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Step 4 to SEO: On-Page SEO

Am I using Step 1’s insights for page targeting & structuring?

If you did your homework, you would have made some discoveries about how to rank for keywords.

If you haven’t already checked it out, see Step One to SEO Success: Keyword Research to find out how to get started on this critical stage.

If you’ve done your research, let’s take a look at what you’ve discovered.

Two of your major findings would have been:

  • How people are searching for your product or service offering and,
  • How your offering aligns with their queries.

Using as many tools as possible, you compiled a list of long-tail keywords. You ranked them by relevance and difficulty and then chose the ones that are most relevant and least competitive.

Right?

Great, what were they?

If you used a Venn diagram to display the results of a simple keyword investigation in the health supplements niche, it might have looked like this:

Now, what do we do with this? Let’s get to the nitty gritty…

What is On-Page SEO?

On-page SEO is essentially structuring individual web pages around target keywords with the goal of creating more traffic and achieving a higher rank.

It’s also about responding to the people who come to your page looking for answers.

One of the most obvious ways to hit on all these points is through content so let’s start there.

You could start structuring content around the keyword “gluten-free supplements for weight loss” because it is both relevant and low competition. This is a perfect jumping off point for a review of competitors’ brands (if there are any), or an article about how gluten-free supplements are hard to come by (until they stumbled across your brand of course), etc., etc.

Let’s hope you don’t just plop this juicy keyword into existing content about the benefits of supplements.

Of course you wouldn’t because you know as well as we do that it is better to start at the beginning.

Like a plant has a seed, a keyword is the crux of great content, which is still one of the top ranking factors. It’s easy to sniff out in the opening paragraph when keywords have been stuffed or simply dropped into existing content. Readers will quickly realize that your page is not going to deliver what they came looking for.

Irrelevancy makes you unreliable, and when you’re unreliable, people aren’t going to ask you for help and Google will note that and respond accordingly.

Don’t be that guy.

Make yourself trustworthy and deliver fresh new content that answers your users’ questions.

Now, let’s take a closer look at why content is king in SEO success and how to masterfully craft content around the keywords you want to rank for.

Enter RankBrain.

RankBrain is a machine-learning component of Google’s algorithm that measures dwell time (how long users are spending on your page) and click through rate (CTR), which is the total clicks divided by total impressions (read more about Google Analytics here). RankBrain then moves your page up or down the SERP depending on those two factors.

3 Techniques for Improving Rank

There are three key ways to win at RankBrain. First, optimize your titles and meta descriptions for better CTR. Second, rank for highly relevant keywords. Third, write quality content.

Sounds easy, right? They are, and they’re also dangerously easy to overlook. Each point carries some pretty heavy weight when it comes to on-page SEO so ensure you are focusing your efforts on all three.

1. Optimize titles.

The first point is so important. Time and effort are wasted on creating great content out of awesome keyword research if there is nothing to attract users to your page. A gripping title and simple, to-the-point meta descriptions are necessary. Like the department store Macy’s revolutionized the storefront window, the title and meta description can lead users right to your page, wanting more of what your virtual window promises.

2. Target relevant keywords and the people using them.

Let’s highlight the second point. You can write as much content as you want but if it’s not relevant to your offering, people are going to bounce.

The word people is strategic here. We talk a lot about the user, which makes me picture a hand on a mouse, or the reader, which makes me picture a book. But when I read the word people, I imagine a face, which directs my efforts to a person with a brain and the ability to subjectively decide what he or she is going to read and why. It makes my work more personal.

Okay, maybe not that face exactly. This one is a little closer to human (and looks a little like my grandma):

This point is, I’m not directing my efforts to the Google Machine, I’m addressing the needs of the people who ultimately determine what Google does with me. Right? This is a critical mind shift with which to lead.

3. Create quality content.

High-quality content is one of the top ranking factors. But quality is a bit of an ambiguous, static term, isn’t it? Let’s go with engaging instead; it’s a bit more active.

Content that engages draws the reader in right away with a hook phrase that is both relevant and interesting. It keeps the reader wanting more by providing useful bits of information that are easy to absorb and answer the readers’ questions directly. It often tells a story to which the reader can relate. It also leads the reader to helpful resources that explore their query further.

