First, you might ask yourself what is on-page SEO—this the process of optimizing web pages, so that they can rank better and gain more relevant search engine traffic. In on-page SEO, you will be dealing with the HTML source code and content of the page that needs to be optimized, as opposed to off-page SEO, which deals with links, as well as other external signals.
It’s important to note that on-page SEO is very complicated, and it goes beyond the content, into other areas like meta tags—which we shall discuss in more depth later on this post. However, first, let’s start with content creation.
How to apply keyword research
As an SEO expert, you might be aware of how your target audience searches for your content, but you don’t know how to put that into practice. The following are some simple steps that you can follow when doing keyword research.
- Study your keywords, and then put together the ones with similar intent and topics. These groups will now be your pages, and you will not need to create individual web pages for each keyword.
- In case you have not managed to do that, evaluate the search engine results page (SERP) for every keyword or keyword group so that you can determine the format and type your content should be in. Here are some characteristics of ranking pages that you should be aware of:
- Are the pages video- or image-heavy?
- Is the content short-or long-form, or brief?
- Is the content formatted in bullets, lists, or paragraphs?
- Then you need to need to ask yourself the value that you could offer to make your page better than the other pages ranking for your keywords.
On-page SEO makes it possible for you to convert your research to content that your audience will fall in love with. However, you need to be careful not to fall into the trap of low-value SEO strategies that are bound to hurt your web pages.
So, what low-value tactics should you avoid?
All your web content has only one purpose—to answer the questions of online searchers, guide them through your website, and lastly assist them to have a better understanding of the purpose of your website. You should never create content for the purposes of ranking highly in SERPs alone. What you need to note about ranking is that it’s a means to an end—and the end is assisting searchers. If you put the cart before the horse, you risk engaging in low-value tactics.
The following are some low-value tactics that you need to avoid when developing SEO content.
It’s very common for sites to have unique pages on various topics—an old content strategy that allowed people to create different pages for every single variation of keywords, with the aim of ranking better for these specific queries.
This led to many website owners creating a lot of low-quality and thin content—but google addressed this with the 2011 update, which was known as Panda. With this algorithm update, google penalized low-quality pages, which in turn led to high-quality pages ranking better in SERPs. Today, Google still punishes low-quality pages and promotes the ones with high-quality content.
According to Google, websites should have comprehensive pages on a certain topic, rather than many and weaker pages for every keyword variation.
Creating duplicate content
This is the process of having content that is shared between several pages in a single domain or content that is shared in multiple domains. In addition to this, it also involves the deliberate use of content from other sites without the relevant authorization. Mostly, this is the process of copying and publishing content as-is or doing some slight modifications before republishing it, without adding any value or original content.
There are a number of valid reasons for cross- or internal-domain duplicate content. That’s the reason why Google encourages website owners to use a rel-canonical tag to highlight the original versions of the web content. You might not know about this tag—and you don’t need to know it at the moment. Therefore, you only need to make sure that your content is unique and has added value.
All search engine guidelines have one basic principle—to display the same content to the search engine crawlers, the same way you’d show your friend. That means you should avoid hiding the text in your site’s HTML code that your visitors cannot see.
When you break this guideline, search engines refer to it as “cloaking” and usually take action against your page to prevent it from ranking in SERPs. There are a number of ways and several reasons why people manage to do this—and both are positive and negative. At times, Google will allow technical cloaking practices pass—especially if they are leading to positive user experience.
Maybe you’ve been told to include a certain keyword on a page a number of times—and then ended up being confused about how you will use the keyword. Many people think that using a keyword in their page a number of times will make it rank better—but that’s not the case. What you need to note is, although Google will search to see if you have mentioned the keywords and concepts related to the topic on your web pages, the page must add value, without the keywords.
When a web page is valuable to users, it doesn’t look as if it was created by a robot. Therefore, you need to make sure that the phrases and keywords in your content appear naturally, and are in a way that’s understandable to the readers.
