In the first two parts of this guide, we covered the basics of SEO. You now have a general understanding of what Search Engine Optimization is and how Search Engines work. You also know that the holy grail of SEO is to rank on Google’s first SERP – that’s why we’re here after all. On-page SEO is an absolute crucial part of your SEO strategy.
The following eight on-page SEO tips and tweaks will equip you with the necessary knowledge and tools to start your SEO journey. Just click on the topic that you are interested in. Bear in mind that this journey will usually be a long (and never-ending) one. Patience you must have, young padawan!
What is on-page SEO?
On-page SEO is all about optimizing your website for better search results. We will look at certain factors on your site that you yourself can control to enhance user experience (e.g. clean website code & design, high-quality content, appealing visuals, etc.).
As you know by now, increased user experience results in higher Google rankings, which in turn results in more visitors. You should therefore absolutely take note of the following 8 on-page SEO factors and make sure that you cover each of them for your own website. It’s your website and it’s also your content, so you better make sure to get the most out of it!
1. Site Speed
What is your reaction when you open a website and loading of that site feels like eternity? Chances are high, you will leave the website quickly and open the next best search result. If this would be your website, you would’ve just lost a visitor.
Various experiments identified a clear correlation between page load speed and business success:
- The BBC noticed that, for every additional second a page takes to load, 10% of their users decided to leave.
- When Pinterest managed to decrease perceived waiting time by 40 percent, the results were a 15 percent increase in SEO traffic and another 15 percent increase in conversion rate.
Make sure to scan your site with Google’s pagespeed insights. If your site is in the red you should have a look at the suggestions Google provides. However, there’s no need to chase a 100% rating – user experience should be your top priority. Don’t over-optimize.
Your title is the first thing a user sees in the search results on Google. If the title is convincing and matches search intent, the user is more likely to click on your website. The quality of your title plays a crucial role for Google’s algorithm and has a direct effect on your ranking. We therefore recommend to always include your keyword into the title of your page. Additionally, you could experiment and include so-called modifiers into your title as well.
Modifiers are words that searchers tend to include in their search query. Think of words such as “best”, “review”, “guide” or even the year (e.g. 2020). Include these into your title, you’re increasing the chances that a user actually clicks on your link.
Headlines should spark interest and grab attention. Whereas titles are what a reader sees on Google’s search result, a headline is what a reader sees on your website at the beginning and throughout your article.
If your headline is not interesting enough, the reader is less inclined to continue reading your article. Nowadays, we tend to scan through texts rather than thoroughly reading them. Headlines provide the reader with an overview that allows to quickly decide whether the content is interesting or not. Make it count!
From Search Engine Journal’s tips on headline writing, we feel that the following 4 tips are particularly effective:
- Use your keyword phrase (or its synonyms) in headlines
- Stick to the point – be precise
- Use numbers (e.g. “TOP 5 tips for headline writing…”)
- Include a Call to Action (CTA) if possible (i.e use active voice: read, explore, understand)
Also try using strong adjectives (e.g. amazing, terrible, mind-boggling, etc.) or negative words such as STOP (“stop doing these 5 things to be more productive”) or WITHOUT (“without these 10 words, your headline writing will boost conversion!”).
Never stop experimenting and see how your audience reacts. Headline writing is a crucial part of on-page SEO and determines the success of your content. For more interesting details head over to BuzzSumo and check out what makes a genius headline.
4. Meta Description
The meta description is a short (preferably max. 160 characters) summary of the content the reader can expect. This part shows in the Google search results and impacts user experience and ranking. Make sure to include your keyword but don’t make it seem unnatural. If your keyword doesn’t fit in, you can always use synonyms or latent semantic indexing (LSI) to show that your content is of high quality and matches searcher’s intent.
Links are a crucial part of your on-page SEO strategy. We distinguish between internal and external links. Internal links connect from one page or post on your website to another. They are crucial as they keep users engaged and help Google to crawl pages. In part 2 of our SEO Guide, we describe how Google’s bots scan the web for links to follow to create the Google index. Creating internal links is like giving Google breadcrumbs to follow along on your website – so whenever possible make sure to use them!
