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If you want people to find and buy your product online, you need search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is the practice of improving your website in ways that make it appear higher in search engine results.
If you sell search engine optimization services, for example, you’ll want your website to appear when someone searches “search engine optimization services.” Though it’s a basic example, this is the broad idea behind SEO.
More specifically, there are three types of SEO under the umbrella term “search engine optimization,” which you need to practice to create a comprehensive SEO strategy. One of these, on-page SEO, is perhaps the easiest and most effective way to shape your overall search engine presence.
What is on-page SEO?
On-page SEO refers to the process of improving the content of web pages to make them appear higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). There are many aspects of on-page SEO — keyword research, image optimization, satisfying search intent, etc. Improvements to these aspects will form one-third of a killer SEO strategy.
The other two-thirds of a comprehensive SEO strategy are off-page SEO and technical SEO. Off-page SEO focuses on generating backlinks through tactics like link building and social media marketing. Technical SEO focuses on improving site infrastructure, like site speed, page load time, UX on mobile devices, robots.txt files, duplicate content, and more.
Below you’ll find four ways to improve on-page SEO factors, complete with individual tactics for success.
Execute a content marketing strategy
When Google crawls and indexes your pages, it’s crawling and indexing content. Without content, you can’t rank. Creating high-quality content will not only communicate to search engines that you have a page that’s worth ranking higher on SERPs, but it will also give searchers a reason to consume and share your content. High-quality content is:
Your content should be original. As in, don’t outright steal, copy, plagiarize other content word for word. When you can, make it as original as possible. Try a new angle or format, or try to make your content better than what’s already ranking at the top of search engines.
At the same time, you’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. What’s ranking on page one of search engines is similar to what you should be creating.
When a user clicks a result on a SERP and doesn’t find what they’re looking for, they click the back button and click on another search result until they do find the answers they want. This clicking through and returning to the SERP is what’s known as “the loop.”
Google wants to send its users to content that “closes the loop.” Your content should provide the user with all the information they want to find when they search a particular term. When searchers consume your content and don’t need to hit the back button, this tells Google your content was valuable and comprehensive, that it satisfied the user experience, and it’s worth showing to more searchers.
The type, format, and angle that satisfies search intent
A searcher that searches “how to hit a baseball” is probably looking for a video, whereas someone searching for “how to create a content marketing strategy” is likely looking for a blog post. This is format. “Angle” refers to the kind of content within the format you should create. Blog post, article, listicle — these are examples of angle. Looking at the featured snippet can also help you determine the kind of content Google wants to show to users for a particular query.
“Type” is a category that describes the goal of the search overall. Someone searching “buy baseball bats for little league” is looking for a product page where they can buy baseball bats for little leaguers.
On the other hand, “how to hit a baseball” is informational. The searcher wants to learn how to hit a baseball. “Type” helps you discover search intent. Search intent is so important now that satisfying it can help you outrank pages with better traditional ranking signals. That’s why, instead of traditional SEO, I use intent SEO.
If you run a content marketing blog, it wouldn’t make sense for you to create a post ranking the best gaming PCs of 2021. Your content should be created around a central topic of expertise. In the case of a content marketing blog, SEO and copywriting are closely related to the topic, and so writing about these is OK. This communicates to Google that you have expertise in a particular area.
Google looks for certain words in certain areas of your content to tell if it’s relevant to the searcher. For example: In this post we’re trying to optimize for “on-page SEO,” Google will look for words like “keyword research,” “search engine results,” “meta tags,” “subheadings,” and more, because they’re related to the topic. When these words appear, they help search engines categorize your content as potentially valuable to the searcher.
Don’t overthink keyword-rich page content. You shouldn’t overanalyze keyword density or focus only on including your target keyword. Google uses latent semantic indexing (LSI), so it will look for synonyms of your keyword. Write naturally. Create content to satisfy search intent and Google will reward you.
Do extensive keyword research
Keyword-rich content can only come from extensive research. SEO tools like Clearscope can help you figure out the kinds of terms that appear in page one of Google search engine results pages. So can simply exploring them for yourself.
Search your term like a user would and see what the top 10 results are saying. Pay attention to their headings, their title, their URL structure. Which longtail and short-tail keywords are they using? How are they using them and where are they located in the article?
Look at related searches at the bottom of the SERP, autocomplete variations, and the SERP section “People also ask…” for more ideas.
There are plenty of keyword tools you can use to figure this out. Reverse engineer your content. Find out what the best results are doing right, what they’re doing wrong, and make your content better.
