Want to know how to fully optimize your web pages? You are in the right place
You have a keyword in your head for which you want to get a rating.
You may already have a large piece of material.
Now, how do you “optimize” this page so that Google not only understands what it is about, but also knows that it deserves a place on the first page of search results?
You think it is very easy. Here are some practical tips:
But first, make sure that we have a complete understanding of on-page SEO
On-page SEO refers to the practice of “page optimization” of web pages to help improve search engine rankings. The ultimate goal of which is to increase organic traffic to your site.
But what exactly is involved in this optimization process?
Most of the SEO recommendations on a page focus solely on the strategic placement of exact‐match keywords on your page—keyword in title, keyword in the meta description, keyword in H1, etc.
Unfortunately, such advice is now obsolete.
In 2018, Google is smart enough to understand synonyms and semantically related keywords (which will be with them later!). This means that you no longer need to think about strategically placing keywords that exactly match the keywords on your web pages.
Do not believe us? Look at the best results for “the best Apple computer.”
SERP Overview for “best apple computer” via Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
Of the top 10 results, only one has the word “computer” in the title tag or URL.
The rest of the pages talk about things like:
Google understands that when you search for “the best Apple computer,” you are really looking for information on buying a new Mac.
You need to follow these 8 on-page SEO tips.
If you are not even a player, you cannot win the game.
Let me explain:
I like to be a professional basketball player.
Although it is unnatural for me, I am 5’3 “(160 cm).
Now, I’m all for the “if you want something, get it!” Mentality…
but how much I practice and ‘optimize’ my skills, LeBron is always going to perform better than me because of his height at 6’8”, it’s like LeBron is for basketball.
Me + basketball = is not a match. I don’t have what the majority of coaches want. So I’ll probably never be selected for the team, let alone have a chance to win the game.
How is it relevant to SEO?
Now imagine Google as a coach, picking players (web pages) for its team (top rankings for a particular search query). If your content isn’t up to the mark—i.e., happens to be what searchers are looking for—you won’t even be in the game, let alone have the chance to win (rank #1).
So how do you figure out what searchers want?
Well, it’s not that complicated.
For example, it’s obvious that someone who types “buy protein powder” into Google wants to see product pages like this… … or product category pages like this:
But there is no reason to trust the estimates here.
Google’s entire business model is based on delivering the most relevant results in the top position. You can take advantage of this fact by checking your instinct for the fact that you are currently ranking by target keywords.
Let’s do that for “buy protein powder.”
Top‐ranking pages in Google “buy protein powder,” via the SERP Overview in Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
Gut instinct = confirmed.
Product pages and categories are exactly what Google gives, indicating that this is what searchers want to see.
Sidenote: Not an Ahrefs user? Examine search intent by checking the search results directly in Google.
This “trick” is particularly useful for less obvious questions where the “purpose of the search” is not so clear.
Case in point: “how to promote your website.”
It’s immediately clear that this is an informative question, but what do the researchers really want to see? Do they want a walkthrough? Do they want a list of different advertising strategies? Or do they want to do something completely different?
Let’s check the top‐ranking pages.
You can see that Google is actively supporting lists of site promotion tactics.
If you want to rank this keyword / topic, this is what you should create. Google literally tells you what the crawler wants to see.
Take action: Look at the current page with the top ranking to better understand the purpose of the search, and then work on it. This is the only way to get a chance to win the game. Stop trying to hit shoes on pages where they do not belong.
At Syndiket, we believe four types of SEO exist – and we have an acronym to represent those 4 types of SEO. The acronym is T.R.A.P.
“T” stands for Technical, “R” stands for Relevancy, “A” stands for Authority, and “P” stands for popularity. Search engine optimization has many smaller divisions within the 4 types, but all of them can be placed into one of these 4 buckets.
Generally, technical SEO for local businesses carry the least importance for ranking. Technical SEO has a bare minimum that is required and this usually includes things like site speed, indexation issues, crawlability, and schema. Once the core technical parts are done, minimal upkeep is required.
Relevancy is one of trivium elements of SEO. It has equal importance with popularity signals and authority signals. Relevancy signals are based on algorithmic learning principles. Bots crawl the internet every time a searcher has a search. Each search is given a relevancy score and the URLs that pop up for a query. The higher the relevancy score you attain, the greater your aggregated rating becomes in Google’s eyes. Digital marketing is a strange thing in 2020, and ranking a website requires the website to be relevant on many fronts.
