When it comes to doing SEO for any websites, there are two parts to it; on-site SEO and off-site SEO.
On-site SEO is the practice of optimizing elements on a website in roder to rank higher and get more relevant traffic from search engines.
Whereas off-site SEO is the practice of building network with other websites on the web by acquiring backlinks from sites that are relevant.
Out of many SEO ranking factors that exist, we’ll be covering the top 8 on-site SEO factors which you should know as a beginner before moving onto the practical bit.
If you’ve been doing a bit of research on SEO, you’ve probably seen or even heard of the importance of content when it comes to improving your web visibility.
A lot of blog articles that cover topics on SEO recommend that you write roughly 2,000 – 2,500 words on each pages for optimal results.
Some say the longer the better.
While the length of a piece of content remains as an important ranking factor, what matters the most is the quality of your content, whether it brings value and useful information to the reader.
Generally, people tend to get on Google to find something they need or gather information to answer the questions they may have.
What would be the point for Google to rank a website with thousands of words but the information that’s inside isn’t valuable or it simply doesn’t provide the solution that searchers are looking for.
So, content is a super important on-site SEO ranking factor and your goal is to write a lengthy piece of content with a lot of helpful and useful information.
2. Website Speed
The speed of a website is also one of the important on-site SEO ranking factors that you should focus on while building your website.
If you had your website built by an agency or someone else, you can use GTmetrix speed tester to check your site’s loading speed.
When you use GTmetrix, make sure you include the full URL of your website including http:// or https://, for example “https://www.yourwebsite.com” or “http://www.yourwebsite.com” then set your test server location to the location which you want to check for.
If you have a domain that ends with “.co.nz”, “.com.au” or whatever country domain you may have, you want to change the test server location to that specific region accordingly.
Also, set the browser to whatever browser you wish to test for but you might definitely want to check for Chrome as the majority choose this browser over the others.
The proof of this ranking factor is quite obvious.
Think about the time when you searched something on Google and you visited a website that appeared on the first results page.
Have you ever encountered major speed issues?
Well, I have seen a few websites that had slow loading speed but in most cases, those websites were fast that I had no problem with while navigating around the site.
So, whether you’re building your own website or getting one created by an agency, make sure that your site load speed is at least under 3 seconds otherwise you’re going to end up with high bounce rate.
* Bounce rate: measures the amount of traffic that exits a website without any interaction such as a click, form fill-out, etc.
Google takes security seriously when it comes to ranking websites as they promised to keep their users’ personal and confidential information safe while exploring on their search engine.
You can check for your or any other website’s security status by looking on the left hand side of the URL.
If you see the “lock” sign on a website, it means the website has SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate installed therefore creating safe and secure environment for the visitors.
Especially for websites that require users to enter their credit card information, it’s mandatory that they have SSL installed to protect their data from brute force attacks and hackers.
So, from next time you visit other websites, just make sure you don’t put any of your personal or confidential information unless the site offers a good level of security.
It’s very likely that websites that appear on the first results page on Google will have SSL certificate installed so we can tell that Google does count it as one of their ranking factors.
4. Internal Linking
Internal linking is the process of inserting links on your webpages that directs traffic to another webpage within your website.
By performing good internal linking strategy, it allows visitors to easily navigate around your website therefore improving overall user experience.
For example, you can include an internal link on your homepage that directs visitors to the contact form page where they can put their information to send messages to you or your business.
If you’re a blogger, you can include an anchor text on one of your blog posts that directs visitors to another blog post of yours which you think might give them more helpful piece of information.
When you input any search queries on Google and visit websites that are on the first results page, it’s very likely that they have already done a great job in building internal links here and there effectively so the visitors can easily find things they need.
Permalink is another on-site SEO ranking factor that you need to know while creating webpages.
Permalinks are the links followed by the main domain URL, for example, www.hncdigital.co.nz/this-is-a-permalink or www.hncdigital.co.nz/auckland-seo-servies.
Setting your permalink in a way that it’s easy for Google and visitors to foresee what the website is going to be about, your website will have the better likelihood of ranking on search engines.
So, if one of your webpages is all about “SEO ranking factors” then it’s a good idea to set your permalink as ‘www.yourdomain.com/seo-ranking-factors‘ so it’s easier for Google to find and index your webpage.
This also makes it easier for people to see what the page is about before even clicking on your link therefore helping you to reduce bounce rates.
