One of the most critical mistakes that many website owners make is that they focus all their on-page SEO efforts on their homepage, while neglecting to apply the same effort to all of their site’s inner pages.
When designing a website that has multiple inner pages with relevant content on them, it is important that you pay special attention to the SEO efforts that are required to get all of the pages on your site indexed, optimized, and ranked, not just the home page. After all, if you have an authority website with 100 pages of content, each page optimized for a different set of long tail keywords, wouldn’t you want each page to also be searchable and ranked just as well?
As you are designing each inner page of your website, be sure that each page can answer the following 10 on-page SEO questions:
1. Are you using LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords?
It is not enough to rank for just specifically targeted keywords. These days, Google is also ranking pages for related keywords and phrases that are synonyms of the actual ones on your page. So if there is a possibility that an inner page of your site might be also be ranked for one of these peripheral keywords, why pass up that opportunity and leave money on the table?
2. Are you engaging in adequate internal linking by cross-referencing other relevant pages within your site?
When most people think of SEO backlinking, they immediately think of links back to your website from external links. But Google loves internal links as well – links from one page within your site to another, especially if the link is relevant and it keeps the visitor on your site longer, as these are factors that contribute to your site’s rankings.
3. Are you using a SILO architecture for your site’s design?
A silo is a compartmentalized, self-contained unit that is part of a whole, such as an apartment that is part of an apartment building. In SEO terms, you can partition your website into multiple silos based on groups of related keywords or by categories. You do this by controlling the flow of traffic within the related pages so that there is one “main page” and that there are no outbound links from any of these inner pages, except back to the “main page”. This creates a mini site-within-a-site, which Google views a self-contained unit for SEO ranking purposes. The primary benefit of organizing your website according to a SILO architecture is to help your inner pages rank better in the search engines.
4. Do you have the pages on your site divided up using categories, for ease of organization, navigability, and grouping related content together?
Similar to the SILO structure described in the previous point, it is important that your site be easy to crawl and navigate, and that it is organized in such a way that makes it easy for Google to recognize patterns of related keywords and content. The use of tightly-focused categories and subcategories will help to facilitate ease of navigation within your website. Rather than having long, cryptic URLs, the URLs of your inner pages should consist of the category as the directory name and the title of your page as the name of the HTML content page.
5. Does each inner page within your site have a meta title, meta description, and meta keywords defined for it, and not just your home page?
Meta tags are used by the search engines to quickly identify what your site is about so that they can more efficiently crawl, index, and rank your site.
For example, the META TITLE tag should include the title of the article, but should NOT include the name of your website. Some website owners will use META TITLE tags like “MySite.com | My Inner Page”. It is better to just use “My Inner Page” for this tag. It is also advisable to restrict this tag to a maximum of 60 characters.
You can also use the META DESCRIPTION tag, which is a brief description of the site. This may or may not be used by Google as the actual description that shows up in the search results. It is best to keep this under a maximum of 160 characters and should contain a reference to your page’s primary keywords (without coming across as spammy).
You may also use the META KEYWORDS tag. However, be cautious when using this tag. It no longer carries the weight that it once used to. It is merely an urban legend that Google uses this tag to determine he list of keywords for your page to be ranked for. On the contrary, it is used only as a means for Google to determine what your page is about. So, if used incorrectly, it can actually hurt your site more than help it. For more information, check out the official Google Webmaster Blog
6. Are you using keyword density sparingly?
With the advent of the Google Penguin update that came out in 2012, sites that are found to be engaging in excessive blackhat keyword spam are being penalized in such a way so as to devalue them in the SERPS, according to Matt Cutts, head of the webspam team at Google. This is not to say that keyword density is no longer relevant, but it is no longer weighed as heavily as a primary factor for how to rank your site.
7. Are you using for all of the outbound links from your website, to prevent SEO “link-juice” from “leaking” to other sites?
By default, all outbound links from one web page to another are regarded as “do-follow” links. In other words, let’s say you have a PR3 blog website and the owner of another website comes along and offers you a free sample or trial membership of their product or service, in exchange for a link from your site to theirs. When you create that link, you are passing along some of the page rank benefits from your site to theirs, thereby helping to bolster their site’s page ranking.your outbound links to be no-follow.
There may be some cases where you would want to explicitly set your outbound links as no-follow. For example, if you stand to profit from the site you are linking to, as might be in the case of a company paying you to include a do-follow link to their site from yours (which is, incidentally, against Google’s Terms Of Service), then it makes sense to set your links as no-follow. This demonstrates to the site being linked to, that they cannot gain any SEO benefit by virtue of the fact that you are linking to them.
The no-follow tag also serves to protect your own site from being hit with a penalty in case the site you are linking to is engaging in any type of link spam of its own. Discussion forum posts are a prime example of where to use and not to use the no-follow tag.
8. Are you using H1, H2, and H3 tags within your page content?
It is important, not only for on-page SEO, but also easier for Google to or ease of readability for your readers, that the inner pages of your site be separated out into multiple sections, each of which include a sub-header that uses one of these header tags.
Google recommends using H1 tags for the title of your page, H2 tags for section headers, and H3 for paragraph headers.
Google does state that the use of header tags is not the end-all-be-all state solution for SEO, but it definitely can contribute to your on-page SEO optimization to some extent.
9. Are you varying the anchor text in each outbound link from this website?
In an effort to combat having your site being sandboxed for link spamming and in order to combat the gaming of the search engines’ organic search results, it is important that you vary the anchor text you use in every hyperlink on your site. Otherwise, Google will call you out for intentionally trying to manipulate the search engine rankings by excessively using the same keyword over and over again. Therefore, you should use a variety of keywords. If you are afraid that this will reduce your chances of ranking for that keyword, you should consider that Google is starting to rank pages for related keywords and synonyms now, and not just the intended keyword.
10. Would your site pass a Google Quality Rating test?
One of the biggest mysteries of how Google operates is whether or not there is any human intervention in the process of evaluating how websites get ranked in search results. As it turns out, Google searches are subject to a quality rating system. Teams of actual human visitors will perform search queries and evaluate the websites that are returned on the first page for their quality and relevance to the intent of said query. These evaluations do not directly impact SEO, but their feedback is taken back to the engineers at Google who will use the data to further modify and improve their search algorithm. Their role is to evaluate and provide feedback as to the quality of Google’s search results.
Knowing that your site is subject to quality review by an actual human reviewer, wouldn’t it behoove you to ensure that your site is designed and your content is written, keeping live human readers in mind, and not just an automated spider that crawls websites?
If something is missing, feel free to add in comments and I will update the post with a credit to you.