Advanced On-Page SEO Concepts: Experts Weigh in

Maria Kalyadina

Jun 30, 20208 min read
Advanced SEO Concepts

This post isn’t about the importance of tags and title optimization or the basics of SEO. Instead, it is intended to provide advanced on-page SEO techniques that are talked about less often, but still significant for anyone with an online presence. 

The Top On-page SEO Techniques That Still Work

Aside from the basic strategies, like proper usage of HTML tags, page title, and meta description optimization, our chat participants shared some practical strategies that you can implement to increase your search traffic.

Google’s algorithms are constantly updated, so it is important to keep up with the latest news in the industry. Now, keyword research requires a more holistic, upgraded approach. Today, site owners and SEO specialists need to better understand semantic search to ensure that their content is relevant to their audience.

  • David Rosam — “Semantically related content/terms, being aware of searcher intent, in-depth content, internal linking, good writing.”

By discovering terms and phrases that are related to your primary keyword, you can unlock a fresh source of targeted traffic to your site. By trying to take advantage of the search engine’s semantic indexing behaviors and performing thorough keyword research, you can discover synonyms and semantically related terms, in addition to keywords that you initially set out to research.

  • Ryan Glass — “semantically aligned terms, answering questions people actually ask, optimizing title & meta desc for CTR.”

Content Guided by Search Intent

Google has parsed its massive stores of data to better understand user intent and provide the most relevant search results to its users. Search intent is not about who the searchers are, but what they really want.

According to a popularly referred  study by Andrei Broder, traditionally, there are three main categories of web search queries: navigational, informational, and transactional. Not knowing the real intent of your target user weakens your chances of providing them with what they are looking for.

A successful SEO strategy must include understanding how to create content and deliver experiences that are appealing and relevant to your audience.

  • Klaus Junginger — “Concisive text blocks with proper headers, text content mixed w/ imagery (ALT etc), Search intent oriented copies and layout.”

Speaking the Language of Your Searchers

To develop smarter content strategies and provide a better experience to your users, it is important to analyze how your users think about and search for your product or service when looking for information on the Internet. Natural language processing (NLP) has changed the way the online world works.

Search has shifted from simple keywords to intent and context. Digital marketers need to focus more on how people are searching, consider using natural language in the content, and take into account the fact that different searchers may not use the same terms.

  • Nathan Brown — “Understanding Semantic Text & NLP to go beyond keywords — including TF/IDF, phrase matching, schema, and more.”

To adapt your content to how people perform search these days, you also need to pay attention to natural language. As more people are using digital systems, it is becoming critical to optimize your pages for voice-based queries that have a different nature; these tend to be longer phrases and even complete questions. If you want to adapt your content to a natural language search, you need to include complete sentences that communicate full meaning.

Even though SEO means “search engine optimization,” you need to remember that there are real people on the other side of the screen. Therefore, you need to write content for them and make it as useful and relevant as possible.

The Biggest Concerns When Structuring a Page

Every website needs a certain structure so that your users can easily navigate through it by clicking from one page to the other. Then, the search engine bots crawl your site’s structure to index the content to return it into the search results. This means that a good site structure makes it easier for crawlers to access and index your content.

These are the several pitfalls that people can fall into when structuring a webpage:

Having Too Many Pages Without a Clear Message

Offering too many options can overwhelm and confuse your users. Some UX designers believe that all pages should be accessible in three clicks, but this is a  myth. Instead, it's important to focus on simpler navigation, fewer clicks don't make users happier, but the ease of navigation does.

  • Pole Position Marketing — “Too many pages are structured without the message and goal in mind. That has to come first.”

Every click must take your user closer to their goal, and every page of your site should have a clear purpose. Ideally, the design and other elements that build communication need to work together to create a clear, unified message to your site visitors.

  • Chris Countey — “A page's intent should be crystal clear to both the visitor and search engines; copy+code+ux=win.”

Not Encouraging Users to Complete the Desired Action

If you want your site visitors to take certain action, you need to give them a reason to do it. Will your page provide them with valuable information? Will they get what they want after viewing it? This should be aligned with your value proposition, and call-to-action buttons should be compelling enough to attract your users’ attention and persuade them to complete a form or perform another action. A good CTA is visually striking, action-oriented, clear, and easy to understand.

  • AJ Ghergich — “Does my Above-the-Fold content induce strong scroll-depth and eventual action?”

Putting Sales Ahead of Your Users’ Needs

It is all about your users. The true measure of your website’s performance lies with the only people who determine its success: your site visitors. When structuring a webpage, you need to put your users’ interests and needs ahead of your own. Place what is the most important to them at the top of your page and keep in mind that “ Great Brands Aim For Customers' Hearts, Not Their Wallets.”

Marianne Sweeny — “Putting business concerns ahead of user needs. Structure content like a newspaper,general to specific, most important at the top.”

Trying To Do SEO After the Design

Unfortunately, some site owners don’t think about SEO until after having their website designed. As a result, these sites have a beautiful design, but fail to rank high in search engine results. The truth is, SEO must be an integral part of website design and must always be planned out before setting up your site. You need to ensure that search engines can easily crawl and understand your content properly.

