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10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive Analysis

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10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive Analysis

A successful search engine optimization strategy includes competitive analysis. The tools available today offer incredible value at generally reasonable fees.

They help users accomplish more in less time, and many may find that the tools are so useful that they essentially end up paying for themselves. Here are 10 popular SEO competitive analysis tools, their pricing, and how you can use them to bolster the success of your SEO strategy.

1. Semrush

  • Pricing: Plans start at $119.95 per month.

Semrush not only offers good data for search results analysis, but everything functions the way you expect it to – it’s that easy to use.

There is no need to read a manual to use Semrush’s SERP analysis tool.

Every link, button, and heading has a tooltip that explains what it is so that everything makes sense.

Semrush Tooltip Explains SERP Analysis Tool Data

Screenshot from Semrush, January 2023

Semrush Tooltip Explains Jargon

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from Semrush modified by author, January 2023

Semrush’s Authority Score is assigned to every URL listed in the SERP Analysis.

Like any third-party metric, the Authority Score is just a score based on factors like backlinks, traffic, and referring domains.

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The metric makes it easy to make a quick judgment about a webpage without having to spend hours researching all of the factors for each webpage.

The research is already done; that’s what Semrush’s Authority Score is about.

That’s just one part of the Semrush SERP analysis, but it’s the part that is directly tied to competitor research.

Semrush is useful for researching competitor backlinks. The ease of use makes the workflow of researching links a pleasure.

There’s no need to read a manual. Everything is self-explanatory.

Starting an analysis consists of entering a domain name or an entire URL.

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The resulting page shows various metrics that help you see the competition at a glance, literally.

There’s a graph that shows the growth of referring domains and also backlinks by year, which provides a quick idea of how aggressively they’re building links, organized by time.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from Semrush modified by author, January 2023

Beneath that graph, there’s another visual representation of the backlinks organized by the categories of referring domains.

The categories are the general niche areas that the backlinks belong to.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from Semrush, January 2023

When you click through a category, the tool presents a filter where you can add a word, a phrase, or a TLD, which means Top Level Domain (.net or .org), to find all the relevant links.

There’s also a drop-down menu for selecting “zones by TLD,” but I found that typing in the TLD works better.

Or you can get granular and click on the View Full Report button to see all of the categories in granular detail.

It’s easy to recommend Semrush because it truly is designed for researching competitors and for link building.

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The tools for competitive research are easy to use and give a visual snapshot of their activities and offer a useful user interface for drilling down by category.

2. Ahrefs SERP Checker (Free And Paid)

  • Pricing: Free checker tool, then starts at $99 per month.

Ahrefs has a free SERP checker that shows the same SERP data as the paid version, only for just the first few positions.

The paid version has more data. But if you’re on a budget, the free version is a useful start.

Below is a screenshot of the SERP overview that lists featured snippets, people also ask, and the sitelinks enhancements.

This extra data gives a good overview of what the SERPs look like, plus page and domain rating metrics.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from Ahrefs, December 2022

Here is a screenshot showing more data from the SERP analysis tool.

All of the column headings show a tooltip that explains what each column means.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from Ahrefs, December 2022

Ahrefs is a solid choice for search results competitor analysis.

3. Serpstat

  • Pricing: Free version, then starts at $69 per month.

Serpstat is an affordably priced SEO platform that offers SERP analysis tools. It’s possible to sign up for free to test it out.

Serpstat is focused on analyzing the search results and is useful for Backlinks Analysis and Competitor Analysis.

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4. SpyFu

  • Pricing: Free analysis tool, then starts at $39 per month (or $16 per month on an annual plan).

SpyFu is a very reasonably priced service that is dedicated specifically to competitive research and offers many useful features.

The benefit of the tool is that it generates all the data necessary for competitive research.

SpyFu basically takes the “research” part out of competitive research tasks and provides the data.

The SERP Analysis tool, which can be used for free, offers unique information, such as indicators that signal a website rises or drops in the search results.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from SpyFu, January 2023

Another interesting feature is that it offers a Ranking Difficulty score, data on whether .gov or .edu sites are ranking, and the number of homepages that are ranking in the top 100 positions.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from SpyFu modified by author, January 2023

SpyFu Backlinks Report

Another unique feature is how SpyFu identifies what it determines are the strongest webpages to get a link from.

