Even though on-page SEO is a synergy of different practices, not all of them are equally important. As you can see from Moz’s Search Engine Ranking Factors Study, various SEO practices influence SERP rankings differently. Although domain-level and page-level link features continue to dominate the charts in terms of
influence, on-page SEO is becoming increasingly important. What’s more, as opposed to off-site SEO, which cannot be completely controlled by the webmaster, on-page SEO is more accessible.
I’ve seen newly-built websites that rank for competitive keywords with on-page SEO alone. These extremely niched sites rank well because they were correctly optimized from the beginning and contain only high-quality content.
How On-Page SEO Can Improve your Rankings
Multiple case-studies, including Backlinko’s impressive search ranking factors study, demonstrate that on-page elements, like site-speed & long-form content, play a crucial role in Google rankings. When it comes to on-page & off-page SEO, quite often, on-page SEO does not receive the attention it deserves.
That’s because it takes significantly less time thank link-building and plays second fiddle to off-page when websites are scrambling for emergency boosts in organic rankings.
On-page SEO should never be an afterthought. To minimize link-building efforts and help search engine crawlers correctly index your information, on-page SEO should be the foundation of your website. Here are 18 easy on-page SEO strategies that will help you boost rankings.
1. Perform a Quick Site Audit
Before you start doing anything on your site, you should perform a quick site audit. This will help you identify issues that are preventing your site from ranking well in SERPs. You can manually check a multitude of issues, and organize them in an Excel or PPT (for clients), or you can use a site auditing tool to quickly identify critical issues. Here are a few services you might want to check out:
· MySiteAuditor offers a free 10-day trial to new users. With this web-based tool, you can quickly run SEO audits and obtain your site’s SEO score.
· SemRush’s Site Audit tool – helps you identify on-page problems such as missing image alt tags, duplicate H1s, etc. You will need to set-up a SemRush account in order to use this feature.
· Seo Optimer can be used to instantly review on-page elements of your site (HTML header, body content, internal links, social media signals, etc.). The web-based tool will also suggest possible improvements for your site.
· SEOMator is another free auditing tool that will help you evaluate the performance of your site. To use it you must first register an account. With SEOMator, you can check HTML tags, internal links, content quality, structured data, page speed, readability, site structure, and more.
Once you have performed an SEO audit, you will know exactly which areas of your site require immediate attention.
2. Improve your Title Tags
These elements define the title of a document and are the second most important element of a page. Search engines use these tags in the preview snippet for a given page. This means that the title element of your pages has to be concise and accurate to improve SEO, as well as user-experience.
According to Moz.com, the ideal structure of a title element is Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name. However, one should not dismiss long, powerful titles that have a unique structure (e.g. Viral Marketing Case Study: 17584 Visitors in One Day – Backlinko)
Here are a few ways in which you can optimize your titles:
· Place focused keywords close to the front of your title. Multiple studies have revealed that, the closer the keyword is to the front, the better it will rank in search engines.
· Create compelling titles that will pull in more visits. You can do this with the help of emotional triggers, CTAs, numbers, etc. You can also rate your title using CoSchedule’s free tool.
· Be mindful of length. As I already said, search engines truncate titles that exceed a given length (512 pixels, approximately 55-60 characters). You can avoid truncation using SeoMofo’s snippet optimizer.
· Leverage Branding. Add your brand name at the end of the title for more exposure.
3. Organize Site Content with Heading Tags
Google recommends using headings tags (e.g. H2, H3, H4) to organize content and highlight various parts of a page. If your website doesn’t use the title tag as an H1 tag, you should also include an H1 at the beginning of the article/page.
Search engines use heading tags to determine what’s important within your content. The H1 tag is the most important heading in your content. Heading tag importance is hierarchical & defines the formatting of your page. Make sure you always write keyword rich headings in order of priority, starting with H1 > H2 > H3 > H4 to help crawlers index your pages.
4. Optimize URLs for SEO
URLs (Universal Resource Locators) are underrated assets of websites. When they are correctly optimized, URLs can add value to your keywords and improve user experience. URLs actually form part of the ‘ad’ that appears in organic results. Furthermore, Google automatically shortens longer URLs, to display them neatly.
The rules for URL optimization aren’t set in stone, but several case-studies have demonstrated that using complete dates for articles correlates with the freshness ranking factor. Furthermore, adding your category page before the keywords you are targeting, and using keyword rich URLs, will make it easier for visitors to navigate your site.
Avoid using confusing strings of symbols & numbers that are not self-explanatory.
Important Note: Never change the URL of published posts, as it will result in a broken link.
5. Improve Site Speed
Google has declared, on the record, that page loading speed is a crucial rank signal. Therefore, it is essential to improve site speed by compressing large images, using CDNs, switching to faster hosting, and solving code issues.
According to a recent study, slow page response times result in high page abandonment. In the world of digital marketing, every second counts.
You can easily check page speed metrics using GTMetrix.com, or Pingdom. Google has also created a Page Speed Insights tool that will show you exactly what you need to improve on your pages to make them load faster.
Recommended Read: Why a Slow Website is as Damaging as a Down Website
6. Optimize Images for Search
Using images within your content is a great way to make articles more appealing, and rank better in SERPs. Multiple studies have revealed that articles with images rank significantly better than those without.
However, crawlers don’t see images the same way we do. They use attributes such as ALT tag or Title tag to understand what the photo is about.
To optimize images for search simply add keyword rich descriptions to your ALT tags, use relevant Title elements, and add short descriptions to your images.
