How to radically improve your on-page SEO in the next 30 minutes
Chapter 5 of the digital marketing strategy guide
SEO is not rocket science, but it is bloody difficult. Google remains a mystery and not even the top SEOs in the world have clear answers to how to rank websites on it. Most of Google ranking factors are very difficult to control, such as creating backlinks and getting others to promote your content.
There are, however, a number of ranking factors you can control, and those are your on-page SEO activities. Getting your on-page SEO right will not be a silver bullet for your rankings, but it can give you a great advantage over your competitors, because the rules of on-page SEO change constantly and most websites do not really keep up with those changes.
In this article we give you only the things that are likely to remain an important aspect of SEO for years to come. And we guarantee that you will have fun implementing this information – not because it is inherently fun (which is certainly not for everyone), but because you at last will have a sense of full control over your rankings, which is a source of joy, and, oh boy, how lovely it is to work joyfully!
Once upon a time, keywords understood what they meant and thus became topics
Back in the day, the emphasis was on adding keywords into your article the same way you would water the grass on your yard, and if you went a bit more technical you would think about keyword density and similar concepts. As Google becomes very good at understanding the meaning of words (through that ubiquitous technology called AI), the emphasis is shifted from keywords into topics. So now when you write any content, you need to keep the topic of your page in mind and make sure that your content covers key elements of that topic.
As a result, the borders between content marketing and on-page SEO are blurring. For example, this article about on-page SEO includes content recommendations as part of his checklist. At Gozen Media we work on keywords as part of our content marketing strategies, and then optimise the pages according to those topical keywords.
That said, there are still some traditional and new on-page SEO elements which need to be right. Here is an on-page SEO checklist adapted to modern times.
On-page SEO checklist
The first thing to do is to get clear what your page is about. Along with the concepts we discussed earlier, you need to determine the topic.
For example, the page you are reading at the moment is about ‘on-page SEO’, and we know that Google relates the words ‘checklist’, ‘activities’ and ‘for websites’ to that topic.
1. Clean URLs
Google reads your URLS and takes them into consideration to determine the topic of a page. Avoid having too many folders on your URL and get your topical keyword close to your root domain.
These are some things to avoid on your URLs:
- Too many articles and prepositions.
- Lower case URLs
- Too many numbers
For example, which URL is in your opinion cleaner?
C’mon, make them look nice.
2. Meta Titles
These are still one of the most important on-page SEO factors. Google uses them to associate the page with the keywords people search for. It can also dramatically increase clicks on the search results, because Google uses the meta titles to create the search result snippets.
Make sure that your titles include the keywords and also encourage the user to click.
The length is important too, and it is recommended to have a title between 30 and 55 characters. If it is longer it might look incomplete on search results.
Example of incomplete title:
If possible, include the name of your brand separated by a pipe (|) - this uses less pixels than a hyphen (-).
And do not stuff your keywords!
Example of a bad title:
“On-Page SEO checklist, on-page SEO activities, On-Page SEO cheatsheet – Gozen Media On-Page SEO specialist”
A much better title:
“Follow this on-page SEO checklist today and supercharge your ranking potential | Gozen Media”
3. Meta Descriptions
These are not a ranking factor, but Google often uses them for search result snippets, so it is important that they are optimised for increased click-through rate. They should be less than 155 characters and include a sentence describing the content and a call to action. It might even be wise to include a phone number.
Many websites have missing or duplicate meta descriptions. You can very quickly check all of your meta descriptions by using the free version of Screaming Frog.
Consider adding your keywords to your H1 and H2 headings, for this can send more signals to Google about the topic of your page. However, if it is going to compromise the quality of your headings, you can live without it. You can also use related keywords or synonyms.
5. Keyw… I meant… topical words on your text
One more time: Google is turning semantic and using artificial intelligence to understand topics and associated keywords. You want to make sure that you use keywords that Google relates to your main topic. You can find this type of keyword by using the incredible tool Infinitesuggest.com.
Insert them wisely and naturally on your text. Theories suggest that inserting main keywords within the first 100 words of your copy is a good idea.
The idea of ‘keyword density’ seems less and less relevant, so now we need to think more about whether we are covering the topic to a satisfactory degree.
6. Internal links to your amazing content
Internal links are a ranking factor, so it is important to naturally include references to other related pages and articles within your website. This improves user experience, as the user can navigate through other valuable pages on your website and gain information. Make sure that you include relevant anchor text (the text that actually includes the link).
For example, by clicking on the link you can go to our page about our digital strategies.
7. Links to other amazing websites
This study suggests that external or outbound links to authority websites act as a ranking signal. Google likes you to include references to trustworthy information on your articles and blog posts. This can be achieved in two main ways:
- developing your arguments and using references to contrast or support them.
- using external sources to define concepts you cover on your page or article.
As an illustration, you will find many outbound links to some of the best websites in SEO and digital marketing throughout this article.
8. Optimised images
Images can also give signals about the topic of a page. Make sure to optimise the image title and the alt tag.
Image title: "on-page-seo.jpg"
Alt tag: “on-page SEO”
9. A jolly good user experience
The need to care about user experience on your page illustrates how much Google is changing towards a more human analysis of your webpages. Traditional on-page SEO did not focus on user experience as much as current on-page SEO does. Google is starting to factor in the quality of the user experience in the website.
This can be achieved in the following ways:
- Having fast loading pages with optimised images, code and fast hosting
- Monitor bounce rates on pages (can use Google Analytics)
- Include videos and interactive media
- Mobile responsive and easy to navigate through
These activities should be incorporated in your checklist every time you create a page or an article. They also should be applied to any existing content on your website that has ranking potential
Read other chapters on how to complete your digital marketing strategy.