3 Surprising On-Page SEO Techniques You May Not Know About

If you’ve spent any time at all optimizing your website, you’re probably well aware of the basic on-page optimization techniques within an SEO checklist.

But you may not be thinking about some of the more abstract on-page optimization techniques. What I’m going to share with you today helps connect the dots between on-page tactics and broader SEO strategies.

In this article, I’ll cover:

1. Determining Word Count for Topics

We’ve all seen those studies that analyze X number of results to come up with a blanket SEO “best practice.” However, SEO is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. Nowhere is this truer than when it comes to the length of content on a webpage.

I strongly believe that you do not win by having the most words. Many recommend that you need as many or more words than everyone else when writing content. In fact, if you follow this strategy, you may actually be sacrificing the quality of your content just to meet word count.

To understand this, let’s quickly back up to the concept of keywords and competition in the search results.

Some believe their online competition is the big brands in their space, or the prolific thought leader in their industry who churns out content.

Neither of those are true. Your competition is the webpages that show up on Page 1 of the search results for a particular keyword query.

Google search results example.
Top-ranked pages for the query “accounting software”

Yes, the top results could include a big brand and that thought leader. But more often than not, your market competition does not match your online competition.

So to answer the question: How many words should you write on a topic? The answer lies in the top-ranked pages for the keywords you are after.

If all the top results are under 1,000 words, it’s safe to say that you can follow suit. You do not have an obligation to write 2,000 words as per that general SEO “best practice” you heard about.

(As an aside, you can use our Multi Page Analyzer tool to help you analyze the competition.)

This should save you some time and effort. You can actually boost the quality of your content when it’s not being filled with fluff to meet a word count.

Use these guidelines as you are doing your research and writing. But don’t forget that the best advice is to use as many words as you need to make your point and make it good.

2. Ranking as a Featured Snippet

Featured snippets are shown at the top of Google’s search results in an attempt to directly answer question-type queries.

Featured snippets rely on content from content pages in Google’s index. I think of the featured snippet as an enhanced first position (aka “Position 0”) on the results page. That’s because it is still an “organic” listing that links to a webpage or video.

Sometimes featured snippets are shown directly beneath the ads block but above everything else. And sometimes when there aren’t any ads for the query, the featured snippet is above everything else.

Video featured snippet example in Google search results.
Featured video snippet for “how to tie a shoe”

Regardless, featured snippets do count as one in the total number of organic listings on the page:

Featured snippets differ from direct answers in Google’s answer box.

Here’s how: Featured snippets link to the original source (aka your content). Direct answers from Google simply provide an answer, no link (for example, an answer to the question: what time is it?”):

Time featured snippet example in Google.
Google direct answer to “what time is it?”

 

There are four kinds of featured snippets, and note that there may be one or more listings mixed in a featured snippet depending on the query. The four main types of featured snippets are:

  • Video (YouTube)
  • Text
  • List
  • Table

To optimize for a featured snippet, page construction matters. You need to architect the content in a way that is easy for the search engines to understand. And it should be set up to answer a question-type query.

In a Google Webmaster Central office hours hangout, John Mueller confirmed that clear structure on the page helps Google a lot when it comes to featured snippets. Also, use clear HTML on those pages — fancy code is harder to detect and process.

What does that look like in terms of how you optimize? Consider things such as:

  • Headings on the page, such as H1, H2 and so on
  • HTML tables
  • Bulleted lists
  • Ordered lists
  • Table of contents in the introduction of the article
  • A key term or question in a heading tag, followed by the answer in body text
  • A TL;DR (“too long, didn’t read”) summary near the top of your article

This study by SEMrush is a couple years old, but it gives pertinent data on how you might create a page to rank for featured snippets.

My belief is that fragments within a page are going to be a ranking factor for featured snippets. When I say fragment, I’m referring to an anchor link within a document. For example, links from a table of contents to a section within an article.

Example of article with anchor links.

In the Google Webmaster Central hangout referenced earlier, Marie Haynes asked if this is a factor. John Mueller hastily replied that he didn’t know, followed by: “I do know we sometimes show those anchor links in search as a subsite link-type thing.” I think he ducked the question.

I believe fragments will help webpages rank in featured snippets because Google needs an answer to a question, and that answer is sometimes buried somewhere in a 2000-word article.

So here’s how you might set that up:

  • Create a table of contents for the article.
  • Structure the headings (H2s, for example) to be the match of the question-type queries.
  • Immediately answer the question in the heading in the first sentence or paragraph of body content following it.

3. Maintaining Schema Markup

Schema markup can be a great way to optimize content in order to clarify what your content means to Google, enhance your search results snippets, and for other reasons highlighted in our schema markup guide.

Rich snippets from schema markup example.

But did you know that it’s not uncommon for schema guidelines to change many times over the course of a year? That’s because schema specifications are more like a living document than a set-in-stone commandment.

Schema.org explains how new releases can impact things (some examples excluded):

Each release can include several kinds of change:

● New examples.

● Adjustments to the textual descriptions of terms (i.e., types, properties and enumerated values).

● Adjustments to the examples that accompany each term, and to the indexing of which terms an example should show up against. Although examples are not formally part of the schema definitions, they play a central role in schema.org’s widescale adoption and are versioned as part of the release. …

● Term descriptions and definitions can be moved between schema.org’s core and its hosted extensions. Each schema.org term is marked as being “partOf” either the core or exactly one extension, and terms can move in either direction. Terms can be generalized for wider use and moved into the core, or migrated from the core into a hosted extension. In both cases, textual definitions and machine-readable definitions may be adjusted.

At the end of the day, it’s not enough to let the search engine know the meaning of your content with schema. The maintenance of that schema should also be part of your plan. Review the schema at least monthly to ensure you’re on top of it.

Do you need an expert to look over your site and SEO plan? We can provide a variety of services to help you succeed. Contact us for a free quote today.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay, Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn and other social networks from Bruce's author page.
Comments (8)
Filed under: SEO — Tags: ,

8 Replies to “3 Surprising On-Page SEO Techniques You May Not Know About”

Thanks again Bruce! Quality, actionable content and ideas as usual.

A very interesting read, I must implement these procedures into my SEO campaigns moving forward, thank you for sharing your knowledge.

Hey Bruce Clay! I think the Second SEO Techniques is very helpful for. Great Writing, Keep It!

As usual great share of knowledge from the father of SEO

Need many words & a lot of research for guest posting on authoritative websites…

That’s is great and valuable stuff. I am personally running an agency. I only recommend writing the best and valuable content. Also, follow user experience as per your article. More practices will help to learn more in SEO, it cant be stable every time :)

Love the article as always.

Your work in siloing has helped my SEO so much. Thanks Bruce

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