Auto-generated content or content that is pro-grammatically created with the aim of manipulating SERP ranking and not adding value to the reader is one of the most belligerent types of low-quality content. One way to recognize low-quality content would be seeing that the words makes little or no sense whenever you read it. Such kind of content has technical words—that are joined together by a program instead of a person.
The advancement in machine learning has contributed to more technical and auto-generated content, which is set to get better with time. That’s the reason why Google specifically mentions the auto-generated content brand that tries to manipulate SERP rankings, instead of all auto-generated content in its quality guidelines.
So, what should you do?
There is no magic to getting a better SERP ranking. Google will always rank pages better if they provide the best answers to what users are looking for. Today, it doesn’t matter whether your page is broken, if it is just setup for spamming, or duplicate content. Your page should give your readers value, and be better than all the other pages currently answering that particular question. Here is what you need to do when creating content:
- Do keyword research for the page you need to rank for
- Identify the pages that are ranking better for your keywords
- See the specific qualities for those pages
- Now, create content that is better than the content in those pages
Mostly, this is referred to as 10x content. If you create a page on a certain keyword that is better than the pages ranking higher in search engine results, Google will reward your web page for that, and you will also get people to like your page. It’s not easy to create such content, but it always pays off in organic traffic.
What you need to understand is, there is no specific number when it comes to the words on a certain page. You should always aim for a word count that satisfied your user intent. Some search queries will be answered with just 300 words, while others will need 1,000 words and above.
If your business makes personal contact with your clients, don’t forget to include the business name, address, as well as phone number, also known as NAP in your web page content. This information should be accurate and consistent in each web page. You can choose to display this information in the header or footer of your site, and also in the “Contact us” page, and ensure that you mark up the information using the local business schema.
If your business is in a different location, the best thing to do is to create unique and optimized pages for every location.
You should make sure that you optimize each page for the specific location, and the content should feature information about that location. Furthermore, the testimonials should also feature clients from the specific location. In case your business is in hundreds of locations, you can use a store locator widget to assist you.
Local, National, and International SEO
There are different types of businesses, and each business has a unique SEO. For instance, you have businesses that operate locally, and they normally perform local SEO. Other business usually attracts clients on a national level, which others attract clients from different countries, and thus they perform international SEO.
Your target audience greatly determines the strategies you choose to optimize your website. Therefore, you need to make sure that you keep your target audience in mind when developing your web content.
In addition to creating a web page that is better than other web pages on the same level, there are other things that you should do to ensure that your web page is complete. In addition to this, your page will also need other on-page optimizations, and also naming and organizing the content.
Other Optimizations Your Web Page Will Need
This section will assist you to understand other essential on-page elements that assist search engines in understanding the content you created. So, what are these elements?
These are the HTML elements used to label the heading on your web pages. The primary header tag, known as H1, is mainly preserved for the page title.
This tag looks like this: <h1>Page Title</h1>
In addition to the primary header tag, you will also find other sub-headings—H2 to H6 tags, but it’s not a must to use all these tags on one page. The order of the header tags starts from H1 to H6, and this order is according to their importance.
Every web page needs an H1 tag that’s unique, describing the primary topic of the page. This tag is automatically created from the page’s title. Since the H1 tag is the main descriptive title of a page, it should be the primary keyword or phrase of that page. Never use header tags to highlight non-heading elements like phone numbers and navigational buttons. Your header tags should introduce the content that you are about to discuss.
Even though search engines will use whatever you include in your header tags to assess and rank your page, it is essential to make sure that you don’t inflate the importance of the header tags. What you need to understand about header tags is that they are among the several on-page SEO factors, and will not make a major impact like quality content and backlinks would. Therefore, always focus more on your site’s visitors when creating content.
