A Comprehensive Guide to On-Page SEO
On-Page SEO elements
Simply building a website for your business or services is not a recipe for success in isolation. You are going into competition against a very, very wide range of other websites trying to attract the same customers and you need to ensure you have every competitive advantage.
You have to thoroughly optimise every element that appears on each page of your website to achieve the highest possible ranking in Google and help search show you where you need to be — at the very top. This is called on-page search engine optimisation (SEO) and there are several steps to take to ensure you are landing towards the top of Google searches.
Here is your essential guide on optimising your on-page SEO elements to achieve the best results and deliver more traffic to your site.
What is search engine optimisation (SEO)?
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of optimising your page to have greater visibility in online search results, in particular, on Google. However, it can also include various other search engines that people (like Bing) that users may use to seek out answers, products and services.
With over two billion websites in existence and over 500,000 new websites being created every day, there is lots of competition out there – and this is exactly why it’s important on-page optimization is carefully done, utilising the best practices to help you rank higher.
WordPress users alone are posting over two million blogs or articles every single day, which highlights the need to optimise your content and on-page SEO factors to ensure you’re effectively telling Google you’re an authority to take notice of. These ranking factors essentially get you ahead of the competition, allowing you to cut through the noise and position your website in the top 10 search engine rankings results pages.
The basic fundamentals of SEO – both on-page and off-page – are using the correct words and phrases (called keywords) that will funnel the right traffic to your website. These are pinpointed by research tools and SEO knowledge to help you conduct keyword research for your strategy. Google and other search engines use web crawlers to analyse and index your website, ranking them accordingly with the best options at the top of searches. Being on that first page (the top 10) is extremely important as 75 per cent of people will not click through to the second page or beyond, effectively rendering your website invisible.
To thoroughly optimise your page, you have to enable web crawlers to index it and that is only done through on-page SEO optimisation and some off-page elements. This has to be high-quality though and these important on-page SEO factors all determine where you will sit in organic traffic. Elements like this include page optimisation, meta description optimisation, title tag creation, case studies, anchor text, quality content, blog post publishing, clean web pages and structuring – to mention a few. This isn’t all, however, and the job of on-page SEO work never ceases to evolve.
A big part of web pages successfully ranking on search engines includes creating compelling content (like a blog post) that your audience will find engaging. When doing this, important on-page elements need to be carefully optimised. This is where SEO knowledge and ranking factors come into play, like adding in a meta description, internal links, the right title tags or just making sure the user can get the answers they’re looking for out of your overall content.
Providing a great user experience – including fast loading times and mobile phone optimisation on each page – is reliant on building content that is likely to be shared. This takes research and high-quality concepts to ensure you’re always giving value to the reader. Remember, only the most ‘credible’ and ‘best’ pages are kept for the top of search engine rankings.
How search engine rankings work
First of all, when we are talking about search engines we are almost exclusively talking about Google. The search engine giant holds over 90 per cent of the market share with search results, with the second-place attributed to being – which is also owned by Google. That is not to say that we are ignoring Yahoo, Bing and Amazon, but when we focus on Google you will also be optimising for the other minor players as well.
Ultimately, there are three ways Google determines ranking factors associated with your web page:
1. Crawling. Search engines use web crawlers like GoogleBot to read every single URL and the code and content within to gain an understanding of what the page is about and to help connect it to relevant users and searches.
2. Indexing. Once a page has been crawled it will be indexed, which means it is stored and organised in the search engine’s database which means it is now eligible to appear in searches.
3. Relevance. All of the crawled and indexed sites will be assessed through on-page SEO factors, analysed and ordered with the most relevant and best content and code put at the top of the searches so users are getting the best results.
When a user conducts a search, the engine will then rapidly scour its indexed sites and find the most relevant options that will deliver the user the best content for the query. You can test to see if your pages and content have all been indexed by typing site:yourdomain.com into Google and it will deliver a list of all of your indexed pages. If you notice that not all of your URLs for your web pare or content is present, then those pages might be blocking web crawlers. Check-in your page editor and ensure all of your URLs are allowing web crawlers and indexation unless there is a very specific reason why you don’t want them to be ranked.
What is On-Page SEO?
Off-page SEO is actions taken away from your page like link building or social media marketing that is designed to improve your Google ranking status. And on-page SEO involves all of the visible elements on your website pages, including the HTML coding, which will be crawled and indexed by Google.
The importance of optimising the on-page elements of your website cannot be understated. Google even outlines this clearly on their How Search Works report that highlights how including the right keywords in your content, title tags, meta description optimisation, anchor text, headings, URLs and other content is more likely to boost your presence in Google searches.
