September 21, 2015

903 words 4 minutes.

On-page SEO Best Practices for 2016 and Beyond

A woman working at her computer. Discover 2016's SEO best practices.

In a sea of ever-changing algorithm updates, it can be hard to determine what you should focus on with your on-page (also known as on-site) SEO efforts. Here are the best practices and tips for your on-page SEO for 2016, and beyond.

Improve your Site Speed

The #1 thing you can do to improve your page rankings is to get your site up to speed. Google has been including site speed into its algorithm since 2010, with no plans to stop in the coming year.

How fast should your site load? Your audience expects your website to load in under two seconds. If it takes longer than 3, expect your visitors to jump ship and go elsewhere.

Check your site speed using tools such as PageSpeed Insights regularly.

Focus on Topics, not just Keywords

Keywords are a complicated, but central, part of your on-site SEO strategy. Algorithms no longer try to pair a keyword search with the website that most uses those keywords. Instead, Google tries to determine the intention behind every search in order to serve up the sites that best match that intention. So for 2016, and beyond, your keywords should be used in a way that helps search engines (and human visitors) define your purpose and niche.

Instead of thinking keywords, think topics. Each page on your site should focus on one particular topic. If you try to cover too many topics on one single page, it will lose its importance and authority as search engines struggle to determine what the page is about. This is most common on a homepage, where it’s very common for too many keywords/ topics to be covered.

Keyword placement matters more than quantity. A keyword/ topic used once in the title tag and once in the header is more important than the same keyword used five times throughout the body content. Google awards priority placement as follows:

  • #1: Meta information and headers
  • #2: Body copy
  • #3: Sidebars and footers

Be sure your keyword is used where it will be weighted the strongest; within the meta and headers of your site. Using your keywords within the first 100 -150 words of the page will also emphasize their importance to the search engines.

If you want a well optimized site, then user experience should be your main focus. That means URLS that are clean, short, and clearly communicate what a user can expect if they click on it. Your URL appears on the search engine results page, and it is one of three elements that users will factor in to make a decision to click on your page or not.

  • Keep it short. Search engines can process long URLS, but shorter ones are easier for people to share, copy, paste, embed, and understand.
  • Match URLs to page titles, removing unnecessary stop words such as “and, but, a, the, of,” etc.
  • The first 3- 5 words of your URL are given the most weight by search engines, so use your keywords up front.
  • Remove unnecessary characters, punctuation, or numbers to keep it clean and easy to read.

In previous years, URL best practices included using hyphens, and not underscores, as word separators. But for 2016, search engines can now treat underscores and hyphens similarly, so feel free to use both.

Pay Attention to Titles and Headers

Your title and headers will tell your audience, and search engines, what your page is about. As we mentioned before, using keywords in your headline and sub-headlines is more important than sprinkling the keywords throughout your body content. To capture more long-tail searches, use modifiers such as “best, greatest, review, guide”, or numbers (including years).

You already know that you need great images on your website. Search engines can’t see the images you’ve placed on a page the same way visitors to your site can. Help them out by including keywords in the image filename and ALT text (e.g. onpage_seo_tips.jpg).

One of the most commonly overlooked (and easy to remedy) SEO fixes is simply adding some ALT text to images on a site.

Blog, blog, blog…and blog some more.

When it comes to body content, more is more. Longer content with a minimum of 1500 words ranks higher with Google. The idea is not to ramble on without purpose, but to offer thoughtful, well-researched content to your users that really explores a specific topic and offers solutions to their pain points and problems.

Google prefers content rich-sites because the data has proven that longer content gets more links. The average web page that ranks on the top 10 results has at least 2,000 words per page, for any keyword.

Create GREAT Content

The best way to get found online and climb to the top of the SERPs is to optimize your website for the people who will visit your site, not the search engines. Create great content that is compelling, well-written, and carefully thought out.

On-page SEO is really all about the user. By optimizing your pages, you build a better page for the people who visit your site. And more importantly, the people who are looking for your site will actually find it.

The more you delight visitors who visit your website, the better your ranking on the results page will be. This rule was true last year, will ring true in 2016, and will continue to serve you in the future…. no matter what algorithm changes come your way.

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