Just enter a keyword phrase into the search box, and SpyFu searches the backlinks of the top 5,000 ranked sites, including for similar keyword phrases, and identifies all the backlinking domains that the ranked sites have in common.

Even better, SpyFu allows users to filter those webpages by backlink types.

The backlink types one can filter for are .gov/.edu/, sites with affiliate links, blogs, news sites, forums, and directories.

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Filtering for forums reveals all the strongest forum backlinks, filtering for .edu domains shows the best .edu sites to get a link from, and so on.

Another cool feature is called Backlink Kombat.

10 Tools You Can Use For SEO Competitive AnalysisScreenshot from SpyFu, January 2023

This tool allows you to enter two competitor domains and then exclude your own domain. It will then show you all the links the competitors have in common that your site does not.

I like using tools in creative ways to get even more or better data.

What I would suggest doing with the SpyFu Backlink Kombat tool is comparing sites that aren’t your direct competitors. This can help you discover opportunities you might not otherwise.

So if your topic is plumbers in City X, compare roofers in City X.

Competitor backlink research with SpyFu is incredibly easy. I would like the flexibility to filter by keywords (like Favorite Sites) or by TLD (to find .org or .us domains).

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A limited amount of this data is free, and the complete data set is available to paid subscribers.

SpyFu is an interesting tool because it takes the extra step of presenting the data while minimizing research.

It’s easy to use, specific to competitor research, and reasonably priced.

5. Sandboxweb.io SERP Analysis Tool

  • Pricing: Free version, then pricing starts at $19 per month.

Sandboxweb.io offers a SERP analysis tool that provides data on top-ranked competitors.

This tool shows the schema types, Core Web Vitals data, and word counts.

You can click on each competitor in the SERP to research further.

The free version of this tool offers a lot of information. But it’s limited to 10 keywords per month.

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The data is somewhat limited, but it does offer a quick analysis.

6. Screaming Frog

  • Pricing: Free version and a paid version at $209 per year.

Screaming Frog has a SERP analysis function. It’s not easy to use, but it’s not excessively difficult.

I’d like to see Screaming Frog make it easier to run this kind of analysis without getting technical.

If you take the time to figure it out, Screaming Frog can scrape the SERPs and provide analysis.

It’s also useful for analyzing competitors one at a time to get a sense of what sites they link to, how much content they have, interlinking patterns, headings used across the site, and many other competitor data points.

7. Inlinks

  • Pricing: Free version, then pricing starts at $39 per month.

Inlinks is a content optimization-focused tool that can extract relevant data points from search results and competitors.

Inlinks features a SERP analysis function that offers multiple data points about the sites in the search results, such as semantically related topics and user intent data.

The user intent data and topic suggestion features are quite unique.

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There is also a Topic Analysis feature that provides competitors’ related topics and other data that is useful for creating content.

Other SERP Analysis tools look at the top 100 through the top 5,000 for their analyses.

But in my opinion, what really matters most are the top 10 search results because not every site in the top 100 or even the top 10 is a competitor.

So, I really appreciate that Inlinks’ SERP analysis tool focuses on the top 10.

The Inlinks SERP analysis tool offers data on the following:

  • Topic density.
  • Internal and external link counts.
  • Readability scores.
  • List of H2 headings.

I asked one of the founders, Dixon Jones, to explain what Inlinks does regarding competitor analysis.

Dixon answered:

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“Inlinks analyzes ten competing pages for any Keyword. It aggregates the combined number of times entities are used in the SERP and uses this to build a Knowledge Graph of entities related to a given search.

This is then compared to the entities in the content on YOUR competing page, highlighting material gaps in your content.

At a site level, Inlinks can build a knowledge graph of any site, but does not currently have many tools to compare whole sites.

We look at the verbs used to describe entities (in competing pages for a SERP) and cluster them into verb based intent.

This helps content publishers answer a genuine user query, rather than use words in the wrong context.”

Inlinks offers more tools; it’s more than just competitor analysis.

There is a free, pro, and enterprise level.

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8. MarketMuse

  • Pricing: Free version and paid plans starting at $600 per month.

MarketMuse is an AI-based content analysis tool that functions within the entire content creation workflow, from research to content brief and more.

What I appreciate about MarketMuse is that it looks at the top-ranked pages and offers a keyword overview of the topics.

A key competitor analysis function in MarketMuse is called Compete.

The Compete tool analyzes the competition and suggests what to write about and ways to do better than the competitors, such as covering overlooked related topics.