The old school methods are still the best and it has been tried and tested with Google’s latest algorithms and updates that having the right keywords in the right places is a recipe for success. But that does not mean you should be stuffing keywords into every gap in your content. You can actually be penalised for this practice and SEO on-page optimisation needs to carefully balance this aspect carefully. Remember, high-quality content matters, and spamming keywords won’t help you achieve that.
Black hat SEO is when people try to game the system and achieve higher Google rankings by using a range of methods on their page, including keyword stuffing. This can include blocks of texts with phone numbers or locations, hammering the keywords so much that the text is unnatural or impossible to read and when blocks of texts become highly competitive. Despite people thinking this will help search engines to deem their site as high-quality and ‘worthy’, it actually ends up going the opposite way, landing them in hot water on search results.
Google’s crawlers have smart AI and will be able to detect these black hat practices. They will penalise you by making your page plummet down the rankings – or not appear at all. So while keywords are important to have on your web page, in your content, anchor text, title tag, and meta description be sure to use them appropriately or face the consequences.
While keywords in your content remain the cornerstone of on-page optimisation of your page and the ability to garner organic traffic, there are many other factors to consider in 2020 as well that can enhance your ranking in Google searches. This includes user experience, the bounce rate and dwell time of people visiting your site, search intent, the load speed of your web page and content and the click-through-rate, elements we will explore in-depth in this article.
How to strategically place your keywords
Having mentioned black hat practices and the penalties of keyword stuffing on your web page, it is important to know what you CAN do so that you can be compliant with Google’s code of conduct while also optimising your site and your content with keywords without worrying about the fear of being penalised.
It is important that you take the time to plan out your keyword research so you can get a compelling list of the right words and phrases in your content that your desired audience is using to find you in search engines. When you are conducting this research these are the terms you should be mapping out to use in your content, ask keywords and key phrases:
⦁ Brands: This is the best way to secure conversions on your web page. If people are knowledgeable on your brand name they are more likely to make a purchase when they see that brand name, as long as they have a favourable opinion on your business and product/services.
⦁ Products: Here is your chance to position yourself above your competitor. If you are an accountant, these search terms will include local accountant, best accountant, accountant near me, etc. This is the part of the customer journey where they are still educating themselves and by having the right keywords, you will place your brand under their nose and with compelling and engaging content you will be able to secure conversions.
⦁ Your competition: There are many websites and services available that will allow you to peek behind the curtain at what your competition is doing and what keywords they are using so you can as well. A key metric to look at is keyword difficulty as well as the volume of searches on that keyword. If a keyword has a high volume of searches but a low keyword difficulty, that is your opportunity to tap into a new audience without a lot of competition.
⦁ Substitute products: Are there any products or services that are similar to yours? Make sure you use those as keywords to attract customers who might want to try your brand instead.
⦁ Complementary products: Think of putting together a shopping list. You may be inspired by something you see and add it to your list. That is the premise of complementary products, positioning your product in front of an audience that might be looking for something completely different but could be inspired to try your product as well.
⦁ Audience terms: This is where you need to think outside of the box a little bit. Perhaps people aren’t searching for your specific product or service, but instead, they are searching for a solution to a pain point or challenge. For example, you might be selling an organic food product. Search terms your audience could be using could include healthy lunches, is organic food better for you and other general words and phrases that you can use to position your product or service in front of the right eyes.
Optimise your content and your pages for search intent
This is one of the most important parts of on-page SEO as Google is actively trying to connect purchasers with sellers. It is one of the main reasons why Google has dominated the market the way it has, by delivering proven results to businesses and connecting sellers to the right page so they are completely satisfied as well.
That is why you want to make sure your website, title tag data, and landing pages are optimised for search intent so that you are appearing in Google rankings. This allows people to find you when they need your products and services most. To achieve that goal, there is a range of tactics you can employ including:
⦁ Include transactional words: Because you are looking for people that are searching with an active intent to purchase, make sure you use words on your web page that they may be looking for including all of the product words and types as well as words like buy, discount, coupon, sale, shipping, free shipping, cheapest etc. That way you can show that you have the products/services that your audience wants and that you can offer it at a better rate than your competition as well.
⦁ Informational words are strong as well: People are likely to be typing questions into Google to find what they are looking for so include those phrases like what is, what are, best ways to, how-to etc. For example, if you are selling gardening equipment make sure you include terms like best ways to prepare my garden for spring and also guides like how to get rid of pests in my garden.
