How to do onsite SEO

This is a transcript of the second speaker, Andrew Rayner’s talk at the first ever Optimisey event.

I did the transcription myself so any mistakes are likely to be mine, not Andrew’s.

Also Andrew R was second up and followed on from a great talk by Andrew Martin SEO: 7 First Steps – so when Andrew R refers to “Andrew” and things we heard from him, he means that talk.

As with the best bands and musicians Andrew (and Optimisey) is best experienced live – so you’ll just have to imagine him delivering this, the great interaction and the terrific Q&As afterwards. Come to the next Cambridge SEO event and see for yourself.

Every cloud though – you can’t hyperlink real speech but I can here. Enjoy.

Opening slide from Andrew Rayner's SEO talk at Optimisey in October 2017

Actually, you’ve probably already got loads of stuff – thanks to Andrew’s presentation. I wholeheartedly agree with everything he said – it was fantastic.

You’ve seen quite a lot already, some of the tools you can use to help you with SEO but I’m going to deep dive into a few bits. I will skim over a few bits that Andrew already covered but even if I’m skimming over them it’s because I’m reinforcing that as something really important too.

Just a couple of things to highlight: A number of my slides have got these QR codes on – if anyone’s got a scanner (I don’t know if these will work in this size of room) but you can try it if you like. All they do, is they basically do a click-to-tweet of that slide.

So, if you agree with the point and you can manage to scan from where you are.

First thing: focus on what you can control, rather than what you can’t. Now, that might seem really obvious but there are a lot of people whom I’ve worked with who seem to try and focus on the things that are uncontrollable.

Things like: ‘What can I do about my competitors?’ – well, actually, nothing really. You can’t really do much about your competitors. They’re gonna do what they’re gonna do. So let’s ignore them and get on with what you can do – that’s the basis of my talk today.

I’m going to give you one topic per page. The reason I’m doing that is because that’s what you should be doing with your SEO.

Search traffic IS pre-qualified prospects

A slide from Andrew Rayner's SEO talk at Optimisey in October 2017

Your search visitors are like pre-qualified prospects because they’ve asked something and you’ve been given as one of the possible answers and they’ve chosen you. Now, there aren’t many situations in marketing or sales where you get that opportunity where you get just the people that are relevant to you to come through.

Most other marketing types, you’re going to have to either broadcast to a wide-range of people or you’re going to email out to who you think are the right contacts but you can’t pick out the ones that are just right.

Search picks out the ones that are just right! Isn’t that great? It just makes our job so much easier.

So, keywords are really important because we have to know what it is that our ideal customers are searching for, in order to make sure we can be there when the search results come up.

So how do you go about doing that?

Keyword research

A slide from Andrew Rayner's SEO talk at Optimisey in October 2017 about keyword research

We’re going to start with some research. We’ve seen some search results come up and you can go on Google (or other search engines – there are other search engines!) and you can type in a phrase and you’ll get a list of results, obviously.

But there are a few other things you’ll get up on that page. Down the bottom of the page you’ll get a list of other phrases which are, potentially, relevant to the thing that you typed in.

So if you’re doing keyword research those are a great, simple way to start finding keywords and phrases that don’t require you to have any tools other than Google itself.

So start with a core word or phrase – and I often say to people don’t avoid a keyword that seems impossible. Say you want to rank for, I don’t know… “apple”.

And you might want to rank for “apple” because you sell apples! But what are the chances, against an organisation like Apple, of getting a high ranking position.

Well, probably… none.

But don’t avoid it because it’s what your business does.

So even those phrases where you think: ‘There’s no chance of me getting up the top there.’ keep it in your content and make sure you still have pages about it because it will lend weight to those long tail keyword phrases that you might also be focusing on.

Don’t just avoid those ‘impossible’ keywords.

Look for related phrases. How can you do that? Well, I talked about using Google and search engines and the “searches related to” at the bottom of results is a good place to start.

You can also use keyword research tools. There’s plenty available, I’m not going to endorse any particularly.

Google also sometimes gives you a “Did you mean?” and sometimes it’s worth having a look at those because it might be because of the way the phrase is typed in that there’s a phrase which is more appropriate.

Those are some of the way you can look for related phrases that you might want to target.

Writing Copy

A slide from Andrew Rayner's SEO talk at Optimisey in October 2017 - about writing copy

Writing copy – we’ve already heard about making sure that your content is the best it can be for the users not for search engines.

