On-Page SEO: 20 Actionable Steps You Can Take Today to Rank Higher
Last time I came to us and we had a general overview of what SEO is from SEO definition to two sides of SEO (White and Black) and to the two broad category of SEO (On-Page and Off Page SEO) so now let’s have a broad look on On-Page SEO and 20 actionable steps you can take today to rank higher on your page/post targeted Keyword.
So What is really On-Page SEO?
The guys at Moz defines On-Page SEO as a the practice of optimizing individual web pages in order to rank higher and earn more relevant traffic in search engines. On-page refers to both the content and HTML source code of a page that can be optimized, as opposed to off-page SEO which refers to links and other external signals.
On-Page -SEO Factors and Technique
1) Your site url:
This is what your users click ion to get to your site pages/posts and its an important SEO ranking factor.
- Its meant for humans, so avoid using numbers,signs and other things that are not user friendly on your site url’s
- Try using your target keyword in your site url, page and blog post links whenever possible.
- Don’t change the url of an old post.page as this will do more damage than good to your SEO
- Make your url short, simply and avoid using long/ugly unreadable url’s for your posts.
The link of this very post is a major example of how simply, clean and keyword rich your pages/post url should be “http://learnbydoing.com.ng/on-page-seo”
Content is king, its your content that keeps your site visitors and its the same content that will bring them back to your site again and again. The now is what types of content stands out? what types of content brings traffic and gives you better conversion rate?
- Contents that are in-depth
- Contents that are optimized for users ( not just search engines )
- Contents that solves users problem and answers users questions
- Contents that are optimized properly with your target keywords
This article here by okdork listed out three important step formula for writing contents that brings traffic to your site which I will itemize below
- Before writing that content, before you write that post, first find the content(in form of blog posts,videos, infographics or guides) look at what others have done.
- Expand on what you found/make it better.
- And finally promote this directly to the people that will be interested in it.
Google wants to give its users great experience and the only way to do that is by providing them with great content. When a user a user searches for things like ‘Top 10 places to visit in nairobi’, google robots goes to work scanning through all the index files in their database relating to the users request and using different factors to determine the best possible result to return to the user.
Some of the factors that makes your content stands out includes
- The Quality of your content: To create content with quality, requires a lot of effort and you knowing the subject matter inside out. When you know the subject matter inside out, you will deploy different options like videos, varieties of images etc to drive home your point.
- Content Freshness: When I say content freshness it doesn’t necessarily mean writing more or posting more often but more like improving on what you have already. You can add a downloadable infographic on an already existing content or video and other things that will bring users back to it. Once your content is thorough and in-depth, you can be rest assured that users will always come back again and again to it.
- Length of your content: The longer the content, the higher possibility that your page will rank better. Boost the length with infographic, videos and any other diagrams that can all combine to keep your users engaged and glue to your page. If your user’s lands and leave that will increase your page bounce rate, you don’t want that.
- How to’s:Yes you heard me right, how to’s do you have content’s that search engines can recognize as a direct answer to users questions? Why not come up guides and How to do A & B in your own area of expertise.
3) Your Keywords:
This is very important, since your keywords need to reflect in all important places on your post, you probably need to do a proper keyword research before you start writing. This guide from Hubspot can help you get started.
When done, you can head off to Google’s keyword planner tool to start your research, remember before you start writing that post or the general theme of your business try answering the following questions?
- What keywords is your content/business targeting?
- Who else is using the keywords.
- What Variants of the keywords do you have within your content/post?
- Have you strategically placed these variants within your post?
- Are your keywords strategically placed in places like your ( Site url, Post title, <h1 header tag>, <h2 subheader tags>, Your page/post meta description, Your page image etc).
Before we look at the points one after the other, lets quickly examine Keyword Research process.
How to carry out a Simply Keyword Research for your Post Article or Your Business.
First make a list of terms/topics/related terms and phrases you want your post/article/business to rank for:
The terms/topic that users will probably use to search for your business maybe 5-10 topics/terms eg this post is about “On Page SEO” so i can come up topics/terms to rank this post from “On Page SEO”, “What is SEO”, “OnPage SEO Techniques”, “10 Actionable OnPage SEO Techniques you can use now”, “What is OnPage and OffPage SEO” and even head term keyword “SEO” etc etc
From the above pick out the possible Keywords that you want your page/article to rank for.
