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Understanding on-page search engine optimization

What is Search Engine Optimization?

In simple terms, search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of trying to do better in search engines. In this article we will specifically discuss the process of making your web pages more relevant for specific search phrases.

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Which search engines do people use?

The U.S. search engine market share is approximately:

  • 70% Google
  • 15% Bing
  • 10% Yahoo

NOTE: Yahoo licenses its search results from Bing, so they both display similar results.

On-Page vs. Off-Site SEO

On-page SEO refers to changes that you can make to your own website to enhance your search engine placement. This article is about on-page SEO. Off-site SEO refers to getting links from other websites to your website, which is also very important. Learn more about off-site search engine optimization.

Keywords & Keyphrases

acupuncture websites seoKeyphrases are 2-5 word phrases that people type into the Google search box. Each word in the keyphrase is known as a keyword. Things like "chiropractor back pain portland" and "infertility acupuncture san diego" are keyphrases.*

* Punctuation marks and words like "the," "for" and "in" are generally ignored by search engines.

Choosing Keyphrases

  • Be selective. Choose 3–5 keyphrases that best suit your business.
  • Location matters... a lot. If you're in Cincinnati, people in Miami don't need you.
  • Your name is a keyphrase! Referred patients will search for you by name.
  • Be specific:
    • Bad - acupuncture for pain
    • Good - acupuncture for lower back pain
    • Bad - massage new york
    • Good - shiatsu massage williamsburg brooklyn

Keyword Proximity

Ideally your keyphrases should be unbroken, meaning that the exact keyphrase will appear on your page. But try using the exact phrase "acupuncture lower back pain Cincinnati" in a sentence. Impossible right? So our goal is to get those keywords in close proximity. For example, we could write:

  • "I have 20 years of experience using acupuncture for lower back pain. Cincinnati residents now have a drug-free pain management option."

Even though there's a "for" and a period breaking up our keyphrase, we've successfully gotten our keywords in close proximity. The closer we can get to our exact, unbroken keyphrase, the better our search results will be when someone enters that phrase in the search box.

Keyphrase Density

All things being equal, the more often a keyphrase appears on a page the better that page will do in the search results. Each page of your website should focus on just 1 or 2 keyphrases, and you should repeat those keyphrases as often as you can throughout the page. But always remember that your human readers come first, so you'll need to balance search engine optimization with readability.

Keyphrase Placement: Where do I put my keyphrases?

Your keyphrases should appear throughout the text of your page, as well as in certain special locations such as the page title. When doing SEO on your website you should pay attention to all of the following locations:

Page Titles

Each page on your website has a page title. The page title is the single most important optimization factor. Your page title tells Google what the page is about. Page titles also provide the link text that shows up in search engines and the bookmark text that is saved by browsers, so they are vital to internet users.

acupuncture websites search engine optimization

Page titles should make sense in the context of the internet as a whole, not merely in the context of your website. Titles like About Us and Home are meaningless out of context. You can create strong page titles by limiting yourself to approximately 10 words (70 characters) and following the format: What | Who | Where. Here are some examples:

  • About Jane Smith | Natural Health LLC | Miami & Key West
  • Acupuncture for Lower Back Pain | Andy Needleman, L.Ac. | Denver
  • Prenatal Massage | QiMover Wellness | Brooklyn, New York

In the examples above the first segment of each title tells us what this specific web page is about. The 'what' portion should contain the main keyphrase for which you're optimizing! The second segment tells us who this web page belongs to (providing context, as mentioned above) and the third segment tells us where this business is located. Following this format will give you solid starting point for your optimization.


Use keyphrases in your H1–H6 headings. Your business name and tag line are both contained within an H1 heading. Search engines will see the tag line even if it doesn't show on the template you're using, so enter a good keyphrase in the tag line field.

acupuncture websites seo


Use keyphrases in links from one of your web pages to another and try to get other websites to use keyphrases in links to your website.

Image ALT Attributes

When you add an image to your page you are supposed to provide some ALTernative text, which is used by search engines (and visually impaired web surfers). You may also see this text briefly while the web page is loading. Try to keep your ALTs under 7 words (50 characters) long and be accurate but clever in describing your images...

acupuncture website stock photo Bad - Andy doing a treatment
Good - Andy Lingshu, Chicago pain management specialist

Bold & Italics

Technically know as strong and emphasis, bold and italic text gets a bit more attention from search engines, just as it does from your readers. So a keyphrase in bold or italics is a little better than plain text.

Description Meta Tag

The description meta tag does not appear on your pages. It's hidden in the HTML. But search engines use it to provide the text snippet in the search results list, which is the black text in the image below. Notice how the words "Google", "Webmaster", and "Tools" are all in bold. That's because I searched for "google webmaster tools". So you should incorporate your keyphrases into your description meta tags. Try to keep your descriptions under 25 words (180 characters) long.

acupuncture search engine optimization

Keywords Meta Tag

The keywords meta tag is ignored by Google but is still used by Bing. However, Bing has stated that misusing the keywords meta tag can lead to penalties. So if you chose to add content to your keywords meta tag it should contain only a very brief comma separated list of the keywords that actually appear on the page.

Example: acupuncture, lower back pain, cincinnati

How long does it take to see the effects of SEO?

Do not expect to see immediate changes to your rankings. Google is not real-time. We recommend evaluating your search ranking every 3-4 months.

How else can I increase my visibility?

Now that you understand on-page SEO, you may want to learn about some of the many other factors that influence search engine visibility.

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