Understanding On-Page Search Engine Optimization

  • 33 min read
Understanding On-Page Search Engine Optimization

Table of Contents

Intro

The most important aspect of your website is that it’s able to answer your readers’ questions accurately and succinctly. It should include commonly asked queries as well as detailed answers to them. This, in turn, encourages readers to spend more time reading your page or may even trigger them to bookmark it. Both of these are great for your Google search ratings!

You could have the best-written page in the world, but if it’s not ranking, then it won’t matter, and nobody will see it. On-page search engine optimization involves carefully planning out each page to ensure that it provides the most value to readers and ranks higher for specific keywords.

In this article, we’re about to give you a complete, in-depth guide to the technical aspects of on-page SEO. We’ll explain simple methods and implementation that you can start using today to make your site rank higher than ever. Let’s dive in!

Defining On-Page SEO

The whole point of on-page SEO is to get your content and your webpage to rank higher in Google’s algorithm. The algorithm is incredibly smart and is focused on one thing and one thing only: bringing the highest-value content to searchers.

What makes for a high-value piece of content, you ask?

High-value content features things such as strategically-placed keywords, proper use of headers (h1, h2, h3, h4), clearly-defined questions and answers, internal links to your other webpages, external links to reputable sources, relevant images, and lack of grammatical errors.

If you really break it down, a page with great on-page SEO is something that you would enjoy reading and would answer your questions.

How To Target Keywords

The first (and most important) aspect of on-page SEO is targeting your keywords. Keywords could be single words (e.g., “sandwiches”) or longer phrases (e.g., “best sandwich shop in NYC). In a nutshell, they’re what people are typing into Google’s search bar to get answers to.

Maybe somebody wants to figure out how to fix their car or perhaps they’re looking for a nearby lunch spot. It all starts with a simple search bar query, otherwise known as a keyword.

The more people are searching for a keyword, the higher-ranking it is. Some keywords have hundreds of thousands of monthly searches (high-competition keywords), while others may only have a couple of thousand monthly searches (lower to mid-competition keywords).

The higher the competition for the keyword, the more you’ll have to employ on-page SEO tactics to get your page to rank. However, if you can get your page to rank on page 1 or 2 of Google results for high-competition keywords, you’ll be rewarded with tons of traffic!

In this section, we’re going to explain the difference between primary, secondary, and supporting keywords. We’ll also give you a few helpful tips that you can use to research keywords!

Choosing Primary Keywords

Primary keywords are the big-hitters. They’re the high-competition keywords that you’re really trying to rank for. Examples of a primary keyword could be “Italian food.” If you use a keyword research tool, you’ll see that “Italian Food” has hundreds of thousands of monthly searches in major geographical locations.

If you want them to be effective, primary keywords also need to be used in congruence with secondary and supporting keywords as well. Following along with the “Italian food” primary keyword, you may use “Best Italian restaurant near me” as a secondary keyword and “Vegetarian tortellini” as a supporting keyword.

The latter two keywords have a lower search volume and are more niche keywords that help separate your page from the numerous other pages using the same primary keyword.

Tips For Researching Keywords

Now that you better understand how keywords work and why they’re important, here are a few tips that you can employ to research and find the right keywords for your page.

  • Use a Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets spreadsheet to track potential keywords and keep them organized.

  • Do some initial brainstorming and try to put yourself in your readers’ shoes. What would you type into Google if you were trying to find an answer or search for something? Make an initial list of these keywords in your tracking sheet.

  • Check the competition! Look at your top competitor’s pages and check the keywords that they’re using. It may be a good idea to steal a few. Some keyword tools even analyze your competitor’s pages for you.

  • If your site is already ranking for certain keywords, then it’s a good idea to re-use some of them on your new page. After all, they’ve already been bringing you solid, reliable traffic, so why not take advantage of the fact that you’re already ranking for them?

Ranktracker’s Keyword Finder Makes Research A Breeze

If you want to take your keyword research to the next level, then our Keyword Finder tool is a must-have addition to your SEO toolkit. Once you’ve identified your niche or a primary keyword that you think may do well, you can use the Keyword Finder to check how well it’s performing.

Additionally, you’ll also be able to see a list of related keywords. This will allow you to build a good preliminary list of primary, secondary, and possible support keywords as well.

You’ll be able to see the average monthly search volume, check their performance in different countries, how trendy each keyword is, and the average CPC (cost-per-click) which indicates how competitive the keyword is.

Making Keyword Decisions From Your Research

So, by now, you should have a long list of potential keywords that you’ve put together from your research and brainstorming. Now, here are some tips to help you narrow down your list.

  • Step 1: Analyze your site and Google and see how it ranks compared to the competition. This will give you some good starting metrics.

  • Step 2: Use a keyword tool or Google’s Keyword Planner to research top keywords and analyze the keywords that get the best results in your geographic locale.

  • Step 3: Try to use primary keywords that are directly related to the services or products your site/business is offering. E.G., if you’re an Italian restaurant, you shouldn’t try to rank for keywords relating to French food or Spanish food.

Use Ranktracker’s SERP Checker For Detailed Keyword Analysis

While using our Keyword Planner is a great place to start researching keywords, it doesn’t quite give you the in-depth “look under the hood” that you need to figure out if each keyword is worth your time or not.

