On-Page SEO Explained

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This guide On-Page SEO guide is for both beginners and advanced users. We will explain everything in easy to understand way, so you can improve your ranking in Google.

Statistics show that, when searching for something, people will spend less than a minute on the results page. In that short time, 90% of them will look only at the first page, while others rarely go farther than the second.

And if you aren’t on that first page when the search results crop up, you lose exposure to potential clients.

That is why we’re offering an insight into how Google works as a search engine and how it relates to you. Then, we’ll share tips on how to make your site perfectly optimized to improve your rankings.

On-Page Optimization and Google

This massive, multi-billion dollar search engine is a complex beast. But not so difficult to understand.

If you want to know what you’re dealing with, then you have to learn how search engines work.

Luckily for us, this comes down to three steps:

  1. Gathering data from all over the internet, every single second;
  2. Storing and indexing all that information;
  3. Organizing, and constantly updating said page’s content to ensure the accuracy of information.

But what does this have to do with you and your page optimization?

Let’s give an example:

Search Engine Crawlers

Let’s say you have an online store. The moment you publish your content, it is open for a visit from the “crawlers“, “bots” or “spiders“. These are pieces of software made specifically for search engines (not just Google). They scour the internet for new information – web pages, online stores, social media pages, and so on.

They access your store page and copy everything, from the titles to photos and product reviews. Then, they bring those copies back to the search engine storage. From there, the search engine can pull up the information whenever someone online looks it up.

The Algorithm

However, with massive amounts of web pages, the search engine needs some kind of a system. It needs to know which websites are better suited for certain people, based on their queries.

And this is where the algorithm jumps in.

The infamous algorithm is a complex equation that calculates the value of a page, in relation to the search term.

In the case of your theoretical store, it uses mathematics to assign a kind of score to each aspect of your storefront. The score determines how well your page fits people’s searches. The search engine assigns a relevancy score, and that alone determines whether or not she appears on the front page of search results.

It All Boils Down To:

The search engine sending crawlers to look over your website, inside and out. The quality of the content (down to the very coding!) determines how well your page will rank.

Google itself does a great job illustrating this process if you want to learn more. And this leads us to the fabled on-page SEO the internet seems to constantly buzz about.

What is On-Page SEO?

On-page SEO encompasses the content on your page, the layout, the tags, and even the code itself. It is also another name for optimizing your website to ensure you get into the top rankings in search engines.

What you need to do is pay attention to every aspect of your website:

  • Check that the titles have relevant keywords
  • Make sure the content is original and interesting
  • Offer easy navigation
  • Optimize your website to be mobile-friendly
  • Work on faster loading times

All these and much more effect whether or not your web page leaves Google’s users happy with their search result. You can also learn more about search engine optimization as there are multiple types of SEO.

Why Should On-Page SEO Be Important to You?

A good on-page SEO will not only rank you higher but it also:

  • Makes your content linkable in other places,
  • Easily gets social shares
  • Establishes your brand image and builds trust with consumers

All that aside, without on-page SEO, your odds of being noticed and actually earning revenue are slim to none.

So buckle up!

We’re about to teach you a few new (and some good old) tricks to improve your search rankings.

How Search Engines Are Learning:

Believe it or not, online resources on-page optimization get outdated every year, if not quicker.

Why?

As people change the way they search online, the algorithm evolves to adapt to their needs. It constantly grows smarter and stricter with filtering good content. And while it helps give people the best answers, it also makes it more difficult for website owners to keep up.

In digital marketing circles, this fluctuation is a constant pain in the neck. In order to stay relevant, you need to follow SEO trends and change with the flow – no matter how much time you spent learning something that may be outdated in a few months.

The pillars of On-Page Optimization:

First off, we want to overview the important elements of optimizing for search engines.

To be ranked high, your page needs to:

1. Have Unique and Original Content

Every piece of writing, a tweet, a blog post, an image file, or video needs to be relevant, original, and unique. It’s what raises credibility and makes you stand out. We like to check our content with Copyscape to ensure it’s 100% unique on the web.

2. Feature an Intuitive Page Layout and an Effective User Interface

When visitors come to your webpage, they need to find what they are looking for almost immediately. Simple page layouts, navigation, and as little clutter as possible will ensure a quick response time. The more time they spend looking for something, the more likely it is they will leave.

