To work on the page and internal elements before to intervene on activities external to the site: this is both one of the first suggestions we offer whoever is now going to approach the SEO world and one of the compass point guiding our consultancy strategy for web sites optimization. SEO is a set of connected elements and each of them can, directly or not, impact on site performance, and today we are going to talk about on page SEO and which factors to keep into account to make efficient and potentially high-performing a web page.
What is on page SEO
From a literal point of view, the expression “on page SEO” refers to the optimization of all those elements included within a web page in order to rank on search engines. Therefore, this is a wide and complex activity, as we already said in a previous article on page analysis, in regards of a long series of components like titles, meta descriptions, URLs, as well as architectural parameters, of the page’s readability and usability, up until content, keywords and internal links.
The most important on page SEO factors
We know that Google takes into account about 200 ranking factors for its SERPs, and on our guide we have also indicated which are the elements to work on in order to optimize the on page aspects of both a site and a page. SEO specialists and analysts, though, thinks that there are 5 fundamental areas of intervention to enhance on page SEO, that should always be assessed and verified when planning and monitoring a site.
A site is an organic ecosystem
The premise is that a site is an organic ecosystem made up of lots of different entities, as well as SEO is: therefore, to only focus on a single aspect might not offer the desired results. Not even links and editorial contents, whether pivotal in order to rank, represent the only factor evaluated for placement by search engines, that are becoming more and more complex and able to read plenty other parameters. pertanto, concentrarsi solo su un aspetto rischia di non offrire i risultati sperati.
And for that, having lots of backlinks could still be useless to make a slow site providing a negative user experience perform better, as well as the presence of decent quality contents could be penalized by intrusive interstitial on a mobile device, as we previously tried to explain with the specific articles we wrote about these topics.
On page SEO optimization, 5 factors to consider
Recently, Kristopher Jones on Search Engine Land tried to compile a list of the 5 main on page SEO elements to always focus our attention on and to never overlook for a site’s optimization. They are subjects we already covered on our insights too, because the author quotes, in order:
- User Engagement
- Technical Structure
- Mobile Responsivity.
The work to optimize on page content
It always starts from the content, then, that remains “king” to use an (old by now) expression originally credited to Bill Gates (that on 1996 said “content is the king” speaking about his predictions on the future of the Internet). In this area, the first step to improve on page elements is to intercept search intent, given the fact that the content relevance to the user’s intent is surely one of the most important parameters for Google and, consequently, for the reader landing on the page.
Suggestions to optimize content
In this sense, the work of optimization starts from the deep understanding of the kind of intent tied to the page’s keywords (informational, transactional or navigational), to subsequently analyze the SERP and hence understand which are the search engine’s assessments, to then make correlated adjustments, also using SEOZoom tools like the intent gap. Obviously fundamental is a keyword research targeted both to match the intent and to provide semantically related keywords in order to enrich content with minor topics, trying to fully answer all possible questions.
Interventions on tags
A core role is (yet again) the one of SEO tags, such as title and headers, that are very much needed to specify the intent and syntax of the document, to sort out what info to provide to users and search engines, to make the pages easier to scan and to captivate the reader’s attention. The optimization of these aspects can be focused on entering main keywords within tag titles, slug URLs, page titles and using correlated keywords within section headers (H2, H3, H4).
How to optimize the pages’ user engagement
If this first point regarded SEO copywriting‘s activities and abilities in detail, the on page optimization of user engagement refers to a wider spectrum of expertise; the metrics to assess are pages per session, the rebound frequency and the Click-Through Rate, that depends both on search engines and the user’s behaviour, that should not only be enticed on the page, but also convinced to stay and interact with the offered content.
Enhance the pages per session
As well-known, Pages per Session is the metric that assesses the number of viewed pages before the user leaves the site and is displayed inside Google Analytics alongside the average time lenght of the session (meaning the average time spent by a user on the site). These values help us understand how much a page is interactive and engaging from the navigation point of view and to understand which are the possible mistakes influencing the selling funnel or blocking conversions, or (for a blog or news site) which articles do not spark any interest and are being left mid-reading without even trying anything else.
In order to improve these parameters we need to analyze those pages with high bounce rates and to study specific opportunities to encourage readers to prolong the length of the session or the display of other pages; for instance, some call to action can be incorporated to promote conversions or supply more navigational options, like the suggestion of correlated articles or simple internal referenced links.
