On-Page SEO 101 Ultimate Guide to Optimizing a Web Page

On-Page SEO 101 Ultimate Guide to Optimizing a Web Page



On-page ranking factors are where a lot of SEO wins can be made right now. SEO can be a minefield and is much more than just link-building. A good SEO definitely needs to be clued up on on-page optimization. But knowing that on-page optimization is integral to your SEO strategy is different to actually knowing what to do. We’ve come up with some actionable and fundamental on-page SEO techniques that cover technical SEO, keywords, UX and content. By following this on-page SEO checklist, you will be ticking all the right boxes for the major search engines.

Start as you mean to go on: Basic Technical SEO

Don’t let the crucial tech stuff let you down.

Let’s start with some key technical things you need to tick off your SEO checklist. These technical SEO foundations are super easy to master; in a CMS like WordPress, most of this is easily done in minutes.

Is Your Content Indexed Correctly?

Making sure that your pages are correctly indexed by search engine crawler bots is the first thing you should do. Sounds obvious, but sites are still getting this wrong all the time.

Check now whether your site has been indexed by the major search engines. 

To get indexed in a user-friendly CMS like WordPress, all you have to do is uncheck the “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” box on your dashboard. Check any existing bot instructions in your robots.txt file (www.siteurl.com/robots.txt), or by looking for “meta robots” in your code. Make sure the user agent is set up as * and that only deliberately excluded URLs are disallowed. When excluding certain parts of your site, make sure your robots.txt and meta robots are correctly configured so that you aren’t accidentally hiding other content from search engines too!

Indexing during development stages?
Don’t ask search engines to crawl or index your development site. If you do, you will have duplicate content issues when you go live. This may cause your dev site to outrank your live site. Not good. 

Too many pages in the index?
If search engines are indexing thousands of pages and your site only has 30- you have a problem. A problem in that search engines will definitely mark you down for thin and duplicate content. Over-indexing is usually caused by a canonicalization issue where your CMS is creating loads of URLs, which search engines deem as unique pages in the index. Often caused by filters and pagination, use the rel= “canonical” tag to point all unnecessary URLs to a relevant page. Crawl your site like a search engine bot with Screaming Frog to see if you have a canonicalization problem. 

Analytics & Sitemap

Setting up Analytics for your site is a fundamental first step. With a modern CMS, all you do is set up an Analytics account, and then install a relevant plugin which adds the tracking code to your site. The tracking code can also be directly added to your site’s header. For Google, add both Google Analytics and Google Search Console to help you analyze your site’s search traffic. 

A sitemap tells search engines what is on your site and helps them crawl it; submitting a sitemap to search engines is easy. Check your current one by adding /sitemap.xml to the end of your homepage URL. If you don’t have one, create one and submit it to search engines through your Analytics portal. In WordPress, SEO plugin Yoast handles sitemap submissions for you. 

Site Speed

Site speed is an important factor that is often neglected. The truth is, slow sites aren’t good for users or search engines. Site speed is affected by design and images, as well as hosting; slow sites are often let down by their (inadequate) hosting providers. Never accept 3 AM and 4 AM downtime under the guise of it not being ‘that bad’; a search engine bot will crawl the internet at all times, so your site has to ALWAYS be up and running. 

Check your site speed now.

You want to get to a load time of a second or less. You can do this by:

• Paying more for your hosting, as cheaper providers tend to be slower
• Cache your site (WordPress has an out-of-the-box plugin for this)
• Make sure your image files aren’t too large

Hit the sweet spot: Optimizing & Keywords

Optimize your website for relevancy by using your keywords correctly and efficiently throughout your site. 

URLs

Try to use keywords in your URLs. Don’t go spammy and over-optimize all URLS, but make sure you never miss an opportunity to use a keyword naturally if you can. Remember to balance this with user-experience to avoid creating very long URLs. A perfect URL structure would follow a logical sequence, honing in on subcategories and sub-keywords in an orderly +1 fashion. 

As mentioned in technical SEO, make sure that search functions on your site aren’t creating a tangled mess of URLs. Ecommerce stores in particular can amass a ridiculous amount of URLs thanks to on-page filters and searches. A search engine indexing all these pages will mark you down for thin, duplicate content. Use the rel= “canonical” tag in the code to point search engines to the most relevant category page, saving you from an indexing nightmare.

