Top-rated bloggers don’t only have excellent writing skills, they also take responsibility for their content’s performance in search engines. They have learned you have to write both for people and search engines, and you must use solid data to reach your audience.
While the search engines have become smarter, and learned to understand context, not just the separate keywords, that does not mean there is no need for SEO. Due to the understanding of content and the focus on search intent, it is becoming easier for a website to reach the right audience than it was a few years ago. However, to be successful, you need to research, gather data, examine competitors, and utilize the data effectively. Thankfully, we have a lot of tools to help us do all of these things.
Need to Improve your On-Page SEO?
This article is your one-stop shop for learning content optimization techniques. Below, we have collected a complete list of the tools that can be used for on-page SEO and content optimization. Step by step, following the logic of the SERP anatomy, we will explain how to make each detail of your article attractive to both users and search engines.
If you are new to SEO, you may want to start with the basics. To rank higher in Google searches, web pages need to be optimized in a particular way. So let’s look at what needs to be optimized.
What Is On-Page SEO?
On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing content and HTML source code to clearly define what your webpage is and what information it is providing. Some areas that need to be optimized include page titles, meta descriptions, alt-text, internal links and anchor text, URLs, and more.
We suggest you take the time to read our ultimate checklist below so you know how to handle on-page SEO and how to optimize your content.
Here are the on-page aspects we are going to cover in this article
- Meta Description
- Keywords and Semantically Related Words
- Video Content
- Content length
- Internal Linking
- Social Sharing Buttons
- Duplicate Content
- Page Loading Speed
As a writer, you surely understand the power of a good title. It is at the top of our on page SEO checklist and is critical for attracting the user’s attention and increasing the page CTR. Users will see your title on the SERP, and if they don’t like it or don’t see what they need, they will most likely not click and read your article.
From an SEO point of view, it makes sense to put your keyword in the title only if it is short and high-volume: the SEMrush research on ranking factors confirmed it. If you are trying to promote a long-tail keyword, it could be quite tricky to put all of it into the title, so it would be better to focus on the quality of the content; Google and social shares will do the rest for you.
The title should be there not only for users, but for crawlers as well. So make sure you have title tags on your page. Also notice that while your H1 tag and title should not necessarily be repeating each other, you would still want them to be related.
Topic Research offers you the most resonant headlines, with the most backlinks, related to your topic.
Before anything else, your URL has to be descriptive and meaningful (please avoid weird number and random letter combinations!). And of course the URL is a very good place for your keywords.
Also, don’t forget that in a year you may want to update your content (including the title), so make sure your URL is evergreen and can be later applied to slightly or even drastically different content. If you decide to change the URL, do not forget about redirection to avoid 404 mistakes.
Your URL length matters — it is best to keep it around 3 to 5 words long. Also, when it comes to URL structure, using underscores as word separators is not recommended.
SEMrush Site Audit checks all the URLs on your website for length, for underscores, and helps you make sure none of the URLs has too many parameters in them.
A meta description does not impact your search engine rankings in any way, but as I said earlier, you have to think about users as well. A well-written meta description will help them better understand what your article or page is about, and it helps with click- through-rates.
Also you do not want to let Google choose the meta description for you. When it happens, you may find a random phrase from your page residing there that won’t help you with users. You also want to avoid duplicate meta descriptions across different pages.
SEMrush On Page SEO Checker — the group of content ideas provides you with the tips you need to make your content better from an SEO standpoint. For example, it will help you make sure that you put tags to all the right places, and if your SEO specialist resorts to the outdated SEO strategies
Keywords and Semantically Related Words
To provide users with the most relevant results for their particular search terms, use your target keywords within the first 100-150 words of your text and add some additional weight by placing semantically related words.
To improve your understanding of the idea of semantic search, check out this recorded webinar with Ross Tavendale, Tommy Griffith, and Tristam Jarman on keyword research.
- SEMrush SEO Content Template gives you a whole list of semantically related keywords for the ones you plan to create content for. There you also get examples of content the top-10 ranking websites put on their pages.
- SEMrush SEO Writing Assistant checks if your text is optimized with your target and related keywords, right in your Google doc.
- SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool gives you a huge list of keyword ideas based on your single seed keyword.
Structured text is easy to read and navigate through. There are plenty of methods for text structuring. If you are dealing with a lot of information, you can use a list with numbered or bullet points –this kind of formatting makes it easy for readers to scan a page and find what they need, and allows you to include plenty of information in the article without sacrificing the user’s attention.
How It Should Lay Out
Body text related to H1
Body text related to H2 and the main title of the article.
