Google is constantly releasing updates for their algorithm; Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird ( funny names, but they had a massive impact on the SEO landscape ) were the most prominent.
Those algorithmic changes set the stage and tone for how SEO agencies like us have to strategise moving forward, building links, content marketing, and the anchor text we use for inbound and outbound links. Google has essentially set the parameters by which we can work.
Regardless of all these updates to the ranking landscape, one thing has remained constant; that’s the on-page side of SEO. All on-page changes are really for the benefit of the customer. On-page SEO changes are purely to make the user experience as good as it can be. Yes, most SEO companies focus on one thing, and that’s off-page SEO ( link building).
This blog is a business cheat sheet for making better on-page decisions.
Google wants to display sites in its search results that offer the user the best experience every time they visit your web page. The only way Google can measure this is by the length of time people stay on your site and the engagement level. Known as bounce rates, this is a crucial Google metric to measure how effective your on-page SEO is working.
I’m going to show you the crucial things to pay attention to in this cheat sheet.
Follow these, and you’ll have better rankings, happier customers and more dollars in the bank for you.
1) Website Speed
We all hate waiting for pages to load. Whether you in the car, walking or shopping, you want the information to load instantly. Waiting for a web page to render is a huge turn-off, and people will not stay. They’ll exit the site within a few seconds if it doesn’t open.
Matt Cutts, in his blog, has previously said that site speed was a huge ranking factor. But, times have changed, and speed is now a crucial ranking factor along with the usual factors like page authority, trust, link building, content etc.
A recent study on HubSpot stated that; website conversion rates drop by an average of 4.42% with each additional second of load time (between seconds 0-5). So you can see that page loads times are crucial, and believe me that Google knows this.
Check your website site speed here.
If it’s over a couple of seconds, you will have to get your developers to audit your site for any issues. There are some fixes you can do yourself if you have a WordPress CMS. The first thing I would do would be to uninstall unused plugins.
2) Tag Essentials
When was the last time you did a tag audit of your website? It would help if you looked at these closely as they are an essential on-page ingredient.
The main tags you have to pay attention to are:
i) Title tags: Moz explains title tags as; a title tag is an HTML element that specifies the title of a web page. Let me elaborate on this further. The main attention-grabbing heading tells the user the content of your web page. You can only have between 50-60 characters in your title, so make sure they are snappy, sales focused and to the point.
Plus, they have to be highly relevant to the content of the pages. If you write more than 60 characters, Google will only display the first 60.
If you have a WordPress website, it will create titles automatically but try to write them for maximum impact. I have seen WordPress mess up titles, so it’s best not to leave it to them to implement.
ii) Meta description:
You can see how a meta description looks here.
It’s 160 characters long, and it gives users more information about the web pages topic. Write naturally and never try to overstuff it with keywords in the hope of better rankings. Rather than spam the description with repetitive keywords, use synonyms to convey your message – this will keep the browsers and search engines happy.
For example, if your main keyword in the title tag is ‘commercial business loans’, you can use the following words in the description:
- Need fast cash for your business?
- Struggling to pay business debts?
- Free up your business with our quick loans!
Make sure you don’t duplicate title and descriptions. Try to be creative and remember that you can always change the description if it’s:
- not converting customers
- not working well on Google.
A point to note here is that in many cases, Google will write the description for you if it feels that your web page has some better content to offer the user. Its algorithm will display a more appropriate description if the current lack imagination or creativity.
For local SEO purposes, titles and descriptions are essential. You can see how effective they are for a client of ours, Doolan Wagner, that uses suburban titles and descriptions to rank in various suburban locations; Mosman, Neutral Bay & North Sydney. It’s a great way to expand your market reach. But make sure the content of each suburban page is relevant to that area.
3) Creating Content That Increases Search Traffic
Content is the cornerstone of any on-page SEO campaign and is the most vital component. Many SEO agencies go on and on about content is king, but it’s so much more than that. You have to write content that converts customers. You can’t publish ad hoc copy for the search engines. You need to write for the customer and make sure it sells to them. You have to write content that converts readers into paying customers – which is the best way to grow your online visibility.
