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On-Page SEO techniques to use in 2019 that increase traffic


Have you launched a website recently or are creating content for a website you manage, and are not satisfied with the number of relevant visitors it receives?
Many people have been told a good solution to increase visitors to a website is to create a blog, and produce quality content that demonstrates your thought leadership for your target audience.
This is great advice!
In order to increase the visibility of your web page in search engines and get more traffic, there are several tactics that need to be applied to the anatomy of the web page, and producing quality content is just one of these factors. In this article, I will give you an in-depth guide on what you need to do.
There are two key aspects to getting traffic to your web-page that you need to consider:
  1. On-Page Optimisation
  2. Off-Page Optimisation

What does On-Page and Off-Page Optimisation mean?

The latest definition of On-Page Optimisation is defined as; the process of engineering individual web pages so they gain more traffic from search engines. This process involves optimising the design, content, structured data and web page source code. In comparison, Off-Page SEO refers to the quality, diversity and authority of links from other websites that point to the web page.
On-Page SEO is the first step anyone should undertake when launching a new website or creating a web page. It will give you the best possible chance to rank in search engines and should be done before doing any Off-Page link building activities.

How does On-Page SEO work?

If you’re already familiar with SEO, don’t be surprised to find the usual suspects you need to optimise on your web page: keywords; links; meta tags; website speed; engaging content and clean effective coding that search engines can traverse easily.
However, there has been a lot of changes over recent years. Search engine algorithm updates have prompted SEO professionals to adjust previous techniques to stay ahead of the game.
So, let’s look at the 3 main areas that you should focus on to carry out effective On-Page SEO in 2019:

1.0 Make kick-ass UX, impress visitors and also search engines

User experience is not just for visitors

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A search engines’ core purpose is to provide you the best and most relevant information based on the search queries you type in the search engine. Creating a kick-ass user experience (UX) will not only impress your website visitors but also search engines such as Google are now capable of assessing UX signals on a website and are programmed to rank web pages with better UX, higher in search engine ranking positions (SERPs). This is provided the websites are relevant to the search query and follow correct technical website optimisation principles. Therefore, if you want to rank higher than your competitor’s website and you’ve already setup the technical SEO infrastructure on the web page correctly, you should be focusing on improving the user experience and quality of content across your website.

Search engine algorithm’s that have changed the game

Let’s briefly look at the history of Google’s algorithm updates over the past 6 years. To get the most out of your SEO strategy, it’s important to understand the scope and dynamics of search algorithm updates and how they affect web page ranking:
  • Google Panda – launched in February 2011 marks Google’s spam fighting search algorithm aimed at targeting websites that farm spammy content. This part of the algorithm lowers the rank of websites with ‘thin’ and ‘low quality’ content
  • Google Penguin – launched in April 2012 with the intention to penalise websites that were in breach of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. At the time, webmasters were attempting to manipulate search results by ‘over optimising’ web pages through keyword stuffing, cloaking and duplicate content
  • Google Hummingbird – launched on September 2013, used semantic text which enables search engines to understand the ‘context’ of a page and better match content with search queries. This means you should no longer be focusing on individual keywords, but also using long tail keywords around the main topic. Because search engines can understand the general conversation, they target keywords that provide the most relevant answers based on the context of the query
  • Google Pigeon – launched in July 2014 represents Google’s major localization of search results and maps integration into search results to provide more relevant and accurate local search results, from maps, local businesses, location and distance metrics. The name Pigeon came from Search Engine Land as Google’ didn’t have an internal name for this update
  • Google Mobgeddon – name comes from MOZ, launched in April 2015, marks the date where all websites which were not mobile friendly would have been their ranking affected, giving precedence to websites that provide a mobile friendly UX
  • Google Penguin 4.0 – Google has been rolling out updates to the Penguin algorithm over several years. The most recent is Penguin 4.0 which which can assess a website for spammy links in real time. If the algorithm detects spam signals around internal and external links, the offending webpage, and not the entire website, will be down-ranked.
  • RankBrain – a 2017 update to the Hummingbird algorithm that was a real game-changer. The RankBrain algorithm uses artificial intelligence (AI) to determine how well received a page was against a specific search query.
The purpose of Google’s algorithms is to assess individual web pages and match them against search queries. The ultimate goal is to deliver content that best answers the end-users search query and will rank web pages that have the highest level of stickiness from the website visitors in relation to a search query i.e. when people visit a web page and stay on it for a long time, this send signals to Google that the web page is serving the needs of the user’s intent for that search query. Put simply, if your web page has a poor user experience and a high bounce rate, it will not rank high in search engines.

