If you run a website and want it to get found, good search engine optimization (SEO) is a must. Whether it’s on the page or off the page, there are a myriad approaches you can take, from keyword research and implementation to link building.
With the world of SEO constantly evolving and search engine algorithms always changing, it can be hard to know where to begin. We’ve asked a range of SEO experts, from individual specialists to heads of agencies, their essential techniques for making your on-page SEO the best that it can be.
1. Solve the searcher's query better than anyone else on page 1 of the results. That means UX, UI, speed, content quality, layout, thoroughness of information, types of information (visual, audio, video, text, interactive, etc), everything.
2. Describe the problem the searcher's trying to solve the same way they do. That means using keywords the way searchers use them (yes! KW research still matters), and using the language of the searchers in your solutions. Overly technical or overly informal can both turn different kinds of searchers off. Make sure you're empathizing with your audience and imagining how they want to be served.
Featured snippets are insanely powerful and bias CTR dramatically. If you can, always aim to get a featured snippet by providing Google with a short, sweet text block of an answer at the top of your page they can scrape and use in the snippet result (bonus: these are also used for voice query answers).
My three "on-page SEO tips" are:
1. Nail the searcher intent
2. Improve design/usability
3. Measure the total search traffic potential
1. Speaking of the searcher intent, you'll know if you're nailing it or not if you look at the ‘time on page’ metric for the traffic that comes from search engines.
If people stay for a long time, it means that they've found what they wanted. But if they bounce shortly after visiting it, you either didn't give them what they wanted or didn't persuade them fast enough that your page is exactly what they needed.
My only advice here is quite simple and obvious - get into the shoes of searchers and figure out what they are expecting to get. Google is not interested to rank pages that don't help searchers. Everyone knows that.
2. Design and usability of your page are tied to serving the searcher intent.
Think about it. Would you give your credit card to a website that looks like it was designed in the 90s? Or would you get medical advice from a website that doesn't even mention the author of the article and their background?
In other words, the way your page looks and the "secondary clues" that it gives to visitors are almost as important as the actual information on that page. You need to keep in mind that your page is not the only search result for whatever people are searching for, so they need to make a quick decision as to which page deserves their "reading time" and which ones can be neglected.
I've learned that "looks matter" early in my marketing career. So when we decided to invest in content marketing as a customer acquisition channel for Ahrefs, the first thing we did is redesigned our blog for a more pleasant reading experience.
Other than that, we create custom illustrations for almost every article that we publish. Thus, when visitors land on our page, they instantly see that a lot of work was invested to create it, which makes it well worth reading.
3. As for the total traffic potential, too many people don't look beyond the search volume of a given keyword and therefore make bad uneducated decisions.
Let me illustrate this with a simple example.
Let me illustrate this with a simple example. Look at these two keywords:
"seo tips" (2,700 monthly searches in the US)
"submit website to search engines" (1,400 monthly searches in the US)
Which of these topics would bring you more traffic, should you rank at the top of Google for it?
You can answer this question by plugging the top-ranking pages from both of these keywords into Ahrefs and studying how much search traffic these pages get in TOTAL.
And what you're going to discover is that the article that ranks for "submit website to search engines" gets almost 10x more traffic than the article about "seo tips," even though the latter has almost 2x search volume.
If you want to learn why this happens, I invite you to read my recent blog post, that talks about the dangers of relying on keyword search volume alone.
Intensive Content Audit
Google's Panda algorithm is constantly being refined to determine the quality of sites in their cache. This has lead to rankings getting stuck and sites being filtered for things like content cannibalization, thin content, etc. This is especially true in situations where some of the more specific sub-niches on the site are heavily referred to, confused with, or associated with the main keyword. Think personal injury and car accidents. Roofing contractor or asphalt shingle installation. It is important to know when to make a new page for a keyword or include it as a h2-h4 on the page about its main topic.
Design Your Page Experience to Match The Customer Journey
User engagement and behavior will continue to increase as metrics to watch out for from an SEO perspective. If queries are not answered it will cause bounces. As traffic continues to bounce it can be indicative of your page not fulfilling the intent of the query and Google might choose to stop showing it. Plus, there is that whole thing about wanting your web traffic to convert into leads, sales, etc. :-)
Understand the difference between informational queries aka shopper terms and commercial queries aka buyer terms and have pages optimized for both. It makes for a perfect opportunity to create resources that might get linked to throughout the industry, additional pages on your site for UX and interlinking, and a customer journey that can take people from window shopping or a state of curiosity to a cash in hand buyer
I am sure you heard of keyword densities in terms of how many times you should have your keyword in the page you are trying to rank. IDF (inverse document frequency) and WDF (within document frequency) refer to how often words and phrases are used on the page as well as on other pages and how those words are weighted.
These will change depending on the website you're helping but generally for any new website my 3 tips are:
1. Make your site fast. Not just for SEO but for usability purposes as well. Nobody ever wishes a website loaded slower. I don't think this is a huge Google ranking factor but with AMP and similar, it's clear that speed is a direction Google isn’t going to slow down on (no pun intended).
