On-page SEO is something that you should prioritize as part of your online strategy. However, most people stray away from it due to the sometimes confusing and always complication world of search engine optimization in general.
SEO is a highly demanding process of getting your site to rank on top of Google’s organic search results. You will be bombarded with so many ranking factors that you need to consider when building your site from the ground up. That’s why it’s easy to get caught into the process, which could lead to not-so-desirable things.
At one point, you may find yourself embroiled with acquiring more links for your site, which is considered to be the most important ranking factors. Since a link from one site to yours is considered as a recommendation in the eyes of Google, you can build as many “recommendations” as you can from authoritative websites. Eventually, Google will reward your site by ranking it on top of the list for your target keyword.
While the process is pretty much SEO standard, you start catering to the needs of search engines and ignore what your audience wants.
Even if you have built a formidable backlink profile that matches even your best competitors, it doesn’t mean squat if you have a website that even your target audience wouldn’t want to touch with a ten-foot pole!
Therefore, you need to understand that SEO is not about getting as many backlinks as possible- it’s about providing valuable content to humans. Google is simply a means to connect with people who want to read your content and potentially buy your products and services.
Instead of building links, why not build awesome content instead?
This is why you need to consider on-page SEO into your strategy.
- What is on-page SEO?
- The very heart of on-page SEO
- The devil is in the content’s detail
- Mention keyword on URL
- Mention keyword on post title
- Use visual content
- Boost site speed
- Mention keywords in subheadings
- Mention keyword in the first 100 words
- Link out to awesome resources
- Use social sharing buttons
- Make GREAT content
- More from my site
What is on-page SEO?
On-page SEO is the process of optimizing variables within your site to potentially increase your search rankings. As mentioned earlier, there are lots of factors to consider when launching an SEO strategy for your site. The factors can be divided into two categories: on-page and off-page SEO factors.
Link building is a variable not in your website, which makes it an off-page SEO factor. The variables under this category cannot easily be manipulated. For example, it is up to the other site on how your link will appear on their page. You can influence them to make the link appear as you intend, but the final decision is not up to you.
On the other hand, as a site owner, you have full control over on-page SEO. You can make the page in your site look and appear as you imagined in your head. You can build and develop the site as you wish and without any restrictions. This reason is enough for you to put more onus on your on-page SEO strategy.
The very heart of on-page SEO
To make the most out of your on-page SEO campaign, you must learn how to create content that your audience will read and share to others.
But before you prepare your content, you need to perform keyword research that is arguably the key your SEO’s success. You need to determine the keywords that you want to target and rank for on Google’s organic search.
There are lots of tools that can help you research for the best keyword possible for your content. For starter, Google Keyword Planner is all you’ll need.
By entering your topic and applying different search filters, you can conjure different keyword ideas to give you choices on which ones to optimize for on your content.
If you’re not satisfied with the results, you can use Ubersuggest to help you drill down on keywords not normally found on Keyword Planner.
When choosing keywords, you need to consider its average monthly search volume. You want to target keywords related to your niche that people search often. Try looking for keywords with at least 1,000 average searches a month to increase the chances of driving traffic from search results.
When targeting keywords with a high average monthly search volume, expect the competition to be tough. Expect to go toe to toe against Wikipedia, Inc.com, Forbes, and other high-quality sites for your keywords. Therefore, you need to bring your A game if you are adamant in outranking them.
The devil is in the content’s detail
The kind of content you publish determines the success of your SEO strategy. If you publish half-hearted content on your site, there’s no chance that your site will even appear on search results.
With a keyword in mind, you can develop a more focused content that revolves around your chosen keyword. Writing and publishing content about your target keyword helps Google determines how it will to rank your site.
Since we’ve established the importance of keyword research in creating high-quality content, we need to discuss how to implement the different on-page SEO practices. Observing these will help your site get indexed faster and rank higher on organic search.
More importantly, following these will help provide a seamless user experience for your target audience. As mentioned, you should cater your site to human and not search engines, which is what on-page SEO wants us to achieve.
Without further ado, below are the different on-page SEO practices that you need to observe for your content.
Mention keyword on URL
What better way to inform Google about your content than through your URL?
In fact, Google puts lots of onus on content by making the keyword phrase appear in the first three words of the URL.
To do this, you need to ensure that you can edit the URL of your pages. WordPress users will find it fairly easy to change the URL structure. By default, it only shows the plain URL, i.e. http://derekiwasiuk.com/?p=123. To change this, go to Settings > Permalinks and choose any option that shows the post name.
Once you have changed the settings, you can then edit the permalink of the post to mention the keyword as the first three words of the URL.
In addition, try to limit the length of your URL to make it easier for people to remember the link so they can type it on their browsers.
Mention keyword on post title
Similar to your URL, mentioning the keyword phrase on the post title helps inform Google what your page is all about. You should also include the keyword phrase in the first three words of the title. If this is not possible, then make sure that the keyword appears within 60 characters of the title.
When crafting your headline, you need to make it as compelling as possible as well. You can’t just insert the keyword in the title and leave it at that. You want to engage users with your title to increase your click-through rate on search results.
To do this, you should use CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer. It provides an aggregate score for your title based on the words you entered. To get a high score, you need to balance the common, uncommon, emotional, and power words in your title.
For this post, I got a 77% headline score, which is high. Originally, the post title was “The Only On-Page SEO Guide You’ll Ever Read.” However, by adding a power word (best), it helped me raise the score. As an SEO benefit, you also get to target a long tail keyword for your target one. Instead of just “on-page SEO,” you also get a chance to rank for “best on-page SEO” or even “on-page SEO guide.”
