Pop quiz time: What is the most important factor in WordPress on-page SEO? What really determines how well your web page will rank on Google?
Is it content length? Social sharing? Keyword density? All of the above?
The answer is, of course, more complex than that. Truth be told, Google uses a huge number of factors to determine the ranking of web pages, in fact, more than 200.
Does that mean you have to check 200 different instances every time you create a web page? That sounds like an awful lot of work. Isn’t it easier to just do away with trying to appeal to search engines and write for readers instead?
And, if you don’t want to take into account all of the ranking factors, which ones should you focus on to improve your page rankings? That’s exactly what we will concentrate on.
Let’s Start With The URL
Starting at the top, the first important factor for a web page’s ranking is the URL or permalink. In case you didn’t know, that’s the address that appears in the browser bar. It’s also what appears under the page title within search engines.
Mention your keyword in the URL.
Whichever keyword you are targeting, it should definitely appear in the permalink. You might have noticed that when you search something on Google and one of the results has your exact keyword in the url, it will be shown in bold. Need more proof that the search giant cares about the URL? I think not.
To edit the permalink of any page in WordPress, merely click ‘edit’ underneath the page title in the WordPress editor. Don’t forget to save or update the page after you do. Should you change the url of an already existing page, don’t forget to put redirects in place.
Make sure the keyword appears in the first 3-5 words.
According to Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team, if there are more than five words in the URL their “[…] algorithms typically will just weight those words less and just not give you as much credit.” For website owners this means we should concentrate on making our permalinks into targeted search phrases instead of hyphenating the entire title as our permalink.
Next, Optimize Your Title
The title of our pages and posts are not only important to entice readers to click on our links, but they also help Google identify what a particular page is about. Therefore, you should definitely optimize your title.
Use your target keyword in the title.
Since the title tag has so much weight, you should definitely make sure the keyword you are trying to rank for is mentioned. Better yet, place it at the beginning of the title tag. According to data by Moz.com, title tags that start with a keyword tend to perform better than those where the keyword is placed towards the end.
Make sure the title tag is an H1 heading.
Headings are an important tool to provide an outline of the content of your page, which both helps visitors to scan it and Google to understand what it is about. There should only be one H1 heading per page and that one should of course be wrapped around the title. SEO-friendly themes like StudioPress’s Genesis framework do this perfectly, but you should check if yours does, too.
Keep the title tag under 55 characters.
Google’s search results show about the first 50-60 characters of a title tag. Against popular belief, this is not dependent on the number of characters but the size. The SERPs will only display as many characters as fit into 512 pixels. If you keep your titles under 55 characters, you can expect at least 95% of your titles to display properly, according to Moz.com.
Use Visual Media
You know how they say a picture’s says more than a thousand words? Well, using visual media also speaks loudly to search engines about the quality of your content.
Increase time on site and reduce bounce rate.
Using visuals on web pages makes your content more attractive and will keep visitors entertained so they will stick around longer. However, that is not the only reason to sprinkle them in there. According to Backlinko, using multimedia elements like images and videos may act as a signal for your content’s quality.
Optimize file names and ALT tags.
When you do use images, make they are SEO-optimized. That means including relevant keywords in the file name, ALT tag, description, and caption.
Links are the currency of the internet. Of course, ideally you would want links toward you page. However, to make it more probable that this will happen, you should start off by linking yourself.
Link to authority websites.
Outbound links to relevant web pages help Google determine the topic of yours. If additionally your links go out to to sites with high authority, that is a sign that your page contains quality information. Why do you think I am sprinkling in links to Backlinko, Moz.com and other websites throughout this article?
If you have relevant content in other places of your website, make sure you link to it and vice versa. A great number of internal links to a page shows its relative importance on your entire site. Additionally, links from pages with higher rank carry more weight than from those with lower or no rank. Just don’t overdo it!
Use Keywords In Your Content Correctly
Keywords are what most people think off when they hear SEO. However, as you have hopefully already seen there is more to optimizing a page than merely stuffing keywords in there. In fact, the latter should hurt you more than help. Yet strategically placing keywords within your content is still paramount to your SEO efforts.
Your focus keyword should appear in the first 100 words.
Bad news for those who like to start off their content with a (more or less) smart/funny/witty intro text before coming to the actual topic (or is it just me?). On an optimized page the focus keyword should show up within the first 100-150 words to reinforce the page’s topic for search engines.
Be aware that if you do not set a meta description for your page, Google will automatically pull the beginning of your content to display underneath the page link. All the more reason to drop your keyword here.
Use keywords in H2 and H3 title tags.
As mentioned above, headings provide an outline of the page content for search engines. It is only natural that the keyword should appear within there for SEO purposes. Don’t go overboard with this. Since the effect is relatively weak there is no need to go any deeper than H3 tags.
Use synonyms and related keywords.
To get better at understanding the relevancy of pages, Google uses a technology called “Latent Semantic Indexing” (LSI). It is similar to a thesaurus and helps search engines understand words with multiple meanings. Therefore, you should make sure to use related keyword in important places in order to clarify the topic of your content. This will also help avoid keyword stuffing.
Create Longer Content
The Internet loves longer content. Not only are longer articles more likely to go viral, but pages in the top position of Google tend to have a higher word count than those on in the lower ranks (see graphic below). For you as a website admin that means you should spend more time on your content to make it longer and better. The optimal length seems to lie around 2500 words.
Improve Page Loading Speed
Google has explicitly stated that page speed is an important ranking signal for them. For good reason. Slow loading times are the easiest way to bleed visitors. In fact, 75% of users would not revisit a page that takes longer than 4 seconds to load. So if your website is super slow, you might be missing out on a lot of traffic.
Work with a premium hosting service.
Your choice of hosting provider can make a great difference in the speed of your site. Shared hosting is notoriously slow and not suitable for websites with a lot of visitors. Maybe it’s time to migrate your site?
Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN).
CDNs are basically a bunch of servers that are located in different parts of the world. Depending on the location of the person trying to access your page, the nearest content delivery outpost will spring into action to provide the fastest load time.
Use Responsive Design
Mobile traffic is steadily growing. Visitors who access your page via phone or tablet will leave quickly if their experience is less than stellar. Not only does that rob you of direct visitors but the resulting increase in bounce rate is a bad signal for Google. For WordPress, there are a number of plugins for mobile optimization.
Enable Social Sharing
You already know that social media is important. Giving visitors the opportunity to easily share your content on their social accounts makes it more likely others will link to you, That in turn is good for your ranking.
However, receiving social shares itself is already a positive ranking signal. According to Moz, Facebook likes, shares, and comments are fairly high up there in importance. The number of Google +1’s is even on second place of ranking factors.
On-Page SEO In A Nutshell
As you can see, search engine optimization for pages is a synergy of many different factors. Putting them all in place involves a little bit of effort but is far from being overly complicated. Of course, there are more factors which Google takes into account. However, if you take care of everything mentioned in this article, you are greatly increasing your chances of ranking your page well in the search results.
Do you agree/disagree with the above list? Anything that should be added in your opinion? Something that worked especially well for you? Let me and everyone else know in the comments.