When you’re writing content you need to write for customers but you can optimise for the search engines.

There are lots of things you can do that won’t change the copy but will change make it better for the search engines to deliver that content to the right users for you.

Keep a focus on that. Make sure you follow Google’s recommendations on how to put your content together but then think ‘What can I do to make that better?’ without changing the message.

One keyword or focus per page

A slide from Andrew Rayner's SEO talk at Optimisey in October 2017 - about having a single focus per page

As I’ve already alluded to at the beginning of my presentation: one keyword or phrase per page is as much as you should be aiming for.

Make sure that that keyword is in or, ideally, at the beginning of the page title as Andrew has highlighted; and also make sure that it’s in or ideally at the beginning of your H1 heading.

Those are the things which are likely to give you as strong a ranking as possible based on your page.

If you’ve got an image on your page, make sure that’s named with the same keyword or phrase as well.

Most of those things are pretty easy to do.

The content itself still needs to say what it needs to say but those are all things you can optimise without impacting what the user is going to see.

optimise your images

A slide from Andrew Rayner's SEO talk at Optimisey in October 2017 - about image optimisation

Talking about images on page, let’s delve into that a little bit more. Every page ought to have some sort of image which represents it and the reason for that is Google image results are probably as important as the text results these days.

A visual representation and in particular a visual representation which represents what the user is looking for or something that is the right message for them based on their search phrase can be much more compelling when someone’s looking at a search results list that just text.

If you’re looking for something like holidays, or you’re looking for houses, or you’re looking for cars – a lot of people will go and click on an image because it looks like what they’re looking for so bear that in mind.

Obviously people do searches for images as well – so don’t just think about search as people searching for text – make sure that you consider the impact of images in search results. You can drive loads of traffic to your site through use of effectively optimised images in your content.

In order to do that we look at the file name, as I mentioned. Make sure the keywords are in the file name of the image.

I’d also recommend you put them all in lower case, that can help you stop duplicating any file names because otherwise you end up with a mismatch of the message you’re trying to send the search engine.

And usually I hyphenate them so ‘keyword-research.png’ or ‘.jpg’ would be the file name for an image I’d use to focus on that phrase.

The number of websites I see that have images uploaded that are image01457.jpg I just think “Really? Is that what you wanted to attract?” answer, probably not.

Make sure you always include alt-tags. Title tags are slightly different. Title tags are nice for the user if they hover over an image, gives you an opportunity to put text in there but there are some complexities.

Some browser reading tools for users with disabilities can often end up with duplicated information being read out to them based on the title tags so watch out for that.

Common errors: Keywords

A slide from Andrew Rayner's SEO talk at Optimisey in October 2017 - common errors with keywords

Some of the common errors I see with keywords: the first one is keyword ignorance. Basically you’re just creating a page and it’s not about anything, it hasn’t got a message so make sure you know what your keywords need to be and make sure you allocate them one per page.

We’ve heard about keyword stuffing already – it’s probably the second worst thing. If you don’t know about keywords the opposite end of the spectrum is the whole page is filled with keywords.

Some of the measures which I’ve mentioned might appear to be keyword stuffing but you’re doing it in a way which isn’t impacting what the user sees – that’s why it’s writing for customers and optimising for search engines.

We’ve already heard about headings – poor heading use is another one. Lots of CMS (content management system) based websites will automatically identify sections of the page by using headings and they will have things like ‘Resources’ or ‘Services’ as the text that they’ll use for the heading.

Now, from a search engine’s point of view that’s not particularly beneficial unless you’re targeting the word ‘Resources’ or ‘Services’.

Take a look at your CMS, see what things it’s imposing upon you and you might want to talk to your developer about getting some of those headings removed and just converted to normal text.

They’re not adding anything from a search perspective and they could be detrimental.

Site speed

A slide from Andrew Rayner's SEO talk at Optimisey in October 2017 - about site speed

We’re back on speed! I’m going to reiterate some of the stuff that Andrew’s already covered – as it says here, having a slow website is like having a shop where no-one wants to go.

We’ve already seen some of the stats, I think it was on mobile if your site takes more than three seconds to load then you’re missing out on loads and loads of visitors.

Ensure that speed is one of your biggest priorities.

Andrew’s already covered a lot of the things I’m going to mention here but they’re worth reiterating.

