The #1 question we hear when it comes to single page website SEO is, “Can you rank multiple search terms on a one page website?”
Or in other words, how many search terms can you rank a one-page website for?
Ranking a on page website for a few closely-related search terms should not be a problem.
But what happens if you want to keep your one page website? What SEO expectations are realistic?
The Challenges of Doing SEO on a One Page Website
I’m not going to lie here. Ideally, if you’re trying to rank for multiple search terms, it’s better to have a website with multiple pages, not just one page. My advice is always to have one page for each search phrase you are targeting.
Making a single page rank for a laundry list of keywords is difficult. The biggest problem is Google cannot easily deduce that a page should rank for twenty different terms.
From a practical standpoint, if your customers don’t see the answer their search intent on a page, then that page will not rank for that search term.
On the flip side, if you can create a page that answers all of your customers questions, then it becomes a matter of:
- Doing keyword research for SEO
- Planning the content for your website, and then creating the site content
- Designing the page so the content makes sense, including having SEO friendly URLs for each page section (more on that in a minute)
- Promoting the website, including creating section-specific back links
The important part is to send Google and other search engines signals that each section deals with a specific subject. This is perhaps the biggest hurdle to ranking a one page website for multiple terms.
To understand why we are creating an in-depth page section for each search term we want to rank, let’s look at how Google delivers search results.
Google Ranks Individual Pages, Not Websites
The biggest thing to remember is that Google ranks individual pages for a search phrase, not an entire site, or even a home page.
For a page to rank well, customers must be able to get enough information from that page to satisfy their search intent. This is easier when you have individual pages with focused, quality content.
The real question isn’t how many search terms can you rank a single page site for but rather how much work you’re willing to put into that single page and how many sections you’re comfortable building out.
For most smaller businesses, content creation is the bottleneck to launching an effective one page site. (Or website of any size, for that matter).
Personally, I prefer working with a website that has many layers of content. It is more difficult to rank a one page site for multiple terms.
One of the main reasons is larger sites usually have more site authority.
Building Authority on a One Page Website is Counter-Intuitive
At first glance, building back links to a single page site seems like it would give a site more authority instead of less.
The logic is that every back link to a one page site goes to the same page, Google should see that page as important page, right?
One of the benefits of a large site architecture is internal linking. This is when you, or your SEO company, link to other pages on your site.
The Advantage of Internal Linking
What internal linking does is gives context to the different pages. By linking to another page on your website, it says this page is also important. Generally speaking, the more a page is internally linked, the more important it may be perceived to be by search engines. For example, the top navigation on an website contains links to pages that the company feels are important.
By limiting the site to a single page, it takes away most of the power of internal linking.
Single page sites also tend to receive less back links as time goes on, because they do not add new content. Multiple page sites get fresh back links and traffic because there is usually a content publishing schedule in place.
So, what’s the best way to rank your one page site for different search terms?
Building Different Sections on a One Page Site
Your best bet is to create focused sections for your web page. Create sections as if they were separate web pages.
This would look something like this:
<div id="topic-a">...Topic A content goes here...<</div> <div id="topic-b">...Topic B content goes here...<</div> <div id="topic-c">...Topic C content goes here...<</div> <div id="topic-d">...Topic D content goes here...<</div>
It's important to note that we are not using the CSS
id's as SEO signals, but to create navigation for the page. We can create links in the main navigation that scroll down to the corresponding page section. For example:
<a href="#topic-a">Link to Topic A<</div>
Google wants to serve search results that are user-friendly. This means using features like quick links that help the user find what they need will also help your overall SEO.
A Quick Word on Page Content
The biggest drawback to single page sites is trying to rank for dozens of search terms with a single page.
Truthfully, many small businesses have an unrealistic expectation about how Google understands your site.
For example, if I wanted to rank a one page site for the term “best plumbing contractor in San Jose”, but I don't have those words, or words that mean the same thing, anywhere on the page, then that site will not rank for that search term.
Similarly, if you have a brand new site with no back links coming in, and no information about the things you want to rank for, then you will not rank for those search terms. Even if you are the best company in the world at that search phrase.
You absolutely must give Google some sort of clue about what you want to rank for, or the search engine will not be able figure it out.
Either you need to have a dedicated page around a target search phrase, or, if you are building a one page website, an in-depth page section about that subject.
If you have back links with anchor text to that page or page section, that can also help give Google clues about what you want to rank for.
Ultimately, the more clues you give the search engines, and the more content you publish around a subject, the more likely you are to rank for that subject.
Without content and back links, Google and Bing will not be able to figure out what your website and web pages are about.
Remember that even with the greatest one page website in the world, you will still need to drive traffic to it. Launching a website is only the first step. Remember your website isn't Field of Dreams. Once you build a website, you still need to install Google Analytics on your site, then promote your site and push traffic to it. Google can then measure whether it deserves to go up or down in the search rankings based on user interaction with your website.
Should You Use H1's or H2's for Section Headings on a One Page Site?
You've probably heard that each page on your website should only have one
h1 tag. A single page webiste may be the only time it is appropriate to disregard that rule.
Since we are trying to rank a one-page site for multiple terms, and we've built out detailed sections for each search phrase, it makes sense to treat each section like it's own page and use a
h1 for each section.
h1 tag indicates that each section is wholly separate and distinct from every other section on the page. Be sure to only use one
h1 per page section.
Page Title and Meta Description on a Single Page Site
The meta description mainly influences searchers to click one result instead of another, but there is limited room to write a meta description. Which keyword phrase is most important to address?
Similarly, the title tag only has so much screen space to use. However, unlike the meta description, the title tag -- and what words you use in the title tag -- do have a direct effect on where your page is ranked.
In the end, you will still be forced to decide what your main search phrase is, and use that in the title tag.
Summary of Single Page SEO
I advise clients to have multiple page websites. There are more disadvantages than advantages to using a single page website.
If you have a multiple page website, stay put, and don't move down to a single page website. Moving backwards will only make your SEO campaigns more challenging.
But if you currently have a one page site, focus on ranking for a few search terms. Any expectations you may have about ranking for a dozen divergent terms on a one-page site is simply too unrealistic.