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SEMrush Toolbox #6: On-Page SEO Checker




Craig: Hi guys, and welcome to today's SEMrush Webinar. Today's Webinar is going to be another SEMrush Toolbox, episode six, and it's going to be the On-page SEO Checker.

And, the guest for today's show is going to be Andy Crestodina. I'm sure he needs no introduction to the guys that are regularly watching Webinars as he is regularly hosted and appeared on SEMrush Webinars.

Andy Crestodina: Sure. So, I'm glad to be here. I am an old school SEO, I've been doing search optimization since 2000 and 2001. So, I was doing search back before Google finished winning the battle to become the monopoly and dominant search engine.

Some of the earliest things I learned in search are related to relevance and keyword usage and some of the things we don't do at all anymore are some things that are still the core to search, and a lot of those things we're going to talk about today. So, I'm a content marketer and an SEO, and so I'm a bit obsessed with keywords and content and quality.

Craig: Is there anything that up and coming that you feel is going to be good for SEO or bad for SEO, anything you've seen in the past few weeks that you can share some insights on?

Andy Crestodina: Well, the big trends that I'm always watching are more about changes in SERP features than in ranking algorithms. I think that I pay a lot of attention to user interaction signals. When I look at a SERP, I try to understand better what Google thinks people want and to try to meet people's information needs by providing content that I can tell from the SERP is relevant to that type of visitor.

So, I think that SEO is getting harder because there are more and more features within a SERP, just like those featured snippets and Q&A boxes and giant video and rich snippets and products and images and the scholarly articles and news and blogs and so much stuff now that I worry a little bit about all of us.

Craig: I think a lot of people don't lay any emphasis on on-page, or technical or even internal linking and stuff like that. You can simply get massive gains before you go and do any of your strategies in terms of link building and stuff like that.

I'm just going to crack on with my part just now. So, I'm going to start sharing my screen and just give a brief overview of what the tool actually does and where to find it.

After my brief demo, Andy is going to come and show us some of the more intricate things within the tool that you can do. And then, we will have questions and answers after that.

On-Page SEO Checker Overview

So, it's the On-page SEO Checker, so where do you find this tool? So normally, when you log in to SEMrush, it's normally under projects. And, when you set up a project, you can do your site audits and various other things, including the On-page SEO Checker, you'll find that here.

I would always start off with setting up a project on SEMrush and then you can do your Site Audit, Backlink Audit, Social Media Tracker, Content Analyzer and all the other stuff, all in this one dashboard.

The On-page SEO checker is on the top, third one along, and you simply click on it. So, this is a brief overview of the tool, and I've put my own website in here as an example. So it gives you a nice clear dashboard here with content ideas, strategy ideas, backlink ideas, technical ideas, UX ideas, SERP features and semantic ideas.

So, what's new on the On-page SEO Checker? So, it's got a user-friendly interface. You can import a lot of information and you can also integrate with Google Search Console, which is perfect.  It's also got the Top 10 Rivals Analysis, Tasks Prioritization, and SERP Features Ideas.

So, this just the top pages that it's recommended I prioritize, so it's got three dashes here and that would be one of the pages that's a priority and that's my home page on here. It's got 8 ideas and then it's got inner pages and stuff like that as well.

I'm just going to click on, a LinkedIn automation page that I've got on my website, so it was a blog I've done about that. And, it's talking about strategy, there's no real SEO strategy improvements required, no keyword cannibalization, no SERP features.

I've basically ticked a lot of the on-page boxes and if you haven't it will obviously give you that suggestion. But no one gets has a perfect page, they're still recommending some stuff here.

So, compared to my rivals some related words are not placed in my page’s content: “try to enrich your page’s content with the following semantically related keywords”. So, that's something that I can easily implement and obviously it will give me a detailed analysis on that. That's quite a cool feature.

“Add internal links that point to this page.” So I've got no internal links that point to this page. And, I was just speaking with Andy a minute ago about the importance and quick wins from a good internal linking strategy, and it's not something I've got to this page.

So, this is something that the tool flags up for you. And again, you can click on it and it will give you a whole bunch of data.

