In the last few years, Google and the other search engines have made several updates to their ranking algorithm. These updates added additional rules or changed the importance of some of the ranking factors that determine how a site is ranked in the search engine results.
Even after these updates, the on page SEO hasn’t really changed much. The search engines want the users to be happy with their results and they judge this by the amount of time they spend reading your posts.
There is really no single factor that will ensure you have a good search engine ranking. But if you produce unique quality content and include a few simple search engine optimization factors on your page, you will have a better chance of ranking. In this article, we will look at these factors, but to get started let’s take it from the beginning.
What is SEO?
Searching Engine Optimization is the process of optimizing a website, with the aim of improving your visibility in the search results. In theory, the better a page is optimized the higher it will rank in the search engines. Thus, a well optimized, high ranking site will receive more traffic and will appear more credible to the visitors.
The rankings are decided by the algorithms the different search engines use. The algorithms are procedures and formulas that try and find the best answers to the questions you ask. No one really knows the complete set of rules or signals. Generally, we optimize our sites using what has worked before or seems to be working now. The algorithms are frequently changing which means it’s possible to lose your ranking over night without necessarily knowing the reason.
SEO is a way to include the information that the search engines or their algorithms can understand and, in turn, they will know what your post, page or website is about.
What is On-Page SEO?
This is the procedure of optimizing individual web pages so they rank higher in the search results. On-page SEO concerns the post or page content and some HTML code that can be optimized, things that, as a publisher, you can control.
On the other hand, there is another type of optimization, off page. This refers to factors where you don’t have full control, such as backlinks and social media.
In this article, we will only consider the on page factors.
The Structure for an Optimized Page
Previously “on page SEO” referred mainly to the placement of keywords in certain locations of your page or HTML code. Today, after the numerous updates in the algorithms having your keyword in a certain position isn’t enough.
Although the keywords and their locations alone aren’t going to get you a good ranking, you are still recommended to start with thorough keyword research. You should know what terms you are targeting, the number of searches and the competition.
I use a keyword tool to find low competition keywords. If you pick keywords that have many searches, but also a lot of competition you will probably never see your post on the first pages of the search engines. This, in turn, will mean very little traffic.
It’s also good practice to find and use related keywords. This will help you acquire traffic using other variations of your keywords. For example, this post is about on page SEO, here are a few related keywords I could use:
- on page search engine optimization techniques
- on page SEO factors
- how to structure an SEO optimized post
- SEO guide for beginners
- SEO checklist
- on page search engine optimization tips
- Unique quality content
Once your keywords are selected, you write your content. This is the most important part of your site and you must write for your readers, not the search engines. Include your keyword as near to the beginning of your post as possible, within the first 100 words is good. This will give Google a good idea of what your post is about. Then use your keywords naturally in your article.
If possible try to write posts of at least 1500 words, where there is a lot of competition it’s better to aim for at least 2000 words. There is, of course, no perfect length but some research has been carried out which suggests that longer is better.
Your content should be engaging and you should try to achieve some sort of engagement with your visitors. You can do this by asking questions or opinions about your post or website. The longer your visitors stay on your site the better. This will lower your bounce rate which is apparently a ranking factor.
The title tag (or the HTML title element) is arguably the most important on-page SEO factor. The nearer you put your keywords to the beginning of the title the better. The title tag is displayed in the search results and gives people an idea of the content of a web page.
For example, the title tag for this post could be: <title>On Page SEO: How to optimize a page or post</title>
If you’re using WordPress and All in One SEO or Yoast you will find the title below the post. You should limit your title to 60 characters.
- Meta Description
This has a slight importance in your search engine ranking, but can be important in the way your post is presented in the search results. I think it’s best if your meta description describes the page or post in question, include your keywords if it makes sense. This tag should be user-friendly, this might lead to a higher click-through rate. Make it short, no more than 160 characters. This is how your meta description might appear in the search results.
- Image “Alt” Tag
When you see an image of a red car you know straight away what it is. The search engine spiders can’t tell what an image is about, you have to give them a hand. This is where the “alt” tag comes in. You provide a brief description of the image, this helps the search engine to understand what the image is about. It’s a good idea to use your keywords in one image “alt” tag per page or post.
For example <img src=”photo-red-car.jpg” alt=”red car”/>
The H1 tag is automatically used for the title of your post in WordPress so that one is taken care of. Some themes may override this, so it’s always a good idea to check that your title is wrapped with an H1 tag. Your H1 tag should include your targeted keyword. You should only include the H1 tag once in your post.
