Essential on-site SEO factors

    With this post, I start a series of SEO related articles where I'm going to share my 11+ years experience in SEO to help you understand better how it works. The top-rated comment on Reddit in the post I saw last week What do you wish developers knew about SEO? was: «The most dangerous thing in SEO is a developer that thinks he understands SEO. They so rarely do». So this article is for developers who want to deliver a better SEO for clients and SEO beginners, as well as for the entrepreneurs, who are about to hire an SEO agency. You need to understand, why some sites are on top in search results and some will never be there.

    on-site SEO factors

    The main task of any search engine is to give the right answer to user’s query (in SEO community we call it “meet the intent”; intent — identification and categorization of what a user online intended or wanted to find) as quickly as possible.

    on-site SEO factors - google suggester

    But how to identify “the best match”, how to find the best answer on the billion websites? The search engines have complex ranking algorithms that collect information from the websites, analyzing it, “giving” mark for quality and assigning position on top on its basis.

    If you want to enter with your website to the top of the search engine results page (SERP), the website must have, first of all, correct SEO settings. That is where SEO specialist’s work consists of – to make website attractive and relevant both for user and search engines.

    Search engines react to particular “signals” – off-site and on-site ranking factors. And today you’re going to learn some basics about the on-site SEO factors.

    On-site SEO factors are website quality indicators, which can be directly managed by site webmaster (or SEO specialists). They may be divided into one-page factors and the general factors that affect all website.

    Essential on-site SEO factors:


    • website structure;
    • internal links;
    • usability (is it convenient to use website);
    • content — text, photo, video;
    • optimization of tags and headers;
    • HTTPS;
    • website speed;
    • mobile-friendly.

    One-page SEO factors


    Images


    “Correct” file name – it should include keywords relevant to this image and/or this page (depends on the situation). Keywords also should be used in Alt attribute of the image, sometimes, in the very rare cases, you can also use Title attribute of the image for this purpose to increase the page relevance.

    Consider the quality of the image and its size. Low-quality images may frighten away user, an image suitable for text, vice versa, has a good influence on behavioral factors.

    Be careful: images may “burden” page and adversely affect its speed. Try to find a golden mean between image quality and its size.

    URL


    URL is the web address of the page. If it’s possible, it should include keywords or name of the article, or other relevant information about the page, e.g. publication date. But just including a keyword in URL has a very low impact on search engine ranking algorithm. On the other hand, it has a big impact on CTR (ratio of clicks from SERP) and THIS becomes a very strong factor for search engines that your website attracts users’ attention in SERP. Google says:
    Consider organizing your content so that URLs are constructed logically and in a manner that is most intelligible to humans (when possible, readable words rather than long ID numbers). For spaces we recommend that you use hyphens (-) instead of underscores (_)
    Let’s compare two examples:

    1. example.com/cars/mercedes
    2. example.com/cat1458/gtxks-548652.html

    It’s obvious that you want to click on the second address less and for the search engine such an URL is absolutely “empty”.

    You can deliver even better experience. Use microdata to make URL more attractive in SERP. When SEO specialist adds “bread crumbs” to the markup, mostly an attractive URL chain will be shown in site snippet instead of the address. For example:

    on-site SEO factors - SERP

    Header H1


    Header H1 is a content header on the page. Yes, it’s that simple. Usually, this is one/two of the most high-frequency keywords relevant to this page, and it should describe page content properly. H1 is an eye-catcher for your visitors.

    Title Tag


    The title tag is your page title. Requirements to title are very simple: it should include keywords and be attractive for a user — create descriptive page titles. 60 characters are OK. Page titles should be descriptive and concise. Avoid vague descriptors like «Home» and avoid keyword stuffing like “Buy cell phone, buy phone, buy phone now, buy phone cheap”.

    Remember, the first thing seen by a user in SERP is exactly the title and the decision to click starts from it.

    Content


    Content is particularly the reason, why the user took a decision to visit your website. Content should be completely relevant to the user’s search query. Content must meet the user’s intent and help the user to solve the problem.

