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On-Site Optimisation

Discover how to make your content irresistible and optimise your pages like a pro

Table of Contents

Chapter #4: On-Site Optimisation

Did you feel that? It’s your competition collectively shaking in their boots at how quickly you’re learning the secrets of SEO.
In the previous chapter you learned how to find the keywords your audience is using to trigger results on Google. In this chapter we’ll teach you how to optimise your content, use the keywords you discovered, and create irresistible web pages that Google and people love.
On-page SEO is much more than creating easy-to-read content that uses the right keywords. We’ll show you how to nail the little things, like:
  • optimising for images
  • writing clickable Page Titles
  • implementing an internal link strategy
  • and so much more
You’re ready to write, right? It’s time to get started with the basics of content.

A Quick Recap on Using Keywords in Your Content

In the previous chapter you learned how to find the keywords your audience is using. Here’s a guide on how to maximise those keywords and rank for multiple queries using the same piece of content.
Step #1 – Go over your keywords and group them into similar ‘topics’. You’ll have multiple keywords per ‘topic’ and your content should be created to include ALL keywords in each ‘topic’ group.
These broad pieces of content will give you a chance to rank for multiple keywords, instead of creating multiple pieces of content in an attempt to rank for individual keywords.
Step #2 – Go over the SERPs for your target keywords and make note of the type and format of content that ranks in positions 1-10 on Google. Look for patterns as these are clues that Google and users prefer that type of content.
  • Are they full of images?
  • Are they full of videos?
  • Is the content long or short?
  • Is the content in list form or paragraphs?
Step #3 – Identify ways to make YOUR content better than the pages currently ranking for your target keywords.
  • Could you include quotes from industry experts?
  • Could you film video content yourself?
  • Could you write longer lists than the pages that rank?
  • Could you include more up-to-date stats and data?
  • Could you go more in-depth on a topic?
Following this simple three step strategy – the Digital Estate ladder to on-page SEO success – should be the foundation for every piece of content you create.
Before you start creating content that wins friends and impresses people, let’s go over the on-page SEO pitfalls to avoid at all costs, starting with thin content.

The Dangers of Creating Thin Content

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, your website content should always be created with ONE goal in mind – satisfy user intent.
If you start creating content solely to try and influence your rankings, you’ll invest considerable time and effort (not to mention resources) into an SEO strategy that doesn’t pay dividends. Rankings are great, but that happens when you put people first and solve their problems.
A mistake many New Zealand business owners make is to churn out content with minimal effort in an attempt to rank for certain keywords (especially if those keywords have low competition).
This is known as thin content.
In the early days of SEO it was a common black-hat strategy to create a single page for every variation of a keyword. For example if you were trying to rank for the phrase ‘wedding dresses’ you might have made multiple pages for:
  • Wedding gowns
  • Wedding dresses
  • Bridal gowns
  • Bridal dresses
These are all variations of the same thing, which would often lead to low quality content (or duplicate content, which we’ll get to shortly) to save time and target multiple keyword variations. This seems a spammy tactic today, but back when Google wasn’t as advanced at understanding the links between related terms, it was often the only choice to rank for multiple keywords.
Of course, Google is highly intuitive now. You can ask Google for recipes, directions, and search results without ever picking your phone up. As a result, a page for ‘wedding dresses’ may rank for a query about ‘wedding gowns’ as Google better understands the semantic relationship between words.
Unfortunately, black-hat SEOs still use this strategy in an attempt to manipulate their rankings, leading to a ton of low-quality and thin content. If you’ve ever clicked on a search result only to find a page with a couple of paragraphs, sometimes using poor English, you know how frustrating this is. Thankfully, Google’s ever-changing algorithm targeted thin content as a result of a 2011 algorithm update known as Panda. The Panda update penalised websites who were using thin content as a ranking strategy which a) made it harder for black-hat SEOs to rank and b) moved quality websites to the top of Google.
When it comes to the content you create, thin content should always be avoided. Google wants to see a comprehensive page on a single topic, NOT multiple (thin) pages for individual keywords.