Compete’s unique selling proposition, in my opinion, is that it is focused on helping users create content that is better than the competition.

My understanding of MarketMuse is that it’s not just focused on helping users beat their competition.

The tool streamlines the entire content creation workflow, with competitor research being one part of the process.

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There is a learning curve to MarketMuse.

9. SimilarWeb

  • Pricing: Free version and paid plans starting at $167 per month for the starter package.

SimilarWeb is a unique competitor analysis tool.

It’s focused less on SEO and more on providing a clear image of the differences between the two websites.

There are multiple data points related to traffic, keywords, traffic share by country, and even a comparison of audience demographics.

SimilarWeb offers a free and paid version.

The free version offers a generous amount of data that helps users compare competitors.

10. LinkResearchTools

  • Pricing: Starts at $599 per month. One-week trial for $17.

LinkResearchTools is an enterprise-class link research tool.

It’s the most sophisticated and comprehensive link-building tool I’ve ever used.

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One of the qualities I like most is that it feels like it has a comprehensive inventory of crawled links.

The tool makes it easy to find links with normal searching, like adding a TLD, but you can also find links multiple sites have in common.

Most of the functionality is geared toward businesses that want to disavow backlinks, which is useless for link builders.

I’d like to see a tool that does away with all of the link-disavowing-related features and just focuses on researching competitor backlinks.

One can subscribe to most of the other lower-priced tools and use their combined competitor backlink research features and still pay less than LinkResearchTools.

For most people, that’s more than enough.

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But the data in LinkResearchTools is, in my experience, possibly the most comprehensive backlink data available.

Backlink Analysis

Backlink analysis is more than just poaching keywords from competitors.

It’s a way to understand what the barrier to entry might be, which means how easy or difficult it might be to compete.

Competitor links can be a starting point for building better links as well.

Sometimes a group of links might stand out, giving you an idea of a direction to take.

Doing solid link building requires a flexible backlink analysis tool.

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Competitor Research

There are many useful SEO tools available today. They don’t do the SEO for you, but they make it easier to accomplish better results faster.

The tools also provide time-saving access to a huge amount of data that would ordinarily take days to compile.

Saving time, being more productive, and having the data to make informed decisions is the hallmark of all of these SEO tools.


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal



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How We Built A Strong $10 Million Agency: A Proven Framework

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How We Built A Strong $10 Million Agency: A Proven Framework

Building a successful agency can be a daunting task in today’s ever-evolving space. Do you know the secrets to succeeding with yours?

Watch this informative, on-demand webinar, where link building expert Jon Ball reveals the closely guarded secrets that have propelled Page One Power to become a highly successful $10 million agency.

You’ll learn:

  • The foundational principles on which to build your business to succeed.
  • The importance of delegation, market positioning, and staffing.
  • More proven lessons learned from 14 years of experience.

With Jon, we’ll provide you with actionable insights that you can use to take your business to the next level, using foundational principles that have contributed to Page One Power’s success.

If you’re looking to establish yourself as a successful entrepreneur or grow your agency in the constantly evolving world of SEO, this webinar is for you.

Learn the secrets of establishing a thriving agency in an increasingly competitive SEO space.

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View the slides below or check out the full webinar for all the details.

Join Us For Our Next Webinar!

How An Enterprise Digital PR Firm Earns 100’s Of Links In 30 Days

Join us as we explore how to scale the very time-consuming and complicated process of earning links from digital PR, with proven case studies showing how you can earn hundreds of links in 30 days.

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SEO Woe or a Load of Baloney?

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SEO Woe or a Load of Baloney?

Toxic backlinks are links that some SEO tools say could hurt your website’s Google rankings. The implication is that you should disavow them to keep your site safe.

But there’s some disagreement and confusion among SEOs as to whether “toxic” links are actually a thing and what, if anything, you should do about them. 

If you believe Google’s John Mueller, they’re not: 

Yet, according to my poll, the majority (just!) of SEOs think they are: 

So… what’s the deal here? Are toxic backlinks actually a thing? Are they hurting your site? And if so, what should you be doing about them? 

Before we can answer those questions, we need to understand the terminology… 

Every website has some spammy backlinks that just don’t make sense. But that doesn’t necessarily make them manipulative or “toxic.”

