Getting On-Page SEO Right in 2012 and Beyond – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Many of you are already familiar with our On-Page Reports. Keyword targeted On-Page SEO is still important, but as algorithms change, so must your On-Page optimization strategy.

This week, Rand looks at the future of On-Page and how to move beyond the keywords to drive traffic and delivery for a better experience.

Video Transcription

"Howdy, SEOmoz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we're talking about getting on-page SEO right in 2012, the modern era and beyond. Old school SEO, on-page SEO is still very much in the forefront of people's minds.

In fact, if you're an SEOmoz Pro subscriber, you're actually seeing a lot of the kind of classic, old school stuff that's easily measurable, the keyword targeted optimization inside your on-page SEO reports, and that stuff is important. It still matters. I'll talk about that. But there's a lot of new stuff that we need to be thinking about as SEOs in terms of what true on-page optimization means in the modern era.

So let's start by taking a little history lesson here. Old on-page SEO had some sort of classic best practices, like, "Oh, these things correlate best to pages that perform well in Google," which doesn't necessarily mean that that's causal. But it does mean that lots of people who are succeeding are doing these things right, and so maybe we should follow in their footsteps.

This is classic is stuff. It's keyword usage, keyword phrase usage. It's title tag one to two times and at the start of the title element. It's the keyword used maybe a few times exactly in the body content and partially in the body content. That can vary by how much, and it probably has nothing to do with density, but we do want to get it in there. We probably want to get it into the top paragraph so that people who are reading find it relevant.

We want to put the keyword in the URL if possible. We know that the URL gets put on other web pages and linked to us, which means we get some anchor text out of that. We could be putting the keyword in the H tag, H1 tag, Hx tag. We were kind of confused. We don't really know whether this actually matters.

That could be one of those very low correlation elements at least in terms of ranking. So we're not really sure whether that's important. But we do know we want to put it in the headline so that when somebody gets to a page they see, "Oh yeah, look. There's the keyword I was looking for in this article or this blog post or this e-commerce product page or this category, whatever it is, is about the thing that I want."

Keyword in the ALT attribute. We have an image, and that image has an ALT attribute and the keyword is inside. The ALT is in the code of the image tag itself, and we want the keyword in there. That looked like it had a surprising correlation with pages that do well.

We want keyword in links pointing to the page internally on our own site, those internal anchor texts phrases. People would jump through all sorts of hoops to try and get that done. Yeah, we want to throw in some related terms and phrases, kind of fitting that topic modeling stuff.

Great. Good. This stuff is not unimportant anymore. It's not like this has lost all its value. But it's definitely not the only thing that we need to be thinking about in 2012. I mean on-page optimization has grown and expanded just like all of SEO has. This is the kind of stuff that I'm talking about for the modern day on-page optimizers.

So first thing and most important is that SEO isn't that new anymore, and search isn't that new anymore. Just ranking for something used to produce a lot of value in terms of getting visits and getting brand awareness and maybe getting direct conversions in a lot of cases. But unless we do this, that we overlap the searcher intent, what users want, and the page content purpose, we're missing out on that.

People abandon search results much more quickly than they used to. Rankings doesn't necessarily lead to the traffic. We see click-through rates sometimes on position two, three, or four being higher than on position one because something is more interesting about the listing. You see abandoned rates seem to be taken into account, maybe not directly, maybe indirectly by Google and by Bing.

So something else is going on. And this, if we can solve this equation, solve this Venn diagram, I promise wonderful things will happen with your SEO. It's something that we didn't always think about in the past that we need to, and that is: What is this user looking for? That's the red circle here.

The user wants something when they do a search. Let's say I search for creative watches. I'll show you guys my watch. It's very cool. Right?
Creative watch designs, can you see that? It's my ZIIIRO watch. It's super cool. You should search for it. It's ZIIIRO. I'm going to drop this down here.

That ZIIIRO watch is very creative. They do terrible SEO on their site. I apologize for that, but regardless. So if I'm looking for creative watch designs and what the page delivers to me is watch brands that I've already heard of, that aren't particularly creative, and they're not unique or useful to me, maybe some people have that. Maybe the overlap is going to be in here for some folks. But you've got to pick.

