Getting A Page To Rank Well On Search Engines – A Beginners Guide

Beginners Guide to Ranking pages on Search graphic

We have written a lot in the past about various aspects of on-site SEO including Managing Your Google Index, Optimizing your site with Yoast SEO Plugin, Reviewing pages for Content Quality, and many more topics. However, we have not created a simple to follow guide to getting a single page to rank well in search engines and (hopefully) display on the first page of search results. We have only focused on improving your overall sites search rankings and not how to get a single page displaying – that ends today! Below is a comprehensive guide, written in plain English, that explains some of the key elements required to get a page to rank well in search engines.

Note: Though it is not possible to guarantee a page is going to get indexed and displayed for certain keywords. The following is a list of best practices that we use frequently when optimizing single pages for search.

1- Have A Well Crafted Title

A title statement goes a long way to drawing in a user and telling the search engines what the page is about. Make sure your page title makes sense, is easy to digest, searchable, and relevant to what you are discussing.

Example: Getting A Page To Rank Well On Search Engines – A Beginners Guide

What is it about? Getting a page to rank well on search engines.

Who is it for? Beginners.

Is it searchable? Yes – this is a statement that could be directly typed into search or spoken to a search assistant making it very searchable.

This title statement tells you everything you need to know. If someone does not care about this topic or is not a beginner they will ignore this post – and that is what we want. It provides the information it needs to and draws in the crowd we need it to.

2- Answer Peoples’ Questions

People are very curious and always want quick answers to their questions. Make sure you answer their questions as straight forward and succinctly as possible. Avoid the use of industry jargon and overly wordy answers – the fewer words the better.

Example: What is SEO?

Bad Answer: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing a websites’ meta data, internal link structure, keyword density and targeting, as well as link and citation presence monitoring and optimization with the goal of increasing a websites indexation, ranking, and overall traffic.

Good Answer: SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and relates to the practice of optimizing a website to display high in search results with the goal of driving more traffic to a website.

The first answer, although correct, uses lots of confusing terminology, too many words, and is overall just a clunky non-succinct answer. The second answer very clearly answers the question by defining the term, explaining what it is and finally what the goal is. The information is presented in descending order of importance. Whenever you answer questions make sure they are to the point and answer the question as quickly as possible. By answering questions in this way you can attempt to target Google’s instant answer boxes – where they answer the question directly in the search result.

3- Use Heading Levels

Heading levels are a great way to format your page so that it looks good but it is also helpful in terms of your page’s SEO. Heading levels allow you to highlight key ideas and keywords you would like users and search engines to notice. Do not overuse this and do not keyword stuff. This, as with all things, should be done naturally – if you can highlight keywords while still making sense and helping the user do it. If not, it could cause more negative signalling than any positives you would receive from it.

The heading levels are as follows:

  • H1: This is the top level heading. There should only be one H1 on each page and this is generally the title of the page. Search engines generally crawl and pay close attention to page H1’s and pass the most ranking signals (keywords & importance of that term to the page) to search engines.
  • H2: This is the secondary level of headings and can be used for the most important headings on the page. For example, all of the numbered headings in this blog post are H2’s. Search engines generally notice H2’s and they offer some ranking signals to search engines. Less than H1’s but more than H3’s.
  • H3: The H3’s should be used for subheadings. Most search engines notice H3’s but provide very minimal ranking signals to search engines.
  • H4 & Below: Anything below H3 provides zero ranking signals to search engines and should be used strictly as a means to highlight certain topics for users or as part of the page aesthetic.

Note: You should avoid having more than one H1 on your page. Most websites automatically tag the Title of the page as the H1, therefore, use H2’s and below in the content of the page only. 

4- Formatting

Believe it or not, formatting does play a role in the way that search engines rank websites, although indirectly. A web page should be easy to read, navigate, and digest. If there is too much text in a row or a page is hard to read it may turn people off, causing them to leave your page. This can affect your engagement metrics – which Google uses to determine ranking. Their logic is as follows – if people are spending lots of time on the page and continuing to browse the website after being served the result, the page must be what they are looking for. On the flip side if the user leaves quickly and goes back to the search result, this signals to Google that you did not meet the users’ expectations.

If users are presented with a dense wall of text, or a poorly formatted page, it can lead to a decrease in engagement metrics, and therefore, a decrease in rankings.

Best practices are to include small paragraphs broken up to roughly 150 words each with no more than 300-400 words under a single heading. Break up text with relevant images whenever applicable and use bulleted or numbered lists whenever possible.

5- Image ALT Tags

Image ALT tags are used for multiple purposes. First, they are used with screen-readers to describe the image to someone who is visually impaired. This was the initial use of the ALT tag. Second, ALT tags are displayed as plain text when a usersè browser is unable or unwilling to display images. In the case that the image is not loaded, the plain text ALT tag is displayed to describe the image. Lastly, ALT tags are used for image search indexation. Google crawls and indexes images using the ALT tag as a ranking signal. The goal is to attempt to target the Google crawlers with the ALT tag optimization.

How to optimize image ALT tags

When you are writing your ALT tags you want to be both useful for search engines and users. Since it is possible to be displayed to the user make sure you are describing the image while also writing search engine friendly copy.