⦁ Keep the information concise: While long-form content is excellent for SEO, when you are looking for users with intent you don’t want to present them with War and Peace. Make sure you keep the information clear and concise. Bullet point lists are an ideal way to go as it presents all of the information, is easy to quickly consume and provides value which can promote people to take action, share your content and also bookmark your page for later.
⦁ Include value content: Give your visitors something that is going to provide value like guides on how to get started on something (in blog or video form), infographics and blog posts that include tips and advice. People love simple guides that teach them how they can achieve something and it is also a great way to show that you are an authority in your industry.
⦁ Include call to actions: When you have optimised your on-page SEO correctly, and Google is funnelling users with intent your way, you want to ensure you are actively encouraging them to purchase. Make the process easy with obvious, clickable calls to action so they can make a purchase straight away
⦁ Use internal linking: Internal linking makes it a lot easier for visitors to navigate through your page which means they have greater access to your landing pages on search engines, and will also spend more time on your site as well. But internal linking is not only beneficial for visitors, but it is also an effective tool to improve your rankings on search engines because crawlers are going to be looking for it through on-page SEO criteria (again, think title tags, content, etc).
Google needs to gain a total understanding of your page and the best way to do that is through web links. By including these links internally, you are giving the Google crawlers everything they need to know about the structure of your site.
It also means that Google is able to establish a hierarchy of all of your web pages so that it can display the most important and relevant pages to the right people, thus giving your more organic traffic.
The Google crawlers will use the internal links to map out and understand your page and will also get to understand the relationships between these pages and why they are linking to each other. This part of your on-page SEO helps to pass value to other pages. For example, your home page will have the most backlinks and hold the most value and by linking to other pages on your site you are passing this value along.
Make a map of your web pages (you can use your own sitemap for this) and then determine the relevance of these pages to each other, the relationship between the pages and the value of pages so you create an effective internal link structure.
Meta descriptions and why they matter for your SEO
You know those snippets that appear in Google searches? They don’t just write themselves, they are coded into websites and Google will often directly use them to display in searches. These are called meta descriptions and they summarise each page on your website for the benefit of both Google crawlers and also your potential audience looking through search engines results pages (SERPs).
This important on-page SEO aspect is usually around 160 characters and are coded in the HTML of your page, although CRMs will give you the option to create these easily and add it into the code for you.
Now meta descriptions are not specifically used to improve your SEO, but they do help to boost your chances of having people click-through to your page by providing them with a concise and correct explanation on what your website can offer them. Your homepage, about page and product/service landing pages, should include these meta descriptions and you can include them on your blog and article posts as well if you choose.
A title tag and meta description will also make your keywords stand out in bold text in Google searches to help you stand out from the crowd as well and show the searcher that your site has exactly what they are looking for. They also translate to social media platforms as well, so when your page URLs are shared on social media the meta descriptions are also displayed.
The importance of a correct URL structure for a page
With so many people simply Googling the business or service they want to find online and not manually entering the URL into their bar or search engines, it can be easy to neglect the actual URL structure. But this is essential for your on-page SEO and you should take the time to ensure they are properly structured to get the highest ranking and the maximum volume of traffic.
Google uses URL structure as a ranking factor so having the right keywords in the URL of each page is important to ensure it shows up in the relevant searches, especially if you have multiple products and/or services that have their own unique pages.
Despite users not typing in the URLs of a page, they are going to be looking at them on the results page and this is a chance to show them you have precisely the product or service they are looking for. Let’s say they are searching for a specific brand of printer on search engines, which we will call the Printmatic 4000. If you have the right URL for the product page that reads www.domain.com/printmatic4000 then they can clearly see this page is about the product they are searching for and they are more likely to click through.
These URLs are going to appear when they are copied to other platforms like social media and often they are going to be copied across verbatim. Let’s go back to the printer example, if someone shares your link and it comes up as www.domain.com/1114fkdfjref_=ttp then no one is going to know what it is about. You want that www.domain.com/printmatic4000 to show up on these other platforms as well.
And aside from on-page SEO – be it a title tag or alt text – having the right URL structures also makes it easier for you to track and analyse data in the Google Analytics platform, which enables you to gain a proper snapshot of visitor behaviours and demographics so you can launch more effective advertising campaigns.
