SEO Basics – Part 2 – On Page Signals

Seo BasicsIn the first post on SEO Basics, I defined SEO and discussed some of the basic concepts: organic & paid search results, on page vs. off page SEO, keywords and the importance of quality content.

In part 2, I’ll focus on some basic “on page” signals that will help you rank higher in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page).

Note that the following sections relate directly to html tags. Chances are, unless you are a web developer, that you don’t have direct access to these tags. However, if you are using a CMS (content management system) such as WordPress, Joomla, etc., then there are usually ways to update them through various SEO plug-ins or menu settings. This functionality varies by CMS, but it’s usually possible to update the contents of these html tags without actually knowing html code – so you can still use the following SEO tactics.


  • This is the html title tag which looks like this in coded form: <title>…</title>
  • One per page
  • General guideline for max. length: 70 characters

Google search result
Notice page title is the link & page description underneath

It’s one of, if not THE most important and influential of SEO signals. This tag tells the search engines what the page is about. This usually displays as a link to your page in the SERPs. This is where you would highlight your most important keyword(s) or key phrase(s), but you don’t want to “stuff” keywords into this tag. You want to use the most important keyword or key phrase and make it as natural sounding and sensible as possible. Search engines, like Google, have become very savvy of improper and abusive tactics used by some who attempt to fool them for higher rankings. If deceptive practices are detected, it may result in ranking penalties or even removal from an index entirely.

The contents of this tag will display in one or two possible locations. Either at the top of the browser window (sometimes called the title bar) and/or in the browser tab that the page is displayed in.


  • These are the html header tags that look like these in coded form:
    • <h1>…</h1>, <h2>…</h2>, <h3>…</h3>, <h4>…</h4>, <h5>…</h5>, <h6>…</h6>
  • One <h1> per page;  Others can occur more than that if necessary.
  • Used to break up page into sections to help organization and reading

If you’re using a WYSIWYG editor, then these tags can usually be assigned by choosing “Header 1, Header 2”, etc. from the format menu most likely.

<h1> is usually considered the most important header in terms of having SEO influence. So you should put the primary keyword(s) here, and it should summarize the whole page (like the title tag). It’s possible that it could match what’s in the <title> tag or should at least be very similar and contain similar keyword(s). They both summarize what the page is about.  And like the <title>, there should only be one <h1> per page.

The other tags, <h2> – <h6> should / can be used to break up the page into a hierarchical structure that can help the visitors easily see the intended page structure and more easily navigate the page. These headers also can contain keyword(s) as appropriate.

 Page Description

  • This is the html meta description tag which looks like this in coded form:
    • <meta name=”description” content=”…” >
  • General guideline for max. length: 150 characters

Unlike the previous html tags, this does not generally have direct SEO influence in terms of it’s contents – it has more of an indirect effect. This content is likely to display in the SERPs under the page link (and remember from above, this page link is the content of your title tag). It serves as a description of your page for the person doing a search. So if this description does not describe your page well or is not very compelling to the searcher, then chances are good that they will not click the link to go to your page. The bottom line is you need to have a good description that makes the searcher want to go to your page for more information. This is commonly referred to as “click through rate”. If the searcher likes what they see in the description, then it’s more likely they will “click through” to your page.

By the way, it’s a good idea to have some keywords in this description as well because the search terms used in the query are usually displayed in bold and help to make it stand out in the SERPs.

What about the Keywords tag?

  • There is a keywords html tag which looks like this in coded form:
    • <meta name=”keywords” content=”…” >

Once upon a time, Google, and other search engines, used this tag to determine what a web page was about and what the main keywords were. Well, unfortunately, scammers and spammers that wanted to rank highly in the SERPs basically used and abused this tag to try to manipulate their rank for all sorts of words whether related to their page content or not. As a result, Google does not consider this tag any longer in it’s ranking algorithm.

It’s possible that some search engines may still use it, but it’s generally considered insignificant now. So, it’s up to you if you want to list your keywords there, but I’m not going to endorse it as a good SEO signal.


In addition to the SEO signals I’ve listed above, the general rule now is to have fresh, quality content on your pages. Quality content is most likely to attract visitors, shares, “likes” and links to your page(s); Search engines like Google are getting better and better at detecting this quality content and will reward it with higher rankings in the SERPs.


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Comments (2)

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    Philip Wright


    Great to read some of your professional writing. Very clear and precise. Regards, Phil.


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