The second way is more ‘classic’ - write an introduction pointing to the problem and then divide the text into 3 to 5 main points and title them with descriptive subheads. In my experience, 3-5 statements within one article is more than enough to prove your point. (Fewer might not look like enough to convince a reader, more might make the article difficult to read.)
In technical SEO language – don’t forget to use H1...H6 tags for your subheads (and place your target keywords in the subheads, of course). Learn How To Use H1-H6 HTML Elements Properly.
SEMrush Site Audit helps you avoid a lot of troubles with H1 tags: it will tell you if any of them are duplicated, missing, or in abundance on the page. Any of these things can become an issue in the eyes of Google.
Adding video content to your page can also help you structure it and get more attention. It also attracts the audience that prefers visual content.
Although it hardly benefits you from the SEO point of view, the absence of videos can harm your visits, especially if everyone else in the niche has them. Also, having a script with the video has become a common practice, because it helps both users and crawlers notice your content.
SEMrush On Page SEO Checker – this instrument will check if websites with a higher position for a particular keyword have video content on their pages.
- SEMrush Social Media Tracker provides you with detailed analytics for your video content and its performance through all social networks. You can monitor video metrics, such as likes, dislikes, and shares, track the audience activity, engagement, and interest trend for every video posted by you or your competitors.
As we mentioned above, it is a great way to structure your article and customize it. Some experts recommend inserting an image in the text in depth of one scroll, so the user would always have an image on the page while reading. We think it is optional if you have some other eye-catching elements on the page like subheads or quotes.
Do not forget that the image format changes from platform to platform (they are cropped differently on Facebook, Twitter, and any other social network or search engine), so pay attention to microformats. Make sure that links to your domain and header images will look good on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and any other platform.
Images that are too large can slow down your site speed – one of the most powerful components of a good user experience. So be sure to use the right file size and format, and use image compressors correctly to reduce image size while maintaining visual quality.
Descriptive image file names and the use of ALT tags can help images from your page appear in Google image search results and help those that are visually impaired understand the page better.
For more information, check out this great article by Shopify: 10 Must Know Image Optimization Tips.
SEMrush Site Audit checks all the images for the presence of ALT attributes in the page code.
You have to be sure that your content is long enough so it is adequate for readers and search engines. But keep in mind that there is no exact ‘perfect’ content length; it all depends on your goals and the content purpose. Numerous studies have found that low word count content can hamper a page's ability to rank in Google well, with longer content considered more valuable.
The main point is: people love longer content if it includes deeper topic coverage.
And it is a proven fact that longer content tends to rank higher. Here is more proof of why big content wins, along with some recommendations on writing lengthy texts: check our big research on Content Marketing and learn how performing content will look in 2020.
SEMrush On Page SEO Checker will provide you with the information about your (and your competitors’) content length on a page ranking for a particular keyword.
SEMrush SEO Content Template tells you how long your future content should be so that it’s on the level with your competitors’.
- SEMrush SEO Writing Assistant checks if your text complies with the recommended content length based on your top rivals for a given keyword, right in your Google doc.
There is another important content metric, readability, which shows if your content is easy or difficult to read. Readability level depends on a lot of factors. Not only grammar and syntax play an important role, but also the design and structure of the text — everything that can influence our perception.
Basically, the secret is as simple as that: know your audience (are they advanced specialists or beginners?), good writing skills and focus on the message will help find a balance. If you want to check your text’s readability score, there are some SEO tools that can help.
SEMrush On Page SEO Checker helps you make sure that your content is not less readable than your competitors’.
SEMrush SEO Writing Assistant checks your text for readability right in your Google doc or WordPress editor mode and sets you a readability goal based on your top rivals for a given keyword.
Internal linking helps you enrich your content with additional useful information for readers while attracting attention to the related content you’ve created. Also, internal linking is one of the SEO on page essentials – it has a big influence on search engine bots’ behavior. Crawler starts visiting pages that could otherwise be lost. And in case you didn't have time to dive deep into link building, internal linking may be a good place to start.
SEMrush On Page SEO Checker lets you know if the page has any internal links leading to it.
- SEMrush Site Audit helps you identify errors related to internal linking on your website and find ways to fix them.
Social Sharing Buttons
Social shares don’t count as links, but they will help your content earn more SEO badges and cover bigger audience — add social sharing buttons and make them noticeable. And it seems that content with a lot of social shares is more likeable and trustworthy in the eyes of random users. Also, if an opinion leader or someone with a big scope of followers likes or reblogs your content, it’s very likely that it will attract new readers to you.
