Understanding On-Page SEO
On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO are two faces of one coin. Both are essential to each other, and to the larger purpose of helping you how to rank your website better in search engine results. In this write-up, however, we will cover on-page SEO only.
As of 2020, there are around 6 billion webpages on World Wide Web. They are there to be seen, visited, and consumed. A simple Google search will also inform you that “Google processes over 3.5 billion searches per day. If you break this statistic down, it means that Google processes over 40,000 search queries every second on average,” Oberlo.com states.
Given the size of web pages and search queries, it is difficult for Google (and Bing or other search engines) to bring out the desired results in the shortest possible time—usually less than a second. What should search engines do?
To give users the best experience, search engines scan billions of pieces of content in response to a user’s query and bring the most relevant content in front of them. The process through which this content on the webpages asks the search engine to ‘pick me’ is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
How does SEO work?
The process looks like this: When a user makes a query, the search engine scours all the available pages (this is called crawling and indexing) and ranks the content according to the relevancy (that is, is this what the user desires?). Once the page is ranked, you’ll see SERPs (search engine result pages) in response to your query. To be available for search engine crawling, your website must be accessible to Google Search Console/Webmaster Tool.
Now the real question.
How to enable your website to appear in SERPs—and preferably in top pages and spots?
This is done through different SEO techniques—one of the most important of which is on-page SEO. And what is what we are exploring in this blog.
Also known as on-site SEO, on-page SEO is pretty much what the name says—the content visible on the page. It basically includes your content: keywords, alt texts, anchor texts, image optimization, website URL structure, internal linking, content structure, title tags, and even meta description. A meta description is no longer a factor in your ranking but it is still an important factor in bringing visitors to your website from SERP.
Let’s analyze each one briefly.
Content is the primary driver of on-page SEO. You’d have probably heard ‘content is king’ many times. But it is never just the content, mind that. It is the right content, presented in the right way and against the right keywords. No matter how much authority your website may have, no matter the keywords, and no matter other factors, if your content sucks, no one is going to read it. If someone bounces back from your content, it diminishes your standing in the search engine’s eyes. (Yes, search engines have eyes. They’re called bots.)
So first and foremost, your content should be valuable. It should not be written only for bots; instead, it should be written for humans. Write as if search engines do not exist. Once you do that, do the necessary tweaking.
Keywords in your content is the second driver of on-page SEO. Search the keywords you want your page to rank against. Do keyword research in your niche. Think of what your audience is looking for. Take help from online tools to determine your intended keywords’ competitiveness and volume.
Unlike earlier, the longer the keywords today, the better chances are there for you to rank. Here you need to remember: No keyword stuffing is allowed. You need to incorporate your keywords in such a way that your content looks natural. If you include too many keywords, and that too in a haphazard way, you are going to be penalized for that.
A title tag is the title of your web page. It is what you see in the SERPs as well as in the tab above. If you are reading this piece, you would have noticed the title tag ‘Understanding On-Page SEO.’ It is one of the most important factors for your on-page SEO. It should have your intended keyword; should be catchy (if it is catchy, the chances of it being opened are 500%); and should be less than 65 characters.
Consider it the name you give to images in your blog. Since search engines can’t read images, you will have to tell them what this picture is about. This way, it easily gets indexed. Another benefit of adding relevant alt text is that it can be read when the image doesn’t load. It should be relevant to what the blog is about. Since it is also something you see on page, it also is one of the important components of on-page SEO.
Your website may not only have just one blog. There may be other resources available on your website you would like your visitors to read. To do that, you give a link to that resource. This is called internal linking. Internally linking related pages on your website is yet another important factor of on-page SEO. It makes it easier for search engines to crawl everything, and it also keeps visitors engaged longer.
While this doesn’t relate to your content, it still is another key determinant of on-page SEO. Think it like this. You see good content in SERP. You visit the page but find that this page is not mobile-optimized. You have to zoom in the content to read it. What do you do? Chances are, you will leave this page and find another resource.
Similarly, if your page gets longer to load, the visitor may bounce back.
A meta description is what appears below the link on the search engine page. As is evident in the image below, it tells the readers what to expect from this certain piece. It should be written to compel the visitor to open the link. The rest, it is up to your content whether she stays or leaves.
These are some of the factors that play a core role in your on-page SEO. This is not an exhaustive list. Google is constantly updating its algorithms in order to discourage keyword stuffing and duplicate and scrapped content. There have come updates such as Panda, Pigeon, Penguin and other updates that has rendered old-age practices useless—and in some cases would penalize you for that.
So, while you have the liberty to put into practice all the tools necessary for SEO, stay cautious of your techniques. They should be white hat SEO techniques—the ones that Google not only allows but encourages them. Keep yourself away from black hat SEO techniques. They are techniques that Google not only discourages but would punish you for. Black hat techniques range from duplicate (and copied) content to keyword stuffing, and from cloaking to hidden texts and links.
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