Ranking high for the right keywords is tough.
It takes a lot of work and time to rank high and get the benefits of search engine optimization.
But even with hard work, some websites still fail to rank high for their target keywords. Of course, if your website is in this category, it can lead to frustration.
However, when you consider the benefits of SEO to your website traffic, customer numbers, and revenue, then giving up is not an option.
But wait a minute, how do some websites rank high for their target keywords? As you’ll find out, they put in a lot of work too. The difference is that they engage in activities that you may be oblivious to.
To carry out search optimization effectively, you have to take some actions both on your website and out of your website.
In this guide, I’ll show you vital activities you need to engage in to ensure your website is ready to attract search engine users and keep them.
Make no mistake, the point of optimizing your website is to make sure organic visitors find the right information plus have a great user experience.
Without further ado, let’s go into vital steps to take to help your website rank high in 2019.
What’s On-Page SEO?
These are activities you carry out on your website to give you a better chance of ranking for your target keywords.
These activities include producing great content and ensuring a great user experience for visitors, among other things.
1. Keyword Research
There are so many searches on Google and other search engines daily. And life would have been easier for a website owner if everyone was searching the same things. But people search for new things daily.
In fact, 15% of Google’s over 2 billion daily searches are terms that have never been searched before. But an important question remains: what terms are your potential customers searching for?
The answer to this question will affect the keywords you target with your content. This is why keyword research is a vital component of your SEO efforts. Ranking for the wrong keywords could lead to various issues such as:
- Generating tiny amount of traffic
- Attracting website visitors that are unlikely to take the actions you want.
Having said these, effective keyword research is the only way to target the right keywords with your business website. So how do you go about keyword research?
Know your potential customer
Over the years, search intent plays an important role in search results. When a search engine user puts a keyword in the search box, what are they looking for?
For someone who searches “shoes,” what are they looking for? What of “buy winter shoes” or “best TV set?” In some cases, people are looking for more information while people are looking to buy in other cases.
If you’re a consumer of the product you sell, then it’s a bit easier to understand your customer pain points.
Regardless of that, you should always put yourself in your customer’s position. How will they search for your product?
A way to achieve this is to create a buyer persona. With this document, you can have as many details as possible about your ideal customer. This will help you understand your potential customers better.
Use keyword tools
Part of keyword research is using tools to get more information about the keywords you want to target. Depending on the tools you use, there are many details you can get about a particular keyword.
Generally, you want to use keyword research tools to validate the keywords you have in mind. Or to get keyword ideas that are more reasonable to target.
Some important details you get about your keywords are:
This is the number of times people search for a particular keyword in a month. Usually, you’ll find that head keywords with 3 or fewer words have higher search volumes than long-tail keywords that have 4 or more keywords.
Even though you don’t want to target a keyword that nobody is searching for, you shouldn’t base your decision solely on search volume. To check the search volume on a tool like Ahrefs, enter your keyword and select the country you want to target.
Click on the search button. This will show you the search volume and other details about the keyword.
With this, you can see the number of searches a keyword has in a month. Of course, for seasonal keywords, you’ll notice that they have more searches during some months than others. And that’s the case for the keyword shown above.
Apart from the search volume of a keyword, you also have to account for the number of clicks. The reality is that some keywords have a high search volume but will be a waste of resources to target them.
For instance, check out this search for Donald Trump’s age. Of course, it has a high search volume of 121,000. But it’s not going to lead to many clicks as Google has already provided the answer.
Now looking at the keyword difficulty and clicks percentage in Ahrefs, you’ll see that it’s better to target a keyword that attracts clicks.
Some keywords are almost impossible to rank for. Except you run an authoritative website. Ahrefs has a keyword difficulty score that shows you how difficult it will be to rank for a keyword.
In some cases, a simple Google search of a keyword will show you how difficult it is to rank.
You can also use the Moz bar to see the domain authority of websites ranking for a keyword. Let’s look at this example for the term “digital marketing.”
You should only target a keyword with high difficulty if the reward is worth the effort.