However, our SERP Checker will give you all of the juicy details you could ever want about every single keyword. You’ll be able to check each keyword for various data, including:

  • Keyword difficulty.

  • Top competitors for the keyword.

  • Local SERPs results.

  • The amount of backlinks top competitors have.

  • … and more!

Picking Secondary Keywords

Now, it’s time to pick out some secondary keywords. These are sub-categories or less-commonly searched keywords. Let’s say that your primary keyword “Italian food” gets 500,000 monthly searches. A good secondary keyword could be something like “Handmade pasta” which gets 5,000 monthly searches.

The combination of high-quality primary keywords with relevant secondary keywords will guarantee that your page ranks well. It will also trigger the Google algorithm to see your page as more authentic and helpful.

The best way to find good secondary keywords is to look up ‘related searches’ to your primary keyword. You can also use the Google Keyword Planner to find lower-competition keywords or Google Trends to find hyper-relevant and trendy secondary keywords.

Last But Not Least… Supporting Keywords

Supporting keywords are the most detailed form of keywords. The main goal of supporting keywords is to support your primary and secondary keywords with even more relevant results.

For example, let’s say that your primary keyword is “Video game store,” and your secondary keyword is “Vintage games.” Some hyper-detailed supporting keywords could be “Mint condition Nintendo64 games,” or “Where do I find SEGA Genesis games?”

To find supporting keywords, it helps to better understand the niche market that you’re selling or advertising to. This may involve perusing through Sub-Reddits, online forums, or looking at top questions asked on Wikipedia pages.

The more that you can put yourself into the mind of your niche shoppers, the better you’ll be able to work on your on-page SEO to ensure a higher conversion rate and reduce your bounce rate (how quickly people leave after visiting your page).

Understanding Silo Structures (And Why They Matter)

Silos are a way of structuring and organizing website content. The Google algorithm gives more authority to websites that have well-organized structures that interlink to one another.

A good website should have a great home page as well as some solid parent pages that define the main intent of your site, the main products or services offered, and outline the theme. After that, you’ll have a number of child pages, which could be blogs, niche articles, etc., related to your main theme.

For example, here’s a good example of an effective silo structure for an NYC food blog website:

  • Home Page: Well-laid-out, easy to read, hits primary keywords, plenty of pictures.

  • Parent Pages: Detailed “About Page,” a Main Blog Page, “Mission Statement” page.

  • Child Pages: Individual blog posts, niche articles on top NYC restaurants, street food, authentic recipes, etc.

A good silo structure would interlink the articles to each other as well. For example, you might link to your “About Page” or “Main Blog Page” from your homepage. From those parent pages, you might showcase or interlink several key child pages such as blog posts of the month, etc.

A good silo structure could be, www.NYCFood.net/blog/best-pizza-in-brooklyn.

Your individual blog posts or niche articles would also link to other related blog posts. Let’s say that you wrote a big article on the “Top 10 Italian Restaurants in NYC…” You might interlink to several, smaller blog posts on “Best Pizza in Manhattan” or “Best Italian Pastries in Brooklyn.”

The more interlinked your site is, the more it appears to be a relevant, valuable website that can answer multiple questions about a related topic, theme, or product/service.

Often, the goal of the child pages is to rank for niche secondary or supporting keywords. Visitors will first see your site thanks to these niche keywords. Then, they’ll eventually be led to a target page, which could be your home page, an online e-commerce store, or a contact form, where you’ll actually convert your viewer into a customer, client, etc.

Outlining Your Webpage

A well-outlined page is one that is more organized, easier to read, and thus ranks higher in the algorithm’s eyes. Outlining can be done by interlinking various sections of your site with hyperlinks at the top (similar to how Wikipedia offers links to various sections of their articles).

It can also be accomplished through the effective use of headers (h1, h2, h3, h4) to outline how sub-topics fit into the main topic.

Using Headers Effectively

Great web pages are easy to read and follow. A large page with a bunch of block text and no detailed headers is complicated and confusing to read and understand. You should make use of h1 and h2 headers for the main topics of the article and use h3 and h4 headers for the sub-topics or sub-sub-topics of the article.

Generally speaking the more “H Tags” you have in your article, the more organized the page’s information will be and the better it will rank.

Where Do I Place Keywords?

So, by now, you should understand a bit more about how keywords affect on-page SEO, the various types of pages (target, parent, child), and why it’s important to have well-organized silo structures and web pages.

By now, you’re probably wondering “Where am I supposed to place my keywords?”

You should intersperse your keywords out periodically throughout your page and should avoid “cramming” them in a section. So, that being said, your keywords should be spread out in places such as:

  • Your page’s title.

  • H1, h2, and h3 headers.

  • Bolded text, underlined text, italicized text, and image captions.

  • HTML and meta tags.

  • Body content.

The more your keywords are relevantly and cleverly spread throughout the article, the more authoritative the algorithm will rank it.

How Are Pages Ranked By The Algorithm?

Most SEO experts agree that there are four primary elements used to rank a page based on its on-page SEO: keyword placement, contextual terms, total word count, and keyword variation.

In this section, we’ll show you what each of these means for your on-page SEO efforts.

Keyword Placements and Variations

Your primary keywords are the top 1-3 major keywords that you’re using to rank your site. As we discussed above, they should be placed throughout your site in headers, titles, body content, links, tags, etc.