For example, here are a couple of obviously spammy links to our site: 

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Example of spammy links, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerExample of spammy links, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

We didn’t build or buy either of these, so they’re not “manipulative” by definition. They’re just low-quality links we’ve attracted over time because the internet is rife with spammers. 

If you study Google’s link spam documentation carefully, you’ll see that, in theory, these aren’t the kind of spammy links they have a problem with. They warn only against the ill effects of spam links intended to manipulate rankings. 

Google uses links as an important factor in determining the relevancy of web pages. Any links that are intended to manipulate rankings in Google Search results may be considered link spam. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site. 

Here are the examples Google gives of these manipulative links: 

What Google says are manipulative linksWhat Google says are manipulative links

As for “toxic backlinks,” this is just a term made up by certain SEO tools to describe backlinks they think could hurt your rankings based on several so-called “markers.”

Key takeaway

  • Spammy links are low-quality links that every site attracts through no fault of their own. 
  • Manipulative links are links built or bought solely to improve Google rankings. 
  • Toxic links are links that certain SEO tools say could hurt your website’s rankings. 

If you asked this question before September 2016, the answer would have likely been “yes.”

So what changed? 

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Penguin 4.0.

With this algorithm update, Google switched from demoting pages to a system that tries to ignore bad links.

Penguin is now more granular. Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site. 

Since then, Google’s stance has been that you can ignore spammy backlinks. 

If you’re seeing individual links that pop up and you say, “oh this looks like a spammer dropped the link” or whatever, I would completely ignore those. […] because these spammy links happen to every website and Google’s system has seen them so many times over the years that we’re very good at just ignoring them. 

John MuellerJohn Mueller

But is this true? Is Google really as good at ignoring low-level spam as we’re made to believe? 

Judging by my colleague Chris’s recent poll on LinkedIn, a good chunk of SEOs (38%) don’t think so, as they’re still disavowing them. 

Most SEOs either disavow or do nothing about spammy backlinksMost SEOs either disavow or do nothing about spammy backlinks

Does that mean they’re right to do so? Not necessarily. It just means they don’t fully trust Google that they won’t do any harm. They’re being careful. 

Personally, the person I trust most to answer this question in 2024 is Dr. Marie Haynes. I don’t think anyone’s done more research into this than her. She’s spent well over a decade working to understand Google’s search algorithms and auditing link profiles on behalf of business owners. 

Now, the interesting part of that statement (and why I actually trust her!) is the obvious conflict of interest. Until fairly recently, she made her living selling link audit and disavow file creation services—and for a pretty hefty sum at that! 

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Pricing from Marie's link audit services page in March 2023Pricing from Marie's link audit services page in March 2023
Pricing from Marie’s link audit services page in March 2023

Clearly, it would be good news for Marie if Google were still terrible at ignoring spammy backlinks because she could sell more link audits! 

Yet, these days, she no longer appears to offer such services. In fact, she’s actually been warning folks against the need to disavow low-quality, spammy backlinks for a few years. 

Here’s a quote from a 2022 blog post of hers:

While there is no harm in disavowing low quality spammy links, it likely does not help improve rankings. We believe that Google’s algorithms are already ignoring these links. […]. When we do see improvements these days after disavowing, it is always in sites where we have disavowed links that were purposely made for SEO and very little else. 

Marie HaynesMarie Haynes

It’s clear that Marie is being cautious with her words here. But overall, her opinion after digging into this for many years seems to be that, yes, Google is now pretty good at ignoring most low-quality spammy links. 

Does that mean they’re perfect? No. But it does mean that worrying about obvious low-quality link spam is probably a waste of time for most people.

If you’re buying or building the types of links that Google class as “link spam” then, yes, they can absolutely hurt your rankings.

But before you panic about that link exchange you did with your best friend’s wife’s brother, Google is likely looking for patterns of manipulation here. In other words, manipulative link profiles rather than manipulative individual links: 

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Danny Richman, founder of Richman SEO Training, agrees: 

Here’s a bit more context from Danny: 

As for Marie Haynes, she echoes a similar sentiment in this post. She states that manual actions aside, she would only recommend a client disavow links if they have “a very large number of links that [they] feel the webspam team would consider to be ‘manipulative.’ ”

In these cases, Google often slaps the worst offenders with an unnatural links manual action. If you get one of those, that’s Google telling you, “Hey… you’re being demoted in search because we think you’ve been trying to game the system with manipulative links.” 