3. URL Structure

Make sure you implement your main keyword in the URL. Also check for search intent and top ranking sites and determine how to set up the URL that way. We would recommend making URLs as short as possible.

4. Implement Keywords Spotlessly

Your keywords need to be relevant and exactly to the point if you want to maximize your search result relevancy. We’ll go into a little more detail in the following section about keywords specifically. There are quite a few tried-and-true tricks like keyword density, h1 placement, and keywords in the content.

5. Be Shareable on Social Media

Aside from being original and easily accessible, your content should be social media-friendly. Also, make sure your website is responsive and mobile-friendly. Also, from a technical side, the internal link text and preview thumbnail need to clearly show the topic when it is linked somewhere, and the page should load quickly.

6.  Be Accessible to Crawlers

Going into the nitty-gritty of your website, now. The metadata, parts of the code that relate to your on-page content, titles, and tags all need to be optimized for the already mentioned crawlers. It’s important their visits go smoothly, without any bugs or website timeouts. The easier they navigate your code, the greater the chance of ranking higher.

7. Optimized for Multiple Platforms

Last, but not least, the content should be accessible for desktop computers, tablets, and mobile devices alike.

Now that we know what the pillars are, it’ll be much easier to understand why and how we will apply the following practices.

Best On-Page SEO Factors & Practices

Here, we are going to make an on-page SEO checklist.

It may seem long, but each item is written short and to the point. These are the takeaways from numerous years of different practices. The points listed below are the ones that stood the test of time and remained relevant to on-page SEO.

Content-related

First, we’ll discuss the biggest things you need to look out for when optimizing the content itself.

1. Start using pillar pages and cluster content

Pillar pages are blog posts that are usually longer and cover a certain topic broadly. This is the part where you don’t worry about keywords and ranking, just write the most informative content.

Within your pillar page, you won’t go in-depth on any aspect of the topic. Instead, you’ll link to your cluster content – the page that explores one aspect in more detail.  Pillar pages broadly cover a particular topic, and cluster content should address a specific targeted keyword related to that topic in-depth.

So if you’re writing about your on-page SEO experience, you’ll cover the topic broadly. And every subsequent technique would be linked to another blog post for those who want to learn more.

This kind of organization has been proven to help index your web pages much quicker and easier.

2. Choose content length wisely

There needs to be a balance in content length. While the search engines seem to treat shorter, snippier content as having less quality, having extremely long, wordy pages also seems to be a detriment.

Be careful not to overwhelm your readers, but also provide them with enough information so they stay on your page.

3. Write easy-to-read content

Believe it or not, the less wordy you get – the better. Sentences that are too long can be exhausting. Aim to write in such a way, that an average person won’t need a thesaurus to read your content.

To see how your writing stands, you can check Yoast SEO readability tool or Grammarly which we use for all our websites.

Both give insight on where the text should improve to earn a better score, or you can use some of the SEO Plugins below:

4. Refresh your content

Changes should be relatively frequent, as search engines prefer up to date content rather than an outdated one. However, when you do refresh your pages by updating them, changing up a few words or paragraphs won’t do anything.

You have to make significant alterations and edits for the page to count as “refreshed”.

There should also be no duplicate content, as search engines read those as a skeevy way of making it look like you have more content than you actually do.

However, if you have duplicate content for a reason (like a table of contents, for example), then you can indicate it in a .txt file, so the crawlers will know not to index the duplicate.

Keyword-related

Now we get to discuss the infamous keywords and how they help in ranking your website higher. Aside from keyword research, here’s what  else you can do:

1. Page titles

Use your primary keyword in the title of the page, and as close to the beginning. Even as they scan the title, people are more likely to click on the page that has the keyword closer to the beginning.

Hence, they’ll be ranked higher.


Ideally, your title tag will be between 50 and 65 characters long. Google automatically cuts off after 70 characters, so be mindful of that.

2. Meta description

Meta descriptions appear underneath your page title and link. It is there to tell the user (and the search engine crawlers), what your page is all about.

Make sure your meta description is long enough, but don’t go over 156 characters.