And, you can also see the user experience. The user experience stuff comes with integration through your Google Search Console, so it will tell you that the time spent on the page is high enough, the pages are low bounce rate and the page loads quickly enough. If any of these were a problem it would obviously flag up as a problem there.

You can see a whole bunch of optimization ideas and there's pages upon pages of ideas that I can walk through. And some of these ideas you may choose to completely ignore, you might not believe in them.

Certainly, for this particular one, I don't feel that header one tags are something that Google gives any great importance to that. I feel that header two tags through my own tests are more important, so I would ignore that one. SEMrush though wouldn't have flagged that up.

But, certainly, you can make improvements on your on-page SEO as SEMrush suggest. But, what is quite cool here, if I tick this little box, if you were really into getting featured snippets and stuff like that, then it can give me the SERP analysis for your target keywords based on the featured snippets first.

You can benchmark against your competition in terms of content, what's mentioned within a page, and you can go right into all of that kind of stuff on any of the pages on your website. So, it gives you a great overview of what really needs to be done on the benchmarking side of things. So obviously it's just benchmarking your website against those that are ranking in the top 10.

And, idea tasks is a nice tab. You can filter down to strategy ideas or SERP feature ideas and there's some other cool filters here. And so, it's something if you are working with a client I think is quite a good tool in terms of showing clients this kind of data, show them that you're doing something.

And, over the right-hand side here, you'll be able to export all of this stuff as a pdf as you can with the majority of SEMrush tools. So, make sure that you do use this as part of your reporting to clients because we all know that when you're doing client-side work, clients do want to have a rough idea on what you're doing.

You can also import keywords manually as well. So, if you want to look at other keywords there, you can import those and put the keyword then add that to the list manually if for any reason SEMrush is not picking up something that your homepage may be targeting. So, it's a fairly simple and easy tool to use.

Andy Crestodina: Thanks for the overview. I think one of the first things you said is one of those important things it's just where to find this. If you haven't really explored around in the interface for SEMrush, there's a lot.

So, I'm going to start by, let me share my screen and just make a quick case for on-page SEO in general. So, this is one of my most reliable wins. I am a big fan of updating pages, improving content, seeing what's working, make it work better.

How to Find Opportunities to Optimize Your Pages

To me, that's almost like what SEO means, optimization, ongoing improvement, it's never done. If we're optimizing, that means we're improving, seeing what works, improving, seeing what works, and it's just a job that we continue to do over time. That's what I think the “O” really stands for.

So, this is an example of an article that I had worked on, it was live for years, and I then decided to give an update to it and rewrite. This is my analytics for the before and after. So, although it was getting maybe a hundred something visits a week before I rewrote it, what you're going to see is a big spike from the email traffic and social media traffic.

This is the relaunch of the article, it goes live on Thursday, gets shared maybe the following week, got a lot of social promotion, but when it switched to the weekly view, you can see the before and after for organic. So, this is all search traffic of course, right? There's no more email or social traffic added to this post. But, what happens to this thing before and after it was improved, and there was no difference except on-page SEO. It was an upgrade to the piece.

So, just like Craig said, it's actually not a difficult thing to set up. One of the beauties of this is that it sets it up for you. So, you can just have it, grab your site, grab your pages, grab your keywords, and it does it all for you.

Once it does that, I recommend actually guiding it on what keywords you're really focused on. So, this just shows one keyword: promote. So, after it sets itself up, I recommend coming in here editing keywords.

This article is about content promotion, so you can just quickly guide it to focus on some keywords that you know to be targeting.

And, if you're wondering which of your pages has the best opportunity, you can, of course, use the most famous feature of SEMrush, which is the position tracking for any website.

I just put in my own site and what I immediately see is all the phrases for which I rank and how high I rank. And, there is so much magic in what I'm about to do. When you combine these two tools, you can easily see how you can get much better results for almost anyone.

This is probably the most reliable SEO win for anyone. So basically, I can filter this to see just when the ranking of the key phrase is greater than 10. SEMrush shows me all the phrases for which I rank high on page two, which is amazing, right?

