Can your website satisfy users’ search intent and rank well in 2016 and beyond? If you learn to use the technical tools and understand some key reports in Search Console you will be well on your way towards both.
For this tutorial I want you to feel confident creating content that satisfies your user needs, creates an exceptional user experience, and improves your search positions long term.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this on-page SEO series, where you can download a bonus checklist schedule, including 2 bonus on-page SEO techniques - content auditing + information architecture checkups not found in either post.
In this two-part series I break up the content like so:
Part 1: Complete On-Page SEO Techniques For A Killer Content Strategy helps you with your SEO Content Strategy & User Experience
It's here!!! Click To Open> Part 2: Technical Auditing & Maintenance (With Massive swipe file including 2-bonus seo techniques, Keyword mapping template ( enhanced with information architectural formatting), and the e-book version of part 1 and 2 of these blog posts for you to snuggle with all the KNOWLEDGE inside!
For On-Page SEO, Use Search Console (GWT)
You can manage almost all the elements in this tutorial using Search Console (previously Google Webmaster Tools/GWT). Below is a great walk-through of how to get started with it by the folks at tiltedpixel.com. Some of the sidebar items shown in the video have since been deprecated by Google, but there is always a new and improved tool to replace the one you no longer see there. checkout the video below to get a walkthrough of Google Webmasters Tools:
The Quicksprout blog beat me to it this month and published an ultimate guide to using Search Console for SEO. After reading this post, head over there to learn additional details about the reports and tools within the search console.
Now onto Part 1!
Part 1: Content Strategy & User Experience
When creating content, two factors must be considered: humans and search engines. You’ll need to create content for humans that will satisfy buying intent, but keep search engines in mind. How do you go about this?
Let’s use an e-commerce page as an example:
On an e-commerce site, it may be difficult to do both of these things on a product page (satisfy buying intent plus rank for a keyword). That’s because there is oftentimes not enough content on-page to do both and the keyword you want is highly competitive. How do we work with the natural limitations of an e-commerce page?
My recommendation is to optimize your e-commerce page for the main keyword you want to rank for or have the best shot at ranking for (see Google Webmaster Tools > Queries) and then create some additional content that can both rank for long-tail search terms more easily and link back to your e-commerce product page.
Since this isn’t a post solely based on e-commerce, let’s move on to other on-page SEO ranking factors.
Page Load Speed
This factor can be considered part of your technical SEO auditing, but I put more weight on it as a UX element since page speed affects user experience. User satisfaction is a signal that Google can interpret in many ways. We know page speed to be one of those things, probably due to the fact that quick-loading sites earn higher engagement rates and links, which are signs that the site is pleasing to both visitors and search engines. Don’t let this easy-to-fix factor cause abandonment and low rankings. Fortunately, Google provides you with a tool called Page Speed Insights to diagnose what is slowing down your pages, and it’s FREE, so use it!
Example results page:
Don't get too bogged down worrying about your score, instead, focus on things it doesn't take a developer to fix such as compressing images, which the tool shows you how to do. if your budget allows, you can use an actual speed testing tool like Pingdom to see the impact of any changes you have made on your site.
Create A Positive User Experience Through UX/UI
If someone doesn’t know you, then why should they trust you? You have to earn that trust by validating it with on-page elements that users expect to see when they visit your site. Establishing trust through UX/UI elements is going to affect your SEO because it affects your user engagement rates—bounce rates, pages per visit, page views etc.
What to do here to establish trust? I like to quote the famous Steve Krug on all things usability, seeing as his common sense approach speaks to the most people and that is: “Don’t make me think.”
“I should be able to “get it”—what it is and how to use it—without expending any effort thinking about it.” - Steve Krug, Don’t Make Me Think
Things that fall into this category:
- Navigation - Is it intuitive to use and to consume content?
- Copywriting - Does the content match what the user expects to find? Is it well-written and easy to understand?
- Color Scheme - Pick the right one for your audience.
- Layout - Is it easy to scan and get an understanding of what the site is about?
- Trustworthiness - Is there a positive social presence that a user can see, i.e. how many people have shared this content?
- Testimonials - Do other people like me trust these site owners to do business with?
- References - Do you link out to external references that are trustworthy and have authority in your niche?
Don’t make the ‘over-optimization’ mistake so many sites make. Optimize each page of your site for one main keyword per page and use that exact phrase in the page title, meta description, headings, and body content for best results.
Use a combination of tools to find keywords that will be a happy medium between search volume, competition (i.e. something you can reasonably rank for), and phrases that your site is already receiving traffic for.
Keyword Planner - Google
Use Adwords for Google search volume and competition to get a good seed list. Start with your main product, service, or landing page.