Accelerating your website

A slide from Andrew Rayner's SEO talk at Optimisey in October 2017 - about how to make your site faster

Today, mobile first should pretty much be your way of thinking. Try and make sure that, whatever the presentation of your site is try and make sure you check it out on a mobile because that’s probably where a lot of them are going to interact with it for the first time.

Remove your rubbish – I’ll show you how to do some of that in a second, but obviously you don’t want users having to wade through a load of rubbish to get their browser to load.

Make sure you’re managing your images successfully. We’ve already heard a bit about that and I’ll go into a bit more detail.

Then finally I’m going to tell you how you can turbo-charge your site to make it go really fast. I mean, instant. Your site but instant. I’ll come on to that in a sec.

Remove the rubbish on your site

A slide from Andrew Rayner's SEO talk at Optimisey in October 2017 - about how to remove rubbish on your site to make it faster

Let’s talk about rubbish. So many sites have got so much redundant content in. We’re talking about tags, about scripts which don’t do anything, we’re talking about CSS which doesn’t change anything.

All these things are things you can remove which doesn’t change the content but makes it load quicker as that’s stuff which doesn’t have to come down the wire.

Avoid having in-line CSS wherever possible. This is your styling information – cascading style sheets, CSS – basically ensures that the information presented on your site is presented consistently.

If you have this in a single file that says ‘Headings should be like this, text should be like this…’ that only has to be downloaded once for a whole page.
Imagine if you put that in and had to have that every time you’ve got a paragraph or every time you’ve got a picture – that’s really going to slow your site down, so avoid doing that in your code.

We’ve heard already about minifying your files, which is about reducing white space, or wasted space in your code.

Managing your site’s images

A slide from Andrew Rayner's SEO talk at Optimisey in October 2017 - about managing images to make your site faster

Managing images, we’ve heard already about oversized images which slow things down. How do you deal with that? We’ve heard about minimum and maximum size – use that, it’s great.

Reduce the resolution. Some images don’t need to be that detailed to get the point across. You can reduce the resolution of the images. Some of the images, you should only be using around 72dpi – you may need to talk to a graphic designer or someone with a bit more expertise if this is not your area.

Certainly don’t bother uploading images that are either very large in size or that have a tremendous amount of resolution because it’s just going to slow your site down.

Or maybe don’t have them in your content – have them as a clickable if someone does want to see more detail.

Consider using something like srcset – code which says ‘OK, depending on which device you’re viewing this content in, I’m going to show you a different image file’ – you can actually use smaller image files for mobile users and that means you’re not downloading large amounts of content where it’s not necessary.

We talked about images that do need more detail – consider having them open in a new tab or page so you don’t need to have that big image load.

Also consider them as possible gated content opportunities. If you’ve got an image that is offering really great content to a user – they might be prepared to, say, give you their email address for that.

Turbocharge your site with AMP

A slide from Andrew Rayner's SEO talk at Optimisey in October 2017 - about AMP to improve your site speed

OK, turbo-charge. Has anyone heard of AMP?

AMP is Accelerated Mobile Pages and you will begin to see this, particularly if you’re on a mobile device funnily enough, if you’re doing Google searches – you’ll see a little AMP symbol on some of the results.

What it is, this isn’t something that Google have designed, it’s an open standard so any website can use this and it’s a set of standards that define the minimum credible content to get a page and it’s point across.

That minimum credible content removes stuff that slows it down. I recently went to a talk by one of the guys at Google that was involved with putting this together for them and he said “It’s how the web was meant to be.”

And that’s why they’re rewarding it. Basically their point is that pages should load instantly. And with AMP they do, because what happens is when you get that list of results on the search page the AMP results are being loaded in your browser, whilst you’re choosing.

So when you click… it’s there.

That’s how you can get instant results. There are a number of CMS’s which offer AMP plug-ins. What will happen is it will cut out a lot of dynamic content, it will cut out a lot of scripts and there are other types of content which are deemed as not beneficial to mobile performance and they will get removed.

But I would challenge you – I would say almost your whole website needs to be qualified for AMP if you want to be first in the results. That’s the thing to aim for.

Watch out for that one. It’s definitely coming and if you’re not looking into AMP for your site then you need to soon particularly if you’ve got a mobile-focused audience.

It doesn’t necessarily help your whole site – but it’s about getting them off the search results and into your site.

Common errors relating to speed

A slide from Andrew Rayner's SEO talk at Optimisey in October 2017 - about common errors around site speed

OK. How many people have added stuff to their website because they like it?