  • Chris Countey — “Don't try to ‘SEO’ a site after design if you can avoid it. Bring SEO into the development from day 1.”

Some of our chat guests also believe that when it comes to page structure, everything comes down to user-experience. Barry Feldman provides 40 practical website improvement tactics for a better UX that can help you make the experience of your users smooth and pleasant.

  • Carolyn Lyden — “UX (and ALL that it entails) is really what it's boiling down to. Google takes user signals, so overall UX is critical.”
  • Your Web Content Writer — “Finding balance. Users love visual and hate big chunks of text. They hate slow load times even more though.”

Good page structure is a result of careful thinking and accurate organization. Avoiding these pitfalls is a good starting point in getting the structure of your pages right.

Is it possible to rank a website using only on-page SEO? 

Improving your site’s ranking requires a smart, well-planned strategy that includes various practical techniques. However, is it possible to rank a website using only on-page SEO tactics?

Most of our chat participants agree that on-page SEO is enough, but only in industries with low competition. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to rank without quality backlinks.

  • Content King — “Sure, but only in low competition niches. When competition is moderate/high, you need links to rank!”
  • Alex Singleton — “If a given query concerns a competitive subject/niche, ranking will be difficult if competition has better web content.”
  • Ryan Jones — “Yes, you can rank using only on-page SEO. But it's not as easy as having links.”

On the other hand, some of our guests believe that if you create valuable, shareable content that solves your audience’s pain points, the links will follow.

  • Carolyn Lyden — “If your on-page SEO is 10/10, your content is useful and solves user issues, then links & ranking will come.”
  • Bill Slawski — “Create shareable, linkable content aimed at a specific audience written based upon expertise, authoritativeness & trust.”

Some of the most important elements of search engine optimization happen on your site. By implementing basic on-page SEO practices, coupled with strong content, you have a better chance of winning the SEO race.

Further Reading:

The Most Common On-page SEO Issues and How to Fix It

At the end of our discussion, we asked our chat guests to name the most common on-page SEO issues.

1. Underestimating Image SEO

“I'm going to go with image file titles on this one. Image SEO is still so very underrated.”  Mike Bryant‏ pointed out that image optimization remains underrated, as some site owners still don’t optimize their images for SEO properly. Images can make your articles or pages more visually appealing and compelling and, they contribute to your SEO efforts as well.

To optimize your images, pay attention to these must-know tips:

  • Name your image files properly using acceptable keywords.

  • Optimize your alt tags.

  • Reduce the file sizes of your images.

  • Choose the right image file format (e.g., JPEG, GIF, PNG, etc.) for different purposes.

  • Add image information to your sitemaps.

Additional Reading: XML Sitemaps Guide: The Best Tricks, Tips & Sitemap Generator Tools

2. Lack of Focus

If you are experiencing issues attracting new site visitors, retaining them on your pages, and achieving your site goals, the problem may lie in the fact that your pages lack a clear focus. If your site tries to be all things to all people, it can end up appealing to nobody.

If your content talks about everything and how you can answer every single question and solve every single problem, it means that your site focus is too scattered. As a result, it will be very confusing to your users. It is crucial to make your site more focused and consistent and try to appeal to your perfect potential users.

  • Optimisey — “Lack of focus. ‘We want to rank for *everything*... now!’ is often problem number one.”
  • Jo Marie — “Mixed messages are death to on-page SEO. Stay on topic and use all on-page signals to make sure you do.”

3. Ignoring Meta Description Optimization

Paul Shapiro‏ says that optimization for click-through rate is often neglected and it remains a common SEO issue on may websites.

The key feature for improving CTR from search results pages is the meta description. Even though Google stated long ago that meta descriptions are not a ranking factor, by writing killer descriptions you can influence the decision of searchers as to whether they want to click through your content or not. As a result, quality meta descriptions lead to improved click-through rates and, thus, site rankings.

4. Slow Page Load Time

A good user experience encompasses multiple aspects, including site loading speed. Nearly half of web users anticipate a site to load in just 2 seconds or even less! Slow pages can end up having higher bounce rates and a lower time on page.

Use services like PageSpeed Insights, GTmetrix, and YSlow to access the current state of your website. The good thing about these tools is that in addition to insights into how well your site loads, they provide practical suggestions for improving your page’s performance.

  • Fanny Heuck — “The page loading time. Most of the time due to huge pictures — use jpgepmini or tinypng to reduce the size.”

Pay attention to the above on-page SEO issues to make sure that you pick the right path in optimizing your site’s on-page aspects.

Keep in mind that on-page SEO is an ongoing and frequent process. Through research, experimentation, and experience, you need to prioritize your SEO challenges and focus on those elements that deliver the best results.

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Maria is the Social Media Marketing Manager at Semrush and the host of the weekly #Semrushchat. You can always connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter! Join the #SemrushChat every Wednesday at 11 am ET/ 4 pm BST!