You’ve published many pages on your site and you’re finally seeing traffic in Google Analytics and daily rank activity in your rank tracker.
But how do you get your posts to perform even better?
The answer is on-page optimization.
In this article, we’ll give you a checklist that can be used to help your site’s content rank higher. We’ll also discuss optimization prioritization and present scenarios you’ll frequently come across as an SEO.
Let’s get started.
On-page optimization is the process of improving existing pages on your website to make it more attractive and understandable to search engines and users. The end goal is to have the post rank higher on the search engine results (SERP).
You can do this by optimizing the website elements such as:
- Page title
- Text content
- Meta descriptions
- Internal links
Unlike technical optimization which oftentimes requires developers, on-page optimization can be executed by anyone who has access to the site’s content management system (CMS).
If you are newer to SEO, first read Ranktracker’s guide to learn more about On-Page SEO to catch up on the fundamentals.
When your site has hundreds of pages, it can be difficult to decide when and which pages to optimize.
A professional SEO will face many scenarios in which they’ll decide whether a page needs on-page optimization, technical optimization or a complete rewrite. Below are 3 examples you could face:
In this situation, on-page optimization tweaks such as adding keywords or changing the title will do little to influence rankings. You’ve got to evaluate whether it’s a technical issue stopping your post from getting any impressions or whether you need to completely rewrite the content.
This scenario is a prime candidate for on-page optimization. If a page was ranking, that is a clear indication that at some point, the search engines trusted your content to send visitors to it. The reason it’s dropping may be because of new competition or outdated material. A refresh or update could get it back to its original place.
In this situation, you may want to consider technical optimization, because oftentimes, this happens because of cannibalization or indexing issues.
Now let’s say you have found many perfect candidates for on-page optimization. How do you prioritize if you lack resources?
Here is a suggested order of prioritization:
- Converting pages
- Brand awareness pages
- Low-hanging fruit pages
- Articles that need to be updated frequently
- Evergreen content
Bottom of Funnel (BOFU) content is the kind of content that’s supposed to convert prospects into clients / customers. Any drop in BOFU content rankings will hurt your bottom line and will be felt immediately.
Better rankings in these will boost revenue. So such content should always be your first focus for on-page optimization.
Some examples of such content:
- “Best of” Lists
- Landing Pages
Top of Funnel (TOFU) articles are geared towards bringing awareness about you and your product – not necessarily converting users into clients. Such content usually contains exploratory information that brings visitors interested in learning something about the topic or industry.
Generally, top-of-funnel content can have a lot more search volume and traffic. So it's important to prioritize optimizations, as any drop in rank will result in visible traffic decreases.
Top of the funnel content examples include:
- Blog posts
- How-to content
- Terms and Definitions
Some of your content might already be ranking on the first page of Google.
But they could be doing higher.
Focusing on improving these content positions is much easier than ranking entirely new content.
So keep a sharp eye on such opportunities, and add these pages into your optimization queue as often as possible.
These are the articles that keep getting new updates or requiring minor changes.
For example – Best Task Management Software
From time to time, there are industry changes in project management, such as brands being acquired, or new tools and features being released.
If you don’t update these posts regularly, they’ll be deemed irrelevant, therefore, lose rankings.
Depending on resources, set a reminder to update these articles regularly. For example: once a year or once a quarter for great user experience and for Google's freshness score.
Such content requires very little to no changes.
For example – How to Create a Form in Excel
Creating a form in Excel is not going to change any time soon, unless the features of Excel change drastically or Microsoft goes out of business.
When you publish such evergreen content and it performs well, it’ll drive you traffic for years, without having to worry about constantly required changes. These pages you will likely worry the least about for on-page optimization.
Now that we’ve determined which pages to start optimization, it’s time for the fun stuff!
Here are 8 advanced steps you should take to improve your page. My recommendations begin with the big picture in mind, and then narrows down into more detailed elements.
The best way to beat your competition is to be better than them – but what does this mean? Finding the faults of your competition requires many angles of examination. Read their content from the standpoint of your potential traffic and compare your page experience to theirs. Pay specific attention to elements such as:
- Missing content
- Page structure
- Comparison tables
- Table of contents
- Charts and graphs
- Pull quotes
- Click-to-tweet images
If there is a specific angle or type of content that would be more helpful to readers not covered by your competition, you may want to produce it. If you’re strapped for resources, there are AI content writing tools to help you produce unique content quickly and efficiently. On the other hand, you should also be very critical of your own content and decide whether there are any gaps covered by your competition that you’ve failed to address.
Generally, the first page of Google will cover similar points and the intent of searchers.
And when you’re writing on a similar topic, making note of these conventional points is important if you want to be seen as relevant in the eyes of Google. While Google does reward uniqueness, if your content is completely off-base, it can be a risky gamble, so it’s important to include points already covered in the search result.
