What is On-Page Optimization in SEO and How to Easily Master it
Table of Contents
When we think about optimizing content for search, many marketers will immediately get overwhelmed because they are used to hearing SEO consultants talk about formulas, Google algorithms, and phrases like keyword density. A lot has changed in SEO in recent years and you can honestly set all of that aside because Google no longer works that way.
Yes, my friends, keyword density is dead and so are a lot of other old school SEO tactics and myths.
There is no perfect formula for on-page optimization of content. To win in today’s world of search, you need to stay focused on writing content for real humans, solving people’s problems, and helping the search engines locate the right content for a given search phrase.
At the heart of strong content, optimization is an overriding focus on the human. And honestly, I’m really happy about this because it makes the entire process of SEO a whole lot easier.
Recent Pivots in On-Page Optimization
The last few years have been pivotal years for SEO. We saw massive shifts in the type of content Google wants and the type of content it rewards with page one ranking. I’d like to highlight some of these items right away, so I can get you thinking in the right direction.
Here are some areas where we’ve noticed SEO shifts:
- A strong desire and focus on solving the problems of readers
- Longer keyword phrases are driving search and bringing in the majority of search traffic to websites and blogs
- A greater need for longer content that fully covers a given topic
- A strong focus on readability
- A focus on accessibility so everyone can understand the nature of links and images and content flow
- A need for subheaders and bullets for ease of use on mobile devices
- A need for short paragraphs for ease of reading on mobile devices
- A need for featured images for social sharing and distribution
- A strong desire for multimedia content (videos, podcasts, images, etc.)
- A move away from binary data points like keyword density
- A move towards keyword variations and topics
- A strong reliance on semantic language
Don’t let that term “semantics” worry you. It simply means you are using descriptive words that help Google better understand the nature of your content as a whole.
I said above that longer content is important and that is because:
- Longer content can go deeper into a topic, and in doing so, it can better answer the searcher’s question
- Longer content will tend to drive more social sharing which drives more visitors and more visibility with search engines
- Longer content will better satisfy the human reader, which will, in turn, will drive more backlinks
The new benchmark for content length:
- My recommendation for national searches (think about a search for how to treat a sunburn) is a minimum of 1,000 words and usually about 2,000 words. But know this is solely because it takes about this much text to thoroughly present a problem and outline the solution.
- Local searches (think about a search for a local Italian restaurant) do not require as much content, because they are less informational. They are simpler and more direct, so content doesn’t have to be as deep or long. You could rank something locally with as little as 500 words.
In today’s SEO, there is no magic number for the ideal quantity of words on a page. The trick is to create better content than the other websites ranking on page one of SERPs (search engine results page). If you can do this, you can win with 500 words, 1,000 words, or 5,000 words.
Always Consider Semantic Wording
As you optimize your content for search engines, you are really just trying to help them find the right content for a search term. There isn’t any voodoo associated with optimization. Instead, it is just making sure you are clear in your content writing.
Let’s assume for this exercise I have determined my focused keyword is “WordPress hosting” and I would like to rank for this phrase.
The first thing I would want to do is think about alternative phrases that would semantically align with this phrase. Put in other terms, what things would naturally be discussed or flow with WordPress hosting? These would be things like:
- Website or blog
- Performance or speed
- Software updates
- Hosting company
- Technical support
If I were to talk about WordPress hosting, I would naturally assume the content would include those above elements. Those above elements would lead to many variations of my core phrase WordPress hosting. These might include:
- WordPress website
- WordPress blog
- WordPress website migrations
- WordPress hosting plans
- WordPress performance
- Website speed
- Website backups
- Blog migrations
People tend to fall down when writing for SEO because their mind knows their topic well and it skips over important details.
For example, I would simply state that “it costs $12/month” and to the writer, this would make sense. But to the search engines and readers, they might be wondering what “it” is and what is included in the “cost” they are supposed to pay.
What would be a better usage of this text would be to have a section of the content dedicated to the “Cost of WordPress Hosting” and within this section we talk about all the things that would be included in this hosting plan.
This is not only helpful for the reader and encourages them to convert into a customer, but it is also helpful for the search engines.
Create an Outline to Guide Your Writing
This leads me to the next important element of on-page SEO, which is your content outline. You should always have a content outline when writing for the web.
In our case, we would simply talk about the things we’d want to cover. And those “things” would tie back to the human readers we want to serve.
For us to create a strong web page that talks about WordPress hosting, we would want to cover the things that really matter to human readers. These elements would be:
- Introduction– This would provide a nice overview of WordPress hosting and our offering for humans and search engines.
- Who – This would highlight who our hosting serves. This could be websites and blogs or online stores.
- What – This would describe what is included in our offering. We would include things like SSL certificates, daily backups of software, automatic updates of WordPress and plugins, security features like firewall protection, and so on.
- How – This would provide information on how the above items are executed and delivered or it would provide details on migrations, ongoing support, etc.
- Why – This would highlight the expertise that we offer, the technical team we employ, or the availability to 24/7 support staff.
- Close – This would be a closing paragraph that would reiterate the items discussed and summarize for the reader.
But this is just one route to go. Instead you could focus your sections on key elements of the hosting like:
- Ease of use
The key takeaway here is you have a plan and this plan answers your human reader’s questions, while also providing structure and semantic language to help the search engines understand the nature of the content and who this content can serve.
And if we were to look at word count, we would naturally end up with 3,000+ words, because there is no way to discuss all the above items for anything less.