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On-page SEO: What does Google look at?

  • February 22, 2019

If we’ve been rambling on about SEO, it’s for a good reason: without it, every cent you spend on your website is a waste. But ranking high on Google is a complicated process, with many moving parts. In this post, we look at the “on-page” elements that make or break your page score.

1 – URL structure

Screenshot of an SEO-friendly URL structure in a SERP

If your URLs are messy and unintelligible, Google will not fail to lower your page score. It is the developer’s job to set the rules for your website to generate understandable URLs, but mistakes can happen and regular SEO audits will help you catch any mistake

2 – Meta-descriptions

Screenshot of a Meta-description in a SERP

Meta-descriptions are text snippets that describe what’s in the page. Think of them as a short advertising line for each specific page of your website:

The trick here is that Google doesn’t use these descriptions to rank the page higher or lower, but it’s what entices your potential visitor to click so… better get it right!

3 – Page titles and headings

SEO structure of a blog post with page title, h1 and h2 tags

The page title is a crucial element of on-page SEO. As the name suggests, it tells search engines what the page is called, which in turn documents what type of content will be here. This tag is very important and should not be missing anywhere.

Headings are different. Placed inside the page, they document the content hierarchy. The most telling example is that of the blog page:

Page title: blue

Heading 1: green

Heading 2: Orange

If there were subsections under each “Heading 2”, we would tag them as “Heading 3”, but it’s not the case. As you can see, the page title is the most prominent when outside of a page, but takes a backseat to Heading 1 when we’re inside. In blogs, Page Titles and heading are often the same, but it is not the case for every page.

4 – Picture Tagging

As image search keeps on growing, image tagging becomes increasingly important. The major attributes to keep in mind are the image name, alt, and title. The name is your file name and should be kept simple and understandable. “Beirut-marathon-Downtown-2018.jpg” will always be a better choice than DSC_4398. The alt attribute is important, it should describe what’s on the image to help browser understand it quickly. This helps them understand its purpose and even improve accessibility. Finally, the title is the text that appears in the small white box (called a tooltip) when someone hovers over the image.

5 – Images and Media 

Google also looks at the consumption of the media, with indicators such as watch time for video, scroll depth for infographics, completion rate for slideshows and more. It indicates content quality.

6 – Links 

Links to pages outside of your website, like this one, are called outbound links. Those redirecting to a page on your website, like this one, are called inbound links. In pages like blogs and content pieces, you should try balancing them out. Similarly, if a page on your website  displays a lot of outbound links (to clients, partner websites for instance) you should ensure that there’s an equal number of inbound ones.

7 – SEO-driven Keywords

And finally, keywords. Keywords have been the cornerstone of SEO since the beginning, and if your brand has a blog, it’s probably for SEO purposes. The key here is to not overdo it. If you’re targeting 3 to 5 keywords in a post, use them in the first 100 words of the article. After that, use it again in different paragraph, and diversify by using synonyms. This helps crawlers better understand the context in which you’re tackling these keywords and rank your page in a more relevant manner.