If you work in the online marketing world, you know your main job is helping search engines answer the basic questions user pose.
Search engines can’t “read” a webpage as humans can. Because of this, it’s your job to implement clues and structure to let the search engine know what your content means. By doing this, you provide relevance for SEO (search engine optimization) that matches questions to the most useful results or answers.
Getting to know the methods and techniques used for capturing this provides better signals regarding what your content is about. It also helps your site rank higher in search engines.
Keep reading to learn more about on-page techniques that help build and improve one another and can be used together to provide more sophisticated results.
Even though Google does not reveal the specific details of the algorithm it uses for ranking content, through the years, field experts have gained information from US patent filings, research papers, interviews, and observations by digital marketing pros that dive into these concepts.
Advanced on-site optimization involves simple on-site processes, along with more advanced processes to achieve desired results. Now let’s dive into the specifics.
When it comes to on-site optimization, keywords are as basic as you can get.
In the early days of SEO, keywords were everywhere. The idea was if you had a page that focused on a specific topic, search engines would find keywords in certain areas. Some of the areas where keywords should be included are the title tag, headlines, the alt attributes of images, and in the text.
SEO pros helped the pages rank by inserting keywords in these locations.
Even when creating content today, you start with keywords. Because of this, it is still considered the most basic type of on-page optimization.
Most of the on-page SEO tools available today still use keyword placement for grading pages. While it is still a good idea to start with keywords, these influence has fallen significantly.
Make sure your page includes the bare minimum of keywords that you want it to rank for. While this is true, it is not likely that keyword placement alone will impact the ranking potential of your page very much.
In the past, you were told to focus on keyword density. Today, it’s TF-IDF or term frequency-inverse document frequency.
Google researchers have described TF-IDF as “long used for indexing web pages,” and you can find variations of TF-IDF in many Google patents.
With this, the number of times a keyword appears is not measured. Instead, it offers a measurement of importance which is done by comparing the number of times keywords appear compared to the expectations acquired from a larger collection of documents.
For SEO, when measuring TF-IDFs relationship to higher rankings, it performs just moderately better than the individual use of keywords. This means that being able to generate a higher TF-IDF score alone isn’t enough to provide a substantial SEO boost. A better way to use this is by thinking of it as an essential component of more advanced on-site concepts.
Synonyms and Close Variants
Each day, Google processes more than six billion searches. This search engine contains a wealth of information to help determine what searchers are actually trying to find out when they type something in the search box. According to research by Google, synonyms play a role in approximately 70% of all searches.
To solve this issue, search engines use many synonyms and close variants for billions of different phrases. Doing this can match content to queries, even if searchers use unique words from what is in your text.
What this means for your SEO is that you must create content that uses natural language and variations rather than using the same strict keywords repeatedly.
When you use variations of your main topics, it also helps provide deeper semantic meetings while solving the issue of disambiguation. This occurs when the same keyword phrase may apply to more than one concept.
For example, plant and shrub together usually refer to vegetation while plant and factory together likely refer to a manufacturing plant. The Hummingbird algorithm also utilizes co-occurrence to find synonyms for query replacement.
Where you put words on a web page is usually as important as the words you use.
Every web page is made up of different parts – sidebars, headers, footers, and more. Search engines have worked for a long time to figure out the most important portion of a page. Both Google and Microsoft have multiple patents that suggest content in more relevant parts of HTML will have more weight.
The content found in the main text body usually holds more importance than the text found in the sidebars or alternative positions. Repeating text put in your boilerplate location or chrome poses the risk of being discounted even more.
As the shift to mobile devices continues, page segmentation is even more important. That’s because some devices hide part of the page. Remember, search engines want to provide users with important and visible parts of your pages, so the text in these locations is what deserves (and gets) the most attention and focus.
Taking it a step further is HTML5. This allows you to insert semantic elements, including <nav>, <aside>, and <article> in the content, which helps to define different parts of the webpage clearly.
Term Relationships and Semantic Distance
When discussing on-page optimization, semantic distance means the relationships between different phrases and words in the text. This is different from the physical distance in between phrases and refers to the way terms connect inside paragraphs, sentences, and the other HTML elements on the page.
For example, how do search engines know that “Dachshund” relates to “dog breeds” if the two phrases are not in the same sentence? This problem is solved by measuring the distance between various phrases and words within the various HTML elements. The closer that the concepts are semantical, the more related the concepts are. For example, phrases found in the same paragraph are closer semantically than phrases separated with a few blocks of text.
Also, HTML elements can shorten the overall semantic distance found between concepts, which pulls them closer together. List items may be considered equally distant to each other, while the title of your document is very close to all the other terms in it.
Now is also a good time to discuss Schema markup. This offers a way for you to semantically structure different parts of your text in a way that defines relationships between set terms.
The biggest benefit offered by the schema is that it doesn’t leave any room for guessing for search engines. All relationships are clear and defined. The challenge is that webmasters must utilize a special markup. To date, studies have shown a low adoption of this. The rest of the concepts that are listed here will work on any page you have that contains the text.
Phrase-Based Indexing and Co-Occurrence
Up to this point, we have covered keywords and their relationships. Search engines also use methods to index pages based on phrases. It also ranks pages on the relevance of the phrases.
This process is referred to as phrase-based indexing.
Interestingly, it is not how Google figures out the important phrases for the web page but how Google uses the phrases to rank a web page based on their relevance.
Based on co-occurrence, search engines are aware that some phrases predict others. If the main topic of your page is “John Oliver,” the phrase will likely co-occur with other phrases, such as “HBO,” “Daily Show,” and “late-night comedian.” Pages that include the related terms are much more likely to actually be about “John Oliver” than a page that doesn’t include these terms.
You have provided powerful contextual signals to search engines if you add incoming links to pages with related co-occurring phrases.
While search engines are already highly sophisticated, they are now looking for new ways to use relationships between entities, rather than just keywords, to figure out topical relevance.
Entity salience is a technique described by Google that relates to assigning relevance.
With this, steps are taken beyond traditional keyword methods, such as TF-IDF, to find relevant terms in the document, which is done by leveraging the known and existing relationships between the entities. An entity is anything found in the document that is concise and well defined.
The stronger relationship an entity has with other entities on the page, the more significant that the first entity becomes.
Improving Your Advanced On-Site SEO Techniques
At the end of the day, there’s no need to have a super-computer to help improve your content or make it easier to read and understand. If you take time to write like a human for other humans, your content will go far and be ranked well by search engines. Now is the time to utilize these tactics for the best results for your website both now and in the future.