When writing website copy, make sure you include relevant keywords that describe your business and a mix of long-tail words. The better and more relevant the content combined with a blend of all these keywords will produce better rankings as your copy will satisfy users search queries.
Nowadays, it’s a good idea to ask customers how they found you and what they typed into Google? This way, you can tailor content around their questions regarding your business.
Always be asking yourself these questions about the content you have just written:
- Is it useful?
- Is it helpful?
- Does it answer enough potential questions?
- Does it read well?
- Is it optimised for the keywords I need to rank?
According to Neil Patel: Content marketing works because you’re not just attracting visitors to your site and leaving them alone to buy something, hopefully. Instead, you’re sending a clear message that you are attuned to their needs and ready to help solve their problems.
SEO Sydney Experts Tip: Never scrape or plagiarise content from another site. Google will pick this up and devalue your page. I use Copyscape to see if people have used my content on their website.
Based on what you can see, isn’t it about time you gave content marketing some attention? It would be a game-changer if you prepared to invest the time and money into it. Decent copywriters are not cheap, but it’s worth every penny!
Excellent copy that creates lots of web traffic is what you and users both like. If you can generate tons of new leads with website copy, it’s a no-brainer. And, the aspect of copy that creates the most excitement is the user experience. The better the user experience, the more likelihood of higher rankings.
SEO Sydney Experts Tip: don’t write for the search engines. Only write for your customers. After all, they are the ones that will write the reviews, buy from you or make an inquiry. They are the end-game and the ones that will provide you with money. Write for them and not the search bots or spiders on Google, which is the best on-page SEO advice I can give you!
4) User experience
User experience or UX is the combination of graphics, content and website structure to help users find what they are searching for on your site. In other words, it’s all factors on the page that users can see. Get it right, and you will see the immediate benefits (this also includes site speed and load times).
It is now the buzz word of 2021 as users become pickier when browsing and shopping online. Brands have realised this and now rate the UX as a key driver in their on-page SEO marketing. And, let’s not forget Google. They have key metrics that can measure the user experience, the time people spend on your site and engagement levels, which I have previously discussed.
User optimisation is about answering search questions your potential clients might have.
For example, if customers are searching for “electric Toyota cars,” this is the wrong way to write your headline and introduction:
‘Cheap Electric Toyota Cars For People Wanting to Drive Electric Cars’
Do you want to buy electric Toyota cars which can save you lots of money on petrol? Our electric Toyota cars are the largest in Sydney with a massive choice of electric Toyota cars.
The above heading is spammy and not optimised for the user’s experience. It’s stuffed with keywords hoping to cheat Google. It’s doesn’t read well, and it won’t work. It’s painful reading it.
Buy your next Toyota electric car and see how much you’re helping the environment.
Want to save money and help reduce greenhouse emissions at the same time? Consider an electric Toyota car. 0 to 100 in 10 seconds as well! It’s the way of the future.
Can you notice the difference and how the second heading sounds more natural where we are not repeating the primary keywords? Bear this in mind when writing on-page copy. The main point to note is that you’re addressing the users search queries and the primary keywords; environment, petrol, Toyota cars.
Users will be more likely to click your web page because of these headings increasing click-through rates and eventually sales.
Copyblogger has written extensively on this and well worth a read to learn more about the correlation between on-page content and SEO benefits.
It’s not rocket science, and I really shouldn’t have to hammer the point home here, but the copy does matter if you want to convert customers and get better Google rankings at the same time.
Apple founder Steve Jobs knew better than anyone else that the user experience mattered the most. It’s not just the design but also the functionality. Give customers the best user experience, and they’ll keep flocking back. They are so loyal and will even recommend the brand to their friends. Isn’t this what you want for your business?
In terms of on-page SEO, you need to factor in the Panda Algorithm Update back in 2011. Panda penalised websites with low quality, thin pointless copy. You can see the difference in top-ranking pages now versus low ranking pages. The quality of the on-page copy is massive.
