On-Page SEO: Step-by-Step Guide 2020
What is on-page SEO?
Internal site optimization is one of the most important components of the SEO promotion process. It includes several measures to correctly configure the resource parameters to maximize their compliance with search engine requirements. By analyzing them, the search robot determines the relevance of pages to specific key queries. To promote a page in a search engine, you need to ensure that it is as convenient and useful as possible for users. A properly optimized page should be informative for the user and technically correct for search engines.
The SEO optimization of a page can be divided into two main components: technical work and the content work. However, to properly and completely configure the page, you need to consider several factors that directly and indirectly affect the ranking. Later on in this article, we will look at each of them in detail, learn the basic on-page SEO techniques, and step-by-step on how to do on-page SEO correctly.
The Major SEO Factors on a Page. An On-page SEO Checklist
On-page optimization factors are the rules that must be followed when designing, creating, and filling an Internet resource with content. But, it is not so simple because Google does not disclose all of the principles of the search algorithm. It is necessary to prevent crawling the search engine to bring the site to the top of the search results, but we can use the algorithms that are known today.
During the process of indexing and scanning sites, the Google search robots use about two-hundred ranking indicators that relate to the site pages, domain, and numerous technical SEO factors. Let’s consider a list of the known and most important internal factors for web pages.
- Architecture. The structure of an Internet resource must be clear and understandable to both humans and search robots. When designing a site, make sure to follow the three-click rule; the user must be able to access any page of the Internet resource within three clicks. It is not easy to achieve this result in practice, but you should strive to minimize the nesting of pages and directories.
- Site Loading Speed. Google’s algorithms take into account how long a web page takes to load in the browser. For proper page optimization, you need to achieve the shortest possible download speed.
- URL-Address. When creating a site or individual pages, make sure that their URLs are simple and clear to users.
- Key Words are a very important search factor, so you should make sure that they are present on the promoted page in the right amount, place, and most importantly, that they are incorporated organically.
- Content. The site page must answer the user’s question and be optimized for a specific search purpose. Texts on the page should be unique, interesting, optimized for search algorithms, and useful for users.
- Mobile Version. When developing an Internet resource, you need to make sure that there is a mobile adaptive version of the site. Previously this factor had not been that crucial, but today Google takes this into account. This is done to make the site as convenient as possible for the eventual user, regardless of what device they use for Internet surfing. Read more on how to optimize a site for mobile devices in the Mobile Search article.
- Images. The pictures on pages must be optimized according to the search engines’ requirements.
How to do on-page SEO step-by-step. The importance of technical optimization
Technical optimization is what you need to start promoting an Internet page. An in-depth review of this process goes beyond the scope of this article; you can read about it in our Technical SEO Checklist For 2020.
The basis of technical SEO is the availability of the site for search engines. The search results are generated after sites are crawled and indexed, and then the results obtained by the search algorithms are analyzed. So first, you need to check whether the page is available for indexing. There are different ways to check the indexing of your site, the easiest way being to enter the site:domain.nn in the address bar, where “domain” is the domain name of the site, and “nn” is the top-level domain.
The Correct Site Structure
The process of designing a site structure is necessary since it will determine the ability to retain a user and the convenience of scanning and indexing. Ideally, the depth of the site structure should not exceed three clicks. This can be achieved through the proper use of navigation and contextual links. Here is an example of the correct structure for an Internet blog:
A site-map is a useful tool for large-scale Internet resources, as it is necessary for correct searching and indexing of pages by search robots. It is a file that has all of the site’s page addresses.
Internal linking is a connection between pages in the same domain using links. It can be used to solve several problems, such as:
- Increasing the relevance of promoted pages.
- Keeping the user on the site, thus increasing the number of views and behavioral factors.
- Transferring static weight to the desired page of the website.
- Speeding up indexing.
To understand the practical application of linking, you need to consider its main types, which depend directly on the chosen promotion strategy. The most popular are these three types of internal linking, hierarchical, circular, and star type.
In the diagram below, the main page is marked with a yellow icon, the selection page is marked with the green icon, and the blue icons indicate content pages. Thus, this type of linking assumes that links from the main page lead to sections that, in turn, link to content pages. The latter transfers static weight to the main page.