The Dangers of Creating Duplicate Content

Duplicate content refers to content that is replicated on different pages of the same website, or between different websites. Scraped content is an extension of duplicate content, with scraped content being stolen from one website and used without permission on another. Identifying scraped content can be tough as it may be changed verrrrrrrry slightly to try and avoid being caught out – but without adding any additional value.
Duplicate content is often seen within a local SEO strategy as businesses try and rank for the same keywords across multiple cities. For example, an online counsellor may try and rank for:
  • Online counsellor in Auckland
  • Online counsellor in Christchurch
  • BackOnline counselling in Wellingtonlink
  • Online counsellor in Dunedin
  • Online counsellor in Queenstown
This becomes a BIG problem if they use the same content, and change only the target city. These are known as geo pages and should always include a majority of unique content (a few sentences matching won’t get you on Google’s bad side) about each location and service. Aim to go into detail about each location, or any services unique to those locations, to improve your local SEO.
No one likes a copycat, and Google is no exception. If you want to improve your content’s ranking potential, it needs to be unique. We know what you’re about to ask and yes, there are legitimate reasons for content to be duplicated across one or more websites. To avoid any problems, you can use a rel=canonical tag to let Google know which version is original.
We’ll explain a little more about this handy tag in Chapter #5: Technical SEO, but all you need to know right now is to make your content unique, even if you’re targeting different geographical areas with the same keywords.

Will Duplicate Content Get Me in Trouble with Google?

Yes and no.
There are legitimate reasons Google will penalise your website and either deindex or lower your rankings (for example, paid link building schemes).
Duplicate content is NOT one of these resons.
It’s a common SEO myth that Google will penalise you for duplicate content. If you stole an entire page from your competition (which we don’t recommend) there is a 0% Google will manually penalise you.
BUT (there’s always a but) Google does filter versions of the same content. So if you did steal an entire page from your competition (which we still don’t recommend) Google will only choose ONE of the identical pages to display in the SERPs. That means your competition’s page (which is older and has been building SEO power) will rank and your copycat page will be invisible.
That’s not a manual penalty, but it is being punished by Google indirectly, making duplicate content a giant waste of time.

The Dangers of Auto-Generated Content

At Digital Estate we love writing content, but not every business owner is the same. This has led to another harmful content strategy in the form of auto-generated content.
Auto-generated content is created by software and programs with the intent of mimicking human-made content. The theory goes that businesses can save time by having content automatically created, speeding up the ranking process (and driving ROI). The problem is that content-creating software is NOT made to help users.
If you’ve ever come across computer-generated content you’ll recognise the mish-mash of words right away. Each word is a real word, but when strung together by an algorithm they end up sounding like gibberish, which hurts a businesses chance of ranking. Technology never slows down (try comparing your phone today with your phone of 10 years ago as proof) and it’s highly likely machine-learning algorithms will become better at auto-generating content. For now Google’s own Quality Guidelines warns action may be taken against such content, so it’s always better for real people to create content for real people.

The Dangers of Cloaking Your Content

Wearing a cloak? Stylish, mysterious, fashionable.
Cloaking your content? Damage your rankings, hurt your reputation, invite Google penalties.
Search engines like Google want you to show the same content to people as you showed to crawlers. Black-hat SEOs try to get around this by hiding text in the HTML code of their websites that Google can see but people can’t, or by hiding text by using font colour that matches the background of a website. This is known as cloaking.
By cloaking content, webmasters can trick Google into thinking the content on a page is different than it really is, leading to higher rankings. No matter what you hear, cloaking is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

I Know Keyword Stuffing My Content Is Bad, Right?

That’s absolutely right.
You can stuff yourself at the next family dinner, but never stuff your content. You might have heard business owners or even bad SEOs say “you need to include your target keyword x number of times on the page to rank”.
This is known as keyword density. When Google’s algorithm wasn’t as advanced, the number of times a keyword was used was far more important. This has led Kiwi business owners to adopt the spammy practise of forcing keywords into content to fit an arbitrary figure. This is known as keyword stuffing. You CANNOT rank content based solely on the number of times you use certain keywords. Going a step further, you can harm your content’s chances of ranking by stuffing keywords in left, right and centre.
If this is the first time you’ve heard of keyword stuffing, let it also be the last time you think about it. When creating content, the user is your only goal. Your content should naturally provide value, and in doing so you’ll sprinkle keywords (and similar variations) throughout the text.
Digital Estate Tip: If you’re worried about keyword stuffing, try reading your content out loud. If it sounds like it was written by a robot with obvious keyword insertions, go back and edit it. Content that flows, reads well, and provides value will use keywords in a natural and Google-safe way.

OK, I’ll Avoid These Content Strategies. What Content Should I Create to Rank on Google?

