When most people think about on-page SEO, they assume it’s only about keyword research and placement. While this is an integral part of what goes into on-page SEO, there is more to page optimization than just inserting keywords throughout your copy.
Search engine optimization is the area of digital marketing that is used to help increase online visibility for brands while making sure that their websites rank highly on search engine results pages for relevant queries. If you want to be reaching a wider audience and making more sales, you need to focus on SEO.
Here, we’re going to walk you through what on-page SEO is and how you can harness its power to grow your business.
What is on-page SEO?
On-page SEO is essentially any changes you make to your actual web pages in an effort to boost their search engine rankings. This can include optimizing your title tags and H1s, ensuring the right keywords are peppered throughout your content, and ensuring your images load quickly to provide a positive user experience.
Here, let’s look at some of the tactics you can use to improve your on-page SEO and improve your rankings.
Optimizing your content
One of the most effective ways to ensure your website ranks for relevant queries is by optimizing your content with the most relevant keywords. These are the phrases or words that your ideal customers are likely to be typing into search engines when looking for information.
You can find these terms using keyword research tools that will allow you to input a simple word or phrase that’s relevant to your business or customers. You’ll then be presented with a list of key terms that you should be incorporating into your content where appropriate.
Let’s take a look at some of the factors you need to consider when conducting keyword research.
One thing you need to ensure is that the keywords you’re using are as relevant as possible. Not only should they be relevant to the type of business you run, but they should also make sense for your customers. For instance, if you run a bakery, you might find that “vegan cakes” gets a lot of search, but you’ll only want to target this keyword if you offer these. Otherwise, people who land on your website after typing this into a search engine will only be disappointed.
Don’t be tricked into targeting irrelevant keywords just because they get a lot of search — stick to the ones that best reflect what you’re offering to get high-quality traffic for your website.
Before targeting a particular keyword, you also want to make sure you understand the search intent behind it. This is the goal someone has in mind when they type a query into a search engine. Are they looking to make a purchase, to solve a problem, or for some information about a particular topic? The best way to check the search intent behind a particular keyword or phrase is to type it into a search engine yourself.
Open a new browser window, enter your query into Google, and analyze the results. For instance, let’s say you’re not sure whether “lawn chairs” signals that someone is looking to buy these items or they want to learn more about them.
When you type “lawn chairs” into Google, you’ll primarily see product and category pages. This means Google believes this search to have commercial intent — in other words, people are generally looking to buy lawn chairs when they type this into a search engine. As a result, you’ll only want to target this keyword on a page where they can be bought.
Another thing to consider when performing keyword research is the competitiveness of those keywords. When selecting relevant phrases, checking how competitive they are allows you to figure out how difficult it’s going to be to rank for them. Again, tools like Google Keyword Planner or the Ahrefs Keyword Generator will typically give you an idea of the competitiveness of your chosen keywords.
Let’s take a look at what you’ll see in the Ahrefs tool if you type in “lawn chairs”. “KD” stands for “keyword difficulty”, which gives you an idea of how hard it’s going to be to rank for certain phrases. As you might expect, there tends to be more competition around keywords with the highest search volumes. You might still want to target these, but it can also be worth targeting more specific long-tail keywords, like “plastic lawn chairs” and “aluminium lawn chairs” that aren’t so competitive. Not only will these be less competitive, but they’re also more specific so can be great for sending high-quality and qualified traffic to your site.
When deciding what keywords to target, try to go for those that have a good search volume but are also within a score range that is realistic to rank for. It’s all about finding the right balance.
Once you identify the keywords you’re going to target, you need to think about how you’re going to incorporate them into your content. Try to get your primary keyword into the first 100-150 words of an article, as Google will pay more attention to it if it’s in that position. You can then pepper any other keywords throughout the piece where appropriate.
To give you inspiration, I’m going to take a look at a range of content that has been well-optimized with the most appropriate keywords.
First up is Better Proposals’ round-up of game changing business proposal ideas. This particular piece ranks third on Google for “business proposal ideas”, which gets 400 searches per month. And, if you read through the content, you’ll see that this is most likely because the piece has been well-optimized. This keyword is featured several times throughout the copy, and always in a natural way.
And here’s another example from an attorney firm called Florin Roebig, which ranks #1 for “Florida car accident lawyer”. This keyword receives 250 searches a month on Google and will send high-quality traffic to the website.
Looking at their Florida car accident service page, you will see that it probably ranks so well because a lot of the on-page elements have been optimized with the right keyword. There’s also plenty of information about what the company does and how it can help Florida residents to deal with the aftermath of a car accident, which will give Google more faith that it makes sense to rank the website for this kind of query.
Format your content properly
When publishing your content, you should follow proper formatting techniques, as this makes it easier for search engines to understand and navigate your website.
A way to do this is by adding HTML tags like H1s, H2s, and H3s when formatting your content. This can give search engines a better understanding of the structure and content of a webpage. And this is particularly important because search engines can only recommend your content when they understand what it is and what kinds of queries it will satisfy.
If your content management system (CMS) does not format your content automatically, you can add the appropriate tags manually. Here’s what you need to keep in mind:
- H1 tags: Typically, the main heading of your post should carry the H1 title tag. It should be a summary of your post and must include your target keywords.
- H2: tags: These are used to highlight the subheadings in your post.
- H3: H3 tags are used to identify the sub-sections that come under H2 tags.
Link out to reputable sources of information
If you include relevant external links in your content, it will give search engines a better idea of what you have written about.
You can include external links when trying to refer to the source of any statistic that you are giving. It is quite useful for people who would like to verify your source when reading content that you have written.
Another reason you might want to include external links in your content is to provide further reading on a topic you’re discussing. If you’ve briefly touched on a subject you think your readers might want to know more about, you don’t necessarily have to explain everything on your own — you can point them in the direction of another reputable site that has the information they need.