Panda hit so many websites hard and shook up the SEO world – for the better! SEO agencies realised that you couldn’t achieve decent rankings without creating copy for the user.
If you want to see better Google rankings, business owners must consider four vital components of your content.
i) Avoid low-quality content: A no brainer. Crappy, repetitive low-quality copy with no substance except to spam Google is no longer justifiable.
ii) Avoid thin content: Don’t think for one minute that 200 words of quality copy will suffice. It’s not that easy. If you want to help improve the chances of ranking the main page on your website or blog post, you need to ramp up the word count. Most people dread writing lengthy copy, but articles will need to be around the 2000 word count to have any impact.
Yoast articulates it well when they tell us: Defining text length is quite obvious: it’s how long your text is. But why does it matter? Well, you have a higher chance of ranking in Google if you write long, high-quality blog posts of 1000 words or more. We’ve also experienced this ourselves; we have written quite some articles that are over 2500 words. They are cornerstone content, and they help our organic traffic grow.
Check the length of this article I’ve written and how detailed it is. You have to put the effort in to reap the rewards on Google. It’s taken me well over a week to write this, but this is now the landscape of Google, and you have to roll with it. 95% of the blogs I write nowadays are well over 1000 words – and I encourage my clients to do the same. By being consistent with this blogging technique, I have improved my online visibility by over 500%.
iii) Keep content fresh: The percentage of content on your web page that has to remain fresh is critical. Google now prefers to rank updated content, news updates or the latest trends. When it comes to your on-page SEO, you must go into old blogs, pages or articles and give them a refresh or update.
Google even has its freshness algorithm. Search Engine Journal states: It’s vital to update your website with new content, primarily if users rely on the site for current information, making perfect sense. Why would Google display pages that are not relevant to the search when others are?
If your business is in a niche that requires regular updates based on current trends, you will be busy. You can search what people are looking for at Google trends.
What are you supposed to do for your site to enhance its freshness score with Google and eventually get more users?
It’s simple. You have to keep updating pages throughout your site with fresh content. For massive sites, this can be a monumental task. You have to check pages receiving the highest search volumes and update them with the latest news.
Don’t forget that Google can measure a pages freshness by the date it was first published. All pages have a published date, yet some so-called clever SEO people try to short circuit the freshness process by adjusting the published date, which is a risky move. Google is aware of this, and if you do this too often, you might penalise that page.
SEO Sydney Experts Tip: spend the time and effort to update pages with fresh copy that are getting lots of traffic. It will only benefit you. Spammy techniques are so 2000’s! Get over the possibility of trying to spam Google and manipulate rankings – it doesn’t work. Invest the energy ( even if you have to pay for it ) to tweak and freshen up old pages with useless information. I like to do say 1 article every week. This way, the task is not so impossible. This slow and steady attention to your website will attract Google’s spiders to keep coming back and reindexing the site.
iv) Content engagement: You have to create content that engages users. What do I mean by this? It’s making copy that you know your audience want’s to read. A client of ours ( Bali Villa Escapes) is continually crafting excellent copy that holidaymakers want to read and find interesting. They even had their youtube channel to connect with their audience. During COVID, they are a tad quieter on the copy, but they continually keep clients updated about reservation status, which audiences want to know about right now.
If you can align the pages content with the user’s needs and requirements by answering their questions, you will satisfy both customer and search engines. Once you have created the story or narrative, you can then post it on your social media platforms. Chris from Curtis Associates does this effectively. He’ll write a post: Here’s why property buyers need in-depth advice on Sydney’s secluded Northern Beaches. Then publish it on his LinkedIn page for maximum impact.
If you’re stuck for content ideas, I’ve written a post about Tools To Help You Write Blogs. HubSpot has also come up with a nifty blog writing tool to help you get those creative juices flowing. Check it out here.
5) Optimising Crawlability
I’ve stated many times that SEO is not rocket science. You just have to comply with specific rules, and you’ll be doing fine. They are simply the:
- Link building
Crawlability allows the search engines to index pages on your site. If they can’t crawl the site, they can’t rank it. All web pages need to be crawlable by Google. Failure to comply will hamper rankings. So make sure your on-page audit targets broken internal links.