Here’s the bad news…there is no secret to creating content that guarantees a rise in rankings. It’s not enough to avoid thin content, keyword stuffing and cloaking. Your page has to provide value to search engine users to have a chance of ranking.
OK, now for the good news. You can give yourself every chance of ranking by using the Digital Estate ‘10x Method’.
Digital Estate ‘10x Method’
  • Search the keyword you want to rank for
  • Analyse the top 10 results for your target keyword
  • Identify the shared qualities of the top 10 pages (content length, depth of information, multimedia, similar topics covered, content format)
  • Create content that covers their inclusions and adds your own unique value on top
When you create content that is 10x better than anything already ranking, you’re telling Google…
“Hey, I know what type of content you like for this keyword so I’ve given you that PLUS 10x more value”.
Using the Digital Estate ‘10x Method’ will help you put the needs of people first, which ends up being what Google loves. This will boost your rankings for your target keywords, and drive people to create backlinks to your awesome content because it’s so in depth and high-quality.

How Long Should My Content Be?

There’s a couple of ways to answer this question so we’ll give you every possible advantage.
When it comes to content length, there’s no magic number. Unfortunately, ranking content doesn’t come down to hitting a figure, for example 1000 words. If that was the case then every Kiwi business would create 1000-word pieces of content, many of which would be low-quality and rushed.
The ideal word count is whatever satisfies user intent. You might be able to satisfy user intent in 500 words, or a more in-depth query may require 2000 words.
We know how frustrating it is to get vague answers to SEO questions, so we’ve gone the extra mile for you. According to numerous studies (checked, double-checked and triple-checked by Digital Estate) the average word count for content on the first page of Google is 1890 words.
That does NOT mean all your content should hit that mark. But it’s a good indication of where your competitors stand to get you started.

What Should I Do If I Already Have Content on My Site?

Unless you’ve launched a brand new website, it’s likely you’ll have some content on your site already. This gives you a quick and easy way to boost your rankings by updating your current content. This is known as content upgrading.
Content upgrading is the process of identifying which pages are already bringing in organic traffic and/or conversions, and optimising them to be even stronger. Existing content will (in many cases) be indexed already, so you won’t have to wait for Google’s crawlers to find you. By adding new stats, new opinions or new data you can build trust and relevance. Making your content longer and adding new keywords can help turn tired and old content into a traffic and lead-generating machine.
You don’t have to start with fresh content. It’s all about working smarter, not harder.

Get Your NAP Right to Optimise for Local SEO

We’ve touched on the importance of your NAP before but if you want to nail your local SEO and appear for local searches, it’s worth going over the basics again.
Your NAP stands for your:
  • Name (of your business)
  • Address
  • Phone number
If you’re a business with a physical store for customers to visit, or you provide an in-person service to customers in your local area, getting your NAP right is crucial. We mentioned in Chapter #2: How Google Works (Crawling, Indexing, and Ranking) how Google uses your NAP in the form of citations to establish your authenticity. You can give your local SEO a boost by using the same consistent NAP throughout your website.
Google will cross-reference the NAP on your website with the NAP it finds in each citation, so make sure they are IDENTICAL. Most websites add their NAP in the header or footer of their site, as well as the ‘contact’ page – so you should be doing the same. Don’t worry if this sounds overly technical, but you’ll also benefit by marking up your information using local business schema.
We’ll explain schema a little later in this chapter, but for now all you have to remember is to get your NAP consistent and include it on your website.

Local SEO vs National SEO vs International SEO

The way you optimise your site will differ based on your SEO goals.
Do you want to rank in your local area? Do you want to rank across New Zealand? Or, do you want customers to find you in Australia and beyond?
These optimisation strategies can be broken down to:
  • SEO
  • Local SEO
  • International SEO
Take Digital Estate, for example. Our SEO packages aren’t tied to one location and we have clients in Christchurch, Auckland, Nelson, Hamilton, Tauranga, and Wellington. Compare this to a coffee shop in Dunedin who has a specific location as customers have to be in Dunedin to enjoy their daily brew.
In this example, this imaginary coffee shop would optimise their website using local keywords, while our Digital Estate optimisation strategy would focus on service keywords without being location-specific.
Identifying your SEO goals BEFORE you begin optimising is key. Local, New Zealand-wide, or international – what’s your strategy going to be?