If your business is already online you can dive deep into your analytic, first your (Google Search Console) or Bing version of it (if you submitted your site to Microsoft bing) and find out the keywords/phrases your users are using to find you.
Another way of doing this is to go to google and start typing your intended Keyword/Phrase and see the suggestion google gives you/related search terms as the examples below shows
From the diagram above, you can see i have many more options to rank this page or for more topics to write for on SEO. from “On Page SEO Check list” to “On Page SEO tutorial”.
Want More? Research the “Related search terms” you found for your identified Keywords.
Go ahead and search again the related search terms found for your identified keyword or simply head off to googles keyword planner to see what more options it gives you. Below is a short example on how to do that.
Finally Identify and use appropriately “Head Term” and Long Tail Keyword
Head term keywords are generally shorter and harder to rank for while “Long tail Keywords” or rather Long tail variant of your target keywords are normally longer versions of the head term keyword and contains between three to four words. eg in the diagram below you can see “SEO” is simply the head term keyword and have more “Avg monthly searches, while “What is SEO” in the other hand is an example of Long tail Keyword.
2016 Keyword Best Practices
Don’t keep repeating your exact target keyword
Repeating your target Keyword instead of its variant, worked sometime ago but that is old school SEO practice. The tuth is that you don’t have to use the exact keyword that your post or page is targeting on the On-Page search engine optimization elements like your page/post title,header tags( <h1><h2> tags), meta description and images etc repeatedly as this does not enable you rank higher especially with google new algorithms making sure pages with such repeats don’t cut the ice
Let your target Keyword flow into your post naturally
Just make sure your targeted keyword comes into your content naturally and you spice up your post with variant/varieties/synonyms of your main keyword and them too have to come in naturally. This is possible if your post content is long enough with depth and breath.
Emphasize your target/related Post/Page Keywords
The practice of bolding/emphasize your page/post targeted Keyword or related phrases with normal HTML elements like <b>Your Keyword</b>, <em>Your Related Keyword</em>, <strong>Keyword</strong>, is one that helps both human readers have a full grasps of what your content is all about and search engines robots to understand your content SEO wise.
Place your target Keywords and its variant at the right places
This is very important, starting from your page/post URL and to the first 100 characters of your content including the closing sentences of your content.
(4) Your LSI (Latent Semantic indexing Keywords) :
Yes we are still on keyword having/sprinkling LSI Keywords ( these are keywords that are semantically related to your page/post main keyword ) at the right places on your page/post content is vital and important for your OnPage SEO because it’s normally use by search engines like google to understand the whole theme of the content.
if your post is normally long and deep and its one you have a commanding knowledge in, there’s a high possibility that you will natural infuse LSI Keywords in your post which generally includes synonyms and related keywords of your page/post target keyword .
Where can you find LSI keywords of your targeted keyword?
- First from your normal google search box search of your targeted keyword and scrolling down to see the related search terms of the keyword
- Secondly by using google keyword planner tool and finally
- Tools like LSIGraph can help you do your LSI research
Another example below
Other Important OnPage SEO Techniques Includes
(5) Your Title tags:
This is one of the most important On-page SEO rank factor as important as your H1 Header tag. Your title tag is what shows in the tab of your browser when your page is opened and also announces your page when it shows up in a search result. See some examples below
Page/Post Title Best Practices
- Be specific and descriptive Let it’s word count be fewer, the fewer the better, both the word count and spaces shouldn’t be more than 66.
- Your page/post title should start with the target keyword(or it’s variant) in it or near the very beginning of your title tag.
- Should have modifiers eg “7 reasons” “Guide” “How to” “review” “what is” “best” “2016” “Top 10 Reasons why”
“7 Reasons why you need a portfolio website | Rutherfordejimonu.com”
“How to build a WordPress Website | Learnbydoing.com.ng”
To add a title to your page/post is simply, if you’re coding your website from scratch like i do sometimes using code editors like Sublime Text then add your page title like the example shown below
And if you’re using WordPress you might likely be using Yoast SEO Plugin or All in One SEO plugin. the example below uses “All in One SEO plugin” which automatically previews your title tag, showing you how it will appear in search engine like google.