Work on bounce rates and CTR
The bounce rate or rebound frequency indicates the level of appreciation of the users towards a landing page or web site, and it is an ambiguous value: a high bounce rate on an eCommerce could mean that the pages are not engaging and do not match the user intent, while on an informational site people could immediately be satisfied and get the answer they were looking for in no time. In order to try and optimize this aspect, though, there are small technical interventions it is possible to perform, like deleting all invasive interstitials and pop-up ads, enhancing loading time or writing texts for landing pages relevant to search queries.
Improvements for CTR
On the CTR side, in the past few weeks we talked about the doubts the entire SEO community has on this value, that stands as the very first interaction a user has with the site: a low click-through rate could mean that the message is not relevant to the user search, as well as that the meta description or title tag are not that convincing either. The improvement work on this specific rate can focus on the integration of an exact match keyword in both the title tag and meta description, in adding right from the description some indication profitable to users (promotional offers, discounts and so on) and, simply, in filling in suitable lengthed tags to avoid being cut by Google Search display.
How to make the technical structure of the page more performing
The technical structure of the site can also have an impact on user engagement and the ranking of the keywords, because without a strong architecture the web of contents might not hold up and, consequently, collapse. The elements to focus on in this area are the so-called crawlability, and the safety and cleanliness of URLs.
Simplify Googlebot’s scan
Many sites tend to make search engine crawlers‘ lives harder, that daily try to do their job navigating sites through the links supplied by the Sitemap and available on the home page: the first on page technical optimization step is, then, to make sure that the site can actually be scanned and that the crawl budget is optimized and well invested, detecting all those site pages that must have priority of scanning and indexing, in the event that the crawlers could analyze each path.
Equally useful is to block every page we would like not to show to the spiders, sorting them under the disallow file of the robots.txt file; moreover, it is recommended to clean each and every redirect chain and to set parameters for dynamic URLs.
Optimization and safety
As we know, the HTTPS protocol guarantees the safety of transactions made through a site and represents a soft factor of ranking to Google; sometimes, and we were talking about it on sites’ migration errors too, on a site can exist mixed connections or HTTP pages that not always redirect to the right resource. In order to solve these critical issues we need to deeply analyze the site, identify those specific errors, include the sitemap inside the robots.txt file despite any user-agent command and, lastly, rewrite the .htaccess file to redirect the whole web site’s traffic towards a specific domain using the right HTTPS URL.
Fix wrong connections
Another on page optimization action concerns the correction of all those possible cases of redirected, not working or straight broken links, that might impact on load speed, indexing and crawl budget. A site scan allows to discover all the different existing problems and their related status codes: generally, we should always work to obtain clean URL structures with status code 200, while obviously 4xx (starting from the dreadful 404) and 5xx errors need to be fixed.
A possible improvement is the redirect 301 from damaged pages in order to move users to a more appropriate page, as well as useful can be to create a customized 404 page with a valid URL towards an alternative resource. For those status code 5xx that are currently impacting on URLs we instead need to immediately contact the hosting provider to signal our problems and request clarifications and corrections.
The importance of internal links to on page SEO
The interconnection of a site allows to answer to a series of SEO goals such as the improvement of crawlability, the attention to the UX, a more effective content management and the creation of a in-home link building. The internal linking basically supports us in crating doors allowing both spiders and users to pass through all those paths planned with technical SEO.
A classic area of use of internal links is the deep link one, meaning to channel links from higher category pages towards orphan pages, that can benefit from this kind of authority and then succeed in indexing; furthermore, this strategy could also be useful to sort readers out towards other contents of interest, inviting them to deepen other aspects of a topic or to discover different sections of the site.
Pay attention to mobile navigation and responsivity
The last area of intervention of the on page SEO optimization concerns the care we have to (necessarily, by now) devote to users navigating from mobile devices: in the era of mobile-first index it is absolutely crucial to be competitive on this side, nowadays a priority to Google too.
The enhancing work on responsivity moves on three fronts: first and foremost, on the implementation of a responsive web design for our site, that matches all the criteria and guidelines required on this subject. Other actions can be marking the pages with AMP codes using our own CMS and the enhancing of page speed reducing on site resources.