What are the most important Search Engine algorithm updates?

The ability to assess user experience and content quality are the most important changes to search engine algorithms.
One of the most important algorithm updates was Hummingbird because it enabled search engines to better understand the context of a webpage and match it against search queries. This means you need to select targeted keywords that work around a specific topic. For example, if you have a web page that discusses a topic around inflatable boats, consider the different ways people will search for information and try to use conversational keywords i.e. what are the best inflatable boats? why you should buy an inflatable boat? how long to inflatable boats last for? when is it best to use an inflatable boat? where can I buy an inflatable boat? Notice how I used who, what, where, when and why which are all conversational keywords and semantically related to the topic.
Providing you have the basic structure and mechanics of web content that is needed on a web page, you should be focusing building your authority in your business domain and creating great content that demonstrates your expertise and appeals to your target audience.
Algorithm updates such as Hummingbird help search engines effectively match page content with a search query. This calls for more focussed content (which adheres strictly to the title) and which pays attention to long tail keywords.
However, the most important algorithm update is no doubt RankBrain which was rolled out in 2017. This will take Google’s ability to comprehend the quality of a web page even further (in relation to visitor intent). If a visitor bounces instantly from a page this sends signals to Google about the questionable page quality.

Content now really is king

The quality of the content on your web page will, of course, attract visitors. All readers want to read substantial and engaging information. So, by providing powerful content you are not only drawing visitors to your website, but you are also enhancing the site and brand loyalty. It is likely visitors will return for more of the same.
Search engine algorithms can now monitor user experience signals and identify how long visitors stay on the web page and how well it served the search queries intent. Search engines will assess whether Po Go Sticking occurs, referring to visitors who opened the page, then left quickly back to the search results and opened a different search result. By comparison, they will assess whether the visitor stayed on the web page and read through the article, which helps determine how well the article performed with fulfilling user’s search intent. The longer the article, the more likely they are to stay on the page for some time – as long as it has good content. You can see from the graph below that most web pages which reach the top of google is around 2000 words. So content length is also an important on-page SEO factor that should be on your on-page SEO checklist.
Complimentary formatting which requires further attention from the reader such as graphics, videos, graphs, infographics and videos help to offer the visitor more quality information and keeps them longer – for instance a 10 minute video!
Here’s a great video by Brian Dean from Backlinko which summarises a lot on-page SEO techniques that are also explained in this article:

Content Engagement

Engagement is very much a part of on-page SEO. This metric is a reflection of your text and how well related the information is to the needs of the target market. An article may appear to be purely informational but a clever copywriter will write in the style for the target market and understand the techniques of inserting topical information, that is well researched, backed up by data, includes relevant examples and references to build credibility.
But be careful.
The vehicle of access here is the internet where the reader tends to scan rather than reading – they want to see and understand what they need straight away. The “Flesch Reading Ease Test” which is available in the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin will automatically score your writing for ease of reading.

2.0 Use the best structure and mechanics of web content

Content Structure

When you’re planning content, there are some important things to consider to increase the opportunity of your website ranking higher in search engines. Starting off with the obvious is headings. It’s important you breakdown the content on your webpage into easily understandable headings and subheadings, and to use H1s, H2s and H3 tags appropriately. The title of your webpage should always be in an H1 tag and sub headings can be H2s or H3s. The titles will inform readers what each section will discuss. This not only benefits search engines but makes it easier for readers to digest information easily. It’s also important to place the most important content you have at the top of the webpage. Search engines are like newspapers and place more importance at what is at the top of a webpage. So it’s best to prioritise the information you put in the article and put the more important information at the top.

