Top 10 on page SEO factors in order of influence

While it’s in the interest of search engines to keep secret how they judge a site’s relevancy, and a large part of your search ranking is determined through factors you can’t directly control, especially links back to your site from other, hopefully authoritative, sites, you can at least make sure that the factors under your control are employed correctly. Therefore, here’s a useful list of how important on page elements are to get right in roughly the order of significance:

  1. Keywords in your domain name e.g. does pretty well for ‘hotels’ without even trying. A .com domain carries more weight than more modern “.travel” or other newer domain name types in this regard
  2. Keywords in your full URL. Which is why it’s so important that URLs/have/meaningful-real-words-in-them.html and not just /xyz/123456
  3. Keywords in your page title. It’s easy to forget page titles when we all use tabbed browsers that pretty much make them unreadable, but the web crawler isn’t reading it that way. Having a particular target key phrase in your page title is a really effective way to get a top 10 search result
  4. Meaningful keywords in the URLs of the unique image and media assets on a particular page. Not the page chrome icons and elements that make up your theme, but the images in your article body should have descriptive filenames such as tokyo-skytree.jpg rather than say, IMG1018.jpg that your camera will default to. This should be further reinforced by using the same or similar words in the alt text for the image, because they will show up in image first searches, but they will also add weight to a page’s text search ranking, not least because it’s an easy way for Google to differentiate spam content from real content as spam content is unlikely to have many original images nor have them correctly tagged (Bonus tip: rename your photos before uploading them to your CMS as once uploaded changing them can be a real pain)
  5. Semantic markup – make sure you are using a good modern template that uses HTML5 section tags to differentiate an article body from the menu and sidebar, and that correctly uses H1 (only 1 per page!) and H2 tags to clearly delineate where the unique content body starts and what it’s about. Pick a good template and this part is done for you. More generally, clean, easily parse-able HTML is necessary otherwise you could be penalised – again, just make sure to use a good, modern template, with proper support for both desktop and mobile (using responsive design or another Google supported method)
  6. The body of the article or post itself and the quality of the content has a big influence on it’s success, just not as much as those factors above
  7. Page description and keywords embedded in your meta tags, usually done automatically from your article tags and categories by your CMS’s SEO solution. While Google doesn’t give them much weight these days, plenty of other less sophisticated systems still do
  8. #hashtags used when sharing the post for the first time on social media, and OpenGraph tags embedded in a page to give context to social media when sharing, as well as data schemas that add content specific metadata such as real world locations for business addresses, or correctly marked up structured content types such as recipes
  9. Page loading speed – a variety of factors affect page loading speed, but by far the easiest and most effective thing to do is to make sure that you optimise images for the web and for the size needed to reduce page loading times, as while a fast site doesn’t necessarily give you a boost, a slow site certainly gets penalised
  10. Using HTTPS and redirecting HTTP only visitors to use it is documented by Google to give you a 1% SEO visibility boost