SEO & SEM

8 On-Page SEO Techniques in 2018

on-page-seo-techniques-2018

On-Page SEO (nowadays referred to as simply onpage SEO) is set of recommended steps that content producers can undertake ON their web pages to improve their search rankings.

In the rapidly evolving world of SEO, on-page SEO is becoming increasingly important. A successful online venture needs to have a mix of both on-page and off-page SEO. This article examines the on-page SEO techniques in greater detail.

What’s the Purpose of On-Page SEO?

On-Page SEO recommends changes to the structure, content and meta-content of a post such that it appears favorable to the search engines in context of a keyword search.

Note that on-page seo is about making your page or post the favored destination for a particular keyword. The single biggest purpose of On-Page SEO is improving search rankings of a particular web page in context for a keyword search.

Understandably, on-page SEO encompasses (not necessarily in order) –

  1. Producing quality content that help readers
  2. Managing headings (sometimes called h-tags)
  3. Managing URL
  4. Dealing with keyword-density
  5. Managing internal and outbound links
  6. Optimizing images and other multimedia content
  7. Providing meta tags and meta description
  8. Managing social media

Note that creating quality content is the most important, non-negotiable factor.

Let’s get started and analyze them one by one, starting with the most important one.

1. Produce Quality Content

Everybody has heard so much about quality content that it’s become a joke. Nevertheless, content is THE king. There is no substitute for quality content. If you are not able to produce quality content, there is little hope.

Let’s take a quick look at what quality content is and how does one go about creating high quality content.

What is high quality content?

High-quality content is one which is

  1. Unique
  2. Relevant & focused
  3. Sufficiently long to be informative
  4. Accessible on all modern day platforms
  5. Using multimedia for illustrations
  6. Not displaying too many ads or affiliate promotions

How to produce high quality content?

Producing high quality content is a prerequisite for a successful online venture. Make sure that all your content adheres to guidelines describe here.

Make the content unique

Either the idea or at the very least the presentation is not found elsewhere. The search engines have become so smart (though not perfect) at detecting and penalizing duplicate content that copy pasting stuff nowadays is considered passport to oblivion. Copying content rather than saving your time will destroy your reputation beyond repair and will cost you the entire venture. Golden rule – Never copy content. Also, never let others copy your content.

Make the content relevant and focused

Your content should be related to a topic which normal people care about. “How to stay fit” would be a nice example. A counterexample would be “How to make aliens do your homework”. Similarly, your content should be focused on a single broad relevant topic which should be your keywords as well. Make the page hyper-focused on a single topic. Nobody likes ramblings and adding fluff to meet content length guidelines will do more harm than good.

Content must be sufficiently long to be informative

Content should be at least 700-800 words in length. Though there are no hard limits and length will mostly depend on the nature of your topic and the amount of information already available in public domain, writing content which is less than 300 words is pretty bad and qualifies as ‘thin content’.

Content must be accessible on all modern day platforms

Make sure that your content is aesthetically pleasing or at the very least is readable on major hardware platforms. This is where theme design and responsive design come into play. Making a website that is not rendered properly

Content should use multimedia for illustrations

They say a picture is worth thousand words and a video is worth hundred thousand. Search engines, especially Google, seems to have taken this a bit too seriously. Add images and video where you can. It dramatically increases your rankings.

Page should not display too many ads or affiliate promotions

Nobody but the spammers like spam. Your content must be informative enough to help your audience. Focusing on advertisements/links above content is the single most-frequent reason behind experts failing to produce successful websites.

Most Important point regarding your content

Before you start your online venture or commit yourself fully, make sure that you fully understand and appreciate the following facts of business life on internet –

  • You cannot get away by copying content
  • You cannot succeed with thin content
  • Your content must solve some real life problem of some people
  • You need to produce content frequently and regularly
  • Internet ventures are zero sum. Being on page-3 of Google is as bad as being out-of-business. Only the first page counts.
  • You need to use Social media as an
    • alternative organic traffic source
    • indicator to the search engines about quality & ‘heat’ of your content

2. Manage Your URL structure

URL is the address to your web page. Therefore, you have to structure it such that not only search engines but readers too find it attractive.

Tips to manage your URL

Here are a few tips to structure your URLs for SEO. Make sure that your URL –

  1. Contains 3 to 5 words in addition to the domain name
  2. Contains targeted keywords
  3. Does not contain any stopwords
  4. Never ever use underscore as word separator. Hyphen (minus) is the only acceptable separator.

