• General Best Practices
On-Page SEO: 10 Best Practices You Should Know
Leah Mangold

You’ve heard about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) before. You’re pretty sure it’s important to have keywords and meta tags. And you’ve read some of our blogs about optimizing your posts for search. But don’t you just wish there was a collection of the most important tips somewhere for you to reference? 

Look no further than this handy infographic

an infographic outlining ten best practices for on-page SEO using Finalsite's CMS

Pretty great, right? But just in case you need a little more background, here are these tips in more detail.

Include keywords in your title tag

What’s the first thing you do when you look at a SERP (Search Engine Results Page) after typing your search query? Most likely, you scan those purple titles! 

a google search result for "search engines"

And that’s what your prospects will do, too. So make sure that all of your title is showing on the way you want it to! Google typically displays the first 50-60 characters of a page title in SERP. Either condense that title to fit under the limit or, if you really need a long one, place the most important keywords at the beginning of the title tag. 

Wrap your headings

If two posts with the same title are competing for keywords and one appears to lack content in the body, Google won’t choose it to be first in SERP. Use the <H1> and <H2> heading hierarchy tags to make it easier for Google to index your content. It’s sort of like having supporting facts in an argument—you’re proving to Google that you do, in fact, have an article about your title’s topic!

example from avon old farms school blog using headers and subheaders

Avon Old Farms uses header tags in its well-established blog.

Include relevant keywords in your headings and subheadings, too! 

Keep URLS short

It’s easy to forget to pay attention to the text in the URLs—especially because Posts automatically generates a URL with the words you put in the title. But the URLs are also crawled by Google and play a role in your ranking. The perfect URL doesn’t need to be as wordy as the title, though. Trim away words like “a” “the” and “some,” making the URL just a few main keywords separated by hyphens. The more to-the-point, the better!

Use simple and short URLs, with no extra words and no default labels like "folder"

Include multimedia

Google favors pages with longer “dwell times” because it wants to make sure it’s sending users to pages that other people engage with and enjoy. If someone clicks on your page and then clicks the back button immediately, Google will record it as a “bounce” (in other words, not a conversion).  Too many bounces and Google will assume that your page does not match what users are looking for and be less likely to show your page in future searches with those keywords. The solution?  Make sure people stay on the page.

Pages with engaging videos and photos can increase dwell times. Some tips:

  • Place videos at the top of the page so users see it right away.  
  • Make it obvious that videos are playable. If you don’t have a “play” button in the thumbnail, add a headline like, “Watch our students shine in this video!”
  • Only include content that is relevant to the page itself. Don’t add a random video that has nothing to do with the page’s purpose. That’s as bad as clickbait and will only confuse—or worse, annoy—your visitors.

One word of caution:

Too many large files on a page can make it slow to load and discourage people from staying on it—the exact opposite effect you want! Use basic file formats for images (JPEG, PNG) and avoid TIFFs. Condense videos and images using file compressors. If you have a lot of images in a blog post, don’t make every image large. 

Build up a link profile

Outbound links

Outbound links indicate to Google what your topic is related to, helping it index properly. Just remember that this allows users to click off your site, meaning you won’t be able to control where they go next. Set the links to open in a new window.

set outbound links to open in a new tab

Internal links

Linking to other pages on your site both improves your site’s overall SEO and drives traffic to and awareness of your other pages. When done right, internal links make promoting your school even easier. For example, see this blog post from The Quaker School at Horsham (TQS), an independent school for children with disabilities: 

screenshot from a blog post from The Quaker School of Horsham which uses internal and outbound links

The article provides insight on the way children with complex challenges think and feel (which matches what their constituents care about) In the first few paragraphs, the school links to both relevant outside sources as well as an internal link to a specific program the school offers to meet said challenge.  

Increase word count

Longer posts (1,000+ words) perform better than shorter posts in search. Though Google gets suspicious if a post is keyword-crazy, your body content should include your keyword at least once in the first 100 words.

It’s a delicate balance, really. While long posts are great for the algorithms, unnecessarily long posts will frustrate readers—and you don’t want them to click away (or worse, never click to read your articles because you’ve built a reputation of wordy writing!)

Strike a happy medium with quality content that is easily “skimmable"

  • Use bullet points like this. People can skim through and choose the bullets they want to read more about and skip the ones they know already—but it will still count as “reading” to Google!
  • Bold some words like this or try italics to draw attention to quotes or important points and encourage people to continue scrolling.
break up your text with micrographics that highlight your main points

Add alt text

Alternative text does two things. First, it helps make your website more accessible. Screen readers use alternative text to tell people who have visual impairments what an image is about. It also improves SEO. The description allows the algorithms to file an image correctly (because Google isn't human...yet!). Think about it. How else does Google know what to display in a Google Image search? Make it easy:

  • Add keywords in the alternative text box. Again, don't stuff keywords if they don't belong there. But if it's relevant to add, it will certainly help!
  • Use relevant file names. "Key-differentiators-infographic.png" is more specific than "image1.png." 

Still not sure what your alt text should look like? Check out this blog on how to write Alt text using Composer. 

Display social sharing buttons

Finalsite Posts displays sharing buttons at the bottom of every blog post to enable easy sharing. Because the easier it is for people to share, the more likely they will. And while it may not affect SEO directly, sharing often leads to more page views, which in term improves that Google ranking!

Quaker School at Horsham blog footer social sharing example screenshot

The blog footer for the Quaker School at Horsham has social buttons that match the school’s brand. 

Take advantage of social sharing buttons by:

  • Encouraging your teachers and staff to share on their social media accounts
  • Making sure that the sharing buttons are present for posts that feature students or highlight members of the community—that’s the kind of content parents will want to click to share!

Key Takeaway

In the few years I’ve spent studying SEO trends and best practices for marketers, I’ve learned this. You can try to cheat the system and make your content based solely on the algorithms. And you will succeed. Briefly.

But algorithms change as search engines get smarter. So don’t write just for them—write for your readers. All of the SEO tips I outlined above are best practices for the users, too.

Because ultimately, that’s what the search engines are trying to do—make their searchers happy. Google wants to get the right content in front of the right people as quickly as possible. All you need to do is make it easy for both.


Independent School SEO Strategies: What to Watch for in 2019


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Leah-Mangold-Headshot

As Finalsite's Marketing Associate, Leah promotes new school site launches and educates people on all things digital marketing. She’s passionate about global communication, handwritten notes, and sole travel. When she’s not exploring new places, she’s either blogging, doodling, or dreaming about it! 

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