Internally link your content
Internal linking is the practice of linking pages on your website to other pages on your website. You’ll see this most often on blogs, but internal linking should be done on other pages, too.
Adding internal links to your content is a quick way to improve SEO, boost page views, and also help visitors learn more about other topics on your website. For example, clicking the link in the text “a quick way to improve SEO” will take you to a post where you can learn about other quick ways to improve SEO. It’s a pageview for the Granwehr website and more information for you.
It’s also a way to help search engines find and index other pages on the Granwehr site. When search engines crawl content, they can find other pieces of content through internal links. A good internal linking strategy keeps your pages from being left out of search engine results.
When internally linking your content, make sure your anchor text (the text that you’re hyperlinking) is descriptive enough that searchers and crawlers know what they’ll find on the page the link directs them to. The best anchor text is short, descriptive, and natural.
Another added benefit of internal linking is that it enables you to give your pages a search engine rankings boost. When one of your pages ranks highly on SERPs, you can link it to other, lower-ranking pages to improve their ranking.
Google says to limit your links per page to a reasonable number. But keep in mind, the more links you have on a high-ranking page, the less “juice” or “equity” it can pass along to lower-ranking pages. Each page has limited power. The more links you add, the more you dilute it.
Ensure your HTML is descriptive
HTML stands for hypertext markup language, and it’s a basic building block of your content. Even if you’re creating content with a CMS like WordPress, and you don’t see the HTML in your content, that doesn’t mean it’s not there. It’s just being automatically formatted.
When search engines crawl your content, they read what’s in your HTML — meta tags, headers, image alt text — to uncover the most important information on your page is. Here’s how to make sure they find what they’re looking for:
Create a compelling title tag
What you write in the title tag is what the title of your web page will be. This title tag tells both searchers and crawlers what your page is about. And it’s what searchers will see when your page appears on SERPs. It’s the main driver of CTR, so it should be written in a compelling way that makes users want to click. Here’s an example of a compelling meta tag from Brian Dean:
Your title should be an accurate but short description of the page’s overall content. Include your target keyword but don’t stuff it with others, and make sure every page title is unique.
Write an informative meta description
Your meta description is what appears below a title in search engine results. This briefly summarizes the page for crawlers so they can show it to users.
Even though meta description is not a direct ranking factor, it contributes to a ranking factor: CTR. And you can improve CTR by writing a compelling and informational meta description.
If you want to check for any issues in your title tags or meta descriptions (if they’re too long, short, not informative enough or unlikely to satisfy search intent), you can run the “HTML Improvements” report in Google Search Console. While you’re writing, you can also use this tool for a quick preview of what it will look like.
Describe your images with image alt text
For the visually impaired, image alt text is a useful form of HTML. It describes the content of an image so screen reading software can read it aloud. You should use image alt text for this reason alone, but there are other reasons to use it, too.
Alt text will also appear in place of an unavailable image when it can’t load or isn’t published. If the image is crucial to understanding the page’s content, its alt text will provide context.
Last but not least, image alt text helps search engines categorize your image. Since crawlers can’t physically see images, alt text describes it to them.
This can improve image search ranking (when people search for content related to your image), and also gives you an opportunity to add your keyword to another location on the page.
Keep your alt tags short, include a keyword if it’s relevant, but don’t overdo it. Your alt tag should be written like a full, descriptive sentence. If possible, also include your keyword in the image file. Like your alt tag, your file name should be descriptive, but it shouldn’t be written like a sentence. Instead, it should be more like a title or a label with dashes between words.
Organize content with header tags
Header tags organize content, making it easier to consume for both researchers and crawlers. The H3 header above “Organize content with header tags” is a subsection of the H2 “Ensure your HTML is descriptive.” Headers start broad and get more specific to indicate each is a subsection of the one above it.
When a search engine crawls these headers, it will know that each of the H3s in this section are a part of the H2 section “Ensure your HTML is descriptive.” And that H2 is part of the overall title indicated by the H1 tag “On-page SEO: The Quick Guide for Beginners.” It’s a quick and easy way for tech to understand content, and it’s also a quick and easy way to help users skim content to the section they want to read.
Keep your headers short, include a keyword, and use them any time you transition to a new or more specific concept.
Boost your on-page SEO today
Unlike off-page and technical SEO, the great part about on-page SEO is that you can do most of it yourself. What’s more, good on-page SEO can lead to backlinks and authority, which are major off-page SEO ranking factors.
Want to find out how you’re doing with SEO? Get an instant audit below for free. Or, schedule a quick consultation to see how intent SEO can boost traffic profitability by 700%.