You've got to make this bigger. Please get as many of the people who want the thing that they're typing into the search engine and what the page provides, make that overlap. If you can make that one circle in this Venn diagram, you win. You win at SEO. This is incredibly important.

All right. Make listings in the search results themselves outstanding. This means This means rel=author. This means video XML sitemaps. This means all the kinds of new markup that are available to put in a search results. So I want my rel=author so that I can appear in a little picture here next to the search results because I know that having my profile picture there increases click-through rate.

I've seen it before in tests with SEOmoz stuff where we rank one and two for something. Or we'll rank number one and we'll rank number two with a rel=author listing, and we get more traffic on that one. Oh, my gosh, clearly we know that that's getting a higher click-through rate.

We want the keyword phrase in the title, but we need that title to be useful and interesting and sharable. It should be fascinating. That headline needs to sell something beyond just, "Yes, we have the keyword you typed in on the page." It has to compel and entice you. The headline and the meta description and the URL, they're an advertisement.

If you think of this the way you think of your AdWords copy or your ad copy for an advertisement that appears in print or appears in digital media somehow, that's what you're seeking. You're trying to draw someone's attention in and make them interested in clicking this. So just having the keyword targeting to try and rank well is no longer the only thing we're worried about.

Very important today, too, I wrote about this on my blog, the or the brand name of the website appearing in the URL is something that people look at very, very heavily. They bias their clicks by what appears in the URL because they're starting to recognize domain names as brands and prefer some domains over others. So you better be building up a brand name strategy.

If it's as opposed to, I could imagine rockingwatches is a brand and I never head of it. Maybe it's interesting. I'll go check it out. But online-watches-that, no, I'm out. That brand is pulling me in even if I don't quite recognize it yet. So these outstanding search results are now a part of your on-page optimization.

Pages that load fast, it's almost weird. We were in this era of broadband, and it's like, "Oh yeah, things are getting so fast." But that's actually stopped. So broadband rates have expanded, especially outside the U.S. In particularly Scandinavian countries, in some parts of Europe, in some parts of Eastern Europe, some parts of Asia, Taiwan, they're getting much faster broadband than the U.S. is.

The U.S.'s broadband unfortunately due to some monopolies here and some government lobbying and all that sort of mess, our broadband rates are actually not expanding as fast. So having pages that load fast, that aren't hugely intensive, that take four or five seconds or less is really important. Having responsive design where this title and menu element and the images get shrunk down so that all that side bar content or maybe the heavy advertising and stuff makes it's way into a smaller page on a mobile device or on an iPad, or an Android tablet, or those kinds of things is extremely important.

You can see conversion rates and click-through rates, sorry, time on site and crawl rate, all these things that influence not just how search engines interact and how you rank, but also whether your index and how you perform with users. So incredibly important.

And then two last things, pages nowadays have to be socially sharable. That means if you have any content that's sort of targeted at things like Pinterest, you better have that great image that can fit in there. If you know that your posts are going on Facebook, you better have a graphic that fits the proportions, that shows up well when the URL is shared on Facebook, shared on Google+.

You want to have that special markup that makes you appear in Twitter's results like Twitpic does and Lockers is doing. SlideShare is doing this. They're all adding those tags so that content can appear directly in the body of tweets, which is really, really smart, because they know that their content's being shared there.

It also means that you have to worry about the title and the meta description tag which makes its way now into Google+ and into Facebook as the description on the side next to the URL. That socially sharing thing is something we never had to worry about in classic SEO.

But the last point is, oh yeah, all this stuff that mattered in the past
,the old on-page SEO, still matters today. A lot of it still matters today for that classic SEO kind of ranking things and a lot for usability types of stuff and even for branding. You want that keyword in the URL so that matches to the description there. You want the keyword in the title, and you want it probably at least in the headline so that when someone reaches the page . . .

All of these worlds, these worlds of usability and user experience and social and SEO, are all coming together. It's not just classic SEO anymore. It's not just social media marketing anymore. It's not just content marketing. If these practices don't work together, we don't really get optimized the way we want to.

So on-page SEO, in 2012, is a big, big broad thing. I hope these tips will help you not just to rank, but to perform.

All right everyone, thanks for joining me. We'll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care."

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October 12, 2012  Tags: , , , , , ,   Posted in: SEO / Traffic / Marketing

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