Google’s Co-creator, Larry Page, had a unique idea in 1998 which has led to the modern-day Google Empire. “Page Rank”, named after Larry Page himself, was the algorithm that established Google as a search engine giant. The algorithm ranked websites by authority.
Every page of a website has authority and the sum of all pages has another authority metric. The authority metric is largely determined by how many people link to them (backlinks). The aggregate score of all pages pointing to a domain creates the domain score, which is what Syndiket calls “Domain Rating”, per Ahrefs metrics. The more a site is referenced, the more authority it has. But, the real improvement to the algorithm came when Google began to classify authority weight.
If Tony Hawk endorsed Syndiket for skateboarding, it would carry a lot more authority than 5 random high school kids endorsing Syndiket. This differentiation in authority happened in 2012 with the Penguin update. Authority SEO is complicated but VERY important.
Popularity signals are especially strong for GMB or local SEO, but popularity and engagement are used for all rankings. The goal of this signal is for Google to verify its own algorithm. You can check off all the boxes, but if your content is something real people hate, Google has ways to measure that. Syndiket has proprietary methods of controlling CTR (click-through rate) but we also infuse CRO methods into our work to make sure people actually like the content. Social shares and likes are also included in this bucket.
Have you ever clicked on a result on Google and took much time to load a page?
If you are something like me, you probably do the same thing every time: press the back button and select a different result.
Google knows that people do this because pages that load slow are really annoying.
This is why page speed has been a ranking factor since 2010.
With that said, when we conducted our large-scale on-page SEO study back in 2016, we found that there is a very small correlation between page load time and rankings.
There are two things that I would like to add.
Firstly, this study was conducted several years ago. Everything changes time to time. Google also recently launched its first mobile index, and they confirmed that mobile page ranking speed will be a ranking factor.
Secondly, even if we forget about search engines, it is clear that slow pages have a bad effect on users. People will quickly click the “Back” button on pages that take too long to load, that means they will never see or visit your page … even if you rank first.
To improve page speed, start by checking your web page with the Google PageSpeed Insights tool. This will analyze your page and make some suggestions for optimization.
By using Google Pagespeed Insights, you can only check page speed for one page at a time.
That makes the whole process very long and time‐consuming.
To make it fast, you should use a professional site auditing tool like Ahrefs’ Site Audit (also known as SEO Analyzer.) Such tools will scan all of your pages at once and highlight the pages with issues.
For improving page speed on a page‐by‐page basis, here are the two tips.
You must also work to improve the speed of your site as a whole.
However, try not to be obsessed with page speed. Most likely, when you reach a certain point, work tirelessly to overcome the extra milliseconds here, and this will not have an equally noticeable effect on the rating.
Google claims that 53% of users will leave the page if the download takes more than 3 seconds. Therefore, we suggest aiming for 2 seconds or as a general rule.
Actionable takeaway: Be sure to load your pages as quickly as possible, reducing the size of images and removing unnecessary HTML.
I know what you’re thinking:
“ You just said that this DOESN’T matter in 2018! Why are you now recommending this?”
– Skeptical (and possibly slightly annoyed) reader
Here’s the thing:
I did not say that strategic keyword placement is a bad idea. This is not the only solution for all on-page SEO and not as important as before.
But still, it makes sense to include the target keyword here … if that makes sense.
We always do this with posts published on the Ahrefs blog.
Side note: It likely goes without saying, but the keywords meta tag isn’t something you are required to use at all. Google doesn’t take it into account. You should leave this tag blank.
Here are two important reasons why we do this:
First, when we studied 2M keywords in 2016, we found that there was still a slight correlation between ranking and strategic placement of keywords with an exact match.
Secondly, and more importantly, it helps search engines demonstrate that the page is the most relevant result for user searches.
For example, suppose you want to buy new wine glasses, so you are looking for “wine glasses” on Google. Which of the following two results are you most likely to click?
For me, this is the one with the keyword in the title, and the one that seems to be best suited for the search query.
However, sometimes the exact keywords corresponding to the keywords can in most cases be displayed as spam and unnatural. This will be the case if you are targeting a Keyword Tool Free query. It would be strange to have such an exact phrase in your content.
Therefore, it makes sense to write something like this:
That brings us to an important point:
You do not need to specify exact keywords in your content. You can use synonyms, intercept words, etc. Google is smart enough to know things. Just make sure your content is on point.
