On-Page SEO Pt 2: How to Optimize a Page for a Keyword - 2.2. SEO Course by Ahrefs
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Hey, it's Sam Oh and welcome to the second lesson in the on-page SEO module.
Hey, it's Sam Oh and welcome to the second lesson in the on-page SEO module. Today, I'm going to show you how to create a page that's optimized for search. Let's get started. So as I showed you in the last lesson, on average, the top ranking page ranks for nearly 1,000 keywords. For example, Healthline's page is clearly targeting the query, "how to lose weight fast." And sure enough, they're ranking in the top spot. Now, the traffic to this page doesn't come from just their target keyword. It comes from the combined effect of ranking for thousands of queries. And when we sum up the traffic from all keywords, it makes up well over 100,000 monthly search visits just from the US. In fact, if we look at the page's keyword rankings, you'll see that the target query "how to lose weight fast" only sends them a small percentage of the total monthly search traffic. Now, in order to rank for a ton of keywords and get a ton of search traffic you need two things. The first is a page that's optimized to rank. And the second are backlinks. In this lesson, we'll cover how to create an optimized page and we'll tackle links in the next module. Okay, so with on-page SEO, there are two main things we need to cover. The first is arguably the most important and that's to ensure your page satisfies searcher intent. We've already covered the 3 C's of search intent which again will give you very basic guidance on the type of content to create, the format to use, and the angle to go with. But the actual content itself is what'll leave your visitors satisfied or dissatisfied. So you might be wondering what exactly do I write about in order to satisfy searchers? The short answer is to learn from your competitors. The top-ranking pages are ranking at the top for a reason. Google and other search engines deem them as the best candidates to satisfy a searcher's query. So they're clearly doing something right, at least from the perspective of a search engine. Now, while the content will vary from topic to topic, the way you research your competitors'
Content will be more or less the same. Let's go through an example.
content will be more or less the same. Let's go through an example. So let's say that we want to create content that targets the query "best golf club sets." To start, I'll go to Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer and search for the query. Then, I'll scroll down to the SERP overview to see the top-ranking pages. Now, if you don't have an Ahrefs account, you can use our free SERP checker tool to do everything I'm about to do. Alright, so looking at the SERP, we want to pick out the top 3 or so relevant ranking results. And by relevant, I'm talking about pages that match the dominant search intent based on the 3 C's we've discussed so many times now. So in this case, the majority of pages are blog posts in the listicle format with freshness as the content angle. So that means, we wouldn't look at pages from Amazon or Golf Galaxy because these pages are clearly ecommerce category pages, and are therefore outliers to the dominant search intent. We'll also exclude the pages from Golf Digest and Business Insider, since it doesn't look like they're intentionally targeting our query. So I'll open up these three pages in new tabs. And what we're going to look for are similarities in their content - specifically in the subtopics. And we'll also look to deepen our understanding of content format and content angle. Looking at the first page, you'll see that they've created a list of categories for the best golf club sets. So there's best selling, best game improving irons, and so on. Looking further down, they have a subheading which is the make and model of the golf club set followed by a brief review of the clubs. The next page also has a summary based on more broad categories like best value, premium pick, and best choice. And based on the table of contents, you'll see that they followed a similar structure where the make and model of the clubs are used as subheadings. They also add a brief description of the clubs, as well as some skimmable bullet points. And the final page does pretty much the same thing.
They use subheadings as the make and model followed by a short review.
They use subheadings as the make and model followed by a short review. Now, unless you're a golfer, you may not have caught this minor, but perhaps important detail. All of the pages talk about sets that would appeal more to beginners. For example, they all talk about Callaway's Strata set. And they all include sets from Wilson Staff. In my opinion, these wouldn't appeal to an intermediate or advanced level golfer. Alright, so at this point, we know that we should create a listicle blog post with freshness as the angle. We also know that the content should likely be targeted at beginners. A couple common sets that were mentioned in all posts were the Callaway Stratas as well as a set from Wilson Staff. Now, it's important to note that you don't have to include these in your post, but it's simply an observation I had made. We also saw that the top 2 out of 3 pages had top picks for categories like "best game improvement clubs" as well as "best clubs for the money." Finally, we know that the subheadings should be the name of the club set. Another thing I recommend before you start writing is to do a content gap analysis at the page level. A content gap analysis at the page level will show you common keywords that the top pages are ranking for where your page isn't. But since we don't have a page, we can still find common keyword rankings amongst a few top-ranking pages using Ahrefs' Content Gap tool. To get started, go to Ahrefs' Site Explorer and paste in any one of the URLs. Next, head on over to the Content Gap tool. Now, I'm going to take the three URLs we analyzed and put them all in the top section of this tool. So what this is saying is show us keywords that any of these targets rank for where at least one of them ranks in the top 10. Now, if I run the search, you'll be able to see the keywords that these pages rank for and the position that they're ranking in. As a general rule of thumb, the more URLs that rank high for the keywords, the more
Relevant it'll be to your content. So to narrow our search down a bit.
relevant it'll be to your content. So to narrow our search down a bit, I'll click on the "intersections" dropdown and select both 2 and 3 intersections. Meaning, only show me keywords where at least 2 of our targets are ranking in Google and at least one of those targets is ranking in the top 10. From here, just skim through the list and look for interesting subtopics that might be worth adding to your post. In addition, you may be able to learn some interesting things about the audience as well as the language they use. So as you can see, people who search for this query are mostly looking for men's clubs. People want to know the best clubs for the money. They want to see cheaper options. And others are looking specifically for a set of irons. These are all things you should consider as you craft your content. Alright, so armed with this information, you should be able to create a great post with the searcher in mind. And while the content is the most important part, there are also a few more "technical" on-page optimizations you should do. Let's go through a few of the most important ones. First is to include your target keyword in your title when it makes sense. Adding your target keyword to your title should come naturally. For example, our title for this post is "45 Best Free SEO Tools (Tried and Tested)." And "free seo tools" is our target keyword. Now, there'll be times when it makes more sense to use a close variant of your target keyword. For example, this post is targeting the query "how to get youtube subscribers." But our title is "9 Ways to Get More YouTube Subscribers" because we went for the listicle angle. The next thing you can do is to use a short and descriptive URL slug. Short and descriptive URLs help people immediately understand what the page is about before even visiting them. Just look at these two URLs. They're on the exact same topic, but one is much more descriptive than the other.