Have original title tags that aren't over-optimized. This means including your brand in there. Some site owners still tend to go overboard, trying to get their perfect keywords in the title which tends to make things totally unnatural.
Do keyword research, but also make sure you accurately describe (in just a few words) what a page is about.
3. Get an SSL certificate and check all redirects. Check www to non-www (and vice versa). Make sure your non-secure URLs redirect to their secure counterparts. Ensure URL's with a forward slash and without a forward slash don't both load.
1. Optimize your titles, headings, and permalinks
I know that’s kind of three-in-one but these are easy changes site owners can make across the board that have a big impact. Including your keyword phrases in these three areas helps people (and Google) quickly see that your content is relevant to what they’re looking for. As it relates to titles and permalinks, this is super important because these are the first elements people see in a search results page that alert them to a relevant search result. Well written and optimized titles and permalinks can increase click through rates in search results pages. Well-optimized headings allow people to quickly scan your content and find what’s relevant to them. It’s all about getting people to look at your pages.
2. Target a single keyword phrase per page
A well-organized site enables people to easily find what they’re looking for and it also makes it easier for Google to determine if your page is the most relevant source of information for searchers. If you’re all over the place with your topic areas, then Google is less likely to choose that particular article from its index to show to searchers. When people search online, they’re often looking for a very specific piece of information and you need to make your page only about that topic.
Mobile device usage has eclipsed that of desktop, so your site needs to look good and work well on a mobile device. It’s also a Google ranking factor so there’s that. Your content should be easy to read, your buttons and links should be easy to click, and your site should be responsive and not a separate mobile version. Google has opted to use a mobile first index meaning all of the pages saved in its databases are those that render best on mobile. If you have desktop and mobile versions of your pages then searchers are not seeing some of your content.
1. Page Speed is a huge factor! One must always keep in mind that all other factors being roughly similar, the faster page almost always outranks competitors in Google SERPs. That applies particularly to very competitive niches. Hence fine tuning the website, its setup and all vital components including uber-fast hosting cumulates in a temporary competitive advantage. It is fleeting since soon, most if not all aware of the fact attempt to outpace each other.
2. With Page Speed being such an SEO heavyweight factor, the two other crucial signals are sometimes neglected. Managing crawler budget is key. Afterall, everything SEO starts with crawling. Even the best search engine optimization efforts are wasted if Google isn’t able to crawl the site, or at least it’s most desirable parts regularly and frequently. For medium and large websites there’s no way around applying server log analysis in order to intentionally steer Google crawling in a desirable direction. This is one, if not the reason why a technical SEO audit must be done at least once every twelve months. Preferably by a third party, which is not emotionally attached to the website or the product and not shy about pointing out its flaws.
Lastly, without a clearly defined and equally clearly manifested unique selling proposition there’s little chance to succeed long term in organic Google Search. For Google there’s no incentive to rank a site highly. To them it is merely one of many, similar sites without any additional value for their users. This is why managing user expectations beginning with the basic snippet real estate representation as well as on every indexable landing page is a must. Doing this positively impacts CTR and Google bounce rates, thereby massively boosting relevant user signals. More importantly, it goes along with a long standing fact of search: Google likes websites that are popular with users.
1. Check everything
Too many times we "think" about how something was done versus checking what was really done.
2. Know your customer
We test with Google adwords to see if a keyword converts for us. Knowing your customer can open up what you are targeting.
3. Manage the internal linking on each page (silo or no-silo) and make sure that you are not over analyzing natural language.
1. Watch your indexation
Make it easy for the crawler to know which pages are the most important by simply making sure you're not indexing stuff that doesn't need to be indexed. Blog category, tags, author pages, thin content, pagination, etc... these are really only just wasting the crawler’s time and potentially opening you up for keyword cannibalization.
2. Keyword cannibalization
Google doesn't like you to rank multiple pages for the same keyword. When you confuse them with two (or more) pages which compete for the same keyword, neither will rank. To fix: deoptimize the unintentional page, 301, or merge the content.
3. Balance internal anchor text ratios
They matter too.
1. Focus on Quality Content
If you want your site to be looked at as an authority in your niche you need authoritative content. Keeping your content focused on actual data and not your views or opinions will help build credibility.
2. User Experience
User experience not only helps keep your clients happy and coming back, but it also triggers signals Google is looking for in a site. The longer someone spends on your site, the more pages they visit, etc. all create a positive experience and possible uptick in ranks.
3. Keep things Natural
Don’t try to over think things. You want your efforts to look natural and you never want to force SEO. If you are making changes or trying to add a keyword if it doesn’t seem natural don’t do it!
1. Make sure every page on your site loads correctly. The rendered output of your code should prominently contain whatever message you want the consumer to find/read. If your code does not execute properly, it may not be crawlable.
