9 SEO On-Page Factors to Boost Your Search Rankings
January 3rd 2022 | By Emma Grant
Here’s a look at how SEO on-page factors affect search engine visibility, with expert tips on how to improve your website for SEO success using some simple, practical tactics.
Last updated: January 2022, originally published July 2019
A boost in search rankings results in increased online visibility. In other words, you’ve got more chance of being found by the people who want what you sell if you’re at the top of the search results. And if more people are finding you, then you’ll be getting more sales. It really is as simple as that.
But whilst it may be a simple concept, how easy is it in theory to corner the top end of those search results? There’s a host of stuff involved in making it to the top, from local SEO for local businesses and optimising for near me searches, to content marketing and structuring a website for SEO from the ground up, using structured data such as Schema Markup to help the search engines better understand the content of your web page, and various other strategies.
But are there any simple, content-related tactics you can use to help seal your search engine success? Here, based on our own past successes, are the top 9 SEO on-page factors capable of boosting search rankings and getting you a bigger slice of those sales.
1. Target Keyword in URL
The URL is the ‘address’ of your web page. A well-designed URL provides a clear indication of what the web page will be about. Search engines will check it out, and so will humans. So it really is important to get it right.
Here’s the optimal format for SEO friendly URLs:
Here’s an example:
The category hierarchy is a crucial SEO on-page factor here. The search engines use it to work out the relevancy of a web page. It shows them the specific nature of the page, so they’ll be more likely to return the page for a specific search related to it. This means you’ll be getting relevant traffic, and relevant clicks, which are more likely to convert.
Having specific keywords your page URL is also important from a visitor point of view. Visitors are more likely to click your link if they can see it leads to what they’re looking for. In our example, the visitor is specifically looking for heeled sandals, so seeing that URL will reassure them that they’re in the right place and not wasting their time.
2. Optimise Target Keyword Usage
Using target keywords in the body of your web page is known to improve search engine ranking. The best place for your target keywords is near the start of the page. If you can get at least one in the first sentence, or at least the first paragraph, all the better. It confirms to the reader that they are in the right place for what they want to know, and to the search engines that the page is relevant to the search term.
You’ll need to be mindful though of keyword stuffing. It’s not a good strategy to cram your keyword into your content over and over again. Not only does it prove a frustrating read for your visitors, over-optimisation can also lead to a search engine penalty.
Optimal keyword density is around 1-2 per cent. Yoast, the #1 WordPress SEO plugin, says a keyword density range of 0.5 per cent to 2.5 per cent is encouraged, but that does depend on various other factors, such as the length of your keyword phrase. For longer keyword phrases, Yoast appreciates that it’s harder to use these multiple times, so their keyword density check takes this into account, being less strict on longer key phrases.
3. Use Target Keywords in Headings
The main heading of your web page, the <H1> heading, is a key element in any SEO campaign. It helps the search engines find your page, and instantly tells visitors what the page is about.
If you don’t use your target keyword in the <H1> tag of your web page, it may end up being ranked lower than it could be. It may also result in visitors leaving the page, because they don’t see it as relevant to their search.
It is also important to use you target keywords in your sub-headings, those being your <H2> and <H3> headings. These help readers and the search engines better understand the hierarchy of your content, as well as making it easier to navigate.
A well-constructed heading or sub-heading also makes text more accessible. Visually impaired website users who use screen readers use headings to navigate through text.
While we’re on the subject of headings and sub-headings, here are a few more tips for you to get the most out of the most important tag on your web page:
- Only ever use a single H1 heading – more than that will serve to confuse
- Make sure your H1 properly describes the topic of your web page
- Aim to answer user intent with your H1 heading, in other words, instantly tell the user that you are about to answer their question
- Try to answer questions with your H2 headings, as these have a good chance of showing up in Google Featured Snippets
- Make your headings and sub-headings stand out – make them bold, make them big, make them noticeable, but do vary the text style and size between H1, H2 and H3 so that your content is better defined visually
4. Use Semantically Related Words
As well as your keywords, your content should include related words and phrases. These will enrich your content and in doing so, increase the relevancy of your page and help Google see what it’s about, ensuring it is not confused with similarly worded subject matter. This is an on-page SEO factor known for its success.
Semantics is a form of linguistics associated with drawing meaning from words. Semantically related keywords are words or phrases that are related in some way.
For example, for a keyword like ‘heeled sandals’, some semantically related keywords might be:
- Block heel sandals
- Kitten heel sandals
- High heel sandals
- Wedge sandals
- Bridal shoes
- Holiday shoes
- Chunky sandals
- Cheap high heels
Using semantic keywords helps content to flow more naturally and makes it easier to read. So instead of keep using your keyword over and over, which as we’ve already discovered is likely to lead to a keyword stuffing penalty, you are getting your message across – in a more readable way – by using a variety of related terms.
Search engines are on the lookout for natural sounding content, and their analysis of intent and in-context meaning of search phrases ahead of delivering the most relevant results comes from a measurement of how many semantic keywords have been used.
There are plenty of tools and methods you can use to generate semantic keywords. It’s an important strategy for on-page SEO, so be sure to factor it in when writing your web page content.
5. Make Content More Readable
It’s not easy to read online. Long blocks of text can tire a reader’s eyes, and lead to them stopping reading and clicking off the page. When this happens, it pushes up the bounce rate, which negatively impacts SEO.
