Search engine optimization — or SEO, for short — is complicated. That’s made doubly true by the fact that the big players in the game (namely: Google) regularly change how they weigh search engine ranking factors. SEO is something of an elusive moving target as those factors get updated over time.
That said, there are some areas where time has illuminated best practices. Today, SEO experts can pretty confidently recommend certain measures because they’re tried-and-true. That includes things that can be tricky to accomplish, like backlinks from trusted outside sources. Fortunately, other search engine optimization best practices are fully in your control.
In that vein, let’s explore on-page SEO and how to leverage it to your advantage.
Understanding on-page SEO
On-page SEO is what it sounds like: tweaks you make on the pages of your website to help them rank higher on search engines.
Let’s say you want your website to show up high on Google when someone searches “mortgage rates in Akron, OH.” That search term is your keyword. And to a large extent, your webpage optimization hinges on that keyword. (If you want help choosing good keywords for your SEO, we recommend this keyword research guide from HubSpot.)
With a keyword in mind, you can build a new page using SEO best practices or take an existing webpage and optimize it. To help you move through that process, let’s look at those on-page to-dos.
Your on-page SEO checklist
For simplicity’s sake, we’re breaking this down into three sections.
Overall content best practices for SEO
While Google hasn’t (and realistically won’t) release a detailed list of ranking factors, it does issue Search Quality Rater Guidelines. This document gives us all a chance to peek behind the curtain and get at least some semblance of an idea of how Google decides what to show searchers.
A key takeaway from those guidelines: Google looks for experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (EEAT). The search engine wants to show searchers webpages that will answer their questions and leave them feeling confident and satisfied with what they’ve learned.
To tap into EEAT ranking factors, you want to provide information that isn’t already available based on your own expertise. So, for example, you might use your own insights into the Akron housing market to create content for the webpage you want to rank for “mortgage rates in Akron, OH.”
EEAT ranking factors might tempt you to fill that content with mortgage jargon and lengthy exposition. Don’t. While Google does reward expertise, it rewards user-friendliness just as much (if not more). You want your content to be informative not to the select few, but to anyone who stumbles across it.
While reading level doesn’t play a direct role in how your page ranks anymore, it can be a useful tool to keep in mind. The easier your content is to read, the more useful it will be to a broader audience. And while Google’s ranking factors get updated regularly, they have increasingly trended toward rewarding usefulness.
Long story short, you want to fill your webpages with content that offers a unique value-add in an easy-to-grasp way.
Keyword-related on-page SEO tips
Now, let’s circle back to your keyword. As you’re building or reworking content for your webpage, you can help it rank by adding that keyword to your:
- Title tag. This is the blue, clickable link that shows up in Google results. So if you want to rank for “mortgage rates in Akron, OH,” you might give your page the title tag of “Mortgage Rates in Akron, OH: November 2023.”
- Meta descriptions. These are the little snippets displayed on Google below the title tag. Meta descriptions don’t play a direct role in how your page ranks, but they do play a big part in whether or not searchers decide to click on your page or someone else’s. As a result, they should include your keyword and other pertinent information to show the searcher you can answer their question.
- URL. URLs aren’t the huge ranking factor they used to be, but they still play a role. It’s best practice to include your keyword in the URL (e.g., yourwebsite.com/mortgage-rates-akron-oh).
- Headers. We have two tips here. First, include your keyword in your headers (the page features labeled as H1, H2, H3, etc. in HTML) where it makes sense. Secondly, use headers liberally. In our fast-paced world, webpage visitors like to be able to skim content. A long block of text could be enough to scare them away to a different website, so headers go a long way here.
- Image alt tags. Add images to your page and, when you do, include your keyword in the alt tag.
- Overall content. Keyword density isn’t a ranking factor anymore, but it’s still something to keep in mind. You don’t need to stuff the keyword awkwardly throughout your content, but revisit it regularly as you write. Remember, your searcher is looking for an answer (e.g., “what are mortgage rates in Akron right now?”). Keeping that keyword top of mind as you create your content can ensure that the resulting webpage is a useful tool to the people who click on it.
Other on-page SEO factors to keep in mind
You can do a few other on-page things to help your page rank, like:
- Internal linking. When applicable, link to other pages on your site to provide users with more information that might be helpful to them — and to help search engines understand how your website works as a whole.
- External linking. Provide links to other reputable sources. This adds value for your users, boosting your overall helpfulness. That can, in turn, help your ranking.
- Optimized images. Add images to your webpages to build visual interest and keep visitors engaged. Before you do, though, compress them so they don’t slow down your site.
Here’s a quick example from Bankrate showcasing some of what we’ve talked about.
This is a starter guide, but it’s by no means a comprehensive dive into what you can do to help your webpages rank. Google and other search engines also reward factors like a fast load time and responsiveness on mobile devices.
If you want to learn more about SEO and how you can use it to get more traffic to your mortgage website, our team of experts is here. Request a demo and we can talk more — and show you specific tools you can use to improve your search engine optimization.