As soon as you see that, you know what your best SEO opportunities are. So, if I'm already ranking number one for a phrase, there's no chance for improvement really there. But, you're really looking for the things where you're ranking at the bottom of page one or at the top of page two.

Okay. So, let me go to the on-page checker. This tool also does something that I don't think any of the other tools do and I've used them all. So, what I can get up, is the ideas, the volume for this key phrase, look how much volume there is for setting up analytics related topics.

When I go to the page, this is the basic recommendations, right? It's very prescriptive. This is stuff that you could delegate very easily through idea tasks or send it to Trello. So, it becomes almost a prescriptive step by step thing.

So, are there any other pages on your site that have closely related key phrases? If yes, it will warn you about cannibalization, so it's not just looking at the page, it's analyzing your website. What do other pages that rank for this phrase include?

Well, first of all, the SERP itself has a featured snippet, so there's an opportunity. Could I tweak the content to win for the featured snippet? So, other pages that rank for this phrase have aggregate star reviews. There's an opportunity.

SEMrush is looking at all of the other high ranking pages and giving me recommendations for phrases to include in my content, for topics to include in my content, for questions to answer in my content, based on the content of other high ranking pages for this keyword set.

It's not like Yoast that's generically giving you advice for making a good page. That's generic advice. This is specific advice to this keyword, to this competitive set, because we know that Google it's not a simple thing, right?

It's actually the things that rank or work for one family of key phrases may be quite different than another family of key phrases.

So, I think as far as I know the other tools don't offer this, and Semantic SEO, this is the future of SEO. So, that to me is very valuable.

Technical issues... and then user experience. This is again like connecting to analytics and telling me if there are opportunities here, which probably there are, how I could decrease bounce rate?

Well, there's actually prescriptive ways to reduce bounce rate. Formatting short paragraphs, bullet lists, bolding, more images, adding video, internal links, calls to action, related articles. We could go through a list of 15 ways to reduce your bounce rate, I should probably work on that page in that way.

So that said, let me jump into the detailed analysis and show you just a bit more and we'll open it up to some questions. Keyword usage, this is actually comparing my page to the rivals, the other high ranking pages for this key phrase family, and showing me the density of that keyword on my page versus them.

It's different, right? For different key phrases. So, Google analytics, analytics, how to set up analytics, looks like my body copy is missing that key phrase, the title, the H1, keyword usage term frequency.

So this is really useful, and you can tell it's not generic, it's specific to the phrase and to the other high ranking pages.

Here's another one: content length. My article's 1500 words, the rival articles are actually shorter. Okay. What’s valuable is to see it for the specific phrases that you're targeting, how cool is that? The average page that ranks for Google Analytics has 874 words.

Readability we saw was Fleishman Kincaid, I've got some work to do here. Video usage, really interesting. Again, we said related to bounce rate. How to set up Google analytics, this has video. I don't know of a better, faster way to get better results from search than to make on page changes or do rewrites or adding detail in depth to pages that currently rank but don't rank that high. There is no more reliable way to get better results for yourself or your client that I know of.

Impact of User Experience on SEO Rankings

Craig: So, we have a question from NPB sent in late, and they're basically asking how important is user experience to page ranking?

Andy Crestodina: Oh, well I'll give a quick answer. User interaction signals are probably very important. Of course, I know exactly, but the idea is that dwell time is a search ranking factor.

So, a visitor searches for phrase, visitor clicks on snippet, visitor lands on page, visitor hits the back button after three seconds. An indication the page wasn't good, a negative user interaction signal. User scrolls down the search result page clicks at another snippet, lands on a page, spends five long minutes on that page, hits the back button, they bounced from both pages. There's two bounces. But, the first bounce was short dwell time, the second bounce was long dwell time.

Craig: I would certainly say time on website and everything else that you said and click through rate, Google have got to take those things into consideration to determine whether a page is good or bad. If a page is getting bounced off after five seconds, is Google going to rank that number one? Absolutely no chance in the world.

And, click through rate is something that I've tried to play about with and manipulate and do various other tests and I see click-through rate is one thing that it certainly helps move the needle, and some of the other stuff as well, time on page and stuff like that are things that I believe to be working really well and do help your ranking.

