On-Page Content 101

How Google Determines Relevancy

Search engines want to prioritize the most relevant content possible for different searches and search terms (also known as keywords). One of the ways search engines are able to tell that content on a webpage is relevant for a particular search term, is that the term appears in the body of the content on the page. You’ll hear the terms on-page content and on-site content used in the SEO world. On-page content refers more to the content that is visible on the page itself, while on-site content can sometimes be used more broadly to include content found in meta data or schema markup.

Onsite content refers to both VISIBLE (page copy) and INVISIBLE (meta data) content.

Keywords

If you were interested in finding an italian restaurant in NYC – you might type Italian Restaurant NYC into the search bar. Google could quickly find pages that included all of those terms, but there’s going to be hundreds of pages that include the words “italian”, “restaurant”, and “NYC” (or variations on NYC – such as “new york” and “manhattan”).

To surface the most relevant results (as opposed to just a diner in NYC which has an italian sub on the menu), Google looks for additional “focus” keywords in the copy of the page to help determine that the ENTIRE page is relevant to the search term, as opposed to just one line on the page.

Focus Keywords

If I searched Italian Restaurant NYC Google would expect a relevant page to have some terms on it like pasta and parmesan, maybe burrata.

The more terms included in the copy of a page that google knows are relevant to italian restaurants, the more likely google is to prioritize that result in the search results compared to a page that has less focus keywords.

Search engines also take into account the frequency of certain terms on a page. For example, how often a terms like entree or course are used can help a search engine understand if a page with the term italian is more relevant to a restaurant search as opposed to a sandwich search.

Focus keywords help search engines determine how relevant a page is to the term that was searched.

Selecting Keywords

When optimizing content for search engines, you cannot be all things to all people. A page is unlikely to rank for both fancy birdhouses and italian restaurant in NYC, those two terms will have almost no overlapping focus keywords.

This means that sites need to optimize content for the types of users (and searches) which are most likely to bring converting traffic to a website.

Targeting Volume

For a site where the profit model functions off of advertising and/or readership, it makes sense to prioritize keywords sheerly based on their volume. The more eyeballs on a site, the more likely content is to be shared, and the more advertisements will get viewed.

However, for most sites, search intent should be taken into account before volume.

Targeting Conversions

For sites where the profit model functions off of purchase, or participation, we want to look at the exact search terms being used. When it comes to converting traffic, the intent behind keywords becomes much more important.

Targeting Search Intent

Take for example two searches one is used jeep dealers south detroit and the other is used blue cars. The first term indicates a much clearer intent to purchase, as the person already knows the type of vehicle they’re looking for, and is looking for a physical location where they could see the vehicles.

For your own site, if the goal is to attract more converting users to the site, you want to target keywords that suggest an intent to engage, purchase, donate, or otherwise complete a goal relevant to your business.

If you sell umbrellas a converting user is a user who will buy an umbrella. The term rain might be related to umbrellas, and have a huge search volume, but it’s unlikely to be the term that a user looking to purchase an umbrella would use for a search take a look at the keywords below.

Rain has the highest search volume, but not the highest CPC. The other keywords also have much clearer search intent (looking for umbrellas, specific types of umbrellas). Given the organic ranking difficulty of the keyword, the search volume, the CPC, and the search intent — custom umbrella would be the best term to target. However, if you don’t offer custom printed umbrellas, the term would not be converting for your site because the searcher would not be able to find the product they were looking for.

You should only target keywords that are likely to bring in CONVERTING traffic to your site.

Improving Content

To have your site receive more converting traffic, we want to target terms that are likely to convert for the site, and then create content that Google (and other search engines) will recognize as hyper relevant for those searches.

Four-Step Process

  • Keyword Research
  • Ranking Analysis
  • Content Optimization
  • Adding Links
Keyword Research

What terms would you want to rank for, what types of keywords or search terms would a user looking for your business put into the search bar? Selection of these keywords is done through Keyword Research*, where you look at where competitor sites are getting traffic as well as how currently converting traffic is coming into your domain.

