SEO

Evolution of On-page Optimization

On-page optimization is one of the most crucial aspects of your SEO strategy. If done in the right way, it can do wonders for your website’s standing within search engines. In fact, I don’t even have to tell you how important on-page optimization is; it’s something that has been marked and measured time and again. The key, however, lies in getting it done in the right way.

image001 Evolution of On page Optimization

Source: Riseo

To take a step closer towards the ‘Right Way’, let’s go back in time. Back to the time of Classic SEO, the real old-school stuff. The classic on-page SEO had a lot to do with keyword usage. The whole idea revolved around having as much keyword instances or keyword phrase instances in and around the content that Google would start to relate with the page and rank it for the targeted keyword.

Things like placing the keyword one to two times in the page title, preferably at the start, so that Google understands it is important. Try and incorporate instances of keywords in meta descriptions and meta keywords tags. Things like placing exact match keywords a couple of times in the content body preferably in the top paragraph. Then there were other on-page elements like page headings, images and anchor text links; using the keyword instances in image ‘alt’ attributes and link ‘title’ attributes.

All the things I mentioned above, I am not saying they don’t work anymore or they are completely de-valued. But, they are not the only things that are going to help you. More precisely, on-page SEO has expanded just like everything else in SEO.

User Intent

First and foremost, really understand what you should rank for. Get your keywords right and stop optimizing for keywords, but for users. Understand what the user is looking for using a search query and what your page is delivering. Once user intent is clear, design your page to satisfy that intent. It’s very important to understand that it’s not about having instances of the user’s keyword on your page but answering their question. Treat every search query as a question and formulate web pages with the sole intent of answering the question.

image002 Evolution of On page Optimization

Source: State of Search

Content Keyword Optimization

Having instances of the exact match keyword in the content. In a way is important, but lately, Google has been really strict about exact match keyword optimization, and there are examples of this doing more harm than good.

Modern day on-page optimization needs to focus less on keyword instances and more on keyword theme building. This means your content needs to touch up on concepts closely related to your target theme. We need to incorporate appropriate keyword variations. Not just variations, try to incorporate synonyms, long tails, semantically connected terms etc. All these things are going to provide proper signals to Google helping it understand that your page is most relevant and value adding for a targeted keyword.

To understand better, let’s take an example. Consider your page is about guitars and you want to optimize for the term ‘Guitars’. Instead of focusing efforts on having the instances of the keyword ‘Guitars’, we need to incorporate content that covers related topics and helps answer all possible questions related to guitars.

We need to incorporate content that talks about types of guitars. Acoustic guitars, electric guitars, bass guitars etc. popular guitar brands, brief about tuning a guitar or even touch upon the kinds of music that is closely associated with guitars like Rock or Blues.

image003 Evolution of On page Optimization

Source: HubSpot

Optimize Search Listings

At times, ranking on number one is not enough. People abandon search results solely for the reason that the SERP listing is not enticing enough. As mentioned before, in today’s Web search environment the listing has to sell itself. It’s not about having the keyword you searched for only being present in the SERP. Think about the SERP listing as an advertisement! Everything you see in the SERP—the title, the URL, the description—all these things need to be useful, shareable, and value adding.

That’s not all, there are a lot of other things that can help improve your search engine listing. Things like Microdata markup (Schema.org), authorship markup, and video XML sitemaps can really help create that beautiful, informative listing which can entice the users to click on.

Branding

When we are creating these great SERP listings, we also need to take up the opportunity to showcase our brand. Think of it this way, when a user comes across your listing and finds it interesting, he goes ahead and clicks on it to visit the page. Let’s say he likes the page content, at this point he might make a note of your brand. In the future, he searches for something similar. Among the results that are in front of him if he sees your brand clearly mentioned in the SERP title or description, there is a high probability that he will click on your listing even if it is not ranking on #1.

Along with strong brand mentions, it would also help to use special symbols like ‘®’ (Copyright) and ‘™’ wherever applicable. This will help improve the authenticity of your content in the eyes of users as well as search engines.

image004 Evolution of On page Optimization

Source: IsraGarcia

Page Speed

In Google’s quest for superior user experience, it announced ‘Page Speed’ as a ranking factor. Even though this signal does not carry as much weight as relevancy, it is still something that cannot be neglected. This is when techniques like compression and responsive design come into picture. It all boils down to keeping the user happy. If your page takes a lot of time to load, could be because of heavy images or lack of server side compressing or 301 redirect chains, people are not going to stick around.