WARNING: Read on If You Want to Unlock More Advanced Optimisation Strategies

Armed with the Digital Estate ‘10x Method’ you’ve already got a secret weapon in your arsenal that your competition won’t see coming.
For most New Zealand business owners that’s where the optimisation strategies stop…but you’re not most New Zealand business owners.
Creating content that is 10x better than anything currently ranking can take time and energy (unless you’re bringing on an SEO consultant to speed up the process) but it’s just the start. In the next section we’ll explain how to name your content to impress Google and people. Then we’ll show you how to organise content so it’s easy to find and even easier to consume.
By the time you’re finished with this chapter you’ll have all the information you need to become the hottest business in your market.

Header Tags Explained

Header tags are an HTML element that designate headers on your page. There are 6 header levels available, including H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, H6.
The highest (and most important) header tag is the H1. This is typically (though not always) the title of your page. Headers are helpful for people and Google. For people, headers create bold and eye-catching focal points, and tell people what each section of a page is about. Humans love to scan content (we’re confident you’ve scanned your way through some of our content too) so headers make it easy for people to skim down a page and find the information they’re looking for. For Google, headers also help break down what a page is about (so Google can see if it’s a good fit for a searcher’s query).
Here’s what your HTML header tag will look like:

Page Title

Each subsequent header tag after the H1 carries less importance, though you don’t need to use all 6 header tags on each piece of content.

How Many H1 Tags Do I Need per Page?

It’s SEO best practise to use one H1 tag per page. This should be a unique title that describes the broad topic of each page. For example, the H1 for this chapter is ‘On-Site Optimisation’. It’s easy to find at the top of the page, and tells you everything you can expect to learn about if you choose to read on.
It’s also SEO best practise to use your target keyword in your H1. This is considered one of Google’s ranking signals and should be one of the first things you optimise on any page or piece of new content. If we go back to the title of this chapter, the keywords we’re targeting (possibly the keywords you entered to find this handy guide) are ‘on-site optimisation’.
Once you’ve created an H1 tag with your target keyword inside you can move down to your H2 tags. If your H1 tag is to introduce the broad theme of your content, your H2 tags start to niche down on individual topics within the article.
Here’s what your HTML H2 tag will look like:

Individual Topic Title

Let’s use this chapter as an example. Our solo H1 is ‘On-Site Optimisation’ so you know what the entire chapter will be about. But each section has an H2, with this section’s H2 a clear and easy to understand ‘How Many H1 Tags Do I Need Per Page?’
Structuring your headers like this lets people skim through content and find sections they’re interested in learning more about, and by placing keywords in headers you’re telling Google what your page is about.
Digital Estate Tip: As SEO best practice evolves it’s less important to place exact keywords in your H1 and H2. Backlinks, content and RankBrain are the top 3 ranking factors, so treat your headers as a way to help users, not Google. A robotic sounding header jammed full of keywords doesn’t appeal to site visitors. But a clear and succinct header showing people what they’ll learn does help site visitors, so that should be your focus.

Everything You Need to Know About Internal Links

Back in Chapter #2: How Google Works (Crawling, Indexing, and Ranking) you learned how crucial it is to have internal links on your website, to allow Google’s crawlers to find and index each page.
As well as building bridges for crawlers and helping site visitors navigate from page to page, internal links pass on SEO juice, known as link equity, from one page to the next. That’s a pretty power-packed combo at your fingertips. Here’s how you use it to boost your SEO.
Link accessibility
Google is pretty smart these days, but you still need to lend a helping hand to have your internal links visible to crawlers. If you place internal links inside boxes of text that are only available by clicking a drop-down menu or expand button, you may have trouble getting those links seen. The best way to place internal links is to add them on pages where no action is necessary to reveal content.
Anchor text
Anchor text is the text you use to link to another page on your website. This is an example of anchor text and it links to our SEO page. The words you choose are important because they have the power to convince site visitors to dive deeper into your site – or ignore your internal links completely. You should always keep your anchor text natural and relevant to the page you’re linking to. People don’t want to be tricked, so if the anchor text is ‘Learn how to kick a rugby ball’ the page your site visitors land on should cover that topic.
Google also uses your internal links as part of their ranking algorithm (not a huge part, but enough for you to include them). Again, keeping anchor text natural and relevant will steer you clear of trouble, while too many links using keyword-stuffed anchor text can look spammy to Google.
Link volume
When it comes to SEO, there is too much of a good thing. We mentioned earlier that internal links can pass link equity from one page to the next. However, each page only has so much link equity to go around. If you overload your page with internal links, the pages you link to won’t receive the SEO boost you’re after. Google’s own Webmaster Guidelines recommends businesses limit the number of links per page and while going overboard won’t put you at risk of a penalty, it does make for a worse experience for users – and if you’ve learned anything by now it’s that user experience is the #1 goal.
Here’s an example of a paragraph where too many internal links creates a poor user experience:
“Welcome to New Zealand’s leading furniture sales website. We sell many products including tables, chairs, cupboards and outdoor furniture. Visit our blog to discover the secrets of design including how to decorate your home in 2021 and design tips from the experts.”
Not very fun to read, was it? Overloading your internal links drives site visitors away, makes it hard to navigate your site, and reduces your link equity. To avoid these outcomes, add internal links when it helps your users, using relevant anchor text, and you’ll find an organic balance.
Redirection
As your website grows you may find pages need to be moved. If you’ve created internal links to a page that no longer exists, your site visitors can quickly find themselves at a blank error page and feeling frustrated. It’s possible to redirect your internal links using 301 and 302 redirects (which we covered in Chapter #2: How Google Works (Crawling, Indexing, and Ranking).
It’s a little extra work (unless you have an SEO consultant on your side) but it’s best to try and change all your internal links to the new page, instead of relying on redirects. Google warns against redirect chains that are too long so crawlers don’t get lost along the way.

