Google’s mobile algorithm update that shook up the SEO world in March had many of us frantic about the extremely technical aspects of search engine optimization.
Now that the frenzy has passed a little, it’s a good time to revisit your non-mobile SEO techniques.
These easy search engine optimization tips are a great way to give your current on page SEO techniques a check up, or to start on this vital area of search engine optimization if it’s not something you’ve devoted enough time to in the past.
Once you’ve dialed in your on page tactics, move on to the off page work like linkbuilding and site speed to start firing on all SEO cylinders.
This handy table of contents will guide you through this substantial guide if you want to jump around:
Table of Contents:
- Benefits of On Page SEO
- On Page SEO As a Foundation for Future Optimization
- Identifying Candidates for On Page SEO
- Tips for Improving Your Page’s Search Performance
- KPIs to Track On Page SEO Success
- Improving Search Engine Ranking for the Long Term With Off Page SEO
- Investigating SERP Competitors
- Building Site Authority With Off Page SEO Tactics
- The Marathon of Backlink Earning
- Increase Page Speed, Increase Rankings
- Pay Attention to Mobile SEO
- Search Engine KPIs That Really Matter
- Don’t Be Overwhelmed By SEO Techniques
The Many Benefits of On Page SEO
When it’s time for the burst of energy and effort to improve your search engine rankings, you should focus on what organic traffic is currently doing for your marketing goals and how you can make it work harder.
Specifically, you want to drive up your conversion rate by getting more sales, signups, leads, etc.
Starting with this approach is a great setup for a larger SEO project because it means that when you’re ready to start driving more traffic to your site it will already be prepared to greet that traffic with optimized content and a compelling conversion funnel.
The sprint-like SEO techniques are also great for getting buy in from executives who can find it hard to get excited about vague metrics like “bounce rates.”
On Page SEO: Foundation for Future Optimization
At this point what you want to do is not necessarily get more traffic from search engines; you want to get more out of the traffic you’re already pulling in. That means your focus will be on your own website’s performance rather than on outside factors like backlinks or competitors.
Additionally, by increasing conversions you’ll be able to show the “real” value of improved search engine traffic in tangible numbers. If you increase your site’s overall conversion rate for organic traffic from .75% to 1.5%, future traffic that you can drive in is now twice as valuable.
A caveat: this half of the equation only works if you have clearly defined goals that you can accurately track on your site. Without meeting those two criteria neither an improvement in conversion rates or an increase in search engine traffic will do you any measurable good.
Identifying Candidates for On Page Optimization
First you need to identify your top performing pages, i.e. the 10-15 that are bringing in the most organic traffic.
Google analytics can show you this pretty easily. Just select “Search Engine Optimization” from the Audience menu, and then look at the “Landing Pages” view.
This will show you the pages on your website that people got to first after doing a search in Google. Depending on how large your site is and how many resources you can devote to this project, you can choose just a handful of pages or a several dozen to optimize.
Put them all into a spreadsheet for easy tracking going forward.
While in Analytics, add how many page views the pages got from organic searches for the past 2 weeks to your spreadsheet.
You can pull a longer view if you want, but that means your short term SEO efforts will become more like medium term efforts because you want to give allow the same amount of time to pass before you compare the pages’ performance to how they did in the past.
Also include how many conversions those pages got from your organic search traffic. You can do this very quickly by adding a “Converters” segment to your Audience view.
If you need or want to break down your conversion more specifically by type — i.e. those who downloaded an ebook versus those who made a purchase — then you can create segments for each individual goal.
The next step is to figure out what search terms people are using to reach these pages. For this part we need Google Webmaster Tools.
Armed with your list of pages to optimize, open up your Webmaster Tools page and get into the Search Analytics section.
Adjust the options so that you’re looking at your individual website pages rather than overall queries, then find one of the pages you’re going to be tackling in your SEO conversion optimization project.
Click on that particular page, and then reselect the Queries radio button.
(Note that you can also filter and compare pages, which can be useful if you’re testing out tactics on different pages.)
This will reveal the searches that people used to land on that page from Google. Selecting the other options at the top of the page – CTR, Impressions, Clicks, Average Rank – will give you even more information about how the page is doing.
