Before starting this article I would like to note that I am specifically talking about Google. The information below might not apply to other search engines.
Everybody who is into SEO knows that it is more than just link building and offsite techniques. Sure, links matter the most, but how about your website itself? Onsite optimization might not be the most important part of SEO according to some people but that just depends on the point of view. To me, there have always been some onsite factors that play a significant role in the eyes of Google.
Of course, the most important thing when optimizing a website according to link builders is getting links from website with a high TrustRank and the most important thing according to web designers is the proper coding. Since me and the people I work with focus on SEO as a complete process, we concentrate on everything important.
However, there are some things that just don’t matter as much as others especially when doing onsite SEO. Google changes its algorithm almost every day so a lot of the old onsite techniques that once worked are now useless thanks to the so many spammers exploiting them. So what exactly are the onsite factors that can affect your rankings?
The title of your website is one of the most important things when it comes to onsite SEO and better rankings. Here is what people believe to be true and what the truth really is:
A common mistake that people make when doing onsite optimization is stuff keywords in the title of their website thinking that would help them rank better. Keyword stuffing was a technique that was kind of effective a long time ago until Google found out that the spammers are using it to their advantage. So Google decided to change their algorithm, making a website’s ranking depend more on links and less on onsite factors.
The title of your website matters a lot and if you don’t want to get a penalty, you need to keep it simply and user-friendly as well as Google-friendly. This is the place where you get to describe your whole website/business in about 10-15 words. I am not saying you should not put keywords in there. Quite the opposite – put your most important keywords in the title but make sure you put them in a way that is not spammy looking instead of just stuffing them and separating them with commas.
When writing your website title, be creative and don’t repeat anything more than once. For example, if you are selling silver and gold jewelry, writing “Silver jewelry, gold jewelry…” in your title is not a good idea. Instead use the phrase “Silver and gold jewelry”. You should know that Google doesn’t care about the order of the words and you will get credit for each permutation.
The most obvious thing is the domain name. If your domain name is an exact match for your most competitive keyword – you’re on. However, the rest of the URL structure is also a very important onsite factor and many people are still doing it all wrong.
Again, a very common myth is that stuffing as many keywords as possible in the name of each page will work.
A website with a better URL structure has an advantage over a website with dynamic URLs. Although dynamic URLs can be read by Google, they simply don’t have the same effect as properly structured ones.
When taking care of your URL structure, the most important thing is to name each page of your website with the most relevant keyword. Creating many pages with different names that are also your keywords will pay off better than having dynamic URLs.
The age of a website is another factor that plays a big role when it comes to its rankings but not in a way that some people think.
A lot of people believe that a website will get better rankings with time on its own. So their strategy is to just sit there and wait because they believe that a website that is 3 years old should automatically rank better than a website that is 4 months old no matter what. They believe that if no offsite optimization has been done to the old website it will still have better ranking than a new website with a lot of backlinks for example.
The age of a website does matter to Google. However your website will not rank high just because it’s old. The only thing that is affected by the site age is the amount of TrustRank it gets from the links pointing to it. The first two months, you will most likely not rank at all in Google because you will be in the “sandbox” where all new websites go. Then you will start receiving a bigger percentage of TrustRank as your website gets older. 4 years after the creation of your website, you will start receiving 100% of the TrustRank that the links pointing to your website pass.
Just because your website will be in the sandbox for the first two months, doesn’t mean you should sit and wait for the time to pass and then start building links. Instead, use the time to get some links and enjoy the credit Google will give you for them when the trial period is over.
These are 3 of the most important onsite SEO factors you should focus on, but I want to touch on two other factors people still think matter, the XML sitemap and the coding. Just to be clear – this article is about which onsite factors help you get better rankings and not about what makes Google’s job easier. Of course the XML sitemap is a really great thing and it sure helps Google crawl your website faster and therefore index it faster. However your sitemap has nothing to do with your rankings at all nor does the coding of your website.
Concentrate on what is really important and don’t worry about things web designers and other charlatans tell you in order to get more money from you.