Have you ever wondered if the SEO techniques and tips that experts are recommending actually work?
I mean, does using your target keyword in your URL really have an impact on SEO?
Does site speed really play a factor in rankings?
In this article, I am going to break down the top on page SEO techniques that you can use to get higher rankings in Google, backed by solid data.
You can also these techniques as a basic on page SEO checklist 2023.
#1 Use Short URLs For Your Pages
Here’s a short URL: domain.com/short-url
And here’s a long one: domain.com/this-is-an-extra-long-url-that-doesnt-need-to-be-this-long
So the question is: Do short URLs rank better in Google?
Ahrefs’ study on on-page SEO factors shows that on average, short URLs with a median of around 17 or so characters ranked visibly better than long ones.
But does this mean that you should go and change all of your long URLs to short ones?
I wouldn’t say so.
Even though there’s a small correlation, I don’t think it’s a significant enough ranking factor to change your existing ranking of pages.
#2 Use Your Primary Keyword In URL
If I were writing an article about SEO tips, then my final URL with my keyword target would look like domain.com/seo-tips.
So does this actually help you rank in Google?
The answer according to Ahrefs is: Not really!
Interestingly, out of all keyword-related on-page SEO factors that Ahrefs studied, this was the only one that showed a negative correlation.
In fact, John Mueller from Google went on the record and said: “I believe that is a very small ranking factor. So it is not something I’d really try to force. And it is not something I’d say is even worth your effort to restructure your site just so you can get keywords in your URL.”
But do I recommend using it? Absolutely!
There are two reasons:
- When your links get shared, people can easily identify what the page is about without even clicking through to the page. This should increase referral traffic compared to having links that look like domain.com/post-xtyr or domain.com/the-best-keyword-research-tool-for[…]
- The exact match keyword that you want to rank for will be included in the anchor text of every naked URL backlink that you get. And top-ranking pages tend to have a larger percentage of exact-match anchor text links in their backlink profile.
I would recommend applying this technique to your new posts that you haven’t published yet. This is because changing the URL of your already published posts can also lead to a change in your rankings for a short time. You don’t want to lose your hard-earned traffic, do you?
#3 Use Your Keyword In The Headline (H1 Tag)
In one of Ahrefs’ studies, it was found that around 85% of pages that rank in the top 10 of Google don’t have their keyword in their H1 tags. But, there is a small correlation between the use of keywords in the H1 tags and rankings, so I still recommend using various keywords in your headings and even subheadings.
And the main reason for this is more user experience based.
A study from Neilsen Norman Group found that on average, a user will read, at most, 28% of the words on a page. But then they said that 20% is more realistic.
Here’s the thing:
Scanning text is an extremely common behaviour for users. You probably look at a page, scroll for a bit, and if something pops out to you, you read that section.
And if you think that section was awesome, then you think: Oh shoot, did I miss out on anything else?
So you scroll back up and then you read the post.
Using trigger-like keyword phrases in headings and sub-headings may be enough to pique a user’s interest and have them stick around a little bit longer. And we know that ‘average session duration‘ of your website is an important factor in ranking on Google.
As a beginner, you don’t have many or even a few backlinks, so I would totally recommend including your focus keyword in the H1 tag. After all, there’s no harm in that.
Recommended read: How To Get Backlinks To Your Website: 10 Effective Ways
#4 Add External Links To Authoritative Websites
Again, John Mueller said that adding external links to other sites is not a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm.
But Reboot Online’s study disagrees.
They made a fun little experiment on these two completely made-up words, which I won’t even attempt to pronounce.
They set up 10 different websites, 5 that linked to authoritative sources like Oxford, Cambridge, and genome.gov. And then the other 5 had no external links at all.
And the results were clear: The sites that contained external links, ranked higher than the ones that didn’t for both keywords.
More specifically, websites that link to DR 70+ sites rank higher in search results as compared to sites that don’t.
So here’s an easy takeaway.
Don’t be afraid to link out to other resources that will enhance the experience for your readers.
For example, if you are writing a blog post on the best golf gear and you found a great comparison of golf balls, then link out to them.
Don’t think that this can steal your traffic as your readers might jump to other sites through those links. If you are writing great content that hooks readers, then even if a reader jumps to the other website, he will definitely come back to your site to finish reading what you have written.
Hence, Content Is King! No matter what on-page SEO techniques you use, the best one among them all is high-quality content.
Mark my words!
#5 Add Internal Links To Pages That You Want To Rank
Internal links are links that go from one page on a domain to a different page on the same website. It is one of the most overlooked on page SEO techniques.
And internal links have been proven time and time again to help with rankings.
So a quick tip:
- Look at your pages that are currently ranking on page 2 of Google
- Add some internal links from relevant pages
- Get a small boost in rankings
You can find pages that rank on page 2 by using Google Search Console.
- Go to Google Search Console and click on the Performance tab in the menu
- Check mark on average position and impressions (as shown below)
- Select the Pages Tab (shown below)
In the above image, you can see data for my website. You can see that the average position for the page infoverses.online/how-to-choose-the-right-web-hosting-service-for-your-business is 13.4 which means it is on Page 2. This article will make a great target to point some internal links to.
How do you find pages to send links from? It’s simple. Just go to Google and search for site:yourdomain.com “web hosting service”. This will show up all articles that are relevant to web hosting. You can put links in these articles to your target post.
#6 Reoptimize Titles On Under-performing Page One Rankings
This on-page SEO technique is taught by almost all the SEO gurus out there.
Even if you have the perfect title and meta description combination, it won’t really matter much unless you are on the first page of Google.
Why? Because as the saying goes: “The best place to hide a dead body is on page 2 of Google’s search results.”