Now, great content needs a bit of decoration. Something that yells out READ ME. Because let’s be honest, no one has time to fart around looking for the juiciest tidbit of meat.

When I land on a page, the first thing I do is cut the fat. I quickly scroll through the content to see if anything jumps out. What do I notice?

Three things, mainly: Images/videos, length, and headers.

We love images. They’re the eye candy that break up the text.

Length is often a good sign that a chunky chunk of content is going to feed me what I’m looking for.

Headers offer a place to start if I’m looking to pinpoint specific information. If the headers aren’t relevant to what I’m looking for (i.e., they don’t match my keyword query) then bouncy-bounce I go back to SERP and right into RankBrain’s time-out chair.

Rand Fishkin outlines seven elements of an optimized webpage. They are less quantitative than the SEO methods of yesteryear that called for specific keyword placement so they may seem a little loosey-goosey. But they’re not.

Qualitative strategies take center stage as the algorithms that assess relevance increase in complexity.

So, what makes a page brilliantly optimized according to Fishkin and Logical Mix?

  1. Offers uniquely valuable content and images
  2. Provides excellent user experience
  3. Targets specific keywords
  4. Easily shared through social networks
  5. Optimized for every device
  6. Accessible to crawlers
  7. Includes authorship, rich snippets, metadata, and schema

Fishkin created this genius, though mythical, perfectly optimized page, highlighting his seven factors, mentioned earlier:

Pretty cool, right? I’d love to land on more web pages like this: perfectly structured to answer my question and oh so pretty.

So there you have it. On-page SEO is actually a bit fun. Maybe not as fun as the keyword research it took to get here, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.

What is the main takeaway?

Remember, you’re doing this for a living, breathing human being (or several thousand if you’re doing it right). Not a doll, not an ape (though possibly some monkey brains). Google is a machine, and although we want to please the machine, we’re still the ones ultimately in control… for now.

Appeal to your customer and find out how you can deliver what they want through super-duper on-page SEO.

When you’re structuring your pages, always keep this in mind:

People have questions. Be that place where the answers are.

Logging Out,

Logical Mix

Feature photo credit: The Freedom Chase

STEP 1 to SEO: Keyword Research

Am I matching search queries to my service or product offering?

At its most basic, SEO is a game with Google–and a gazillion other online proprietors all vying for attention and page rank.

There are infinite, contrasting strategies for “how to do SEO”, but they all start with one thing: keyword research.

Keyword optimized content can increase traffic to your site and help your page rank higher in search engine results page (SERPs)–but you already know that.

What you really want to know is how to get more conversions.

You’ve come to the right place.

Every great enterprise starts with research.

I know, I know, who likes research, right? (Well, I do, but I swim in the nerd pool).

Keyword research isn’t hard. Some might call it exciting. But don’t take it from me. Take it from my non-nerd friend Rob who actually hates reading–a research requirement–but giggles like a small child on a merry-go-round when he nails down the right keyword to rank for.

How is keyword research done?

All research begins with a question (or two), and keyword research is no different.

Keyword research starts with identifying what your customer wants through two critical questions:

1. How are people searching for your product or service offering?

And,

2. How does your offering align with their queries?

To start, let’s tackle question #1.

How are people searching for your product or service offering?

The number, order, and meaning of words in searches inform us of the searcher’s intention and where they are in the conversion cycle.

Matt Diggity, founder of Diggity Marketing, identifies three phases of research (in a 6-stage process) that potential customers go through when they are seeking a product or service. They are:

  1. Actively looking for a solution to their acknowledged pain (the need that your product is going to meet).
  2. Actively looking for the best solution to relieve their pain.
  3. Looking for the best place to buy the best solution.

During the first two stages, your customer is in the research phase. They’re using 1-2 keywords in their searches. These are your head or seed keywords.

Example: “yoga retreats”

In the second and third phases (they overlap), your customer is seriously considering a particular product or service. They’re using 2-3+ keywords in their searches. These are your long-tail keywords.

Example: “best yoga retreats in Bali” or “best Bali yoga retreats” or “kundalini yoga retreats in Bali”

As their research deepens, the search becomes more specific.

Make sense? Great.

Let’s move on to question #2.