Now It’s Time to Optimise Your Images

Pop quiz, what are the 3 most important SEO ranking factors for your website???
That’s right:
  • Backlinks
  • Content
  • RankBrain
But while those 3 are the most important, there’s roughly 200 more that can impact your rankings (even if the impact is only small). One of the most damaging problems a website can have is a slow load time. This creates a poor user experience that hurts your conversion rate, and we all know that Google wants to rank websites with a positive user experience.
One of the biggest culprits of a slow-loading website is your images. Images with large file sizes take longer to load, and when it comes to SEO a matter of seconds can be the difference between page #1 and page #346 (that’s a slight exaggeration, but you know what we mean).
You don’t need to be a whiz on WordPress websites to optimise your images, in fact there are plenty of free tools you can use to bring down the size of a file without losing any image quality. Just enter your image and these tools will do the rest.
Try these FREE image compressing tools to get you started:
  • Optimizilla
  • Tiny PNG
  • ImageOptim
You can also optimise your images and speed up your load times by picking the right image format. We’ll save you 30 minutes of Googling and leave you with this simple guide:
  • Image requires animating? Use a GIF
  • Don’t need ultra high-resolution? Use JPEG
  • Looking to keep ultra high-resolution? Use PNG
Most image compression tools offer different settings so you can scale your image down and view the changes in real time. Look at that, you just became a graphic design expert too.
If you’d like to learn more about image optimisation we’ll let Google’sOfficial Image Optimisation Guide take over from here.
eCommerce SEO tip: If you’ve got an eCommerce website you’ll need pictures for all your products. But the more images your site has, the slower it can get. Make sure you use the free compression tools above to get your image sizes down without losing picture quality.

The Importance of Alt Text

For all the things Google can do, it can’t “see” images (at least, not yet).
Alternative text, or alt text, is a way of describing what your images look like. This has a couple of benefits. Firstly, screen reading software will read out your alt text to the visually impaired, making alt text a key component of your site’s accessibility. You wouldn’t want a potential customer to get to your images and hear they are ‘File 0473_09’. That’s not going to help conversions.
Secondly, crawlers will “read” your alt text to understand what your images are. This is one of those tiny SEO optimisation tweaks that won’t move the needle on your rankings on its own, but when you start getting each of these tiny changes right, you can gain the edge on your competition. Back in the dark days of black-hat SEO it was common to stuff keywords into alt text as a way to trick Google into better rankings. These days all you need to do is describe your image using clear, accurate language and move on. At Digital Estate we recommend writing alt text like you’re describing an image to someone in the next room.
For example, a perfectly optimised alt text for this image would be: 
-small-brown-kiwi-bird-standing-on-green-ferns

A Quick Note on Image Sitemaps

When you make Google’s job easier, you give your SEO campaign a boost. In terms of images, you can help Google crawl and index your pictures by submitting an image sitemap through your Google Search Console. This gives Google a way to “see” images they may have missed on their initial crawl of your website.

