Today’s connected audience is more discerning about content online. As such, companies exert greater amounts of effort in delivering solutions tailored to their clientele.
However, well-made content is not the sole requirement for ranking in search results—you need to know how to get your information in front of customers. Otherwise, your content will sit in your corner of the internet, and it would not be seen by the people who want (or need) it the most.
Prevent this from happening by using on-page optimization. This process involves getting into the details of what makes your posts more visible online, which means reviewing everything from article structure, to formatting, and even metadata.
If you are stumped about where to begin, do not worry—here is our checklist for launching your own on-page optimization efforts.
1. Simplify your URL Structure
A short and memorable URL is just as important as planning UX, and it helps search algorithms categorize your post. When a reader sees your page in a search result, they should be able to infer from the URL what they can expect from the article.
When writing your page’s URL, use relevant keywords only. Remove underscores “_” or parameters “/” and separate keywords with hyphens “-”.
2. Emphasize the right things
Titles are the first point of contact your reader has with your article, and search engines use them in evaluating the relevance of your content. Be sure your titles tell visitors about your brand succinctly.
Keep your title tags under 512 pixels and 55 characters, and use separators like “|” or “–” to give brand terms breathing space. Include contextual copy and primary keywords in the title, and if possible, list the country.
Just as vital as title tags are the H1 tags for the main on-page titles. Be sure that you align your H1 headlines with the URL, important keywords, and meta tags. Furthermore, you should use bold, strong, or italics when writing.
3. Write optimized meta descriptions
Meta descriptions are the text displayed below the link when you appear in a search engine results page. Make this work for you by using contextual copy. Keep this to around 920 pixels or 155 characters, and remove non-alphanumeric characters.
Make each tag unique—if you have a call-to-action, make it brief. Include relevant keywords, but do not put too many of these, as it will read as keyword stuffing, a blacklisted technique that will only demote you in search rankings.
4. Follow content guidelines
When creating content, you must write an introduction that provides an overview while hooking the reader. Do not bury the lede—present the most important ideas immediately, and promise an in-depth view of these in the next paragraphs.
Design your content to keep people going from one sentence to the next. Clarity and word choice play an important part here. Most importantly, do not resort to keyword stuffing.
In addition, you should avoid duplicate content and portals. These tell Google that you are either too lazy to clean up your site, or you are a plagiarist who reproduces published copy. Ensure that you have unique content for your pages, and it will reflect positively in your search ranking.
5. Make sure your site loads quickly
Site speed is an important criterion for SERP ranking. This is even more so in mobile, since portable devices can only process smaller quantities of data, and would need fast-loading websites that display information within seconds.
Implement caching throughout your website and strive to keep your page elements at small file sizes. You can test these through Google’s Page Speed Insights tool.
6. Format 301s & 302s
Make sure you have permanent 301 redirects and temporary 302s if you have site updates. Quality backlinks keep your site ranking up, and inactive links are dead weight on your domain. Get rid of PDF links that are no longer up to date—these cannot be redirected.
You must also revise your robots.txt file frequently. Update your exclusion rules and XML Site Map by providing a full list of URLs with XML declarations and specifying the Rich Snippet and Schema data for all your pages. If you can, include products in your update.
7. Incorporate keywords in your post
You might have a thoughtfully written article, but if it does not include phrases that are important to your target audience, it will not help you rank in SERP. Build content around one or two keywords—identify your main topics and list down relevant terms before writing.
8. Audit your content and consolidate
Not creating a list of canonical pages could lower your rankings. Mark canonical pages with “rel=canonical”. This tag tells search engines that this is your preferred URL. In your sitemap, you can list the canonical URLs and specify which ones these are using the <head> tag. Google’s Consolidate Duplicate URLs help page explains this process in detail.
9. Select and label images carefully
Do not overlook the power of images in improving the quality of your posts. Whenever possible, use original images, artwork, graphics, or photographs—your company benefits from having images associated with your brand only. However, stock photos can be a great solution, especially for websites that need many pictures.
Give these images keyword-rich titles as well, and keep their file names under 100 characters. Compress them for loading on mobile web applications—the best size for smartphones and small devices is 100 KB or less.
10. Link only to what is most relevant
Keep your content unique, especially if you have multiple pages addressing the same general topic. Be consistent and use keyword-rich descriptions in your calls-to-action.
In a similar vein, when linking to external content, do not send readers to pages barely related to your topic. You only include information that you need in the body of your article, so keep the same idea in mind when choosing which pages to link.
11. Check all the boxes
SEO is a long game, and sometimes pages that have been up for a while need some housekeeping. If you take the time to do this, though, you will surely stay relevant in the eyes of your audience and search algorithms, and you will bring in the traffic you want for your website.
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