Your site’s internal linking structure greatly determines a part of your site’s crawlability. Whenever you link other web pages on your site, you make sure that search engine crawlers find all the pages in your site, pass the ranking power to other pages on your website, and also assist visitors to navigate your site easily. Internal linking has well-established importance, but there is always some sort of confusion over how it appears in real-time practice.
Links that need a click, such as navigation drop-down view, cannot be found by search engine crawlers. Therefore, if your site has got these form of links, you will have a major challenge in making these pages ranked. You should opt to use links which can be accessed directly on your page.
This is the text that you use to link other pages.
What an anchor text does is that it sends signals to search engines about the content of the target web page. For instance, if you link a page on your site using the anchor text “learn on-page SEO,” it’s a good sign to search a engine that the target page will assist people to learn more about on-page SEO.
However, you need to be careful to avoid overdoing that. When you use excessive internal links with the same anchor text that is keyword-stuffed, you will send a signal to search engines that you are trying to manipulate your SERP ranking. Therefore, you just need to make your anchor text appear natural instead of mechanical.
According to Google’s General Webmaster Guidelines, you should always limit the number of links on your pages to a realistic number. You need to note that this is a part of the technical guidelines set by Google, instead of the quality guidelines. Therefore, having excess internal links will not get your site penalized, but it will have a major impact on how Google searches and evaluates your web pages.
If you have many links on a page, the links will not be very effective when passing to the destination page. Therefore, you need to make sure that you link when it is necessary.
Apart from giving authority to pages, links also make it possible for users to navigate to other pages within your site. In this case, observing best practices in linking will do good to your users. Having too many links will not only affect the authority of every link, but it’s also not helpful to your users and will end up overwhelming them.
Renaming and removing pages is very common with many people. However, whenever you move or rename a page, ensure that you update the links to the old URL, and redirect the URL to the new location. If possible, make sure that you update the internal links to the target URL at its source, to prevent crawlers and users from passing through a lot of redirects before getting to the targeted page.
But if you choose to do redirects, always be careful to avoid having redirect chains that are very long. According to Google, you should always keep your redirect chain very low—not more than 3 and less than 5.
Images are the major contributors to slow pages, and the best way to deal with this problem is to compress the size of your images. Even though there is no a set size when it comes to image compression, you can opt to go for solutions like image sizing, save for web, and compression tools like ImageOptim or Optimizilla for Mac or Windows.
Also, you can choose the right image format if you want to optimize your images and also improve the speed of your page. But how do you choose the image format that you want to use?
- Use GIF for images that need an animation
- If you don’t want to use a high-resolution image, consider using JPEG, and make sure that you test the different compression settings.
- If you want to preserve high image resolution, make sure that you use PNG. Use PNG-24 for images with a lot of colors and PNG-8 for images that don’t have a lot of colors.
There are various ways that you can keep visitors on a site that is a bit slow—by using pictures which produce a colored box or very low/blurry resolution version, while still making your visitors feel as if the site if loading faster.
Also known as alternative text, it’s used within images as a guideline of web accessibility, and it describes images to people with visual impairment through screen readers. It is essential for sites to have alt text descriptions, as this assists visually impaired people to understand the meaning of the pictures on your site.
You should note that search engine bots usually crawl alt text to have a better understanding of your images, and this also gives you the extra benefit of having better image setting to search engines. You should make sure that you avoid keyword stuffing and make sure that your alt descriptions appear naturally for you readers if you want to have better SERP rankings.
Submit your image sitemap
If you want Google to crawl and index the images in your site, you should submit an image sitemap if you have a Google Search Console account. This assists Google to discover images that might have been missed.
Formatting your text for featured snippets and readability
Your page should always have the best content written for a particular topic. However, if the content is not formatted properly, it might be a challenge for your audience to read it. Although it is never a guarantee that your visitors will read your content, there are certain things that will promote readability, and this includes:
- Text color and size – your fonts should never be too tiny. According to Google, your font size should be 16-point+ to prevent the need of users zooming when using mobile devices. In addition to this, the text color should also allow good readability.
