On Page SEO Best Practice – Page Two
Page Two Covers; Internal Linking, Snippet Appearance, Structured Data & Schema, XML Sitemaps, Breadcrumbs and Writing Style
On Page SEO - Page Two - Index
Internal links are links that go from one page on a website to a different page within the same website. From an SEO point of view they are integral because they are indicative of whether or not your users will find all the amazing content created on your site. Even more importantly perhaps, they act as the votes you cast upon your own pages signifying the importance of one page over another.
Quantifying Internal PageRank
Calculating the relative score of each page on your site in relation to the others is a task for your SEO account manager so be sure to reach out to Croud for assistance with this. However, in short and as with backlinks (links from external sites to your site), the more authoritative pages on your site that link to a specific page will result in that page receiving more internal PR (PageRank) and therefore give it a greater ability to rank higher in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Here is an image to visualize this concept:
Relative or Absolute URL
Ideally, all internal links on your pages should contain the full URL address, rather than being a relative URL. While this has no specific on-site advantage, it does mean that if another site scrapes your content the links will remain intact which could possibly provide an SEO benefit.
In case you need a refresher, here is a relative and absolute link:
Absolute – “https://example.com/this-page-is-my-page/”
Relative – “/this-page-is-my-page/”
If you own https://www.example.com and put a link on one of your pages in the HTML, then an <a> tag with an href attribute with the value of either of these will result in a call to the above page. However, take that relative link to an external domain and it’s only purpose will be trying to find that URL on that external domain, not example.com. Hence why an absolute URL can be advantageous, especially if your site is being scraped by others frequently which happens often for big brands (see also “Canonicalization“).
Direct & Static URLs
Internal links should always link to a static URL. With the exception of a temporary redirect (usually 302), they must go directly to the desired webpage without bypassing a redirect, i.e. avoiding a redirect chain (link 1 –> link 2 –> link 3).
Anchor text is any link like this – a hyperlinked piece of text on your page pointing either internally or externally. Any internal navigational links used throughout the website should be optimized according to the destination page to which that link is pointed. This will generally mean that whatever the destination page is bidding to rank for, the most appropriate anchor text relating to that term should be used. Only on seldom occasions should anchor text such as “Click Here” be used.
Relevant links should be used within the body of content. Links to pages that have a purpose to exist on a given page is of importance. The links on a page should have destinations that are relevant to the user. However, avoid having too many links as this can detract from the message as well as dilute the value of each link on the page (see next section).
Number of Links
Continuing back to the concept of PageRank, in lieu of reading that fantastic resource on the topic, in a very simplistic way imagine this in relation to the number of links on a page and their given SEO value (in the form of internal PageRank).
Scenario A – Imagine your domain, let’s call it domain.com (because we’re imaginative like that) has X number of backlinks pointing to your it from all over the web. Then say on your domain you only have 2 sub-pages, Page-A and Page-B (again, very imaginative):
In this rudimentary scenario, only two sub-pages exist and are linked to so each of those two gets 50% of the total equity. Powerful stuff.
Scenario B – Now, imagine your domain.com still has X number of backlinks pointing to your it from all over the web but this time you have 10 sub-pages, Page-A through Page-J:
In this scenario, ten sub-pages exist and are linked to. Each of those ten gets 10% of the total equity which is significant reduction on the previous scenario.
The point of this exercise is that having more pages isn’t always the best bet if you cannot link to them sufficiently. Create pages that have value and if you know they have strong SEO potential be sure to link to them readily. Having a few pages that rank for some terms is better than having many that rank for none.
Open Link In New Window
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that, for some external links (especially), where a user may leave your site to remain on another site you happened to link to, ensuring that link opens in a new window may be the best course of action to ensure that your window remains active on the user’s browser.
In order to do this, the following code would need to be employed:
a href="http://example.com" target="_blank">
A “snippet” is the longer piece of text you see under the title and URL within search results. The text for a snippet can come from a number of places, but is usually taken from the meta description tag from the HTML of that page:
Although a meta description doesn’t have a direct impact on a page’s ranking, it can influence how many clicks you’ll receive – so there’s plenty of value in crafting great copy in order to drive interest and improve your click-through rate.