Featured Snippets

Featured Snippets aim at answering the user’s search query right away. They are a snippet of information that is displayed right at the top of search engine results, just underneath the adverts. These are probably the most underutilised on-page SEO technique today, which represents a large opportunity to boost SEO rankings if you tackle this on-page SEO tactic. But do be aware, your website does need to rank well for related search queries and have a good domain authority, in order for Google to consider using the content on your site as a featured snippet. The most common types of featured snippets are paragraphs, list, or tables snippets. The idea is to directly answer the users search query, concisely and near the top of your web page, in a paragraph, list or table format. You can see an example of a paragraph featured snippet below that defines ‘featured snippets’ in the search engine results:
Featured Snippet Example

Use keywords wisely

Keyword are of course still very important. They remain the only factor which tells Google what the main topic of your page is all about – but the days of determining a ridiculously high % of keywords in your text are well gone.
Google algorithms can now spot keyword stuffing a mile off and it will penalise your site for it. So now the best advice is to use keywords in effective places on the page in moderation. Synonyms are useful because they enrich the text and point google to the correct genre or industry.

Sprinkle Latent Semantic Keywords

To help Google match your content with search queries, try to include keywords that are conceptually related to your topic. This is known as Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) and involves pairing related words that are commonly used together. It is important that when you select LSI keywords, that the ones you pair together are only related to your overall topic.
For example, if someone is looking searching for wedding planning, keywords such as checklist, calendar, timeline, guest list, celebrant and catering, would help Google confidently determine that the web page is about wedding planning. There is a useful LSI keyword planner here, that can help with your research and selection. Or simply go to Google, input the topic, and scroll to the bottom of the search results, Google shows other keyword suggestions, and the parts in bold are usually semantically related.
Keywords should be used in meta tags (see below); headings; sub-titles; the first paragraph; in the body and the last paragraph. But always check after writing your article that it sounds natural after you’ve finished.

Use internal and external linking

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Internal links are essential because they direct your readers to product, sales pages or contact pages. But there was a time when the idea of putting links to external sites in your text as brand suicide. This is no longer the case.
External links signal to the Google algorithm that you are creating substantial content. You are providing a pointer for your reader to enlarge upon given information. Remember to ensure the link opens in a new window (so your site is not closed) and the link does not offer direct competition.

Behind the scenes

Meta tags

Meta tags are snippets of text that are stored in the code of a webpage that describe the webpage’s content to search engines.

Meta titles

One of the most powerful signals as to the substance of your web page continues to be the meta title tag.
What you place in that tag is ultra-important because it is considered one of the top tags to update that can influence rankings so include focus keywords you want to rank for. It’s also important to write them naturally as they appear in the search engine results. Relevant titles are click-bait. Try to include your primary keyword right at the beginning of the title tag. Also try include adjectives such as “best” “latest” “top 10” and so on, that have proven to increase click-through rates.
Google increased the title tag length that is displayed in search results in May 2016. Titles are now given up to 71 characters or 600 pixels in width on desktop browsers. You get even more on mobile but I would recommend keeping them between 60 – 70 characters depending on where Google will truncate the title with ellipses (…).

Meta descriptions

Meta descriptions should be written for users to help increase the click-through rate of your website on search engines. They are displayed below your website address on search engines, so they should be well written and highlight what your product or service is. Make sure you include all the relevant selling points on the webpage.
There is no need to force keywords in meta descriptions. They have no ranking value at all, as Google have announced in September 2009.
Google has been displaying more characters on each line of the meta-description since May 2016 – up to 100 characters per line. They still truncate the snippets, so in total, we’re seeing 150 – 160 characters on two lines. Sometimes Google displays a third line showing 278 characters. To keep on the safe side, I’d recommend keeping descriptions between 150 – 160 characters, as it seems Google has only displayed the third line in some instances.
Meta-descriptions can also include structured data, if you have an e-commerce website for example, you can include the product name and model number in the meta-description. If you have a large website, or e-commerce site, it’s ok to create your descriptions programmatically. Google actually encourages it.