SEMrush Social Media Tracker searches for your rivals’ blog posts that gather a lot of user interactions and helps you get some ideas for the topics and formats of your future content.
- Click to Tweet – use Click to Tweet tool for sharing the main statements of your article. Choose a quote, insert it into Click to Tweet; embed generated a link to your blog and you’ll get a tweetable, noticeable quote with Twitter logo on it.
Duplicate content is one of the most common SEO problems. Our recent study shows that 50% of websites have some pages with duplicate content. It won’t give you a penalty, but it is a signal to search engines that your website has little to no value for your readers. Needless to say – your readers won’t appreciate it either.
All aspects of the duplicate content problem are covered here: Duplicate Content SEO Advice From Google.
SEMrush Site Audit provides you with a list of all pages with duplicate content on your website.
Can’t see your article in SERPs, although you think you did everything right? Make sure that your website was not blocked from crawling, otherwise, you did all your work in vain. Crawlability is a difficult technical question most content creators are probably not familiar with, so talk to your webmaster and find a solution.
SEMrush Site Audit not only checks if all the pages of your site are crawlable, but also provides you with the info about all necessary tags (e.g. headings, <meta> tags and other important HTML attributes).
Page Loading Speed
It’s not even a second – it’s a millisecond delay that can force a user to close your article and go to another website. Sometimes the reasons for delays can be simple, such as images with large file sizes on a page; sometimes they are more serious, including problems with your server. No matter the reason, it’s crucially important to be aware of any page speed issues.
SEMrush Site Audit checks your website performance, including load speed, identifies related errors and advises how to fix them.
Google Pagespeed Insights – the easiest way to check your page load time.
If your company's website is still not mobile-friendly, you are probably missing a part of traffic flow. No, let’s put it this way — you’re losing traffic. Of course, responsive design and mobile website development requires time and effort. It’s not something you can do in a day but it is worth every second you spent on it. Mobile-friendly websites have a strong priority in mobile SERP.
Google Mobile Friendly Test – solution from Google for checking website mobile-friendliness.
We’ve already talked about the importance of your content's SERP appearance.Markup implementations can increase your CTR in times, and the best thing of it, that microdata can be applied to different types of content no matter what topic you are covering.
Look at this great example. Both sites are using Schema markups to provide more information to the user: a list of ingredients, reviews, cooking time and even calorific value.
How does this influence your SERPs? Not in any way. Schema implementation has nothing to do with the direct impact on your ranking. But do you remember about CTR? Exactly! Everything that’s good for your reader is good for SEO.
SEMrush Site Audit – will give you information about the percentage of pages with implemented markups: Schema.org, Twitter Cards, Open Graph, Microformats.
Google Structured Data Testing Tool – will check if there are no mistakes in markup implementation on your page.
As you can see, Google is doing a lot in trying to help unique, informative content get better ranking. But it is not just Google who decides if your content deserves a higher position – it is your readers as well. Google doesn’t read your work and grade you with an “A” for excellent wording or exclusiveness of insights; it estimates a level of interest for your article by taking into account users’ behavior and your text’s availability.
You might be surprised to know that some on page SEO issues have little to no impact on rankings. At the same time, some issues which have nothing to do with SEO directly, but mostly with writing and content appearance, can have a giant impact on page CTR, time on page and bounce rate –user experience signals which Google relies on to determine page quality and SERP positions.
Which of these on-page and text elements do you think you might sacrifice without any negative impacts on your article's ranking? One? Two? Maybe five?
Well, of course, some of them can be ignored, but we intentionally didn’t point them out. Don’t think about a bare minimum. Create a good story and do as much as you can to make your text attractive and noticeable to readers and you'll maximize your content's impact.
Just check your content for proper on page optimization.
Create a catchy title.
Give a meaningful URL containing target keywords. Avoid randomness.
Make your meta description informative and succinct. A reader must know what they are about to read.
Choose your target keywords within top 100-150. Use semantically related words.
Structure your text by using H1...H6 subheadings. Stick to 3-6 statements to prove your point.
Dilute your content with videos, GIFs, and pictures which would catch one’s eye.
Respect your reader and find the optimal for your topic text length. Make the text easy to read and understand.
Enrich your text with internal links to other website articles and sections.
Provide your reader with sharing buttons, so they could spread the word about you in social media.
Make every piece of your content unique. Avoid duplications.
Make sure Google’s crawling bot can reach your article.
Test how long it takes for your page to be ready. Even milliseconds matter sometimes.
Make the article page mobile friendly, so your audience can read it everywhere.
Make your article bring your users the most before starting reading. Use Schema markups to provide more info on SERP.