Sorry, It's Not Just Keywords
If you thought the only metric you need to be concerned with regarding on-page SEO was putting the right keywords in the right places, your website probably has a lot of room for improvement.
While I do cover everything you need to know in my SEO checklist, today we are going to take a look at on-page SEO - specifically best practices. Even if you thought some on-page SEO tactics weren’t weighted as heavily as other metrics, the honest truth is that we don’t have a perfect understanding or quantification of key ranking signals.
The bottom line is that you need to optimize your pages in every way possible to give yourself the best chance of outperforming your competitors. Taking advantage of ranking signals that your competitors miss gives you yet another opportunity to climb higher in the rankings – capturing more organic traffic to increase conversions. Though we could probably write entire volumes regarding each of the following sub topics, understand that this is a high level overview to identify weaknesses and areas of opportunity.
Fulfill Search Queries by Satisfying the Users’ Intent
People type keywords into Google because they have a problem they need. Basically, there’s an information gap – something that the user lacks. And guess who’s job it is to solve the users’ problems? That’s right, it’s our job! But there's one key distinction: initial intent is likely different than the final goal of the user. And this gives you the opportunity to satisfy their needs with content (be it informational, entertaining, helpful, etc.) by means of your funnel.
For example, a searcher may type in a generic search such as 'mattresses kansas city' but once they get to an actual mattress site, they may search that site for something more specific, like 'two sided' or 'memory foam'. The final goal was part of, but did not match exactly, the original search.
Often times you can glean the users’ intent from keyword research. For example, if a user enters a query along the lines of the “best backup software,” you can make the educated guess that they are probably on the hunt for software reviews and comparisons. Many websites use these keywords as their bread and butter for affiliate sales, but this is just one example.
Faster is Always Better
Have you ever visited a slow site? Of course you have, and the experience is awful. I can’t count the number of times that I bounced from a website simply because it wouldn’t load after ten seconds. Now that may sound like gross impatience, but most users expect a site to load within a matter of a couple seconds – or even less. The faster your pages load, the happier your visitors will be – simple as that.
Faster load times correlate with more back-links, more user engagement, and generally higher rankings. What’s not to love?
Trust and Engagement through UI/UX and Branding
A key part of this on-page SEO tactic is being friendly, but you do need to have a clear and easy to navigate design for your pages. Believe it or not, users will distrust sites that aren’t clearly organized or lack coherence. Some websites choose awful linking structures and designs that look like they’re from the late nineties. Yuck! Here are some key metrics and questions you should be asking yourself:
- Have people heard of your domain or brand?
- Do people trust you?
- Do your visual elements bolster credibility and trust?
- Is it easy to navigate your site?
- Do you have testimonials, references, citations, and back-links?
There are a thousand different distractions that are competing for your users’ attention. Overlays can be very distracting when overused and abused, but also consider other factors such as popup ads and flashy banner ads. Can you still sell ad space? Sure, but make sure it doesn’t distract from content digestion.
Ok, keyword targeting is important for on-page SEO. But consider that you need to do more than scatter keyword phrases throughout the body of your content. Top keyword locations include the following:
- Image name
- Title tags, headlines, and sub headings
- Within the body of the content (of course)
- External anchors
- Internal links
Targeting Related Topics
The Google algorithm is highly sophisticated, and it can make judgments and connections between related pieces of content. Essentially, they can realize that users have needs and intents regarding certain related search terms. And adding these terms and related content to your site will help boost your ranking signals (as well as satisfy the users’ needs).
Remember, we aren’t necessarily concerned with getting the best ranking. Sure, being near that top is important, but instead we should be concerned with getting people to click on our link in the SERPs. This may sound counter intuitive, but believe it or not, sometimes snippets from one of the non-leading positions will end up on top.
You also want to make sure that your snippet does a great job of fulfilling the users’ needs. The snippet is essentially and ad for people who are passing over your link, and you need to make the most of it.
As far as creating content that consistently performs well, it’s going to need to be unique content. However, there are four different hurdles that may need to be overcome depending on the competition in your industry. The four hurdles are creating “good and unique content” (which should be the bare minimum), creating content that is twice as good as the leading competitors, making that content uniquely valuable, and finally creating 10X content.
The Advantage is Yours to Take
Is this everything you need to consider when thinking about on-page SEO? Of course not, but these eight points certainly give you a great place to start. Remember, there’s a lot more to SEO than plugging in a few keywords into your content. However, remember that this is only a starting place. If you want to really take your website beyond this simple tutorial, check out the 6 Week SEO Challenge.