On-site SEO refers to getting all your ducks in a row on your website. That is a simplification but it involves gearing your site to communicate with the internet at large just what you are about. Remember, SEO stands for ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ – so the goal is to optimise your website for the “Search Engines” – ie. Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. Those search engines want your site to be nicely put together so they can parse it – a technical word for “grasp or understand it”.
Imagine you are studying botany and you opened a textbook and on page # 1 is a random excerpt of text, page #2 is the heading of chapter #4 with a picture of the author, then a picture of some flower, and thirty pages later is the table of contents – it would be frustrating! You want things organised well so it is very logical to read the book from cover to cover, or alternatively to jump to a specific section. This is why books have chapters, headings, images that correlate to the text beside them and so on. If you do this for your website, Google et al will love you for it.
Time for a practical example: Say for example that you run a business that builds homes for local residents in Nairobi, then your site’s home page will have that as its focus keyword – showing Google that is what you do. So maybe you would say:
Main keyword: builder
Sub-keywords: renovations, home restorations, home extensions, local builder, Nairobi home builders etc
Getting your main focus right, your H1, H2, H3 headings, your tags, meta descriptions – and a whole host of other attributes set up correctly means the crawlers know what they are looking at. They are robots after all, not humans, that index the whole internet, and smart as they may be (and getting smarter by the week) you do want to spell it out for them, so to speak.
All of these tricks and tasks are widely available on the Internet, and we even encourage clients to do their own on-site optimisation. However, the main thing is knowing just what to focus on, and that is where an expert can be very useful. Doing research on your site, your industry, and on your competitors can reveal a lot – and after that is done, and done thoroughly, you will want to adjust accordingly and take aim at ranking first within a certain keyword or phrase. For example, ‘builder’ may be too competitive, and so you want to focus on ‘Nairobi builder’ or ‘home restoration expert’. Getting this wrong can really affect you down the line, and can be the difference between ranking or not.
Thankfully, there is much room for growth and learning, and plenty of “space” in the English language to find a term that you can use and then dominate in. After that, it’s simply a matter of going through various steps of telling Google who you are, what you focus on, and then watching as you begin ranking for your term.
A helpful metaphor
For those poets among you, the creatives and people with extra time to read and ponder, here is a metaphor. Gardening takes hard work. Up front. After that it is – contrary to popular opinion – incredibly easy work. The initial work of uprooting trees, digging holes, planning the garden, buying plants, planting, mulching, weeding, clearing, setting up a compost heap etc etc all take plenty of time. However, once that is done, it is really simple.
Occasional watering, some weeding, throw on a bit of mulch, but you mostly want to just maintain what hard work you have already done. SEO is incredibly similar. The initial planning, research, and grunt work up front takes its toll but you know the reward is there down the line. For SEO, it is in about 6-9 months, and ranking on Google for your search term on the first page, or top three, or even number 1 is like the metaphorical harvest.
What is even better is your second year’s “harvest” – the year that you reap bountifully without having hardly done a thing to rank at the top. Best thing ever is that in the next decade you can continue to rank up there with minimal effort, as long as you keep the pests away. Pests in this metaphor would be competitors who try and take you out of the top rankings for your site’s focus keywords. We will deal with with those in our off-site SEO post in the next edition of the blog.