How to Format Your Content to Make It Insanely Readable

Creating content that is optimised and keyword-rich is one thing…convincing people to read that content is another battle entirely.
The #1 mistake New Zealand businesses make when publishing content is to miss simple formatting tricks and end up driving site visitors away out of frustration. It’s impossible to guarantee your content is read, but with the tips we’ll share with you now, you can make your content stand out for all the right reasons.
Here’s a few simple formatting tweaks to get you started.
  • ✔ Text size: Avoid fonts below size 16 (anything smaller will be tough to read on mobile where the majority of people consume content).
  • ✔ Text colour: There’s no one-size-fits-all for colour. The right colour is always in relation to the background of your webpage. Choose a colour that contrasts and is easy to read.
  • ✔ Headings: Break your content up with subheadings (H2s) to help people skim content and find info quickly. The longer your content, the more subheadings you should include.
  • ✔ Paragraphs: Walls of text will drive site visitors away. Aim for paragraphs of no more than 3-4 sentences to promote readability.
  • ✔ Lists: Lists and bullet points are perfect for people skimming content and provide a creative way to break up a page and deliver quick, easily digestible information.
  • ✔ Bold and italic font: When you scan a page, bolded words and italicised words stand out (see what we did there?). Avoid overusing this tactic, but the right use of font tweaks can help your message jump off the page.
  • ✔ Multimedia: ⅓ of online activity is spent watching video content. When you add multimedia, which can be pictures as well as videos, you give people the type of content they crave.

How to Format Your Content to Earn a Featured Snippet

Certain searches will trigger a result to appear above the 10 organic listings. These results are in position 0, and are known as featured snippets. If you want to get your website in position 0, you can employ some simple formatting tricks to boost your chances.
Before we reveal our featured snippet secrets, here’s an example:
It’s worth noting that SEOs are split on the benefits of appearing in position 0. When information is easily accessible in position 0, this could lead to less people clicking through to your website. According to studies, the click-through-rate (CTR) of position 0 is roughly 8.6% compared to a CTR of 20% and up for position #1.
On the flipside, position 0 provides valuable branding and puts you ahead of even Google Ads. And with searchers looking for fast and reliable information, being the first available option could lead to more clicks, calls and conversions.
The easiest way to nab your own featured snippet is to see how the current featured snippet for your target keyword looks. Keep in mind, only 12.29% of searches trigger a featured snippet so your target keywords may not provide you with the option. But if there is an existing featured snippet, look carefully at how it is structured.
Is it a table? A numbered list? A short paragraph with 3 sharp sentences?
Google takes featured snippets from within your content, so by including a table in your content that mirrors the existing position 0 table, you give yourself a chance of taking the top spot. See how the current featured snippet is formatted, then mirror that formatting in your own content while providing more value to give yourself a chance to rank.

How to Optimise Your Title Tags

Think of the last time you were searching on Google. The moment you hit ‘enter’ you were greeted with 10 organic SEO results, each with a bold title in blue. That’s a title tag.
In a more technical sense, a title tag is an HTML element in the head tag that describes the title of each page on your website. You might think of these as page titles, or blog titles, but to Google the title tag is crucial in understanding what a web page is about.
Here’s what your HTML title tag will look like:
Every page on your website needs a unique title tag that describes what the page is about. If you’re using a WordPress website you’ll be able to enter your title tag as you upload each piece of content or create new pages, with the exact same title tag appearing on Google.
For example, here’s the Digital Estate title tag when users search for our name:
Your title tag will also show up in web browsers:
And appear when you link to your pages on websites like Facebook, Twitter or other social media platforms:
Your title tags are important for two reasons:
  • a) Adding keywords to your title tags can help you rank for those terms
  • b) Engaging title tags can convince people to click on your website (as opposed to skipping you and clicking on your competition)
Let’s start with the ranking benefits. Google no longer needs an exact keyword match to understand what your page is about, so don’t focus on adding your target keywords word for word. Aim to describe your page’s content succinctly and accurately with any relevant keywords at the start (this has been shown to have slight SEO benefits over placing keywords at the end).
When it comes to humans, your title tags are often the first thing people will see. With 9 other results on the SERPs (plus Google Ads and SERP features) you need to stand out FAST. Your title tags should showcase value and be engaging to drive people to want to learn more. Avoid clickbait as people will only pogo-stick back to the SERPs if they feel tricked. Google also limits the amount of real estate available to you, so aim to keep title tags at a maximum of 60 characters. Anything beyond 60 characters will still be read by Google, but those words will be cut from view when users go searching online.
Here’s an example of our own title tags where we’ve gone over 60 characters to provide more relevant information to Google, and another example where we’ve kept things short and sweet for our lovely human visitors.
Title Tag over 60 characters:
Title Tag under 60 characters:

