Everything you need to know about SEO, delivered every Thursday.
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.
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 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>
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.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.