The following information details on-page SEO factors which should be assessed when conducting an on-page audit for a website.
What does optimised content on a web page look like? Well, we have created a diagram to give you an overview:
The above example obviously deals with content detailing ‘Home Business Insurance’, though the same principles can be applied to any webpage, bar e-commerce category or sub-category pages where products are just to be on view.
Content should be tailored to the visitor, with a leniency toward answering the intent of a visitor.
These are a primary tag that help deliver a strong hint, to Google and other search engines, what a web page is about. Page title tags are one of the most important on-page elements; they are defined within thesection of a webpage and are visible at the top of the browser.
While exactly display length varies, titles will be truncated in search results after 70 characters. This means title tags should be optimised to contain between 60 – 70 characters maximum, contain targeted keywords and incentivise users to click though to a page from the SERPs (search engine results pages). Best practise will usually see the primary target keywords placed at the beginning of the title tag.
We use them to give an undoubting clue to the bots of what the page is looking to be found for when people make a relevant search. Search engines use page titles as an indication of what the page is relevant for and what keywords the page should rank for, beyond this, well-optimised title tags can influence the click through rate of users.
Example of an optimised page title tag:
We performed a popular search using a high-volume term – "football results"
The page title tag that appears in the SERPs is usually coloured blue, when the search is performed the results page is full of page title tags that all contain "football results" within them, along with close variants.
It’s vital your page title tag remains relevant to the web page whilst at the same time acknowledges the intent that the page is to be presented for in the SERPs.
Meta descriptions are an on-page element which influence the snippet of text underneath the page title tag displayed in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Not so much a ranking factor but an area where you can sell the website’s page to a potential visitor. The meta-description often influences the quality of CTR (Click Through Rate) to the page from the SERPs.
If CTRs are low, then there may be a case to review existing meta-descriptions.
It is best practice for the meta description to be between 150-160 characters, otherwise it will be truncated (shortened) in the SERPs, or at times it may be auto generated from other content contained on the page by the search engines.
Meta descriptions, whilst not a direct ranking factor, can help influence click through rate from search if written in a compelling and concise manner. Target keywords should be worked into a meta-description, as they are often highlighted and so will aid the visibility of the snippet on the results page.
Open graph tags
Open graph tags were introduced back in 2010 by Facebook, an approach to integrate Facebook and other websites by allowing them to become rich “graph” objects with similar functionality as other Facebook objects.
Simply put, open graph tags dictate how your content will be presented when it is shared on Facebook. Open graph tags on your website will allow you to define the title and description of the content, what type of content it is (image, video etc.), a URL for the content, and an image to use when it is shared.
While open graph tags do not have any influence on organic ranking position, they can have a significant impact on the click through rate of content that is shared on Facebook. Therefore, it is important to ensure this is properly configured, and the title, description and images are selected to incentivise a socially active audience to click through to a page.
Example of how this sits in the source of a web page:
<meta property="og:title" content="A website's Open Graph Protocol">
<meta property="og:type" content="article">
<meta property="og:url" content="https://www.yoururladdress.com/test.php">
<meta property="og:image" content="https://www.yoururladdress.com/images/9aaa82336_an-image.jpg">
<meta property="fb:admins" content="admins name">
<meta property="og:site_name" content="Name of your website">
<meta property="og:description" content="Here the description will be the same as what pulls in to the Facebook description area.">
The above is typical of what you’ll find in the head section of any web page using Open graph tags. The properties are what you can control and what will show up once the page is shared on to Facebook. You set the link via the ‘og:url’ tag and you add text via the ‘description’ tag.
This approach can save you or your social team time and effort, it’ll also ensure when visitors share your page the correct message is being sent out with it.
Like Open Graph tags, Twitter Cards allow you to embellish and better define how the content you create is shared on Twitter. Through attaching rich photos, video and other media to links from your website that are shared on Twitter, it can give your brand increased visibility across a high active social media channel. Many fashion websites are taking full advantage of Twitter cards, as they allow for detailed product information to be shared across to the platform.
Again, this is not something that will have an impact on SEO ranking directly but can drive increased volumes of traffic from a potentially high-value digital channel.