Content has been fully detailed above. But in the context of SEO, your website is not a set and forget proposition. You have to be working on the content all the time. Ignoring it will give your competition an unfair advantage. When writing copy, think about what the customer wants to read rather than what you think Google wants. Makes sure you remember this point; great content will enhance the user experience and encourage sharing, which is the best way to help with organic rankings—a massive on-page asset for your business.
Also, interlinking between blog posts and pages is mandatory as this helps spiders crawl the site as search engine spiders follow links – this is their job.
SEM rush tells us that crawlability plays a significant role and is a crucial ranking factor for SEO.
We need to look at ways to make your website more easily crawlable for search engines.
Your URL Structure: The URL structure has massive implications for allowing the search engines to crawl your site. A clean URL structure goes a long way in helping search engines understand the site structure.
You can mention the word ‘blog’ in your blog URL structure in the URL preceding the topic’s name. And you can have the name ‘services’ in the URL before the name of the service. In this way, people can easily see where they are on the site, and so can Google. You can see how we have created the URL structure, so it’s clean and easy to understand. The photo below tells us that one of our service offerings ‘Google penalty removal’ sits under the services tab and this is reflected in the URL structure.
Moz tells us that; It should come as no surprise that the easier a URL is to read for humans, the better it is for search engines. They have also created a detailed page on 15 SEO Best Practices for Structuring URLs. A must-read for those that take their SEO seriously and want to be informed.
SEO Sydney Experts Tip: when you create your URL, you should make it 3 – 5 words separated by a hyphen (-) makes it easier for people to remember. Plus, make sure that the URL is specific to the content of that page.
Crawl Error Resolution: Crawl errors occur when a search engine tries to reach a page on your website but fails at it. To help search engines crawl your site better, you have to eliminate any crawl errors. If you encounter a crawl error on your site ( your Google Webmaster Tools will tell you ), don’t panic. All you need to do is fix them. Moz tells us how to How to Fix Crawl Errors in Google Search Console. Crawl errors will seriously harm your SEO efforts, so get it fixed asap.
6) Mobile-Friendly (Responsive)
People use mobile phones when they search all the time, so it comes as no surprise that Google places value on mobile-friendly websites over those that are not.
Yahoo small business tells us that; A new report released by BaseKit has shown that a surprising 91% of small business websites are not optimised for mobile use. On April 21, 2015, Googe rolled out a whopping algorithm that penalised sites rankings that were not mobile optimised. They stated that: We’re boosting the ranking of mobile-friendly pages on mobile search results. So, if your website is not mobile-friendly, then as expected, your orders will end up suffering.
SEO Sydney Experts Tip: Google will place more emphasis on sites that have been mobile optimised moving forward from 2021. Don’t expect to curry favour with Google if you’re not bothered to make an effort to cater for the mobile audience. Responsive websites are a massive on-page ranking factor, so please don’t ignore this! The reason being, the uptake of mobile search is growing every year, according to Smartinsights, which tells us that 5.22 billion unique mobile users, making up 66.6% of the global population.
To check if your websites are responsive, go to Google’s mobile-friendliness test tool.
The Wrap Up
I’ve written so much about off-page SEO ( backlinks etc.) that it’s refreshing to compile everything you need to know about the on-page factors in one concise blog.
I focused on the off-page elements, mainly but I have ( over the last couple of years ) realised the value of content and user experience as huge parts of the whole internet marketing field.
I KNOW many SEO agencies in Sydney will only talk about link building as their core SEO strength, but that’s complete trash. I reckon and stand by this 100% that what you do off-page will have far-reaching consequences than simply link building. Sure, links are great and essential, but that’s just one component of the SEO pie.
Most B2B and B2C marketers are beginning to understand the need to implement basic on-page SEO practices. You need to commit yourself to this process, however difficult it may be. The results will yield tremendous benefits and deliver all those dreamy new clients.