3. Heading Tags (Headlines)

One tiny thing that makes all the difference – have the headline of your actual page match the title of the link itself in the search results page.

Nothing is more frustrating for users when they click on a page for its title, only to see that the heading is different. It makes them feel cheated and are more likely to click away.

Make sure you add your most important keywords to headings and avoid having multiple h1 tags on one page.

4. Latent Semantic Indexing Keywords (LSI):

LSI keywords are there to help search engines decipher what your content is about based on the context. For example, if the on-page content has a book, flight, prices, ticket, and cheap as keywords, it’ll conclude you’re writing about booking airline tickets. But, if it has a book, Amazon, review, fantasy, and writer, then it will know it’s about a book review.

These keywords can also behave as quality ranking signals when search engines are evaluating your page.

5. Google Hummingbird

Google Hummingbird is an algorithm change that happened in 2013. Ever since then, the search engine has started to pay more attention to natural language searches. It assesses context rather than individual keywords.

Why is this change important? It marked the beginning of the optimization renaissance, so to speak. Writers and SEO marketing experts were encouraged to write more meaningful content the users would be happy with.  Until then, there was a trend with AI article writing and clustering keywords for the sake of better ranking, but at the cost of legibility and quality.

6. Keyword Prominence

Aside from the title, it is advised that the main keyword appears in the first 100 words of the text. It not only ranks better but also keeps visitors from clicking off-site.

However, you should beware of:

7. Keyword stuffing

What Google Hummingbird aims to prevent. Believing it gives much better search results page rank, most writers are still advised to stuff similar (or same) keywords over and over. Here’s what it actually looks like:

Keyword stuffing is a practice many writers frown upon. Stuffing keywords into short paragraphs will not ensure you better rankings. Readers notice and hate keyword stuffing, too. In fact, search engines got better at recognizing keyword stuffing and will notice when you’re just stuffing specific keywords in every sentence. Keyword stuffing loses readers.”

Make your main keyword targeting every 100 words. While they are important signals for page ranks, search engines still prefer quality written content.

Crawler-related

Finally, we’re here to talk about those tiny search engine helpers – the crawlers. How can you help them help you?

Here are a few tips:

1. Page load speed

Test your page load speed. Visitors don’t like sites that take too long to load, and crawlers look at that as well.

If your page times out during their visit, that’s not a big deal. They’ll return (like a human user would) after a while, to see if the page is out.

What you also want to do is check how your page load time holds up against your competitors, gtmetrix.com can help you with that.

2. Operating system compatibility

You can check out your web server logs to find reports on when the crawlers have visited and what they’ve looked at. What you also may notice is how they’ll return, but in different configurations. Meaning, they emulate other operating systems: Windows XP, Windows 98, Linux…

This is done to ensure that the website is accessible, and user-friendly regardless of the operating system. If you haven’t yet, you will want to check your compatibility, as it can help your ranking.

3. Create a robot.txt and sitemap.xml

Robot.txt is the first file a crawler is going to look for when it accesses your website. In this file is a list of restricted pages you don’t want him to copy and retrieve to the archive. It can be less relevant pages or those that need updating.

Sitemap.xml is literally what its name says. If your website’s HTML is somewhat more difficult to navigate, the crawler can get “lost” or “derailed”. Having a sitemap file will literally tell it where to go and what to look at, making the whole process smoother.

WordPress has plugins that generate a sitemap for you, so you don’t have to meddle with the code itself.

With the checklist over, we can get to one last bit of advice.

Conclusion

User experience is one of the most important things you should keep in mind while creating your site.

On-page SEO isn’t only ranking factor out there that will boost up your website. Off-Page SEO (Link Building), and  Technical SEO are also very important.

Anyway, On-page SEO might be the only part visible to users so it should be taken care of in the best possible way.

It seems like countering our own points here, given how we’ve talked about optimizing a website to a search engine’s pleasing. But, with the algorithm evolving to give users exactly what they need, our methods need to evolve as well.

In the end, we are writing and creating for people. And good content will find its way to a big audience, regardless of how high or low it ranks on Google or Bing.

This was simply a roadmap to making your website the best version it can be. And for now, these tips are the only way these digital curators are able to understand who you are and what you offer in the online world.

For more guides, follow our blog.