Did you know the average reading age in the UK is 12-13? Quite surprising maybe, but that’s what you’ll need to factor in when writing your web content.
So, keep paragraphs short. Replace longer, more academic or clunky-sounding words with simpler alternatives (unless you are specifically writing for an academic or technical audience). Break text blocks up with images to make it easier on the eye. Separate sections with interesting headings, and use call-out statements to draw attention and ease flow.
Familiarising yourself with website readability best practices, and making use of the Flesch reading ease test which comes as part of the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress, is a good idea if you are going to make sure your content is reader-friendly.
6. Use Target Keywords in Title Tags
In the world of SEO, we like to do whatever we can to make life easy for the search engines. A title tag helps search engines to understand what a web page is about. It also attracts attention when it appears in the search results, informing visitors what they’ll find on the other end of the link. And the title tag will appear also appear in social media links too.
If you have a keyword rich title tag, you’ll find your page far more likely to rank higher for that keyword. So you can see how important it is to optimise here.
Before you go stuffing multiple keywords into your title tag, beware. Overdoing it could lead to problems, especially if it constitutes a poor user experience.
In 2021, Google announced a new system of generating title tags for web pages, and started rewriting some of them itself. The reason for this is that there are swathes of pages online missing proper title tags. Some are stuffed with keywords, whilst others have unhelpful generic names, such as ‘home’. Therefore, courtesy of its 2021 update, Google is aiming to ensure page titles describe what the page is about and provide sufficient context.
The titles that users click on in the search results, previously known as meta titles or page titles, have been renamed in 2021 by Google as title links. The search engine has also published a set of best practice rules to follow when writing title links, which are a must-read if you want your title links to appear in the search results, rather than their versions.
Here’s a summary of the best practice rules:
- Make sure each page on your website has its own title specified in the title element.
- Write unique titles for each page, avoiding boilerplate text on different pages, for example content that says the same thing but for a different geographical area.
- Be sure to keep titles concise and avoid overly long text.
- Write descriptive titles, avoiding vague text such as ‘Home’ for the home page.
- Never repeat text in titles just for the sake of adding more keywords, and NEVER over-stuff keywords into the title.
- Make your content instantly identifiable as yours by including your brand or company name in the title.
7. Provide a Relevant Meta Description
Meta descriptions appear below the title tags in the search results pages.
Search engines use meta descriptions to understand what a web page is about. For visitors, if well-written, meta descriptions will capture attention and compel a click.
Relevancy is key to a successful meta description. It must accurately describe what the web page is about. If it fails in this respect, that bounce rate problem is going to rear its ugly head, because people will simply click away when they realise they’ve been fooled. And a high bounce rate, as we’ve already said, is seriously bad news for SEO.
For a meta description to work optimally, it needs to be well-written and unique, and perfectly summarise the content of the page in just a few words. It should be no longer than 155 characters, but at least 70 characters.
Including keywords is essential, as Google will mark them in bold in your search result, drawing attention to the relevancy of the result for users.
Google sometimes rewrites meta descriptions for various reasons, so it’s vital to ensure yours complements your page content and is relevant to the search query.
Here are a few additional tips for meta description writing:
- Use your target keyword
- Include a call-to-action, e.g. ‘shop’ or ‘learn more…’
- Make it unique to the individual page
- Make it short and snappy
- Make it compelling
Here’s a good example:
Shop our huge range of beautiful heeled sandals. Special occasion or tropical holiday, choose from dozens of gorgeous styles and budget friendly options.
8. Include 2000+ Words of Content
Search engines work with the aim of delivering relevant information to their users. Web pages with longer content are known to win higher rankings compared to those with thin content.
We’ve previously explored the subject of how to write great SEO content. One of our top tips was to make content in-depth and demonstrate your expertise. As we said, overview style content is just not cutting it any more. Drilling down and exploring the specifics of a topic are the best strategies to adopt if you’re going to achieve search engine success.
2,000 words of content is the ideal length if you want your content to be seen as the ‘ultimate guide’, and it’s the sweet spot for the search engines too. Of course the content will need to be of excellent quality, informative, well-written and constructed, grammatically perfect and thoroughly researched if it’s going to be classed as top ranking. There’s no use waffling on with irrelevant, pointless flannel just for the sake of pushing up the word count!
9. Use Video Content
A web page with a video embedded works to increase dwell time. It also encourages visitors to engage at a deeper level with your content.
Search engines usually consider longer dwell time on a website as meaning there is more high quality, relevant content. This leads to improved rankings.
Video content is the perfect way to tell a story, and storytelling really does help to sell. Plus video also brings a far more personal touch to a website. It helps visitors get to know you. And trust you. It’s a golden opportunity to get across the personality and values of your brand. So as well as being a top on-page SEO factor, video content offers that all-important positive user experience too.
Top Takeaways – SEO On-Page Factors
There is plenty you can do to improve your web pages using the SEO on-page factors we’ve explored in this post. What we’ve talked about here is pretty much all focused on keywords and content: using the right words in the right places, with a splash of video thrown in for added engagement.
At Figment, we regularly help businesses improve their online visibility by helping them climb the search engine rankings using a variety of best practice managed SEO campaigns, including all the on-page SEO factors we’ve looked at here. If you could use some specialist help in growing your business through increased sales, why not talk to our team of renowned SEO consultants? We’re here to make it happen with a strategy that works for you long term, so please get in touch!