It has become imperative to ensure your page does not take a lot of time to load. Take out time to look at tools like:

These tools provide great insights in pinpointing the pain areas of your site with respect to page speed.

image005 Evolution of On page Optimization

Source: nn.ru

Make it Shareable

So, let’s say you take care of all the above things and come up with great content. Don’t stop there, make it socially shareable. If people visit your webpage and really like what they see, give them the ability to share it with others. Lately we have been reading a lot how social is affecting the search and social signals being considered important by search engines, this is where it starts. Your content is not going to go viral if you don’t allow it.

image0061 Evolution of On page Optimization

Source: Zenprise.com

Conclusion

So, these things discussed above … are they the only things to do? Do we stop respecting the Classic form of SEO? NO! Lot of the classic stuff is really important. What needs to change is the way we do it and incorporate new stuff that has evolved in on-page front. Aspects such as usability, social, search—they are not individual entities anymore. These entities need to work together in an effort to make the Web a better place.

 Evolution of On page Optimization
Almog Ramrajkar works with Convonix in the SEO vertical and has worked with a lot of B2B businesses for improving their online search visibility. This article is the product of a research-cum-observation study that he has conducted on the performance of all his SEO campaigns over the past year. You can connect with him on Facebook.
 Evolution of On page Optimization

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15 thoughts on “Evolution of On-page Optimization

  1. Nice reminder of what really matters – not losing sight of the basics, understanding user intent, employing NLP and putting out useful, original content. Sometimes I think our industry is splitting into multiple sub disciplines, because I know SEOers who admit this part of SEO is a weakness with them – they concentrate on coding and analytics. That is important and necessary, but if you don’t get visitors to the site with information that they really need, everything else suffers. Thanks so much for this great little article!

    1. Thanks for your feedback Nancy. I totally agree that analytics and SEO friendly coding is essential but we also need to focus on adding value to the right kind of users and make them feel that the internet is a great place to learn.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

      Regards,
      Almog

  2. Hello Almog, It’s great to read about the basics of SEO again, your post refreshes the fundamental SEO tactics. I agree with you on point that on page SEO factors like image alt text, head text can not be considered as whole SEO, but still it is important to optimize them. It is really important to pay attention to user intent, we need to understand what user is searching for and what we are delivering. Using keyword instance is also a good factor you mentioned, seems like we need to play with keywords in a genuine way.
    Thank you for the recap !

    1. Hi Chandler, I am glad you found the post helpful. And as you said, utilizing the keywords in a more natural and value adding way is something that we all need to incorporate in our optimization efforts. More importantly, we need to understand what kind of users we want to target and then build up on content that would be most helpful for them so that they come back to us again and again and if wish, even share our content over the web.

      Thanks again for your feedback.

      Regards,
      Almog

  3. Thanks for the simple but effective summary. The “Optimize for Intent” should be even more emphasized, and the content marketing efforts should be mostly focused on targeting the various thought processes people go through while searching for solutions, comparing products and making a purchasing decision. Keyword-focused copywriting shouldn’t ignore writing to match a specific reader intent.

  4. One quick and easy way to find some important variations of a keyword, is by simply doing a search on that work. Google will put in bold anything it considers a match on the search results page. For example, searching on CPA I found that Google considers Accountants as a match. You probably won’t find a bunch of keyword variations this way, but like I said, it’s quick and easy and may uncover a few you hadn’t thought of.

    1. Hey Norm,

      That a really cool way to discover keyword variations. Also, we get an inside scoop on what Google relates with our keyword giving us insights on what kind of content we can incorporate.

      Also, there is this simple tool that provides suggestions form major search portals: http://soovle.com/

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

      Best regards,
      Almog

  5. It’s good to be reminded of the old-ways now and then because these are the fundamentals of SEO. We build our current strategies with these essentials you have mentioned above and definitely on-page optimization should not be taking the backseat. Thanks for your post, Almog.

    1. This was exactly the point I am trying to make. The basics should not be forgotten, only refined.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts,
      Almog

  6. Great info Almog ! It’s always nice to hear people who believe informative, useful and original content is the way to go. I think a lot of people shy away from this practice because they really have no real information or solutions to share. To me it just makes way more sense to create content specifically for readers and not the the SEs. If anything under optimize. I’m not saying don’t do any on-page SEO just error on the side of caution, especially with the constant algo changes/updates. Good quality content will eventually win out . Also, know that the basics, as Almog has reminded us, still ring true today. Thanks Almog I’m new to the site but cool informative articles like this will keep me coming back.

    1. Thank you Dana for your feedback. I am really glad that you found my post helpful.

      You are completely right when you say that it is highly imperative that we start optimizing for users and help maintain the internet to be the massive portal of information and answers it is meant to be.

      Regards,
      Almog

  7. Interesting but almost the same as in one of SEOMOZs last publications…

    In fact exaggerating Google’s capabilities to distinguish between “good” and “bad” websites… The most of old school stuff is working, even after all the algorithmic changes, it means write blog post, stiff it with keywords, buy dozens of contextual links with couple of different anchors on fiverr for 5$ and yeah, your article is on page one :) sad but true …