The online marketplace of today is extremely noisy. Having a web presence might have been enough 15 years ago – you would simply cobble a web page together and boom, you would get traffic, links, and customers. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that anymore. Google, the world’s leading search engine, is getting smarter by the minute. Ranking updates such as Penguin, Panda, Hummingbird, and more recently, Rankbrain, are making it very difficult to rank in every single niche. All niches are crowded and Google is interested in delivering the best possible results for every search query. Stuffing a bunch of keywords on a page doesn’t work like it used to thanks to co-occurrence and co-citation – it’s all about semantics and relevancy.
In a nutshell, Google upped its game considerably and is continuing to do so on a regular basis. If you want to stay afloat you will have to follow their lead.
What Exactly is On-Page SEO?
Basically, on-page SEO means optimizing individual pages skillfully so they regularly rank high in the search engines and bring in relevant traffic. It’s about content and the HTML source code. It’s called on-page because both of those things are directly influenced by you as the webmaster, as opposed to off-page SEO that takes into account inbound links and other external factors.
On-page SEO takes a lot of things into account but it’s becoming increasingly dependent on relevancy. Google is concerned with getting out the most relevant answer to the query in the shortest possible amount of time and algorithms are designed to recognize user intent and evaluate whether or not your page will be able to provide the best possible answer to the searcher.
Today I’m going to focus on on-page SEO essentials that you need to be doing right in order to achieve a higher ranking in Google search. They are not complicated and after reading you can go back to your pages and posts and tweak them for better results in the future.
7 Essential On-Page SEO Elements
Title Tag and Keywords
Your title tag is the most important element of on-page SEO that you can directly influence. It’s what Google displays in the search engine and those are the first words a potential visitor will see. Title tag signals to Google whether or not your page is a good fit for the search. Always include your keyword in there, preferably at the beginning of the title as keywords are weighted from left to right, meaning that the search engine places more value on words that are at the beginning or closer to the beginning. Also, make sure that your page title is wrapped in the
headline. This title tag sends a strong relevancy signal to Google and lets it know what the content is about. Most CMS platforms do this automatically but it doesn’t hurt to check. Make sure you don’t have more than one
on every given page.
Don’t Leave Your Meta Descriptions Blank
Even though the meta description is not nearly as strong of a relevancy signal as the title tag is, it’s something that users read before they decide to click on your link. Google claims that meta descriptions are not a very strong factor in the calculation and I do believe them. However, I also know that I usually read them. If they are appealing, concise, and include the keywords from my search I click on them. If not, I move on. Lesson to be learned – always strategically place your keywords into the meta description and invite people to find out more by clicking on the link.
Beware of Over-Stuffing Your Keyword
Keywords are important; there is no doubt about it. However, they are not as important as they used to be. Google algorithms are getting smarter and no amount of keyword stuffing is going to get you on page 1 of the SERPs. Instead, focus on dropping your keyword several times into the copy (preferably in the first paragraph) and then move on to complimentary and supportive words. Google uses semantic search to determine relevancy. This means that it’s looking at the content and trying to assess how authoritative it is. Let’s say your keyword is ‘Facebook Advertising’. Instead of repeating it 50 times in the text use other words such as ‘social media advertising’, ‘social media advertising guidelines’, ‘Face advertising tips’, and so on.
Write Long Content
The purpose of content is important but, generally speaking, the longer it is the more authoritative it is. This is especially true for blogs and articles – posting anything under 800 words won’t get you much traffic. People are searching for in-depth content that can easily answer their immediate questions but to which they can go back to and reference when they have a need. Google knows this and, usually, awards lengthier pieces with better rankings.
Pay Attention to Your External Links
High-quality pages develop a symbiotic relationship when they link and mention one another thanks to something called co-citation. Basically, co –citation is one of the building blocks of semantic search. It signals to Google that your content is good enough to be picked up by others when they link to you. Alternatively, when you place outbound links to relevant sources it signals to Google that you’ve done your homework and know the top players in the niche. On the other hand, links are common courtesy these days because you can’t possibly cover everything on your page. They give your visitors a chance to learn more about something you’ve mentioned from other credible sources.