It’s OK we all have – but remember that’s not the right reason. Remember we’re building websites for customers. What matters is if they like it – so just cross-check, is this something that’s beneficial for my customers or am I just doing it for that thing?

Using WYSIWYG editors – I hate them. What You See Is What You Get Editors – where you can put text in and then highlight it and make it bold and then edit it and add some spaces in… and then you think ‘I don’t like that, I’m going to change it all back to plain’ – and it all looks plain and then someone like me will then go and have a look at your code and say “Do you realise you’ve got 26 tags in there to change that text to plain, which it was anyway before you added in the tags to change it?”

WYSIWYG editors are, typically, problematic. WordPress is a common one and what you can do in these tools is they’ll let you have a look at the code and look at the HTML yourself. Go and have a look in there and make sure you haven’t got any random tags in the code.

If you don’t understand it get someone who does to come and help you.

Tips for site speed

A slide from Andrew Rayner's SEO talk at Optimisey in October 2017 - about tips to improve site speed

Page Speed insights is the tool you’ve seen screenshots of. Because I’m repeating it, it means it’s important.


A slide from Andrew Rayner's SEO talk at Optimisey in October 2017 - about links and link building

Links – we’ve heard about links but how do we improve our site with regard to links?

They do bind the web together. Without links we don’t have a web which is why they’re needed.

They tell the search engine a lot about our sites and they tell the search engines a lot about the sites we endorse and the sites which endorse us.

What types of links do we have?

A slide from Andrew Rayner's SEO talk at Optimisey in October 2017 - about types of links

As far as the search engines are concerned, a link is a link. But there are different types of link which you might want to use and this comes back to putting stuff together for customers.

We’ve got content links and this is where you’ve just got a piece of text, maybe in a paragraph that just happen to be a link. Normally they have the underline, if they’ve not changed the formatting.

Use relevant text for the destination page as your link. So, the thing you’re linking to, whatever you have as the words you’re linking, those words should represent that page that you’re linking to.

Those content links are not that visible, they don’t interrupt reading so they’re quite good from that perspective for pointing the search engines to what’s important.

Some discerning users might pick them out if they’re interested in that topic and it will take them away to the content that’s right for them.

Content links are great for that because it can help split users up into where you want them to be.

A call to action is something different – that’s when you have a great big button on your site that says “Buy products” or whatever it is, so the call to action will direct people around your business.

And you can’t just have more than one and hope that the right people will go to that one and others will go to that one so make sure you get your links at the same relevant level.

So if it’s a choice between two things either make them both content links or both calls to action. If you use one with another then you’re steering people to do one thing and it will misinform your analytics.

They need to be nice and visible – don’t do white buttons on white backgrounds – and they should interrupt reading.

You want to grab people’s attention – so don’t try and put them in a sentence with a border around it. Break it out from the paragraph and make it very clear that you want to take someone out to that place.

These are all things which seem to be focused on the user but they’re also things which are going to help the search engines understand more about your site as well.

The importance of site structure

A slide from Andrew Rayner's SEO talk at Optimisey in October 2017 - about site structure

Finally your site structure – your menus, your footer links all those things – focus on the customer. Focus on a structure which helps them – you need to understand how your website customers work so whatever they’re looking for you’re directing them to.

Whatever it is your site does, buy products or endorse things make sure your site structure makes it easy for them to do that.

Don’t make it the way that you see your business, just ‘because’.

You’ll see a lot of sites that will have product categories and their product categories are how they’ve got it in the stockroom. The customer isn’t going to go in the stockroom. They’re going to see it on the shelf.

Organise you website the way you would organise your shop.

Again, use keywords in that structure. These links are important, don’t think that they don’t count. The keywords need to be in there too.

Make sure that you focus on your most important pages in your menus. Make sure your main menu headings are the main pages on your site.

Sometimes you see these long menus with 104 things in… people aren’t going to go through all those things.

Distil it down to the important stuff or create a hierarchical structure to help users through your site more easily.

Providing that menu structure, a logical hierarchy, focusing on user experience.

Also consider having breadcrumbs – there are other ways of doing that it’s not just showing people what page they were on previously (they can use their back button for that) it’s showing users how they got to where they are now and that will help them navigate.

Also consider building in structured data mark-up. What this is – and you can read about this on – but this is HTML code that will tell the search engines what the things are that you’re talking about.

If you’re talking about a product grouping, you can use structured data mark-up that what you’ve put in there is a review. And guess what – on the search engines you get all the little star ratings coming up.