Example of how this sits in the source of a web page:
<meta content='summary' name='twitter:card'>
<meta content='@yourname' name='twitter:site'>
<meta content='@yourname' name='twitter:creator'>
<meta content='www.yoursite.com' name='twitter:domain'>
<meta expr:content='data:post.firstImageUrl' name='twitter:image:src'>
<meta expr:content='data:post.title' name='twitter:title'>
<meta expr:content='data:blog.metaDescription' name='twitter:description'>
<meta expr:content='data:post.snippet' name='twitter:description'>
<meta expr:content='data:post.sharePostUrl' name='twitter:url'>
Once you’ve implemented your Twitter card you can always double check it’s functioning correctly by using Twitter’s Card Validator, just Google it. There are several Twitter card templates available, suitable for most web pages, from products to gigs.
Internal linking best practise
Internal linking is an important element of a webpage for numerous reasons; They are used by the search engine robots to crawl a website and determine its relevance, but they also assist users with the navigation of a site. This can encourage them to explore deeper into a website and can contribute to more positive engagement metrics such as a lower bounce rate and a higher average time on the site.
For this reason, internal linking must be an important consideration of any piece of content created for a website, whether it is for a category page or a blog post.
Ensure your internal links are placed in content, or on a web page, where they are required, not just for the sake of linking. For example, if you discuss a product on a blog post and have the product in your shop, then it makes perfect sense to link to the product from the blog.
Ensure internal links are logical and not just used for the sake of being used.
Internal linking anchor text
Anchor text is the visible text used in a link. Search engines use the anchor text as an indication of the subject of the page, which in turn can help it contextualise and rank a page.
Human users may also be more likely to click on a text-based link if the anchor text is descriptive and gives an accurate summation of the page they can expect to land on when they click it.
Anchor text plays a big part when performing outreach, which isn’t covered in this guide, look at my future edition.
External linking best practise
Google has stated in its Quality Rater Guidelines (published in March 2014) that links out from a site to authoritative sources is considered to be an important quality indicator. This makes it essential that where facts or figures are cited in a piece of content, a proper reference is given through the creation of a link back to that source.
External linking is a factor that is only relevant to blog areas, resource or news content.
Again, give thought and consideration when placing an external link in to a piece of content, just like you would when working with internal links. This way, you’re going to ensure what you are linking to is relevant and worthwhile. Don’t just try and score Google points by linking out to anything merely relevant, make it useful and put yourself in the mind of the visitor.
Page headings best practise
Header tags, <h1> to <h6>, give structure to a page, like headlines, headings and subheadings in a newspaper or any print magazine. They are also very important to the search engines, which use them to help better understand the relevance of a web page.
Header tags have the capability to increase the readability of content on a webpage by breaking it down into identifiable sections and use of relevant keywords can provide valuable contextual signals to search engines.
Depending on the objective of the page, make your headings useful, place keywords, when relevant, within them. There are some great tips for writing the perfect web page out online, the consensus here is to bear in mind the visitor; do they need answers, lots of research information or a specific sound bite to help them on their way. It’s widely accepted, that a heading should be used often on a web page as blocks of text can put off a visitor. Therefore, it’s important to give some thought as to what is placed in your header tags.
Try and make your headers answer the intention of a visitor, use them to entice the visitor to read the content placed under them. Make your headings engaging and don’t be afraid to make them questions.
A long webpage of useful information that is well split to aid a visitor find the answer they are searching for, will be a hit with a visitor.
Try and see headings as a useful aid to the visitor, as well as a useful way to add more relevancy to a page, this will help bots rank your page well for relevant terms.
Duplicate content is where identical content appears across a number of pages or URLs. Content duplication can be both internal (duplicated across the same site) or external (duplicated across other sites).
Aside from numerous technical SEO issues, having duplicate content on a website adds little or no value to the user experience because it is not unique. Therefore, it becomes incredibly important that all content on a website is unique and has a specific purpose to fulfil.
You need to give the search engines a justification to rank your site over others, but more importantly, you need to give customers a reason to make a purchase with you and not with a competitor.
Internal duplicate content
Internal duplication of content occurs when the exact same content is present on multiple URLs on the site.
It can occur for a number of reasons, but the main issue it can cause is that search engines don’t know which version to rank for which query result. In some cases, this can cause all the pages with duplicate content to rank poorly in the SERPs.