Title Tags

Title tags, or page titles, are important SEO real estate and should be treated as such. They tell search engines and users what your site is about, so make sure you optimize them with both your primary and secondary keywords. Write user-focused titles using a spread of keywords and natural language; don’t just keyword stuff, and avoid overusing your brand name. Do this for every page. A tool like SEOquake will help you quickly analyse your current page titles. 60 characters is the optimal page title length if you want the whole thing to show up in SERPs; check your title’s length here

Don’t forget to optimize meta descriptions either as they can be a key page engagement factor. When your metas show up in SERPS, any keywords will be highlighted, so include keywords in your metas too. Write metas for users to improve click-through rate. Warning: If Google doesn’t like your meta, it will write its own- so it’s worth getting them right.

Images

Optimizing your image alt texts could take a matter of seconds, but it’s a great way to get image search traffic, as well as help users around the site. People using reading aid tools will rely on your image alt texts to make sense of the images. 

Try to naturally use keywords in image alt texts if you can- even better if you have chosen relevant imagery from your keyword theme so you can go for longtail keywords too.

Help others help themselves: UX

User-experience should be a big part of your on-page SEO strategy; a good site needs to be optimized for users, not just search engines. Especially in a competitive niche, you will be judged by click-through rate and site engagement metrics. 

Information Architecture & Page Segmentation

A good site-wide information architecture means that users can engage with your site and your content with ease. Use a logical and intuitive menu structure: don’t try to be too ‘fancy’ and confuse people with woolly page names. Have plenty of sub-pages to encourage deep clicking, but give the user the option to convert quickly too. 

Headers are content markers for both search engines and people, so use your headers wisely. Put keywords and keywords variants in headers, following a logical structure. Only include one H1 per page and never have empty header tags. 
Search algorithms know how people read websites, so make sure your page segmentation makes sense too. Page segmentation is how your content is laid out on the page. You want to front-load your most important content, not have lots of irrelevant text and ads crowding your keywords. Make sure your page design allows the copy to ‘speak’.

Take a trip down the information highway: Links

Search engines use links as their highways, so make sure your site isn’t a dead end. (Not covering backlinks here, just internal linking). 

Internal linking

Internal linking is great for users and SEO. As you can control the anchor text, it’s a great opportunity to explain what a certain page is all about using your ideal anchor text. Plenty of internal linking is good for SEO, but just make sure that the user experience is still logical and clean. Too much linking can dilute your link juice, and it will annoy the user. 

Outbound linking

Some outbound linking can be good, especially in longer content forms. Try linking out to news sites or high DA product sites, especially if they’re something you are talking about anyway.

Give them what they want: Content

Content plays a huge role in on-page SEO techniques. Good content is well worth the effort.

Unique & User-friendly

Make sure that every page has unique, non-duplicated content that is formatted in a user-friendly way. Use a variation of formatting to suit the content, but always keep the user at the forefront of every decision you make. Use headers, lists and images where possible and appropriate. Remember people don’t tend to hang around online, so get the important bits out of the way first. Use long copy as a chance to add more keywords and natural, relevant language. Use FAQ pages and services pages as keyword silos, targeting longtail keywords and natural variants. Try to answer all your users’ questions in your copy to increase your chances of ranking with relevant content.

Keyword Density

Make sure that your keywords cascade prominently on your site, from title tags to headers and copy. There is no universal agreement on a ‘correct’ keyword density, but make sure you are using them naturally. There are handy online tools which will generate keyword densities from plain text. Read your optimized copy out loud and remove any keyword that sounds too unnatural. 

Semantics

Natural variation, natural language and synonyms are becoming increasingly important for SEO due to Latent Semantic Indexing. The idea behind semantical search and indexing is that search engines pick up on the type of language you are using, judging whether it fits a major keyword theme. Co-occurrence (words that usually appear together) will increase the relevancy of your content, as will using a wide range of keyword variants. 

Bonus infographic:

The 5 Most Common On-Page SEO Issues:

Infographic courtesy of: Raventools.

Want to learn more about on-page SEO?

Check out this recent on-page SEO guide from Charles Floate for the latest in on-page optimization for 2016. Or alternatively, for visual learners- there’s Rand Fishkin’s on page optimizer infographic.

The ultimate goal for on-site SEO is to have a site that both ranks and converts. Follow these guidelines and you will be one step closer to having more of the right kind of (converting) search traffic. What do you think is your biggest barrier to SEO success right now? Share your thoughts with us below.

Comments