What Makes a Well Optimised Title Tag

✔ Keywords: Adding your keywords will help Google and people understand what your page is about. Avoid stuffing multiple keywords in one title tag, and opt for a relevant phrase (or exact match if it fits naturally) related to your target keyword. Place keywords closer to the front for a minor ranking boost.
✔ Length: When it comes to title tags, length is not strength. Google will typically display the first 50-60 characters of your title tag, so avoid going past 60 characters or you’ll risk having your title tag truncated with an ellipses (“…”) where the words were cut off. You won’t be punished for going over 60 characters though, so if you need to explain a page with a few extra words, do it.
✔ Business name: The more people who know your business name, the better. Adding your brand name to the end of every title tag can create brand consistency and help establish trust with Google and users (although adding your business name FirST is best practice when optimising for your home page title tag). Adding your business name is not a hard and fast rule, so use branding where it feels appropriate.

How to Optimise Your Meta Descriptions

Let’s go back to the last time you searched for something on Google. Now you know the bold title in blue is known as the title tag. Well the smaller black text beneath the title tag, that’s your meta description.
In the same way as title tags, meta descriptions are also HTML elements in the head tag that describe the contents of the page. If your title tag is a broad overview, your meta descriptions give you a chance to go into more detail, create more intrigue, and convince search engine users to pick you out of all the results.
Here’s what your HTML title tag will look like:
For example, here’s the Digital Estate meta description when users search for our name:
Our title tag includes our brand name first (remember, that’s a handy trick when optimising your home page) followed by keywords that tell Google and people what we specialise in – digital marketing and online marketing in New Zealand.
The meta description gives potential customers more information. In this case someone curious about growing their business will see we’re New Zealand based so there’s going to be no issues with communication, language or accessibility. We offer direct access to marketing experts so we’ve got specialised skills to help business owners grow. And that we’re built from the ground up, so we know what it’s like to be in the shoes of a business owner trying to break into a crowded industry.
All that from a couple of short sentences in a meta description!!!
Google has been on record to say keywords in your meta description are NOT a ranking factor, so there’s no need to cram as many key phrases in as possible.
BUT THERE’S A CATCH.
Keywords may not influence rankings but they DO influence people. When a user types in a keyword, that same keyword is bolded if it also appears in a meta description. This can help attract the eye and make YOUR meta description stand out compared to a competitor who didn’t include their target keywords (and doesn’t have any bolded words jumping from the page).
Let’s look at an example from our own Digital Estate meta descriptions. If a Kiwi business owner was searching for ‘SEO Packages’ they would see this result on Google:

What Makes a Well Optimised Meta Description?

The optimisation tips for title tags mostly apply to meta descriptions too. Don’t focus on the fact meta descriptions aren’t a direct ranking factor. If you can increase your click-through-rate (CTR) you’ll have more people on your site enjoying your content and THAT is a ranking factor.
✔ Keywords: Keywords won’t impact rankings, but they will appear bolded when a user sees your website. Exact match is crucial here, so if there’s a way to naturally use your target keywords, get them in your meta description.
✔ Length: You have between 155-160 characters for your meta description, which is enough for a few short and sharp sentences. If you go beyond this character count you’ll have your copy cut off with an ellipses (“…”).
✔ Relevance: Meta descriptions should always be accurate and honest. Clickbait might get a few extra clicks, but once people see they’ve been tricked they’ll leave (and may never come back). This will hurt your SEO. Use your meta description to summarise the page and give away just enough info to make a searcher curious and hungry to learn more.