In WordPress the H1 tag for this post is shown like this:
The other tags H2, H3, H4, H5, and H6 can be used to highlight different headings and can include your targeted keyword, at least once.
Using the different heading tags in your article is important, to improve your user experience. They will break your post into paragraphs and your reader can scan through your article.
Page loading speed is an important metric in search engine ranking. You can increase your site speed in several ways:
- Compressing your images
- Minify your HTML, CSS and Java scripts
- Change to faster hosting
- Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
- If you use WordPress you could delete unused plugins
- Again in WordPress, there are plugins that can help improve your site speed
It always a good idea to check your site speed using a tool like GTmetrix or Google Speed Insights. This will show your sites’ speed and give you some idea of how you can improve it. GTmetrix also has another useful feature you can compare your site speed with that of your competitors.
Mobile friendly (responsive)
Being mobile friendly is a ranking factor since April 2015. With the number of mobile users increasing every year the search engines will, without a doubt, give more importance to this ranking metric.
It’s also important for you as a site owner to make sure your site is mobile-friendly as the majority of users now access sites from mobile devices. These users expect an excellent viewing experience regardless of the device they are using. Having a responsive design means that your website can be easily navigated using any device.
If you are in any doubt if your website is mobile friendly, you can use Google’s mobile compatible test.
When writing your article, you should link to relevant posts from your own site. Don’t over do it, linking to between 2 -5 of your older posts should be fine. This will help to keep your visitors on your site longer while providing them with related useful content. Again, this may help to reduce your bounce rate.
Linking to external websites
It’s a good idea to link out to external websites if you think they can provide useful information regarding the subject you’re blogging about. Try linking to trusted sites only. Wikipedia is one of the most authoritative sites and linking to articles from such sites will add credibility to your content. Your external links should always open in a new tab to keep your bounce rate as low as possible.
URL structure or permalinks
Make sure your URLs are search engine friendly. Ideally, the URLs of your pages or posts should be short and keyword rich. The nearer your keywords are placed towards the beginning the better.
Although as Google becomes better at knowing what a post is about this will probably become less important. However, at the moment, this still seems to carry some weight.
It’s better to avoid URLs that look like this https://letsworkonline.net/?p=123 and prefer https://letsworkonline.net/on-page-seo.
The permalinks are an important on-page ranking factor, never go with the automatically generated URLs, as in the first URL above, these can’t be read by your visitors or the search engines.
Remedy Crawl Errors
If you check in the Google Search Console you may find you have some crawl errors. This is quite normal so don’t panic, just try to solve them when you have the time.
The most common errors are pages that are not found. This may be because:
- You have deleted a page but not implemented a 301 redirect
- Changed the name of a post but not carried out a 301 redirect
- Mis-spelt an internal link on your site
- Someone linking to your site has an error in their link
Another common error is access denied, for this, you need to check your robots.txt file.
If you have a lot of crawl errors Moz.com have a good post that might help you solve some of these.
Addition of Multimedia
Good use of images, videos, graphics, audio or screenshots can help to decrease bounce rate and increase the amount of time your visitors spend on your site, which are both ranking factors that we should take into consideration. In addition, multimedia will make your posts more shareable on the social networks.
When using any visuals remember to optimize them – compress the images to load faster, include a keyword or a related keyword in the alt tag and in the file name. The search engines will gain another indication of what your post is about
Social Sharing Buttons
Make it easy for people to share your content on their social media networks by placing buttons in prominent positions. Although social sharing may not play a big part in the ranking algorithms yet, they may have a very small effect. However, it’s always worth remembering the more shares you obtain, the more views your content will receive.
While you can never guarantee a first-page ranking, carrying out your on page SEO and all the optimization methods mentioned in the article will help. Unique content is a major factor and articles that provide value will be ranked higher. It takes time and persistence to achieve good rankings but once you’re used to implementing these SEO factors you will soon be on your way to outranking your competitors.
To go further
If you’re thinking about starting or have already recently created a website, it always helps to start with some good training. Perhaps you need some further information on implementing these SEO factors, doing keyword research or writing quality content.
When I started, I knew very little about these subjects. I became a member of an online internet marketing training program where they teach you how to build a professional looking site that will get well ranked in the search engines, provided you write useful articles and diligently carry out your keyword research.
Check it out if you feel it might be useful, it’s even free to join!
If you have any questions or comments about on page search engine optimization, let me know in the comments section below.