It’s imperative to ensure your pages are unique, use content and headings to aid a page’s relevance to specific keyword groups or topics. Use your brands tone but do ensure words and the overall purpose of each web page is unique. This approach will ensure internal duplication issues are evaded.
External duplicate content
External duplication is the existence of the exact same on-site content on external, third party sites.
One of the most common causes of duplicate content on external domains is when multiple ecommerce sites provide the same product description that has been written by the manufacturer. Another occurrence of this issue can arise if blog or news articles are scraped and republished on other news channels. Therefore, it may be necessary to rewrite product content to ensure it is unique and adds value to user experience across a website.
Duplicate meta data
Duplicate meta data will occur when multiple pages on the same website are using the same page title or meta description. This can become an issue primarily because it means that multiple pages may be targeting the same keywords, so Google cannot discern the value that one page has over another, ultimately affecting ranking position negatively for all pages concerned.
For this reason, it is necessary that each webpage has unique and compelling meta data that complies with the search engines guidelines on character limit as specified in the above meta data section.
It is important that all the content on every page of the website, including everything from the homepage to the product pages, is written to appeal to the target audience the brand is trying to reach, and uses the same language that they would use.
Not only can this help capture organic search traffic, but it also means that the users are more likely to engage with the content, whether that is to buy a product, to share a blog post or to sign up to a newsletter.
It’s no longer a point to write content designed to feed into search engines, it’s essential you now write for your intended audience. This ensures you’ll keep your visitor engaged, coming back and trusting your website. These factors are now an essential ranking factor for any website and need to be taken seriously if you wish to have a strong and growing website.
Value to reader
Analysing page value
An important question to ask about the content on your site is what value does it offer to the person reading it?
Whether it is supplementary content on a category page, sales copy on a product page or a PPC landing page, to perform optimally the content must offer value in some way.
This value could be by describing a product in a way that it is not done by competitors, it could be a blog post that expands on a topic that is commonly covered by other businesses in the same niche, or it could be copy on a category page that helps users quickly find the information or products that they are most commonly looking for.
It is important that every page on the website has a unique value that would be easily discernible to any traffic landing on the page.
Word count best practise
It is best practice for ecommerce webpages, such as products and categories, to have more than 150 words on them. This should be enough to communicate the unique value and purpose of the page to a reader, as well as helping the search engine robots effectively attribute relevance to a page.
As long as the words describe the product, relay the desired information that answer a user’s intent for landing on the page in the first place, then you’re doing the right thing, regardless of word count.
That said, we can’t ignore the fact that pages with lots of useful content perform better than competing pages that have much lesser content volume. For this reason, we recommend writing enough content that’ll tick all the boxes of a potential visitor, but also be mindful of content volume. A good tip is to place the most useful content for the visitor at the top of the page, then the more generic wordings (which can make up the bulk of the volume required) toward the bottom of the page.
There’s a lot written online about this subject, just bear in mind the potential visitor and then word count should grow naturally. Writing for the web involves lots of headings, make them useful and use content to answer the questions the headings, you use, may pose.
Defining page purpose
Every page on a website must serve a purpose, and it is the content that will most effectively help it fulfil that purpose. That’s why it’s essential you assess the copy on a page from an unbiased perspective, to establish whether its purpose is clear, and is strongly enough written for it to be communicated to the readers. All the content on your website must help the user complete a specific task.
The purpose of a page could be broken down into the following categories:
- Awareness - Brand building content
- Trigger - Where the user switches from knowing about products to wanting to purchase them
- Search - When a consumer wants to study a product or service in more detail
- Consideration - Emphasises the value of a product, brand or service to a reader
- Convert - Compels a visitor to complete a conversion
Google has stated in the past that it is best practice for the purpose of a webpage to be clearly identifiable above the fold. This means that it must be obvious when a user first clicks on to a page. For example, on a category page it would make sense to see a list of the categories before a blurb explaining what the categories are.
It is no longer a viable tactic to stuff keywords unnaturally into a webpage, but their use is still incredibly important in terms of achieving higher rankings and driving relevant and targeted traffic to your website from the organic search channel.
It is important to have a keyword strategy in place prior, and to ensure that primary, secondary and longtail keywords are all factored into a page.
It is necessary to analyse how they are used on a website:
- Is the primary keyword used in the page title?