- Headings – you should always break your content with headings that can assist the readers to navigate the page easily. This is very useful for long pages, where the reader might be searching for information on a certain section.
- Bullet points – these are ideal for lists, and they assist readers to skim and find the information they need easily and fast.
- Paragraph breaks – you should avoid long blocks of texts as they discourage users from reading the content on your page.
- Supporting media – always include images, widgets, and videos that compliment your content whenever appropriate.
- Using italics and bold for emphasis – putting the words in your text in italics or bold can add more emphasis on certain areas of your content. Using the appropriate formatting options will highlight the important points you need to communicate.
Formatting also affects the ability of your page to appear in featured snippets—the “position 0” results that show up above the other organic results. It’s important to note that there are no special codes that you need to add to your page to appear in these results. However, understanding the query intent can assist to structure your content better to appear in featured snippets.
The title tag of a page is a descriptive, HTML component that identifies the title of a certain web page. Title tags are found in the head tag of every page, and appear like this:
Every page in your site should have a descriptive title tag that’s unique. Whatever you insert in your page’s title tag area will appear in the search results, but google can adjust how the title tag appears in the search results at times.
- It can also appear in web browsers
- Or after sharing your page’s link on particular external sites
The title tag of your page plays a big role on the visitor’s first impression of your site, and it’s a very effective tool for attracting visitors your page over any other SERP result. A more compelling title tag, together with high SERP rankings, will attract more visitors to your website. Therefore, you need to note that SEO is not all about search engines, but it about the entire user experience.
How to make a title tag that is effective
- Using keywords – including your target keyword in the title tag can assist both the search engine and users to understand what your web page is all about. In addition, if you insert the keywords near the front of the title tag, the users are more likely to read them and click—which means they are very helpful for ranking.
- Length – typically, search engines normally display the first 50 to 60 characters of your title tag in search results. In case the title tag surpasses allows characters on the SERP, and ellipsis will appear at the point where the title is cut off. Although observing the 50 to 60 character rule is safe, never compromise on quality over character counts. When you realize that you cannot reduce your title tag to 60 characters without affecting the readability, make it longer—but also reasonable.
- Branding – ending your title tag with your brand assists in promoting your brand awareness, thus creating a higher CTR (click-through-rate) among the users who are familiar with your brand. At times, it will be much better to place your brand at the start of your title tag, like on your home page. However, you need to be careful of what you are aiming to rank for and place the words nearer the beginning of the title tag.
Just like the title tags, meta descriptions are HTML components that describe what is on the page they are on. Also, they are found within the head tag, and will appear like this:
<meat name=”description” content=”description of page here.”/>
Whatever you insert into the description area will appear in the search results.
Creating an effective meta description
What makes an effective title tag also applies to an effective meta description. Even though Google states that meta descriptions won’t improve the ranking of your page, they are essential for improving your CTR. Here is what you need to do to create an effective meta description:
- Relevance – your meta descriptions should be very relevant to the content on your web page and should be a summary of the key concept of the page. Meta descriptions usually give the searcher the information they need to know that they have found a page that answers their question. However, it shouldn’t give too much information to do away with the need of clicking through the page.
- Length – search engines usually trim meta descriptions to 155 characters. Therefore, it is advisable to write meta descriptions of around 150 to 300 words characters. On certain SERPs, you will realize that Google allocates more space for meta descriptions of certain pages. This mostly happens for pages that rank below the featured snippets.
The URL structure—how to name and organize your web page
URL represents Uniform Resource Locator, and it is the address or location for specific pieces of web content. Just like meta descriptions and title tags, search engines normally show up URLs on their SERPs. Therefore, you need to note that how you name your URL has a significant impact on your CTR. Not only do searchers use URLs when making decisions about the pages they need to click, but search engines also use URLs when assessing and ranking web pages.
