On-Page SEO

Publish Date

July 18, 2021

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Post Author

Francis Rozange

On-page SEO brings together all the optimization techniques internal to your website, it may seem tedious and technical, but in reality most of these tasks can be automated. First and foremost, it’s about making sure that the website gets referenced by search engines. Then you have to establish the way in which it will be presented on the results page, and finally work on the keywords you want to highlight.


SSL certificate


Let’s start with security: Google wants you to use an SSL certificate to encrypt content, not only for sensitive data such as credit card details, but for the entire website. If you don’t know how to install a certificate, there are a number of online resources explaining how to do this depending on your server environment.


URL


You’ve probably never seen a URL like https://www.examplesite.com/category26?article147 and that’s because all modern software, for example WordPress, automatically transforms these URLs into readable content.


Meta tags

Here’s a complicated name: this sort of data is hidden from visitors but can be found in the editable data when you publish a web page. The “title” tag is exactly that: the title of your page. The “description” tag is a kind of a short summary of your page which you need to fill out, because Google can retain this text for display on the results page. Finally, there is a URL: in WordPress it is called “permalink”. You enter the name you want, not too long, with, of course, the important keywords. The other tags are of no interest nowadays. Finally, all this data can be generated automatically for you. It is also useful to give your images a meaningful name, as well as a description.


The position of the keyword


It might seem surprising at first, but Google takes into account the keyword’s position on your page, and it makes sense. For example, a keyword does not have the same weight depending on whether it appears somewhere at the foot of the page or clearly visible at the very top. Or depending on whether it is found in the body of the text or in the title (tags H1 to H4). Here again, it is advisable to restrain oneself: if you put everything in bold and repeat the same keyword ten times in a paragraph, you will bore your readers, and therefore Google. Stay natural, optimize your site for your visitors, not for a search engine. Ultimately, it will produce the same result.


Xmap


This one is generated automatically as well: it is a file which groups all the pages of your website, so you just have to tell Google where it is, via the search console, and you will thus facilitate the exploration (crawling) of your site.


Speed


Your users love fast-loading pages, and so does Google. This is now a factor directly influencing the quality of your SEO. Without technical knowledge, one point that you can easily correct is the size of the images. For instance, today I have reduced a 110k png image to less than 20k, without any loss in quality. It is rare to see images on the net weighing more than 500k, which could easily be reduced to a tenth of their size. There are many tools – and many free – to optimize the size of your images.

Robots.txt


This small text file is inserted in the root of your site, it tells robots, as its name suggests, which parts of the site they are allowed to index. Some rogue bots don’t care, but Google doesn’t. Here is a very simple example of robots.txt file:
User-agent: *
Disallow: /wp-admin
User-agent: *
Disallow: /logs

Duplicate content: canonical URLs (canonical tags)


Google doesn’t like duplicate content, and that makes sense: otherwise, you would just need to build farms with identical content, stuffed with links, to rank well. Thus, we introduce a special tag to indicate which content is original, Google will then index it and ignore other identical content. If you don’t do this, you run the risk of being labeled as spam by Google. This tag must appear in the header of a page’s source code (header ) and the syntax is as follows: . The link is from the original article, it is referred to as the “canonical URL” and this tag must be put on all identical pages.
Yes, it is long, tedious, and a bit technical. Personally, I think that if you only have two or three identical pages on different sites, you really don’t risk much, since the idea is rather to penalize spammers. And that’s not all, Google has confirmed that it doesn’t necessarily use the canonical URL you specify and might prefer a different one. In other words, no matter how important SEO experts say this is, everything indicates that Google is doing very well on its own. But since you have to work directly with the source code of the page for this, which most people are unable to do, they have a real financial interest in convincing you how vital it is to define these notorious URLs …


Ergonomics and restraint


Let’s keep it simple: what your users like, Google likes. A menu on every page, clear categories, popups kept to a minimum… browsing your site should be as pleasant as possible. In addition, Google, which develops Android, is giving more and more priority to mobile applications: By default, Google Pagespeed measures the loading speed on a smartphone. It is absolutely essential to make your website perfectly readable on mobile devices, fortunately it is very simple these days, thanks to so-called “responsive” sites which automatically adapt their content to the size of the screen.