Ranking Analysis

Look at the keyword metrics to determine how difficult it will be for your site to rank for each of the identified terms. More difficult terms (terms with more competition) will have to have longer content, with more focus keywords included, for your site to be able to make it onto the first page of search results.

*For a primer on evaluating keywords please see our previous piece Keywords 101.

 

Content Optimization

There are two parts to content optimization:

The first part is creating useful, meaningful, content that provides value to your desired audience. To get some ideas for what content might be useful to your audience, you can take a look at trending topics, frequently asked questions, and search volume for different topics or terms.

The second part is optimizing that content for search engines so that Google, Bing, and others know exactly what the content on the page is about and when to surface your content as a search result.

Adding Links

Search engines use internal links to help understand the subject matter and importance of pages within your site. The pages with the most internal links are viewed as the most important pages on your site.

Importance: Pages linked in your main navigation are linked to from every page on your site, and should be the ones you and your users consider most important.

Subject Matter: The anchor text that you use for internal links send signals to search engines telling them the subject matter or topic of the page. If you call a page “SEO Services” in your main navigation, and that text links users to a page – both the users and search engines expect that page to be about “SEO Services.”

Search engines use external links, in part, to evaluate the quality of the content you’re providing users. If you’re writing a piece on a topic, and link to sites that a search engine already knows are authoritative on the same topic, it demonstrates that you are providing good resources. This increases a search engine’s trust in the relevancy of your content.

Recap

To optimize content we need to:

  • Establish which searches you want your content to appear for – these are your target keywords you should pick 1-3 target keywords.
  • Establish the focus keywords that you need on your page to rank for each of those target keywords.
  • Incorporate those focus keywords into your page copy in a way that does not detract from the value of your original content.

Italian Restaurant Example

Let’s pretend we own an Italian restaurant in NYC and we want to capture people who are looking to select an Italian Restaurant in NYC.

Keyword Research

1. Identify Target Keywords Remember: Target Keywords should be the 1-2 search terms that get typed into Google where you REALLY want to be the result a user clicks on.

We’ll start by popping a few potential search terms into a keyword explorer (Ahrefs in this case):

The first thing to note is that we did pretty well with our initial keyword guesses! We can see we managed to include the parent topic. The parent topic is the keyword related to our search that gets the most monthly search volume.

Sometimes how YOU think about searching for something and how AVERAGE users think about searching for something will be different.

Pro-tip: Always keep an eye on the parent topic to see if there are additional keywords you could explore.

We’ll pick italian restaurants nyc because out of this set of keywords it has:

  1. High volume (4,300 monthly searches)
  2. Low keyword difficulty (8)
  3. Reasonably high CPC ($6)

 

Target Keyword Selected: italian restaurants nyc

How do we know which additional terms (focus keywords) need to be on the page for Google to recognize your content is hyper relevant for a search (target keyword)? We run that search ourselves, and then look at the top 10 results, and the content/terms on each of those pages.*

*For this example, we’re going to use LinkGraph’s FREE Content Optimizer tool.

Ranking Analysis

Once we’ve identified our target keywords, the search terms we want our page to rank for, we’ll want to analyze the pages currently ranking in the top 20 search positions for those terms.

This will help us identify the topics and focus keywords that need to be on our page if we want it to rank. Incorporating focus keywords will improve the relevancy of our page for the target keyword and, as a result, our page’s search engine ranking position (SERP).

2. Establish a List of Focus Keywordsfocus keywords are the terms that support our target keywords and help search engines recognize our page is hyper-relevant for related searches

Below you’ll find the current copy on our itallian restaurant’s home page. If we compare this copy to the copy on the first twenty search results for italian restaurants NYC we can see that our content currently only shares a few keywords with those pages (focus keywords are highlighted below in yellow).

Since the 19th century, townfolk in Vatican City used to take a portion of all food brought in from local harvests to give to the needy. In 1935, the Aribetta family opened a restaurant for dinner in the nearby neighborhood, La Decima (The Tithe) in honor of the tradition and the people who continued to maintain it. Many iterations of their family later, in 2015, the descendants of the original founders of La Decima opened a satellite location in Brooklyn. Both restaurants adhere to two principals: stay close to the roots of their traditional recipes but with refreshed presentations, and local sourcing that gives back to the community.

