As much as we might hate to hear new things constantly springing up in the SEO world, we just have to comply with the few we can, in order to enjoy some level of success with our websites – and their rankings. Especially the ones we can easily handle, like on-page SEO.
As a web copywriter and digital marketer, I’ve had to deal with SEO throughout my career, but one part I generally focus on when it comes to SEO is on-page SEO. That is (as it sounds), optimizing a web page for success in the search engines, with the elements readily available within the page (on the page), and not going outside.
And that is what I intend teaching you with this post; doing your on-page SEO right – and getting results!
Moz defines on-page factors as the aspects of a given web page that influence search engine ranking.
General acceptance (plus web best practices) lists the major on-page factors that affect search engine ranking as:
- Title tag
- Image alt text
Now let’s take each factor, one after the other:
This might seem over-flogged already, but it remains the ultimate truth that quality content is the most important part of SEO – and that fact really can’t be overemphasized.
When it comes to on-page SEO, content becomes more important. There are various aspects of content optimization you really need to put into consideration.
One of the most important here, and of course the most obvious, is keyword — after delivering value within your content though.
Common internet sense says incorporate keywords (you want to rank for) ethically and naturally into your content. But how much, and how well? This has been a major controversy in the industry, and there are no conclusive answers to this.
Here are some keyword density best practices you can follow in optimizing your website content:
- Write quality, awesome content. OK, I agree; I keep repeating this…but it’s nonetheless true. Focus more on the quality and usefulness of your content than how high you want it to rank. Ironic right?
As I often say, Big G now judges the usefulness of a content (and ultimately, how high it should rank) based on the number of social shares it gets, the number of comments, the number of people that link to it, and the “dwell time” (how long people stay on it).
- Write longer posts. ContentVerve (now michaelaagaard.com) recommends 2000+ words, but more-general acceptance says aim for at least, 1500 words. Studies by SEO industry leaders like SerpIQ and MOZ have shown that content at the top-5 spots in Google are 1500 words or more. (Little wonder Wikipedia’s always there!)
- Include keyword in first 100 words. SEOYoast plugin would advice you include your major keyword in your first paragraph. Even if you can’t do that, ensure it falls within the first 100-150 words. According to Backlinko, putting the keyword early in the content complements the title tag (more about that soon!) by emphasizing the page’s topic.
- Add internal links. Adding internal links (links that lead to other pages within your site) is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce your bounce rate (the rate at which visitors leave your site immediately they get there, without spending much time).
There are debates as to whether bounce rates still influence a site’s ranking or not. Even if it doesn’t, Google still pays attention to “dwell time,” which means how long a visitor stays on your site. The longer a visitor stays, the more useful Google deems your content to be…and the higher you rank.
One potent way Backlinko advices to increase “dwell time” or reduce “bounce rate” is by adding internal links to the beginning of your content, and by writing long, engaging content that keeps people reading.
- Outbound links to authority sites. When you link to relevant authority sites within your posts, industry study has found that it positively affects your page rank in the long run. It’s also an easy way to get more traffic…and it’s white hat (ethical)!
- Wrap your headline in an H1 tag (headline tag), and let it include your keyword. WordPress and most other CMS’s automatically add the H1 tag to your post title, but this functionality is sometimes overriden by some themes. Ensure your heading tag remains preserved.
This is the second most important factor of an on-page SEO. (Some say it’s the most important, but I believe quality content is.) It’s one of the meta tags that count most.
The title tag (or tagline) is important because it is that clickable text Google and other search engines show when your site appears on the results pages. It’s also what browsers show, both at the top of the browser and as tab titles.
External sites, like Facebook and other social media, also show your title tag first when your content is shared. This proves the need to optimize the content of your title tag to also compel visitors to click, and not only for SEO.
For example, you can give the homepage tagline a format like “name + tagline,” e.g. “LucrativePen | Quality web writing for massive traffic and sales.”
Moz however suggests it takes the opposite format — especially when your brand isn’t well-known: “Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name” (e.g, “Web writing – Content marketing | LucrativePen”) and should be kept at under 55 characters.
Here are some tips to help you optimize your title tag:
- Place your primary keyword close to the beginning of the tagline
- Keep the length between 50-60 characters
- Make the tagline meaningfully benefit-rich and customer-focused (to get more clicks)
- Include your brand name, whether at the beginning or end
Some believe URLs no longer influence ranking on SERPs (search engine result pages), but a lot of industry leaders believe it still does – and they’ve been able to prove it. Even when domain names don’t, URLs still do! (And I hope you know the difference between a domain name and a URL.)
The major simple trick is to ensure your URLs are keyword-rich.
Best optimization practices for URLs are:
- Make it keyword-rich. Stop using meaningless URLs like renegadecommerce.com/?p=350. Use something like renegadecommerce.com/on-page-SEO-factors instead.
- Make it short. An article on Forbes advises less than 100 characters.
- Keep keywords at the beginning of URL. Google has stated that the first 3-5 words in a URL carry the most weight.
- Words should be separated by hyphens or dashes (–). Just as in the example used above.
- Include local keywords if you seek to target them. E.g. “Nigerian freelance copywriter“
- Category hierarchy should be reflected in the URL structure. But URLs should include no more than 3 subdirectories. E.g., example.com/social/social media/facebook marketing. “Facebook marketing” here is a subcategory of “social media” which can also be a subcategory/subdirectory of the bigger-in-hierarchy “social.”
According to Moz, URL structure is important because it helps the search engines to understand relative importance and adds a helpful relevancy metric to the given page. It is also helpful from an anchor text perspective because people are more likely to link with the relevant word or phrase if the keywords are included in the URL.
Moz, gives a good example of good URL structures as: http://www.dmoz.org/Games/Video_Games/History/
Image alt text
You should know by now that using other non-text media, like videos and images, in your content has a lot of benefits — like making your content more user-interactive, and reducing your bounce rate overall.
However, you also should know that you ought to optimize these multimedia for search engines, and not just embed them in your content.
You can do this is by using the image alt tag. They help in 2 ways; reinforce the relevance of the text content on the page, and they have a chance to rank in Google Image Search.
To optimize your image alt tags:
- Firstly, use an image relevant to your page text content.
- Make sure image tags are highly descriptive and give readers a clear understanding of the subject of the image.
- Include your keyword where appropriate.
- Edit your image file name to include your keyword (on the PC, for example) before uploading/inserting it into your post. E.g., “On-page_SEO.jpg”.
One part of SEO that still disappoints me is how some meta data, like keywords and descriptions (still useful for search snippets – and therefore should focus on searchers), don’t influence a site’s ranking in the search engines any longer (since before 2009).
But it’s wonderful still that other meta tags like title tagline and image alt tag still help pages rank high, if well optimized, even in this 2017. (Let’s talk about meta data/tags some other time ;))
This means you should stop bothering about SEO’s complexity for once, and focus more on the on-page elements discussed here; your content, your title tag (or tagline), your URL (not domain name!), and your image alt text.
These are very simple tweaks that will see your content fly high in the search engines.
What other on-page (or other) SEO factors do you focus on? Kindly share with us in the comments section so we can learn from you.