Things We Must Do at a Minimum
On-page SEO Elements / Ranking Factors
Although there are many search engines and in reality, we'd like to rank well in all of them, for simplicity, we'll just refer to the Google algorithm since that's the one everyone's heard of. The algorithm has many (some say up to 200) factors that are weighted, which when all calculated determines how each piece of content on the internet is ranked for each keyword / keyword phase. The first thing to know is that these algorithms are progressively becoming smarter. Specific updates, such as Panda (2011 update that weeds out thin content), and Hummingbird / Rankbrain (2015 AI update to help rank long-tail keywords and new search terms) are highly ranked factors and the more we understand them, the better we can write and prep our content. They understand keyword stuffing, they can detect auto-generated content, they know duplicate and non-cited content, and so on. So without mention, we can't have thin, keyword-stuffed, fluffy, duplicate content and hope to rank. Those days are long gone. There is too much good content on the internet now that will out-rank you.
No one takes the time or could afford to perfect all 200 ranking factors, but we do know that there are specific ones that the algorithm clearly expects, and rewards you for when done well. So if we perfect those few, we can rank well, albeit competition for the terms is one we can't affect so make sure to read the article on building your master keyword list.
Here is the short list of SEO elements that you should address for your on-page optimization:
- Title Tag (header meta tag, includes keyword / keyword phrase)
- page URL (position 3, SEO-friendly, includes visible keyword)
- Meta Description (follows Google guideline, which is more restrictive than Bing, Yahoo)
- Heading Tags (One H1, Few H2, As needed H3 tags)
- Page Content (Rich, well-written, natural speaking, not auto-generated or stuffed)
- Image Filenames / Alt Tags
- Keyword / Keyword Phrase (use 2-3 times)
- Keyword Variations (use 3 variations for more natural usage)