8 Steps You Forgot When Optimizing Your Web Pages
We asked this seasoned SEO pro, Stoney deGeyter for some great optimization advice to share with our readers. If you love this insight, be sure to catch him on our podcast, Ponderings from the Perch: Priscilla Hosts the Best Damn Website Episode Ever.
Someone asked me the other day why it takes us so long to optimize a page. Until then, I hadn't really given it much thought. So I took a step back to see if I could see things from outside my own perspective.
On average, we spend 3-4 hours on every page we optimize. Is that a lot?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Page/keyword optimization is a critical function of SEO. There are plenty of shortcuts when doing this, but none are a substitute for the real thing.
While speed is critical to success, so is doing things correctly. If it takes too long to optimize a single page, that means it takes longer to get all your critical pages optimized. But it's also true that there is no sense optimizing a bunch of pages in half the time if they only do a quarter of the job!
I'm not here to tell you how long it should take to optimize a web page. Instead, I want to outline the process for optimizing a page correctly. But I'm not going to discuss the standard aspects of page optimization like title tags. Instead I want to cover the process for optimizing a page.
Think of this post as the what-to-do to supplement your how-to-do knowledge.
How to Optimize a Web Page in 8 Steps
Step 1: Select a Page to Optimize
When you have a large site, choosing which pages to optimize first may not be as easy as it seems. Most people will start with the home page or with pages that are not getting much traffic. But there are other important things to consider before going down that optimization journey.
Quite often, pages that already rank well are good places to start. This might seem counter-intuitive, but only if you're looking at rankings as a metric. This is where you want to see if there’s room to improve the click-through rate of the page as well as the conversion rate. Small improvements here can often make a huge impact.
But you also want to consider which products or services are most important to your company. Whether its top-selling products or the most profitable, these are usually going to be the pages you will get the most value by improving.
Step 2: Determine the Purpose of the Page
Every page on a site has a purpose. But for the page to be a valuable part of the conversion process, you have to define that purpose.
Not every page is designed to convert a visitor into a customer. In fact, most pages of your site are not the types of pages that you can convert from. But too often we put conversion calls to action on these pages. How weird is that?
On most sites, the product/service pages are the conversion pages. This is where someone will actually take a converting-type action. The purpose of all the other pages is to get the visitor to these.
Before you can optimize any page on your site, you need to have a clear grasp of what the visitor should do next. That "next step" is the page's purpose. Everything on that page must support driving your visitors to take that next step.
Step 3: Determine the Topic of the Page
Most pages of your site should already be built around a specific topic. But many sites have multiple pages that fit a single topic, each providing different information. Which means you need to ask, What is the page really about?
I find that many of the sites we work on have multiple pages that cover a lot of common ground. To create a very simplistic example, if I sell batteries, it's highly likely that I would have many pages on my site that are relevant for that keyword. One page might be for 9v batteries and another might be for laptop batteries. So obviously, I wouldn't want to optimize either of these pages for the broad term batteries, but instead focus on the narrower focus of each page.
The point here is that you have to understand the specific topic of each page on your site. It's better to optimize a page for a narrow topic than a broad one.
Step 4: Find Keywords that Match the Page's Topic and Purpose
This is a big one that many people miss. They are so focused on just optimizing a page for relevant keywords that they completely fail to look at what makes those keywords truly relevant.
Let's say we research keywords for 9v batteries. If you do any kind of analysis on the keywords you find, you'll see that some people want to buy 9v batteries, some might want to know how they work, and others might want to know how to test one. In fact, if you do a Google Keyword Planner search for 9v batteries, you'll find over 700 keyword ideas.
So here you have a page with a single topic, but the keywords you want to optimize the page for will be very different from each other--even though they all use the words "9v battery" or "9 volt battery." If you try to optimize the page for the wrong 9v battery keywords, you're going to see conversion rates plummet.
If you only have one 9v page, what then do you do? One good solution is to create new pages or blog posts that focus on each specific sub-topic. This gives you the ability to drop searchers on a page that matches both their topical search and their specific search at the same time.
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Step 5: Optimize Content for Keywords
Today, optimizing pages for keywords is really more about optimizing for the topic. You no longer have to worry about getting every variation of a word or phrase on the page in order to rank for it. But what you do need to do is make sure you are addressing the specific topic as thoroughly as possible.
Keyword research gives you the exact terminology being searched, and to some extent that terminology should be found on the page. But don't focus on keyword usage as much as using keywords as a guide to make sure you're providing enough topically relevant information to ensure the searcher's needs are fulfilled.
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Step 6: Optimize Page for Visitor Intent
Now that you matched up the purpose of the page with the purpose of the search, you have to align the content with the searcher's intent. This means crafting a message that brings all of these points together.
Where a page has a purpose, we know the searcher has one well. And you want to make sure that you land every searcher on a page that meets the specific intent they set out for. There are generally four types of searcher intent:
Essentially, the page's purpose and the searcher's purpose must align. Every word, every image, and every action on your page must support the searcher's overall intent. Don't focus on how many words are on the page, but instead focus crafting a message that satisfies the intent of what the searcher is looking for.
This is also where you consider your calls to action. Just as a gun cannot fire without a trigger, a visitor cannot achieve their intent without at least one call to action.
You should also be aware that not visitor will be ready to complete the journey they started. That's okay. Not everyone has to pull that trigger, but you do want to keep them engaged. This is where secondary calls to cation come into play. If they are not ready to take the next big step, give them another step they can take that might move them in the right direction, just not as fast.
Step 7: Optimize Page for Structure
Reviewing both the visible and invisible structure of a page is important. A poorly coded page will often prevent your otherwise perfectly optimized from getting the attention it deserves.
You also want to be sure to optimize the visible structure of the page. Every page is different and has differing visual requirements. Make sure your page doesn't just conform to a template when a bit of visual customization will give your visitors more of what they need.
While you don't want your pages to differ significantly from one to the next, you also don't want them to look like clones of each other. Utilize images, video, bolded text, and paragraph headings to make each page easy to read and engage with.
Step 8: Optimize for Usability
Finally, you need to take a look at your page from general usability perspective. Sometimes it's easy to focus on the details that you forget the big picture. This is where you make sure all the pieces tie together in a way that makes everyone happy.
It's time to put away your magnifying glass and just look at the page as an uninformed visitor. Put yourself in the audience's shoes as best you can and see if the page passes muster.
For what it's worth, I don't know if all of that should take two hours, four hours, or ten hours. Some pages move a lot faster than others, but additional tasks such as keyword research and implementing the changes also take time. But like I said earlier, it's not about how many hours it takes, but about doing what it takes to optimize a page correctly.
Yes, you can skip many of these steps and get a lot more pages "optimized" more quickly. But they won't do even a fraction of the job that a fully--and properly--optimized page will.
About Stoney deGeyter
Author of The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!, Stoney deGeyter is also the CEO of Pole Position Marketing, a results-driven web presence optimization and digital marketing agency established in 1998. In addition to business training events, Stoney has spoken at nationwide conferences, such as PubCon, Search Marketing Expo (SMX), WordCamp, and Affiliate Summit. Stoney’s articles about how to navigate the digital marketing landscape are featured on Pole Position Marketing’s E-Marketing Performance blog and have been published on Search Engine Land, Marketing Land, and Search Engine Journal.