In addition to varied placement, you should also have keyword variations. These are various small edits to your keywords. For example, if your main keyword is “coffee shop,” you would want to include variations such as “coffee shop near me,” “authentic coffee shop,” or “coffee shop in [insert area of town].”

Contextual Terms

Contextual terms are certain keywords and terms that could potentially relate to the topic at hand. For example, your coffee shop website might have blog posts with terms like “single-origin coffee” or “soy milk latte.”

These contextual terms are kind of like the supporting keywords we discussed above and give greater relevance to your site by showing that it’s an authority in the topic.

What’s The Best Word Count?

The total word count of your articles and posts is an important factor the algorithm uses to determine your page rank. You want your page to be long enough for viewers to spend a few minutes reading the page, but short enough so that they don’t immediately leave out of sheer fear of reading an extra-long article.

Generally speaking, a word count between 1,000 and 1,500 is good practice for articles and parent pages. Smaller sections or mini blog posts should be at least 300 to 500 words.

Generalized Approach To SEO

SEO doesn’t have to be hard (nor should it be). In fact, most people who hire overpriced SEO “experts” are wasting their money on something that they should be easily able to do themselves. Sure, it’s great to hire experts for the more in-depth details. However, general SEO is as easy as 1-2-3.

Here are some tips for basic SEO that anybody can do:

  • Start by outlining 3 primary keywords for your whole website.

  • Then outline 10 secondary keywords and supporting keywords that you want to include in individual blog posts, articles, etc.

  • Brainstorm interesting, relevant topics and questions relating to your products, services, or the topic of your site.

  • Write 1,000 to 1,500-word articles and blog posts on your site that include primary and secondary keywords interspersed throughout.

  • Make sure that posts and articles are interlinked to other child pages, and parent target pages.

  • Make sure that posts are organized using h1, h2, h3, and h4 header tags.

  • Include text variety by bolding, italicizing, and underlining some keywords, terms, and answers to questions. Don’t go crazy, but a thoughtful bolded text or italicized word here and there does a lot to improve overall readability and SEO ranking.

Frequently Asked Questions

Sorry, if this has been a lot to absorb. We recommend bookmarking this page, as you’ll almost certainly want to come back and read through it periodically.

So, before we go any further, we figured that we’d take a brief pause to answer some commonly asked questions about basic SEO and on-page ranking tactics.

Unique Content Vs. Duplicate Content: What’s The Difference?

One of the biggest ways to destroy your site’s ranking (in a bad way) is to create duplicate content. The algorithm hates copycats and plagiarism. While it’s okay to draw inspiration from or use a similar article structure as other sites, you never want to copy/paste exact duplicate content.

What’s The Best Word Count For E-Commerce Sites and Pages?

Earlier, we mentioned that using 1,000 to 1,500-word articles is the best approach for blog or informational-style articles. However, e-commerce sites aren’t meant for readers; instead, they’re meant to convert and convert quickly.

If you have an online store, you should be fine writing smaller 400 to 500-word product pages, blog posts, and parent pages. Your main focus as an e-comm store should be on creating clear, easy-to-read pages that encourage visitors to buy your product with minimal reading.

How Important Are Grammar And Word Choice?

One of the least focused-on aspects of on-page SEO is grammar! However, it’s also one of the more important details. The Google algorithm crawls through each and every web page, examining keyword usage, page hierarchy (use of header tags), links (external and internal), and grammar.

This means you should always put your articles through a spell-checker or a grammar-checking tool like Grammarly. You should also avoid using too many of the same words and terms over and over again.

Free SEO Tools You Can Use

There are several free SEO tools that you may consider using to help with your on-page SEO and keyword planning. These include:

  • Google Adwords Keyword Planner (Helps determine primary and secondary keywords as well as search volume for keywords).

  • Grammarly (Checks the grammar and spelling on your pages).

  • SEO Quake (A Chrome plugin that analyzes competitor’s pages for internal and external links as well as on-page SEO).

We definitely recommend using all three of these if you’re just getting started and you’re trying to get some great on-page SEO for your website and web pages.

Ranktracker’s Tools Vs. Free SEO Tools

If you’re just getting started and you’re trying to do some preliminary research, using free SEO tools is a good way to get a lay of the land. However, Google’s free SEO (and other third-party SEO tools) often don’t provide the detailed metrics that you need to evaluate a site’s performance.

For example, if you use Google’s Keyword Planner to search for a specific keyword, it will just display a range of data for monthly search results (e.g., “between 10k and 100k monthly searches”).

Our Ranktracker Keyword Planner, on the other hand, will show you an accurate number of the monthly search volume. When you search for a keyword, you’ll see details like “95.6k monthly searches.”

Good SEO is all about exact numbers and metrics. At Ranktracker, we understand that!

Performing Advanced Keyword Analysis And Research

By now, you should have a basic understanding of how keywords work and why they’re important for your on-page SEO. However, there are a few advanced analysis tactics that you may need to employ in order to get the most accurate view of your page’s SEO, such as:

  • Lost keywords.

  • Cannibalized keywords.

Lost Keywords

Lost keywords are keywords that your page or site ranked for in the past, but doesn’t rank for anymore. This can be the result of a web page title change, a decrease in popularity of the keyword, a Google algorithm update, an on-page glitch, or a new competitor in your market who boosted your site out of the top-100 results.

