On-Site SEO in 2017: The Definitive Guide to Higher SERP Rankings
My, how the times have changed.
When I first got started in the SEO industry links ruled everything. Now, don’t get me wrong, links are still the number one ranking signal that Google uses in its algorithm, but back in the day you could focus 100% of your SEO effort on building links and if you built more than your competitors, then you would outrank them.
That’s not the case any longer.
Now, you can build a handful of authority links for a page on your site, and if your on-site optimization is perfect you are going to rank quickly, even if your website is new. So many SEOs still don’t perfect a websites on-site optimization before building links, and doing so causes them to miss out on better rankings. They are doing not only their client a disservice, but they are also selling themselves short. If they just focused more on the on-site optimization, they would deliver better results.
In an effort to help you understand what components of on-site SEO require your attention, I put together this list below of important focus points. If you perfect these, and take the time to implement each, I can assure you that your organic traffic will improve for the better. It takes some time, but if you are serious about long-term organic search positioning, then you need to perfect these points before you build another link.
On-Site SEO in 2017..
Convert to HTTPS
It’s no secret that Google gives more love in its algorithm to websites that utilize a SSL certificate. I’m guilty of not setting one it up here on SerpLogic yet, however on my all my actual authority sites I made the switch long ago. It provides a safer web browsing experience, and their main objective is to deliver the best possible results to its users. The cost is minimal, with SSL certificates costing as low as $39 from some providers. Some web hosts even run specials, giving you a free SSL certificate. Cost should never be an excuse.
If you are building a new website it’s easy, but if you have an old site with thousands of pages, it will require some work, as you have to convert all interlinked URLs from http to https. If you don’t have the time, hire a virtual assistant to do this.
Optimized Page/Post Titles to Rank & Pull Clicks
Everyone is aware that post and page titles should include the keyword, but you really need to incorporate it in a way that it creates a title that doesn’t reek of spam and entices the person to click your website in the SERPs.
Let’s imagine that you are trying to rank for the keyword “weight loss” and it’s a landing page with a call-to-action designed to collect email addresses. In the past, this is what the page title would look like:
“Weight Loss | Fast Weight Loss | Best Weight Loss”
It’s keyword stuffing and looks like crap. Now, you can still write a title that includes the keyword, but do it in a way that will attract clicks:
“Shocking Weight Loss Secret Revealed: See the Shocking Results Now”
You have to include your focus keyword, but you have to make sure the title is done in a way to entice a click-through.
Create Descriptive Permalinks
Your permalink structure should always be descriptive, rather than include dates and random characters. The search engines crawl these, and it’s a great opportunity to rank for common search phrases.
Using the example from the previous tip, the URL structure for that page would typically be:
It’s still better than a number/date structure, but it’s not optimized for a search phrase. Instead, use something like this:
This is optimized for the search, “What is the best weight loss product?” — something that millions of people type into search engines.
A few years ago, everyone was talking about the importance of having a mobile website. That alone doesn’t cut it anymore. It shocks me that there are so many websites that have separate mobile versions of their website. You have to be responsive so your website automatically adjusts to any device and any screen size. This allows you to have only one version of your website, giving you only one domain to optimize for.
More importantly, it allows you to deliver a pleasant user experience to everyone. As voice search continues to become more popular and advanced, we are going to see more people use their TVs to perform searches and access the internet. Spend the time and money to ensure you have a proper responsive website.
Stop Being Cheap About Hosting: Use a Dedicated Server or a CDN
If your website goes offline or if you are hacked, it’s going to have a negative impact on your rankings. Too many people opt for cheap web hosting. Shared web hosting that is $1 a month puts you on a sever with hundreds of other websites.
Not only goes this bog the sever down, resulting in slow page load speed, but if one of the other sites on the server is attacked or if they are doing something outside of the ToS, you can experience some of the wrath.
A dedicated server for $200 a month might not be in the budget, but if you operate several websites, throw them all on one server that you control. If you only have one, opt for the highest quality single-site hosting and then use a content delivery network to improve your speed. Google loves fast loading websites.
Make Your Headings Descriptive (Telling Visitors & Google What Your Content is About)
It’s a known fact that H1 and H2 tags are weighed heavier by Google than regular text. It helps identify what the content is about. But, you need to put in a little more effort than just placing your keyword in the tag throughout the content.
Google crawls your pages and uses the info to help identify what your page should rank for. So, help them out by writing descriptive headlines. Also, most visitors won’t read your content word-for-word. They will skim through it, paying attention to headings in order to fly through it quickly.
Mix in LSI and Long-Tail Keyword Variations
When I started my career in SEO, keyword density was a major consideration when writing content. It was all about 500-word articles with 4.75% keyword density. Today, if you write a 2,000-word post and had 4.75% keyword density the content would look so spammy.
These days keyword density isn’t even discussed. Yes, you want to include your keyword in the title towards the beginning and also make sure it appears in the beginning of the content, but other than that it’s all about creating content that reads like it was written for humans.
