Let’s face it. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all of these updates that Google implements on a frequent basis.
Even for a seasoned search engine optimization expert and digital marketing consultant like me, Mauricio Piña, it can sometimes be difficult to keep track of what works and what doesn’t after an update to Google’s core algorithm, but lucky for us, there are some fundamental things that hardly ever change.
And a lot of it has to do with how your on-page optimization is set up. Today, we’re going to discuss how to beef up your on-page optimization so that your website can climb—and stay—high in ranking.
But First, What Is On-Page Optimization?
To put it simply, on-page optimization is a special modification of individual web pages in order to earn relevant traffic and raise higher in Google’s ranking system.
What exactly is modified? That depends.
On-page usually refers to content that is on the page as well as HTML source code that can be modified—or what we in the industry call “optimize”. Since Google is updated constantly, sometimes what works one day doesn’t work as well as it should the next day.
That’s why hiring a digital marketing consultant is a valuable business decision. Running a business is hard enough without a digital marketing plan, but having an expert that can advise you with all of the latest information about on-page SEO, even off-page SEO, and the like is crucial to staying on top of the search engine results page (SERP), maximizing your revenue by being visible to more potential customers.
So without further adieu, here is what can be done to make sure that your on-page optimization is on point.
1. Avoid Low-Value Content Writing and Coding Tactics
Your content, in a nutshell, should not only answer your visitor’s questions—whether it be about your product or service—but it should also help them understand the purpose of your site and guide them throughout it as well.
While our first instinct may be to focus on writing content that is solely geared toward ranking high in search alone, it is pertinent to understand that ranking high is an added benefit. Your true focus should rely on helping searchers, even when they become visitors.
How? By remembering Google’s golden rule: Thou shalt create valuable content.
To ensure that your content is attracting the right traffic to your site, you’ve got to play by Google’s rules, meaning you should avoid:
- Thin Content – This type of content is generally defined as content that offers little to nothing of value to the visitor. Back in the old days, in order to compete with other websites, it wasn’t unusual to have content that was used—or duplicated—across many other relevant pages of product that you wanted to sell. It also wasn’t unusual to have nearly the same content on those pages with the keyword being the only distinguishing factor.
- Keyword Stuffing – Back then, keyword stuffing is something that a lot of digital marketers did in an effort to rank up their keywords.
- Hiding Text in Your HTML Code, or “Cloaking” – As a general guideline, you want to keep the text within your HTML visible. Why?
As one particular example, this happened a lot with local businesses that would create multiple pages of the same content targeting regions or cities they wanted to pull clients from. The only thing that was different about these pages were the location keywords. This content would ultimately prove to be of little value to visitors, causing them to leave and increasing the business’ bounce rate.
Before this problem was rectified in 2011 with Google’s update Panda, taking advantage of SEO in this manner was the norm, and it spawned much low-value content all over the ‘net. Now, Google rightfully demotes websites like this in an effort to keep the high-quality content that helps the most people ranking high in the SERP.
When Google was still figuring out all of its semantics, it wasn’t unusual to see pieces of content pop up here and there that were loaded with keywords. For example, let’s assume that you are generating content that has a keyword of “cherries”.
“Are you looking for cherries in Austin, TX? Hi, I’m Tom, and I pick cherries in Austin, TX! I am the best picker of cherries in Austin that you’ll ever find. These Austin cherries…”
You get the gist. It wouldn’t be long until Google determined that content stuffed with keywords was considered low-value. Reading it comes off unnatural—almost robotic or auto-generated—to the reader, and no one wants to read something like that. It turns visitors off, leaving you with nothing but an increased bounce rate.
In short, you want web crawlers from search engines to see the same content that a visitor would see. When this guideline is broken, it is called “cloaking”. Search engines normally don’t take too kindly on cloaking and will prevent these websites from ranking in the SERP.
However, Google will, in certain cases, allow cloaking if it contributes to a positive experience for the visitor.
2. Optimize Your Images
An image-heavy website can weigh you down in terms of ranking. Images take time to load, and if your website takes a long time to load—over 3 seconds—then you could be penalized for it.
Luckily for us, that is why we can utilize image compression to our advantage. Because there is no particular “one size fits all” aspect in web design, image compression is the next best thing.
A bevy of options await for anyone interested in using image optimization to improve their Google ranking through on-page SEO. Compression tools like Optimizilla works wonders in compressing images, but you could use other options like “save for web” or tinkering with image sizing if you know your way around that.
Another tried and true way to optimize your images is by choosing the right format for your image. To put it simply:
- Gifs are the perfect format for images that need animation.
- If high image resolution isn’t a priority for you, use JPEG and test its different compression settings.
- If you do need higher image resolution, use PNG-24 for images that have a multitude of colors and PNG-8 for images that have less.
You’ll also want to adjust your thumbnails accordingly, and while you’re at it, make sure that your alternative text describes images for the visually impaired. By doing this, you are providing context of the image to your visually impaired potential customers, increasing your earning potential and becoming a trusted—and frequently visited—source for visually impaired customers interested in purchasing your product or service.
Oh, and web crawlers also gather information about your images from the alternative text, so having an accurate depiction of your alternative text is essential to these little friendly bots and the search engines they serve.
3. Make the Most Out of Meta Descriptions
In short, meta descriptions detail what your website is about to searchers. It is the few sentences below the link to a website that describe what that website is about that you would see after a quick Google search. They are normally created through HTML elements that are nested into the head tag.
You’ve got around a 150 to 300 character limit to make an effective meta description. That’s it. Within that limit, you’ve got to make sure that you have:
- An effective Call to Action.
- Your brand name visible.
- Your geographical location visible.
- Any featured details regarding your business.
- Any sort of unique value that your business offers.
Make sure that your meta descriptions are relevant to the content on your website. It should essentially summarize the key concept or purpose of your business without giving away too much information that won’t lead a searcher to click through.
Google frequently chooses and displays text that is relevant to the searcher’s query on the SERP. While this helps your meta descriptions for searches that are more unique, you cannot afford to leave out an effective meta description. Google may not consider meta descriptions a ranking factor, but they sure do help your click-through rate.