Cost Per Click
Even though this is mostly useful for advertisers, you can also use the cost per click of a keyword to see how valuable it is. If advertisers are willing to pay a lot to show up for a keyword, then it’s usually valuable.
When you rank high for a particular keyword, you’ll notice that your page will likewise rank for many other long-tail variations of this keyword.
Thus when trying to rank high for a keyword, think of the user intent and produce content that satisfies the user intent.
2. SEO-Friendly URLs
One of the important elements to optimize on your page is your URL. Does your URL give an idea of what your content is all about? Does it contain your keyword?
URLs tell search engine bots what topic your page is about.
Likewise, it helps potential visitors get more insights into the topic you tackled on your page. This can help to improve the click-through rate on the search engine results page. Having a high conversion rate can make or break your website.
What are some tips to keep in mind to create a SEO-Friendly URL that improves your chances of ranking for a keyword?
Include your keyword in your URL
Your target keyword should appear in your title. For anybody clicking through to your page, they can see the purpose of your page. This also makes it easier for search engine crawlers to index your page.
Another point to keep in mind is that your keyword should be as close to the beginning of your URL as possible. The words in your URL carry more weight at the beginning than at the end.
For instance, if your post is about SEO tips, a URL like https://example.com/seo-tips is more advisable than https://example.com/5-incredibly-easy-to-implement-seo-tips. You should also avoid a URL like https://example.com/p=234567.
Use hyphens instead of underscore
When you use a hyphen (-) to separate words in your URL, search engine bots can see each word as a different word.
However, underscore (_) in your URL may give the search bots an impression that all your words are a single word.
Use a simple URL structure
In most cases, having a simple URL structure makes it easier for search engine crawlers to understand your page. Your post URL and keyword should be as close to your root domain and short as possible.
For some websites, there are many categories before the URL itself. This is not advisable. For instance, https://example.com/seo-tips is better than https://example.com/guides/general-tips/seo-tips.
Added to that, your URL should be as short as possible. Check out what Matt Cutts, former head of webspam at Google, said about URL length.
It’s important to have the right URL structure that includes important keywords and helps potential visitors.
3. SEO-Optimized Titles
When writing titles optimized for SEO, there are two major challenges: you want to write an attractive title to potential visitors and you also want search engine bots to understand them. How do you go about this?
To optimize your title for a specific keyword, you should ensure that your keyword appears as close to the beginning of your title as possible.
Even though there’s no rule regarding this, pages that rank high for a keyword usually have the keyword close to the beginning of their title.
Check out this example below:
You can see that the keyword “SEO” is close to the beginning of each of those titles. In some cases, it may not matter. But you have to be on the safer side.
The length of your title matters as your title is cut off after a number of characters. To avoid this, you should keep your title length between 50 and 60 characters.
This means your potential visitors can understand what your page is about before they click through.
One way to know if your title is short enough is to use the Yoast SEO plugin. This gives you a preview of how your post will appear on the search engine results page (SERP). You can make adjustments if you find your title is too long.
4. Quality Content
If you’ve never heard of it before, I’ll tell you now: content runs the web. More so, your business will be better served with quality content rather than lazy pieces of work. But what is quality content?
Well, it depends on who you ask really. However, one simple definition of quality content is that it can provide the right information to your visitors and solve their problems.
SEO has gone beyond merely targeting a keyword by including it as many times as possible.
Google wants to provide useful information to its users. If you can help Google achieve this aim, then you’ll rank high for important keywords.
The added benefit you gain here is that you build your brand as users get more engaged with your content when you solve their problems. What are considerations to make to create quality content?
How long should your content be? Studies have shown that longer content tend to rank higher than shorter ones.
In fact, a study by Moz and BuzzSumo also found that longer content tend to get more social shares and backlinks than shorter ones.
Does this mean your content should be as long as possible? Yes. But no longer. What does Google search quality guidelines say about the length of your content?
The aim of having a long post is to include as many details as possible about your topic. Considering this, a wide topic will usually require more words to explain in details than a narrow topic.
The guideline says: “The amount of content necessary for the page to be satisfying depends on the topic and purpose of the page.”