This part of the URL is called the slug.
This part of the URL is called the slug. And the easiest way to choose your slug is to use your target keyword where spaces will be replaced with hyphens. Again, you should only do this when it makes sense, so you don't need to worry about forcing it. Now, if you're wondering if you should use sub folders to describe categories, that's entirely up to you. Alright, next is the meta description. The meta description is HTML code that's meant to briefly summarize your page. And search engines often use this text right within the SERP. To my best knowledge, meta descriptions aren't used as a ranking signal, but they can influence click-through rates. And for that reason, I think it's important to add to your pages. Now, it's important to note that according to our study of 192,000 pages, we found that Google rewrote meta descriptions nearly 63% of the time. So I wouldn't spend a ton of time on them, but you should still include them. Alright, next up is to add internal links to and from your pages. Internal links are links from one page on the same domain to another. And they're super-powerful because they can pass link authority to other relevant pages and they also help search engines better understand a page's contents. For example, if I had a site in the careers niche, and I was writing a post about how to write a cover letter, then I'd definitely want to add internal links from other relevant pages like one on how to write a resume. More importantly, visitors who want to learn how to write a resume would probably want to know how to write a cover letter and vice versa. To find opportunities, you can go to Google and search for site:yourdomain.com and then add the topic you're writing about. Then visit relevant pages and see if there's an opportunity to add an internal link to your new post. Alternatively, you can use Ahrefs' Site Audit tool completely free. Just sign up for an Ahrefs Webmaster Tools account, verify your site and then run a crawl.
Then you can head over to Link Explorer to find internal linking opportunities.
Then you can head over to Link Explorer to find internal linking opportunities. We have a short but helpful video on how to do this on Ahrefs' Product Updates YouTube channel, so I'll link that video up in the description. Alright, next up is to optimize your images. In the last 28 days, we've had over 4,000 visits to our blog from Google image search. While that pales in comparison to our 500,000 monthly organic blog visits, it's still 4,000 visits. Now, optimizing your images for SEO is 3-fold. #1. Name your image files appropriately. For example, this is a picture of a puppy. If you took the photo yourself, then chances are, your smartphone or camera named it something like IMG_ and then a million numbers. Instead, change the filename to something like "puppy." Not exactly rocket science, but according to Google, filenames can give Google clues about the subject matter of the image. #2. Use descriptive alt text. Alt text, short for "alternative text" is an HTML attribute that goes in your image tag. So the syntax would look something like this, where the alt value should describe the image. Alt text helps improve accessibility for those who are using screen readers or if the image fails to load, visitors will be shown the alt text instead. Now, Google recommends "creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and is in context of the content of the page." Yes, Google explicitly says to use keywords, but they also say to avoid stuffing keywords as it results in a negative user experience and may cause your site to be seen as spam. Meaning, don't do something like this. Now, looking back at the syntax, our alt text isn't exactly descriptive. So let's change that to something like "puppy sitting on a couch." If you use WordPress, just add your alt text here when inserting your images and the CMS
Should do the rest. Alright, the third thing you'll want to do is compress your images.
should do the rest. Alright, the third thing you'll want to do is compress your images. Compressing images makes your image file sizes smaller, leading to faster load times. And PageSpeed is a Google ranking signal. There's a free tool for compressing images called "ShortPixel" which has both a web interface as well as a WordPress plugin. And the last thing I highly recommend is to optimize for readability. Here are 5 simple but effective tips you can use to improve readability. #1. Write in short sentences and short paragraphs because no one wants to land on a page with a huge wall of text. #2. Use descriptive subheadings so people who are skimming the article can easily find the things that are important to them. #3. Use a large enough font that's easily readable on both desktop and mobile. #4. Avoid using big words. It's more important that people understand your content. And #5. Write as you speak. Your content will be more conversational and entertaining to read. A free tool I recommend using is called Hemingway app. It'll give you some writing tips as well as a readability grade. I'd recommend trying to keep things at or below a sixth-grade level. Now, there are other on-page optimizations you can do like adding open graph meta tags or OG tags for short. These will allow you to customize the titles, descriptions, images, and other information when your pages are shared on social media networks. There's also Schema markup, which is code that helps search engines understand your content and better represent it in the search results. For example, these pages use the recipe Schema type so Google is able to show things like the recipe's rating, the number of votes, the total time to make the food, as well as nutritional information. If you have a WordPress site, then you can add OG tags and schema with plugins like RankMath or Yoast. Now again, the most important part of your content is that you're striving to satisfy searcher intent.
Yes, the technical things are important too, but they're more like the icing on the cake.
Yes, the technical things are important too, but they're more like the icing on the cake. So here's a full on-page SEO checklist. Take a screenshot and make sure to subscribe to our channel because next week, I'll be releasing our next module on an SEO strategy called link building. Or if you're watching this at a later date, all of the links to our videos should be in the description. I'll see you in the next module.
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