Forget links for a second and focus on your website’s quality and health. Are the keywords, images, URLs and menu structure optimized to maximum effect? What other on-page factors should you be prioritizing for a really healthy webpage?
Here are the key on-page SEO techniques guaranteed to make your site fit and fighting ready.
Your website’s heart-rate: Setting the SEO tempo
A lot of SEOs talk about content, but there’s no point in firing a lot of content at a page that isn’t prepped for SEO. Creating the right SEO environment for your content in the first place is the smart way to do things.
Analytics should inform your page structure, segmentation, and architecture
It’s not enough to set up analytics and measure your metrics in a passive way – use data to inform your SEO strategy. See data as part of a dynamic feedback loop, rather than a passive ‘justification’ for your SEO efforts.
Use free analytics platforms like Google Analytics, Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools to help you refine user-experience. Use engagement metrics and user behavior to identify key areas of website improvement.
- Track where people leave your site by monitoring the exit pages – go back and optimize the pages, giving users more reasons to stay on-site or convert.
- Analyze any content keywords search engines are picking up on and see whether they can be optimized and improved. Don’t just think about relevancy on a superficial level – make sure you’ve factored in keyword themes as well.
- Low click-through rates? Go and re-write meta-descriptions for badly performing pages, targeting search queries.
- If people are only averaging a few pages per visit, maximize your page architecture with better internal linking and a stronger page flow.
- High bounce rate? If the traffic is organic, do a mini site audit and conduct some usability tests to make sure you aren’t turning users off.
- Old content getting good search traffic? Add a prominent call to action that brings users back to your current money pages.
- Set up goals, correctly segmenting off different user actions like a newsletter sign-up or a completed contact form.
Getting your content indexed right
Indexing is the process of search engines finding and organizing your content.
Content indexing, especially for large and complex sites, is a serious SEO health issue. You don’t want to be clogging up the index with irrelevant pages, or sending search engine bots around in frustrating circles as they crawl your site.
- For basic troubleshooting, conduct a ‘site:domain’ search in search engines to see what’s been indexed so far. This should come up with all the individual pages of your website that have been indexed and may include pages you weren’t aware of like author or category pages.
- Over-indexing is a common SEO problem that is caused by bad coding, non-SEO friendly CMSs and on-page search or filter functions. Over-indexing leads to duplicate and thin content problems. If a ‘site:domain’ search throws up way too many page results – speak to your technical SEO or development team. You may need to manually sculpt your site’s index.
- Tools like Google Search Console send you messages about indexing and crawl issues – pay attention.
- Submit a sitemap to search engines to help them literally ‘map out’ your site. If using WordPress, SEO plugin Yoast is the best out-of-the-box tool for generating sitemaps, and it also allows you to manage meta data like page titles and meta descriptions.
- Never ask search engines to crawl or index your development site. This will lead to duplicate content issues when you go live.
Speeding up your website
Site speed is important for SEO, and it can be a relatively easy fix. Don’t let a bad load time harm your site metrics- a slow load time will only get worse as the site decays, so best to address the issue now. Check your site speed now – you are aiming for an optimal page speed of a second or less.
Improve site speed in three key steps
- Leverage browser caching so that your site loads faster (technical page caching guide here).
- Downsize your image files without making them look pixelated – optimize and compress JPEGs and PNGs with this tool.
- Optimize your backend database with good, logical structure – make sure it hasn’t become bloated over the years (here is a great case study on how Smashing Magazine speeded up their website a few year’s back). Your database manager or development team should be able to help you with this SEO step.
Your website’s BMI: Feast on the right keywords
Ah, the art of keyword research. To rank a website that is relevant in search engines’ eyes you will need to use your keywords well. And that doesn’t mean spammy keyword stuffing circa 2001, but using primary, secondary AND long-tail keywords from different keyword themes and families.
Use them in URLs
Analysing countless search queries will show you how important keywords in a URL can be. Optimizing your URLS can never be a bad thing, so try to use your keywords here if you can.
- Don’t forget to think of the user-experience and logic – you don’t want to end up with long, spammy URLs.
Put them in your page titles
Title tags, also known as page titles, are important for SEO and users alike – use your keywords wisely.
Top title tag tips:
- Use both primary & secondary keywords.
- Focus on users as titles impact click-through rate.
- Avoid overly spammy page titles with capitals and strange unnecessary symbols- not a good look.
- Aim for natural language and include a clear value proposition.
- Write one for every page and make it unique.
- 60 characters or so will show up in SERPs, but don’t worry about going a teeny bit over or under.
Insert them into images
Image alt texts are underused SEO real estate. Optimizing them all with your keywords might take minutes, but it could bring in valuable image search traffic. CMSs lie WordPress make changing image alt texts super easy.
Best practice: match the image to the content to increase relevancy.
In the world of social media, visuals are becoming more and more important, so make sure you optimize your images for sharing if relevant. Include easy share functions to visual social media channels like Pinterest or Instagram (using a plugin like Add This), and include relevant keywords with any image you share.
Your website’s blood pressure: Sculpting User-Experience
User-experience is a big buzzword in the digital world and it’s also important for SEO. A well-ordered website will engage users, encouraging them to spend longer on your site, and lap up all your amazing content.
- Have a clear and informative menu structure.
- Don’t frustrate the user with wooly or ‘cute’ menu items.
- Follow key web conventions to help the user.
- Use sub-pages and sub-categories to make it clear what each page is about. Think, one purpose= one page.
- Include calls to action on every page- don’t let users get stuck in a dead-end.
Headers are a great way to help structure your page, and they are important signals to both people and search engines.
- Use page headings logically, and only ever have one H1 per page.
- Use keywords throughout the headings structure, varying secondary keywords.
Google classifies content types into two main camps: Main Content and Supplementary Content, with the Main Content being the one that should be most visible to users (more on Google guidelines here). Don’t crowd the Main Content part of your site with ads or irrelevant banners – this will be seen as misleading and spammy.
Still not sure how to segment a page?
Use the F-shape heat map to help you plan out the perfect page structure, honing in on the areas of a webpage where people are statistically more likely to look.
Don’t forget to sculpt the user and search engine experience with some good internal linking. Internal linking is a great way to:
- Help users around your site
- Guide them to relevant product or services pages from a landing page
- Diversify your link profile
- Distribute link flow evenly through your site using the perfect SEO silo structure.
Don’t forget to consider the visual element of linking – avoid inordinate in-content linking: it’s not easy on the eyes.
Your website’s nervous system: Creating clever content
Good content is relevant, unique and adds significant value. Before writing any content for your website, trawl through your keyword research, extracting any interesting long-tail keywords you can use to create content. Answer people’s questions, problems and pain points with concise and clear language.
Content best practice checklist
- Every page has unique relevant copy with keyword variants
- Lists, headers, and bullet points are used to aid the user
- Image and video content is part of your on-site content plan
- Use FAQs to maximize long-tail keyword traffic
- Monitor keyword density whilst writing and avoid keyword stuffing (keyword density checker here), focusing on natural variants and synonyms instead
- When you have more budget, go for creative content and on-page resource silos
What on-page optimization tactic is your favorite? Tell us what you think is the most effective technique and why?
Gareth Simpson – Technical SEO & Startup Founder
Gareth has worked as an SEO for almost a decade now and has recently started freelancing as a technical SEO in Bristol, UK. His SEO specialisms are content and blogger outreach…and he likes green tea.