2. Use appropriate schema markup whenever possible.
3. Answer a question. Searches are literally called "queries"... so make sure you're anticipating the searcher's query and providing a clear answer to it. Prominently. Preferably near the top of the page :)
Creating content that is worth a read and that leads users into the desired action is key. Still way too much low end copy being used by marketers all around.
2. Contextual interlinking of silo'd content
When you have a strong content silo on your website that contextually interlinks to your other pages/products, you win, simple as that.
3. Simple sites over complex mazes
remember the KISS principle? Apply that to your website, test and learn.
1. Mark up your content with the correct and most feasible Structured Data.
2. Keep monitoring on-page elements of your organic traffic driving URLs by using smart crawlers to make sure they are well optimized.
3. Make sure your internal linking structure is well organized to propagate PR and users to the most significant landing pages easily.
1. For on-page SEO, the title of your content is the most important element. The title should contain your desired ranking keyword, and the title should be wrapped in an h1 tag. The title should also be the meta title of the page itself.
2. The second most-important element of on-page SEO is the body content itself -- it needs to contain the desired ranking keyword in the first paragraph, at least once after that, and once in the final paragraph. Aside from that, it needs to include related keywords and, above all, provide value to readers.
3. The third most-important on-page SEO tip is your internal linking structure. Build more internal links to pages and posts you want to rank higher in search results, and don't be afraid to use exact-match anchor text when building internal links. They really help!
1. Go for the long tail keywords and search phrases that will make it less competitive and easier for you to rank.
2. Take a look at the top articles that are ranking in Google, and see what makes each of them great, then create an even longer and better article of your own.
3. Break apart your content with original visuals, charts, and authority references to back up your statements. Also mention other authority sites, case studies and articles as well.
1. Keep your website’s index religiously clean. Make sure that every page that is Google-facing has value and is searched for.
2. Crawl your website weekly (and look at the data from the crawl). Remember that technical SEO isn’t an option any more. Optimization never ends; make sure your website is a technical SEO leader of your niche. If your niche is competitive, try to be a little bit ahead of the curve.
3. Make sure that mobile performance is your key focus (I am assuming your website is 100% mobile friendly as it is 2019 – DUH!). Mobile performance is a ranking factor now, and based on my observations, it is something that most webmasters somehow can’t get right. Do I have to add that you should aim for being the fastest website in your niche? When doing so, make sure you’re not looking at those dinosaur metrics like “time to load” as we all know they are so 2012…
1. Focus more time and effort on 'local' and 'long tail' keywords within your content and titles.
2. Provide your audience with on-site tools and features that Google (and users) like. A good example of this is Google Maps (using their API).
3. Have a fast loading site that is mobile responsive. Again, applying the best practices from Google here as well.
Keep your page topic on point. Don't talk about supercars on your puppies page.
Don't just write for the sake of word count. Write to educate your reader.
People should want to be on your website, not forced."
1. Make your permalinks (URLs) SEO-friendly
Utilize header tags - H1, H2, H3 - and make them SEO-friendly
Optimize your images! (Title and alt tags)
1. Always start your on-page SEO with GTmetrix and fix the loading speed of your website followed by using yellowlabs.tools.
Sprinkle the year at the end of each title and meta description. You will be surprised, this single hack can boost your traffic instantly.
Start Making Power Pages instead of just regular long form content.
My top three tips for on-page SEO are to make sure you have a super fast loading site with the proper image and page caching settings in place. Pre-loading large images at the start of the visitor process, and also to limit the amount of third-party widgets and URLs being loaded on a site. By having all of these settings in place, you will drastically improve the performance of your site while also making sure its not being lagged down by other site servers.
Try to offer something differentiated from what others are doing. Focus on who is most likely to care and share and lean into reasons they might want to share. Give them something to talk about and something worth sharing. Provided you have a day job or some other revenue stream, it can be worth it to forego revenues in the short run to build market share and then lean into monetization after you have built something with a strong footprint.
1. Become secure (https).
Load fast (http/2 and more).
Do not spam and pay attention to the little things.
1. Take control of your CTR from SERP.
Make sure Google can access and crawl your content.
Create content that educates your potential customers to make the right decision.
Technically your website should be optimized, for example speed. Make the page attractive and clear for the user. Your website should be easy to use on mobile (we are in 2019).
Title Tag Optimization, URL Slug, Header Tags. These are my top on-page SEO factors. This is because these are the primary factors that signal to crawlers what the page is all about – especially if the keyword is incorporated in these things.
1. Title tag should contain both short hook and a keyword.
Related keyword clustering improves rankings.
Contextual interlinking is one of the most overlooked SEO tactics which can bring a quick win.
Shoot for position zero with sub-headlines phrased as questions. For example, 'What is _?' is a common type of Google search, and those will often show up with position zero answers. It all comes down to using a sub-headline that addresses it directly, and a short answer to the question.
Mobile Optimized Layouts, clear complimentary call to actions, market segmented comparison tables.