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An effective search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy requires more than just building high-quality, relevant backlinks. While backlinks are undoubtedly a key ranking signal used by all major search engines, including Google and Bing, there are also on-page factors that will affect your website’s search rankings.
On-Page Optimisation Explained
Search engine optimisation falls under one of two categories: off-page and on-page optimisation. The former consists of building backlinks and promoting your website on other websites and channels whereas the latter consists of making changes directly on your website. Both are intended to increase a website’s search rankings. The key difference is that on-page optimisation is performed on your website, hence the name.
The Importance of On-Page Optimisation
On-Page optimization is important for several reasons, one of which is the simple fact that search engines look beyond a website’s backlink portfolio to calculate its search rankings. You can spend countless hours building backlinks for your website, but it’s not going to help you achieve higher rankings unless it’s combined with on-page optimization.
In addition to higher search rankings, on-page optimization offers the following benefits:
- Improved user experience
- Faster load times
- Increased number of indexed pages
- Fewer technical problems
- Cross-compatibility with different devices and web browsers
- Increased brand recognition
- Attracts backlinks from other websites
- Increased sales or conversions
The title tag is an important element of on-page optimisation. When creating new pages on your site, you should give them a unique, relevant title tag that reflects what they are about. Search engines typically use this HTML element to create the headlines for their listings, and web browsers display title tags in the tab in which the respective page is viewed. Because of this, title tags heavily influence search rankings. According to Moz, however, Google only displays 50 to 60 characters of a page’s title tag. For maximum visibility, it’s recommended that you follow this guidance by keeping your pages’ title tags under 60 characters. Also ensure that your title is the H1 tag on the page. Having your title as the H1 tag ensures that the page is described as per the content.
You should also create a unique meta description for each page on your website. Visitors won’t see this HTML element in their web browser, but they may see it in the search results. Meta descriptions are displayed in search engine listings underneath the page’s title tag. Previously, Google displayed no more than 155 characters of a page’s meta description in its listing. In 2017, the Mountain View company increased the length of meta descriptions to 300 characters. You can technically create meta descriptions of any length, but Google will truncate them if they are longer than 300 characters.
The way in which your website’s content is arranged and displayed will affect its search rankings. According to a study cited by the Netherlands-based financial consultant company NN Group, the average visitor only reads 20 percent to 28 percent of a page’s text. Rather than reading all the page’s text, they scan segments while looking for key facts. Therefore, it’s recommended that you use headings to make your content more readable. Having heading tags, such as H1, H2 and H3, allow webmasters to create an hierarchy for their site’s content. Not only does this make content easier for visitors to read, but it also encourages higher rankings.
Even with headings, some visitors may be turned away from your website if it consists solely of text. One report found that web pages with images generate nearly twice as many views as text-only web pages. This is because search engines use images as a ranking signal. By including relevant, optimized images in your content, you’ll achieve higher search rankings.
To optimize your images, follow these tips:
- Shrink and resize images before uploading them to your site
- Add a relevant alt text attribute that tells search engines and visitors what the image is about
- Avoid generic file names for images and, instead, give them a relevant file name
- Consider adding a caption to convey important information about the image
- Include images in your website’s XML sitemap
- Choose images that are relevant to the text where they are placed
Also known as rich snippets, schema markup has become a key element of on-page optimisation as it allows websites to stand out in the search results. Most website listings consist of a title, description and URL. Those with schema markup, however, include additional information or features. You can use it to include customer reviews, events, hours of operation, recipes, product prices and other information in your listings. Adding schema markup to your website can boost its organic click-through rate (CTR), attracting more visitors to your site and encouraging higher rankings in the process.
Search engines support three types of schema markup:
Check out this Moz article to learn more about schema markup and how it works. If it sounds too difficult, consider partnering with a professional digital marketing agency. Many Australian SEO companies offer SEO packages that include schema markup and other on-page optimisation processes.
Many webmasters overlook URL slugs when optimising their website for organic search traffic. Also known as permalinks, URL slugs are permanent, static URLs that point to a specific web page. Depending on which content management system (CMS) your website uses, it may create them automatically. The problem with these automatically generated URL slugs is that they are often generic, consisting of letters and numbers without any true meaning. A better solution is to create relevant URL slugs based on the titles of your pages. You can’t include spaces in URL slugs, but you can still separate words using hyphens. Search engines and visitors will see these relevant URLs, thereby improving your site’s performance in the search results.
Usability and search rankings are directly related. If visitors struggle to use your website, search engines will notice. As a result, they’ll probably lower its rankings.
Here are some tips to improve your website’s usability:
- Use a contrasting color scheme between text and the page’s background
- Create a clear, easy-to-use navigation system
- Publish high-quality content rather than just filler text
- Include a search function so that visitors can easily find articles or blog posts on specific topics
- Install Google Analytics to identify problematic pages with a low bounce rate or low average time on page
Internal and Outbound Links
When creating content for your website, include both internal and outbound links. Internal links, as the name suggests, point to other pages on your site whereas outbound links point to other websites’ pages. How can this improve your website’s search rankings? Well, search engines will follow internal links, guiding them to other pages that they may haven’t discovered. External links are also beneficial because they a valuable, useful form of content. If you’re creating a web page about heart disease, for example, linking to the American Heart Association (AHA) website can provide visitors with additional information about this topic.
Statistics show that 51 percent of all internet traffic involves mobile devices, meaning more than half of all internet users access the internet with a smartphone or tablet computer. If these mobile users can’t access or use your website, you’ll probably experience low search rankings. A simple solution is to adopt a responsive design. This increasingly popular web design framework automatically changes based on the visitor’s device. Whether a visitor is using a desktop computer, laptop, smartphone, tablet or any other device, he or she will have a fast and fluid experience. Mobile SEO is hence an equally important aspect of your SEO strategy. Focus on mobile.
The final step in on-page optimisation is reducing your site’s load time. While Google’s desktop algorithm has analysed speed as a ranking signal for more than five years, it recently included this signal in its mobile ranking algorithm. If your site suffers from slow, sluggish load times, it will probably rank lower than faster-loading sites.
Here’s how to reduce your site’s load time:
- Choose a fast, reliable web hosting service
- Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
- Enable content caching
- Avoid unnecessary plugins or add-ons
Of course, site speed also affects your website’s usability. Some sources claim that visitors will wait an average of just three seconds before abandoning a website. To keep visitors coming back to your site, aim for a load time that’s faster than three seconds.
Following this on-page SEO checklist will help your website dominate the search results. Just remember to combine them with off-page practices like building high-quality back links and creating brand mentions. As long as you follow a white-hat approach using these strategies, you’ll experience greater results with your optimisation efforts.