So you want to know how to best optimize your pages so they can start ranking for the keywords you want.
You already have great content in place but you want more people to read it.
The question is – how do you optimize your content in a way that Google understands what it is about and realizes that it deserves a spot on the first page?
That is the age old dilemma isn’t it?
And the answer is simple if you don’t complicate things for yourself.
This article is the only guide you will need to optimize your pages in a way so you don’t go too far with it, but also making sure that you are doing enough. That goldilocks zone is where you want your website to be.
But before I run down the list of things you need to do, lets take the time to understand what on-page SEO really is all about. Once you have this understanding, you will realize that it is pretty simple.
What is On-Page SEO?
On-page SEO or optimization is the practice of optimizing specific pages on your website targeting specific keywords so they end up ranking higher on Google and start getting more organic traffic.
It involves creating HTML tags like title tags and meta descriptions and strategically placing your keywords in important places on that page.
Even though most people think that this is outdated, it still works.
Google has gotten way smarter at finding out what a page is about, but you need to make sure that you guide them through your page and tell them exactly what it is about.
The good thing about Google getting smarter is that you don’t have to repeat your exact match keywords several times on the page. Google can recognize what keywords your page should rank for and it is starting to do a pretty good job of it.
That’s what I love about SEO. As long as you are providing value to the people and making their lives better, Google will make sure that you get the exposure you need. And it is only getting easier as time goes on.
Now that we know what on-page SEO is all about, lets get into the steps you need to take to make sure you are putting your website in the best position to rank on the first page.
1. Search Intent Is the Name of the Game
Search intent is all about what people are looking for. If they are searching for “buy protein powder” you can’t rank a page that talks about the pros and cons of taking protein as a supplement.
Think about it, people who are looking to buy protein powder have already made their decision. They are just looking for the best brands that will deliver the quality they are looking for.
That’s the search intent of the people.
Now think about Google as a scout looking for talent. They want to rank pages that sell whey protein. They will rank product pages like this –
Or product category pages like this –
My point here is that you don’t have to guess what the search intent is. You can just search for the keywords you are trying to rank for and see what kind of results show up on the first page. That is the search intent.
So if you can make a similar page on your website targeting that search intent, you will rank too.
Also think about it from Google’s perspective. Their entire business model relies on them serving the best results to people searching for whatever they are looking for.
If they can’t do that, the search engine wouldn’t exist.
2. Place Your Target Keyword in the Title, H1 tags and Meta Description
Hang on a minute Nabil, you just said that it is 2021 and Google is smart enough to recognize what your page is about. So why do I have to add keywords in those places?
I know what I said.
Here’s the idea behind placing keywords in the most important places on your page – it is not the end all be all of on page SEO. But it is a good practice to do that because it makes things easier. Not just for you but also for Google to recognize what your page is about.
Not just that, it makes sense to have your keywords in there because that is what you are talking about.
Take this blog post for example.
I am talking about on page SEO for beginners and I have that exact keyword in my title. If I didn’t have that, you wouldn’t know what this blog post is about. And you wouldn’t click on it.
But, here’s another important point:
You don’t have to have your exact match keywords in those places. You can use other keywords, synonyms, stop words, etc. to make it grammatically correct. Google is smart enough to recognize those keywords and connect the dots.
Back in 2008, you had to have the exact match keywords because Google wasn’t smart back then. Now it is smarter than ever.
The main thing you should focus on, is having your content on point.
Having good content that people read and apply will tell Google that you are providing actionable advice/value to people. And your page will end up ranking for more keywords that you expected. No page that ranks on the first page of Google ranks for just one keyword.
In most cases, they rank for 10,50,100 or even 1000+ keywords. And it isn’t possible to have all of those keywords in your title, meta description or H1 tag. Heck, you don’t even have to have them in your content to rank for them. Google can recognize that your content is valuable for those keywords and it will start ranking it on its own.
3. Optimize Your URLs
Here’s an important concept that you need to internalize – Google reads your page and wants to understand what it is about at first glance. That means, you have to have a URL that is descriptive, but short.