You can also use Moz title tag preview tool to see the same thing, and find out more on how you can optimize your title tag to get better result to get better result.
(6) Meta description:
This is an important OnPage SEO ranking factor. it’s what normally shows up as an except/snippet below the blue link when google displays any page as a result of users search. Recent research have shown that over 44% of searches clicks on a result based on this factor alone, and is normally use by the search engine to guess what your page/post is all about.
So your meta tag description should be optimized just like your page title; with character count not exceeding 160.
“According to Tim Aldiss in his 33 examples of great meta description for search”. Your meta description should reflect the following
- The search terms users are searching with (this should relate to your site themed keyword)
- Your brand message
- A compelling marketing message something that will entice the users to click.
- The value you’re adding/discount/offers
- Call to action phrases like “Find out how”, “Download our guide on how” “Watch the video” etc
- Optimize your Social Meta description too, for WordPress users you can find this option also in either of your popular SEO plugins like “Yoast SEO” or “All in one SEO Pack”
- Anything else that makes it unique
When you’re working on meta descriptions/title tags, do a search on the web to find out those using similar keywords as to the ones you’re targeting and examine how their page title/meta description and apply what worked for them to yours.
if you’re using chrome browser you can easily examine your competitors pages/posts already ranked for the keyword word you’re targeting by using any of these chrome SEO extensions Meta SEO inspector and SEO Quake.
Moz also have a nice collection of some of the extensions here.
(7) Your Header tags <H1>:
This is your “headline tag” a very important ranking signal and only second to your page/post title tag especially if you’re using WordPress for your site.
Most CMS’s like WordPress automatically add the H1 tag to your blog post title, but this is not always the case with most themes, you still need to do the extra checking to be sure that’s not the case with yours by simply viewing your page source or highlighting your post headline and inspecting the element.
You should wrap your targeted keyword in your H1 tag for example this post is all about “On-Page SEO” i can use my <h1> tag to drive home the point that this is all about On-Page SEO and its techniques like this “<h1>On-Page SEO: 15 Actionable steps you can implement right now</h1>”.
(8) Organize your post subheadings with <H2> header tag:
We just talked about the first important header tag <h1> the next in line is your <h2> tag.
Your Subheadings helps in the format and structure of your content and also helps your SEO. You should split up your page/blog post contents using sub-headers and with <h2> structuring your page content to enable your site visitors and the search engines robots understands what your page is about.
To make your <h2> tags work for your, try including your keywords in one or two of them or better still add varieties of your target keywords/related search term keywords( those are terms that search engines like google list as related to your main keywords and are normally displayed at the bottom of the search page when you google your target keyword ) in your the <h2> tags as shown in the example below.
(9) Your images:
This is one of the most important OnPage-SEO factors. optimizing your images for search engine starts with the image name, its positioning withing your content, its size and other details like the ‘alt/title’ attribute.
- Make sure your image have a relevant name, a name that reflects exactly your post/page/article tittle if possible let your targeted post/page keyword be part of the name of the one of your post/page images.
- Don’t use default names like ‘DSCOOO1.png’ but rather names like ‘Onpage-seo.png’ which reflects a meaning relevant eg to this very post.
- Position your images around the content that best describes them, as your post/page images should further enhance your content to your users.
- Use your target keyword variants/related phrases as part of the names of your post/page remaining images.
- Don’t forget your image ‘alt/title’ attribute, use them to write other descriptive details about your image that could not fit into the image name proper.
- Optimize your images for speed (which is an important SEO factor) by speed i mean making sure your image size is taken care of. Heavy file size affects your page speed which is not a plus for your SEO
- If you’re using any of image editing graphic software’s like AI (Adobe Illustrator) and PS (Photoshop), do optimize your images for speed while saving them by using ‘save for web’ option.
- Online tools like TinyPng can help you optimize your JPEG and PNG image files while keeping the quality intact.
- Another option for WordPress users, is to use either of WP Smush.it plugin OR Ewww image Optimizer plugin to take care of your image file sizes and optimize them for speed.
- if you’re using CMS like WordPress when uploading your images make sure you utilize your images “Alt:” and “Description” attribute and fill it with your variation of your target keyword.
