Today I'm going to list the elements of "on-page optimisation" which I think are the most important. Three of them. No, make that four.
Over the past few weeks, I've been through several things which can help your site rank better in the search engines. These are things which the search engines encourage you to do; by proper signposting, it makes it easier for them to classify what your pages are about. But we've all got limited time, so in answer to one reader's question, today I'm going to list the things which I think are the most important. These are all related to "on-page optimisation" – in other words, changes you can make to your own site, rather than the other half of the SEO equation: external linking.
I was hoping to list three things, but it's going to have to be four. The first is having the keyword in the page title. If you want to be found for searches on "blue widgets", it's imperative to have "blue widgets" in the page title. Don't confuse the page title with the page filename (i.e the web address, or "URL"), or the headline on the page. The title is hidden tag which appears in most browsers across the top of the window …and critically, as the "headline" in Google results.
The second thing of primary importance is to get the keyword in the URL, as I mentioned very recently. You'll do better in a search for "blue widget" if your web page is www.[yourcompany].com/blue-widget/ than if it's www.[yourcompany].com/abcdef123 as you might expect. Sadly, this is impossible for many large websites with inflexible content management systems. It also explains why www.bluewidgetcompany.co.uk will do well in a search for "blue widgets", although most SEO experts believe that having the search term in the actual domain name is going to be of decreasing significance in the future.
At number three, although of no lesser importance, is having a decent amount of authoritative, unique content. Most searches on Google aren't for simple terms such as "blue widgets", but are for more complex terms. Each one might only occur rarely, but together, they add up to more potential visitors than the "big" search terms. What's more, the competition for these is smaller. The more content you have on your website, the more you increase your chances of catching that once-in-a-blue-moon search from a real prospective customer. And never, ever copy material from other websites. Not only will Google ignore it, if the content is already in its index, but it may even actively mark you down for it.
Finally, if I may add a fourth item, it's to ensure that your pages are all visible and working. I'll show you an interesting new tool to use tomorrow. It sounds obvious, but it's amazing how often website owners are taken by surprise to find that there are links on their site to pages which don't exist, and that there are sections which are tagged with codes saying: "don't include this in the search engine results". A good web designer will be able to check your site for all this if you don't have the inclination yourself.