To ensure your URLs have the right on-page SEO features, follow these tips for success:
⦁ Keep these URLs for your page short and concise so they fit in the small space allowed in Google searches and include the precise words and features that your potential customers will be looking for
⦁ Use hyphens to separate words (although many CRMs will do this for you)
⦁ Use all lowercase letters as you can experience duplicate content issues. For example, www.domain.com/printmatic4000 and www.domain.com/Printmatic4000 could be picked up as two separate URLs by Google and you could receive penalties for duplicate content
What is topical relevance and how you can achieve it?
There once was a time where you could cram your page with all manner of content to boost yourself up the search engine rankings. You could be an accountant with articles on Spanish cycling trails, tofu-based recipes and Labradoodles, just to boost the content and keywords to boost rankings. Bad news, search engines are much more sophisticated these days and uses much smarter algorithms to determine which content is of the highest quality and most relevance for searches.
Topical relevance for your page is how search engines achieve this, finding the most in-depth and relevant articles that have high word counts, links, videos and other material to deliver the searcher the best possible results. Essentially, Google wants you to be an authority on your topic matter.
There are four main ways you can achieve topical relevance on search engines, including:
⦁ Being relevant and current: As we mentioned, content that does not match what your page is about is not going to be looked at favourable by Google, it could even lead to penalties. Ensure your content is geared towards the people you want coming to your website who are most likely to take an action like purchase. Make sure the content is fresh and new as well and tie into current world trends and issues.
⦁ Backlinks: When other pages link back to your page, it positions you as an authority. But don’t try and take the cheap and nasty route by outsourcing this process and ending up on link farms. Google’s AI is smarter than that and will penalise you. If you are mentioning clients or customers in your content, ask them to link back to the articles on their site. It will benefit you both. The more legitimate backlinks you can get, the better your search ranking will be.
⦁ Keywords: We will speak about this ad nauseam in this article. Keywords are your key to success and including the right words in your title tags, on-page SEO, content, headings and URLs is essential.
⦁ Content length: More is more when it comes to Google ranking. Articles around 2000 words are going to be favoured because they are more in-depth, but they also have to contain value to the reader and be compelling and engaging, not just long-form articles that have been padded out with irrelevant words and information.
Why quality content is essential for strong SEO
When you are producing content like blogs or articles for your page, you are going to need to put some hard work in to ensure this content is working for you. Short content doesn’t offer anything new or provide the reader with any value are unlikely to gain much traction and won’t achieve the goals you want them to. You want your content to be extensive, engaging and likely to be shared by readers to boost your Google rankings.
Longer form content provides engagement and value will also keep people on your site for longer which Google values and will assist in improving your position in results pages, but there are many more benefits you will enjoy as well. Because people are more engaged and staying on your site longer they are also more likely to take action and you will get a strong CTR than poorly engaging content.
By using long-form content you also have a larger canvass for your keywords so you can include them in more paragraphs and headings without stuffing or forcing them in and risking being penalised by Google. This is the best way to ensure you are getting maximum bang for your buck with your keywords.
Higher quality content is also more likely to help generate backlinks, which are SEO gold. Quality content that provides value to readers, new information, detailed research and other assets like video content is material that people are going to want to share and reference which means they will link back to your site, something Google values.
Fast-loading pages aren’t just good for the user experience, they are good for SEO
A faster, smooth-running page and content is not only going to provide a better user experience for your audience, it is going to appeal to Google’s algorithm which has been outlined in their official Webmaster Central Blog. Since 2010, site speed has been an official signal in the Google algorithm to link users to faster sites so they get a better experience overall.
There are many ways you can optimise the speed of your website, including using many tools available (including free options). And to boost your site speed you can also:
⦁ Increase your caching: When a user has cached data, they can re-visit your site without having to reload all of the assets so it loads much quicker. You can extend the expiration date of this caching as long as you are not making constant changes to your site and Google finds a year to be a reasonable expiration date so your users can enjoy the cached experience for longer.
⦁ Improve your server response time: The optimal server response time is 200ms so look for any bottlenecks that could be impacting this like slow database enquiries or a lack of memory and fix these issues to speed up the user experience on your page.
⦁ Use adaptive images: Over half of your website is likely to be made up of images so this is an area where you find greater efficiencies easily. Using tools like Adaptive Images will help reduce the size of the images which will speed up browsing. You can also look at new image formats like Jpeg XR which will also reduce the size of images without compromising quality and clarity.
⦁ Assess your plugins: While plugins are going to make your website have more features and give you access to more tools and analytics, they also slow your site down. Run an audit and decide which plugins are essential and which ones can be removed.
Bounce rate and dwell time and how they can impact your on-page SEO
Google is not only monitoring your content, each title tag and on-page SEO elements, it is also watching the behaviours of your audience as well and ranking you according to their actions.