- And there is a WordPress plugin SEO Friendly images that will be of help in taking care of your images “Alt” attributes.
Your image “Alt” attribute will help further give google clue of what your page is all about and help your page rank organically for that specific keyword. Below is an example on how to use the online tool tinypng.com to optimize your page image.
Other On-Page SEO Tips
(10) External Link:
Yes how many links are pointing to your site?/your relevant targeted site pages? Not just any link but quality links and links that is relevant to your niche.
Of cos some sites do have quality contents that naturally get other site links pointing to them without them soliciting for it, but to get backlinks, you have to first create contents that can attract such and you have to build and cultivate relationships within your niche.
External links, is not just about links pointing to you, but also the ones you’re pointing to. The links you’re pointing to from your site content, has both its advantage/disadvantages.
The advantage is that, it helps search engines understand your content even more while the disadvantage is that it can drive away your users if they end up finding what they’re actually looking for in those places.
External Links Best Practice
- Make sure that links pointing to your site content of are of known quality/trusted domain and within your content identified niche.
- if you’re linking to sites you don’t know or trust, then use rel=”nofollow” attribute
- Do the same for the links you’re pointing to from your site content
- Manage your linking out, don’t over do it and make sure you’re only linking out to content’s that are semantically related to yours.
Download Now –On-Page SEO: 20 Actionable Steps You Can Take Today to Rank Higher.
(11) Internal Link:
Still talking about links, how about internal links? Within your normal page or blog posts have links to other related pages/posts, pages that relate to the subject matter of that page but like everything else, this should not be overdone.
for example this page is all about “OnPage SEO” so my related posts that i ought to internally link to is “What is SEO” , “Off Page SEO” and “Technical SEO” etc all of the above are related topics to the main topic of this page “OnPage SEO”.
In doing so ( linking to your other pages/posts ) use your targeted keywords/its synonymy as your anchor text.
(12) Your HTML:
Did I just say your HTML? Yes this is an important skill for anyone in tech and any SEO/Digital Marketing Professional.
You should know and understand your HTML be you an SEO analyst, UX designer or Digital Marketing expert.
Having HTML/Web design/UX skill set will set is an important assent for any SEO analyst and will set you apart from your peers.
(13) Mobile friendliness:
In today’s mobile world this factor cannot be overemphasized your site have to be mobile friendly. the talk within and outside the web now is “mobile”. thanks goodness that many WordPress themes are now mobile friendly and responsive but if you happen to be among the unfortunate few with non-responsive/mobile WordPress themes, then this plugin can be of help to make your theme, both responsive and mobile.
Google has two important tools that you can use today to test your site mobile friendliness. The first one is this one and the other is a new tool they released recently “Think with Google”. You can use either to test your site mobile friendliness, check the report and fix all identified issues.
from the above image, you can see what needed to to fixed immediately, the ones you’re advised to fix and the ones already fixed all shown in different colors.
As a WordPress user, you have different options available to you to resolve issues like this, one of which is using plugins like W3 Total Cache.
W3 Total Cache plugin which is both straight forward to configure ( for intermediate to advance WP users) and abit complex (for beginners) is the answer to take care most of issues highlighted in the image above especially as relate to cache and minification of our files.
When configured properly, it does it work by caching every aspect of the site, minify the files that needs minifying and even have the option of CDN network integration to boast your site speed time even more.
Secondly we will use one other WordPress plugin WP Smush which we will use to optimize the images further. Below is the result
(14) Page speed:
This is an important SEO ranking factor just like the “mobile” factor above. Many factors affects a site load time, some of which has been highlighted above. Some includes but not limited to
- large and un-optimized images.
- None usage of cache techniques.
- Non-minified files (HTML,CSS and JS ) etc.
- Too many unnecessary plugins (for WordPress Sites).
- Un-used and none deactivated/ deleted plugins (for WordPress users)
Speed is very important ranking factor, but the good news is that they’re many tools and options available to you to test your site speed, find out what is wrong with it and then follow the simply instructions to make it faster.
You can find out more about your site speed by using any of the tools listed below.
You can also take your testing a bit notch, by comparing your site speed with that of your competitors using this tool WhichloadsFaster.info.