In the star type of linking, all pages on the site link to each other.
Typically, this type is used to promote high-frequency search queries. The scheme assumes links to the main page from all pages of the promoted domain.
A cluster is a combination of elements with similar properties that can be considered as one. In the case of SEO optimization, a cluster is a combination of search queries of similar subjects for a promoted page. The cluster linking system is based on grouping keywords that are the most relevant to the user’s query.
The cluster content system is often used in blogging.
Consider the following structure:
The root page (topic) contains the rest of the pages with the content and topics of the articles. It hosts a high-frequency key request. The topic should correspond to the client’s general request.
The child-page (sub-topic) should contain more specific topics and detailed keywords with synonyms for them. Long detailed search queries on a specific topic are permissible, so the subtopic should respond to more advanced user requests.
Through clusterization, the search robots understand that the site has general and more specific information on a particular topic. Google has no issues seeing semantic links between pages. Also, using cluster linking allows the search algorithms to understand that the content is expanding in-depth. This positively affects the promotion of the domain in search results.
To create clusters correctly, you need to research key queries that compose a semantic core.
If you already have a website or blog, you must:
- Analyze keywords in Google Trend and Goole Planner. Record all the requests received on specific topics. Here is a related article- How to use Google Trends for SEO.
- Analyze existing content. Identify the words with a high search frequency. Sort all the available articles by topic to identify common categories and write articles on them.
- Select duplicate topics and combine them into one.
- Identify and delete all links that do not belong to the same cluster.
If a blog or website has just been created:
- Create a list of current topics. First of all, you need to define a common theme so that it can be further expanded with child pages in the future. To do this, you can conduct a study of competitive domains.
- Study the target audience’s opinion, while taking into account all complaints and suggestions, and analyze key queries.
- It is advisable to enter all of the study’s findings in a table, as this will allow you to effectively analyze the obtained data.
After completing all of the mentioned recommendations, you need to come up with plans for creating topics and articles for several months in advance. We recommend creating anywhere from five to twenty child pages for one general topic.
The Number of Links to the Page
The number of internal links depends on the length of the article. The main rule for placing links is to do so naturally, conveniently for the user, and not to allow spam. Analyze the content on the site, see if there is any material with a similar topic, and link them. This will make the resource more interesting and help you to longer retain the user. For how to do this correctly, see our article, Website Content Audit.
The main purpose of internal linking is for proper and convenient navigation. Anchor text is the text link that you can click on and go to the desired page. It is useful for both users and search algorithms. Anchors help you to understand the topic and purpose of the page that the hyperlink points to.
In this example, the anchor text leads to a blog page with an article about subdomains and subcategories. This way, the user will know exactly where the hyperlink leads. Additionally, this will be a signal to the search algorithm for ranking on this request. John Mueller, a Google employee, hinted on Twitter that the anchor text is an important ranking factor.
According to him, anchor hyperlinks can transfer part of the page weight. This is not surprising, because the anchor text’s influence on the page rank in a search engine is also mentioned in the Google patent.
The importance of the anchor text is confirmed by another one of John Mueller’s tweets:
He informs us that Google uses both anchor text and alternative image text in its algorithms, which we will discuss later in this article.
A problem emerges, which text should be written for hyperlinks?
Types of Reference Texts
- Branded. In this case, the brand name is used as the anchor text.
- Accurate. It represents an exact search query.
- Anchor text with diluted key phrases. You can dilute the text in any way, for example, by using synonyms in the beginning, end, or middle of the query. The permutation of words is allowed.
- URL- Address. Such text is an ordinary Internet address that can be seen in the browser’s address bar.
- Random Text. Such anchors consist of plain text without key queries. It has been recently recommended not to use them.
You need to choose a combination of different types of anchor texts depending on the chosen promotion strategy and domain specifics.
Here are several recommendations for correctly constructing anchors:
- Diversity. Do not use one key query per page. Use common sense and create clear and convenient content for users.
- Do not focus too much on the number of keyword occurrences. A well-crafted thematic text for people will already contain the necessary phrases.
