugoguzman

    Thanks for the follow-up piece, Tony.

    Tip to interactive marketing managers out there:
    -if your SEO provider is overlooking on-page anchor text, it’s time to find a new SEO provider.

  • http://www.googleandblog.com/ Michael Martin

    I affirmed with Maile Ohye & Vanessa Fox at SMX West that the title attribute in HREFs have no SEO value.

    It was speculated it may have some weight especially if you can’t quite fit in the best keyword for the linking text – no harm no foul – still a good practice.

  • krigsi

    Nice article.

    FYI, it should be noted that improperly nested and unclosed tags can cause all sorts of strife for the bot. For example, after the line “ This is important content that should be bolded!” (line 216), the tag wasn't closed. This could potentially cause the bots to interpret the rest of the page as a snippet.

  • peterzhang

    Nice posting with on-page optimization. As you title, these are necessary but not that important any more. The key with SEO right now is to get more votes from other websites. And join the community. Try to link with the social media, is think is a good break point with any SEO. I can cover the disadvantage of SEO taking to long and lack of leads at the first start. Thanks for posting.

  • http://alexavery.com.au Alex Avery – SEO, PPC, Analytics Consultant Melbourne, Australia

    Nice post. It’s funny how so many people will say these things don’t matter any more – because they’re not doing them for their clients or on their own site. Ha! All of these things are critical. It’s a competition out there folks. A jungle. It’s a game of 1%ers.

    Offsite SEO – linking strategies – are important, but I know of many sites that rank in top 3 positions on page one in the SERPs for onsite SEO alone.

    If you don’t like bold text on your site because it’s unsightly. Great! Your competitor will do it. If you don’t think alt text optimised href’s on your page are good for SEO – think about page rank sculpting and indexing.

    I couldn’t find you on Twitter Tony, but I’ll be following @clickable.

    Keep up the good work.

    Peace. alex

  • http://www.drsandassociates.com/ davidthemavin

    Um, overlooked? What else is there if these are overlooked? Besides the there’s really nothing else that will do anything (aside from writing actual content of coures).

    Btw I think you overlooked the title attribute in links: a href=”http://www.website.com” title=”Text” ;-)

  • http://www.search-usability.com/ Shari Thurow

    The title attribute on an anchor tag has not ever been used to determine relevancy (or rankings). Not in the past, not now. Michael is right.

    Also, it has always been incorrect to consistently believe that off-the-page criteria always “trumps” on-the-page criteria. Information scent must always be validated, and that is what off-the-page criteria is: validation of “aboutness” from other sources. I wouldn’t hire an SEO who believes links trump everything.

    Personally? I did not like this article mostly because I’ve been doing this since 1995. Nothing new or unique for experienced SEOs.

  • http://www.HotHelpsYouSell.com Mike Szymczyk

    I disagree Alex. if you follow these steps and attain link popularity for a competitive keyword, most likely if coupled with optimization of the title tag, it will trigger an optimization filter and push your site down 15 spots, if not more. Most of these tricks will work for long-tail keywords, many which are utterly useless except for geo-optimized ones, and that’s normally a result of the keywords being on the page itself, rather than any coding tricks associated with them. In all my years working with web sites, I have never seen a case where adding header tags or emphasizing a keyword in bold has drastically increased a web site’s position in the SERPs for a keyword, if at all assuming the site’s changes in position were a result of natural fluctuations rather than on-page changes to the code.

    I feel it necessary to point out that the key is to draft great, keyword rich copy. H1 tags, strong and alt tags should be used with original, compelling content, to emphasize the points you’re making, not to emphasize keyword copy that no one wants to read. The keywords should be in there, but you shouldn’t put too much attention on them at the expense of the quality of your copy, otherwise Google will knock your site down for over optimizing it. I wasn’t sure if this is what the article’s author was hinting at, but by not stating the harmful effects an on-page optimization can have when coupled with a solid PR campaign and link popularity, I found it to be quite outdated and not at all relevant to SEO in 2010.

    At the end of the day, we need to write for customers, not for search engines. SEO needs to evolve into a customer-centric field, where the needs of customers, search engines and web site owners are all taken into account, rather than just search engines, which are on to the tricks of amateur and often foreign SEOs that try to sell their worthless rubbish to the public and give a bad name to us all. Great copy and PR will always beat header and all other tags when it comes to the results. The author makes a solid point at the end that the site should be about usability, but adding these elements into your web page can do more harm than good if you’re emphasizing keywords, rather than highlighting things in a natural, organic way. I thought it worthwhile to point this out at the author was not very clear on that point at the end of the article and some readers looking to learn more about SEO might miss out on that and emphasize only keywords in these elements, rather than calling out attention to things as they would in, say, real life.

  • http://www.syscomminternational.com syscomm

    Are these techniques still overlooked? They are indeed very good, but I am surprised they are considered as overlooked.

  • http://www.seoproficient.com christoalnz

    thanks for these tips, I am a first time website builder and have been using “click here” anchor links in all my web pages, thanks for this post, I am going to change all of them now.


  • http://www.mediaparade.com michelleann

    I agree with you syscom. I thought these strategies have been so long practiced for SEO efficiency. This article though will definitely be a great help for SEO beginners.

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