If you’ve lost your ranking for these keywords, there are ways to get them back. You just need to do a bit of work.

One of the best ways to recover lost keywords is to write more high-quality content and articles using the lost keywords. You can also restructure and better organize your silo structure where the lost keywords were located.

Last but not least, double-check your articles that ranked for lost keywords to ensure that there aren’t any outstanding errors or corrupted pages.

Keyword Cannibalization

This happens when too many pages or posts on your website use the same exact keywords. This is why it’s important to vary your pages using unique secondary and supporting keywords.

When you use too many of the same keywords on too many pages, the algorithm can’t determine which page is more relevant and which pages to rank higher. Therefore, it just down-ranks all of the pages that are causing it confusion.

The best way to fix this is to identify the pages that are triggering the cannibalization and have been recently down-ranked. Then, switch some of the similar keywords out for more relevant supporting keywords and re-write parts of the article to create a newer, updated article with better keyword choice.

Wait 30-60 days, and the articles should start to rank higher thanks to better keyword variety.

What Is An SEO Page Audit?

A page audit is basically an analysis test performed on individual pages of your site. It consists of four main parts:

  1. Discovery - The Google “spider” finds your page listed on Google search results.

  2. Page Crawl - The algorithm “crawls” through your page to examine the structure, grammar, possible plagiarism, links, keywords, and relevancy.

  3. Indexing - As long as your page follows the key Google rules, it will be indexed for other web users to find on Google.

  4. Ranking - Once your page is indexed and public, the Google algorithm will assign a rank to it based on its performance in the areas we’ve discussed above.

Below, in this section, we’re going to give you a comprehensive guide on how to perform your own on-page audit to make sure that your pages are performing up to par.

How To Perform A Full On-Page SEO Audit

All web page audits should be performed based on Google’s heavily-documented Google Webmaster Guidelines.

If you’re down for some heavy reading, you can view Google’s guidelines here. They’re basically a comprehensive set of best practices that webmasters (site owners) should employ to ensure that their pages comply with Google’s regulations, local laws, and algorithm ranking processes.

Now, you may be thinking, “What about the other search engines?”

Well, truth be told, Google is the biggest, most advanced search engine in the whole world. In fact, most of the updates that Google makes to its algorithm are mimicked and copied by other search engines. So following Google’s guidelines can help you rank through other search engine results as well.

In this section, we’re going to give you some of the key “cliff notes” that the guidelines dictate. We’ll break down how on-page SEO audits are performed, how they relate to the GWG guidelines, and what you can do to ensure that your audit goes smoother.

Check it out!

Breaking Down The Stages Of An On-Page SEO Audit

Above, we discussed the key stages of an SEO page audit. They include:

  • Finding/Discovery.

  • Page Crawl.

  • Indexing.

  • Ranking.

  • Branding (which we didn’t mention above).

To help you better understand how audits work, you need to have a good understanding of how each of these aspects contributes to the larger audit and your overall ranking. Let’s take a look.

Page Discovery

The first step of any page audit begins with the page discovery itself. During this process, the auditor (either you or the software you’re using) will simulate discovering the page for the first time.

The page’s ease of discovery, malware, glitches, security, etc. will all be analyzed before any of the actual content itself is analyzed and crawled through (which is step 2).

Here are some tips and tricks you can employ to ensure better page discovery during an audit.

Google Analytics

As a webmaster, you should make constant use of Google Analytics tools. After all, they’re FREE, and they can give you tons of info on your site and its individual pages. Simply embed your Analytics link on your page and within 24 hrs any performance issues, keyword data, etc. will be ready for you to view from your Analytics dashboard.

Sitemap

The sitemap lists every page on your site, its parent pages, child pages, and where each page is located within the master site folder. There are two types of sitemaps that you should have to increase your page discovery: XML sitemaps (which are submitted to Google for better page mapping), and HTML sitemaps (which are readable text sitemaps that viewers can see).

Instructions (Meta Robots)

Meta robot instructions are HTML “instructions” that are given for the indexing robots to follow and can help improve your page’s ranking and discovery. Examples of instructions could include “index,” “archive,” “follow,” or “do not follow.”

Robots.txt

There are some pages on your site that you don’t want to be indexed, such as your main admin page, private databases, etc. To prevent the Google crawler from indexing these pages, make sure these pages contain a [robots.txt] file.

Use Rel=Canonical Tags

From time to time, it may be necessary to have a backup or duplicated copies of a page. By using a canonical HTML tag (rel=canonical), you can indicate which page is the master copy, so that the other duplicate pages aren’t indexed, causing algorithm confusion and down-ranking.

Page Security (HTTPS)

It’s 2021, and your page should be using HTTPS security protocol. Without going into too much detail, this provides an added layer of security to your visitors, thus increasing ranking and the possibility of discovery.

Malware

One of the first things the Google crawler will check for is obvious malware. If there is any malware on a page, then it may not be ranked and your entire site may be penalized.

Redirects With ‘www’

Make sure that your visitors can get to a page on your site without typing ‘www’ before the URL. For example, if a visitor types “abc123.com” it should redirect to the same page as if they typed “www.abc123.com”. This can be accomplished with a www redirect and is done automatically by most site-building platforms.

Page Crawling

Now, that we’ve addressed some of the issues and concerns in the discovery phase of your audit, it’s time to discuss the page crawling aspect of your audit. This part mostly has to do with the structure of your site and its pages. Below, we’ll discuss common structural concerns and tips you should be aware of.