7. Categories & Site Structure
The placement of pages on your site is important to search engines. Ideally, all pages should be accessible within no more than three clicks.
Structure your site so that your pages & content are placed in categories which are relevant to the search terms that you are trying to rank for. Name your categories & sub-categories utilizing keywords that will benefit your content.
“The better your site structure, the better your chance of higher ranking in search engines. (…) If you are intentional and careful with your site structure, you will create a site that achieves search excellence.” Source: Neil Patel
8. Implement Breadcrumbs
Breadcrumbs are also necessary for your pages because they allow users to navigate your website easier. Breadcrumbs are a part of “site structure”, but I wanted to address them separately.
Many webmasters forget to implement breadcrumbs and, therefore, make it impossible for visitors to know how deep they are within the site.
Example of bread-crumbs: Home > Products > Gaming Accessories > Gaming Keyboards
9. Create Quality Content
A website with exceptional content and decent SEO has great chances to rank, but a website with thin content stands no chances in SERPs. Everybody knows that content is king, but what exactly is considered good content?
· Content that is published on your website first.
· Original content (no copies or re-writes) in the form of text, images, presentations, comments, infographics, videos, etc.
· Content that helps the visitor. Never publish content just for the sake of publishing. Before you hit the publish button ensure that your content will actually help the user.
· Content that is thought-provoking.
· Content that is well researched.
· Long-form content ranks better in search engines. According to Backlinko, the average length of top-ranking articles is 1890 words.
Creating high-quality content is a difficult task. If you don’t have the time or patience to create stellar articles for your blog, you should consider outsourcing your content creation tasks to companies like the HOTH that will also optimize your articles for search engines.
10. Check for Canonicalization Issues
“Canonicalization can be a challenging concept to understand, but it’s essential to creating an optimized site. The fundamental problems that canonicalization can fix stem from multiple uses for a single piece of writing that appears in multiple locations on one website or on multiple websites.” Source: Moz
Simply put canonicalization helps you avoid duplicate content issues and improve user experience. This problem is often encountered by webmasters due to default settings of common web browsers.
Fortunately, canonical URLs are simple to set-up. Read Google’s Search Console help article for more info.
11. Use Videos to Rank on SERPs
According to a ReelSEO study, 70% of marketers are optimizing their videos for search engines and, as a result, are experiencing huge engagement. If you’ve spent some time searching on Google, you’ve probably noticed that YouTube videos frequently appear on the first page of results.
Google gives huge preference to YouTube videos in SERPs. YouTube uses metrics such as views, likes, engagement, and average view duration to determine video quality.
12. Link to Relevant Pages within your Site
Adding relevant internal links to the beginning of your content will help you reduce bounce-rate, improve navigation and increase dwell time. Internal liking will also help you build-up the relevancy of your pages and rank better for targeted keywords.
There are several ways in which you can improve the internal linking structure of your site, such as permanent navigation links and contextual links. As a general rule, internal links should be placed on relevant anchor texts, and point to pages that are truly useful to the reader.
13. Validate your HTML code
Even the best written code can have errors. To ensure there are no HTML errors that are preventing your website from being correctly indexed, you should use the W3C validator tool. This tool will check validity for HTML, XHTML, SMIL, and MathML documents, among other.
14. Is your Site Mobile Friendly?
Only a few days ago, Google released the new mobile-friendly update, which will increase the effect of mobile-friendly page rankings, proving once again how important mobile optimization is. You can check your site’s mobile-friendliness using the tool provided by Google Developers.
15. Link out to Other Sites
Apart from linking to your own articles & pages, you should also consider linking out to external websites that add value to your website. This will help your users find relevant information and show other webmasters that you trust these sources.
If you have any doubts regarding the authority of a website you can simply add the no-follow tag to avoid passing link-juice. However, it is recommended to use the do-follow attribute for trusted sources.
16. Fix HTTP Response Code Errors
When accessing a server or application, every HTTP request is received by a server and responded to using a HTTP status code. These status codes consist of three-digits that are grouped into different classes: 1xx – informational, 2xx – success, 3xx – redirect, 4xx – client error, and 5xx – server error.
There are many situations that cause a web server to respond to a request with an error code. 4xx and 5xx, in particular, can have a negative effect on on-page SEO. You can identify these problems using the Screaming Frog Spider to crawl all your pages, or by performing a site-audit using SemRush.
17. Remove Broken Links
In its attempt to send users to quality websites, Google analyzes a multitude of page elements, including 404 errors. Too many broken links on your site will negatively impact user experience and, ultimately, SEO.
It may not look like much on the surface, but deep down, a broken link can result in serious damage to your site. Failing to fix 404s may determine deter crawlers from indexing your site.
You can quickly identify and resolve broken links by performing a complete crawl of your website, and replacing the broken links with new ones or redirects.
18. Be Consistent & Avoid Site Downtimes
The most important rule, when it comes to on-page SEO, is to be consistent. Changes in rankings don’t happen over-night, so you will have to constantly tweak different elements of your site to see what impact they will have.
Another thing you need to worry about is site-uptime. Despite the fact that every website will experience some downtime at some point, you have to anticipate these situations, and prepare for them as best you can.
Recommended Read: How Site Downtime Affects SEO Efforts
As you can see, there are a lot of factors that go into on-site optimization! Getting these right can dramatically affect your ability to rank and get traffic.
The other important factor that you need in order to rank is links to your site. These are the “votes” to Google that your site is relevant, popular, and authoritative. If you need any help getting links to your site, check out The HOTH.