On-page SEO is all about communicating with search engines. While Google’s pretty good at figuring things out, you can still mess it up on your side, putting a big dent in your rankings.
SEO is generally split into two factions: on-page and off-page – which is exactly what it sounds like.
On-page SEO work occurs somewhere on your pages, whether that be your content, your images, your meta descriptions, what have you. Off-page, on the other hand, has to do with things – you guessed it – off your pages. That mostly has to do with link building.
While link building is really important, being that it tells Google how much to trust your site (or not), I want to focus on the other side of things, the sometimes-overlooked on-page work.
On-page doesn’t always get the attention and love that link building does, but it’s really important not to overlook the importance of it.
In essence, on-page SEO has to do with how your site communicates with search engines, and deeply influences how well you rank. After all, even if your site is authoritative, but doesn’t have the right on-page elements, all of those great backlinks aren’t working as they should.
To take a closer look at how this works, I want to discuss a recent client we had (we got their approval to use site examples in this article) whose rankings were transformed in a matter of weeks due to some simple on-page fixes.
His site was designed by a leading law firm marketing company, but the on-page elements were pretty bad all around. In other words, the site looked great – and hardly anybody was finding it. (Pro-tip: Don’t get a website from an agency that doesn’t understand SEO.)
The three specific things I want to focus on are:
- Title Tags
All three, though, come back to the same thing – understanding how search engines work, how competitive the industry is, and being specific.
It’s time to get – ahem – on the same page.
Don’t bite off more Google than you can chew
This is one of the most common mistakes we see with law firm website on-page, so listen up.
To give a little bit of needed background, our client was Gautreaux Law Firm, a small Personal Injury firm in Macon, Georgia. The site’s nicely done and has a lot of good things going for it. He displays a great hero image with a solid unique value proposition, trust symbols, testimonials, calls to action – all the right stuff from a design standpoint.
But we noticed a big problem on the homepage.
Macon was mentioned nowhere outside the footer and client testimonials. Not a single header on the homepage said “Macon.” Where there was a location listed, it was just “Georgia.”
What that means, in terms of overall SEO, is that Google essentially assumed he was trying to rank for all of Georgia. In other words, instead of competing with other firms in Macon, he was competing with the biggest PI firms in Georgia for real estate in the search results, including those in metros like Atlanta.
What did that mean? He was ranking on page 3 for what should have been his primary keyword, “macon injury lawyer.” So hardly anyone was finding his site when they searched those terms.
Even though Macon is mentioned in the paragraph below this header, it’s not enough. You need to make it clear to Google where you’re serving, and if you bite off more than you can chew, you’re not going to see results.
Would it be great to rank for all of Georgia? Sure. But the amount of aggressive link building needed to make that happen would be very expensive.
Instead, we changed the header above to read “Macon Personal Injury Attorneys.”
We also changed “Georgia” to “Macon” in some instances on the homepage and subpages throughout the body content, and mixed up the keyword usage (e.g., changing “Georgia personal injury firm” to “Macon injury attorneys” in one instance).
It’s said that the most Google-friendly content is content that’s written naturally, and that’s generally true. Kind of like how i before e is generally true.
But there are times when you end up writing the same exact keyword phrase over and over again, which looks spammy to search engines and limits the amount of specific phrases for which Google will find your site relevant.
So what happened?
Within two weeks he was ranking on the first page for his primary keywords.
Seriously, it was that quick.
We also optimized some of his subpages, such as his Motorcycle Accidents page, which saw a great uptick throughout the month, starting at #24 and moving all the way up to #4
He also improved in Google Local and Bing over the next few weeks.
What that means is the obvious – now he’s getting found for keywords that will actually bring him business. After all, according to most data sets, 99% of users don’t click on search results past the first page in Google.
Know your searcher
There’s another principle underpinning much of this discussion, which is user intent.
Let me illustrate.
When someone in Macon, GA is injured, and they decide they need to look for an attorney, what do they type into Google?
Do they type “injury attorney in Georgia?” No, very rarely. They know there are local attorneys, and that’s who they’re looking for at least nine times out of ten.
In other words, emphasizing the state over the city not only brought Gautreaux Law’s site into a much more competitive arena, it also wasn’t the vernacular that their best prospects were using when searching in Google.
Is it a good strategy to try to expand your geographical reach in Google? Yes, but that’s an advanced strategy that typically correlates with a firm trying to expand their actual geographical reach in a reasonable way. That takes effort, a strong financial investment, and a competitive advantage in most cases.
In other words, dominate the pond before trying to dominate the lake.
This isn’t just about SEO
The final change that we made to his site was his title tag.
Title tags, if you’re not familiar, function as the title of your web page. If you hover over a browser tab, that’s your title tag. More importantly, it’s the title of the page that show up in search results.
This does have to do with SEO to some degree. In theory, the words appearing closest to the beginning have the highest weight to Google.
Gautreaux’s title tag was what you see above after <title> – “Personal Injury Lawyers, Macon, GA | Gautreaux Law Firm.” That’s certainly not the worst title tag we’ve seen, but we changed it to emphasize location: “Macon Personal Injury Lawyers – Gautreaux Law Firm.”
While we think this had some impact on his ranking increases, this is also an important point that goes beyond SEO.
Being that your title tag is the first thing that people might see about your firm when searching, it’s important that you convey the right message. We’ve seen plenty of instances where a page’s click through rate (CTR – the number/percentage of users who click on the results) increased quite a bit due to a more thoughtful and eye-catching title tag.
Don’t overlook them!
Need help getting your on-page on-point?
Hopefully this article has already helped a lot in terms of getting your on-page specific, targeted, and focused on users.
But if you need additional help, we’ve got options for you.
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