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But this doesn’t have to happen for manipulative links to be a problem. It’s possible for Google to algorithmically demote a site if they detect a large volume of spammy and manipulative links, at least according to John Mueller.

If we see a very strong pattern [of spammy links] there, then it can happen that our algorithms say well, we really have kind of lost trust with this website and at the moment based on the bigger picture on the web, we kind of need to be more on almost a conservative side when it comes to to understanding this website’s content and ranking it in the search results. And then you can see kind of a drop in the visibility there. 

John MuellerJohn Mueller

Either way, the point remains: it’s patterns of manipulation that are likely to hurt rankings. There’s very little chance that you need to worry about the odd potentially dodgy link here and there. 

While it might be tempting to use an SEO tool that finds “toxic backlinks” for you, I’d seriously urge you to reconsider. Trusting these can do more harm than good. Way more. 

Just look at this unfortunate Redditor’s reply to John Mueller: 

Someone on Reddit's traffic tanked 60% after disavowing "toxic" backlinks in one SEO toolSomeone on Reddit's traffic tanked 60% after disavowing "toxic" backlinks in one SEO tool
A 60% drop in traffic! That’s no joke! 

Even if this is an extreme case, worrying about these links likely only wastes time because, according to Marie Haynes, they’re rarely truly toxic: 

I find that the truly toxic links…the ones that could have the potential to harm your site algorithmically (although you’d have to really overdo it, as I’ll describe below), are rarely returned by an SEO tool. 

Marie HaynesMarie Haynes

Sam McRoberts, CEO of VUVU Marketing, seems to agree: 

So… how do you find truly toxic backlinks that are likely to be hurting your site? 

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The truth? You might not even need to look for them. If you haven’t built or bought links that Google considers link spam at any reasonable scale, chances are you’re good. 

If you’re not confident about that, do a manual backlink audit with a tool like Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

The Anchors report is a good starting point if you’ve never done this. It shows you the words and phrases people use when linking to you. If they look unnatural or over-optimized (lots of exact matches of keywords you’re trying to rank for), that could be a sign you have paid or other links intended to manipulate rankings. 

Example of keyword-rich anchors, which are often a sign of paid backlinksExample of keyword-rich anchors, which are often a sign of paid backlinks

If things look fishy there, use the Backlinks report to dig deeper and check the context of those links. It’s usually quite easy to spot paid and unnatural ones. 

The Backlinks report in Ahrefs' Site Explorer showing the context of the backlinkThe Backlinks report in Ahrefs' Site Explorer showing the context of the backlink

Just remember that you’re looking for patterns of unnatural links, not just one or two. 

WARNING

If you’re not 100% sure what you’re looking for when doing a backlink audit, hire someone who knows what they’re doing. You need to be confident that the links are truly “toxic.”

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If you have a manual action for unnatural links or a bunch of what you believe to be truly toxic backlinks, yes. Google’s advice is to disavow them (assuming you can’t get the links removed). 

You should disavow backlinks only if: 

You have a considerable number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site, 

AND

The links have caused a manual action, or likely will cause a manual action, on your site. 

Marie Haynes advises the same: 

There are two situations where we will recommend to our clients a thorough link audit followed by filing a disavow: 

  1. The site has a manual action for unnatural links in GSC. 
  2. The site has a very large number of links that we feel the webspam team would consider to be “manipulative”.
Marie HaynesMarie Haynes

If you just have a bunch of spammy backlinks that most sites naturally attract or the odd paid backlink, probably not. Google probably ignores most, if not all, of these links, so disavowing them is likely a waste of time. 

While there is no harm in disavowing these links other than the time spent analyzing them, there is likely no benefit either. 

Marie HaynesMarie Haynes

But what about negative SEO?

Being the victim of a negative SEO attack is indeed the possible exception here. This is when a competitor sends a load of spammy or toxic backlinks your way to try to get your site penalized. 

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Google remains adamant that it basically never works, but it really comes down to what you believe. 

[I’ve] looked at hundreds of supposed cases of negative SEO, but none have actually been the real reason a website was hurt. […] While it’s easier to blame negative SEO, typically the culprit of a traffic drop is something else you don’t know about–perhaps an algorithm update or an issue with their website. 

Gary IllyesGary Illyes

If you see a traffic drop after an influx of backlinks in Site Explorer, I’d say that it’s at least worth a bit more investigation. 