First, you need to identify the pages that are ranking on page one.
As a general benchmark, the #1 ranking spot sees an average CTR of 33%, #2 gets 15% and #3 gets around 10%. If you see any of your content below that, make a note of it and start playing around with your titles and meta descriptions.
Here are a couple of ways to get some great ideas for new titles.
Let’s say that I’m creating an epic post on hotels in San Francisco. Looking at the organic Google search results, you can see that they appear to be mostly list posts of the top or best ones. And two of them actually include prices in the title (see below two images).
This can tell you a lot about the intent behind the searcher’s query. So you might want to create your content in a similar way.
Next, look at the ads.
Since a lot of the big players are constantly experimenting with ad copy, you can bet that for high CPC terms like this, you will find some solid title and description ideas that can boost your CTR.
If you’re still stuck, borrow some ideas from viral sites like Upworthy or Buzzfeed.
For example, if I do a Google search for site:buzzfeed.com “San Francisco Hotels”, you’ll see a few cool ideas that you can work into your title tag.
#7 Create In-depth Articles
I constantly strive to write in-depth articles. In-depth articles also result in longer articles. Longer articles are likely to be ranked higher in the search results.
I have a 7700-word article on my website on starting a blog.
People have been raving about “long-form content” for quite some time.
But how long is “long-form”? 1500?, 2000? 5000 words?
As a benchmark, long-form content is considered to be over 1500 words. I don’t think any article below that word count provides any in-depth insights (except for articles like food recipes).
But, writing a 1500+ words article is not enough. Your focus should also be on coverage. For example, if you are writing a post on making the perfect cup of coffee, you can’t just say: “grab a cup, put it in the machine, and wait”.
If you truly want to deliver on making the perfect cup of coffee, you’d want to talk about beans, water temperature, brewing methods like French press, drip, or using an Aeropress.
An easy way to find related subtopics is to Google the keyword phrase you want to rank for and skim through the sub-headings from the top-ranking pages. Click on the first few results and see what subtopics they are covering in their content.
So bottom line? Keep word count in mind and cover the topics and sub-topics that will serve the searcher’s intent.
#8 Use Modifiers In Your Titles
Modifiers are add-on words to a base keyword. Some effective ones are best, top, buy, and the current year.
For example, someone might search for “cricket bats”. They might also search for “best cricket bats” or even “best cricket bats 2022”.
A super cool way to find modifier keywords that actually have search volume is to type in a seed keyword in the SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool. Apply the Include Keyword filter and put a modifier (Like I have searched for cricket bats and included a modifier ‘best‘)
You will see a list of all the keywords related to cricket bats that contain the word best (shown below)
You will also see that most of the keywords have a good amount of search volume, and commercial intent, and have very low keyword difficulty. So cricket bats may be a good opportunity for ranking.
#9 Don’t Have Slow Loading Pages
In 2010, Google announced a new signal in their search ranking algorithms: page speed.
In July 2018, page speed became a ranking factor for mobile searches.
So should you bother optimizing for page speed? Absolutely!
This deals more with user experience and it will affect your bottom line: Revenue.
Google performed a study on 11 million mobile ads and found that as page load time goes from 1 to 3 seconds, the probability of bounce increases by 32%. And as the load time increase even further, the probability of bounce also increases.
Here are a few tips you can use to speed up your website.
- Optimize images: If you are using WordPress, then use appropriate plugins like reSmush.it which will automatically compress images upon uploading. You can also go to shortpixel.com and compress your images before uploading them.
- Use a CDN service for your website. I use Cloudflare. For example, if your hosting server is located in New York, but your visitors are in Australia, it can take quite a bit of time for the transfer of data to complete. CDNs minimize the distance between where the visitor is browsing from and where your website server is hosted.
- Use a caching plugin like W3 Total Cache which significantly improves your page load speed.
#10 Improve Your UX (User Experience) by enhancing your UI (User Interface)
Google’s job is to provide the best results to its users for any given search query. And in order to help Google achieve that, you need to foster that user experience for Google’s visitors.
Aside from the content itself, the user interface, or the way the page looks, can have a significant impact on how people interact with your website.
First focus on improving visual readability.
If you look at the two pages below, which one is easier to read?
Obviously the first one!
Let me break this down for my article which is about “getting traffic from Quora to your website“.
- I use a readable font size of 17px
- I write in short sentences and short paragraphs
- I have standout images like the one below that instantly resonate with someone wanting to learn how to start a blog and make money from it.
- I provide solid visual examples and tutorials that support my article like this technique of generating a sitemap for your website
Another tip to increase user experience through your user interface is to include a table of contents for long posts (or every post). Someone might be interested in only a specific part of your post. The table of contents can help them jump to that section quickly.
Also, one very important aspect of user experience is making your website mobile friendly. Over 91% of internet users access the internet on a mobile device. So mobile-friendliness of a website is very crucial.
You can use tools like Google Mobile-Friendly Test to know whether your website is mobile-friendly or not.
Top 10 On Page SEO Techniques: Final Thoughts
You can obsess over low-hanging optimizations like keywords in titles, but you need to know that there is power in cumulative value.
While a lot of these on page SEO techniques are important, there is no guarantee that each of them will help you rank better on an individual level. But as you implement all of the different techniques together, you should start seeing more results. I did!
Most importantly, always focus on fulfilling the searcher’s intent the best you can and you’ll be on your way to perfecting your on-page SEO.
The above techniques can be used as a basic on page SEO checklist 2023.
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Wish you all the best!
Ali is a passionate and experienced blogger with a mission to teach others how to start their own blog, monetize it, and become successful in the process. He shares the lessons he’s learned on his own journey through personal anecdotes and factual examples.