If you’ve read my previous SEO articles, then by now you should be ready to create some great content that’s optimised for getting more traffic to your business website. To do that, you need to know how to do On-Page SEO.
You could hire me to do it for you of course, for £49 page. Alternatively, I hope you’ll enjoy saving that money and getting started by yourself, with this latest segment in my series of free articles on how to do SEO for your business website!
On-Page or On-Site SEO refers to everything you can do to the pages on your website to get them to rank higher in search results. This is how you let search engines know what your page is all about and which search queries it provides an answer to.
We’re not talking about trying to trick or fool the search engines into ranking your page – we’re talking about how you can make it easier for them to see the true value and relevance of your content to a specific search query. We’re talking about what we can do with the design, text, title, URL, images and subheadings of the pages or posts on your site, to make it clear what need you are serving.
Everything else, like using the Moz Free SEO Tools for keyword research and link building, is ‘off-page’ SEO, because it happens away from your website, on different websites.
If you’ve done your keyword research then you know what your target audience are looking for and long-tail keyword and related keywords to use. The next step is to create that content around those keywords and do everything you can to make sure that the people who are looking for it can actually find it!
So, how do you optimise the pages on your site to get them to rank higher in the results for relevant search queries?
How to do On-Page SEO
Site-Wide (all pages)
1 – Design/User Experience
The first thing a user notices, before they start reading your content, is the design, loading speed and ease of use of your website. You’ve probably heard it said that “you don’t get a second chance at a first impression”? Well, the look, feel, speed and ease-of-use of your website are your first impression.
Your bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who navigate away from the site after viewing just one page) and user retention (the average duration of time people spend on your website) are ranking factors, meaning they are factors that affect your Search Engine Ranking Positions (how high up in the results you get). So getting seen in the search results (impressions) and getting clicks (Click Through Rate) is only half the battle.
You might assume that getting visitors to your website would be good news for your SEO no matter what: more impressions + more clicks = higher ranking positions, right!? Wrong! I mean, not totally wrong, but it’s more nuanced than that.
1000 people quickly navigating away from your website, for whatever reason, doesn’t just get counted as 1000 hits. It gets counted as 1000 people who clicked on your search result but then felt let down in some way by the page they landed on.
The only way to know for sure whether your website design is putting people off is to ask them. But if you can’t do that, you can use Google Analytics to check your bounce rate and see how long people are spending on your website. If your bounce rate is high and people are leaving before they could have read much of your content, why might that be?
Maybe they felt that they were lead to expect one thing but actually got another (content not actually relevant to them), or maybe they got nothing at all in the time they were willing to wait for your page to load. Maybe they just didn’t like the look of your website. Maybe you’ve made it too difficult to figure out how to navigate around the site?
If you’re sure that your content is gold, you’re getting the impressions, you’re getting the clicks, but you’re still not getting the user retention you’d expect – it might be time to think about improving the layouts of your pages or updating your website design.
Updating your design counts as an SEO technique, if you do it strategically to try to improve your search rankings.
2 – Link Structure
Short, clear URLs tend to rank higher in Google according to backlinko.com (Click here to check out their brilliantly informative infographic showing ‘The Anatomy of a Perfectly Optimised Page’ ). This might be because short, clear URLs make it easy for people to see what each page is about, giving them a higher Click Through Rate (CTR) and thus helping them to climb up the Search Engine Ranking Positions (SERPS).
If your site’s permalink structure is set to display pages by their ID number, or to use long URLs with layers of categories included – you might want to consider changing it so that your links are short, to the point and easy to read.
The quality of the content itself is the most important ranking factor according to advice from moz.com about On Page SEO. Then the title as it appears in the search. Use this free tool from Moz to check how your title would look in a Google search.
1 – Written Text Content
The first thing to consider is the search intent of your target audience, so you can write something that provides a relevant response to their search. If you’ve done some keyword research and found out what your target audience are searching for, then you should have some good ideas of what to write about.
To make it clear to the search engines what your content is about, use your chosen long-tail keyword (and variations of it) often enough in your post to make it clear that your content is relevant to that topic, but not so much that it looks like you’re forcing it! Again, put the keyword right near the beginning of the text content, to make the subject matter immediately clear at a glance.
Variations of your long-tail keyword are important because so many words in the English language have multiple meanings, which can only be understood in context. If you write about “fencing”, for example, it’s not immediately clear whether you’re referring to wooden walls for your garden or a sword fighting sport where people in padded suits try to jab each other.
You’re going to need to set a bit of context to help the search engines to understand which search queries your content answers. To do this you can use something referred to as LSI keywords (Latent Semantic Indexing Keywords). These are other words and phrases that are related to your main chosen keyword. You might mention ‘fence panels’ or ‘picket fence’ to make the meaning more clear.
If you need a bit of help to think of LSI Keywords, you can use the LSI Graph website to search for them.