Andy Crestodina: Yeah, that would help explain too why long content tends to rank higher because long content tends to have longer time on page.

Craig: Yeah, test these things and see what happens. So, we have another question from Abork company. So, when we're talking about content Andy, when you were talking about the content compared to your rivals and all that kind of stuff, Abork company asked at that point, how can you improve readability? What's your suggestion on that?

How to Improve Content Readability

Andy Crestodina: Well, if you're creating new content, and you're using the SEMrush SEO writing assistant, it will show you your readability while you're writing. Readability is simply a matter of using simple grammar and simple words. So, avoid passive case sentences, use short and simple words, shorter sentences.

It's the Fleischmann Kincaid metric, so I think it's built into Microsoft Word, it's probably part of Google Docs. But, if you're writing in Google Docs and you turn on the SEO writing assistant, the SEMrush tool will tell you the readability of your page while you write it.

But mostly, it's about avoiding long words and fancy grammar, which is good for search, right? Good for visitors, good for usability. I recommend using short words, short sentences and short paragraphs, throwing a few one-sentence paragraphs, never write long blocky paragraphs. You want to keep the visitor flowing through the content.

I think that the ideal, there's nothing wrong with this, but I think the ideal is something like eighth-grade level, right? Newspapers and magazines are trying to get down to the eighth-grade level. Even PHDs prefer to read at an eighth-grade level. Everyone prefers to read it simple, easily flowing.

Craig: Next question we have, it's from Tom Robinson. To increase organic rankings with content improvement, is it more beneficial to add a little bit of content at a time or do it all at once? This person has a lot of content to update and he wants to try and go and get the most benefit.

Andy Crestodina: Well, if you're Craig, you're probably going to make small changes and see the impact because Craig is a tester and I love that. I love how you're trying to better understand Google. You're going to get more insights.

What my experience has been is just when I create the page the first time, my goal is to make the best page on the internet for the topic. When I rewrite the page later, my goal is again, to make the best page on the internet for the topic. So, I'm probably doing big rewrites, that page about how to set up Google analytics, it had been live for three years and when I rewrote it, I rewrote it like 80% of it.

So, there's a lot of people who recommend tweaks. Let's tweak the title, let's tweak the headers, let's add a paragraph. I recommend this a lot when I'm updating sales pages optimized for commercial intent key phrases.

So, in that case, you'd be making small changes. But when I go to update a blog post, I'm making a complete overhaul type changes and my results have been fantastic. A lot of these things bounce right back to page one or top of page one and stay there for years after being rewritten sometimes with 100% to 500% increase in traffic. But, I'm really reconsidering the topic, so. What would you say Craig , do you have experience making small changes with big impact?

Craig: So, what I find is I do that, see what it ranks then maybe add a video to it, add another paragraph, tweak it slightly and also get feedback from other people saying, oh, you didn't really cover that or ... And, have other people give me an opinion on it as well and have people cut it to pieces for me.

I'm always looking at ways to improve my content and it's all small tweaks for me to be fair.

What is Schema markup and Why is it Important?

And, so the next question we have here is from Crystal Display Systems. So they're saying, and their pages have no markups at all. What is that, and what is the importance?

Andy Crestodina: So, more and more websites are not landing pages for visitors to see and experience, but websites are data feeds into other systems. So, if you have events on your website, and you add little bits of code around the event information, then a robot like Google Bot can come to your website and see, ah, this here that I'm looking at is an event, I can serve information about this event to searchers who don't even yet visit the page.

So, this is a standard that was created by the digital monopolies, it's called Schema. All the tags and formatting are available publicly, of course, it's schema.org and when you add these tags to your content, you make it easier for other computer systems such as Google to understand what that page content is.

Honestly, they figure it out a lot anyway. But whenever you see in search results star ratings, there's usually that page that's getting pulled from has code around it that says that's an aggregate star review. When you see something that's a recipe, and it has calories or cooking time or servings, that page probably has Schema tags around that content to say this is calories and serving time and cooking time and servings and stuff like that.