- Create competent and readable content that will interest and benefit the user. Otherwise, even with the necessary search queries, the page will be negatively evaluated by search algorithms.
Page Loading Speed
The page loading speed is an important ranking factor for obvious reasons. According to statistics, users do not want to wait more than 3-4 seconds for a page to load. After this time, they will leave the site and go to a competitor, this will negatively affect behavioral factors.
The page loading speed indicator should be taken into account when designing and developing a site. A page should not be overloaded with content and scripts.
Google provides PageSpeedInsights, which is a convenient tool for checking download speed. When using it, keep in mind that the final result is displayed only for one specific page and a specific device. In other words, the page loading speed will differ for desktop and mobile devices. Additional statistics are also available for analysis, in particular, the speed of the first content rendering, the first input delay, the total layout offset, the total baking time, etc. For example, let’s analyze the loading of the main page of the site Semrush.
You might need special skills when working with HTML hypertext and cascading CSS style sheets to fix all of the technical issues. However, some points relate specifically to SEO optimization.
Using caching in browsers gives a significant increase in the speed of loading internet pages. At the first download, all the elements are saved in the cache and subsequently loaded from it without re-downloading. Additionally, there is a server-side cache mechanism. It involves saving the result of a query to temporary storage on the server-side. Thus, there is no need to process each request, and the already saved result is sent from the cache.
Recently, the popularity of CDN technology has been growing. Using a content delivery network enables fast data exchange on the Internet through a group of servers distributed around the world. CDN is significantly different from web hosting because it does not provide data storage. Its main function is to cache content on the border of networks, which contributes to a significant increase in the speed of loading a web page if the request comes from users from geographically remote areas.
The advantages of this technology include:
- Permanent domain availability. The reason for the malfunction of the Internet resource can be from both failures in the equipment and large volumes of transmitted data. CDN solves this problem thanks to the servers distributed around the world. The network is not as susceptible to hardware failures as the source server. It also helps you handle large amounts of traffic.
- Speeding up page loading. The reduction of the loading time of a web page is caused by the distribution of content to servers located near the user.
- Increased security. The content delivery network enhances security through improved security certificates and DDoS attacks.
- Reducing bandwidth cost. Website owners are forced to pay their hosting for bandwidth. A CDN optimized by the caching mechanism requires fewer data from the source server, thereby saving the owner of the Internet resource money.
Adaptability is the ability of pages to display correctly and without distortion on mobile devices. This factor significantly affects the search results. For example, the top of a Google search may differ depending on the device used for the search. Whether sites display correctly on certain devices depends on their optimization.
Many online services allow you to check an Internet resource for adaptability. In the case of an issue, you should contact developers and designers who will work together to create a beautiful and responsive mobile design.
The Impact of Page URLs on Search Ranking
A properly-composed page URL allows the user and the search algorithm to form an idea of its content. The main rule for creating a page address is a brief and understandable statement of its essence. Also, it is good practice to use keywords in the URL that a particular page is promoting. Let’s look at the general rules for creating a URL.
- Brevity and accuracy. The overall appearance of the page’s web address should respond to the user’s query as well as possible and characterize the content for the search engine.
- The use of keywords. The URL should contain the main keyword that the page is ranked by. Google reads keywords and understands the overall theme of a page.
- Use hyphens to separate words. It is considered bad practice to use underscores, spaces, and other symbols to separate words.
- The use of lowercase letters. Using capital letters, as well as the excessive use of parameters in the page URL can sometimes cause problems with duplication and tracking.
The URL of a web page is an important factor for search engines, therefore, filling it correctly can increase the site’s position in the search results.
Before creating new pages and filling them with content, it is important to research key queries for the selected topic. The results will help you determine what words customers use to search for content and the final goal of the search.
Today, Google uses a modern self-learning algorithm based on Google RankBrain that takes into account previous search results to maximize the satisfaction of users’ search goals. All keywords are divided into four categories:
- Commercial. They are used by online stores, links for such queries should lead to the sales page.
- Informational. They satisfy the purpose of searching for particular information.