    Content may be different – it completely depends on the query. For example, for query “buy vacuum cleaner”, a user most likely expects to find a product or product listing and on the query “how to decorate a festive table for Easter” – an article with advices and photo ideas of table setting.

    General on-site SEO factors that affect all website


    Structure


    Site structure is a logical web page hierarchy. Structure influences:

    1. Site usability. It is convenient to use a logical website and it’s clear to most of the visitors.
    2. Distribution of internal “link juice” (the value or equity passed from one page or site to another) of the pages.
    3. Minimization of technical issues. The well-developed structure allows avoiding multiple issues – duplicates, empty pages, 404 errors, etc.
    4. Acceleration of indexation and reasonable crawl rank expenditure. Sites with clear structure will be indexed quicker, as it will be easier for the search engine to crawl them.

    Internal links


    Internal links are the connection between pages. Internal links are actively used for “link juice” distribution. It’s a different very broad theme on optimization we will discuss later.

    My own experience says it’s better to use 2-3 links per 1500-2000 characters of content.

    Usability


    Usability is the indicator of convenience and ease of website use. Nobody needs a complicated and unclear interface.

    Usability has an impact on time spent on the website by the user and whether the user will go back to search results after visiting your website (one of the most critical ranking factor for search engines).

    I saw a lot of cases when only having solved usability problem, a website obtained far more conversions and positions in SERP.

    HTTPS


    HTTPS is a safe data communication protocol in the network supporting encryption via cryptographic protocols SSL and TLS. Security is a top priority for Google.

    Google in its Google Chrome browser marks the websites, where HTTP is used as potentially unsafe. If you are still using HTTP, immediately start planning a migration to HTTPS.

    Website speed


    Website speed is a time of your website loading from the moment of clicking link till the moment when the page is completely downloaded.

    It does not need additional explanations that slow sites will never be on the top of search results – they irritate users. People quit slow websites, worsening behavioral factors, and search robots need too much time for scanning this kind of websites. I can endlessly list potential problems connected with a long page load.

    Mobile-friendly


    Mobile-friendly is website design, which is in the same manner correctly renders on desktops and mobile devices.

    Traffic from mobile devices has long been prevalent, so the first step is to optimize the website to mobile devices (if this has not yet been done).

    Summary


    It is impossible to cover all internal factors by which the website is ranked – nobody knows the exact list. Start from focusing on basic on-site SEO factors, make them better than your competitors did.

    • website structure — сonsider organizing your content so that URLs are constructed logically and in a manner that is most intelligible to humans;
    • internal links — are actively used for “link juice” distribution;
    • usability — тobody needs a complicated and unclear interface;
    • content — must meet the user’s intent;
    • optimization of tags and headers — 60 characters for title and H1 is an eye-catcher for your visitors;
    • HTTPS is a ranking signal
    • website speed — users quit slow websites;
    • mobile-friendly — is a must.

    For those who want to dive deeper in all ranking factors, here's the list of 140+ SEO factors I consider when I run SEO audit (I will discuss them in the upcoming articles)
    TECHNICAL FACTORS (can be checked with any popular SEO software).