Your URLs should neither be too long nor too short. They should contain 3 to 5 keywords that you are targeting. You can ignore stopwords such as the, an, in, on to the extent that they don’t make your URLs ridiculous. The stopwords don’t harm your rankings but they occupy precious real estate, space that should be taken by target keywords.Search engines prefer URLs that are not made unduly long by stopwords. On the other hand, humans need stopwords to make sense of phrases. Therefore, strike a balance.

For example, if you are writing a programming blog post on using Linked List as Stack you should prefer

http://codingraptor.com/linked-list-stack

over

http://codingraptor.com/blog/data-structures/using-linked-list-as stack

Not only is the first URL more reader-friendly, but by same virtue is more SEO tuned.

Since it is so very obvious, I don’t elaborate on the fact that the following structure is a big NO NO –

http://codingraptor.com/posts?postid=8929

3. Manage Your Page Title & Blog Post Title

The title of your page is one of the most important, if not the most important, levers available to you for on-page seo.

There are two different titles being talked about here. So, let’s ensure that you understand the difference between the two –

  • Page Title – the title of browser window when a visitor opens your web page. This is part of HTML head and is written inside <title> tags.
  • Blog Post Title – the headline at the beginning of the web page informing the visitor about the content on that page. This is part of HTML body and is primarily aimed at humans. This should be written in <h1> tags and ideally should be the only h1 tag in your blog post.

Tips to manage your titles

Here are a few tips to structure your page titles for SEO. Make sure that your page title and post title –

  1. Starts with (or at least contains) the targeted keywords
  2. Is embedded in proper tags (<H1> tags for blog post title and <title> for page title)
  3. Is neither too long nor too short. Should fit easily on the screen and should never contain more than 65 characters
  4. Contains enough ‘extra’ words that long tail keywords are captured
  5. Has a timestamp if the content is updated frequently

Your page title and post title are the only two places where keyword cramming is not only allowed but recommended. These titles are your chance to inform your readers and search bots what you are going to talk about. A page title is enclosed in title tags. A blog post title must be in h1 or h2 tags. Similarly, make sure that you capture the long tail versions of the keywords by appending them to the title. For example, if you are writing a blog on politics, you are better off saying

Donald Trump Likely to Win Presidential Elections 2020

rather than

Trump Hot Favorite for 2020

Likewise, if you have dynamic content update your page and post title to contain timestamp. For example, if you have a coupons website where you post discount coupons daily, it is massively more beneficial to say

Ebay coupons on Sept. 11, 2001

rather than

Ebay coupons today

4. Manage Your Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions are author supplied summary of the article. A meta description goes in the head section of HTML and follows this format –

<meta name="description" content="A SENTENCE OF 156 CHARS CONTAINING KEYWORDS" >

The primary purpose of meta description from end user perspective is that it provides a brief summary of your article in search results. Readers peruse this meta description sentence to decide whether they want to visit a particular page or not.

Apart from providing a brief summary to potential visitors, a meta description is also used by search engines to figure out what your article is about.

If you don’t provide a meta-description, search engines provide one for you by using first few words of your article. This is less than optimal because

  • All your keywords may not appear in the search results
  • Your meta-description may not be coherent and it may contain incomplete sentence toward the end.

Important points to remember about meta description

  1. Always provide meta description for your post. The default is generally sub-optimal and might actually harm your rankings
  2. Make sure that meta description is a meaningful sentence and conveys the value your article provides to human readers succintly.
  3. Meta description should be less than 156 characters in length. Characters after this limit are truncated and apart from leaving the readers in a lurch show author’s incompetence.
  4. NEVER EVER copy a meta description. Copying meta description is worse than not providing one. It is the easiest and surest way of telling search engines “Hey Dear, I copied content from somewhere else. Come, penalize me.”

5. Manage Your Meta Tags & Meta Title

Apart from meta description, there are other meta tags that are not as important and are gradually losing their sheen. If at all you want to skip one on-page technique, it has to be this one as it is least important.

You can provide a list of keywords relevant to your article using the meta keywords tag shown below

<meta name="keywords" content="kword1, kword2, ... more crap :-)>

Rampant misuse and abuse of these tags has left them almost worthless, nevertheless if you want to extract even the last drop of juice from your hard work, you can provide meaningful meta keywords and meta title.