How to Optimise Your URLs

You’ve optimised each page, now it’s time to optimise your URLs.
URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator and are the addresses for each of your web pages.
URLs form the trinity of optimisation tasks when it comes to the SERPs. Your URL, title tag, and meta description are all you’ve got to convince Google you’re worthy of ranking, and convince people you’re worthy of a click.
Here’s a few optimisation strategies to help you get your URLs working for you:
Name your pages clearly
Easy to read URLs help your rankings and your CTR. When Google can see your keyword (or a variation of your keyword) in your URL it’s a signal of what your page is about. This is SEO 101.
Your human visitors also want to see clear URLs so they can understand what a page is about before they commit to clicking on it. Let’s say you’re shopping for new shoes and use the following URLs as examples, which one tells you about the page contents? And which one are you more likely to click on?
www.example.com/926?=shop-13211-2213
OR
www.example.com/products/running-shoes
It’s pretty clear the second URL is the winner. You know what to expect on the page, and Google gets a clear keyword to boost your chances of ranking for that term. It’s worth pointing out that keywords in your URL are only a minor ranking signal, but if it’s helpful for people and uses your keyword naturally, it’s a small step in the right direction.
Organise your pages clearly
The more pages your website has, the harder it can be to organise them clearly. You can use topic folders as a way to introduce relevant pages. This will make it easy for users to understand how different pages are related, as well as provide a clear bridge from crawlers.
Let’s stick with our example of selling shoes:
www.example.com/running-shoes/backpacks
If you sold complementary products for people who liked to go running, this would be an irrelevant way to organise your pages. It would be better in this example to connect ‘backpacks’ to a topic page like ‘extra-outdoor-products’.
It’s also important to avoid adding dates when organising your pages. If we’d created the ‘Digital Estate Guide to Growing Your Business in 2020’ we wouldn’t want to place the date in the URL. When people go searching for ways to grow their business in 2021, they’re not likely to click on a result with a previous year in the URL, and our CTR would suffer.
For example:
www.example.com/guide-to-growing-your-business-in-2020/
In this case, we could optimise our URL by removing the year and keeping the strong keyword phrase of ‘Guide to Growing Your Business’. This would keep our URL strong, while we could update our content each year so the guide stays up-to-date and relevant.
Opt for shorter URLs where possible
Once again, length is not strength. New Zealand search engine users prefer shorter URLs as these are more user-friendly and easy to understand. A longer URL won’t impact your rankings (though it will be cut off with ellipses like your title tag and meta description) but it can confuse users and hurt your CTR.
Use keywords in your URL (when it’s relevant)
Use your keywords where relevant if you’re looking to target a specific term or phrase, but keep things as short and sweet as possible. Stuffing keywords in your URL will turn off Google and people, so it’s never worth it. If you’re worried about getting on Google’s bad side, read your URL out loud with the keyword in it. Does it sound natural and written to help users? Then you’re good as gold.
Opt for static URLs
If your URL is easily read by people you’re off to a great start. To avoid creating frustrating URLs steer clear of numbers, symbols and parameters. You can do this by using static URLs. This side of SEO can get overly technical, but if you or your web developer is optimising URLs, avoid dynamic URLs and keep things simple and readable.
Use hyphens to increase readability
When you’ve got a string of words in your URL they can quickly melt together and create headaches for Google and people. Avoid this problem by adding hyphens between each word. Here’s a mock URL without hyphens – www.thisisprettyhardtoread.com and here’s the same URL with hyphens added – www.this-is-pretty-hard-to-read.com. Adding hyphens will help your CTR and help Google understand what your page is about.
Use lower case URLs
This one comes down to readability and user experience. Capital letters in a URL can look jarring and out of place. It’s standard SEO best practice to use lower case for your URLs, so stick with what the people want and you’ll be working towards highly optimised and irresistibly clickable URLs.
Include geographic modifiers
If you want to boost your local SEO it’s crucial you tell Google where you’re located. It’s a common mistake for New Zealand business owners to assume Google will know where their business operates. As well as including your location on your website and in your content, use your URL (as well as your title tags and meta description) to reference your area. This could include mentions of your province, city, neighbourhood or regional attractions to provide as many local signals as possible.
Secure your protocol
All URLs have a protocol in front of their domain name. This is either HTTP or HTTPS. This is the foundation of any data exchange on the internet, such as bringing your website to search engine users. You can optimise your URLs (and Google recommends this) by opting for a secure protocol, i.e. HTTPS. Upgrading to the HTTPS protocol requires an SSL certificate (Secure Sockets Layer) which encrypts data, protects your site, and builds valuable trust for Google and people.

You’re Halfway Through Digital Estate’s ‘Introduction to SEO’!!!

You entered as a beginner, you’re on the way to leaving as an SEO wizard.
This marks the halfway point of our ‘Introduction to SEO’ guide. Let’s quickly recap the SEO knowledge you’ve added to your arsenal.
  • You know how SEO works (and how local SEO works too)
  • You know how Google crawls, indexes and ranks websites
  • You know how to find and use keywords to appeal to Google and people
  • You know how to optimise your content and website to be irresistible
Up next we’ll show you how the technical side of SEO can take what you’ve learned and make your website even stronger. If you want to grab the #1 spot and increase your traffic, rankings and revenue, it’s time to dive into Chapter #5.
Chapter #5: Technical SEO
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