TIME OUT NEW YORK

La Decima offers dishes like spaghetti cacio e pepe, roasted lamb and Italian ham served with hot, crispy mozzarella, accompanied by a list of all Italian wines.

NEW YORK OBSERVER

Even the pasta, which is hard to present in a way that gives proper credit to the effort needed to produce it, comes across well. The cacio e pepe, in which pecorino and Parmesan bind themselves to thick al dente strands of homemade spaghetti, is phenomenal.

NEW YORK TIMES

Where do you eat in Rome? Is it right that you love the Trastevere district and especially the La Decima restaurant, which has now opened a U.S. branch in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, in New York City

FODOR’S – ONLINE

Following the lead of the many lauded NYC chefs who have opened second and third restaurants here, one of Rome’s most celebrated restaurants, La Decima, just opened its first stateside outpost not in Manhattan, but in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope.

Our menus feature homemade pastas, homemade desserts, the finest Italian imported cheeses and olive oils, and farm-to-table ingredients.

*No outside bottles of wine are permitted*

3. Narrow Down to Missing Focus Keywords

Review the focus keywords already incorporated.
Out of 92 potential focus keywords, our content only uses 6, and is not going to be recognized as very relevant for our target term.

  • New York City
  • Olive oils
  • Travel guide
  • Al dente
  • Park Slope
  • Time Out New York
4. Categorize the Missing Focus Keywords

Here are some additional terms (focus keywords) shared by a number of the pages ranking in the top 10 positions in google, that we can consider incorporating into our content:

  • Del postos
  • East villages
  • Italian restaurant
  • Via carota
  • Il bucos
  • Meatpacking district
  • Rida sodi
  • Cheap eats
  • Village restaurants
  • Midtown west
  • Romantic restaurants
  • Central park
  • Brick oven
  • Traditional italian
  • Date night
  • Italian spot
  • Tasting menus
  • City guides
  • Special occasion
  • Wine bar
  • Fine dining
  • Cocktail bar
  • Italian food
  • Times square
  • Little italy
  • Locanda Verde
  • Danny Meyers
  • Restaurants in New York

Not all of these terms will make sense for our page, but we want to incorporate as many focus keywords as possible that will fit naturally into our page. Separate the list into two categories off topic and on topic.

You may find that you see competitor brands as suggested focus terms, or terms which are not relevant for your product or service offerings. These terms will likely go into your “will not incorporate” category, unless you add them in with content or features like product comparison tables.

Content Optimization

5. Incorporate Additional Focus Keywords

Below you’ll see the same copy from before, but this time with additional focus keywords incorporated into the copy.This content is now better optimized for search.

You can see the additional focus keywords we added in BLUE.

Since the 19th century, townfolk in Vatican City used to take a portion of all food brought in from local harvests to give to the needy. In 1935, the Aribetta family opened an Italian restaurant for dinner in the nearby neighborhood, La Decima (The Tithe) in honor of the tradition and the people who continued to maintain it. Many iterations of their family later, in 2015, the descendants of the original founders of La Decima opened a satellite location in Brooklyn. Both restaurants adhere to two principals: stay close to the roots of their traditional italian recipes but with refreshed presentations, and local sourcing that gives back to the community, which have made it one of the best Italian Restaurants in New York City.

But where the original La Decima might be a bit far for your special occasion night out in NYC, if you’re looking for cozy romantic restaurants to offset the rush of a day out sightseeing in Central Park or Times Square, consider skipping Little Italy and heading out to the quieter Park Slope for authentic traditional italianwithout the rush.

See what reviewers have to say about our cozy brick oven style italian food and wine bar that make La Decima the perfect italian spot for date night.

TIME OUT NEW YORK

La Decima offers dishes like spaghetti cacio e pepe, roasted lamb and Italian ham served with hot, crispy mozzarella, accompanied by a list of all Italian wines.