Check out this URL, tell me if you can make out what content is on this page by just reading the URL:
Can you tell me what that page is about?
How about this URL:
You can tell that that page is about our London office and the SEO services we offer in that city. This is an example of a descriptive URL. By just looking at it, you know what it is about and what you can expect from it.
Descriptive URLs do exactly what it means – they describe what the page is about without the person having to click on the link. And a good side benefit of it that you can include your target keywords in them.
But Nabil, my current URL structure doesn’t allow me to create the type of descriptive URLs you are suggesting. Should I restructure my entire website to optimize for this?
If your website is new and you don’t have a lot of content on it, then it is worth it to take the time to restructure your entire website. It will pay off in the long run.
But if you already have a lot of content, then don’t worry too much about it.
Here’s what Google’ Jon Mueller says about it:
“I believe that is a very small ranking factor. So it is not something I’d really try to force. And it is not something I’d say it is even worth your effort to restructure your site just so you can get keywords in your URL.”
4. Your Content Should Be Simple and Readable
At the end of the day, you are writing for real people and not search engines. And Google looks at signals like how long people are staying on your website, whether they are interacting with your website or not, etc. to see if the information you have on your page actually valuable or not.
So if the content on your page is difficult to read, it wouldn’t take much time for people to click on the back button and look for another website that offers the same information in a more concise and enjoyable to read way.
That’s not good for your website.
So, make sure that your sentences are short, concise and does not have any fluff.
Avoid using big words that people will have to do another Google search to learn the meaning of it. They hate doing that.
Always keep things informal, unless you are writing a research paper. 99% of the people reading this article probably aren’t writing research papers. So make sure that you write how you speak.
5. Use Alt Tags For Your Images and Also Optimize Your Image File Names
Roughly 1 in 30 people that search for anything on the internet have a visual impairment. And they might be using a screen reader to help understand the information on that particular page.
When you add alt tags to your images, these screen readers will read that alt tag to your visitor.
So, the next time you are adding an image to your website, make sure you add alt tags as well and describe the image as if you are describing it to a blind person. Because you might very well be.
Not just that, you also get to have a nice side benefit of doing that – getting an opportunity to add your target keyword in one more place on the page. Just make sure you don’t overdo it.
6. Increase Your Page Load Speed
I know this is 2021 but there are still websites out that that take ages to lead.
The problem is, after a certain point the user might think that there is something wrong with their device or their internet. And if not, then they will just click the back button and go to a website that loads faster. Simple as that.
Google knows this issue very well and they wanted to fix this. So back in 2010 (Ghosh! I can’t believe its already been 11 years!) added page speed as a ranking factor.
Now, there have been studies that suggest that page speed is not a huge ranking factor as people make it out to be. But when it comes to SEO, all the small ranking factors add up to helping your website rank on the first page.
Just like every drop of water is important if you want to fill up a bucket. At some point that bucket will be full.
Now, you might not care much about search engines, but if we cut everything out from the equation and ask ourselves – why are we going through all this trouble? What is the end result that we want to achieve from all this?
The answer will be – more customers/revenue
And to have that, you need to make sure that your website loads faster because it is annoying to have to wait such a long time for a website to load. Even if the content on your website is top notch, people just don’t want to wait for it.
So how do I make my pages load faster?
Simple, you start with:
1. Reducing image size
2. Remove useless HTML
Remember, every code and character of HTML has to load before the website fully appears. This applies to people who know how to code and use the text editor instead of the visual editor in WordPress.
But, at the end of the day, try not to obsess over improving your page speed. Definitely don’t try to go overboard with it to a point where you end up breaking your website.
That reminds me, for every change you make when optimizing your website for speed, make sure you take a backup so you can restore it to the older version if something goes wrong.
On Page SEO is more than just adding keywords in your title, meta description and H1 tags. It is about fulfilling the search intent of the people. Giving them what they are looking for.
And also balancing it with the things that Google values so you can keep both parties happy.