So if you’ve got a similar set of pages and your page is the one with all the stars and review settings what do you think is going to happen with the users?

Some of them are going to be deflected to you because you’ve, well hopefully, got a good star rating. If you’ve got five out of five or four out of five and no-one else has got anything you’re probably going to be a higher choice.

How to build great links

A slide from Andrew Rayner's SEO talk at Optimisey in October 2017 - about building great links

So building great links, links from relevant pages – we don’t want links from just anywhere we’ve heard a little about that already.

Put the most important things in the top left of your page. Search engines always consider how users read the page and they always start in the top left.

If the call to action doesn’t work as text use an image. You can use an image as a call to action. If you can’t do a button with the keyword on then use an image.

Consider opening links to other sites in an additional tab but also you can optionally put the nofollow on an individual link it doesn’t have to be for the whole page.

So you can say “OK, maybe discount that link.” but my other links on my page are OK; I’m endorsing these ones, maybe my internal ones, but I’m not endorsing this external one.

Common errors with links

A slide from Andrew Rayner's SEO talk at Optimisey in October 2017 - about common errors with links and link building

Common errors – we’ve heard about ‘click here’, we all love that one!

Link overload – too many links; links that are too long; a lack of links – if you don’t give people any direction on where to go then they see a dead end and they’re going to leave your site.

And lastly, unclear site structure. Those are all common issues.

Coming on to some reminders now: measure everything.

Remember to measure

 A slide from Andrew Rayner's SEO talk at Optimisey in October 2017 - remind you to measure everything

Measure absolutely everything you can about your website, measure activity, how many views everything gets, how many forms are filled in, what the different menu options people tend to choose are etc.

Basically you can’t improve what you can’t measure.

Final tips and tools

 A slide from Andrew Rayner's SEO talk at Optimisey in October 2017 - some final tips ,advice and tools

Final tips: other search engines are available. I mention this not only from an SEO perspective, Bing does have its own SEO webmaster tools that you can use, but also from a paid search point of view a lot of people miss the opportunity of advertising on search engines.

SEO is as important for paid search as it is for organic – you will pay less per click if your page is optimised for the keywords you’re bidding on. You can reduce your costs through that.

Now, I haven’t purposefully put a lot of tools in here but I’m just going to mention three here.

Tools I use. This mobile friendly test from Google is a great one for checking out how a page or a site appears on a mobile device. It will also give you feedback on how good Google thinks your page is.

Has anyone come across Neil Patel? He’s quite a good guy to follow. He’s got some very useful tools on his site – a very nice page analysis tool; speed analysis; keyword analysis.

Don’t take it all as black and white. It’s not as simple as follow everything that he suggests and my page will be perfect – it’s not that simple.

Just have a look at the things which are commonly problems on the pages that you test across your site and it might help you steer in the right direction.

And finally, this is a really simple tool. It counts the number of words or phrases that you put in your content.

It might seem ridiculously stupid to do that but people write in certain ways. We talked about writing for the customer and there are a number of people that, when I’ve read their copy, and I’ve thought “You’ve used that phrase 27 times!”.

What they’re doing is they’re steering those phrases into the search engines which is not great. So a little tool like this can help you spot when someone’s writing style is influencing the search engines.

Watch out for that – it’s a great little tool, just plug any paragraph, article or text into it to get some quick insights.

Your Presence doesn’t Stop at your website

 A slide from Andrew Rayner's SEO talk at Optimisey in October 2017 - final advice, don't stop at your website

And finally. Your web presence doesn’t end at your website.

All the things we’ve talked about are just as valid on any other page where you control the content.

We talked about control what you can and not what you can’t but you can control a lot more than just your website. We’ve heard about directories, there’s social media, there’s so much more you control than just your website. All the things I’ve discussed are potentially suitable for them too.

See the wider picture and make sure you don’t miss out on those opportunities.

Cambridge SEO MeetUp

If you found the above useful (perhaps even interesting?) you will love attending the free Cambridge SEO MeetUps in person.

Great speakers, great learning, great advice to help get more of the right kind of organic traffic to your website.

There’s free drinks, snacks and great people to network with too.


2 thoughts on “How to do onsite SEO”

    1. Thanks for your comment Charlie!

      I think if you did come you’d be pretty close to the ‘distance-to-attend’ record! We’ve had speakers from Ottawa, North Carolina and Dubai… maybe you could take the cake! You’d be very welcome.

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