Optimise Your Content for SEO
If you haven’t done any real optimisation for your web pages, or maybe you did some when the site was launched a while back but nothing since, this is a great strategy with the potential to make some very quick gains. To prove it, here’s a screenshot of one of our main pages that hadn’t been optimised for a while, and the improvement we saw just from re-vamping it with more focused optimisation for a major search term we wanted to concentrate on. Jumping from page 2 to page 1 for your main search term should certainly mean more traffic and potential customers – especially if you do this for all your ranking pages!
When it comes to on-page optimisation, what you’re aiming for is relatively simple. Your pages rank well when Google understands exactly what your page is about and what search terms it should be ranking for, and the content on your page is focused around those search terms.
As we’ve mentioned before, all Google is looking to do is provide its users with the most relevant pages for the search terms they used, and by maximising the potential of the main on-page optimisation elements, you can demonstrate that your pages fit the bill. But before we look at the specific optimisation tips, we need to talk about focus.
Focus Your Content Optimisation
If Google is looking to show the most relevant web pages for a search query, it should be obvious that the more focused the content on your page is for that query, the more chance your page has of being seen as the most relevant for that particular term and ranking well. Where a lot of businesses come unstuck is when they add too much varied content to their web pages so that they’re not really focused on any one topic in particular.
Using an example to explain this, imagine a Home Services company that offers a variety of services – plumbing, electrical, roofing etc. If they simply have one ‘Services’ page where they list all of these, there’s not enough focus for that page to rank well for terms like ‘fulham plumber’ or ‘chelsea roofer’ – or at least, it will be a lot harder for it to rank well for these terms because other web pages that are more focused, with relevant optimisation for these terms will outrank them.
Consider the alternative, where they have a page for roofing, one for plumbing, one for electrical etc., these pages will be much more focused on these particular services and the related search terms so, relatively speaking, it will be easier to rank these pages well.
Test it out in your market and see. Search using terms for your main service and you’ll typically see that the first page of results will be web pages, and even whole sites, that are focused on that particular service and the search terms customers will use to find it. Usually, the only exceptions will be big authority sites that rank well due simply to how ‘powerful’ they are, such as yell.com.
So before we even start to look at improving your on-page optimisation to try and increase your rankings, you need to take a look at your web page and make sure it is well-focused on the topic and search terms you want it to rank well for. If it’s not, you might want to consider ‘re-focusing’ the content, or even splitting the page into different, more-focused pages and optimise those.
The Key On-Page Optimisation Factors
When it comes to on-page optimisation there are 4 key elements you want to pay particular attention to, ensuring that your primary, secondary and related target keywords are well-represented in each of them. In order of importance, the main on-page elements are as follows.
In many cases, it’s going to be hard to optimise a URL, as this would most likely mean changing the URL of an already established page. However, because having the keyword you’re trying to rank for, or a related keyword very close to it, in your URL is such a strong signal to Google as to what the web page is about (and therefore what searches it’s relevant for), it may be something you want to consider.
This could especially be the case if your site’s current web pages use ‘ugly’ URLs that have very little benefit for optimisation, e.g. https://abccompany.co.uk/services-list/service76589.html. Let’s say this company is trying to rank this webpage for ‘wembley roofer’, this URL is not doing their optimisation any favours at all. On the other hand, if they were to change the URL to https://abccompany.co.uk/roofing-services/wembley, then they are almost certainly going to see an improvement in the rankings for their main search term.
A couple of things to note. Whilst adding keywords to your URL can help improve rankings, as with most optimisation if you overdo it then it will actually do more harm than good, so don’t be tempted to cram too many keywords in there. If you do decide to change your existing URLs to improve the optimisation, you must make sure you set up a 301 redirect from the old URL to the new one. This way you won’t lose any traffic that is going to the old URL, and all the links that page had built up will benefit the new page. Be aware that when you change a URL in this way, there can be a drop in the rankings for a short time until the new URL receives the full benefit of the redirect, but when this does happen, and the fact that you now have your keyword in the URL, you should rise back up the rankings higher than you were with the old URL.
It may not be possible to change your existing URLs to improve their optimisation, but if you’re at least able to make sure that any new pages you add to your site have better-optimised URLs, then you can start to improve the focus and potential for ranking of these new pages.
We’ve already spoken about your page’s meta title and meta description – after the URL these are probably the most important tools for optimising your on-page, the meta title probably more so than the description.
It’s key to make sure you are optimising both of these meta tags, and ensuring that your meta title has some good keyword coverage, as we looked at in the last strategy, and that your meta description is appealing to your potential customers, as well as including some related keyword terms as well.
These days, most websites are set up in such a way that you will be able to craft your own meta tags, and if you are using a platform like WordPress this is even easier with plugins like Yoast and All-in-One SEO. However your website is set up, make sure you are taking the opportunity to create bespoke meta titles and descriptions for each page, and use the advice in the previous strategies to make sure these have as positive an impact on your on-page optimisation and rankings as possible.
Unless you’ve done some of your own web development you might not be familiar with H tags, but these are basically the headings on your page. However, not all headings are created equal – Google understands that the main heading on a page is probably the best indicator of the main topic of that page, and the subsequent headings provide additional coverage of this topic. With this in mind, these headings can be assigned H tags to show their relevant importance in terms of indicating what the page content is all about. The H1 tag is usually assigned to the main, most important heading, the H2 tag to the next main sub-heading, H3 the following sub-heading and so on.
