This is the third article in a series of guides for content specialists on how to write successfully both for people and search engines in 2017. Check out previous one and stay tuned for new updates.
Top-rated bloggers don’t only have excellent writing skills, they also take responsibility for their content’s performance in search engines. They’ve learned one simple trick – you have to write both for people and search engines.
Of course although over the time search engines have become smarter, and learned to understand the context, not just the separate keywords, search engine optimization is not going anywhere just yet. The good thing is, it is becoming technically easier to promote the website now than it was a few years ago, because there are a lot of tools that do all the boring work for you.
In this article, we’ve collected the complete list of the tools that can be used for content optimization of your page. Step by step, following the logic of SERP anatomy, we’ll explain how to make each detail of your article attractive to both users and search engines.
On-Page SEO Checklist
As a writer, you sure understand the power of a good title. It’s highly important for attracting the user’s attention and increasing the page CTR: they will see your title on the SERP, and if they don’t like it, they will most probably not read your article.
From the SEO point of view it makes sense to put your keyword in the title only if it is short and high-volume: the recent SEMrush research on ranking factors confirmed it. If you are trying to promote for a long-tail keyword, it will be quite tricky to put all of it into the title, so better 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.
Check out this article whenever you run out of ideas for great headlines: How to Write Great Headlines for the Web.
On Page SEO Checker gathers information about the correct H1 and title tags and checks keyword stuffing there.
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 in order to avoid 404 mistakes.
Your URL length matters — it’s 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.
Want to learn more? Check out this article: On-Page SEO Basics: URLs.
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.
Meta description does not impact your rankings in any way, but as I said earlier, you have to think about your users as well. Well-written meta description will help them better understand what your article or page is about.
Also do not just let Google choose the meta description for you: if you do, you may find a random phrase from your page residing there. And avoid duplicate meta descriptions across different pages.
Get some more ideas here: On-Page SEO Basics: Meta Descriptions.
SEMrush On Page SEO checker — the group of Content ideas provides you with all the tips you need to make your content better from the 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 old keyword stuffing in <meta> tag.
SEOmofo is a SERP view generator. Enter your URL, title and description to manage the number of symbols and preview your article’s appearance on SERP.
Portent – another SERP view generator.
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: The Future of SEO: 5 Ways to Adapt Your Content for 2016 with Andy Crestodina.
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 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 bullet points – it’s easy to perceive and allows you to include plenty of information in the article without sacrificing the user’s attention.
<h1>Example Title</h1><br/><p>Your text</p><br/><h2>Example Subtitle</h2><br/><p>Your text</p><br/><h3>Example Subtitle</h3><br/><p>Your text</p><br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>
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 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, absence of videos can harm your visits, especially if everyone else in the niche has them. Also, having a script besides the video has become a common practice, because it helps both, users and crawlers, notice your content.
If you are placing your own videos, don’t forget to optimize them as well. Check out this guide: Advanced Hacks for YouTube Optimization.
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.
It’s been proven that “content with at least one image significantly outperformed content without any images. However, we didn’t find that adding additional images influenced rankings.” And, as we mentioned above, it’s a great way to structure your article and customize it. Some experts recommend to insert 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’s 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.
Talking about SEO: images that are too large can slow down your site speed – one of the most powerful user experience constituents. 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.
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 – it’s good 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.
The main point is: people love longer content because it implies deeper topic coverage.
And it’s a proven fact that longer content tends to rank higher.
Here’s more proof of why big content wins, along with some recommendations on writing lengthy texts: 10 Things to Keep in Mind When Working on Big Content.
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’.
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 simple — 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 tools that can help.
For more information and recommendations about readability tools, check out this Raven’s post - Ultimate list of online content readability tests.
SEMrush On Page SEO Checker helps you make sure that your content is not less readable than your competitors’.
Readable checks the pasted or typed in text for readability.
Readability Test Tool checks how readable is the text under the specific URL.
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 essentials – it has a big influence on search engine bots’ behavior. Crawler starts visiting pages that could otherwise be lost. And in case you did not have time to dive deep into backlink building, internal linking may be a good place to start.
Check out this article for more information: 3 Internal Linking Strategies for SEO and Conversions.
SEMrush On Page SEO checker lets you know if the page has any internal links leading to it.
SEMrush Site Audit compiles all the internal links that are broken in one list so that you can fix them quickly.
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 trustable 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’ posts that gater a lot of user interactions and helps you gather 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 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’s 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 the 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.
Meanwhile, check out: 18 Reasons Your Website is Crawler-Unfriendly.
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 load speed and page compression, which are both responsible for the page load time.
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’s not just Google who decides if your content deserves a higher position – it’s 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 a 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.