Heading Tags

Heading tags are nearly as important as title tags in SEO. Good use of H1s and H2s do have an influence of rankings. When updating your meta-data and reviving the headings on your website, its important that your website content has a clear structure so Google bots can easily understand it when indexing.

Image Tags

Image tags are often forgotten but they are really important for placing keywords outside of article text. “Alt” tags are the best place to put your keywords but do not forget to integrate your image name with a keyword too.

Structured Data

Structured Data is data on your web page that is formatted into a repository that search engines can reference. Essentially it’s any data that is organised. It communicates to search engines what your data means. Without it, search engines will find it more difficult to break down the meaning of the content on a web page. Search engines have different categories of structured data they reference. For example, a simple one is the address of your business on your web site. You can wrap this information into structured data, and search engines will immediately know that is your website address, without having to use other methods to determine this.
There are numerous ways to use structured data, you can visit schema.org to find out what data sets are available that search engines reference. Some valuable ones are reviews and product information if you have an e-commerce website. Using structured data for a product that has good reviews, will enable your reviews of your product to show up as ‘rich snippets’ in search engine results, hence, you can considerably increase click through rates. Some examples of rich snippets shown in search results from structured data are below. These examples include product reviews, movies and ticketing information:
Structured Data Example
There a number of ways to add structure to your website. If you have a programmer it can be manually done by following the Schema Markup guide on Schema.org. However, there are also simpler methods, if you’re using a WordPress website, there’s a good plugin called Schema Markup App, that can take a lot of the hard work out of the way for you.

Regularly maintain your site

It is essential the search engines can navigate your site and visit all your site pages. Maintaining your site is therefore important as broken links will occur (this of course also reflects badly on your site and brand). Check and fix all links.

3.0 Speed up your game

With the millions of websites screaming for attention, you have got competition out there you do not even know about. If your website loads too slowly it is likely your prospective visitor will get bored and just go elsewhere. This is becoming more of a problem because pages are much more graphic and video heavy. Google ranks websites that have good user experience and a low bounce rate at the top of search engines so it’s important your website is well designed, has engaging content and loads fast. To help test your website and get guidelines on how to speed it up, check out Google Page Speed Test Tool.
If you do have a high bounce rate but your website does load quickly, check ‘dwell time’. This is a metric search engine used to measure how long a visitor spends on a page and determine whether they consumed the whole content. This is a strong indication to Google that the content on that page is high-quality and provides relevant information.
How you structure a webpage will also increase dwell time. When the content on a webpage looks too cumbersome, unprofessional or irrelevant people will log straight out thus increasing your bounce rate.
This is another reason why it is important to include keywords in subtitles (H2 tags). Visitors will often scan the page to see if there is a section they are most interested in – especially when the content is 2000-words plus – which Google reward with higher ranking positions.

Make it easy for people to digest your content on any device

dffdf There was a time when the only place you were going to see a business website, a blog or an article was on a good old desktop PC. With the advent of tablets, laptops and mobiles it is important that your reader has a pleasurable experience however they are viewing your message.
Google has been quick to catch on to the fact that mobiles are now mainstream for internet access and will down-rank websites which are not adapted to the devices they are being viewed in. Make sure your website is mobile responsive. You can use the Google Mobile Friendly tool to test. Another very useful tool is the accelerated mobile pages plugin, that is also available on WordPress. Installing this plugin will dramatically increase the loading time of your web pages on mobile devices, which in turn will help enhance the user experience.
I hope this article has provided you with valuable insights and takeaways you can use for carrying out on-page SEO. The best approach would be to start with the most important web pages on your web site and follow these on-page SEO techniques that will improve search engine ranking positions, visibility and traffic. On-Page SEO now accounts to more than 50% of SEO efforts if not more, so get stuck in and give your web pages their best chance to rank. Feel free to add any comments and get in touch if you need SEO support from our experts.
Author: Jonathan Gillespie



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About Boss Digital

Mountain View

Boss Digital is a leading international digital marketing agency in Hong Kong specialising in cutting edge website design & development and digital internet marketing consulting. We aim to leverage companies and brands in the digital field through our specialist knowledge of digital marketing strategy and experience developing end-to-end digital marketing solutions.

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