Examples of ALT Tags

Constructing a Web Page for SEO Purposes

The following are good and bad examples of ALT tags for the above image.

Example of Bad ALT Tags:

Alt = Ranking well on Search Engines, SEO Pages Optimization, On-Page Optimization

This is a bad ALT tag because it doesn’t explain the image. Although it contains keywords, it appears spammy and offers little to no value for the first 2 uses of ALT tags mentioned above. I would change this to include an image description, as well as contain some keywords.

Example of Good ALT Tags:

ALT = Piece by Piece Construction of a Web Page for SEO Purposes

This is a much better ALT tag. It describes the image as piece by piece construction and contains the SEO keyword.

Note: ALT tags are a very minor piece of  the puzzle – as long as you make sure they describe the image and contain some keywords you should be fine. This is not something you should be spending countless hours optimizing throughout your entire site. I would suggest adding ALT tags as you add new images to your website, whenever you are editing an old page.

Adding ALT tags to images in WordPress

To add an ALT tag to an image in WordPress is relatively straightforward.

  1. Select the image and click the little pencil icon to edit.editing alt tags in WordPress
  2. Locate the “Alternative Text” fieldlocating Alt tag in WordPress
  3. Update text to be descriptive as well as include keywords (if possible)
  4. Click Update – the image now includes the ALT tag and can be displayed and read by search engines.

saving Alt Tags in WordPress

6- Meta Data

Meta data is the information that displays on the search engine whenever you conduct a search. There are two main elements that we want to focus on the Meta Title and Meta Description. For a more comprehensive explanation of this concept and to see examples as well as a walk through for writing your own Meta Titles & Descriptions see How To: Optimizing Your Site With Yoast SEO.

meta title and description highlighted

Example of a Meta Title & Description as it would appear in Google

Meta Title

The following are some key points to keep in mind while writing your Meta Descriptions:

  1. Use some keywords or search phrase that you think people who are likely to be looking for this page would use.
  2. Try and mention your location or business name (only if applicable). If your page is locally focused, add your location. If not, add your business name.
  3. Don’t keyword stuff. Add only 1 or 2 keywords. If they make sense and fit within the title element. Don’t force keywords into your title, this may hurt more than it helps.
  4. Treat your Meta Title as your headline. The title element is your Headline to capture their attention and your Meta Description is your sales copy to win the click.

Meta Description

The Meta Description should be seen as your sales copy. Write a convincing argument, generate intrigue, give them the information they need in order to win the click. Your description should give information about the page, contain some keywords (naturally) and prompt users to click on your link. Most people only skim the Meta Description so do not make it too complicated or dense. Keep your Meta Description to short easy to digest sentences and words allowing for quick scanning of the information. The length of the Meta Description has fluctuated quite dramatically in recent history, however, to be safe aim for around 155 characters including spaces.

For more information about Meta Titles & Descriptions see our past blog posts on SEO & Meta Data Optimization.

7- Content

The content is realistically the single most important element on the page to get your page ranked. We have written about this quite frequently in the past (See SEO Content Quality, Content Quality & Truthfulness Rankings, Why Content is Important For Your Site & More ). I could write thousands of words about why you need to have keywords here, talk about this, talk about that, use at least this many words and go on and on. However, the reality is no one really knows exactly what Google is looking for. Yes, we have our experience to draw on and research based on very large data sets, but there is no magic formula. Each and every search query contains thousands of ranking signals including user history, location, searcher intent, and many more.

The best advice i can offer when it comes to writing good content for search engines is to be genuine. Don’t write for the search engine, write for the user. Answer their questions, give them the information they need quickly, organize it so that is easy to digest and the rest will take care of itself. At the end of the day, if you create value and answer users’ questions, Google will reward you. In the old days of SEO there was very specific ways to write your content with 1-3% keyword densities. Utilizing 3-4 varities of each keyword, in an effort to rank well, however recently Google has transitioned to a contextual relevance approach. The more contextually relevant you are to the searchers query and their intent the better, and once they reach your page if they engage with it positively it will help to reinforce these rankings.

Learn more about Managing Content Quality for SEO Purposes.

8- Structured Data & Additional Add-Ons

Although these are not necessary for a page to rank, it is always good to include structured data and any additional data whenever possible. Google is constantly changing what they do/do not want to be on pages however, have fully embraced structured data. In the future they could use structured data for any number of purposes if you already have your pages marked up it could give you the initial competitive advantage.

Once in place, Structured Data can then be used by Google or other websites however it wants. Structured Data allows you to simply hand all the relevant information to a crawler instead of them having to sift through the code of the page and find it themselves. This helps reduce errors and increase control over how your website is displayed.

If you are unaware of what structured data is I suggest reading our series of posts Introducing Structured Data.

Example of Structured Data

The following screenshot is the structured data for this blog post. It is written using the JSON LD structured data parameters and implemented using a plugin. The JSON LD format is the predominant form of structured data and is also the suggested format from Google. It allows for a very clean and hierarchical structure that can be easily decifired. This particular markup is the blog post markup and contains information including URL, Title, Description, Author, Publish Date & more.

Blog Markup with JSON LD Example

If you have any questions about optimizing your web pages or would like our assistance please Contact Us and our team will assist you!

Building Successful Web Strategies

Building Successful Web Strategies