This may also depend on the industry you’re producing the content for. In most cases, content for the entertainment industry would be shorter than in the digital marketing industry.
For instance, nobody wants to read a 2,000-word article about Kanye West’s latest rant on Twitter.
Long posts can be easier for users to go through if you organize it properly. The truth is that not every visitor to your page read every word of your content. In fact, research by Nielsen Norman Group discovered that an average visitor to a page will only read 20 to 28% of the words on the page.
Nevertheless, you want them to gain from your posts. Some ways you can achieve this are:
- Using short paragraphs.
- Using bullet points to highlight a list.
- Using subheadings for every main point.
- Using lists.
When you do this, users can easily skim through your post and read parts that interest them. This way, they benefit from your content even without reading everything.
Easy to Read
Fine, you want to show you’re an expert through your content. And that’s commendable. But you don’t need to fill your content with jargon that your readers can’t understand.
You should use simple words that your readers can understand. A plugin like the Yoast plugin will show you the Flesch Reading Ease score of your content which shows you how easy your post is for readers. The higher the score, the easier to read.
What information is your visitor looking for when they click on your title? Are you providing that information? Your content should be relevant to your industry and to your readers.
Repurpose your content
When people say content, most people think about written content. But it goes beyond that.
One way to make your content available to a bigger audience is to repurpose your content to other formats apart from the written content.
It’s easier for people to understand visual information than the written type. For instance, a study found that people following directions with text and illustrations do 323% better than people following directions without illustrations.
Other formats you can use are:
You should pay attention to quality content because you have no chance of ranking high for a keyword without it.
Perhaps, it’s no surprise that Google search quality analyst, Andrey Lipattsev named it as one of the 3 most important ranking signals.
By using strategic content creation and other strategies, Andrew Dennis was able to improve a website’s organic traffic from 0 to 100,000 within a year.
5. Internal Linking
The most popular type of links you’ll hear are backlinks. Which is no surprise as they have a bigger impact on your SEO. But another type of linking you should pay attention to is internal linking.
These are links from a page to other pages on your website. What are some benefits you gain when you engage in the internal linking of your pages?
Makes crawling easier
Search engine bots follow links on your website when crawling pages. When you have internal links on your pages, it becomes easier for search engine bots to crawl your pages.
With this, you can get more of your pages indexed and have a better chance of ranking high.
Shows your website as a big resource on a topic
If you have content in a niche, then internal linking can show your website as a big resource in that niche. With necessary links from a page to another page tackling a different topic, it can show that your website has enough content for a niche.
This helps to improve your authority and ability to rank for that niche. Another advantage is that internal links help you to spread the link juice you gain from backlinks.
Helps users to find more information
A page without internal links means readers may only have to read a single page before leaving your website. However, internal links to relevant related pages will help users find more information and get more value from your website.
To optimize your website, you should have 1 to 3 internal links from a page to other pages and also pointing to a particular page.
You can check the number of internal links on your pages if you use WordPress and Yoast SEO plugin.
By adding internal links and using other strategies, Pipedrive was able to rank number one for the keyword “sales management” which boasts of a search volume of 9,900. This led to an organic pageview increase from nearly 0 to over 5,000 in about 8 months.
6. Outbound Links
No matter how big a resource your website may be about a wide topic, there’ll always be some topics that are better explained elsewhere.
In some other cases, you may need to make reference to research on other websites.
These make outbound links vital to your content. One of the biggest benefits you can gain from outbound links is that it:
Creates more value for your visitor
With the use of outbound links on your website, visitors are able to get more information about a particular topic. In essence, it creates better value for your readers and helps to improve the quality of your content.
If you use a tool like Yoast on WordPress, it’ll alert you if you have no outbound link on your website.
Check out this example of a post with a link out to research used to support its points.
On-Page SEO requires you to take important steps to get your website ready for search engines.
While optimizing your website for SEO, you must be aware that the two major aims of your on-page SEO are to make your website ready for search engine crawlers and provide great user experience to your visitors.
Use the strategies explained in this guide to boost your online visibility and gain more organic traffic to your website.