Understanding Search Engine Optimization – What Is On-Site SEO?

When site owners look to improve their positions on search engine results pages, they look first at their own web sites. On-site SEO consists of those practices used on a site to improve its ranking. While there are many approaches to SEO, they all begin with on-site strategies.

How a site is structured, what content it contains, and how users can engage with what they find are all factors used by search engines when they evaluate a site. Without a strong on-site SEO strategy, any other efforts at improving a site’s ranking will be wasted.

1. Great On-Site SEO Begins With Great Site Structure

Sites with redundant pages and tangled link structures are as unattractive to search engines as they are to visitors. Good on-site SEO requires site owners to keep related information together and provide a simple and consistent link structure. Such sites are easy for search engines to understand and for visitors to use.

The content found on most sites can be easily divided into different categories and sub-categories. For instance, a store catering to outdoor enthusiasts might offer products for a range of activities such as hunting, fishing, and camping.

These activities each have their own equipment and enthusiasts, making them natural choices for categories when planning the site’s structure. Giving each of these categories its own top-level page and a prominent link in the site’s navigation would be the site owner’s first step toward good on-site SEO.

Still, these categories can be broken down even further, since the store probably offers specialized products for bass fishing and fly fishing. These sub-categories should all have their own pages and be linked to from the broader “fishing” page.

This category and sub-category approach to site structure is a proven aid to on-site SEO. It keeps related information together and provides a link structure which makes it easy for search engines to properly index the site. It also makes it easy for visitors to find what they need.

2. Search Engines Want Unique, Relevant Content

Once a site owner decides on a site structure, the actual pages need to be created. In the world of on-site SEO, content is king. If a site doesn’t offer users and search engines unique and relevant information its ranking on search engine results pages will suffer.

Page titles are still a critical component of on-site SEO. Site owners today can’t just stuff their page titles with random keywords and trick search engines into driving traffic to their sites. Instead, page titles must accurately reflect the content of the page and be enticing to users.

Just as important as good titles is the content of the page. Search engines want to see fresh and unique content which gives users the information they want. That means content which appears nowhere else and is written with that topic’s relevant keywords in mind.

If a search engine sees page titles which don’t accurately reflect the content of a page, or content which has been copied from somewhere else, it is apt lower the web site’s ranking. Having original, relevant content on a site is already critical to good on-site SEO and it will only become more important as search engines get smarter.

3. The Most Popular Sites Let Users Contribute

Search engines have begun to put a premium on sites which give users a way to join the conversation. User-written comments and reviews have become important tools for site visitors and no on-site SEO strategy would be complete without considering them.

A site which gives visitors the ability to post product reviews, ask questions, and comment on product news will be ranked higher in search engine results pages than a site which offers visitors no means of engagement.

An online store which offers these systems is no longer just another place to buy things. Instead, it’s a resource people can use to make purchasing decisions, find product support, and learn about products on the horizon. Search engines know this and will place that store’s site ahead of sites which offer only a “buy” button.

Another reason visitor engagement has become so important to on-site SEO is because user-generated content is almost certain to be both unique and relevant to the topic at hand. Each product review posted on a web site is fresh, keyword-driven content for the search engines to digest. Best of all, it’s content the site’s owner got for free.