How does your product or service offering align with search queries?

By asking this question, we’re essentially seeking to know how to use keyword research for SEO.

This step is strategic. It’s where you begin to use the information you’ve gathered through rigorous keyword research.

You want to make your focus keywords those that represent the consideration and conversion stages of the journey–the long-tail keywords. Although your site will include head keywords organically, they are too general to focus your core efforts on.

You care more about long-tail keywords for two reasons:

  1. They are specific and therefore relevant to your customer’s queries.
  1. They are least competitive (because they’re specific) and therefore, have higher conversion potential.

Now, you need to find target long-tail keywords that are most relevant, more frequently searched, and are moderate or low competition.

How do you do that?

Luckily, some of the best things in life are free, including the best apps for keyword research.

For starters, try these:

Google Adwords Keyword Planner

Keyword Tool

Keyword.io

Keyword Shitter

Next, compile a list of long-tail keywords generated by any one of these tools (I recommend all) and then rank them, first by their relevance to your offering and then by their difficulty. This will help you determine which keywords you should focus on because they address your customers’ queries and are least competitive.

Assessing keyword difficulty is a bit labour intensive and while several tools can help determine the difficulty factor, they can be expensive and aren’t 100% accurate because no one knows how Google ranks pages–we can only estimate.

However, as a tool for assessing MOZ puts out a free extension: MOZ Toolbar, which reports on the page domain (PA) and domain authority (DA) of each search result. When SERPs have a low PA and DA, you’ve got a good starting point for choosing keywords to rank for.

But we do know that high-quality backlinks and relevant content that also considers user-intent are significant.

(We’ll take a look at backlinks in another blog. Right now, relevant content is in the spotlight).

Low competition long-tail keywords exist because there is insufficient responsive content available.

Remember–you want to optimize your pages by writing content around those keywords that are most relevant and least competitive.

Don’t take this lightly because this where many SEOs mess it up.

We can make anything fit if we really want it too. Those too-tight jeans from ‘95? Nothing an hour worn wet can’t cure (a humble confession of a thrifty nomad). But when we try to make something fit that naturally doesn’t, it’s obvious and uncomfortable for all those involved.


We call it stuffing–don’t make this mistake. Stuffing irrelevant keywords into your copy increases bounce rates and signals to Google that your page is not providing useful information.

Why Keyword Research is So Important

Providing relevant content is one of the most important ways to respond to your customer’s needs (I argue it’s the pinnacle of SEO success). It starts with knowing what people are actually searching for and then responding with information that doesn’t relate to but explicitly answers their questions.

If someone asks about the gestation period of unhatched turkey poults, you’re not going to tell them about the sexual activity of turkeys. While it’s related, it’s not the question they asked.

You know how annoying not having your question answered is–don’t be that person.

And don’t insert those well-researched keywords into lousy copy. Instead, craft your content around those target keywords to provide your customer with on-topic, quality information.

Providing meaningful, relevant content means potential customers stay on your page longer,

their trust in your brand deepens,

they’re more likely to convert,

And Google ranks your page higher–it’s a happy place for everyone.

But, before we wrap up, we also need to consider user-intent. Words have double, sometimes triple, meanings. For example:

Someone searching for “chocolate labs” might actually be looking for one of three things:

A dog,

a factory that makes chocolate, or

a dog-shaped chocolate treat for their favourite uncle (unlikely but don’t cancel it out).

There is greater belief now that Google looks first at whether pages accurately respond to user-intent, which makes relevance a moot point. So, consider all the different ways people interpret the keywords you want to rank for.

Go Keyword Hunting…

Now you’ve got something to start with on your way to SEO success. Keyword research is a necessary first step–a strategic one.

My advice to you is to use every keyword tool available to you. The most valuable one is your brain.

Metrics are important, but they’re machine-generated. Investigate by performing your own search queries and analyzing the results. Read available content and note what is lacking–that’s your opportunity. It requires manual labour, but it supports a greater understanding of how Google ranks pages and why (before it changes again).

Then, write awesome, engaging content built around your target keywords, that feeds your potential customers exactly what they want. Write your own or hire an expert copywriter with SEO knowledge.

Happy researching!

Logging out,

Logical Mix