Potential Structural Issues

Potential structural issues could arise when your HTML, CSS, Javascript, etc., aren’t working together. It could also arise from browser compatibility issues. Here are some of the most common structural issues associated with sites and web pages:

  • HTML/CSS: If the HTML or style sheets have a glitch, it can cause your page to be down-ranked. Double-check all pages for errors using a console or code validation test.

  • HTTP Errors: These are errors that happen from misdirection within your sitemap. Examples include 404 errors (page not found), 500 errors (server-side issues), 302 errors (unplanned re-directs).

CDN (Content Delivery Network)

If you plan on having visitors worldwide, then you’ll need a CDN to ensure that your site uses multiple servers around the globe to ensure faster loading times for all visitors, regardless of location.

Overall Site Speed

Your site loading speed should be fast (under 7 seconds), otherwise visitors and the Google crawler won’t like your page. Your site speed can be tested using Google Analytics tools. Slow speeds can be caused by extra-large files, using a low-quality or out-of-country server, or having too much traffic.

Mobile Optimization

A major part of modern SEO is mobile optimization. Your site should easily be able to detect when a mobile screen is viewing it and have separate CSS rules that make for an easy viewing experience.

Indexing

Indexing is one of the final parts of your audit and ensures that your site and pages have the appropriate structure and hierarchy. If there are errors here, it could result in your site not being indexed properly, broken links, and even down-ranking. In this section, we’ll discuss common indexing errors and tips you should be aware of.

Page Titles and Meta Descriptions

Each page on your site should have a 100% unique title. Otherwise, there’ll be confusion and duplicate links. Additionally, the meta description for each page should be uniquely worded.

No Duplicate Content

As we stated above, there should be no duplicate content or pages on your site. This goes for both duplicated of your own content or plagiarism of other web pages.

Multiple Languages

If your site is designed to be read in multiple languages, then it should have the appropriate ‘HREFLANG’ HTML tags. These instruct browsers to change the page’s language to the primary language of the visitor’s browser. This tag also prevents your site from pinging for ‘duplicate content’ due to multiple copies of a page in multiple languages.

Rich Snippets/SCHEMA

SCHEMA markup or “rich snippets” are key pieces of data that Google searches for relating to important details such as your business hours, article types (blog, review, article), the type of content (text, image, video), contact info, business awards, and other vital details.

Silo Structure

Above, we discussed the importance of having a well-organized silo structure. It’s essential to follow all guidelines for silo organizations if you want your site to get the best search engine ranking. This means having understandable page structures consisting of interlinked target/main pages, parent pages, and child pages.

Keywords

Last but not least, your site should have clearly defined keywords that it ranks for. If your page is ranking high for more than a few related keywords, then it can drive your rankings down and makes the Google spider think that you're trying to be misleading (or you’re not an authority page).

This is why it’s so important to select good keywords and perform all of your due diligence and keyword ranking before you start building your website and making website content.

How To Select The Right Keywords:

We spent some time discussing this above already, but we’ll re-iterate since this may be some of you guys’ first time studying on-page SEO.

It all starts with primary keywords. These are the main keywords that your entire site is going to be themed about. Primary keywords should be heavily used throughout your homepage, target pages, and main parent pages. These are the authority pages that every one of your other child pages will redirect to.

In addition to these primary keywords (which are usually more popular and have higher monthly search volume), you’ll need to select secondary and supporting keywords that relate to the primary keywords. This is because Google’s crawler double-checks all of the pages on your site to make sure that the other pages on the site are related to the main pages (e.g., your “construction site” shouldn’t have a bunch of random pages and keywords relating to pet dogs).

Now, you may not always select the best-performing keywords off the bat. Sometimes, this is a process that involves research and refinement over time.

However, all of the keywords (primary, secondary, and supporting) should be related to each other. To simplify this whole sub-section, just remember this: Keep your website, pages, and keywords on topic!

SEO Ranking

The SERP ranking of your page is kind of like your “reward” for following best practices. Whenever a Google user types a search query into the Google search bar, they’re automatically presented with 10 results on the first page of Google (along with several promoted pages at the top of the results).

These “top 10” sites, if you will, are the top 10 pages on the internet that are indexed for the keywords that the Google user typed into the search bar. These top 10 page-1 results are subject to change at any given moment as the Google algorithm’s ranking mechanism changes, new competitors try to rank for the same keywords, and analytics are updated for pages.

As a webmaster, it should be your prime directive to have most of your major pages rank on page 1 for at least one secondary or supporting keyword!

Often, it’s hard to rank on page 1 of Google with a high-competition primary keyword. However, if you perform your research the right way, do a bit of split-testing with different keywords, and constantly improve and refine your site, you’ll be able to rank on page 1 for a keyword with at least one of your main pages.

To summarize, here are all of the different factors that go into determining your overall Google SERP ranking:

  • Click-Through Rate (CTR).

  • Page Word Count.

  • Keyword Density and Variety.

  • Google Page Score and Loading Speed.

  • Site Bounce Rate (How quickly users leave after viewing your page).

  • Traffic by search term.

As a webmaster, you should continuously work on all of these different aspects to ensure that your page has the best ranking possible.