Make sure you sprinkle in several different variations, as it will help you pull in more organic searches. Make sure you understand what LSI keywords are as well.
Write Meta Descriptions with One Goal: Pull High Click-Through Rates
Google has said a million times that their algorithm doesn’t pay any attention to meta descriptions. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. You want to make sure that you write a description that commands attention and gets someone to select your listing over the competition.
If you are ranking a particular page for one keyword, you want to include it, since it will help connect your page to the intent of the person performing the search. A good description can help you pull in more clicks, even if you aren’t one of the top listings.
Use Schema Markup and Structured Data
There is a lot of talk about schema markup improving click-through rate, but there isn’t any data that proves that click-through rate directly impact the rankings. It would be too easy to game if it did, and there are plenty of case studies that show it doesn’t come into play.
But, that doesn’t mean click-through isn’t important. If your website is on page one, there are 9 other organic listings to compete with, along with paid ads. Having review stars or other business information displaying alongside your listing that can draw extra attention should always be welcomed. A listing in position three can pull in more traffic that the top listing if it commands more attention.
Publish Long-Form Content Only
I mentioned 500-word articles earlier, and it’s a great example of how SEO is constantly evolving. It wasn’t that long ago when every blog was posting 500-word posts and calling it a day. It was strictly for SEO purposes and user experience was never even a thought.
This is where so many businesses lost out. They were getting traffic, but not converting any of that traffic into sales. Getting someone on your website is only the first step. You have to give them value and entice them to convert. Google loves long-form content, but aside from that, it also allows you to give your visitors valuable content. I would focus on publishing blogs that are 2,000 words, while also mixing in some 800, 1,000, 1,500, etc. posts. Remember, you never want to leave obvious foot prints.
Offer Additional “Share” Options Beyond Social Media
Every blog on the planet has social sharing buttons, but they all offer the same options: Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. You are going to always want to offer these, but with so many people searching the internet and reading content on their mobile phones, you need to add a few more options.
Share options that allow your visitors to share via email, text message and even Facebook messenger is a great way to give them additional options that other websites haven’t caught on to yet. Social shares come into play when it comes to SEO, as they are a major indicator that content is popular. Fake social shares are easy filtered out, so you need ways to encourage more real ones, and this is a simple way.
Interlink Your Website Content
This is something that has become so important, that even popular SEO plugins like Yoast now suggest interlinking multiple times per post. It helps to enhance the authority of your website, and it also helps to direct your visitors through your site, and onto additional content that might be of interest, related to the current content.
When you keep visitors on your website longer, it helps your SEO. It lowers your bounce rate and increases the average time on site. These are both things that Google considers. If people aren’t staying on your site long or interacting with multiple pages of content, they assume it provides no value.
Link Out to Authority Sources
“I don’t want to link out to other websites because I will lose authority on the page by giving away too much link juice.”
This is something I hear all the time, and it is ridiculous for two reasons. First, it is a major red flag. Google can run a report to identify all domain that don’t link out. Real websites link out. Second, look at the top websites in the world. Everyone wants link on Forbes, Huffington Post, etc. These sites link out dozens of times per page. It’s a natural think to do. If you are linking to authority sites, it helps Google connect you, assuming you are providing value if you are referencing websites they deem to be valuable.
Sync Your Sitemap to Google Search Console & Publish New Content Regularly
Stop fearing Google products.
“Don’t use Gmail. They can track you.”
“Don’t use the Search Console. They will penalize you.”
“Don’t use Google Analytics. They will spy on you.”
These are just some of the crazy talk floating around out there. When you connect your website to Google’s Search Console and provide your XML sitemap, it forces Google to constantly crawl your website. Then, when you start to publish content on a regular basis your website will begin to get crawled more.
When you get to the point that you are posting daily content, Google will visit your site multiple times a day. When a website like Huffington Post published a post, it’s indexed in Google’s search results within minutes because their website is being crawled all the time.
Many wrongly informed SEOs think keeping Google’s crawlers off the website is best, but this is completely wrong. If they are constantly crawling your content it means they are putting more weight on it.
Years ago, you could make up for poor on-site SEO by building thousands of spammy links. Today, that’s not the case at all. Google favors proper on-site SEO more now than ever. It’s a very straight-forward process, but many people don’t have the patience to do it properly and attempt to compensate by building more links.
Take the time to make sure you address all of the focus point above, and you will notice your positioning and traffic improve. When you have your on-site SEO perfected, it’s much easier to rank with just a handful of authority links, even if you are a working with brand new domain.
If you have any questions related to in-site optimization that wasn’t coved above, leave them in the comments below and I will do my best to reply to you as quickly as possible. If you have any on-site SEO tips to share, feel free to leave them as well.
Latest posts by Tommy McDonald (see all)
- How to Leverage CONTENT UPGRADES to 10X Your Email List Building - October 16, 2017
- The Definitive Guide to Do-Follow & No-Follow Links & Why You NEED BOTH! - October 5, 2017
- How to Master Video SEO and Dominate YouTube (and WHY You Need to Start Today) - September 25, 2017