Every SEO campaign to boost rankings, conversions, and traffic includes on-page (also known as on-site) and offsite SEO. In theory, offsite ranking factors such as inbound links should have a greater effect on ranking than on-page factors, which the site owner controls. However, since search engine optimization is an art, not a science, it’s worth paying attention to on-page SEO. In addition, on-page SEO impacts the off-site variety.
So what exactly is on-page SEO? In a nutshell, it includes the SEO ranking factors a site owner controls, which we’ll discuss in more detail. The be-all and end-all of on-page SEO is UX, the user experience. On-page SEO consists of all those features that make a visitor value a website, such as its pages, content and architecture.
Website Design and Information Architecture
Overall website design and UX are the bedrock of a successful SEO campaign. These factors help establish credibility and authority with your website visitors and enhance your brand-building efforts.
Similarly, information architecture (IA) is a time-consuming but necessary contributor to customer and search engine satisfaction. Setting up your IA based on user expectations will encourage users to discover and consume your content. A solid IA also optimizes search engine crawl budget and indexation, which favorably impact on-page SEO.
Content is King
After website design and information architecture, arguably the most important on-page SEO element is content. After all, that’s what the user is after.
Google used to rank content highly based on its uniqueness and quality. Although those are still important considerations, Google’s new metrics target UX and include user engagement metrics.
To maximize your chances of landing on the first page of search engine results, make sure your users will find your content useful. Then offer a unique slant on the subject and cover it thoroughly.
But no matter how great your content is, if it’s not linkable, it doesn’t matter. When people can’t link to content, it will be largely invisible to search engines, which then won’t drive any traffic to the website.
It’s common sense to make sure your content is linkable, right? Unfortunately, un-linkable content occurs more often than you’d expect. If content is only accessible after logging in, or can’t be reproduced or shared, it can’t be linked, and thus is anathema to the Google gods as well as many website visitors.
Keywords are Queens
When people think of SEO, they think of keywords. It’s true that keyword selection is huge. Ranking, driving traffic, and converting for keywords are at the heart of SEO.
That said, choosing correct keywords can be complicated by the myriad of available options. To target your optimal keywords, use this three-part strategy:
Research keywords: Understand your users so you know what they want information about.
Create content: Analyze your content inventory to determine where gaps exist, and create targeted content to fill in the gaps.
Measure: Collect data and feedback so you can refine your content.
Title tags used in the header of a website help Google determine what the content is about. These tags are related to keywords because one of their main functions is keyword targeting.
After useful, linkable content and keywords, pay attention to your title tag, which is the HTML element that specifies the title of a web page. Title tags show up on search engine results pages (SERPs) as clickable headlines. The tags are meant to be brief, accurate descriptions of pages’ content, and they’re key for usability, SEO, and social sharing.
Optimal Format and Length:
Crafting user- and search-engine-friendly title tags is an easy, high-impact activity that directly affects your SEO results. Here’s a formula that’s apt to produce a good title tag:
|Primary Keyword - Secondary Keyword||Brand Name. For example:|
5-Gal Survival Food Pail - Food & Water | Prepper Paradise
Keep your titles under 60 characters, as in the Prepper Paradise example. That way, the vast majority of your titles will show up as written.
Since characters can vary in width, though, there’s not an exact character limit. Google’s title displays currently top out at 600 pixels, so space-hungry letters like capital W’s can effectively halve the character count. Avoid all caps to avoid offending users and to help ensure that your titles display properly.
Here’s another surprisingly high-impact way to shore up your SEO rankings: clean up how easily your site and content can be scanned and read. Why? Think of it this way:
Suppose your blog post structure is haphazard and makes readers work too hard to unearth what they want to know. Frustrated, they bounce from your website. If enough users do the same thing, Google could receive negative user data and downgrade your website ranking.
Even if you escape Google’s wrath, improving the content structure of your website is better for users. A Nielson Norman Group study showed that improving the scannability and readability of text led to a 124% improvement in content capture, which is closely associated with recall and can improve branding.
Along with smart internal linking, make sure your URLs reflect your category hierarchy. Like a title tag, a URL should let search engines and readers know what the content’s about.
Here’s an example of good URL structure:
This URL clearly shows the hierarchy of the page information—history as it relates to mancala games in the context of games in general. Thanks to the hierarchy, Google can figure out that the page specifically speaks of the history of mancala games, so it’s a prime candidate when those keywords pop up. People can figure all of this out without having to click on the page.
Now let’s check out an example of bad URL structure:
Can you figure out what this link is about without any further information? Me neither. Search engines can see that this page relates to titles and is on the IMDB domain, but that’s about it. Since “tt0468569” does not provide information that’s likely to be searched for, it’s virtually meaningless to Google and its ilk.
A poorly structured URL can confuse search engines or cause them to think you’re trying to keyword-stuff the URL. On the user side, a bad URL makes it hard to understand page content and share on social media.
On-page SEO focuses on the user experience, and is largely under the website owner’s control. Although it may not have as much impact as strategies such as link-building, it’s a relatively quick and easy way to build a solid foundation for successful SEO campaigns.