Understanding how H tags work, and optimising them appropriately, is key for your overall on-page optimisation for a couple of reasons. First of all, while Google is probably smart enough to understand that the biggest heading at the top of your page is probably a good indication of the topic the page content covers, making sure this heading is an H1 tag and also includes your main or a related keyword, leaves the search engines in no doubt. Secondly, having an organised H tag hierarchy, with the more closely-related terms to your main keyword in the H2 tags, less closely-related terms in the H3-H6 tags, helps to make it easier for Google to not only understand the main topic of your page, but also the more in-depth detail of what it covers.
To give you a better example of how this should look, if you were to inspect the headings for this article, you would see the following H tags and hierarchical structure, which should provide you with a better understanding of how you should be using the H tags throughout your content:
H1: On-page Optimisation for Better Rankings
H2: Optimise Your Content for SEO
H3: Focus Your Content Optimisation
H3: The Key On-Page Optimisation Factors
H4: Meta tags
H4: H tags
H3: The Right Approach to OnPage Optimisation
It may not always be possible to replicate this or a similar H tag hierarchy, so if you are somewhat restricted with the way your web pages are built, focusing on getting relevant keywords in an H1 tag at the top of the page whenever possible.
The final key piece of the on-page optimisation puzzle is the actual content on your page. In the ‘old days’ of SEO, it used to be good enough to simply include your target keyword dozens of times in your content in order to rank well – but times have changed. Apart from this approach being unlikely to provide the reader with good quality content, Google is more likely to rank you lower due to what is an outdated, spammy approach to optimising your content. This tactic used to work when the Google algorithm’s ability to understand your page content wasn’t as sophisticated as it is today.
These days, we’ve moved away from optimising pages for a single keyword, and instead focus more on the overall topic of the page, and optimising that in such a way that makes it relevant for the primary, secondary, and related keywords that we want to rank for – and if anything we actually under-optimise the actual content on the page compared to years gone by! Why this new approach works is due to the developments Google has made in terms of being able to understand the content on webpages, the topics these pages are about, and how all these topics are related on the wider web, which has a lot to do with innovations like Rankbrain and Neural Matching.
You can find out more about Rankbrain and Neural Matching (and how they differ) from this great article, but essentially Rankbrain allows Google to relate webpages to concepts, even when the exact words used in the search query are not used on the webpage. Neural Matching allows Google to relate words to search queries better. Basically, Google has become much better at understanding what’s on your webpage and what searches that content should be showing up for – which is why it’s more important to make sure you’re providing good content that’s relevant for the searches you want to be ranking for rather than cramming in a keyword dozens of times so your keyword density is 10%. Which brings us to Focus and Intent
We’ve already talked about how important it is to make sure the content on your webpage is as focused as possible in order to be seen as relevant for the searches you want to rank for, so what do we mean by Intent?
What we mean here is the searcher’s intent, so what it is that they are most likely looking for based on the search terms they used. Search intent has become more and more important to Google over the last year or so, which as we’ve already mentioned, is understandable as all Google wants to do is show the most relevant results for a search query, so working to understand searchers’ intent is a key part of that.
Having web pages that contain content that’s a close match for the likely intent of the keywords used by the searcher, makes Google’s life easier and is likely to result in better rankings. If you become too focused on simply optimising your content for a particular search term, if the content on the page the viewer sees when they click through from your listing in the search results doesn’t closely match the search intent, your rankings are likely to suffer.
A good example of where this happens frequently is when site owners try to rank for searches that typically have an informational search intent, that is the person is using search terms to try and find information on a subject. However, when they get to the page they find a little bit of information and then a lot of content trying to sell them something – either directly from the website or via too many ads on the page.
Google can discern between searches and web pages that are informational and commercial and it wants to match these up correctly. To explain this a little better using the example we’ve used previously, if someone just searched for ‘interior design’ there’s a good chance they are looking for information about this topic, perhaps the history of the industry or courses to study.
However, when someone searches for ‘interior design companies’, it’s far more likely that they looking for a commercial business’s website with a view to hiring them. Most businesses won’t need to worry too much about intent because their sites and web pages will mostly be focused on attracting customers from commercially-focused searches, but it’s certainly something to be aware of. The best advice we can give when looking to optimise your on-page content is to concentrate on making it as focused and relevant for the likely searches people will use to find the product or service you’re offering, which should naturally mean you’re including relevant keywords and other terms without over-optimising.
We know we said 4 key factors, and while this one may not be as crucial as the others, added to the mix it can still help your optimisation and is therefore worth looking at.
Adding media to your pages in the shape of well-optimised images and hosted or embedded video is usually only a good thing, as this provides more information about what the page covers and therefore what it should be ranking for – just make sure it is relevant. So with videos, make sure they add value to the content on the page, either complementing it our adding further explanation/information. With images, as Google’s algorithm can’t ‘see’ images, make sure you use descriptive file names and alt tags, ideally containing terms and phrases relevant to your page content and target search terms.
For example, the image at the top of this article has the filename ‘On-page Optimisation Impact.png’ and the alt tag ‘Impact of On-page Optimisation’, so while Google can’t see the actual image to know what it’s about, it can read those and understand how the image fits in with and supports the rest of the content on the page.
Approaching On-Page Optimisation the Right Way
The key thing to understand when it comes to optimising your on-page content is that it’s not about changing one thing and it having a huge impact, although improving just one of the key factors we’ve identified could certainly help, it’s about the combined benefit of upping your on-page optimisation across the board. So think about everything from the intent of the searches you want to rank for, the focus of the content on your page and how that matches, and then look at improving all the different aspects of your on-page to support and capitalise on that.
This has certainly been the most in-depth of our strategies so far, and hopefully it’s been useful, but if you still have questions or require additional help to improve the performance of the content on your webpages, get in touch and we’ll be happy to assist.