What Is On-Page SEO?
The question, what is on-page SEO, gets right to the heart of an SEO campaign. On-page SEO addresses a wide number of issues on your website pages, particularly pages that are targets of the SEO campaign — that is, pages for which you want to achieve high rankings.
On-page issues dealt with in the SEO campaign can be thought about in a number of ways:
- Content-related issues
- Links (both internal and outbound)
- Metadata issues (that is, page code read by Google crawlers but not always seen by human readers)
- Technical issues
- Web design issues
What Is On-Page Optimization — A List of Issues to Address
Let’s take a look at these on-page SEO issues in more detail.
- Content length. Word count is a much-debated issue within the SEO community. Generally speaking, when all other things are equal, the page with the highest word count wins in the organic rankings. Of course, “all other things” are never equal, so it’s hard to set definite SEO rules for content length. Google has said publicly that it wants to encourage long-form content (1,500+ words), but it is far from always the case that pages with lots of words outrank shorter pages. Common sense is a good guide for establishing word counts: If you think your prospects will be bored stiff with 1,000 words, use fewer words! After all, what use is SEO if your organic visitors never order or inquire? In some cases, words can be legitimately hidden from view to enhance SEO without interfering with readability (content should never be hidden with spammy techniques, however). For instance, detailed product descriptions can be designed to expand by clicking a “+” sign so the reader is not overwhelmed by a mountain of content.
- Internal links. A website’s internal linking structure should make links to the target SEO pages appear in the topline navigation whenever possible from a UX (user experience) point of view. Using keywords in the anchor text of internal links, especially in navigational links, is a good practice. Additionally, target pages should have the greatest number of internal textual links pointing to them, as this signals to Google that the target pages are important and valuable. Internal linking to target pages should not be overdone, however, as this would signal to Google that you may be attempting to manipulate the algorithm.
- Keywords in content. Today, Google can figure out how to match page content with relevant search queries without repeated insertions of keyword phrases on the page. Generally, if the primary keyword appears in the page’s H1 title and once or twice in the first 150-200 words of content, that’s sufficient for SEO purposes. Secondary keywords should also appear toward the top of the page, and in subheads if it enhances readability.
- Keywords. Each target page of the SEO campaign should be optimized for a small set of keywords that are relevant specifically to that page. Sometimes companies err by trying to optimize a page for too many keywords. This will either confuse Google crawlers or make the web page so general in nature that it inevitably ranks poorly for search queries that are likely to produce conversions.
- Meta description tags. Meta descriptions are snippets of text that Google often displays under the link on its SERPs (search engine results pages). Meta descriptions are not a ranking factor, but they heavily influence click-throughs if they are written persuasively. Adding keywords to meta descriptions helps make the descriptions more relevant to the search, but strictly speaking from an SEO point of view, keywords in this area are not necessary. At minimum, all target SEO pages of a website should have unique, well-written meta descriptions.
- Mobile-friendly design. Google is putting more and more emphasis on mobile-friendliness, since mobile Internet access surpasses desktop access by an ever-widening margin. Most websites are best served by using a responsive web design — that is, a design that enables a web page to adjust automatically for optimal viewing on any size screen. It’s important to select a web development partner that understands SEO and the nuances of responsive design techniques. If the responsive design is executed poorly from an SEO point of view, it could damage a web page’s ability to rank well.
- Outbound links. Linking to external web pages is thought to enhance rankings, especially if those links are highly relevant and point to highly credible websites (as they always should). Sometimes, you have to weigh conversion issues against SEO priorities: Do you really want to send readers away from your product or service page when you want them to order or fill out an inquiry form?
- Page loading speed. Nothing infuriates a web visitor like a slow-loading page. For that reason, Google puts some emphasis on page-loading speed in its algorithm. SEO aside, it certainly makes sense to deliver a great user experience with fast-loading pages. SEO campaigns usually monitor speed issues and fix them. Slow pages can have any number of causes, from server issues to user issues to image delivery to overly complex page design.
- Title tags. Title tags, HTML code that describes the essence of a page’s content, are very important for SEO. Ideally a page’s primary keyword phrase should appear at the beginning of the page’s title tag. Each page of a website should have a unique title tag that is relevant to the page.
What Is On-Page SEO, and Beyond
There are several other SEO-related issues that campaigns must address and monitor, and yet it doesn’t end there. In addition to purely SEO issues, the best of the best SEO campaigns also pay close attention to UX-related issues and conversion rate optimization (CRO) issues, as they have an enormous bearing on the ultimate goal of SEO campaigns — conversions.
UX and CRO, like SEO, involve a wide range of issues. UX is primarily aimed at building web pages that deliver an enjoyable and productive experience for site visitors. CRO is primarily aimed at persuading readers to place online orders or submit inquiry forms. As we mentioned earlier, getting a ton of organic traffic from Google won’t produce any ROI if those visitors never order or inquire. If an SEO campaign does everything right in its own world of on-page SEO but the pages do a lousy job of converting, all may be lost.
On the other hand, it’s just as big a mistake for a company to put all its efforts into UX and CRO while ignoring SEO. In this situation — a common one — companies build beautiful web pages that nobody sees. Again, the marketing investment is wasted. SEO, tapping into the enormous market of Google searches, remains one of the surest ways to generate relevant site traffic that converts.
To discuss an SEO campaign to drive results for your business, contact us now or call 855-883-0011.