Newcomers to digital marketing think SEO is as simple as peppering textual content with keywords to rise to the top of the SERP’s. Sadly, it isn’t so – there are myriad factors that influence whether or not Google adores your content... or detests it. When it comes to SEO, the devil is always in the details. While keywords and external factors like high quality back-links are undoubtedly crucial, on-page SEO is equally vital.
But what on-page SEO factors matter most, and which are you forgetting?
Today we’re going to take a closer look at the most important on-page SEO factors.
1. Meta Descriptions and Title Tags
Meta descriptions and title tags are as old as time, and are still crucial for success. These two elements are displayed in the Google results and carry some significant weight (though we can’t quantify exactly how much) with regards to Google’s internal algorithm and ranking signals.
Both title tags and meta descriptions signal to the end user what content a page contains, but they also signal the same information to Google bots. You should strive to incorporate keywords into both these elements, but only if they make sense and feel organic.
It should come as no surprise that headlines matter a great deal to the success of on-page optimization, but be careful: too much of a good thing can poison your content and penalize your endeavors for appearing spammy. Naturally, you want to include keywords in your headline as well as your headers.
But I caution you not do overdo things; don’t spam the keywords you use in your headline in every H2, H3, and H4 tag. Instead, opt for one of two options. Either distill your keyword usage down to insertion into a handful of headers or create organic keyword variants.
3. Content Quality
Content quality isn’t typically thought of as an on-page SEO factor, though I would like to make that argument. Naturally, inserting keywords into your content is a form of on-page SEO, but excepting that practice, the quality of your content does two things.
Firstly, it directly affects metrics like bounce rate. Generally speaking, the higher the quality of your content, the more time a user is going to spend on your website.
Secondly, quality content increases the likelihood of external SEO factors like back-links. Just make sure your content solves your audience’s problems, either by entertaining them, educating them, informing them, etc.
4. Optimizing Images
Images can – and should – be optimized for SEO. For instance, with regards to your featured image, it’s a good idea to include keywords and focus keywords in the title and alt text fields. Not only does adding descriptive information in the alt text field make your website more accessible to people with vision impairments, it also boosts ranking signals to the Google algorithm.
But adding keyword-rich descriptions isn’t the only optimization you need to perform on images. You also need to make sure that your images load quickly to aid fast page loading speeds (discussed next). To do so, make sure images aren’t overly rich; that is, if an image doesn’t need to display a high amount of detail, it should use a lower-resolution format.
Generally speaking, use image formats as follows:
- GIF – GIF images only use 256 colors and use lossless compression. This is typically the best format for animations.
- PNG – PNG images typically tend to be larger, but as such, provides better quality images. PNG formats use both lossy and lossless compression algorithms.
- JPEG – JPEG images can be edited to accommodate varying levels in quality, though they tend to be smaller than PNG images. JPEG formats use both lossy and lossless compression.
Furthermore, you should also heavily consider using WordPress plugins that compress images to help the load more quickly.
5. Page Speed
Page speed is yet another crucial element of on-page SEO. Not only is it a ranking signal to the Google algorithm, it also has the ability to make or break the success of your pages. Though a few seconds may not seem like a long time, modern web surfers are extremely sensitive to even small delays in loading time.
To be blunt, if your pages load too slowly, people are going to hate your website and bounce in an instant. We’re so used to getting our information faster than we can snap our fingers. According to Google, 40% of users will leave a page that takes longer than a mere three seconds to load.
The URL you select is undoubtedly a significant on-page ranking factor, and when appropriate, you should strive to incorporate keywords into your URL structure. Ideally, you would like to have an exact match keyword as your root domain, because it improves SEO and increases your chances of ranking higher.
However, there are to problems. First of all, having an exact match root domain isn’t as heavily weighted as it was in the past. Secondly, most of the exact match keywords for domains were picked clean long ago. Just do your best when selecting a domain name.
Furthermore, your internal URL structure should strive to use keywords as much as possible instead of cryptic, extremely long, randomly generated URLs. Failing to incorporate keywords into your URLs is a missed opportunity to outperform the competition.
SEO isn’t as easy as many people make it out to be, and attention to detail is paramount if you want to outperform competitors with higher organic rankings. Furthermore, these days, optimizing a website is about much more than sending positive ranking signals to search engines.
Websites also need to be optimized for social media platforms to maximize likes, shares, and engagement with your content. If you simply don’t have time or feel inexperienced with regards to digital marketing, it’s time to reach out to a qualified digital marketing professional to stop missing opportunities and to increase your bottom line.