Benefit consultants have a love-hate relationship with search engine optimization. Everyone wants a constant flow of high-quality leads delivered to their website, but we sometimes ignore the basics that need to happen. One of the fundamentals you need to manage is on-page search engine optimization.

What is on-page SEO?
On-page SEO is the search engine optimization techniques you use on your own website within the site code. Don’t worry, you don’t need to know how to code. Chances are your website is running on something like WordPress, which makes working on SEO as simple as using Microsoft Word. If you don’t know what SEO is, it’s just making your web page as readable as possible to a search engine such as Google or Bing. This allows you to capitalize on all the free web traffic it will send by being the perfect answer to a user’s search query.

Whether you have a little or a lot of HTML experience, working on On-Page SEO is pretty straightforward and doesn’t take long to understand and to become accomplished. Let’s look at the different pieces involved in creating “perfect” On-Page SEO for your website.

Bloomberg/file photo

Define your target
Before we go into the more technical issues of On-Page SEO, one question you have to ask yourself is who is your target audience? It might be a single audience or multiple audiences. At HealthJoy.com, our goal is to focus our SEO to get traffic from benefit agencies, business owners and HR department heads within the USA. We are looking to educate people about our product and the benefits for brokers in partnering with us. Within the last 5 months, we’ve been able to move our Alexa.com ranking in the USA from 1,000,000 to 25,000 by better understanding our audience’s problems and needs. Identifying your audience and what they are searching for will go a long way in improving your On-Page SEO strategy.

Also see:30 must-follow benefit pros on Twitter.”


Keywords and Keyword Research
Keyword research is too big of a topic for the scope of this article, but in a nutshell it is finding the right keywords so that your target audience can find you through search. You’re never going to rank high for a keyword with a lot of competition, or for a term or phrase that’s too broad, so plan accordingly using Google’s Keyword Planner Tool.

If your target audience is within a geographic territory, make sure to narrow the scope of your keyword research. Ranking for “Insurance broker” might be impossible, but ranking for “health insurance broker Chicago“ is something that’s possible within a few months.

When creating a new webpage or writing a blog article, make sure you use your targeted, relevant keywords as a percentage of total word count. SEO Hacker recommends a keyword density of about 1 - 2%. Being on the higher end of the scale is great, but always put readability as your number one goal. Make sure not to practice “Keyword Stuffing” and put in irrelevant keywords that don’t match your content — Google is too smart for those tricks.

Header and Title Tags
The basic rule of thumb is to include the keyword you’re trying to rank for in the title and in at least one of your header tags. The header tag, or your tag in HTML, will usually be the title of a post, or other emphasized text within your web page. It will usually be the largest text that stands out within a page.

Also see: 12 ways to break through the barrier of financial inertia.”

Text Treatment
Using Bold, Underline, and Italics makes your content more readable to the user and is a slight On-Page SEO indicator. According to Go Blogging Tips, this means that you should use your keyword in a bolded, italicized and underlined state.

This is an additional vote of confidence to the search engine that the content you had fits the needs of the user. Just make sure not to go crazy. Readability is your number one goal.

Links out to other sources
Google and other search engines take into consideration the outside research you’ve done to put together an article. As such, don’t be afraid to include external links. Search engines actually view this as being useful for the reader and rank these types of articles higher.

Internal Linking
Just as you should focus your efforts on linking out to other websites with relevant content, you should also focus on linking to other pages in your own blog. When Google sees a site that links to itself several times over, it’s easier for its robots to map. This translates to a better search experience for the user and a higher ranking on search results.

You should also submit a full sitemap to Google through its Webmaster Tools section. Google likes interlinking content.

Images
While Google can’t necessarily “see” what image you used and determine that it fits the bill for a keyword, it can read the title you gave the image (example.JPG), or the alt tag, which is used by Screen readers for the blind and visually impaired.

If you use WordPress, it’s easy to change both the title (if necessary) and add an alt tag without digging into the backend code. Shopify has even more helpful SEO tips for images.

This is an extremely important step that ties everything together. Without it you’re risking demotion to the second page of the search results, when you could have had a top result.


Plugins
If you are using WordPress, you can add functionality to your website by using plugins.

One of my favorite plugins is Yoast, which allows you to easily edit your On-Page SEO for any page or post. Tell Yoast the primary keyword you’re trying to rank for and it will make recommendations to improve your rank.

Over several months, on-page SEO can lead to huge returns. It isn’t a magic bullet for your benefit agency’s marketing, but in the long term, it’s the marketing strategy that has the highest ROI.

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Rick Ramos

Rick Ramos

Ramos is CMO of HealthJoy and is the author of “Content Marketing: Insider’s Secret to Online Sales & Lead Generation.”