Chapter 3

On-Site Optimization

"My rule of thumb is to build a site for a user, not a spider." - Dave Naylor, Managing Director at

The Language of Search Spiders

…is there a Rosetta Stone for that?

Search spiders are fluent in HTML. This means that all of your most important content needs to be in HTML in order for it to be indexed by search engines. Other types of content, such as images, videos, Flash, or Javascript are often ignored or devalued by search engines. 

Search spiders traverse your website by visiting the hyperlinks on pages. That means that, without crawlable links connecting your website together, spiders may not index all of your content – content that be very valuable to your SEO efforts! Connecting your site via hyperlinks ensures not only that spiders can navigate the architecture of your website but also your customers as well. 

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Website Elements That Spiders Struggle to Index


Even if a link is embedded in Flash, the search spider will not be able to index.


Be careful using Javascript for links. Most search engine spiders will not crawl them while others devalue them. You can avoid this by replacing them with standard HTML links or by supplementing the Javascript links with HTML.

Too many links on one page

Some spam websites will flood pages with thousands of links. Search engines have wised up to this and will now only crawl a certain number of links on any given page.

Submission forms

While submission forms are a useful way to capture user information, spiders often cannot complete the form correctly. This causes them to ignore the page altogether, causing you to miss out on otherwise valuable indexing.

Frames or iframes

It is possible to create a crawlable link within a frame or iframe. However, it takes some technical know-how to accomplish this, so if you are not very computer-savvy, you may want to avoid them altogether. It may not be worth missing out on the SEO benefit of having the destination page indexed.

The ultimate search engine would basically understand everything in the world, and it would always give you the right thing. And we’re a long, long ways from that.

 Larry PageCo-Founder of Google
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Meta Tags

Meta tags are snippets of text that describes the contents of a page to a search spider. These tags exist only in HTML, often within the “head” of a page. There are many different types of meta tags that we will discuss, many of which are useful and many that are not. 

Here are the meta tags you need to know:

1) Title Tag

Title tags, as the name suggests, are the title of an page. If you are reading this on a desktop browser, you can see the title tag on the tab of the page. On Google, the title tag of a search result is the large, blue text. They should be accurate, descriptive, and to the point so that users and search engines clearly understand what the page is about.

If you have a WordPress site but are not computer-savvy, there is a plugin called “Yoast” that helps you easily set title tags (and others!).

When creating Title Tags, remember...

Be Concise

Search engines only display the first 65-75 characters of a title tag. Your tag can exceed that length, but search engines will cut them off with an ellipsis. In terms of grabbing someone’s attention, it helps to keep it brief, but you may want to have a longer title tag if you want to boost your ranking for a large number of keywords.

Placement Matters

We read text left to right, so it makes sense that the words closer to the beginning of a title tag get the most attention. Placement also matters to search engines. The closer to the beginning of a title tag a word is, the more significance the search engine will give it. Be strategic with your placement and identify which keywords you want to rank highly for.

In a survey of SEO industry leaders by Moz, 94% of participants said that keyword use in the title tag was the most important place to use keywords to achieve high rankings.

Remember: Branding

Title tags are an excellent, free way to boost your branding efforts. Consider including your brand name in the title tag of every page and think about how you can bring your brand’s unique voice into the mix.

Strategize How to Stand Out

How can you make your title tag unique? What will grab your target market’s attention? There is a difference between being tasteful and tacky, such as using all CAPS in your title tag. Some brands have started using incorporating emojis, but it really depends on the image and voice you want to project.

2) Meta Content Type

The meta content type tag is used to declare the character set of a website. They help browsers render a website appropriately, and failing to include them may cause display problems. For example, a document may use UTF-8 punctuation characters but is displayed in ISO or ASCII character sets.

This meta tag makes sure that letters, numbers, and symbols display on your website how you want them to be displayed. No one wants these � � � .

examples of meta descriptions seo

3) Meta Description

Meta description tags have no bearing on your SEO, but they help search engine users understand what your page is about. Think of them as a brief synopsis of your page – your chance to catch the reader’s attention.

You are probably more familiar with them than you realize. Here is a screenshot from Moz of what they look like in search results (need screenshot). It is good practice to keep them within 160 characters. Even though they do not directly influence your search rankings, meta descriptions are a crucial element to any SEO strategy. If you are interested in learning more about them and the best practices involved with using them, check out this in-depth post by

4) Viewport

The viewport refers to the visible area of a web page. This differs from device to device, with mobile phones having a smaller viewport than desktops. HTML5 introduced a way for web designers to set the viewport using meta tags. With a majority of online experiencing happening on mobile, it is as important as ever to specify the viewpoint.

To learn more, check out the Google PageSpeed Insights Tool.

Occasionally Useful Meta Tags


There may be instances where you do not want a search spider to index a piece of content. There are two important things to consider when using /robots.txt files:

  • There are search spiders that can ignore your /robots.txt file. Malware and spam bots are common culprits.
  • Your /robots.txt file is publicly available. Remember that anyone will be able to see the sections of your server that you do not want indexed.

Social Meta Tags

Social meta tags allow marketers to control how their content is shared. Networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ each use their own specific meta tags. You have probably run across a time where social meta tags would have come in handy. Have you ever shared a link and had any of these happen?