Bounce rate is something that you have to monitor with SEO, as a high bounce rate shows that people aren’t getting what they need from your site as they are leaving immediately. Having a bounce rate between 25-40 per cent is considered excellent and anything from 55-70 per cent is higher than average, but not the end of the world. This just means you have room to improve. But anything higher than 70 per cent is poor and you should take immediate action to rectify it.
Dwell time is the opposite when it comes to SEO. This is how long people spend on your website and individual URLs. The more time they spend on your site, the more likely it is that they are gaining value from your content so Google will rank you higher as a result.
Videos are a great way to help improve dwell time, especially if they are creative, imaginative, compelling and engaging. A video of around five minutes long that provides great value to your audience is likely to see them stick around for longer and also return for new content as you produce it.
The importance of alt descriptions for your images, when it comes to SEO
When adding images to websites, many people will include captions but skip right past the alt text attributes which is to their disadvantage. In 2020, Google will deliver just as many image results as it does text results – and not just on the images page. These images are being displayed on the main search page of Google and are highly important in directing traffic to the right destinations through your SEO efforts.
So many of your potential customers could be clicking through to your competition without reading a single word, simply by clicking through on the images available which stand out more and offer value to them. So including alt text attributes to your images is extremely important to ensure you are visible in Google search images for both text and images.
Alt-text is like a title tag or metadata for your images. If they fail to load for whatever reason, that alt text is what the visitor is going to see instead. It enables web crawlers to quickly “read” your images and rank them accordingly, the same way it does your text.
It is simple to add SEO text to your images using your content management system (CMS) and this is the ideal place to include your long-tail SEO keywords. But don’t just stuff them in there, the sentence needs to make sense to readers and Google to be effective. Pretend Google’s crawlers are human and ensure the sentence reads well and isn’t just a cluster of keywords wedged together.
Be detailed and specific about what is in the image when creating a title tag or alt text for your content, remove any words that are non-essential for your SEO and make sure it reads well and you will have the best success.
What is Schema markup and how can it assist my SEO strategies?
This is code that helps Google accurately deliver more reliable information to its users. Some businesses and operations have different functions than others and Google will return a list of their deliverables in the search results. Take cinemas, for example. Google will use Schema to return movie names and session titles on the main screen of search results so users can instantly get the information they need.
Schema basically interprets your information and gets to know what it means and not just what it says. It is marking your content to properly identify the content so that Google clearly understands what it is. For example, if you have John Smith as the author, it is only going to be read by Google as the words John Smith. If you put the right markup on each side of John Smith it will identify that he is the author of the article and produce improved search results as a result.
Schema was invented by search engine specialists from Google, Yahoo! and Bing and you can go to Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper for a walkthrough guide on how to markup your website for the best results.
The KISS principle in SEO
You may have heard of this before, keep it simple, silly or KISS. This theory applies to SEO and content too, so you don’t need to overthink or over complicate things when you’re looking to get started on climbing search results.
Just keep everything clear, concise and direct because you will be delivering the exact signals that Google needs to connect your page to the right audience in search results That will lead to more traffic coming to your page, more quality traffic that is likely to purchase your goods and/or services and a higher Google ranking that will put you ahead of your competition.
Remember that Google’s artificial intelligence is highly advanced and it is going to read your page, just like a person would so ensure all of your keywords, content and other on-page SEO is clear and simple to read for everyone – including the Google AI.
Your SEO checklist to ensure you have the proper on-site content
We understand this is a lot to take in and there are many actions to be taken to optimise your metadata – from alt text to a title tag and more -to ensure the on-page SEO is on point. So we have together this simple checklist to get you started and help you make the first move. Go through each item and you will be well on your way to better rankings in Google searches and more quality traffic coming to your website and taking action.
- Strategise your content and keywords
- Determine search intent
- Include keywords in content, headers and URLs
- Include calls to action in your content
- Write meta descriptions and title tag data for your pages
- Use internal linking
- Optimise your URLs
- Ensure your content has topical relevance
- Write quality, long-form content on each page
- Compress your images
- Check your server speeds
- Optimise the customer user experience
- Check and optimise your page and bounce rates
- Improve your user dwell time on each page
- Add alt descriptions to your images and content
- Use Schema to effectively display your services, content and page
Feel like all of this is a lot to wrap your head around? We’re not surprised. But we’re here and ready to help you action all of this – from your content, through to achieve top spot on Google or optimising each page on your site. We’re here. Contact Edge Marketing now to put our team into action.