The Critical Importance of On-Page SEO

On-page SEO tips from RolloutSF

Many factors affect page ranking in search engines, but the most simple and direct way to succeed in your real market niche is straightforward on-page SEO.

Do a search for on-page SEO and you’ll get hundreds of articles on the topic. Although SEO ranking is affected by multiple factors and incrementally boosted by techniques like backlinking, the most effective way to rank highly is pretty basic: Align the content on your page, your page title, and your page description. This is how Google and Bing evaluate the relevance of  your content.

I put a lot of energy into on-page SEO for clients, and most of what I do I learned from the leaders of SEO on the Internet, like Neil Patel and the folks at Backlinko. (Both of whom got backlinks from me just now, boosting their relevance.)

An SEO Essential

To rank highly in Google and Bing, it’s essential to have an active Google Analytics account and be sure the tags are on your site’s pages. Connect to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools and provide a link to a sitemap file. This will prime the search engines to crawl your content for changes. There are plenty of sitemap tools out there. One favorite of mine, if you are on WordPress, is Yoast SEO.

These tips may seem obvious if you’ve been in web marketing for a while, however, when I’ve been asked to address page ranking concerns, I’ve found sitemap integration is often overlooked. Sometimes it’s because the client doesn’t know, and other times because a firm didn’t bother to address it. It’s amazing how some companies will string along clients who are waiting for results that are “just around the corner” when they only needed correct integration with Google and Bing.

How To Conduct SEO Research

Ask Your Clients

One practical way to find the most important keywords and keyphrases is to ask customers what search terms they used in Google or Bing to find your site. I work as a Technology Career Coach, and on my web form to sign up for a complimentary coaching call, I started asking potential clients how they found me. They all answered with the same term: career coach tech. Google Analytics and Search Console did not reveal this term to me. I had to ask the clients.

I searched on that term, and using various tools and techniques found the most common language shared among all my peers on the search engines. That was critical to making the most of my on-page SEO. It means the language on my pages communicates to the Google and Bing “hive minds” that I am in my niche. My copywriting signals that I am a top match for a career coach specializing in tech jobs.

This same approach informs all my SEO consulting. There is no value in ranking in keywords that no one uses to find you. You have to be in the same neighborhood as your compatriots, peers, and competitors. The goal is to get clear what your site is actually about, compare the results to other sites in that niche, and align the language to train Google and Bing to put your site in the correct place among its peers. 

Think Like An End User

Often a business wants to rank well for certain keywords because that is what they think people are searching for. This approach is often fruitless. To really get to the keywords that matter you have to think like an end user. Ask yourself: “How would someone with no knowledge of my business find me?” Consider the product or service you are offering and then discover how you rank. One client of mine has an event venue in San Francisco. To find the best keywords, I asked Google to tell me things like “best corporate venues in San Francisco.” I also used voice searches and posed questions like: “Where can I throw a private party in San Francisco?”

Find Useful Keyword Combinations

One of my favorite resources are the SEO tools first created by Chris Ainsworth. Chris created a Javascript bookmarklet that will take your Google results and put the URLs and page titles into a new browser tab. He recommends a handy Chrome Extension called GInfinity to get an infinite scroll of your Google results. I usually scroll to get the top 100 search results and then use a heavily modified version of his code to get as much metadata as I can.

After I have a collection of metadata, I use a text analysis tool to identify the top keywords and keyword combinations needed to rank in the niche I have been researching. These form the basis of a copywriting strategy that aligns a site’s content with what Google sees as the top niche keywords. Generating content this way will improve your rankings much more than backlinking.

SEO Tactical Takeaways

Search engines are systems, so to optimize it’s crucial to understand how they work. Here is a short checklist to be a true SEO tactician:

  1. Be sure to track your analytics using Google Analytics.
  2. Ensure you have a sitemap that updates when you add new content.
  3. Connect your sitemap URL to both Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools and initiate crawls.
  4. Conduct research by “thinking like an end user.” Ask your end users how they found you, because Google doesn’t always share the keyword combinations that bring customers to your business. Also ask: “What would an average person type into a search engine to look for your product or service?” 
  5. Capture that metadata and analyze for keyword combinations that can be used in your text.
  6. Integrate those keywords into your page copy, page titles, and page descriptions in a natural-sounding way.

For more on RolloutSF’s approach to SEO, see SEO: Three Reasons to Get it Right From the Start.

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Timothy Thomas

Timothy Thomas has been a pioneer in SEO and SEM. He created and lead the production team for for tabletop game manufacturer Wizards of the Coast from 1995 through 2005. After being part of the initial e-commerce and internet explosion, he moved into technology consulting and project management roles for organizations and as an independent SEO/SEM consultant. bio

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