Use visual content
Some people don’t like reading books because it lacks illustrations. Regardless of what you think about these people, you need to consider a portion of your audience as non-readers as well. The idea of your content is to engage all segments of your target audience, even the non-reading ones if you want to squeeze the most traffic that you can.
This is a good one because you can create a better experience for everyone when browsing your content, which is something that Google loves. If your content looks like a wall of text, then expect a lot of visitors bouncing away from your site. The key here is retention and engagement, both of which are Google signals that help them identify the quality fo the content.
Therefore, you need to incorporate videos, images, and infographics to complement your words when communicating your ideas.
Visual content provides for greater retention and helps your readers retain your ideas better. Instead of having your readers imagine what you’re trying to say, you are literally showing it to them!
From an SEO standpoint, images help optimize for your target keyword by including it in their respective alt tags, which help describe what the image is about.
Boost site speed
The slower your website loads, the more your readers will close your page and move on to your competitors.
You can get a better idea on how fast your site loads and the issues that are causing your site to lag by running a test on Pingdom.
Site speed is just one of the many factors that affect your site’s performance. Most of these factors fall in the domain of web developers. Regardless, you are still responsible for not only delivering your content to your readers fast but also make it easier for browsers to process the data from your site.
To make your site as lightweight as possible, especially if it runs on WordPress, here’s a very comprehensive guide I’ve written about it which tackles the following:
- Optimize images
- Lazy load your images and videos
- Using the best plugins that are not resource-intensive
- …and more!
Mention keywords in subheadings
Almost all CMS automatically add the <h1> tag to all page and post titles. As mentioned, you need to include your keyword there, which is considered as a common on-page SEO practice.
When writing the content, make sure to segment the different section with the <h2> tag, also known as the subheading. This is beneficial not only for search engines but also for readers for the same reason – it helps organize the structure of your content and makes it more readable.
When Google sees your target keyword mentioned again in your subheadings, it helps reinforce the idea that your content is indeed about the keyword. Therefore, you give Google more reason to rank your content for your target keyword.
Mention keyword in the first 100 words
Naturally, if the content is about the keyword you are optimizing for, then it makes sense that you mention it in the first sentence of the paragraph.
I reiterate “naturally” because you should not force the keyword if it does not feel organic.
At the same time, you shouldn’t spend the whole introduction not mentioning the keyword. While creating a compelling introducing is crucial to convince visitors to read more, it is equally important to mention the keyword for SEO’s sake.
At best, you need to find the right balance between effective copywriting and the organic insertion of the keyword in your introduction.
When writing content, you will find yourself referring to ideas that beyond your scope of expertise.
Instead of spending time trying to elaborate it for them, might as well just link out to a reliable source for the benefit of your readers.
Since your content is at the mercy of your audience, outbound links help provide additional information. You don’t want to deprive your readers of drawing value from your site, even if it means linking away from your website.
At the same time, if you have written about a topic in the past and mentions it in passing in one of your latest posts, you could link to that instead. Inbound links are better because you keep readers within your site pages and increase their engagement with your content.
Ultimately, sprinkling links in your content with the aim of providing as much information to your readers is the best way to go, from both a reader’s and SEO’s standpoint.
There is a debate on whether Google considers social shares as ranking factors. You’d expect Google to put a premium on content with the most shares on Facebook, Twitter, and others. However, they have stated time and again that social shares per se don’t influence search rankings.
However, this is merely an oversimplification of the value that social shares bring. The reason why people share content in the first place is due to its engagement factor. People simply don’t “like” or “retweet” a post if it’s useful. There is value to the posts being shared on social media, which is why they are shared.
Not to mention, likes and retweets are great social proof because they make your content much more authoritative than the ones with lesser shares.
Here’s a question: which one would you initially read a content about the same topic, the one with low social shares or the one that has higher? If you chose the latter, then you simply proved my point!
For greater social shares to take place, you need to make it easier for your audience to share your content on Facebook and Twitter by installing social share buttons. Make sure that the buttons float on the side when you scroll the page down so it is visible to all.
WordPress users will have their hands full with these nifty plugins (both free and paid). For non-WordPress users, you can settle on tools like Sumo (which also serves as a list builder), Po.st, or AddtoAny
Make GREAT content
More words in your content mean more information to digest. And more useful information means more love from Google. Sounds simple, right?
Unfortunately, it may not necessarily be the case.
A study conducted by Can I Rank shows that content length has little effect on organic search rankings. While the results nonetheless worked in favor of longer content, there isn’t a lot of variables to substantiate the claims based on the set of tests they’ve run.
But instead of wrangling your brain with the data shown in the study, you should focus on creating content that resonates with your audience.
Again, you’re writing for people, not search engines. You need to lay down the details that only could do, being the expert in your field. Be as helpful as possible and leave no stone unturned when discussing subtopics in your content.
The point is that you should never get caught up with word count.
You can produce the content with the most words but maybe some of it is just fluff or too generic for your readers. You should focus on writing the right words even if it means being shorter than the rest. As long as you stuff it with as much detail and depth as possible, then you can make your readers and Google happy!
As people build and develop their websites, the line that once separated SEO and people is blurring. It may have come to a point that you need to provide the same experience to your readers and search engines. Therefore, observing the best on-page SEO practices indicated below may be killing two birds with one stone.
Writing useful content with a target keyword in mind and taking to heart the practices of optimizing your site is now the norm. Not only are you boost your engagement with readers through your content but you also put your best foot forward in the eyes of Google. This goes to show how important on-page SEO in laying down the foundations of a compelling and high-ranking site.