NEW YORK OBSERVER

Even the pasta, which is hard to present in a way that gives proper credit to the effort needed to produce it, comes across well. The cacio e pepe, in which pecorino and Parmesan bind themselves to thick al dente strands of homemade spaghetti, is phenomenal.

NEW YORK TIMES

Where do you eat in Rome? Is it right that you love the Trastevere district and especially the La Decima restaurant, which has now opened a U.S. branch in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, in New York City

FODOR’S – ONLINE TRAVEL GUIDE

Following the lead of the many lauded NYC chefs who have opened second and third restaurants here, one of Rome’s most celebrated restaurants, La Decima, just opened its first stateside outpost not in Manhattan, but in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope.

Our menus feature homemade pastas all perfectly al dente, homemade desserts, the finest Italian imported cheeses and olive oils, and farm-to-table ingredients. Our rotating tasting menus and full cocktail bar make La Decima the perfect place whether you’re looking for drinks, tapas, or fine dining restaurants in New York. Our brick oven pizzas are great for lunch, and you’ll be glad you got out of the east villages / west villages to sate your olive oil cravings!

Curious about our full date night recommendations New York City? Check out our neighborhood travel guide, and let us know ahead of time if you’re celebrating a special occasion.

*No outside bottles of wine are permitted* Please check out the selection from our wine bar instead.

6. Check Content Ranking Power

Once you’ve added a number of additional focus keywords to your content, run it through a content tool again and see if your copy has a higher score, and is now capable of ranking on the first page of the search results.

We have now incorporated 26 focus keywords, and this content is capable of ranking in the top 10 google search results.

Terms incorporated:

  • East villages
  • Romantic restaurants
  • Central park
  • Brick oven
  • Traditional italian
  • Date night
  • Italian spot
  • Tasting menus
  • City guides
  • Special occasion
  • Wine bar
  • Fine dining
  • Cocktail bar
  • Italian food
  • Times square
  • Little italy
  • Restaurants in New York
  • New York City
  • Olive oils
  • Travel guide
  • Al dente
  • Park Slope
  • Time Out New York
7. Add More Focus Keywords if Needed

Sometimes simple edits are not enough to incorporate relevant focus terms. In some cases, missing a large swath of focus terms is an indication that you’re missing a block of content users would find helpful.

In our Italian restaurant example, if we wanted to incorporate more terms and get ourselves into the top 3 results in Google, we would need to add a section that allows us to mention more locations in Manhattan. A great way to do this would be to add a section about how to travel to our restaurant from different areas of the city.

To rank on the first page of the search results, your page copy needs to include your target keyword AND supporting focus keywords.

Adding Links

8. Add Links

Once your content has been optimized for your target keyword(s) you should look for opportunities to insert links into your copy. You want to link internally to other pages using relevant anchor text, and externally to resources that will help your users.

For our Italian restaurant example, we might link internally to our menus and externally to our Yelp reviews or Open Table booking service.

 

Adding Links

There are two types of links that you’ll want to consider adding:

  • Internal Links: these are links that will bring a user from one page on your site, to a different page which is also on your site.
  • Outbound links: these are links that will bring a user from your site to another, different, site.

Internal Linking

We add internal links to:

  • Help users access additional content
  • Increase conversions
  • Help search engines crawl and index the site
  • Help distribute SEO value throughout the site
Help Users Access Additional Content

When adding links to a page, the first thing you’ll want to do is think of other RELEVANT content you’ve created that a user might want to access. For example, if we had a page on our italian restaurant’s website talking about how we cater events, it would make sense to link to our catering menu. Basically, you want to make it easy for a user to find all relevant content and information on your site.

Increasing Conversions

Review each page for conversion opportunities. Link to sign up forms, scheduling forms, prompt users to call you, email you, or make a purchase. Calls to Action (CTAs) should be placed wherever a user might find them helpful. For example on our catering page, it would make sense to add a CTA linking the user to a page where they could request a quote or place an order.

Helping Search Engines Index Your Site

Internal links also help search engines discover content on your site, and understand how that content is connected. Ideally all pages would be linked from the main navigation, and corresponding sub-navigations. Search engines discover site content in part by using site crawlers to map your site.