Keep in mind that Google has the ability to discard meta descriptions and rewrite snippets using onsite copy if it decides that a new snippet will be more relevant to a user’s search term. It’s therefore important to make sure a meta description is as relevant to a page’s content as possible.
Writing a great meta description is similar to writing ad copy: it should be descriptive, compelling and contain a clear call-to-action.
Here’s an example of a well-structured meta description:
Snippet & Meta Description Considerations
- On desktop devices, Google typically truncates snippets at approximately 160 characters for certain pages, but they tend to fluctuate depending on the topic and industry. Users searching on a mobile device also may see a shorter meta description. As such, it’s recommended to keep your meta descriptions no longer than 160 characters
- If possible, utilize Google AdWords paid search data to look at which of your paid ads generates the highest CTRs (click-through-rate or impressions divided by clicks), and use this information to inform your approach to writing meta descriptions
- Monitor traffic to individual webpages and make note of which types of copy are generating the highest CTRs (i.e. organic referrals)
STRUCTURED DATA & SCHEMA
In the world of SEO, schema markup (a type of structured data created by Schema.org) refers to adding specific tags to a webpage in order to provide additional detail about the content of that page.
Schema markup is useful because it helps gives search engines more context about your page’s content and any data it may contain, which helps its relevance for search terms. Search listings enhanced with rich snippets have also been shown to improve the click-through rates for search results that feature them, compared to other listings that don’t.
Types of Schema Markup
How to Implement Schema Markup
Prior to 2015, schema markup had to be coded with HTML elements on each page, wrapped around the data that required marking up and this was both time-consuming and inconvenient.
Nowadays, JSON-LD (a lightweight linked data format) can be used to collect all the data about your website in one piece of code that can be added anywhere. Individual pages can also have relevant data added separately from the content, therefore not interfering with it’s layout.
This means you can implement schema markup in one block without having to add code to individual HTML elements on every page.
So even if you know next-to-nothing about web development, you can still easily add structured data to your website via your website builder or Google Tag Manager.
You can also generate the code for the schema markup you want to implement using a schema markup generator.
We use the ‘Google Structured Data Testing Tool’ as method of validation for the structured data snippets.
Each snippet provided within this tool has been validated and warnings/errors (where applicable) are highlighted and explained.
Simply put, your XML sitemap acts as a kind of roadmap for all the important pages of your website. Your sitemap tells Google and other search engines how pages are structured on your website. This is beneficial for SEO, because it allows Google to crawl and retrieve pages on your site as efficiently as possible.
XML sitemaps can only have 50,000 URLs and a max size of 50MB. If you have a really big site with lots of pages, images and/or videos, you’ll need to create multiple sitemaps within a master sitemap, known as a Sitemap Index File.
XML Sitemap Syntax
Your sitemap is a simple UTF-8 encoded text file with values outlined in XML tags. Here’s a quick rundown of required XML tags and common optional XML tags and their meanings.
- <urlset> The protocol standard for opening and closing sitemaps
- <url> The parent tag for each URL entry
- <loc> The URL of the page. This URL must begin with the protocol (such as http) and end with a trailing slash, if your web server requires it. This value must be less than 2,048 characters
- <lastmod> The last date you modified the page. Always use the YYYY-MM-DD format here
- <changefreq> How often you make changes to this file
- <priority> How important this page is to the overall site. The value ranges from 0.0 to 1.0 with 0.5 as the default priority
You can also add <image> tags to give Google information about your images. Image tags for sitemaps should be added in the <url> tag, after the <tag> tag.
Likewise, if you’ve got video content on your pages, you can add the <video> tag to your sitemap. If your page www.example.com/video1 has an embedded video, video players or raw video, add <video> elements to the <url>.
Here’s an example of a sitemap with a single URL, as well as image and video file information for that page:
Implement hreflang in XML Sitemap
If your site has users in different languages or countries, you can use the hreflang element in your XML sitemaps to help Google serve the correct language or regional URL to users.