Content quality


Google’s artificial intelligence is getting better at identifying quality content. And it is likely that it can already detect written texts. The best content consists of a relatively long text, at least 700 words, and ideally lists sources referencing to prestigious sites which will give your content credibility in the eyes of both readers and Google. And as stated before, if you have an excessive number of ads on your page, you will be penalized regardless of the quality of your content.
Even online stores need a blog, with quality content updated regularly – this is the only way to improve your SEO once your product pages have been optimized. Don’t have enough budget? Write one article per week and in one year you will have rich content and a lot more visitors. A year is not that long, knowing that it takes months to see a real difference after your website is perfectly optimized. There are of course many specialized sites offering to write articles on the subject of your choice, and it is relatively cheap: count 25 euros for a thousand words of correct quality.


Some quality criteria


Google readily cites some of the criteria used to identify quality content. This is known as Google EAT, and it was officially introduced to the world in 2018. EAT, in fact, stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trust. A little vague? The full document is two hundred pages long … Here is the gist, though:
You should have an “About” page with your name and contact information of your company if you have one, as well as a way to contact you. The number of links on a page must be “normal”. 100 links in a column or in the footer? this annoyingly reminds us of the “link farms” banned by Google. Disguised Advertising: If you advertise without mentioning it or sell links and Google finds out (suddenly the exact same content appears on dozens of sites …) you will be blacklisted. More advertising than content? same punishment. As for articles, they must be signed by real people, not “admin” or a nickname. How do you know these are real people? they will have a LinkedIn or Facebook account for example, with a complete profile. Do not forget Google scans the web and its billions of sites constantly … It is also recommended to provide sources: you will have more credibility if you cite a very reputable newspaper as the source of your information.


Google is even more demanding for topics related to finance or health, for example, in particular if they can lead to financial transactions: General conditions, refund, delivery… everything must be impeccable. There are, in addition, readability criteria which lead to some sort of “a race to the bottom”: no spelling mistakes of course, but no more over-complicated words either, the content has to be understandable for a thirteen-year-old teenager. And the level of a thirteen-year-old average teenager, let’s be honest, is not very high. We must therefore limit the number of words per sentence, and limit the number of syllables per word. Yep, that’s a little depressing.


Post daily or at least weekly


Renewing the content of your blog is absolutely essential. Google favors sites posting new content as often as possible, and that makes sense. Decide how much time you’ll spend on your content each week, and stick to your schedule, rain or shine. Once you get used to it, everything will be easier. It then remains to make your content known as widely as possible if you want good SEO. The first thing to do, of course, is to communicate with your network and, what takes a little longer, contact bloggers who you think would be interested in your content.

CTR


CTR is an acronym for “click through rate”. That is, the ratio between the display of the link and the number of clicks. Then there is the “bounce rate”, which is how many visitors will leave your site after just a few moments. Google takes CTR and bounce rate into account for its search engine. If either one is bad, your SEO will go down. If, on the contrary, your content pleases users, your SEO will improve on its own, without having to change anything on your page … The dream, in short. Therefore, you must first encourage Internet users to click on the link presented by Google. It is done with a catchy title and description. For example, “ten tips and tricks to monetize your site” or “your first ten mistakes in WordPress”. We can also maintain the suspense a little bit, for example for one of our client cases I corrected the title “A self-running boutique” by “She did not have time to build her store, here is what we did “. If you abuse the procedure, then you do what is called “baitclick”. You will then have a better CTR, but your bounce rate will increase, so the method is of no use for any serious site. If, on the other hand, you want to sell a mosquito repellent bracelet in Taboola then you can try to do so, but this is not where you will learn how to scam visitors into selling them a mediocre product at ten times the market price.
CTR and bounce rate are recalculated in real time, and luckily you can discover this fundamental data in your Google search console.


Bounce rate


We just saw how to improve your CTR, what about the bounce rate? We have already thoroughly reviewed the necessary optimizations: clear titles, simple words, a font size that doesn’t require a magnifying glass to read… let’s add some nice images and more videos. Internet users love videos, if they are short and compelling. For example, a girl or a boy dancing in a swimsuit. If the content is serious, the challenge is considerable. Nonetheless, try a bit of humor, except perhaps if you are writing a feature article for the UN on human rights in Mozambique.

Internal mesh


Encourage your visitors to stay on your site with “internal mesh”, that is, links in your articles leading to other articles. In addition to hyperlinks inserted in a text, you have undoubtedly noticed before that all the news websites offer on every page some of their recent or trending articles, editor choices, etc. As always, this method should not be abused but it is essential to improve the consultation of your website.
There you go, you now know the basics of optimizing your website content … but we are still a long way from being done.

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