So, when you search for things in Google, like you search for a job and it has jobs at the top, people add Schema to make it easier for search engines to serve more data on the search result page, which is good and bad.

If that's the game you want to play. make sure your content has a chance of appearing in there like events and recipes and jobs. But, at the same time, what's happening at a macro scale is that Google is reducing the click-through rate to company websites. And, so we have to do it.

I recommend doing it, especially if it can increase click-through rates like aggregate star ratings, but in the long run, this is part of a megatrend toward lower click-through rates in general and more no click search results pages.

Craig: The next question we've got is from Molly's Sheraziah: is it advisable to put the hashtag, and the business name on Google My business, does it affect SEO in any way?

Andy Crestodina: I would say no, almost certainly no. I doubt that. What do you think?

Craig: I would agree with you. I'd say adding a hashtag to your Google My Business listing is not going to make a massive difference.

How Schema Ultimately Reduces Click Through Rates

Andy Crestodina: Oh, Joules Webb asks, how does Schema contribute to lower click-through rates? It's a totally fair question. So, I was looking at a site today, product engineering jobs. Everybody wants to rank for product engineering jobs.

Why do I need to go to a website to learn more about product engineers? Look at all these product engineering jobs, there's a hundred of them. I've clicked through to nobody's website yet. This lowers click-through rates to company websites.

There are fewer reasons to visit websites because either through cooperation from webmasters, adding Schema tags to make this easier for them to do or through Google just extracting that data and formatting it in a SERP.

So, Google is not really hoping that we'll all leave google.com and go to websites, what they'd like for us to do is to stay in their system and keep enriching Google search results pages so that visitors get their information needs met without leaving Google's world.

Oh, there's another question. Andy, you moved quite quickly over the discussion of how the keywords in position 10 to 20 relate to how you are using on page SEO checker feature. Sure, I'll clarify.

So, it's not true that the opportunities for on-page SEO improvements are equally weighted. If I could rank a little bit higher for marketing job description, I could get a lot more traffic because I'm ranking at the top of page two for marketing job descriptions.

So, when you switch to page two search results, these are the pages that have the best opportunity for faster results through simple immediate changes just you could do them today in the on page checker because a little bit higher ranking for this phrase would lead to a lot more visibility and it's a tipping point, right? Craig, does that make sense?

Craig: There's actually a couple more questions that just came in. So, Andy, what was your top ranked posts of all time and why?

Andy Crestodina: I wrote an article about website footer design that ranks super high, that ranks number one or something for website footer design, and it gets hundreds of visits a day. I wrote a post about how to write testimonials. I gave a tip about writing testimonials. That gets hundreds of visits a day.

I like to target information intent key phrases with deep content and how-to articles: “what is Google tag manager” or “how to set up Google analytics”, “how to write testimonials”, “how to design your website footer”, “website navigation best practices.”

When Are On-Page Updates Reflected in Search Engines?

Craig: Great, and I've got one last question, and it was from Andrew Barda again. So, if you update using semantic keywords used in the on-page SEO checker, when might you see the impact on the search results?

Andy Crestodina: If you make a change to a page and you don't see an improvement in search results within three or four days, you're not going to see improvements in search results. So, try something else. I think that changes in search results are reflected very quickly for most keyword families and for most websites.

Craig: Yeah, I would tend to agree with that. I'm not sure I would leave it three or four days. I normally make the changes and probably go back seven to 10 days later just because I'm busy doing other stuff in my part of my process and I always find that after that seven to 10 days, something's happened one way or another, and so yeah. Maybe three or four days as Andy said.

Andy Crestodina: So, I think that's a great question and a great place to start to wrap up here is just on the speed at which you should see changes and improvements. I'm glad someone asked.

Craig: So, we will wrap up here. The next Webinar that we do have is in two weeks time where I'll be joined by Aleyda Solis, and we're going to be talking about the Organic Research tool. But, thanks for joining today, everyone watching, but a big thanks to you Andy for giving your insights.

Andy Crestodina: Sure. I'm jealous you get to talk to Aleyda. Thanks, everyone.

Craig: Cheers.

Andy Crestodina: Bye, bye.

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