For example, you could have two versions of your website targeting different languages:
In this case, the following sitemap tells Google that the www.example.com/en page has equivalent pages targeting worldwide French-speaking users (http://www.example.com/fr):
Submit Your XML Sitemap to Google
Once you’ve created your sitemap or used an online generator to create one, you can submit it to Google from the Google Search Console dashboard.
Alternatively, you can refer to it anywhere in your robots.txt file, specifying the URL path to your sitemap:
If your sitemap is located on your website, you can also validate it to make sure it’s formatted properly using a free online validator tool like the one on xml-sitemaps.com.
Breadcrumbs are links that allow a user to track their path from the page they are on to the homepage of your website. They usually appear close to the top of the page and show the structure of your site.
Breadcrumbs are important not only for helping users navigate your site, but also for helping Google determine how your website is structured. If paired with contextual linking to their related pages, they’re also beneficial for improving the internal linking structure of your website.
Here’s an example of a breadcrumb trail in action:
Types of Breadcrumbs
There are three main types of breadcrumbs:
The most common type, these breadcrumbs tell you where you are within a site’s hierarchy and how many steps you can take to get back to the homepage.
Example: Home > Blog > Blog category > Post
These are similar to location breadcrumbs, however instead of using a page title for each breadcrumb, they use a keyword or other attribute to represent the page. Attribute breadcrumbs are common on e-commerce sites.
Example: Home > Gender > Product Category > Colour
These breadcrumbs show the path (“history”) the user has taken to get to a specific a webpage.
Example: Home > Previous page > Previous page > Current page
If you’re going to implement breadcrumbs on your site, make sure to:
- Use them across your entire website, not just selected pages
- Include breadcrumbs at the top of your webpages
- Include the full navigation path in your breadcrumb
- Start from the homepage and navigate page-by-page to the current page
How to implement breadcrumbs
The required method to add breadcrumbs to your site depends on the website builder you use. For example, if your site is built with WordPress, you can add them using the Breadcrumb plugin. Different content management systems have different processes.
To include breadcrumbs in your Google SERPs, you’ll need to use structured data.
Gone are the days when writing “SEO content” simply meant stuffing as many keywords as possible into your copy. Nowadays, if you want to write useful content that ranks well in Google, your first and foremost focus should be writing for actual humans.
In essence, great content should:
- Be genuinely informative
- Be relevant to your audience
- Answer a question or solve a problem
- Be entertaining
Now, that’s not to say keywords no longer serve a purpose. In fact, they’re still really important for SEO – but they have to be used wisely. Here are some best practices to consider for keyword usage in content:
- Naturally incorporate a target keyword and semantically-related keywords (related terms e.g. ‘bike’, ‘bicycle’ and ‘cycling’) throughout your content
- Aim to include your target keyword within the first 100 words of content
- Organise sections of content with keyword-rich headings
- Make natural use of keywords in the H1/title, URL and image metadata
Above all, keyword research should be used as a content ideation and optimization tool rather than a ‘hack’. It’s most important to provide users with compelling, valuable content that relates to the topics they’re seeking out.
Google’s Quick Answer boxes
Answer Boxes pull content from websites to show within the SERPs in various formats, including paragraphs, tables, bullet points and numbered lists. These boxes can also pull in images.
Typically appears for ‘how’ queries:
Typically appears for ‘what’, ‘who’, ‘when’ and ‘where’ queries:
Typically appears for queries that can’t be adequately answered in a single snippet:
The benefit of having your content show up in Answer Boxes is obvious: it’s the first thing people will see in the SERPs. While there’s no magic formula for successfully getting your content in Answer Boxes, you can increase your chances by making sure that:
- You use keyword research to identify key user queries and inform your topic choices
- The content you create directly addresses queries users have about the topic
- Your content is succinct and formatted correctly – ideally with the question/query as a heading and the answer in a paragraph, bullet point or table format
It also helps to pinpoint Answer Boxes for relevant queries that are incomplete or don’t directly answer the question. This gives you the opportunity to grab the spot by creating a better-formatted and more accurate answer on your site.
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