Throughout the last couple of years, the SEO community has recognized three main pillars for achieving good organic rankings: site authority, great user experience and well implemented technical page elements. This guide, based on both industry studies and Google’s guidelines, looks to help you with all three, from an on-page perspective.
So, how do you ensure that you have solid on-page SEO that will guarantee much more traffic and conversions on your site? Well, we have compiled an essential checklist designed to help you achieve better rankings.
1. Image optimization
Google has said it time and time again: Speed is important! Very often, images are the heaviest elements in websites, therefore never underestimate the power of optimizing images to ensure better performance, as doing so can drastically decrease your website load time by a few seconds.
Pro tip: Don’t upload images to your site before compressing their size with this tool. In addition to compressing size, other tools or plugins such as imnsanity will allow you to automatically resize the dimensions of images that where uploaded with an exaggerated width and height
2. Internal links
Several public case studies have proven how improving internal linking can help some sites achieve improved organic rankings. There are several reasons for this. On one hand, internal links helps search engines to better crawl and understand your site. More importantly, it helps internal pages receive “juice” or “authority” from higher level pages. Lastly, it often improves user experience, signaling search engines that the web site contains valuable and contextualized content worth navigating through.
3. Use modifiers in your titles
Using modifiers (eg. “top”, “best”, “most”, “for 2019”), can often help you achieve improved results for two basic reasons. On one hand, modifiers naturally help you expand your main keyword to potentially high volume long tail keywords. Check out this article talking the value of “year keywords” fon instance. On the other hand, modifiers are often attractive to human eyes in search results, potentially delivering increased CTRs, which could in turn directly affect your ranking.
4. Go mobile first when it comes to design and functionality
It’s 2019, the world went mobile a long time ago, and Google likes to remind us about that, so why are you still choosing site templates or designing a site template using a desktop view first? Whenever designing a new site or page, make sure the design is 100% responsive and that it’s 100% mobile friendly. One key aspect to improve mobile design is to optimize mobile site speeds, which is our next point.
5. Maximize site speed
From a user’s perspective, it is incredibly frustrating when a site does not load quickly, and search engines perfectly understand this. Google loves fast-loading sites and they will often rank faster loading sites on top of higher authority, slow loading sites. What can you do about it? Several things, on one hand, if you’re using templates, always grab the template preview URLs and test them in Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool before installing it. If you’re using custom designs, before developing, make sure you’re following all general recommendations on improving site speed.
6. Spice up content up with multimedia
While good and interesting written content is wonderful for websites, if you don’t offer attractive multimedia (such as diagrams, images or video), your bounce rate may take a hit. In this modern world, people have relatively short spans of attention and will quickly become bored if they don’t share useful images or diagrams they will enjoy. Multimedia will generally increase time spent on your site, improve user experience, reduce bounce rates and if they’re good enough, even attract valuable backlinks!
7. Pay Attention to User Intent
Joe discovered a long tail keyword, wrote an article targeting this new keyword and ranked top 3 in a few weeks. Users did not find Joe’s article ultimately useful, Joe’s page dropped in rankings. Don’t be like Joe.
Remember, at the end of the day, you don’t only have to please Google, you need to please users, so whenever generating content, make sure you absolutely answer your user’s questions and respond to their desires. Google will naturally understand this through user experience metrics such as bounce rate and time on site, so remember, write for users, not for Google.
8. Always try to start titles with your keywords
Although some Google reps have publicly denied that their algorithm takes this factor into account, several SEO studies and case studies such as this one, have showed how starting title tags with the main keyword gives the page an edge vs competing sites. Most probably there’s an indirect relationship between this factor and rankings, such as an improved perceived relevance of the Google search result which in turn affects CTRs, which in turn affects rankings. Only Google knows how it works exactly, but case studies have proven time and time again that it in fact, works.
9. Use user friendly URLs
To understand why URLs have an impact on rankings, you must understand that URLs affect usability. A well-structured, descriptive, clean, and where possible, short URL, facilities users the process of understanding of what are they getting into before clicking. Clean URLs are also often easier to share in the social media age.
It’s unclear whether Google uses URL text to understand keyword relevance, however including your main keyword in the URL is most probably the best idea, as it will often helps the user understand a page’s topic.