Schema is the result of a collaboration of several search engines and is basically just a subset of specific HTML tags, which does not only improve the way your web content is displayed on the search engine result pages (also called SERPs) but also help machine readers understand your content better.
How to implement markup on your site pages
First if you have an understanding of what schema markup is, then you can implement it on your site manually
For WordPress users they’re couple of excellent plugins you can use to mark up your page/post content appropriately.
- One of which is schema plugin by the guys at leapfroggr
- You can also use Googles Structured Data Markup Helper
(16) Your Site Architecture:
When we say your site architecture, we mean how organized, usable, accessible and easily navigable is your site to your visitors.
A good and well-designed site improves users experience, good navigation, fast loading site, mobile/responsive designed site etc that’s making UXD the foundation of your site. What are the factors that matters from well-designed site architecture?
17) Your XML and HTML SiteMap
XML sitemaps helps point search engines to your website pages, understand it and ensures that your pages are not missed by search engine crawlers.
While XML sitemaps helps the search engine crawlers, HTML sitemap on the other hand help your human users to understand the entire structural arrangement of your site and find pages within your site when they are lost.
XML sitemaps normally contains unique information about your site pages and provides search engine robots with extra information such as
- When the page is last updated
- how often its updated
- And how its important to your site in relation to other pages on your site.
Normally you don’t necessarily need to create and submit a sitemap to search engines as their robots crawls the web to discover and index new pages by following links, but this might take time and that’s where XML sitemap comes in.
By creating an account in Google search console(formerly google webmaster tool) or bings and then submitting your sitemap to them, you make the process of discoverability of your site by the search engines faster.
This will open you up to other possibilities, as you will be able to identify and easily fix errors and also pin point how, where and with what queries/tools your users/target audience are using to locate your site.
Tools for creating your XML Sitemap
You can create your XML-Sitemap using any of the following tools
- xml-sitemaps.com (free sitemap up to 500 pages)
- Screaming frog (free version allows you create sitemap for up to 500 pages )
- WordPress users can use Google XML Sitemaps generator to do same.
18) Deal with Duplicate Contents
Just imagine after writing this post and i have a need to replicate exactly word by word on another platform and one with higher authority or even one with lesser page authority what do you think will happen to this one here?
The truth is that google and other search engine crawlers will have to decide on their own which of the two or three (depending on how many platform the content is duplicated on ) they will pick. That is where canonicalization comes in. With canonical tag, you can tell the search engine crawlers which you want indexed by pointing them to the right direction.
For one reason or the other we may have needs to move our page from one point to the other or in cases where page content have expiration dates and this wasn’t handled properly.
SEO good practices requires us to redirect a previous url permanently to the new one whenever we are moving a webpage from one url to another using 301 redirect.
By so doing we keep the ranking attained already intact.
(20) Crawlability (Easy to be crawl by spiders):
Make your site crawlable by search engine spiders because as intelligent as the search spiders may be, they still won’t be able to crawl your site properly if your sites links are broken.
You can help the search spiders do their jobs properly by taking the following simply steps
- Create and submit your site xml sitemap to various search engines eg Google and Bing.
- If you built your site from ground up using HTML and you don’t know anything or how to go about creating your sitemap, please follow this tutorial by siteground to know more. and another one by wordtracker will help. If you built yours with WordPress, then use this xml sitemap plugin here to do yours.
- Aside from your xml sitemap, it will do your site a whole lot good to have an HTML site sitemap (sort of a list of all your site pages). The HTML sitemap will do both your human users and the search spiders a whole lot of good. If you built your site with WordPress, then use this Page List plugin to list your site pages.
- After doing the above and having your sitemap submitted, then open your search console (formally Google Webmaster tool) and check for any possible errors.
- Fix all errors identified.
- Work on your pages internal links. search spiders follow links, so say if you have reasonable numbers of links pointing to various pages from your home page, it will be easier for search spiders to pick up the pages and crawl your site better.
In conclusion the SEO landscape is changing, with new trends, tools and techniques evolving everyday to make things a little different from what we have always known. But some things will never change or barely changes most of which includes the above 20 OnPage search engine optimization (SEO ) techniques, that you can implement today, to get your page rank where it suppose to.