How do we know this?
Effectively no page ranks for just one keyword in Google. Most top‐ranking pages also rank for ~1,000 other keywords. Here are just a handful of the 1,200+ keywords for which our guide to search engine submission ranks:
Do you know how many of those keywords we have used in our content? ZERO.
Actionable takeaway: Keep the title tag, meta description, H1, and target keyword where it makes sense. If this is not an exact match, do not worry. Google will understand.
Take a look at this URL:
Can you tell me what that page is about just by looking at the URL? I doubt it.
Now take a look at this one:
It does not take a specialist to work out that it’s a blog post about losing weight. That’s because this is an example of a descriptive URL—it tells you what to expect from the page.
There are several reasons why this is good practice for on- page SEO.
First, as we said in the previous paragraph, users most often click on search results that best match their search query. Descriptive URLs help pin your page as a result of this.
Secondly, the descriptive URL contains the keyword you are aiming for.
Correlation ≠ causation
One reason for this correlation is that people mainly used the URL of a page as anchor text when they link to it.
But what if your current URL structure does not allow you to create such descriptive URLs? Should you start the restructuring of the entire site?
Here’s what Google’s John Mueller said about that:
“I believe that is a very small ranking factor. So it is not something I’d really try to force. And it is not something I’d say it is even worth your effort to restructure your site just so you can get keywords in your URL.”
You should make your URL as short and enjoyable as possible, since we have found a clear link between the number of characters in the URL and the ranking.
If you make it too long, it will also be divided in the search results which reduces clarity
Actionable takeaway: Aim for short and suitable URLs that are as descriptive as possible. Bonus points if you can include your target keyword in there (without it looking weird).
Here’s a surprising fact:
“8.1 million (3.3%) Americans have a vision impairment. These people might rely on a screen magnifier or a screen reader, or might have a form of color blindness.”
Translation: Approximately 1 in 30 search engine users have visual impairments and as a result can use screen readers.
How is this related to alt tag?
<img src=”/cute-cat.png” alt=”A picture of a super cute cat.”/>
You should strive to describe your images as accurately as possible, both in text and graphic file names. If this result is better to include your target keywords. Just don’t force them.
In 2016, we examined the results of 2M keywords and found that 50% of the pages in the top 10 do not have filled tags. There was also a very weak correlation between the use of alt tags and keywords in the ranking.
But this was only a study of regular search results.
For Google Image Search, the results, as well as the correlation, are likely to be different. There is another good reason to use the total tag, as John Muller said in this tweet:
Do you want even more evidence that alt tags and image SEO are important?
The Google Search Console reports that the images on our blog have received over 2 million impressions of Google images in the last three months. It was translated in 1570 clicks on our site from Google Images – not so much, but every little bit helps.
You may have seen the “image pack” results in the regular web SERPs.
Here is the one for “bad links” with an image from ahrefs.com ranking in pole position:
Image pack results for “bad links”
This image comes from our in‐depth post about bad links and fines and has the following alt tag and filename:
Alt text: bad links
That isn’t the only one of our images that ranks in the “image pack” results either. We have shown up for 992 other terms according to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.
Organic Keywords report filtered for image pack rankings only, via Ahrefs Site Explorer
Actionable takeaway: Use descriptive alt tags and filenames for all your images. It’s not much effort, and it’s totally worth doing.
Layout scheme (Schema markup) helps search engines better understand your page.
If you have ever seen Google search results with star ratings, images, or reviews. Congratulations you have experienced the effect of Schema markup.
Here’s the same result with and without Schema markup to illustrate:
Google search result with Schema markup:
Google search result without Schema markup:
You don’t need to be an expert to evaluate why such markup has been proven to increase the ‘click-ability’ of web pages in the SERPs. It is obvious that people are inclined to visuals, so anything that helps your page stand out should have a positive effect.
But you can do many more things with the help of Schema…
You can go to mark specific references to objects, places, things, and more. This means that if you have a web page that sells books, you can’t only use Schema markup to mention that it is an ecommerce product page. But you can also specify the name, price, ISBN, etc. of the book.
Is Schema markup a direct ranking factor? Not exactly.
Here’s what John Mueller said when questioned about it on Twitter:
Does this imply that you should add schema markup to every single web page of yours?
Obviously not, just add it to the web pages that will benefit from it the most.
