On Page Optimizations - SEO Tutorial

Before we dig into on page optimizations, we need to consider how the major search engines index pages. Major search engines use spiders (also called robots) to crawl (trace) the web and find pages by following links just like a human browser might. However, there are technical limitations to what spiders can do. Your site's architecture can make a huge difference in a spider's ability to read and index your pages.

An in-depth dissertation on site architecture is beyond the scope of this tutorial. However, if your site employs:

  • Mostly Flash content
  • Mostly graphic content
  • Dynamically rendered pages (PHP, ASP, etc.) with session IDs
  • Frames
  • Javascript menus

You need to investigate the potential problems spiders are going to have indexing your pages before the following SEO tutorial will be effective. A quick check on the Lynx Viewer will let you see your web site much like the search engine spiders do. Can they see your content and (navigation) links?

SEO lends itself to tunnel vision among the newcomers to the field. The gratification of seeing your pages rising in search engine results for your keyhrases can be addictive. Always keep your visitor in mind when performing your search engine optimizations. Achieving high rankings (and traffic) will only result in higher bandwidth bills if your site does not convert traffic to sales (whether direct or indirect). Never compromise the useability and copy of your site in favor of SEO - avoid SEO tunnel vision. Your conversions/ROI will likely suffer.

Title Tag

Google and most search engines place a lot of emphasis on the title tag for each page. Title tags should include the one or two keyphrases that you will be targeting with that page. The closer the keyphrase is to the beginning of the title, the more weight it carries. Thus keyphrase one, keyphrase two - business name will be more effective than business name - keyphrase one, keyphrase two.

It is a good idea to limit the number of keyphrases you target with any given page to two (three at the very most) per page. Trying to target more keyphrases results in diluted results for all phrases. It is better to add more pages to your site and target additional terms with additional pages and copy. Search engines will index all of your pages, so do not limit yourself to trying to optimize just your home (index) page.

(Meta) Description Tag

Most search engines ignore the description tag as far as keyword relevancy is concerned. It doesn't hurt to work your keywords into the description tag, but if you include the description tag, write it to entice visitors to come to your page. Most search engines use the Description tag to some extent when displaying search results. This is your chance to differentiate your site from all the other results in a search.

(Meta) Keyword Tag

Most search engines completely ignore the keyword tag. Years ago, this tag was used by the search engines for determining relevancy, but it was abused. If you include a keyword tag, keep it short. There is not much point in listing anything other than the keyphrases you have included in the title tag.


The single most important part of your on-page SEO effort is to ensure that your keyphrases are used within the copy (text) of your page. The keyphrases should be repeated as much as possible without compromising the text. Forcing the phrases into the text in choppy, stilted sentences may impress the search engines, but it will not impress your human visitors. It is counterproductive.

Keyphrases may (and should) be used in:

  • heading tags - Use h1, h2, h3, etc. tags to structure the main points on your pages. Use your keyphrases where appropriate.
  • main page text - Write about your subject matter. Use your keyphrases where appropriate.
  • strong, bold or italics tags - Use around your keyphrases where emphasis is warranted.
  • image alt tags - Each image on your page should have an alt tag for visitors with:
    • text only browsers
    • graphics turned off (dial-up connections, overseas connections, etc.)
    • handicapped browsers (with text-to-speech for the sight impaired)
    Your alt tag should describe the image using your keyphrases where appropriate.
  • filenames - choosing keyword or keyphrase rich folder/directory and file names gives you another avenue for introducing your keywords/keyphrases in your internal site links. Use hyphens (dashes) to separate words in keyphrases. Search engines parse hyphens as spaces.

Be sure not to abuse image alt tags or heading tags with keyword stuffing. Search engines may penalize your site for that.

This is all you need to do for basic on page optimizations to produce dramatic results for non-optimized sites. Acheiving the right balance of keyphrase repetition and copy that also sells is an art. If you are interested in learning more about SEO copywriting, Karon Thackston's The Step-By-Step Copywriting Course is very good.