Ranking factors, on page, off page, search engine optimisation – all of these terms might sound vaguely vague to your ear.
What is it you are supposed to be doing exactly?
We understand just how complex the subject of optimising a website can be. There are so many things to think about, after all.
And if you are not an SEO, chances are you might not even quite fully understand some of the terms being tossed around on websites telling you what to do with your own.
Aiming to cut through some of that noise, here is our take on the top 7 on page ranking factors that can help you reach new search engine results page heights. Quite a mouthful, that, isn’t it?
Before we get started, let’s go over the importance of getting these factors right.
What is on page and why is it important?
On page ranking factors can be described as the optimisable elements of a given website’s page(s).
They are important partly because they will help tell Google’s crawlers, the pieces of code that run through your website to learn what it is about, do their job more easily. The more you help Google determine what a given page is about, the more points you’ll score.
The other piece of this puzzle is more user-focused. Every search engine aims to deliver the best possible results to any query. When you optimise a page well, this process is made easier.
We understand that advice like “make sure you optimise your on page elements well” sounds a lot like we’re speaking in tongues, so let’s try to break down 7 of the most important elements you can work with.
A URL is the address of a web page, to put it in the simplest terms.
This is a URL:
Some of the best practices to optimise them are:
- Every URL has to be unique
- Keep it as short as you can without sacrificing any information
- It should clearly tell users what the page it houses will be about
- Ideally, it should contain the keyword you are trying to rank your page for (more on that later)
- It should not contain any dates, numbers, stop words and superfluous information
- Words in the URL should be separated by this symbol – , not this symbol _, or any other
- URLs should also clearly denote the place they occupy in your website’s hierarchy (see example bellow)
Here are a couple of examples of good URLs:
And a couple of bad examples:
The simplest and most straightforward piece of advice we can give you is to keep them short and to the point.
There are two important meta elements you need to be aware of: meta titles and meta descriptions.
The meta title is simply the title of the page – it will appear in the search results above the URL, and is supposed to tell the searcher what the page is about.
This is a meta title:
It can be different to the title of the page itself – it does not have to be though. Its aim is to tell users what your page is about, as simple as that. It should also aim to grab the attention of your potential visitors – make it catchy, thought-provoking, interesting.
It is considered good SEO practice to mention your keyword in the meta title. Don’t make it sound out of whack though – if it doesn’t naturally fit, you may have chosen the wrong one.
The meta description describes what the page contains. It is featured bellow the URL in search engine results pages.
This is a meta description:
If you don’t optimise this element, the first few sentences of the text itself will appear in the results pages, which is often a very bad way to describe the page. If people don’t like what they will see, chances are they will not click on your URL. Even if your page is much better and more informative than another one that has a better optimised meta description.
Again – your aim is to get people to click on your URL, and not someone else’s.
Each page on your website should have images – that should go without saying.
- A) This will make your pages look better and be much more appealing that a simple block of text. People appreciate it when there is something other than words to look at. B) You can optimise your images as well, which will again boost your on page rankings.
Product pages will ideally feature an image (or several) of said product. Blog posts will use images to illustrate the points they are making. Every blog post should also have a featured image.
There are four image elements you need to optimise:
- File name: should not contain random numbers and words – and should clearly describe what the image is about, or how it relates to the text. For example, if you are adding an image to a paragraph called “content marketing best practices”, you can name the image “content marketing”, rather than call it “girl sitting in coffee shop”.
- Image title: can be the same as the file name, which is often the very best choice you can make.
- ALT text: should describe what’s in the image – so, if it’s an image of a girl sitting in a coffee shop, you can put that information here. ALT texts are used to describe images to the visually impaired, which is why they should not be general.
- Image file size: large files will slow your pages down, which will in turn hurt your rankings. There are tools that can do this compression for you, like tinyjpg, and all it takes is a couple of clicks. Use JPG for colourful images, and PNG files for logos and other images that feature vectors.
Header tags are used to denote the level of importance of certain parts of your article. They are a part of the HTML code, and should not concern you too much. All you need to know if a couple of basic facts.
- H1 tags are used only for titles. In most content management systems (such as WordPress, Joomla, Wix, etc.), your title will automatically be marked as H1, so there is no need to think about this tag at all.
- H2 tags are used for subheadings – you need to mark every subtitle as an H2. You can easily do this without having to type in any actual HTML code in most CMSs.
- H3 tags are used for subheadings within subheadings – if you are listing certain elements within a subsection of the article, you can use H3.
You can go lower in terms of header tags, but in SEO terms, there is no need to do this.
Another good practice tip: try to use your keywords in your header tags as well.
Internal links are links that point to other pages of your website (as opposed to external links, which point to other websites).
They are a great way to link different parts of your website together, point visitors in a direction you think they might want to go, and establish a website architecture that will also help search engines understand what’s going on on which page.
There are a couple of important things you need to know about internal links:
- The anchor text you use to link pages together needs to be short and to the point, rather than long and broad
- Linking to your product or service pages from blog posts is very good form – especially if they are mentioned in the post
- Not linking to a page on your website that can further enhance the page you are on (by providing additional information) is considered bad form
- Ideally, every page on your website will feature internal links. For blog posts over 1000 words long, 2-3 internal links would be great.
Keywords and why they matter so much
We’ve mentioned keywords several times in this article, now let’s explore what they are and why they matter.
Keywords are most easily explained as the words someone types into their browser’s search bar when looking for something.
In terms of SEO, they are the words you use on a page to get it to appear for a certain query.
There are numerous, tedious and at this point in time superfluous things we could tell you about keywords. However, in order to keep this as straightforward and as useful as possible, let’s break down nothing but the key points:
- One page can and will rank for more than one keyword at a time
- Certain keywords will be searched for more, which will often mean there are more pages trying to rank for them. This will also often mean ranking for them will be more difficult.
- Doing keyword research is a very important part of SEO – and the best thing you can do is try to figure out what people look for to find the things you are offering, and optimise your pages for that.
Content and why it’s king
Everyone who has read more than two articles on content marketing and SEO has probably come across the phrase “content is king”. SEOs are sick and tired of it, but that does not make it any less true.
In fact, the content you have on a page (that includes both the actual words, as well as images, video, etc.) – is the most important part of the page. Everything else you optimise will help, but the quality of your content will be what ranks you when it comes down to it.
What does quality content mean, I hear you asking?
Well, we have been arguing about it for years, so there is no straight answer, I’m afraid.
Here is what you need to know:
- Your content needs to match the voice and point of view of your target audience
- It needs to answer the questions that have brought them to you in the first place
- It needs to be grammar and spelling error-free
- It should offer real value – there is a lot of content out there that serves no purpose whatsoever, and was made just to be made, because you are supposed to have content on your website. That is the opposite of what you want to be doing. Every piece you publish needs to serve a purpose, and be useful to someone somewhere.
Writing content, really good content, is a difficult job. But when done right, it can do more for you than a lot of onsite tinkering.
There you have it – our version of the most important on page ranking factors you can work on to improve your rankings today. If you are unsure about how to execute any of the things we have just talked about, or are ready to take your SEO strategy to the next level, get in touch with us at Perceptive Digital today, and let’s work on the next steps together.