To be sure whether to add Schema markup or not you should see at the top‐ranking pages for the primary keyword you’re targeting. If many of those pages have Schema markup, then it will probably make sense for you to add it to your page too.
Learn more about schema markup here.
Actionable takeaway: Add Schema markup to increase SERP CTR and to assist search engines better understand the content on your web pages.
I am going to list some words. These are all the ingredients and cooking equipment you need to make a simple dish that you probably already know
Based on the list below, see if you can figure out the food items.
Did you get it? (Click here to get the answer.)
If you are thinking why this is relevant to on-page SEO. It is due to something called ‘phrase’ based indexing ‘and’ co-occurrence ‘.
I’ll leave out the technical terms but it’s basically the idea that Google can better identify the relevance of content through the co-occurrence of words and phrases.
For example, you have a page with the title tag “TASTY omelet recipe!”
Google can probably guess that this page is completely based on this. But this guess will definitely be confirmed if they see that your page also mentions all of the above.
I mean, it is unlikely that such a page could be anything but an omelet recipe.
Now here’s the thing:
You probably won’t be able to write an omelet recipe without mentioning all these words, so there is no effective way out of this specific example.
Let’s say you are working with a customer who sells brewing equipment.
You would not have enough knowledge to know that the joint occurrence of words like “all grains”, “granular”, “attenuation”, “flocculation”, etc. On one page will increase relevance.
This is the place to dig and explore things that mention the best ranking results. You can do this with Ahrefs Content Gap.
Simply paste a few of the top‐ranking pages into Content Gap like then hit “Show keywords.”
IMPORTANT: Leave the bottom field blank. Use the “Prefix” mode for all URLs.
You would see something like this:
Please note that these words and phrases are not synonyms, but words related to each others
You can also do a TF-IDF analysis if you want to get super technical.
Actionable takeaway: Add semantically‐related words and phrases to increase the “relevancy” of your page and help Google understand that your page is the best result for your target keyword.
“Tis important to writeth for thy audience.”
Imagine if I wrote this entire article in Shakespeare’s terms
Most likely, most of you will press the back button faster than you say Othello!
You’re not alone most Americans are in 7th or 8th grade, which means that Shakespeare’s language is probably not the easiest thing to understand.
But I know what you think: how does this relate to on page SEO?
It is believed that Google looks at user signals (time on page, etc.) to influence the ranking. Therefore, if your copy is complex and difficult to understand, your visitors will immediately go to the “Back” button. This is not good for those user signals.
Here are a few tips for keeping your article nice and simple:
You can use tools like Hemingway to help you with that.
Actionable takeaway: Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS)
Why no mention of ‘LSI keywords’ and synonyms?
Many on-page SEO tutorials advised to “add synonyms and LSI keywords” to your content. This is bad advice.
Let me explain why, to begin with synonyms.
Synonyms: a word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word or phrase in the same language, for example shut is a synonym of close.
What’s wrong with spilling these words onto your content? Nothing.
It is advisable that you make a conscious effort to do this in any way that causes me problems. Any semi-decent writer will naturally use synonyms when writing.
For example, here is an excerpt from the top page about the best MPG cars. Highlighted words are examples of “vehicle” – “synonym for cars”.
Do you think the author made a conscious effort to “sprinkle synonyms” here? I doubt it.
Now, what about “LSI keywords?”+9++
LSI keywords: words closely resemble another word.
Sticking with the car example, some “LSI keywords” might be autonomous, fuel, engine, diesel, petrol, Ferrari, etc.
Sidenote: LSI keywords are a bit of a non-thing. I won’t go into too much detail about that here, but I recommend reading these two articles by Bill Slawski if you want to learn more.
Here, we run into the same issue once again—if you’re a good writer, these words will appear naturally. No extra effort is required. And if they don’t, that is fine. You don’t have to force them in.
So, to make it more clear, the reasons I believe you shouldn’t bother ‘optimizing’ for this stuff are two‐fold
On-page SEO is about more than just applying a few keywords into meta tags.
It is regarding the fulfillment of user needs and providing them what they actually need. That is the most crucial step if you failed to provide what the searcher needs no matter what ever technique you have applied, nothing will help you rank.
But, obviously, it’s still vital that you keep the “big G” happy.
Does that require including keywords in your meta tags? Yes, partially. However, it’s not always totally necessary, and it’s only part of the puzzle—a small one, at that.
Let us know in the comments if we missed any cool on-page SEO tips in this guide?