    • Broken Links
    • PageRank: Dead End
    • Duplicate Pages
    • Duplicate Text
    • Duplicate Titles
    • Missing or Empty Title
    • Duplicate Descriptions
    • Missing or Empty Description
    • 4xx Error Pages: Client Error
    • Broken Redirect
    • Endless Redirect
    • Max Redirections
    • Redirect Blocked by robots.txt
    • Redirects with Bad URL Format
    • Bad Base Tag Format
    • Max URL Length
    • Missing Internal Links
    • Links with Bad URL Format
    • Broken Images
    • Canonical Blocked by robots.txt
    • Multiple Titles
    • Multiple Descriptions
    • Missing or Empty H1
    • Multiple H1
    • Duplicate H1
    • Min Content Size
    • PageRank: Redirect
    • 3xx Redirected Pages
    • Redirect Chain
    • Refresh Redirected
    • Canonical Chain
    • External Redirect
    • Blocked by robots.txt
    • Blocked by Meta Robots
    • Blocked by X-Robots-Tag
    • Missing Images ALT Attributes
    • Max Image Size
    • 5xx Error Pages: Server Error
    • Long Server Response Time
    • Bad AMP HTML Format
    • Percent-Encoded URLs
    • Duplicate Canonical URLs
    • PageRank: Orphan
    • PageRank: Missing Outgoing Links
    • Same Title and H1
    • Max Title Length
    • Short Title
    • Max Description Length
    • Short Description
    • Max H1 Length
    • Max HTML Size
    • Max Content Size
    • Min Text/HTML Ratio
    • Nofollowed by Meta Robots
    • Nofollowed by X-Robots-Tag
    • Canonicalized Pages
    • Non-HTTPS Protocol
    • Max Internal Links
    • Max External Links
    • Internal Nofollow Links
    • External Nofollow Links
    • Missing or Empty robots.txt File
    • Markup
    • rel = alternate is used
    • Viruses and malicious code
    • Documents size under 10 MB


    ON-SITE SEO
    • Optimization of the Title tag
    • Optimization of meta tag Description
    • Optimization of Keywords tag
    • H1-H6 headers optimization
    • The distribution of the trust weight to important pages
    • «Bread crumbs» implementation
    • Internal links optimization
    • No hidden text
    • Sitelinks in SERP
    • Images Optimization
    • ALT attributes for images

    KEYWORD RESEARCH

    • Semantic core analysis
    • Competitors semantic cores
    • Collected Google suggester keywords
    • Useless keywords are excluded
    • Frequent jargon expressions, errors, abbreviations or possible variants of names are taken into account

    CONTENT

    • Blog/Articles semantic analysis
    • Section «Question-Answer»
    • Tagged pages
    • Portfolio or samples
    • Content publication timeline
    • Formatted structured content
    • Photos and infographics
    • Grammatical and spelling errors
    • Unique texts
    • The ability to bookmark this page and share it

    COMMERCIAL FACTORS

    • Company information
    • Description of delivery and payment options
    • Customer support
    • Sale
    • Credit options
    • Warranty and returns
    • Advertising of third-party sites
    • Wide range of products
    • Item card audit
    • Site usability
    • Access to cart from any page
    • Legal details and licenses/certificates
    • Registration through social networks
    • Https protocol (correct SSL certificate)
    • Geo-options
    • Email on website's domain
    • Accounts in social networks

    EXTERNAL FACTORS

    • Backlinks presence in Search Console
    • Backlinks profile comparison with competitors
    • Backlinks to 4xx and 5xx pages
    • Free backlinks options
    • Crowd-marketing
    • Spam in the anchor list
    • Brand awareness
    • External broken or unauthorized links
    • Backlinks from sites of prohibited niches or with suspicious anchors

    LOCAL SEO

    • Geo setup in Search Console
    • Google My Business
    • Google Shopping
    • The availability of pages for the robot, regardless of its IP
    • Regional pages
    • Reviews or cases of your customers
    • Backlinks from regional sites

    ENGAGEMENT

    • Pages match keywords
    • Pages with a high bounce rate
    • Average visit duration is not less than competitors have
    • Engagement comparison with the competitors' websites

    PENALTIES

    • Warnings in Search Console
    • Affiliated sites
    • Toxic SEO backlinks
    • Texts are not spammed
    • Hidden forwarding on mobile devices
    • Adult content
    • Ads analysis

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    Comments 4

      +1
      many thanks
      post very useful
        0
        Great to know it helps! Follow my account, I will add dozens of cool articles related to SEO next months.
        +1
        Hi, thank you for sharing SEO tips, it always looks like a «hidden» area for a developer.
        Since you mentioned writing series, could you possibly include one about «social promotion», especially how to find places (e.g. reddit) where one can promote their product/article.
        Thanks!

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