There are many reasons that you may have a website, but the ultimate goal – whether you’re a business or an individual – is to get eyes on the site, in the hopes that they’ll like what they see. Unfortunately, you could have the greatest website in the world, but if people aren’t aware that it exists, it won’t get any traffic. That’s where SEO (specifically, on-page SEO) can come into play.
In case you weren’t sure, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), is a strategy and set of tactics that you can use to help your site be ranked higher in search engines for related keywords. SEO activities can be broken down into two sides: on-page and off-page. On-page are the things you can do to your own site, while off-page are the tactics that involve other people’s websites.
The Quest for First
While being the first result for a search term will get you the lion’s share of the traffic, being anywhere on the first page of search results can also help provide a traffic boon, as 75% of users never visit additional pages of search engine results. We once heard a joke, “Where’s the best place to hide a body? The 2nd page of Google search results. Nobody will ever look there.” Funny, because it’s true.
How to Get There
1) Mobile matters
Making your website mobile-friendly should be a major priority, as Google started penalizing websites without responsive design in 2015. Building responsive sites is standard for us. We wouldn’t think of building a website that wasn’t also optimized for mobile devices. Fixed width is so 2011.
2) Keywords matter
You first need to write your content like a human, but like a human who’s talking about something specific. Choose your main keyword phrase that you want to show up for when people search and make sure that your content sticks to that theme. When it comes to considering a page’s structure, you should either start it with the keyword that you’re trying to rank for, or place it as close to the beginning as possible, which will give it more weight with search engines. You may also want to add modifiers to your title so that you are able to rank for long-tail versions of that keyword. For example, using this post’s page, titling it “Considering On-Page SEO in 2016” would create higher relevancy for any who are searching for the modifier “2016”.
3) Speed matters
75% of users won’t return to a website that takes over four seconds to load, regardless of device, so optimizing images and rich media content is a best practice. Ditch bloated plug-ins. Compress your code. Consider using a content delivery network (CDN).
4) Meta matters
While you may be tempted to add many modifiers to your title, make sure that your URL is concise. The best URLs are under 255 characters and contain “-“ characters to indicate spaces. For instance, “factors-to-improve-seo” would be a better URL than “factorstoimproveseo”. However, make sure to include keywords in your URLs, and try to make them short and sweet, as shorter URLs tend to rank better on Google.
Your meta description should be around 160 characters. Keep your keywords near the beginning, if it sounds natural, and make it enticing. You want your searcher to know that your content is exactly what they’re looking for. We recommend using the Yoast SEO plugin to help with crafting those perfect titles and descriptions on WordPress sites.
5) Length matters
Speaking of Google, longer page content had a tendency to rank significantly higher on the search engine’s first page. There remains a bit of an ongoing argument as to whether creating longer content less frequently or shorter content more frequently is better for your SEO. The advantage with longer content is that it’s more informative for your visitor, it can contain a number of both outbound and inbound links without overwhelming your visitor, and ultimately people will spend more time on your website overall. The caveat is that page content must be original; if your content has appeared anywhere else first, whether as a guest post on another website or on your Medium blog, it won’t have as great of an impact as fresh content when it appears on your website.
6) Links matter
Lastly, but no less important, is to link to other pages and sections of your website when appropriate. When search engines crawl a website, they are programmed to follow all links, which is a great way to spread awareness within search engines of low-traffic or otherwise isolated parts of your website. Doing this will also help search engines understand which parts of your website are the most important. Internal linking can also give your reader a chance to discover other, related content on your site, which keeps them around longer.
Getting your website up to speed on SEO can be a long and tricky process, so you may want to consider talking to some folks who have intimate knowledge of how to get you to the top and make sure you stay here. We’d love to be those folks.