External links on the other hand connect your site to other websites. You might want to link to interesting websites that provide content on a specific topic (like we did it in this article), refer to statistics or just give credit to a source you used to create your content. External links are important as they increase your content’s credibility. Remember when you had to write a scientific paper at uni and had to use citations? It’s kind of the same with external links. It shows where you got your information from and it provides a level of trust among Google and eventually your readers.
Many seem to forget about URLs. Too many times, we see URLs that are messy (URLs that are just a bunch of letters, numbers and signs; e.g. “example.com/?2p=289”) or with no direct connection to the content of the page (e.g. “example.com/marketing-page-2”). Apart from the effect on your SEO performance such URLs also impact user experience.
Try to include your keyword in your URL (e.g. “scienceanddonuts.com/seo-guide”) to further support user experience. Avoid using dates as this will signal Google that your content is only relevant at or for a specific time. Especially when you are creating evergreen content, you always want your content to remain relevant to Google.
Make sure your website is safe! All your pages on your website should use an SSL certificate (indicated by the “https” in front of your domain name). Since a few years, SSL certification is a ranking signal for Google. If your site is not SSL-certified, your ranking potential might be significantly affected.
You are NOT creating content for Search Engines. And you are also not writing a scientific PHD thesis. You are writing for an audience that wants to read about a certain piece of information – usually as quick as possible. When it comes to providing this particular information, you want to make sure that key findings are spotted easily, and your text is well structured and appealing to look at. Would you prefer a single block of 1000+ words or would you rather read a nicely structured text with paragraphs, headlines, images, and some bullet points? Exactly…
That’s why we strongly advise you to pay attention to the following:
- Tone of voice: are you writing for children, athletes, software developers or expecting mothers? Knowing your audience will make it so much easier to find the right tone of voice.
- Sentence structure: write short and simple sentences that are easy to understand. You might be writing for athletes. But there are amateur athletes and pros that would like to enjoy your content. Make sure all of them will be able to understand your content.
- Structure: Include the most important information in the top part of your text. In journalisms this is called “inverted Pyramid” – it gives the reader the opportunity to quickly read through the most important information and if they decide to make a deep dive, they can continue reading the entire text . Make use of white spaces that separate your text into digestible chunks.
- Headings: Many SEO specialists will tell you things like that you should only use one H1 heading because everything else will negatively impact your ranking on Google. We agree that you should utilize headings (usually from H1 to H3) for structural, aesthetic and readability reasons, but we think it is debatable that headings have a negative or positive effect on your Search Engine ranking. Why? Because Google said so… Yes Google’s ability to understand the structure of texts came a long way.
- Active voice: This will automatically help you to construct simple and easy to understand sentences. Active voice will also create a stronger bond between you and the reader; when you address your audience directly (“You can buy this awesome product now at our shop”) it’s much more engaging than saying “This awesome product can now be bought at our shop.”
- Images: Images or other visuals are super important for your content. We humans almost always favor visuals. Maybe because we process information from visuals 60,000 times faster than text? Images also break up your text and support the message of your content. Think of images as some sort of a checkpoint for your eyes to rest in between paragraphs.
When it comes to choosing the right images, we recommend using your own photos or graphics – they are simply more engaging and, well, more original than stock photos. However, if need be there are also some high-quality platforms that offer royalty free images that you could use for your content such as Pexels or Unsplash.
8. Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)
What sounds like a fancy scientific formula, actually is a fancy scientific formula (as far as we understand it). In layman’s terms, we would describe LSI as Google’s ability to understand the context of a piece of content and identify alternative keywords that also point in the same direction as your main keyword phrase. Take for instance the search “how to fix a bike tire”. Based on Google’s expansive database, the search engine recognizes other keywords and topics that might be relevant for your search term.
Under “people also ask” (before the organic search results) or at the end of the page at “Searches related to …”, Google suggests other search terms and topics that it deems interesting based on your search query. In layman’s terms, this is LSI and utilizing it as part of your SEO strategy will help to understand your topic better and create content that ranks higher.
If you follow all our recommendations, you are one step closer to ranking high on Google’s SERP. As Google is constantly updating its algorithms and bots, we are also constantly updating this SEO guide. If you have any questions regarding on-page SEO, please reach out via Social Media. We’re more than happy to get in touch!
And stay tuned for our next chapter the SEO guide: off- page SEO.