- Is the secondary keyword used in the page headers?
- Are longtail keyword phrases targeted in the body of the copy?
The above list is a good standard practise to try and abide by. If you consider a page requires more than one primary keyword focus, then you should seriously consider creating a new page. If you see several primary keyword opportunities, then consider a parent page with child pages underneath. You can learn more about this in my future book that considers URL structure.
Keyword cannibalisation typically starts when a website's information architecture calls for the targeting of a single keyword or phrase on multiple pages of the site. Many times, this is done unintentionally, but results in several or even dozens of pages that have the same keyword target in the title and header tags. It is important that where possible, each page is developed to target a unique keyword.
Engagement metric analysis
Page, site engagement and usage metrics are one of the most effective ways of analysing whether users are satisfied with the content they see on a website. Engagement metrics include:
- Avg. Time on Page - This is the average amount of time users spent viewing a specified page or screen or set of pages or screens.
- Bounce Rate - This is the percentage of single-page visits (i.e. visits in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page).
- %Exit - This is the percentage of site exits that occurred from a specified page or set of pages.
Analysis of these metrics and others will often help interpret whether a piece of content can be considered to be ‘quality’. But it is important to consider the ‘purpose’ of a page before analysing its engagement metrics. For example, a category page on an ecommerce site might have a much lower time on page than a blog post but isn’t necessarily indicative of lower quality.
Up-to-date copyright information
Google has stated that it interprets copyright information (often located in the footer of a webpage) that is not kept up to date as a signal of poor quality.
Semantics refers to word meanings and the relationships between them. For example, ‘walking boots’ and ‘hiking boots’ could be said to have a semantic connection through the words ‘walking’ and ‘hiking’.
As search becomes more “discussion” based in nature, it is important that relevance is built on webpages through the use of semantically related terms, and this is structured by key themes as defined by the keyword strategy.
Semantic structures refer to how the search engines might view how close words are together when they appear in specific blocks of HTML code, like a list, to determine how relevant a page might be to queries that contain those words.
Using the image below as an example:
The words "Saturn" (from the heading of the list) and "Distance" (from the last list item) are considered closer together than the words “Days” and “Rotation” even though “Days” is the last word of the first list item and "Rotation" is the first word of the second list item.
Using semantic structures in on-page content to increase the relevance of a webpage for targeted keywords can be a potentially valuable tactic.
Bear this in mind when creating a keyword map or you are analysing page value, how can we elaborate areas of content with further, useful content that plays on the primary targets in a semantic fashion. If it makes sense, write it, if it doesn’t, then don’t!
Google has specified that it considers significant amounts of off-topic content to be an indicator of a low-quality website. It is important to keep a check on ‘off-topic’ content to ensure that it is not working to the detriment of content across the rest of the site.
Old and outdated information
Having old or outdated information or facts on a webpage adds little or nothing to user experience, and in many cases, it will contribute to a negative user experience. This is why it is important to ensure that all facts are checked and properly referenced, and that any information relating to old product deals or offers is properly updated or removed.
Thin page analysis
‘Thin pages’ are pages that add little or no added value to user experience and often have little or no original content.
Google has stated the following information on thin pages:
One of the most important steps in improving your site's ranking in Google search results is to ensure that it contains plenty of rich information that include relevant keywords, used appropriately, that indicate the subject matter of your content.
However, some webmasters attempt to improve their pages’ ranking and attract visitors by creating pages with many words but little or no authentic content.
- Autogenerated content
- Doorway pages
- Content from other sources. For example: Scraped content or low-quality guest blog posts
- Thin affiliate sites
Websites that have lots of ‘thin pages’ will often find themselves penalised by Google for offering a poor user experience, so it becomes very important that any pages lacking in original content are kept to an absolute minimum.
Another tactic would be to merge thin pages into one page, where it makes sense to. If pages have served their purpose and can no longer be enhanced, then delete them and redirect the URL to a more suitable page or parent.
Spelling and grammar
If spelling errors are a common occurrence on a site it can often indicate that they are of low quality, and the search engines even take spelling errors into account when it comes to ranking a website. This means any spelling errors across a site should be corrected.
Sentence structure is important because it contributes to positive user experience, and well-structured sentences have a role to play in encouraging visitors to explore further into a website.