  • Brings up a generic title for the link, like “Portfolio” or “Blog”
  • Link description is from some random snippet of text on page
  • Image pulled does not make sense for the page

Mastering social meta tags helps you keep your branding consistent no matter where it is shared. To learn more about them, how to craft them, and pro-tips on best usage, check out this step-by-step guide from If you want to keep things simple, here is a tool that generates social media tags for you after you enter in how you want you information to appear. This free tool also allows you to test the tag. Useful if you are short on time.

In a survey of SEO industry leaders by Moz, 94% of participants said that keyword use in the title tag was the most important place to use keywords to achieve high rankings.

Geo Tags

Geo tags allow you to specify a geographic location for your website. Google recognizes this information on its own, but it is still useful for Bing. There are three kinds of geotags: region, placename, and position (latitude and longitude).

<META NAME=”geo.region” CONTENT=”Country Subdivision Code”>

<META NAME=”geo.placename” CONTENT=”Place Name”>

<META NAME=”geo.position” CONTENT=”latitude; longitude”>

Here is another free meta generator that you can use if you are not very familiar with programming.

Strategize How to Stand Out

How can you make your title tag unique? What will grab your target market’s attention? There is a difference between being tasteful and tacky, such as using all CAPS in your title tag. Some brands have started using incorporating emojis, but it really depends on the image and voice you want to project.

Don't Worry About These Meta Tags

Not all meta tags are necessary. You are welcome to use these if you want, and there may be special circumstances where one or some of them are necessary, but they are generally useless.

  • Language (only useful if you are moving to another country)
  • Keywords
    • While keywords are one of SEOs strongest tools for ranking, keyword meta tags are a waste of time and do not influence your ranking at all
  • Refresh
  • Site verification
  • Author/web author
  • Rating
  • Expiration/date
  • Copyright
  • Abstract
  • Distribution
  • Cache control
  • Generator
  • Resource type
  • Revisit after

Additional On-Site SEO Tactics

User-friendly URLs

URLs have little impact on your ranking, but they can still help you optimize your SEO. They are visible on search results, meaning that they are another opportunity for you to sell your page. Be specific, concise, and try to use keywords that will capture the user’s attention. URLs also appear at the top of every browser and can either detract or enhance from the user experience by how they appear. Another good rule of thumb is to separate words with hyphens (-).

Canonical Tags & Duplicate Content

Some websites may need to post the same content on multiple different pages. For search engines, this poses a problem: which page should they provide in search results? Search engines are left to their own devices to determine which page is the most important. This is why canonicalization is important. By combining the search metrics for all of those pages into one page, search engines will understand your better and enhance your chance to rank high.

If you place this canonical tag on a page, it tells search engines that the content of the page is a copy of the URL in the tag. All of the link and content metrics that the search engine obtains will flow back to the URL in the canonical tag.

Rich Snippets

Does you use your website to sell products or services? Promote events? If so, you may be able to benefit from the use of rich snippets, a type of structured data that marks up content to provide information to search engines. An example of this would be using rich snippets to tell Google or Bing that a product has a five star review. Rich snippets are not necessary per say, but they can help you get a leg up over your competitors. For more information on them and how to use them, check out, Google’s guide on rich snippets, and Google’s structured data testing tool.

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Did you know?

Leads from search engines have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads (ex. cold-calling, direct mail, etc.) have a 1.7% close rate.

SEO Audit Tools

Here are a few tools you can use to evaluate the SEO health of your site or a competitors. Each brings their own perspective, so it is important to not rely on any one tool for your evaluation.

  • MozBar
  • SEOptimer
    • Simply enter in a website URL and see a “report card” on a website. It is broken down by SEO, Usability, Performance, Social, and Security and provides a list of suggestions to improve each.
  • ZadroWeb
    • Similarly, enter in a URL to see everything from a pages Domain and Page authority, to its top 10 keywords, presence of technical SEO elements, presence of social links, and much more. All is available for free with a downloadable, non-branded PDF.

Keyword Abuse

“What is to stop me from using my primary keywords over, and over, and over? Won’t that help me improve my chances of ranking higher for that keyword?”

If you’ve thought this before, you’re not alone. Early in the days of search, crafty programmers employed all sorts of techniques to trick algorithms into boosting the relevance of a page. They would overstuff sentences with keywords (ex. “Roy’s rugs has rugs for any room that would good with a rug. Persian rugs, wool rugs, cotton rugs, square rugs, circle rugs, rectangle rugs, rugs to put on your rugs, are just a few examples of the types of rugs Roy’s rugs sells.”) while other programmers would fill the background of a website with keywords and then hide them by making them the same color as the background.


Nowadays, search engines will devalue your content or penalize your site if it catches you keyword stuffing. And thank goodness – keyword stuffing is dishonest. Practice SEO ethically, and you will be rewarded for it.



Our philosophy is this: the best SEO strategy is one that puts users above the rankings, experiences above indexes, return visitors above first time visitors. On-site optimization should stop when user frustration begins, and if you operate under this mindset, your search rank will improve.

More free online marketing courses will be added in 2019, so check back often!

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