A site crawler is a program (also known as a bot) that lands on your site and then clicks into every link on the page they landed on indexing each page they find. For each now page it discovers, the crawler will repeat the same process – and clicking every link and indexing any new pages it finds. Pages linked from the main navigation, and pages which are linked to frequently are easy for crawlers to discover and index. Pages which are never linked to, may not get indexed at all.

Distributing Search Equity

Lastly, internal links help distribute search equity through your site. If a search engine ranks one page on your site very highly, any other (relevant) pages you link to will also see a boost in the search results. This is partially because if Google thinks a page is relevant to users, it assumes that the additional content you link to will also be relevant to the user.

Outbound Linking

You may have heard a theory that linking out to other sites will cause you to lose search equity. While you don’t want to go crazy with links, being associated with other quality sites will increase your search equity.

It’s like the phrase “you’re known by the company you keep” – you are judged by the people you associate with. In search this is true, good quality sites link out to high-quality resources.

It’s the difference between someone suggesting a medical procedure and giving you the results of relevant clinical trials, and someone suggesting a medical procedure and linking to their friend’s instagram page who swears it works. The better the sources you reference, the more trust search engines will have in your content.

Quality Sites Reference Quality Resources

Good quality sites reference high quality content

Search engines view this as a trust signal for two reasons, it shows that you:

    1. Know enough about the topic or area to recognize quality content.
    2. Are focused on helping the user by surfacing other quality content.

Remember! Quality content is content that provides value to a user – it can be as simple as well curated comedy clips, or as complex as the results of cutting edge clinical trials. It all depends on what will best serve the user.

Actionable Take-Aways

Get more words ON the page

You need room for copy on your pages. You’ll need enough room to include your target keyword, and enough focus keywords to get your page ranking. The more competitive the keyword (aka the higher the keyword difficulty) the more focus keywords you will need to incorporate.

Pro tips:
  • You should try to include your target keyword(s) in the first paragraph of content on your page.
  • Google prioritizes in-depth content, so if you want a page to rank well consider hitting the 2,000-4,000 word mark, or creating a series of subpages that support the main content or topic.
  • User engagement counts for more than you think, so add media, links, and CTAs that will cause users to take action (click, watch, share, buy, etc).
  • More weight is given to the content in your headers and titles than the rest of your page copy, so give them more consideration (we’ll cover more of this in our on-site technicals 101 piece)
  • If you’re posting video, consider including a transcript on the page (even if it’s in an accordion/collapsible tile).

Remember: search engines can extract meaning from the use of synonyms, the context in which the keyword appears, and the frequency with which specific word combinations are mentioned.

Link Between Pages on Your Site

Don’t go crazy, but help the user access the information they’re looking for as easily as possible.

Pro tip:
  • Remember, the only way that crawlers will find a page on your site, is if another page links to it!

Add Calls to Action (CTAs)

Calls to Action help users engage more effectively with your business and site. Prompt them to sign up, call now, email you, contact you, learn more, get started, schedule an appointment, or buy now!

Pro tips:
  • It’s good to have a CTA in your main nav, typically as a button on the right-hand side.
  • Placing a CTA at the bottom of your page gives users a clear next step when they’ve scrolled to the bottom of the page content.
  • Placing a CTA at the top of a page will help a user discover the action they should take, and gives them something to return to once they’ve read your content.
  • If you are a more sophisticated site, and have heatmap/tracking activated, putting a CTA right where you start to see a high percentage of drop-offs will help keep that audience engaged.

Keep the Content Valuable

Content on your site should be:

  • User-friendly
  • Unique
  • Authoritative and Trustworthy
  • Aligned with the search intent of your users
  • Updated regularly!
Pro tip:
  • Trends, information, and design standards change over time. You will need to review and update your content regularly to account for these changes and ensure your content continues to be valuable to your users.
Gillian Neer
Start Improving Your SEO

Ready to get started with LinkGraph?
Schedule a free call with one of our experts to find out how you can crush your competition.
Keep learning