Site with traffic drop coinciding with an influx of backlinksSite with traffic drop coinciding with an influx of backlinks
This site experienced a traffic drop coinciding with an influx of referring domains. Maybe there’s benefit to disavowing here… and maybe it’s something else!

As Gary said above, something else could be to blame—but you never know. There’s always a chance that Google’s algorithms rule it was you who built or bought those backlinks to try to manipulate rankings and penalize you for it. 

If you just found a bunch of so-called “toxic backlinks” in an SEO tool, probably not. Again, most of these are probably just link spam Google already ignores. 

Here’s yet another quote from Marie Haynes backing this up: 

While there is probably no harm in disavowing [links reported as toxic in SEO tools], you are not likely to see any improvement as a result. Disavowing is meant for sites trying to remove a manual action and for those who have been actively building links for the purpose of improving rankings. 

Marie HaynesMarie Haynes

There’s also the risk that you could end up disavowing links that are actually helping you… 

Patrick showed further evidence that this can absolutely happen when he experimented with disavowing links to the Ahrefs blog. Traffic dipped, then went back up after he removed the disavow. 

The impact of disavowing links to the Ahrefs blogThe impact of disavowing links to the Ahrefs blog

Final thoughts

“Toxic backlinks” is a term made up by certain SEO tools to scare you. That’s not to say bad links can’t hurt your site. They absolutely can. But fortunately for most site owners, it’s rarely a problem worth worrying all that much about. 

Got questions? Disagree? Ping me on Twitter X.

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On-Page SEO Checklist for 2024: A Comprehensive Guide

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On-Page SEO Checklist 2024

On-Page SEO Checklist 2024

Want to make your pages rank high on Google? You won’t be able to do that if you don’t know where or how to start your on-page SEO — and with each Google update, this pillar of SEO gets more and more complicated. To keep you updated with the best and most relevant practices when it comes to this aspect of your website, I have prepared an on-page SEO checklist for 2024. 

On-Page SEO Factors

On-page SEO, in simple terms, is all the ways you can optimize your website take place on your website. Tweaking certain elements of your pages can enable them to climb very quickly up the ranks when done right. These elements include essentially everything you can see on your webpage, like its title tags, headers, and images.

Webmaster’s Note: This is part two of our SEO checklist series. Part one covers our technical SEO checklist, so go back if you haven’t seen that yet. I also do deep dives into other aspects of on-page SEO in other articles, like the best content strategy for SEO, how to hack on-page factors, and ways to dominate niche keywords in your industry.

1. Identify Your Target Keyword

This is where any SEO effort should start. Identify which basic keywords you would like each page to rank for. From there, you can expand into common phrases, questions, and related words people use to find pages like yours through keyword research. 

Key Aspects of Keyword Optimization:

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  • Keyword Research: Identifying the right keywords that your target audience is searching for.
  • Keyword Placement: Sensibly incorporating keywords in titles, headings, the first paragraph, and throughout the content.
  • Searcher Intent: Catering to why someone is performing a search, whether it’s to find information, make a purchase, etc.

Effective keyword optimization allows you to create pages that best meet user intent. This boosts your chances of ranking highly for your chosen keywords. 

Using a Keyword Research Tool for On-Page SEOUsing a Keyword Research Tool for On-Page SEO

I have longer guides on the types of keywords you should look at, and another on how to do keyword research you can follow for this step.

2. High-Quality Content Creation

Quality content is the keystone of on-page SEO. It is, after all, fundamental to the selling point of Google — which is that it is the go-to place to find answers to your questions. It’s why Google pushes Helpful Content Updates every so often.

So, your content must meet Google’s standards of quality in order to make it to the top. To do that, your content must be authoritative, valuable to the reader, and deliver on the promises made by your meta tags and headings.

What Constitutes Quality Content:

  • Originality: Your content must be unique and offer fresh insights.
  • Relevancy: It should align with your target user’s intent and be updated regularly.
  • Engagement: Content must encourage users to spend time on your site and interact with your offerings.

Creating content that exceeds user expectations can dramatically bolster your SEO as it can directly affect user engagement metrics and boost the credibility of your site. 

Webmaster’s Note: Beyond making sure all new content is high-quality, however, is ensuring all of your existing content is also up to par. I’ll be covering that in part four of this series, so keep an eye out for that. 

3. URL Structure

URLs are not only a ranking factor but also enhance the user experience when structured logically. 