Clear page naming
Search engines normally need URLs for every page on your site as this assists them to display your web pages in SERPs. However, you need to note that clear URL naming and structure is very helpful for users who need to understand the purpose of a specific URL.
Many people are more likely to click URLs that support and clarify the information that is found on that web page, and less likely to click URLs that don’t seem to be clear. Even though URLs are minor ranking signals, you shouldn’t expect to rank on the basis of the words you have used on your page/domain name. Therefore, you need to consider your audience when choosing your domain name or naming your pages.
When you discuss various topics on your site, you should ensure that you don’t put pages in irrelevant folders.
It’s important to note that the folders where you put your content also sends signals about the type of your content, not just the topic. For instance, a URL with dates can show content that is time-sensitive. Even though this is ideal for news-based sites, dated URLs for new content can turn away searches since the information can appear to be outdated. For instance:
Since the topic—on-page SEO is not restrained on a specific date, and it would be better if you hosted it on a URL structure that is not dated, otherwise you might risk making your information appear stale. Therefore, you need to note that your name pages and folders that you choose to organize your page are essential when it comes to clarifying the topics of your pages to search engines and users.
Even though it is not so necessary to have an entirely flat URL structure, most CTR studies show that searchers usually prefer shorter URLs. Just like meta descriptions and title tags that are very long, URL’s that are too long typically cut off with an ellipsis. Therefore, you need to note that descriptive URLs are very important, and you don’t have to reduce your URL length by sacrificing the descriptiveness of the URL.
When you reduce the length of the URL, by having fewer words in your page name and removing unwanted folders, it makes it easier to copy and paste your URL, and it also makes it more clickable.
Keywords in URL
If your intention is to target specific phrase or terms with your web page, ensure that you include it in your URL. However, never go overboard by attempting to stuff keywords for SEO purposes. For instance, you might have inserted keywords into your page name naturally—but, if it is located within other folders that are optimized with that specific keyword, the URL might appear to be keyword stuffed
Overusing keywords in URLs might look manipulative and spammy. If you are not sure if you have stuffed your keyword in the URL, read the URL with the eyes of the searcher, and then ask yourself if it looks natural, and whether you would click on it.
URLs that can be easily ready by people are the best. Therefore, you should avoid overusing symbols, numbers, and parameters. You can opt use technologies like ASAPI_rewrite for Microsoft and mod_rewrite for Apache that can easily assist you in changing dynamic URLs to simpler and more readable ones.
Using hyphens to separate words
Not every web application accurately interprets separators like plus signs (+), underscores (_), or spaces (%20). Also, search engines cannot understand how to separate words in a URLS if they run together without a separator. Therefore, you should ensure that you use a hyphen (-) to separate the words in your URL.
If you own a site, you should avoid URLs that are case sensitive. Instead of example.com/SEO/On-Page-SEO/, it is much better to use example.com/seo/on-page-seo/. If your site has already several URLs ranked, don’t worry about that—just consult your developer, and all will be sorted out. They can assist you to make all the uppercase characters in your URL lowercase/
Graphics modifiers URLs
You might be tempted to omit geographical terms that describe your service area or physical location since you think that search engines can determine this automatically. However, you should ensure that your site’s content, URLs, and other on-page content mention the specific location of your city, neighborhood, as well as other items describing your region. You should allow your customers and search engine to know your exact location and where you offer your services, rather than depending on your physical location.
Protocols: HTTPS vs. HTTP
Protocols are the “HTTPS” or “HTTP” preceding your site’s domain name. According to Google, all websites should have a secure protocol—the “s” in the “https” represents “secure.” To make sure that your URLs have the https:// protocol rather than the http:// protocol, you should have a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate.
SSL certificates are essential as they are used in encrypting data. These certificates ensure that the data passed between a web server and a browser of the searcher stays private. From July 2018, Google Chrome has been notifying users of sites that are not secure, and this makes these websites appear untrustworthy to visitors and can make them leave your site.