You can also provide examples through external links. For example, if you’re talking about a particular business or website that does something well, you might want the reader to be able to head on over there and take a look for themselves. Internet users will appreciate you giving them a shortcut by providing a link to whatever you’re talking about, and it will help to back up whatever point you’re making, too.
Optimize your URLs
Getting your URL structures right is an underrated SEO skill, but it’s an important one.
Optimizing your URLs will provide search engines with more information about a page’s content. This is why you should try to include keywords in your URLs, but still keep them concise.
An example of a company that does this well is FreshBooks, an accounting software provider that helps businesses with their accounting and finance needs.
For instance, the URL of their free invoice templates page includes the slug “invoice-templates/blank”. This is simple and straight to the point, but gives search engines a very clear idea of what can be found on this page. It’s just one part of the puzzle, but it does make a difference.
I would always recommend customizing your website URLs whenever you get the chance to ensure they include the most relevant keywords. The more context you give search engines, the better they’ll be able to rank your content.
Write content for SEO
You don’t have to break the bank to create quality content, but you should make sure that your content is unique, valuable, and created with searcher intent in mind.
If you’re not sure how to choose topics for SEO content, try to do the following:
- As I’ve already discussed, use keyword research tools to figure out the best keywords that are relevant to your business. Once you have done this, try to come up with content topics that give you the chance to incorporate them.
- If your competitors have blogs, check out what topics they’re covering and use this as inspiration. You shouldn’t completely copy what they’re doing, but see what kinds of content opportunities you might be missing, and which gaps you could be filling.
If you aren’t familiar with SEO content, it can be difficult to envisage what it needs to look like. So, let’s analyze some good examples for inspiration.
For instance, Venngage is a company that specializes in helping people to create infographics that enhance their content, and they have a guide to what infographics are. This is relevant to their audience, is optimized with the right keywords, and is engaging.
The guide currently ranks in position 1 for a wide range of infographic-related terms, including the very simply “infographic”, which receives 102,000 searches every month. It also ranks in the top spot for “infographic examples”, which receives 10,000 searches.
The more content you create around your specialist subject, the more chance you’ll have to attract the right people to your website.
Another example of a brand that creates great SEO content is SocialPilot. For instance, their guide to the best Facebook advertising tools currently ranks in first place for search terms like “Facebook ad software” and “Facebook ad tools”, which both receive 150 searches every month.
The piece itself features several mentions of these keywords, and also provides a lot of helpful information that’s relevant to this very niche topic.
Every business should be creating content with SEO in mind. Just make sure it’s optimized with the right keywords, will be valuable to your audience, and allows you to show off your expertise.
Ensure your web pages offer a positive UX
Search engines only want to send their users to websites that they’ll enjoy using, so the user experience of your website matters. To make sure that website visitors have the absolute best experience on your website, you should look to improve the following:
Page load speed
This is the amount of time it takes your website to load, and it can either positively or negatively impact user experience. A page that loads fast will increase your chances of ranking well on search engines, but a slow and unresponsive page will make visitors lose interest in the website. You can improve page speed by choosing a reliable web hosting provider, compressing your images, and making sure your website code is tidy.
Try to make sure that your website can be used by anyone. This includes people with certain disabilities, such as sight, hearing, or mobility impairments. Some of the ways you can incorporate accessibility into your website is by ensuring it’s compatible with screen readers, always making sure you provide a transcript with videos, and adding alt text to your images.
You’ll want to ensure that your site’s navigation provides an easy and seamless experience for your users. Your menu should be simple and easy to use, you should include inlinks to relevant content wherever appropriate, and you should ensure any important buttons stand out.
Formatting your content properly, as I’ve already covered, will also make it much easier for people to skim your content and find whatever information they’re looking for.
Include relevant internal links in your content
Internal links will take people from one page on your website to another. They also help search engines to find and index all of the important pages on your website. Indexing is a process that involves search engines crawling through your web pages looking for keywords or signals that show what kinds of queries they should be ranked for.
When creating inlinks, you should ensure you always use appropriate anchor text that gives more context about the page you’re sending someone to. Avoid things like “click here” and provide a description of the content or service page you’re linking to instead.
When you create a new piece of content, it’s also worth thinking about whether any of your existing web pages should be linking to it. In fact, reviewing your internal links every six months or so can help you to ensure you’re always on top of this.
Use original images
According to research conducted by Marketing Experiments, there is evidence to suggest that it is better to create your own images than to use stock images when trying to optimize your website for search engines. This means investing in your own photography or creating your own graphics can be very worthwhile.
You’ll also want to work on optimizing your images when you publish them on your website. Always add descriptive alt text, which will improve the accessibility of your site and give search engines more context.
You should also ensure that your images are a good size, but don’t cause you web pages to load too slowly. Themeisle has a great guide to resizing your images, which explains everything you’ll need to consider to get that balance right.
Whether you are creating a new web page or editing an existing one, it is important that you understand how on-page SEO works, as this will help you attract the right people to your site.
Optimizing your content with the right keywords, including internal and external links, formatting your text correctly, and using your own images can all help to boost your search engine rankings.
I would also recommend using tools to monitor the performance of your website as you make these changes, so you can see what’s working, what isn’t, and what changes might need to be made.
Aaron Haynes is the CEO of Loganix, an SEO fulfillment partner that supports marketing agencies and professionals. The company specializes in helping businesses to improve their online visibility and ultimately make more sales. The Loganix blog has a lot more information and advice, so make sure you check it out if you found this article helpful.
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This blog post is about:
- On-page SEO
- The Ultimate Guide to on-page SEO
- SEO in 2021
- Digital Marketing