Branding

Branding is one of the most vital parts of your whole website’s search engine optimization. Search engines like Google are constantly trying to find legitimate brands and companies that they can promote to ensure that their users are able to connect with reputable brands in given industries.

The more relevant brand options that consumers are presented with when using a search engine, the happier those users will be and the more often they’ll use the search engine. So, in a way, identifying and listing brands is Google’s way of living up to their customer satisfaction standards.

So, how do search engines identify brands? Well, they look for signals, such as your site or business being listed across multiple search engines, on major classifieds sites, local listings, and more. In this section, we’ll break down why branding is important and how to get your page or website identified as a legitimate brand by Google’s search engine crawler.

Local Optimization

One of the best ways to improve your brand ranking is with local optimization. If we’re talking about Google, then this means having a registered Google My Business page listing. If you have a brick-and-mortar business location or you operate out of a specific geographical area, then you can create a My Business listing.

All you need is an active Google account. Simply register your business, enter some basic contact information, and they’ll send a unique code to your listed address. After about a week, you’ll receive the mailed-in letter with your code. Once you enter the code into your My Business dashboard, your business will be live on Google!

Google gives a lot of authority to its locally listed businesses, so this is a great way to get traffic to your website and brand and gain more customers while you’re at it.

However, it’s not enough to just create a Google My Business listing. You also need to optimize it so you can stand apart from the competition. With that in mind, here are some great tips to ensure a better-optimized page:

  • Add lots of pictures of your products, store, etc.

  • Write a detailed description of your business (and include primary keywords).

  • Ensure that your business address or geographical location is correct and easy to find in Google Maps.

  • Make sure that you have a business phone number, email address, business hours, and web page listed for everybody to view.

  • Politely and accurately respond to any and all reviews or Google questions that you get regarding your business.

  • Make “posts” on your Google My Business page. These are short-term pics that are viewable for 30 days and make your business more relevant.

Authenticity and Citations

Search engines will also crawl other large data websites to ensure that you have a relevant, legitimate business. If possible, you want your business to be listed in multiple databases, classified listings, and online business listings.

In addition to just being listed, your brand data should be the same. This means that no matter where your business is found listed on the internet, it has the same name, same phone number, same address, and the same website URL. All of these are signals to the algorithms that you are, in fact, a legit and authentic business location.

Keeping Your Brand Relevant Across The Web

This goes hand-in-hand with what we just spoke about above about authenticity. You want to ensure that other people can find your brand across the internet. This means that you shouldn’t just stop at a Google My Business page.

Your brand should be easy for search engine users to find on social media platforms (especially Facebook), Yelp (very important if you want iPhone users to find you), or business listings. For example, if I Google, “Nike Store,” I’m automatically presented with:

  • Google listing for the closest Nike store.

  • Nike’s main website.

  • Nike’s listing at my local mall and shopping outlet.

  • Nike’s local Yelp listing.

  • Nike’s local social media listings.

That is a great example of a relevant brand image.

Brand and Page Authenticity

Last but not least, your brand and your web page should be authentic. When a user clicks on your website, they should not be redirected to another website or some scammy-looking contact form. Google’s crawler searches for sites and “imposter” businesses like this, and will immediately down-rank them.

Both your brand and your website should be 100% authentic and should have nothing to hide.

Setting Up An SEO Dashboard

It’s practically impossible to keep track of your on-page SEO and overall website optimization without a proper dashboard. Your dashboard is like your vehicle’s speedometer, showing webmasters the vital information about their site and pages that they need to make executive decisions to improve their SERP rankings.

Your SEO dashboard will display vital data, such as your page/site’s amount of traffic, what keywords each page ranks for, how fast each page loads, the bounce rate of each page, the average amount of time spent on a page, whether visitors visit other links on your page, etc.

Here’s how to get started and create your very own SEO dashboard:

  1. Download and learn your way around Google Data Studio. It’s free and easy to use, and will transform your SEO data into easy-to-read charts and graphs that you can understand.

  2. Create a Google Analytics account for your website. Then connect it to your Google Data Studio.

    1. Create a Google Adwords account so you can use their free Keyword Planner tool while you're at it!
  3. Embed your Google Analytics code on each page you want to track. This will compile analytics data about every user action on your site/pages.

By combining Google’s powerful Analytics tools with its free-to-use Data Studio visual presentation tools, you’ll be able to get an incredibly accurate picture of your site’s on-page SEO.

There are a number of other paid analytics tools on the market, but Google is the best place to start since it’s 100% free to use. Once you become proficient with Google’s free tools, then you may consider researching and finding another paid analytics and SEO tool.

How To Divide Reporting

Once you get your dashboard set up, you’ll want to divide your reports so that you can get an accurate view of your site’s performance. You’ll want to divide it into two sections:

  • Target page reports.

  • Overall site reports.

Target Page Reports

To get individualized reports on each of your key target pages (or any other page, for that matter), simply embed your Google Analytics code in the HTML code at the top of each page you want to generate a report on. Your Analytics dashboard will then display all of the relevant data generated from that single page.

Overall Site Reports

To set up a full site report in Analytics, generate an Analytics code that responds to the trigger “All Pages,” and then embed the code in your main homepage. Many website-building platforms also have built-in Analytics extensions and plug-ins that you can install to make the process easier.

