Fact: Your site is ranked (specifically by Google’s algorithm) by on-page, off-page and technical SEO.
Fact: On-page SEO is focused on optimizing for bots as well as the human eye.
Myth: You need to adjust your website to work for SEO.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the whirlwind that is website optimization, but the biggest misconception out there is that you have to work for SEO when, in truth, you need to get SEO to work for you. And the easiest place to start is on your page.
With on-page optimization, do or do not; there is no try. You have the high ground, you have the ultimate power—OK, sometimes SEO feels like it’s its own world in a galaxy far, far away, but we promise it’s not science fiction. It’s very doable once you know what you’re looking for.
Basically, on-page SEO elements mainly fall into three categories: content elements, HTML elements and site architecture elements. Right now, we’re going to just stick with content elements, because we’ve got a lot of ground to cover, but we explore the other categories in Episodes II and III.
What can we say? We’re in the mood for a trilogy.
First and foremost, your content has to be more than good—it has to be linkable. This is the foundation of on-page SEO. Without it, all the other on-page elements have nothing to work with.
Your page’s content is you opportunity to show search engines and your site visitors your value, so once again, it’s about creating or investing in content that makes bots and humans happy. We go over the best practices for writing high-quality page content here if you need a refresher.
A long time ago, there were keywords everywhere. Everywhere. It wasn’t pretty. The original idea was formed with good intentions, but the result was copy that looked spammy and unnatural.
Thankfully, this practice has evolved into valuing keyword quality and over keyword quantity. Placing your keywords strategically and utilizing the rest of these content elements will prevent over-stuffing and keep your content reader-friendly.
Term Frequency–Inverse Document Frequency
When keyword density retired, TF-IDF took its place. Rather than measuring how often a keyword appears, if offers a measurement of importance by comparing the keyword to how frequently the term is used in a large set of documents.
This concept alone won’t get you very far, but it will improve your optimization when combined with other on-page elements.
Synonyms and Variations
Every time someone types a query into Google, the search engine is learning. That’s nothing new, but something to keep in mind is that with these queries, Google is constantly learning more about synonyms. After a time of sacrificing quality for quantity, this gave writers a new hope, and they were able to restore balance to their copy.
Using synonyms and variations not only provide a nicer, more natural read, but it also helps solve the issue of disambiguation. For example: if your keyword is “ship,” using “ship” and “mail” could refer to a mailing service, but using “ship” and “transportation” could refer to a boat (or the Millennium Falcon).
Phrase-Based Indexing and Co-Occurrence
Aside from keywords, search engines also index sites by complete phrases and the relevance of those phrases.
Since search engines know that certain phrases usually predict other phrases, co-occurring phrases strengthen topic focus and relevancy. For example: if you wanted your page to rank for “Anakin Skywalker,” some co-occurrence phrases to consider using could be “Hayden Christensen,” “Darth Vader” or “hates sand.”