Grammatically correct punctuation is the cornerstone of good writing. If poorly or incorrectly used punctuation is a common occurrence across a site it can have a detrimental impact on user engagement metrics, check out the engagement metric section for more details.
Visitors to a website will often interpret the readability of the content on the site as a reflection of the brand. So, if there are lots of sentences that are difficult to read or don’t make sense, this will impact negatively on their interpretation of the brand. Conversely, good quality and readable content will ensure people leave a site or buy from it with improved brand affinity.
Tone of voice
Bearing in mind your reader when creating content for the website should consider the brands tone of voice, and this should be consistent across every webpage of the website.
A brand’s tone of voice should be distinctive, recognisable and unique. It defines not just what you say, but how you say it. This encompasses not only the words you choose, but their order, rhythm and pace. A company’s tone of voice will inform all of its written copy, including its website, social media messages, emails and packaging.
A tone of voice both embodies and expresses the brand’s personality and set of values. This makes it essential that not only is a tone of voice for the brand defined, but that pages across the website adhere to it. Not only will it allow customers to develop a better rapport with a brand, but it increases the likelihood that following a purchase they will go on to become a brand advocate.
User comment value and genuinity
User comments can be important for a number of reasons. Not only can they incentivise people to complete a conversion (such as buying a product or downloading a Whitepaper), but they also reinforce the authority of a brand and instil trust in people visiting the website.
This means that any comments or reviews left by customers are genuine and not spammy. Low quality or auto-generated comments could have a significant impact on the way people perceive a website and brand, so it is important that they are moderated on a regular basis.
Blog and news content
Purpose of blog or news section
Like other pages on a website, it is essential the content created for the blog has a clear purpose (as discussed in the Purpose section). The purpose might be to demonstrate the knowledge of a business in its target sector through the publication of informative content, it could be to incentivise people to sign-up to a newsletter or to encourage people to follow a brand on a social channel.
It is important that a business does not just keep a blog purely for the purpose of publishing content. If the quality of content on a blog is poor, it can ultimately hurt the presence of the rest of the website through organic search.
Blog content can also have a significant impact on capturing traffic from the search engines if it is of good quality, optimised for search and informed by a keyword strategy. This will all be covered in our analysis.
If a brand intends to use its blog to achieve growth across organic search and other digital channels, then it is important that authors are used to publish content, not the brand. People are more likely to engage with an individual personality, and potentially even trust the content that is published if they can put a face to it.
It is always best practice that blog, or news content is published by an individual and not by something generic like ‘Admin’ or the brand name.
Product pages best practise
Potential customers or clients don’t want to know what your product is or does. They want to know what’s in it for them. How does it make their lives better? Which problems does it take away? This is one of the most common mistakes people make when it comes to writing selling pages for a product; they write about features and neglect to mention its benefits.
Selling pages can be informed by keyword research to deliver improved SEO performance, but they should be crafted to push visitors towards a conversion. The most important part of this is ensuring that product or service benefits are presented in a concise and readable way.
Local page targeting
Local pages are important for driving highly targeted traffic to your website, and potentially increasing footfall to your business premises if you have a brick and mortar location. If there are opportunities to drive local search traffic to your website as defined in the keyword strategies, it is important these pages are written in a way that is likely to attract geo-defined traffic.
Search engine robots are unable to ‘see’ images and therefore aren’t able to index image content on your site based on what terms they are relevant to. Adding ALT tags to images provides crawlable text that can inform search engine spiders what an image is about or contains, as a search engine is unable to know this unless it is specified.
For example, if your site has an image of a laptop on it then the ALT tag for that image would be:
<img src=”laptop.gif” alt=”laptop”>
Where relevant, the more descriptive you can be with your ALT tags the better. We would suggest ALT tags are kept to below 120 characters.
Schema for on-page content
Schema mark-up is a series of web technologies which allow site owners to pull through additional information into search listings when appropriate. This includes user reviews (also known as seller ratings), offers, product information, business information, and advanced image & video mark-up.
It is important they are properly factored into the content on your website.Contact Matt
Absolutely no obligation with this, I'll not bombard you afterwards with work needs. You'll get a free report on your websites current state, if you want to action any findings or question any aspects then I'm sure you will be back in touch.