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Features of an Effective URL Structure:

  • Concise and Descriptive: A URL should be concise and explain your page content. No stop words.
  • Keyword Inclusion: A relevant keyword can enhance a URL’s performance.
  • Use Hyphens instead of Underscores: Conventional use dictates using hyphens to separate words.

A clear URL helps users and search engines make sense of the page’s content before they even reach it.

Here’s an example of a bad URL slug. 

Example of Bad URL StructureExample of Bad URL Structure

And here’s an example of a good, optimized one.

Example of Good URL StructureExample of Good URL Structure

4. Title Tag and Headings

I find that certain practices for these two elements give the most benefit to a page’s SEO. 

Best Practices for Title Tag and Heading Optimization:

  • Use a Keyword-First Approach: Place keywords first in your title tag, as uninterrupted by stop-words as possible.
  • Keep it Simple: Title tags should be concise to ensure the entire tag is displayed on the SERPs.
  • Same Keyword, Different Phrasing: Use the same keyword in your title tag and heading 1. However, use different phrasing or wording for each. 
  • Insert Related Keywords: Do this for your heading 2, 3, and so on, where it makes sense.
  • Avoid Duplicates: Use different title tags and headings for every unique page.

4. Meta Tags Enhancement

Meta tags, such as the meta description, serve as a brief pitch to users on search engine results pages. Other meta tags, like your image alt text and links, provide important context to both the user and crawlbot.

Tips for Enhanced Meta Tags:

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  • Compelling Copy: Write title tags and meta descriptions that accurately summarize the page content and entice clicks.
  • Keyword Usage: Try to insert target keywords and/or related keywords effectively in your meta descriptions, and within the limit.
  • Uniqueness: Each page should have unique meta tags. 
  • Be Descriptive: Your image alt text should not only include a related keyword but should also adequately describe what is seen on the image. 
  • Add internal and external links: Semantic search means Google can use the links in your pages to gain a better understanding of its content. Always add relevant internal links, and only include external links from trusted websites. 
  • Use Noindex Robots Meta Tag: Add this to prevent any pages with thin content, or pages with little value and no intent from appearing in the SERPs.
  • Use rel=”canonical” Link Tag: Use this for any duplicate pages you have on your website. Doing this can help you control which version of the page gets indexed and ranks for your targeted keywords. 
  • Set your Open Graph Meta Tags: This will let you optimize how your pages look when they’re shared on social media.
  • Set your Viewport Meta Tag: This configures how your pages are scaled and displayed on different devices and platforms, which is important for user experience (more on that later). 

To get the most out of your SEO, don’t neglect this part of your on-page SEO checklist. The small tweaks here can add up to the big picture. 

Well-crafted meta tags have the potential to increase click-through rates, boost your visibility on organic search and image search, enhance user experience, and also distribute link equity throughout your pages. All these contribute to how well your page ranks. 

5. Internal Linking

Internal linking spreads link equity throughout your site and can help search engines discover new pages. Always link back to pillar content, or other high-value content on your website. 

Benefits of Strategic Internal Linking:

  • Navigation: They guide users through other relevant pages on your website.
  • Page Authority: Anchor text can help to convey what the linked-to page is about, which can aid in ranking for those terms.
  • User Time on Site: Providing relevant links can keep users engaged on your site for longer periods.

Good internal linking can significantly increase your engagement rates and contribute to building a robust site architecture. I have a separate post on how to build topical authority through internal linking you can check out.

6. User Experience (UX)

User experience affects on-page SEO because search engines favor websites that provide a positive user experience.

UX Factors to Consider in Your Website Design:

  • Mobile-Friendliness: The site must perform well across all devices — but especially on mobile-view, as most users use Google through their phones.
  • Ease of Use: The site should be navigable and logical in its layout. Navigation bars and other menus should be intuitive and prioritize the most important pages of your website.
  • Page Speed: Pages should load quickly to reduce bounce rates. Follow this guide to site speed optimization for this point.

As UX becomes an even more important ranking factor, I find it is necessary to add to this on-page SEO checklist. Sites that deliver a high-quality user experience will dominate search engine results pages.

Key Takeaway

Mastering this pillar of SEO is crucial for achieving high rankings on Google, and staying updated with evolving best practices is essential. But with every update, what works best changes. 

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My 2024 on-page SEO checklist provides basically the most up-to-date practices for the elements on your website. Follow it, and you should be able to boost your website’s authority, credibility, and long-term SEO performance.

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