For marketers and those who focus specifically on SEO, the constant monitoring of Google’s algorithm changes is an inevitable practice. Despite the numerous updates such as Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird, the implementation of on-page SEO hasn’t changed that drastically.
Of course, keyword stuffing isn’t really the thing to do anymore but, in general, you’re not seeing a major shift in best practices. In this blog post I’ll address the top ten on-page SEO best practices that you can use as a guided checklist moving forward.
What are you looking to achieve? Organic growth that turns into what? Work off of a marketing funnel or at least funnel stages to help tie your actions with tangible goals.
Source: Vab Media
What keywords are you looking to rank for and, more importantly, what topics are you looking to be positioned as a thought leader? Use a tool like BuzzSumo to understand what type of content yields high engagement. That way, you can plan your content calendar around those specific topics and write them better than what currently exists. Additionally, here are a couple competitive analysis tools to check out:
- SEMRush – you can do some search on the free version of this tool, but I’d recommend upgrading to the paid version to see a deeper analysis of organic keywords and even paid keywords your competitors are bidding on.
- Spyfu – this is one of my favorites. You can easily generate SEO reports on the fly and (like SEMRush) be able to see which keywords your competitors are ranking for – paid and organic. You can also see who the top organic competitors are within the space as well as any backlinks.
The natural thing to do in conjunction with your competitive research is also keyword research. Doing so will help you see which keywords your competitors and influencers within your space are optimizing for. Here are a few tools I’d recommend:
- Keywordtool.io – signing up for the Keyword Tool Pro version will enable you get 1,440 keywords from Google, see search volume and the level of competition. Starts at $48/mo.
- Wordtracker – though this tool will display some results upon typing in a keyword you’re targeting, you’ll then be required to sign up. Starts at $27/mo.
- Positionly – specific to startups, this tool allows you to implement keyword research, competitive analysis, tracking your rankings, and does daily position checks. Starts at $16/mo.
Test Your Site Speed
A recent study stated that forty-seven percent of your target audience expects your site to load in under two seconds, and a delay in site response by one second can yield a seven percent reduction in conversions. For a quick site speed test, check out PageSpeed Insights by Google.
Rand Fishkin wrote a great post that included fifteen best practices for URL structuring. One of them is to ensure the readability by humans so that search engines will be able to determine what people are engaging with. Here’s an example:
Make sure your title tags are never duplicated and they are written in a clear, concise and descriptive manner. Total characters should be kept between 55-60. Use the Moz Title Preview Tool to help you visualize what your title tags will look like in search results.
Limited to just 160 characters, the meta-description is intended to help capture the attention and entice people to click on your link over others that display in search results. Try to include your targeted keyword where it makes sense. For example, I did a search for “be awesome at content marketing” and here were the results:
The image alt-tags are something that a lot of clients I’ve worked have missed and ends up being a large portion of the on-page optimization issues they face. Some key pointers for alt-tags are to make sure they are concise and descriptive. For example, “marketing services for startups” is more effective than “marketing.”
Sitemap and Schema Markup
Submitting your sitemap helps make sure that search engines know about all of the pages you want indexed on your site. You can submit your sitemap via Google Webmaster Tools and if you own, for example, a WordPress site, you can do so via the plugin SEO by Yoast.
Next, take it one step further and implement schema markup, which tells search engines what your content means. Here’s an example by KissMetrics: let’s say the word “Neil Patel” appears on an article. The search engine sees this, and produces a SERP entry with “Neil Patel.” However, if I put the right schema markup around the name “Neil Patel,” I’ve just told that search engine that “Neil Patel” is the author of the article instead of just a random name or keyword. The search engine then provides results that display better information for the user who was searching for “Neil Patel.”
Write High-Quality Content
I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but one of the biggest changes to on-page SEO is the fact that you’re no longer just optimizing for search engines, you’re optimizing for people – specifically, you’re writing for their search intent and engagement. The key to driving site traffic, engagement and conversion should be top of mind. Therefore, writing content that your target audience actually cares about should be the driver behind your efforts.
Finally, here are a few resources I highly recommend following:
- Moz – The Whiteboard Friday’s are filled with tons of tips-n-tricks, and their community contributed blogs are amazing for SEO beginners, intermediates and experts.
- SEL – Search Engine Land’s SEO section keeps you up-to-date with the latest changes in addition to a some great guidance on how to execute best practices.
- SEOBook – Every blog post on this site is filled with quick bulleted take-away points and also with additional tools you can check out for help.