If you’re using WordPress, you can use the Yoast SEO plugin to help you write SEO content for each page and post on your site. You enter your focus keyword (the main long-tail keyword you’re trying to rank for) and Yoast will give you a sort of checklist with a traffic light system to show you what needs attention.
2 – Titles
Wrap your page and post titles in H1 tags in the HTML code, to make them the largest heading and signify the importance of them. And make sure your chosen long-tail keyword appears in the title, as close to the beginning as possible. Again, you’re trying to make it absolutely crystal clear what your page is about, to people and search engines.
Be sure to use any moderators you identified during your keyword research – these are the extra words in a ‘long-tail keyword’, like “best”, “top 5” or “2019”, that make it more specific and thus less competitive.
More people are searching for the general term “SEO” than for longer phrases such as “Top 5 On-Page SEO Tips 2019”, so the long-tail will be easier to rank for – firstly because there’s less competition and secondly because it’s much easier to answer a specific query than it is to speak generally about something in the hope that you might accidentally land on the specific piece of information someone was looking for!
3 – Slugs (Page/Post URLs)
We’ve looked at shortening the link structure of your entire website, but now we’re talking about the particular URL of each page. Is it easy for people to see what the page is about from looking at the URL? Is it easy for search engine algorithms to figure out what it’s about and what keywords you’re targeting?
Again, you’re going to want to put your keywords as near to the beginning of your page slug as possible. This is arguably one of the most important ranking factors. Make it absolutely clear at a glance what your content is about.
4 – Images
Nobody likes looking at a wall of text. Most people are not massively into reading books or essays. Long-form content can be a good idea, because the more you write, the more likely it is that something you write will actually resonate with someone and make sense to them. But to keep people’s attention, you’re going to need to break up your content with visually appealing imagery.
The imagery you use should be relevant and help you to illustrate a point that you’ve made in the written text. But, if the image also makes sense on it’s own, that’s even better!
An image that works on it’s own, as well as in context, is more “Googleable” in the Google Image Search and more “shareable” on social media. Think about what people are looking for in the image search around your topic, and create that!
“Social signals” are a search engine ranking factor, and while not in themselves in the realm of On-Page SEO, anything you can do on your page to make social media shares more likely is going to be helpful.
Consider making infographics, motivational quote images or something like that, with your own branding on them – something useful, that other people in your industry might want to share with their followers.
Another very important thing to consider is accessibility. Images can be really helpful for the people who can see them, but what about the 285 million visually impaired people in the world? Your website is for them too right!? Well it better be, because automatically excluding that many people is not going to help you convince the search engine algorithms that you’re taking this seriously.
Use alt tags on your images to provide a description of what’s being depicted for those using screen readers. And, again, use your chosen keywords in these alt descriptions.
5 – Internal Linking
You don’t just want people to visit one page on your website and then go away and not come back. You want people to spend a bit of time on your site, maybe even bookmark it to come back later if you’ve got more of what they’re looking for than they could possibly consume in one go.
As you add more content over time, start making references to your previous content with a link to it. You can also go back to your old content and find places in the text where it’s appropriate to link to the more recent content.
Internal linking can help to reduce your bounce rate and improve user retention by making you less likely to lose people when they reach their limit of their understanding or interest in the page of your website they first landed on.
6 – External Linking
Obviously you don’t want to help out your direct competition, but you do want your website to be seen as a reliable source of information by your visitors – even if you’re not able to include that on your own website.
It seems counter-intuitive to think that sending people away from your website might be good for your SEO, but sometimes it can be (and you can make the link open the site in a new window, so as not to navigate away from your website).
An example of where this is useful would be the results page from the LSI Graph website that I’ve depicted above, or the SEO tools mentioned in my previous articles, Free SEO Guide 2019: Getting Started and Keyword Research – Free SEO Guide (Part 2). I can’t include those same tools on my website, but do need to tell you about them to explain how to do Search Engine Optimisation for your website.
Linking to high domain authority sites in this way can help to boost your site’s status as a hub of valuable information. You can check a site’s domain authority using the SERP Analysis section of the Moz Keyword Explorer.
How long should your content be?
You’d think that shorter content would perform better…people seem to have a short attention span in the social media age, but there’s some evidence to suggest good written content should be quite a meaty read!
Don’t just write endlessly for the sake of it. Remember – this is not about strategically writing fluff content to trick Google and the other search engines! You need to be thinking about pleasing the algorithms AND pleasing real people who are searching for something. It has to be strategically written AND really provide value.
If you can keep it all relevant and useful then the more you write, the more you valuable information you can provide and the more LSI Keywords you can include. You might even use some related long-tail keywords by accident!
Another great thing about long-form content is that you can repurpose particular sections of it to create short-form content, and include a link to the full version (internal linking!). This way you can have the best of both worlds by serving both those who want a meaty read AND those who want to consume their content in bite-size chunks.
In the next article we’ll be looking at Link Building and how it can affect your domain and page authority. Getting high authority websites to display links to the pages on your website can help with your SEO by improving your website’s authority. Subscribe to these articles to make sure you don’t miss it!