Now you can also see how often the page appeared in search results (Impressions), how often it’s getting clicked (Clicks and CTR), and how high it’s showing up (Average Rank).
Our goal for the short term, on page half of our SEO techniques is to get more clicks, so we aren’t going to worry about the other metrics right now. We’ll come back to them during our marathon SEO efforts.
For now, add CTR and the top 5-7 keywords people used to find your pages to the spreadsheet.
While you’re using Webmaster Tools to investigate the keywords driving traffic to your pages, keep an eye out for terms that you got good impressions for but either aren’t ranking well for and/or aren’t getting clicks on. These will be valuable later.
Tips For Improving Your Pages’ Search Performance
Now we’ve gathered information about what pages we’re going after and how they’ve historically performed, so we need to try and make improvements.
The first half of this is getting more people to click on your results in search. We do this by adjusting what searchers see in the pages’ meta titles and meta descriptions.
In this example, which is a result for “growing flowers,” you can see that no one has taken the trouble to write a customized title or description for the page. Instead the page is auto-populated the fields based on what is on the page.
While efficient, this method doesn’t create a compelling search result.
Google takes clicks into account when ranking pages, so if none of your results are getting clicked you’ll steadily slip down in the rankings regardless of how nicely optimized the rest of your content is.
To keep that from happening, your title and description need two have things:
- The keywords people are searching for.
- A clear and enticing incentive to visit your page.
For example, if I searched for “best house plants” and saw a search result containing the phrase “A complete list of the best houseplants for every budget,” I would feel confident that page would be likely to give me good information.
You’ll also notice that Google highlights the keywords that a person searched for in the results, making it even easier for a searcher to tell when your result closely matches their search.
After you get people onto your website, you need to make sure they stay there.
A high bounce rate signals to Google that people are not finding what they were looking for on your page, and that it therefore wasn’t an appropriate search result. This will drive your rankings down.
Keeping people on your pages longer also increases the likelihood that they will consume your content and take some kind of action, so it’s a win from a conversion standpoint as well as for SEO.
We’ve written a handy guide to how people read online that will give you lots of ideas for how to structure your content to drive engagement.
You should also use a/b tests on various non-content parts of your page to make sure that you’ve got a design in place that drives the maximum number of conversions from visitors.
KPIs to Track On Page SEO Success
After you’ve made adjustments, you want to track your pages’ performance for at least a week. You may need to wait longer for credible results if Google doesn’t crawl your updates for a few days.
Here’s what to keep an eye on:
- Clicks and CTR
- Time on Page from Organic Traffic
- Conversion from Organic Traffic
- Bounce Rate from Organic Traffic
If your clicks/CTR are going up but the other metrics are static, you should consider more radical changes to your page layout and/or calls to action to improve on page engagement.
Improving Search Engine Ranking for the Long Term with Off Page SEO
Once you’ve tackled the sometimes complex process of updating your existing pages to get better rankings and engagement, it’s time to turn your attention to the rest of the internet.
Investigating SERP Competitors
There are a few online tools that make this process a whole lot simpler than searching for all your keywords and jotting down who currently ranks for them.
Neil Patel, an SEO guru if ever there was one, has tons of articles on SEO for just about every situation. He offers up this list of tools to analyze how your competitors are ranking and where their weaknesses lie:
- SEMrush: This tool gives you reliable, LIVE data on organic keywords, competitors’ URLS and real-time traffic.
- Quick Sprout: This is my own SEO tool that analyses up to 3 competitors’ sites and reveals what you should do to get more organic traffic and rankings.
- Ahrefs: A very simple and detailed backlinks research tool. It scours the web, picking up your backlinks and the exact anchor text used. You can use it to find out where your competitors get inbound links.
- Alexa: If you’re looking to understand your target market, this competitive intelligence tool will reveal audience demographics and site rank in specified countries.
- Open Site Explorer: This tool reveals the Domain Authority and Page Authority of a particular domain name and is great for backlink research and analysis.
- Open Link Profiler: Do you want to know the industry and influence of a particular competitor is, and the exact number of active backlinks? Use this tool.
- Majestic: Use it to check the source of backlinks and referring IP domain names for a given site URL.
- Google Keyword Planner: My #1 keyword research tool.
