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With much of the SEO sphere focusing on link-building and (to a lesser extent) social media metrics, it can become easy to place all efforts on off-site SEO while neglecting on-page factors. However, even the most impressive link profile or social media presence does not tell search engines enough about what the linked-to site is about or how it translates into a good user experience. As such, it becomes imperative to put time and energy into what could easily be an overlooked yet easy-to-control aspect: on-site SEO.
A page’s title and description are absolutely critical in telling search engines and (equally important) users the topic of a page. As search engine results pages (SERPs) become cluttered with search results intermingled with local results, it becomes more important to have descriptive, well-written titles and descriptions with an adequate use of keywords and command modifiers. Use keywords as appropriate to convey the topic, but do not go overboard. Being spammy will not only be frowned upon by the Googles of the world, but it will also translate into a lower click-through rate by users. The general consensus is that using more than 70 characters for titles and 160 for descriptions is overkill, and it’s OK to use less. Always write with the user in mind.
Note in the photo above of a SERP for ‘Atlanta Real Estate’, which is one of the most competitive real estate markets in the U.S.., that each entry uses different keywords in their descriptions and titles. For example, www.PremierAtlantaRealEstate.com includes information about schools and neighborhoods, which will appeal to a different kind of buyer than that of the entries above it, which put more emphasis on ‘luxury’.
Ideally, every page on a typical website should be within three clicks of the home page. Clearly this is not applicable for large sites such as Wikipedia, Amazon, etc., but for the average local real estate site this should be a clear-cut objective. As such, keep it in mind when structuring your site into folders; the goal is to have a logical, well-thought-out and easily understood structure.
For example: domain/city/property type/landing page could be feasible for most agents, depending on their target audience and niche. Of course, there could be variations such as domain/property type/city/landing page, but the objective is the same: Have a clear, easy-to-understand structure from both a user’s and search engine’s perspective.
Remember, structure is (and will continue to be) important, as it helps users understand relevancy and helps search engines in placing relative importance of any given page.
Oftentimes underused, how pages are interlinked from one to another can create a better user experience and keep authority/trust flowing freely throughout the site. Just as in link-building, use different variations of keywords to link to a page, which is clearly much easier to control on-page than off-page.
For example, linking to a Boston condos page can be linked to with varying anchor texts such as “Boston condos for sale,” “Condos for sale in Boston,” “Beantown condos,” etc., and can effectively increase rankings on long-tail searches.
The example above, taken from www.LuxurySarasotaRealEstate.com, illustrates interlinking well-done. It has contextual links to similar pages that a user may find interesting, links on the main navigation to key pages throughout the site for quick browsing, and anchored links within the same page for easy navigation – useful for particularly long pages, where a user may not be able to locate the information they are looking for based on the sheer content quantity.
Use HTML-based text to write links, as links in Java, Flash or other plug-ins have a good chance of not being reached by the search engines’ spiders. Furthermore, avoid unnecessary linking; after all, having too many links not only dilutes the “juice” passed on to each link but in many cases crawl spiders will not follow all links on a page to its destination.
Although articles about link-building and social media strategies continue to dominate the SEO landscape, it is imperative to put time on an aspect over which a website master has immediate and direct control: on-site SEO!