Here are a couple of noteworthy points about meta tags

  1. Meta title should be less than 70 characters
  2. Meta keywords are ignored by most modern day search engines. There is little sense in investing too much effort in meta tags.

6. Use Multimedia Effectively

Interspersing text with images and videos breaks monotony and helps your readers grasp information faster. Search engines recognize this and award pages with more multimedia content a higher rating.

Important points to remember regarding on-page multimedia usage

  1. Multimedia content makes a website more engaging. Sprinkle liberal doses of multimedia in your content. Multimedia content increases your ‘dwell time’ on your website.
  2. Use image description, image title and alt description to stuff them with your website name and targeted keywords. This can drive image search traffic to your website and associate your website with targeted keywords in the ‘mind’ of search engines.
  3. To the maximum extent possible provide an image capturing gist of your entire on-page content. Multimedia creation is costly and is therefore a double edged sword. Using multimedia content increases the cost of content production but at the same time has the potential of fetching much better returns.
  4. Loading and rendering of multimedia content increases your page load time. Too many images increases your page load time and search engines, like humans, don’t like pages that take an eternity to load.
  5. Strike a balance between the kind of hosting provider you are using and the number of images + videos you have on-page.
    Pro-tip: Google’s Blogspot and Automattic’s WordPress.com platforms have an excellent page load time and are free. If you are planning low-cost multimedia centric online ventures, these are your best bets while starting

7. Use Internal & External Links

Backlinks are an important cornerstone of any modern day SEO strategy. Counterpart of backlinks is linking your content with other content on web. Content that is linked with other content on internet is perceived more valuable in the eyes of search engines. Therfore, link your content to other internal content and with content of ONLY reputed websites (such as StackOverflow.com, Quora.com, Wikipedia).

Link management

While linking your content, keep in mind that –

  1. First try to link important keywords with already existing content on your website. This reduces the bounce rate and increases the time users are likely to spend on your website. Both these factors are quite important in deciding the ranking of your page.
  2. If you are describing a complicated, uncommon term which is not yet present your website you can provide an external link to help your audience understand the term better. As described previously in the informative article on backlinks (and this is also an example of backlink), when you link to an external website you may end up passing ‘link juice’. You can and MUST prevent this by using no-follow tag.
  3. ALWAYS use target=”_blank” in your link’s HTML code. This opens the linked page in a new tab. If you let the users open the linked content in same window where they are viewing your webpage, it is quite unlikely that they will come back to your page.

8. Provide social media buttons

All your posts must have social media sharing buttons. Include most popular social media in your strategy – Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Reddit, Pinterest to name a few.

The social media buttons induce certain percentage of users to share your content in their social circle. This gives you valuable organic traffic. Furthermore, the group in which your content gets shared is most likely the target segment of population that you wanted your content to reach to. Since your content reaches targeted audience you can get higher rankings because of increased user engagement, higher dwell time, lower bounce rate.

Conclusion (On-Page SEO checklist)

This article started with defining on-page seo and described important techniques that ensure that your content will give maximum bang for your buck.

In conclusion, let’s summarize important points in On-Page SEO in these 15 points –

    1. Produce high quality content (for definition and how to create high quality content, see point #1)
    2. Ensure that your URL contains keywords and is of optimum length
  1. Make sure that post title is a H1 tag
  2. Page title and post title must contain targeted keywords
  3. Meta description must be provided and it must contain less than 155 characters and must make use of targeted keywords
  4. Don’t stuff or cram keywords in your content. A keyword density of 1.5% is desirable.
  5. Avoid stop words in URL, they increase the length but don’t add much value
  6. The most important keywords must appear in H2 and H3 tags as well
  7. Make liberal use of multimedia content. But don’t go overboard to the point your page becomes slow.
  8. Use free blogging platforms such as Blogspot.com (Blogger) and WordPress.com if you cannot afford powerful hosting
  9. Your content must ideally be 700 to 800 words long
  10. Create internal and external links to make your content more attractive
  11. Time spent on a website (dwell time) and bounce rate (number of users returning after viewing your first page) are important drivers in search engine rankings
  12. Use social media buttons on every post to allow users to share content. A highly shared (even if not viral) content automatically gets more importance by search engines.
  13. Be present on social media, especially the medium that makes most sense to your niche.
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