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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.