Additionally, a quick sentiment analysis is necessary. If Google is serving mostly positive sentiment, it’s important that you consider these factors in your content. Although Google has made clear that sentiment is not a ranking factor, it nonetheless uses sentiment analysis in its NLP engine to understand phrases that make up a web page.
You can use Ranktracker’s SERP Checker to examine data from multiple angles, including domain and page metrics of ranking pages, keyword difficulty and the impact of current SERP features on the page.
Check for correct usage of header tags to clearly lay out your content. Although Google has made it clear it understands content regardless of which tags and how they’re used, it’s good practice for design and web development. Ensure you have a title tag which clearly identifies the main topic of your page, naturally including keywords, followed by H1 tag. The following tags–
H3, and so on – should be used to properly divide main ideas and subheadings.
Every article on your site should have a single primary keyword that you focus on. The page must not target several different keywords, nor repeat a keyword from another page.
What will happen when more than one page targets the same keyword? It will cause cannibalization issues – search engines won’t know which of the two articles from the same page to rank and will end up ranking neither.
On-page optimization begins with finding and noticing missing topic entities that are important to understanding the primary keyword completely. While you can do this manually, there are many content intelligence tools that can help you spot missing opportunities. For example, Ranktracker’s Keyword Finder can help suggest related keywords to your primary keyword.
In the good old days of SEO it was possible to rank posts by stuffing keywords and variants in content. However, this caused user experience and readership to suffer. This 2-3% recommendation is to make sure that there is no spammy stuffing of keywords in your content.
Primary keywords still help search engines recognize the main theme of your content. Use it throughout the content. The best way to do so – add the word 2-3 times for every hundred words. Don’t go over this limit, as it’ll cause keyword stuffing issues and possibly hurt your content.
In the early days of Google, it focused on keywords and phrases to find correct content. But thanks to machine learning, Google has gotten much better at finding the content users actually want.
Using Natural Language Processing (NLP), Google can now analyze syntaxes and sentiments and read alt texts to categorize the content better. This means that there is a host of related phrases and context to a primary keyword than just its semantically related ones.
The best way for us to optimize this, outside of using content intelligence tools, is to create compelling persona-based content, focus on conversational keywords, and answer FAQs.
Links help Google understand online content better. Relevant internal links to your site make it easier for web crawlers to associate related content. It also helps the user navigate to contextually relevant pages.
When possible, add internal links to other high priority pages on your site – and make sure the anchor text is the internally linked page’s primary keyword.
To avoid unbalancing your site’s internal link flow and for advanced internal linking analysis, we recommend you to check out Kevin Indig’s TIPR model.
(Source: Kevin Indig)
Linking out to authoritative sites that you’ve used to conduct research is important to demonstrate the trustworthiness of your article. Include relevant outbound links to authority pages when mentioning a resource or citing a source within your content.
In order to gauge whether Google agrees that a site is authoritative, you can use web page analysis tools such as the Alexa rank or Ahrefs Site Explorer to determine a site’s authority and traffic.
On the other side, you should also check your page for existing external links which are broken. We’ve all experienced broken links or clicked on a link that led to a bad gateway. This usually happens because of outdated or deadlinks. It frequently occurs on time-bound links – such as holiday offers.
Regularly check if your internal and outbound links are working properly. Remember – a good user experience is important, and links are part of that.
In your initial competitive analysis, you may have come across competitive results with better quality or more relevant media. Relevant videos, images and infographics will help your web page be more interesting to your readers – resulting in longer dwell times, a contributing ranking factor.
Use images relevant to the article or content you are discussing. As a first step, you can download stock photos from royalty-free sites such as Unsplash and then add branding elements in an image editor such as Canva.
Also, consider adding videos to support your articles. If done right, it will have multiple benefits. One, if embedded contextually in articles, it will increase dwell time of your page. Second, it’s possible that your video will start ranking ahead of text search results and if it’s a YouTube video, it will start appearing organically on that search engine. According to studies, 86% of digital marketers use videos to boost SEO.
To make the SERP results even more attractive, add schema markup to the page. This is extra code that lets search engines recognize specific categories within your page while also making it more enticing to users in the SERP.
Adding review schema to product pages will allow rating stars to appear in the Google SERPs.
Adding FAQ schema will showcase different questions and answers in a toggle format on the SERPs.
Pro tip - you can add a link directly in the FAQ schema to help drive traffic further down the funnel of your marketing channels.
This schema should help increase the click-through-rate of your content and visibility of your brand, as it occupies more of the Google real estate.
There you have it – the not-so-beginner on-page SEO checklist.
Revisit this checklist each time you revisit your old content. After several repetitions, you will find that it won’t hurt to proactively implement these steps before you post something new. By leveraging your on-page optimization muscles, you can make sure your hard work will consistently rank – the place where it belongs – on the top of the SERPs.