10. Try mentioning your keywords early in your content
When it comes to intros, it seems that both Google and users appreciate being told exactly what the content covers right off the bat. Therefore, make sure that your main keyword is included in the first 150 words (or 100 words for a better result). Again, SEO is all about the user, and although you may feel inclined to add a bit of mystery to your article by starting out with a long intro that does not mention the central topic, most people (and therefore Google) won’t appreciate it!
11. Wrap headlines in H1 and sub-headlines in H2
Correctly tagging headlines and sub-headlines simply makes Google’s life easier, and making Google’s life easier often means better rankings. HTML H1 tags tell Google what are the highest hierarchy titles in your content (and therefore the most important), and H2 tags will tell Google what are the second ranking titles (sub-headlines generally speaking). Therefore correctly using H1 and H2 tags will allow search engines to understand the article topic, and to find relevance between searches and your content.
12. Always Use LSI Keywords
An LSI keyword is basically a word or phrase that gives context to a topic or a keyword. For instance, suppose one of the main keywords in your site is “Bears”. This word could mean so many things by itself, right? A football team, an animal, or even a toy. However, if the word “Bears” is written alongside with the word “Chicago”, Google will know you’re talking about The Chicago Bears football team. If it’s used alongside “Yellowstone”, Google will know you’re most probably talking about wildlife, and if you use it alongside “plush toy”, well, you get the idea.
LSI keywords not only give context to search engines, it also allows you to match various search queries used by your target users. For instance, when writing about “how to build a tree house”, you could include LSIs such “without hurting the tree”, to match search queries using that keyword extension. A great place to find LSI keyword ideas is in the “Searches related to” section at Google SERPs
13. Increase your Dwell Time
For search engines, one important quality signal is the amount of time people spend on your sit. For instance, if a site visitor immediately clicks on the back button after landing on your page, it most probably means that this page is poor in quality. You can increase dwell time by writing content that is interesting, long, engaging and relevant to your visitors. This will keep them reading and spending more time on your site, which brings us to the next point, quality content.
14. Good Quality Content
If you had to choose only one thing to focus on when doing SEO, it should be the quality of your content! Even if Google’s artificial intelligence is not yet able to identify quality content just be analyzing a piece of content (and it may be there), search engines are able to identify numerous indirect methods of determining content quality. These include factors such as, dwell time, number of repeat visitors, searches for your company or brand name and Chrome bookmarks, to name just a few.
Writing good quality content involves using the correct spelling and grammar and having well-thought out sub-headings. Spend a little more time doing this and you will have better quality content. If you know that spelling and/or grammar is a problem for you, have someone edit your content before publishing or use an online grammar and spelling tool.
15. Consider Using Outbound Links.
Outbound links are not only useful to users; they also help search engines understand the topic you’re covering. In addition, it signals search engines about the quality of your information. Linking to high authority sites throughout your topic helps search engines understand that your content is based on quality data. Inversely, linking to bad neighborhood sites, or low quality content, could potentially hurt your rankings.
16. Maximize Organic CTR
CTR is such an obvious metric signaling relevance and results quality, that it’s hard to believe Google ignores it. Search engines won’t confirm if they do or don’t use CTR, because they naturally fear ranking manipulation, however, even if it’s not an official ranking factor, optimize CTR whenever you can! It will (by definition) bring you more traffic!
17. Use Social Media Buttons for Sharing
Social sharing is an effective, indirect method of helping your site rank higher in search engines. Although Google has said that social signals are not directly used as a ranking factor, social shares will indirectly improve rankings. See, the more people are aware of your content, the more someone else is likely to link to your site and the more likely it is for people to search for your brand. People love social media, so don’t be afraid of placing these buttons in a prominent place on your site! To place this in perspective, research has shown that having prominently placed social media buttons can increase social media sharing of your content by a whopping 700%!
18. Increase word count
When it comes to content length, studies have shown a high correlation between content length and top rankings. Although it most probably is a case of correlation and not causation, longer content will most probably indirectly help you achieve higher rankings, as it will increase time spent on site, it will often help users find what they are looking for (decreasing bounce rate), and it will increase the chances people appreciate your content so much, they may reward you with a valuable link.
How long? Well, it honestly depends about the topic you’re covering, but as a rule of thumb, try to target around 1900 words. If it sounds too much for the questions your answering, aim for 1000 words.