Optimizing Your Click-Through Rate (CTR)

Your click-through rate is the percentage of search engine users see your web page listed and then click-through and visit your site. The higher your CTR is, the more relevant your listing is and the more you’ll continue to rank high for your primary and secondary keywords.

High CTR also correlates to more conversions (sales, newsletter sign-ups, site traffic, or whatever your site’s main goal is).

So, How Do You Optimize Your Site’s CTR?

The best way to look at the click-through rate is to view it as your website’s advertisement. Imagine that you’re walking through a busy mall… Chances are that you’re going to walk by 90% of all of the stores and kiosks because they don’t stand out to you. The same principle applies to Google searchers. If your site’s title and meta description don’t stand out to them, they’re not even going to bother clicking the link.

With that being said, here are some quick (but incredibly effective) techniques that you can employ to optimize your site’s CTR by searchers.

Create A Call-To-Action (Good Meta Descriptions)

Whenever your type a query into Google and view the top-10 results on the first page of Google, you’ll see two things:

  • The site/page’s title (in blue).

  • A brief 2-3 line meta description of what the page is about.

Nine times out of ten, the main thing that causes people to click-through and visit the site (yourself included!) is a well-written call-to-action in the meta description.

A well-written meta description should effectively explain exactly what the page is about and why you should click on the site and trust their page to answer your query.

Power Words In Site Title

If you ever took a public speaking class, then you probably remember learning about power words. These are words, terms, or phrases that catch people’s attention and cause them to pause and look. You can use these power words in both your meta description (call-to-action) and in your site’s title.

Some examples of great power word usage in site titles could be:

  • The Best” Pasta Dishes In Manhattan… “Guaranteed!”

  • Free” Business Analysis For First-Time Customers!

  • Here Are The “Top 10” Best Gadgets of 2021!

All of the bolded words listed (best, guaranteed, free, top) are known as power words. They automatically grab viewers’ attention and make them stop and read the rest of the title and description. Without these, 90% of search engine users would just scroll on past your listing without a second thought.

Utilize Question Tags

According to statistical data, title tags that contain a question, receive over 14% higher CTRs than non-question titles. One of the best ways to utilize a question tag is to phrase a question in the title and then briefly answer it in 2-3 lines in the meta description.

This shortened, abbreviated answer obviously leaves more to be desired but offers a level of trust that the search engine user needs to click your site title and see what else you have to say on the topic.

Try A Review or FAQ Schema

Lastly, another great CTR-increasing tactic is to rank your page listing for an FAQ or Review schema. If you have a longer article, consider including an FAQ (frequently asked questions) section that answers some of the top “related questions” you can find on Google relating to your primary or secondary keywords.

Re-ask these questions in your article and then give them a unique, well-written answer. Your page may rank under the ‘People Also Ask’ section of the Google search results, which is huge for your overall site ranking.

In the same vein, many people also turn to search engines to find authentic reviews of products. So, if you have a niche site selling products or services, it’s not a bad idea to include some related product reviews on your site. Even if you aren’t selling those same products or earning an affiliate commission on the item you’re reviewing, it can still help your site rank and improve your overall site CTR.

Improve On-Page SEO With Images

One of the most common questions we’ve been asked is, “Can images optimize your web page?” The answer is a resounding YES!

Images make your web pages more interesting and more engaging. They also give context to the body content and can even help your page rank in Google Image search results.

Pro Tip: While stock images are okay to use for blogs, major articles, target pages, and parent pages should use as many authentic photos, videos, and graphs/charts as possible. This improves image ranking as you’re producing unique visual content that nobody else on the internet has!

Understanding Schema

Above, we briefly discussed schema and why it’s important for your overall on-page SEO efforts. But, we figured, we’d provide you with a slightly more detailed description here.

So, what exactly is schema?

Schema “markup” is a series of HTML tags that webmasters and SEO specialists can use to improve their on-page SEO ranking. Essentially, it helps search engines present more relevant and vital data to search engine users, increasing page authority and CTR.

Good use of schema is often referred to as “rich results” due to the fact that it provides search engine users with richer, more detailed, and more interactive results. If you’re looking for an easy way to get inspiration on how you can implement a schema, you can use Google’s Rich Results Test on your own page or on your competitors’ pages to see what schema they’re using.

With that being said, here are some good ways you can implement schema in your site…

Breadcrumbs are a secondary method of location that allows users to highlight and access key sections of a webpage. This is particularly useful to use on longer, in-depth articles (like the one you’re reading now).

Some sites have an internal search bar feature. By implementing the sitelink search into your HTML schema, users will be able to use your site’s search bar through the Google results!

Item Page

If you have a certain item for sale, you can implement an item page schema to showcase rich results that clearly define the item that is being sold or presented on the page. This is very common to see used in e-commerce stores.

Main Entity Schema

If you have a major brand or are trying to create an authority site in a niche, then using the main entity schema is a great way to showcase your brand for Google searchers. This rich snippet shows searchers exactly what your brand is and what your site offers.

How To Implement Schema Rich Results In Your Site

Implementing schema tags is a lot easier than it sounds. All you need to do is have a bit of basic knowledge of how to work with HTML. Once you access the HTML of your pages, simple embed the predefined schema tags that you want by copy/pasting the schema code from www.schema.org.

What Is Google “Medic” and E-A-T Protocol?