- Buzzsumo: Check how popular a particular keyword or URL is in the social space. How many people have shared your posts? Find out with this tool.
- Topsy: Who mentioned you on Twitter and how often does a particular keyword or topic generate interest? Topsy reveals everything.
- Whichloadsfaster: Compare two sites simultaneously to determine which one loads faster.
See more about Neil’s competitive analysis techniques on NeilPatel.com. I can’t recommend his highly detailed approach too highly.
Building Site Authority With Off Page SEO Tactics
There were once dozens of ways to create links back to your site from other websites, but Google has seriously cracked down on any and all kinds of sketchy linkbuilding. Nonetheless, some judicious backlink earning is still valuable, as is making your site load as quickly as possible and making sure that it displays well on mobile devices.
The Marathon of Backlink Earning
Google knows your site is valuable when other sites link to it. Whatever the changes to its algorithm, there has to be some weight given to these votes of confidence from third party sites.
The trick is to get links that help you rank better, don’t take weeks to earn, and also drive valuable traffic.
For an outstanding overview of how to get started with this process, you can’t do any better than Moz’s Guide to Link Building. It’s massive, so plan to devote some time to this part of off page SEO.
Increase Page Speed, Increase Rankings
Making your site load faster is a surefire way to get a leg up on slower competitors. There will almost certainly be aspects of this that require technical know-how, so if you don’t have access to a webmaster or other development-minded person, you may need to push this part of off page SEO onto the back burner.
Of course first you need to know what needs to be done. You find this out primarily using Google’s PageSpeed Insights Tool.
Simply type in your URL and it will give you a list of speed improvements you can make for both desktop and mobile users.
It breaks the suggestions down into “Should Fix” and “Consider Fixing,” so you can prioritize your plan of attack.
Easy wins are image resizing, which can be done with even the most basic photo editing software. This doesn’t require much technical expertise, so you can check it off your list without involving a developer.
Pay Attention to Mobile SEO
The Mobocalypse made us sit up and take notice of this part of the SEO puzzle, so hopefully you’ve already tackled it.
If not, take a look at our guide to making your site mobile friendly.
Search Engine Ranking KPIs that Really Matter
As you begin to investigate your search engine competition and work on getting more value out of your organic search traffic, you want to make sure you’re tracking the right KPIs (key performance indicators).
Organic Traffic Measurements in Google Analytics:
To make sure you’re only looking at results created by organic search traffic, use the Organic Search segment in your Google Analytics account that we talked about earlier:
Within this view you want to track:
- Conversions from organic search. You want to make sure you’re only looking at conversions generated by traffic that came to your site through search. For optimally pure data, exclude any searches that contain your brand name.
- Time on site. This counts how long people spend on your pages. Longer engagement will be tracked by Google and help boost your rankings. Again, restrict the view to organic search traffic only.
- Bounce rate. The close cousin of time on site, this metric tells you how many visitors landed on your page but then left within three seconds (a.k.a. bounced).
- Impressions for non-home page landing pages. You want to ensure that your non-homepage pages are showing up more often in search by tracking their search impressions over time. This is available under Acquisitions → Search Engine Optimization → Landing Pages.
Google Webmaster Tools has an alternative means of looking at your page rankings, which I’ve so far found to be more useful.
Here are things that you can see in more detail through this tool:
- Rankings for the site as a whole. By using the “Queries” view you’ll see aggregate data for your entire site. This is a nice, easy way to check on the big picture SEO progress for your site over time.
- Ranking for individual landing pages. Clicking onto the “Pages” view will give you similar data for particular pages. This will give you a more detailed look at how your on page efforts are doing.
- Clicks and click through rate. Again, a great way to track your on page revisions. You want to see a steady climb in clicks and click through rate, which Google will reward with higher rankings.
Don’t Be Overwhelmed By SEO Techniques
SEO can sound like a complicated undertaking, but once you know what you’re looking at and what it means, affecting it can actually be the easier half of the equation.
Start with the less intimidating on page SEO work, and then expand into working outside of your site’s domain.
The good news is that with Google’s expanding focus on simply providing relevant, high quality search results, creating good content and being a good digital citizen will provide you with a great foundation for ongoing search engine dominance.
Other Articles You Might Be Interested In:
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