SEO On-Page Search Engine Ranking Factors & Best Practices
On-page optimization refers to all of the elements on your website that you can control, from keywords and meta-tags to the less familiar elements of SEO. To really drive traffic to your site you have to maximize all on-page parts, not just the one or two elements that people talk about. By optimizing all of the on-page elements you can significantly increase your search engine ranking. However, this means learning a bit of HTML to improve the parts of the page that are in the background. Fortunately it is not as scary as it sounds.
To help you steer more traffic to your site and get a higher ranking by search engines, we’ve compiled all of the on-page components that you need to address.
There are three primary on-page factors that you need to focus on when you create or update your website.
There are a few elements that could be considered separately from these three main factors, but those are more advanced and will not be covered here.
Keywords are something that everyone knows need to be addressed for every page, but that is just a starting point for your content. You have to consider how the content is presented, meets a demand, and it must have links to other sites.
- Search engines “crawl” over a page and there are some things that they will ignore, which is why it is so important to make sure your content is displayed in a way that is easy for the crawlers to read. You want to make sure that things like keywords appear early in the content on the left side of the page.
- No matter how thoroughly you research your subject, you have to make sure that your content is geared toward meeting the current demand. This is why you have to set aside time at least once a year (preferably twice a year) to update your webpages. As demand shifts, so too does the content of your website to meet the latest trends and needs. This could be as simple as adding a video or two, linking to a popular website or article that provides details on a particular technology (Wikipedia is one of the best examples as their pages are frequently updated to reflect the latest information), or the spoofing on the latest meme.
- In regards to meeting demands, you are going to need links. The reverse is also true. You want to be one of the experts in your field and post that information on your site so that others will link to it. The more pages who refer to your site, the higher your ranking will be.
You will need to understand these before looking at the best practices for your content.
Tags are a newer element of webpages, but they can make it easier to make certain pages appear in searches. However, the most important tag is not new: the title tag. Title tags give each page a name, and that is where search engines look when they are pulling information to display for search results. Both users and search engines will end up analyzing the title tag to see if it contains the information that they need.
If you have ever created a webpage before then you know that the URL is very important. It needs to be specific to your business (something that becomes very tricky since many names have already been taken, for example, you might expect to find information on the Pope and Vatican at pope.com, but that URL was taken by a company long before the Catholic Church joined the internet). Your URL also needs to tell search engines details about each of your pages. If you work with airplanes and want your information page to be included in research about airplane history you will want to include that in the URL for the page: www.yourcompany.com/airplanes/history.
Once you understand these concepts, you are ready to start implementing the best practices.
Of course your content needs to be geared to people so that once they reach your page they want to keep reading. Keyword stuffing used to work for getting a better ranking, but you lose your audience when they realize you’ve written your page for machines, not people. Today keyword stuffing will likely get your webpage banned from the rankings anyway. Keep that in mind as you implement the following practices.
- Your content needs to be original. If you copy/paste information, the search engines automatically rank it lower (as well as your source) because it is less valuable than a page that offers unique information.
- Pages need to be broken down into specific foci. For example, if your business offers several services, break them up into pages of their own. This is not only better for search engines, but your readers will appreciate it.
- Make sure that each page has enough information without being overwhelming. You want to have at least 500 words, usually more per page because any fewer words and you really have not told the reader what they need to know. Search engines know that and will rank a page with little content lower than a page with more information.
- Your pages need to have a templated, easy to follow structure. Typically this means a site map on the side, content that is displayed as words (not imbedded in images), and with subheaders and lists. This breaks down information into manageable portions.
- Use language that matches the kinds of words users are likely to use for search. For example, someone looking for the best computer is going to enter something like the following in the search engine: “What is the best computer,” “What is the best computer for under $500,” or “Best ranked computers.” You need to know your audience so that you can gear your content to the way they think.
- Link to other sites (typically not your competition), and make sure you link to other pages on your site. This is particularly helpful if your reader goes through several pages and wants a quick way back to the Home page. It also helps your search engine ranking.
Site maps are not required, but they can really help your search engine score because they cover all of the keywords while making it easier to navigate your site.
One of the best optimized and consistently highest ranking websites on the internet is Wikipedia. Spend some time looking over the layout, structure, content and interlinking on any given Wikipedia page to get some good ideas.
Most tags are something that you need to worry about for your blogs, but the title tag is something you need to optimize right from the beginning. When you create the title tag for each blog make sure it includes the following:
- Ties back to the subject being discussed on the page
- If possible, use the primary keyword, then secondary keyword, and include your company name
- Keep it between 50 and 60 characters since that is what search engines tend to show in the results. This also means that your title is more likely to be displayed properly in the results.
Something that most people don’t realize is that you can actually add tags to your images, too. If you take advantage of these to add keywords, you will improve your ranking without having to stuff keywords into the content.
URLS are considerably trickier because so many have already been taken. This means you may need to be creative (which you could do when you name your company). Here are some things you should try to include in the URL if possible.
- The subject of the page (this is easier if your domain name [the first part of your URL] is your company name)
- Make it a logical progression, such as www.yourcompany/services/support. This helps the search engines understand the context of support (a service of your company). Perhaps a better example would be www.yourcompany/apps/games. This tells search engines to focus on apps games, not all video games, and should return those app games associated with your company.
While we could spend time recreating the wheel (or checklist), Clickminded has created a very handy checklist that has been successfully tested. They even included information on what is nice to have, their alternatives, and things you have to do.
There is a wealth of information available if you want more guidance on how to deal with all of the on-page elements.
The most popular and well know search engine gives advice or provides assistance you want to know. Google has done a lot to help. Although the page is a bit old, most of the information about site speed and search rankings still applies. They also create a Google-friendly page to help you understand exactly what their search engine looks for on pages.
If you have time after learning about the basics, you can get into the more advanced topics to really improve your ranking. They have added diagrams and examples to help you understand how the different on-page elements work in the background. They also have a page that gives details about SEO concepts that are no longer valid, which is handy to ensure you aren’t working under obsolete rules.