Google’s “Medic” update was the company’s last major algorithm update in 2018. It was codenamed Medic because it affected over 42% of all listed sites in the medical, health, and fitness industries.

Google’s main goal with this update was to combat the growing number of non-authoritative sites in this industry. At the time, there were way too many sites claiming to be professionals in the medical industry with no real authority to back it up. As a result, many consumers were getting false or exaggerated medical information.

Obviously, this was not good.

The Medic update changed all of that by implementing what Google devs referred to as E-A-T protocol. It’s an anagram that stands for:

  • Expertise.

  • Authority.

  • Trustworthiness.

With the Medic upgrade, Google started to punish sites that had low E-A-T by down-ranking their sites. In the same vein, it also rewarded sites that had high E-A-T.

Although the Medic update primarily affected Your Money Your Life (YMYL) sites that had to do with medical and financial expertise and advice, the algorithm applies the same E-A-T protocol to almost every site that it crawls through.

Tips To Improve E-A-T Ranking

So, how do you improve your site’s E-A-T ranking?

Well, there are several things you can implement to make your site and brand appear more authoritative and trustworthy… Here are the top tactics you can use!

1) Have A Google My Business (GMB) Listing

If you have a fully completed, detailed, and address-verified GMB listing with plenty of pics and contact information, it will massively help your E-A-T ranking! Google requires businesses to go through a series of authoritative verifications methods before their GMB page is published, so if you do have a published and active GMB page, it’ll do wonders for your brand’s SERP ranking.

2) Use Authoritative References

If you’re writing about topics such as money, finance, or medical data/supplements, then you should back up all of your “claims” by linking to authoritative references. These could include medical journals, college research projects, government site links, etc.

If your site contains backlinks or has positive ratings by 3rd-party review sites, such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or Glass Door, this will greatly help your E-A-T rating.

4) YouTube Optimization

Lastly, remember that Google owns YouTube! This means that you should be taking advantage of YouTube as much as possible if you want to improve your Google rankings.

Publish a YouTube channel under your brand’s name and make informational, keyword-driven videos that also link back to your main page. The more views, likes, and subscribers you have on YouTube, the more Google assumes you’re an authoritative and trustworthy brand in the industry.

Final Thoughts…

There you have it! We’re proud to present you with our definitive guide to understanding on-page SEO and SERP rankings. We know it’s a lot to absorb and we certainly don’t expect you to memorize all of this content overnight, so why don’t you do yourself a favor and bookmark this page (you know you’re going to want to come back next week)?

So, to recap, here are some final helpful tips that we’ll leave you with…

Keywords

Take the time and make sure that you do your due diligence when it comes to keywords. Make sure that your site is focused on a few main primary keywords. Then, make a spreadsheet of potential secondary and support keywords (that are still related to your primary keywords) that you’ll use throughout your posts to drive traffic to your target pages.

Use a keyword research tool like Google’s Keyword Planner to ensure that you’re choosing the best-performing keywords for your site.

Site Structure (Silo)

Make sure that your site has a great silo structure! There should be a home page that clearly defines the main theme and primary keywords of your side. There should be parent pages such as an “About” page, a “Contact” page, and a “Blog” page. Lastly, there should be child pages, such as blog posts and sub-topic articles that fall under your parent pages and the main home page.

All of these pages, target, parent, and child pages should be interlinked in a relevant manner that encourages visitors to visit your main target pages where they’ll take action.

Site Performance and Security

Use Google Analytics to make sure that your site is secure, running smoothly, and doesn't have any critical errors or security issues. The faster, safer, and more reliable your site is, the higher it’ll rank and the happier your visitors will be!

Rich Results and Schema Markup

Make use of schema.org HTML markup within your pages to present rich results within Google’s search results. Trust us, this makes a huge difference, and it’s something that most “first-pagers” are implementing in their sites.

E-A-T

Lastly, don’t forget to EAT! No really, remember that your site/brand should display expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. This is accomplished through having your site cross-referenced across the internet, referencing high-quality sources, optimizing your YouTube and social media pages, and completing your Google My Business profile.

Master On-Page SEO With Ranktracker’s SEO Toolkit

If you’re looking to take your SEO campaign to a whole new level, our patented SEO tools are some of the best on the market. From advanced keyword research to detailed website audits, our tools are built to perform.

They’re constantly updated to ensure that they account for the ever-changing algorithm updates and the latest consumer data. We’re also working on expanding on tool kit and even have a hyper-advanced Backlink tool set to be launched in the next year!

Until Next Time!

If you’ve made it this far, then congratulations! You now know everything that you need to know to create and manage a successful, high-ranking page. Feel free to read through this article as many times as you need, and we appreciate you bearing with us through this rather extensive lesson.

Until next time, we wish you the best of luck in your on-page SEO and website optimization!

Sources:

  1. https://developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/guidelines/webmaster-guidelines

  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Analytics

  3. https://developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/crawling/consolidate-duplicate-urls

  4. https://support.google.com/business/answer/10515606?hl=en

  5. https://marketingplatform.google.com/about/data-studio/

  6. https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1008015?hl=en

  7. https://backlinko.com/google-ctr-stats

  8. https://search.google.com/test/rich-results

  9. https://uxplanet.org/breadcrumbs-for-web-sites-what-when-and-how-9273dacf1960

  10. https://schema.org/ItemPage

  11. https://schema.org/mainEntityOfPage

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