On-page optimization involves setting up all available elements on your web page to give the best chance of ranking in the search engines. There are a vast number of factors that go into determining the ranking position of a page, with many of them largely out of your hands. On-page factors, though, are different as you are in complete control. While there is no guaranteed formula – the complexity of the search algorithm prevents this – there are many steps that consistently bring results. In most cases, simply following the best practices of on-page optimization will be the best course of action.
The title tag of a page might be short in length, but it can have a major impact on rankings. Along with being the first thing a reader will probably see on the page, it influences whether your search engine listing is actually clicked. Even if you reach one of the top positions, a mediocre title will probably receive fewer clicks than a lower ranked site. A title in Google should be up to a maximum of seventy characters, with any subsequent words being replaced by an ellipsis. Use positive, power words to make your title stand out, ensuring it is descriptive enough to gain attention.
A permalink is the URL of a page, with most content management systems creating a permalink structure that is followed for each new post. If you decide to change your permalink structure at a later date, you will need to redirect URLs to their new location, so it is worth getting it right from the start. Simplicity is the key to good SEO when creating permalinks, with any complicated structure – often seen on ecommerce sites – potentially dissuading visitors. For blog posts with long titles, rather than include every word in the URL, shorten it by removing the less descriptive words.
A good domain name should be memorable, with the potential for becoming a recognized brand. Not too long ago, it was common to see keyword-rich, exact match domains. Due to frequent spam penalties, though, this method has fallen out of fashion. It is also wise to think into the future, with the possibility that your site might grow. Basing your domain around a small niche, for example, could see it made redundant if you increase your reach into other markets.
Content is important for SEO, whether you run a blog or ecommerce store. Ideally, you will post regular content, with an emphasis on quality and originality. There are examples of sites that have success by curating content, but it is far more common to see original content ranking. Low-quality or spun content will only ever bring short-term results, so always aim to provide value to your readers. In many tests, longer content will perform better than short articles, but the actual topic will determine this, so make the content clear and useful above all else.
Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) refers to words and phrases that are closely linked to your main keywords. These keywords are often synonyms, but they could also be words that can be grouped into a similar category. A quality keyword tool will provide a long list of LSI keywords while scrolling to the bottom of the search engine page for a keyword will provide a list of associated terms.
The growth of mobile devices means you have to factor this into an SEO campaign. In most niches, mobile search will provide a large proportion of all visitors. Making your site mobile-friendly ensures this area of the search market is accessible, with the market expected to grow in coming years. Using the Google Mobile-Friendly Test, it is possible to uncover any potential problems you could encounter across a range of devices.
Bounce rate measures the percentage of visitors who immediately click the back button after entering a page. A high bounce rate is a problem for a website, with the suggestion that visitors did not find what they were looking for. The search engines want to provide relevant content, so a high bounce rate can see your page lose its position. To maintain a respectable bounce rate, provide quality content, ensure it is relevant to the main keywords you rank for, make the page attractive, and add visible links to other popular articles or pages.
Slow loading times provide a bad user experience for visitors. If your site repeatedly takes too long to load, eventually you will suffer from poor rankings. The fact that slow page loading is a major frustration for people makes it inevitable that search algorithms will take it into account. Services like Gtmetrix and PageSpeed Insights will analyze a page, report the loading times, and suggest relevant improvements. There could be a host of reasons for sluggish loading, but common reasons include unoptimized images, coding errors, and a lack of caching.
Images and Videos
While it is not always necessary to fill a page with images and videos, there are some benefits from an SEO point of view. Images are always helpful for increasing the attractiveness of a page, making it more inviting for a visitor. An image, in the case of an infographic, can also convey a lot of useful information. However, make sure you use alt tags with clear descriptions of the image content. In the case of videos, they have been growing in popularity each year for the last decade, with the benefit of greater engagement and a reduced bounce rate.
SSL encryption is necessary if you run an ecommerce store, but it is also worth considering for other types of sites. SSL ensures the data passed between web server and browser is encrypted. For a site that deals with payments, the need for secure data transfer is clear. However, Google has been making clear that SSL is their desired technology, so there is likely to be an increased shift towards using the HTTPS protocol.
The Knowledge Graph is used by Google to provide quick answers to questions posed by searchers. Many search terms now feature a box at the top of Google with useful information, along with a link to the site providing the info. The information could feature a date, age, sports result, recipe, and much more. The knowledge database is growing, with Google attempting to quickly provide information for some users, while still offering the search results for those looking to delve deeper. To increase the likelihood of your site being used, try to compile the pertinent information into a short list. For example, a fitness site could describe an exercise using a five-step bullet point list.
Internal linking between pages is a great way to pass authority around your site. Your homepage will probably have the most trust and authority, but linking to internal pages will provide them with a boost. Internal linking can be a complex operation, particularly with large sites like Wikipedia, but an average site can use the technique to mainly promote pages they hope to rank for.
While outbound linking might not have a huge impact on ranking, it does help to indicate you are a legitimate site. Spam websites typically try to keep all their linking authority within their own site, so a willingness to link to relevant, authority sites is an indicator of trustworthiness. Not every page has to feature outbound links, but a citation to a referenced source can be useful.
Ecommerce Optimization Tips
On-page optimization for ecommerce sites poses unique challenges. Ecommerce sites typically want to focus on the product itself, but the search engines appreciate unique, text-based content. While it is fairly easy to overcome on an individual product page, it can be trickier on category pages that have various hierarchical levels. There are some best practices that, while taking longer to develop, will provide what the search engines require.
Try to include text on every page, aiming to keep it as unique as possible. Product descriptions should be detailed, but avoid just copying them from a manufacturer. Title tags should also be unique, avoiding the use of a boilerplate sentence that has a single word altered for every product in its category. Finally, try to encourage product reviews, so there is a steady stream of fresh content on your most popular pages.
On-page optimization alone will not be enough to ensure top rankings. On-page will always need to work in tandem with off-page, but on-page factors should be your starting point. If you begin a campaign without setting your site up effectively, you derail your efforts with everything that follows. Depending on the type of site, you might find optimization varies in small ways, but the majority of these tips can be adapted for every page you create. However, the search engine updates can be common, so pay attention to the variations that will naturally occur over time.