Let’s say you wanted to know more about on-site SEO and you searched for ‘what is on-site SEO’ on Google and I can almost guarantee those top ranked websites will have their permalinks set to things like “www.samplesite.com/what-is-on-site-seo” or “www.samplesite.com/on-site-seo-explained“
A responsive website is a website that adjusts itself or changes its layout according to the device being used for navigation so that it’s easily viewable across all devices.
Let’s take an example.
When you’re scrolling down on your Facebook page on your desktop to see what your friends might be doing, you’ll have the full wide view with a lot of tabs on the left with your friends list on the right.
But when you’re using either a tablet or mobile phone to browse the same Facebook page, it’s going to appear narrower simply because neither of those devices have the width that’s capable of showing the full wide content.
So the website automatically adjusts itself in a way that it fits different screens making it easier for users to navigate around the site.
In 2021, it’s important that your website is responsive.
As the number of people using mobile phones are skyrocketing, each and every site nowadays would need to be responsive otherwise one, you’re not going to make it on top of search engines and two, no one is going to have a great time browsing your site.
According to Statista, there will be more than 3.8 billion smart phone users worldwide in 2021 which is another 300 million increase from the previous year.
So, whether you’re designing your own website or getting one developed by a professional agency, make sure that your website is responsive (even though professional agencies know what they’re doing).
7. Title & Meta Description Tags
Both title tags and meta description tags are also extremely important on-site SEO ranking factors.
On Google, title tag is the big blue text which you see just beneath the URL.
Meta description tag is the small and usually longer text below the title tag.
Let’s take Facebook as an example.
Caption: the colour of the title tag is purple because I’ve already visited the website in the past few days.
In this case, “Facebook – Log In or Sign Up” will be the site’s title tag whereas “Create an account or log into Facebook…” is its meta description tag.
By optimizing each pages within your website for title and meta description tags, it’s going to help Google index your website quicker as it’s easier for them to predict what the page is about.
When setting up your title and meta description tags, you should try to include your target keywords wisely so that your website has the better chance of showing up on SERPs (short for search engine results pages) when those target keywords are searched for.
And this brings us to the final on-site SEO ranking factor which is choosing the right keywords.
8. Target Keywords
Depending on what your website is going to be focused around, your target keywords will vary accordingly.
Keyword research is the first step in content creation process.
It’s the process of choosing relevant keywords which you want your website to rank for and as a newcomer to the SEO field, there are few things which you need to know before choosing them.
First up, you need to choose your target keywords that are actually relevant to what your site is about otherwise what would be the point in ranking for those irrelevant keywords, right?
Second, you need to choose your target keywords that have low competition.
If you try to rank your site for a highly competitive keyword, as a fresh website your’re going to have hard time trying to rank on search engines.
So, my personal advice to you is start small by going for low competitive keywords that have a monthly search volume of at least around 100 – 1,000 as it’s usually enough to start growing.
Of course, the higher the search volume the better chance you have of appearing on SERPs.
To find these keyword metrics, I recommend Google Keyword Planner as it’s free and easy to use as a beginner (just note that you’ll need to create a Google Ads account if you haven’t already to use this tool).
And next up is try and go for long-tail keywords if you can.
Long-tail keyword is just as it sounds.
Let’s say you’re building or perhaps already running a website that’s around cooking.
In this scenario, your long-tail keyword can be “crunchy oreo cookies recipe” stead of “cookies recipe” which can be too plain.
Usually, you’ll find it easier to rank for long-tail keywords than general keywords as they tend to be less competitive.
So when you’re adding valuable content to your website, make sure you add your target keywords appropriately so your content is high quality and brings value to the readers.
When I was building my business website I have optimized each of my pages for SEO by including as many target keywords as possible without stuffing them here and there.
It’s important that you don’t shove keywords in sentences where it just doesn’t make sense or makes it sound weird as Google can penalize your website for keyword stuffing in which case it might get even harder to rank in the long run.
Your primary focus should be on including your target keywords as best as possible so your content flows and reads naturally and most importanly grabs your visitors’ attentions.
The Final Verdict
As a beginner, SEO can be quite intimidating especially when you don’t see results quickly.
Just keep in mind that in general, SEO is a slow-paced online marketing process and it’s going to take time so you should wait as patiently as possible.
We don’t rank what’s there on Google and it’s Google’s discretion to decide which website ranks above the rest.
So, let’s focus on improving on these on-site SEO ranking factors and help Google to find us easier and quicker!