- Navigational. They help the user navigate the site and go to additional pages.
- Multimedia. They are used to search for images or videos.
You need to select certain categories of key queries, per the selected promotion strategy and site specifics and research them.
There are several ways to begin your research:
- Create the correct site structure. It is possible to rely on it when compiling clusters of keywords.
- Write yourself a few keywords that best match the site content. Selected key phrases can be discussed with colleagues, for example, with employees of the marketing or sales department, and then make a final decision on how to use them on the page.
- Identify your direct competitors and find out what key queries are used on their sites in texts, URLs, and meta tags. Many online SEO services help you find competitors through related articles, in particular, semrush.com. You can read more about how to analyze competitors and succeed in site promotion in the SEO Competitive Analysis article.
- Create key query clusters for landing pages.
- Choose one key phrase that best conveys the meaning and purpose of a particular page. It must be used in meta tags, URLs, and text.
Do not get too hung up on the density of search phrases in the text. The main rule is
that the text should be written for people, be readable, and interesting. If the page content is not of high enough quality, then all further promotional efforts may be in vain. Google’s John Mueller puts it this way:
The Length of the Text
You might have heard the opinion that you need to write a fairly long text to improve the page rating. However, according to many studies conducted by site owners and SEO optimizers, the optimal text length for a blog is between 1,000 and 3,000 words. Instead of talking about the number of characters, it is more valuable to discuss the openness of the topic.
It is necessary to work on creating content that fully answers the user’s questions. For example, there is no need to write long texts on a product page of an online store, simply provide the user with information about the product that is clear and specific. First and foremost, you should always be thinking about the site user.
It is good practice to structure texts by using lists, titles, and subheadings, as this significantly improves the readability. Moreover, often visitors do not read the entire text; they only select the important information from it. And this is much easier to do with a correct and convenient structure. Also, you need to ensure that you use an easily legible and popular font on the page.
The style and grammar play an important role in optimization. The best choice would be to use clear phrases that are not too long without complex structures. There are many free, and accessible tools available online for checking the style, spelling, and grammar of texts. You can learn more about what kind of assistance an SEO specialist uses in the Best SEO Tools article.
Image Files. Alt Tags
The image names on a site have great potential in SEO promotion. Google uses alternative image tags to determine what exactly an image displays. Well-crafted texts in the Alt tag can bring a significant increase in conversions in the site from informative images.
The creation of alternative tags is not limited to a banal description of the image content. The text should describe the images as clearly as possible. To learn more about how to design images and benefit SEO in the article SEO Images: 11 Perfect Tips to Optimize your Site.
CTR is the clickthrough index. An analysis of this indicator shows the ratio between the number of impressions of the link to a page in the search results and the number of users who clicked on it. To improve CTR, you need to see the display of the page in SERP. Find out all of the necessary information about CTR in the article Why is Click-Through-Rate Important?
To improve the page display, there are several important factors that you need to pay attention to. First of all, you should create a competent and clear title that corresponds to the content, 70-80 characters is considered to be the optimal length. If you use a longer title, Google will cut the extra characters, and the user might miss important information.
You have to use the description meta tag, otherwise, the search algorithm will add any other text that is on the page to the description. Generally, such texts are not optimized and do not provide a detailed understanding of the content. In the description, you should provide a more detailed response to the user’s query using previously selected search queries.
In SERP, the correct title and descriptions look something like this:
Analyzing and Monitoring Completed Works
For effective SEO optimization of the site in search engines, you need to periodically monitor the dynamics of promotion, analyze the results that have already been obtained, and plan for future work. For this, SEO reports are regularly compiled with all the information about the internal and external optimization of the web resource.
The report on internal optimization should include an analysis of incoming traffic, keywords, behavioral factors, and bounce rates. A well-written SEO report is the key to successful website promotion. You can read about how to properly compile a full promotional report in the SEO Report article.
To summarize, it should be noted that correctly executed internal page optimization is an integral part of the overall SEO promotion process. You can achieve a significant increase in the position of the domain in search results even without resorting to external optimization. See for yourself, apply all of the knowledge you gained from this article to your website or blog.