“Has there ever been a boy born who can swim faster than a shark?”
“Tom Cruise monotooth”
“Cauliflower ghost broccoli?”
You wouldn’t expect these to be common searches on Google…and they really aren’t. With 100 billion queries every day, however, they make it to the list! Coming in at 44, 684 and 18 respectively in 2015. And those are just Google’s results.
So think about other popular search terms. When somebody searches “Pizza Nashville,” for instance, Google (or Bing or Yahoo) only provides 10 results on page one.
So how do those businesses wind up making it to that list? If you’re a brand or business owner, this has to be one of the most important questions on your mind about internet marketing. Whether you’re operating in the B2B or B2C space, your potential leads and customers are undoubtedly using their computers and smartphones to ask questions…questions your business has an answer to.
Search engine ranking is based off of a complex algorithm that changes regularly. The Modern Marketing Machine that Optimal operates has the task of discovering how our clients can take advantage of this algorithm now and be prepared for the inevitable changes that Google (and its peers) will make.
While the need for this makes online marketing difficult, it’s a good thing. A search engine’s goal is to make the internet a friendly place of quality and easily navigable content served to users in the quickest manner.
On-Page Optimization means intentionally and strategically creating the pages of your site to show search engines that you understand agree with this goal. It requires thinking about your website through the lens of two different artists:
95% Celine Dion; 5% David Blaine
When it comes to optimizing your site, a good mantra is clever honesty. Honesty in how you present your brand, products, services and focus on quality. You’re like Celine Dion belting your unique truth to the back row of the O2 in London. This isn’t just a show for you, it’s a real chance to connect with your audience – emotionally.
However, you also need to pay attention to technical factors which help how well Google (or Yahoo or Bing but really…) see the great content you have on your website.
You want your heart and passion for what you offer to resound through your website with a secret eye for the mystery of search engine visibility.
So about that other 5%
David Blaine is a master illusionist. If you haven’t seen his 2013 special “Real or Magic,” you need to stop reading this blog (but don’t close the tab!) and watch it right now. David Blaine’s success has come down to the fact that he is committed to his illusions. His goal isn’t trying to trick people into believing something, but trying to show them that the magic they want to see is not only possible, but happening in front of their eyes as they speak.
He’s also one of the hardest working performers in the world, having completed multiple physical endurance challenges that would have made him a top-billed sideshow attraction in the not-so-great old days.
What does any of this have to do with your online marketing?
Everything – while you are spending 95% of your online marketing efforts communicating your message and your brand, the other 5% is at work reading your audience and putting the content in front of them that they want to see the most!
You may be thinking that your audience is only made up of the people reading your website and searching for keywords on which you’ve decided to focus, but it’s not. Google is actually an audience member, and a tough one to impress.
Gary and Harry
Think of David Blaine performing the ice pick trick (with which I hope you’re now familiar). In the audience is a guy named Gary who has never seen a magic illusion before. When David Blaine pushes the ice pick through his hand, Gary loses his mind (like the audience members in the video).
Gary represents your average website visitor. People want to see what you can do and are impressed if you can do it well. Provided you are running an honest brand, have strong messaging and know how to speak to your market, they will be impressed.
Now, standing next to Gary in the audience is Harry Houdini. Harry Houdini is the historic master of both illusion and physical endurance. David Blaine knows all about Houdini, and while the ice pick trick is great for regular bystanders like you or I, Harry Houdini needs something incredible to feel that same sense of impression.
Google is your Harry Houdini. Google (and similar search engines, but let’s be honest, it’s pretty much just Google) comb through millions of websites a day reading great content. In order to impress Google and make it to their top 10 list, you have to go above and beyond. You have to speak its language and know how to show that your illusions are top notch.
Learning to Speak Googlese
On-Page Optimization is about learning to speak Google’s language. It entails showing Google that you understand people will be searching a keyword and this page on your site is more than able to handle that request and provide an answer quickly and easily.
Let’s look at this search result, for instance, and pull it apart.
There are four elements of this search result
1. Title Tag – Title tags are the title of your website. Not only do they show up in the SERP (search engine results page), but they also adorn the tab or window of your web browser when you actually visit the site. Optimizing these for keywords (which honestly represent the content on the site) is a great way to score points with search engines, and increase click-through rates from users.
2. Meta Description – The meta description offers a brief snippet of what the page is about. You can see on the example above that search engines will automatically pull the first 160 characters of copy if you haven’t embedded an optimized title tag in your page’s code. Although the meta description isn’t read by Google as a quality factor, meta descriptions that contain keywords increase click-through rate which is a strong factor for SERP prevalence.
3. URL Structure – Your website’s URL is your address online. Optimized URLs contain relevant keywords and are not overly nested (think dogs.com/breeds/spaniels/springer-spaniels/tri-colored.html). Overly nested URLs can slow your page down which is an ever-increasingly important factor in search engine ranking algorithms.
4. Headings – Those four terms you see beneath the meta description above are headings on the page. Headings break the copy of the page up into sections that search engines’ knowledge engines can link back to your main page topic. For instance, if you were writing a page about American rock and roll icons, your headings could be “Bruce Springsteen,” “Aerosmith,” “Creedence Clearwater Revival,” “The Ramones,” etc…
These factors are the easiest to manage. Other important factors include:
- Making sure your images are optimized for title and alt-tag (the text that appears when you hover over the image).
- Optimizing Pagespeed to reduce the amount of time it takes your page to load (especially making sure its mobile friendly).
- Making sure your sitemap is complete and missing pages aren’t being linked to. Sites with a lot of missing pages that are linked to internally are seen as low quality.
- Regularly updated content. Most websites choose to do this through a blog, like the one you’re reading now.
There are more and perhaps by the time this blog is published, some of these will be obsolete/updated. That’s the world of on-page optimization for you. It keeps us on our feet!
Getting It Right
What are the results when a page is optimized correctly? Well below is a snapshot of a client’s Google Analytics showing the month we went in and performed an extensive on-page optimization of their website:
This site was optimized in September of 2014 and every month after that saw an increase in traffic. Even the seasonal dip the traffic took in April saw an increase of 133% over the last year. Not to toot our own horns (okay just a little bit), but these kind of analytics reports aren’t uncommon sights for us. We love letting good content shine on the internet and we know how to make it happen.
Getting It Wrong
Unfortunately, every yin has its yang. Every awesome summer vacation your family took to Florida in 6th grade, has the 8th grade trip to North Dakota (no offense to the six North Dakotans – you guys were great). The catch all term for shady SEO work is “black hat” and it’s a surprisingly booming, albeit fly-by-night, industry.
Rather than learning to make good content visible, like we do, black-hatters job is to deceive Google into believing your page possesses content it doesn’t, or has earned links to the site that it hasn’t. While these strategies can sometimes pay off in the short term, they are always penalized the worst in subsequent updates. Just look at some of these headlines:
The more bad news? It doesn’t even take black hat tactics to drop off the radar. Even without a manual penalty from Google, a site that is not optimized for search engine visibility can be pushed back to the dreaded nowhere that is the third or fourth SERP for a keyword you may have ranked at number three or four for previously.
Getting on-page optimization right is serious stuff and a quick way to win traffic. While you won’t find any decent agency that can guarantee rankings, a combination of good copy and understanding the ever-changing visibility algorithms will give your site the best possible shot at winding up where it belongs – in front of your prospective leads.
For more information about getting your site to show up, contact us today