You may want to define targeting options to tighten up results.
The best keyword options are those with low competition and high search volume, but in most industries, those can be hard to come by or mean there is low buying intent around those terms, i.e. terms that are informationally motivated as opposed to consumer-driven. If you aren’t seeing a lot of high volume/low competition options, go for the next best which would be medium competition, good search volume and so on until you have a good seed list for your main pages, category pages, and product pages.
Keywords Explorer - Ahrefs
If you need more options, Ahrefs Keywords Explorer Tool opens up a new landscape of possibilities. I would recommend throwing your seed list in there and seeing what you get back. This can be a gold mine for keywords to target for blog posts, infographics, or other educational content.
Search Console - Google
Last but not least, head back to your old standby Google Search Console.
These are queries that currently bring traffic to your site. You can click on the individual query from the list, then click Pages to see what Page that specific query ranks for.
This brings up some things to consider.
If a page is already ranking for a phrase, there are three ways you can help improve it further: make sure it is further optimized for that keyword, do not use the keyword on another page, and also look for low hanging fruit opportunities. Queries that you are ranking in position 6-10 for are “low hanging fruit” as these will be easiest to move above the fold into positions 1-5 with a solid content strategy. Start creating content around these phrases today!
This is one of the most important on-page elements. Your page title is one of the first things a search engine sees when it crawls your site. Give each page on your site its own unique title and make sure the most important pages are optimized with one keyword for that page. To help ensure your page title isn’t cut off in search results, check its length with this handy pixel counter tool.
These should serve as banners inviting visits in. Your meta description contains one main keyword and information about the page that users and search engines need to understand your content.
You want to make sure you don’t overdo it on length. Again, I always use the handy character counter tool I mentioned above to make sure I hit my mark and am not over or under character counts for my meta descriptions and title tags.
Pro tips: Use the keyword exactly as appears in your keyword research tool. Don’t use a variation. This is especially important when you are just starting out and badly need traffic. Optimize for one, exact keyword and put it in your title, description, URL, and content. You can add variations throughout the page content, but make sure to use your exact target keyword for that page 3-5 times in the body.
Below is a great image I’m borrowing from Backlinko. This shows you the ideal title and meta format for an e-commerce page.
Headings (h1, h2...)
A headline stands out to a crawler because it tells it what the page content is about. If you add multiple H’s, crawlers read theses as sections - think main category:subcategory on down the page. It is another chance to add your target keyword. Don’t miss the opportunity.
It would be an injustice to your site as a whole to optimize just your copy and leave out your images. Each image uploaded should have the alt title and description space filled for SEO purposes.
Additional benefits include:
- Opportunity to add even more keywords on page. Don’t get lazy now!
- Helps your page rank in Google image search
- Makes your website accessible to visually impaired.
Using search engine friendly URLs for your webpages is important. Try to avoid using URLs with dates and numbers and use a clean URL structure that includes a category/folder hierarchy. Always include a keyword as close to the front of the URL as possible like so:
A bad URL structure would look like this:
Clean up messy URL parameters, inconsistent categories, and tagging systems or else things can get ugly real quick.
Related Topics - Targeting Long-Tail Keywords
Remember the image above that shows you an example of skin care long-form content linking back to skin care product pages? We do that because it’s easier to rank on long tail keywords, get visibility, and pass that authority over to our product pages rather than the other way around.
Google has a huge graph of lexical combinations and the power to analyze semantic relationships between content. This means Google can see your long-form content on skin care and associate that with other terms on your site such as cleansers, moisturizers, serums, etc. So these related topics are very important to the main topic therefore as a content creator you should understand what the lexical combinations are for your niche and monitor what the competition is doing with these as well.
Over time, and with updates to Google’s search algorithm, the optimum minimum number of words per article has increased exponentially. Research has shown that web content with over 1,500 words tends to rank significantly higher than posts with fewer words. This is another great reason to target long-tail keywords with long-form content that contains links to your product pages.
The average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.
To recap what we've learned so far:
- Get familiar with Search Console tools to help you optimize your existing content, create a positive user experience, and identify long tail queries to expand your content strategy.
- Use long form content that is easier to rank, to link to harder to rank for competitive terms to pass authority.
- Google has has a huge graph of lexical combinations and the power to analyze semantic relationships between content, so take advantage of it when planning content.
- Make sure your pages and URL's are optimized for one keyword per page and that keyword appears in your meta data and body content.
As always, feel free to contact me or leave your questions and comments below! Stay tuned for Part 2: Complete On-Page Optimization For Perfect Technical SEO with a downloadable bonus checklist and 2 bonus on-page SEO techniques - content auditing + information architecture not found in either post. Subscribe to my newsletter to make sure not to miss it!