Written by Nick Swan. Updated on 17, February 2023
Are you stuck on page 2 of the Google Search Results for the keyword you are targeting? Are you scratching your head wondering what to try next?
We have come up with a list of on-page SEO experiments and things to try, that might make the difference and get your page into the top 10 results.
Whenever you run an SEO experiment on a page to try and improve your rankings, you should track the results somehow. SEOTesting.com allows you to set up and run SEO experiments and track the results with time-based SEO tests and SEO split tests.
We’ll keep adding to this list, so come back regularly and get some new ideas. If you'd like to contribute an idea, please drop us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Does your page match the intent that Google thinks is behind the searcher’s query?
Over time Google’s machine learning algorithms refine their understanding of what a person is looking for when they search on a particular query.
Just because you matched Google’s understanding behind a search intent 12 months ago, does not mean that Google hasn’t refined and changed the information it returns for a query now.
Google the query and check the search results of the top 10. Do the content types returned match yours?
A good example of targeting the wrong search intent is SaaS product pages attempting to rank for informational query types.
Internal linking is an important part of onsite SEO and general site usability.
Internal links allow your website visitors to navigate between topically related pages. Search engines also use these internal links to discover content, calculate a pages’ relevance, and also pass external link equity between one internal page and another.
As new content is added to a site, internal linking to existing content is often an afterthought and often not done at all.
Adding internal links to the page you are trying to rank for a target query is a good way to boost the ranking of that page.
To find pages that could link to the page that you are trying to improve the rank of, take the target query you are trying to get rank for on page one, and use the following search operator:
Site:yourdomain.com “target query”
This will show you where else the target query text is used across your site, and when you can internally link from.
If it makes sense, add a link from the front page. Especially if it is evergreen content or a lead magnet. It potentially doesn’t have to stay there forever, check out the theory of ‘link echos’ https://moz.com/blog/link-echoes-ghosts-whiteboard-friday
If the URL slug isn’t user-friendly (ie short), change it with a 301 redirection in place from the old URL to the new user and SEO-friendly URL.
Is the target keyword included in the URL slug? If not consider adding it in, again 301 redirecting from the old URL to the new.
While page titles are sometimes re-written by Google, it is still a good idea to try to optimize it for ranking purposes and click-through rate.
Google has said that the page title is a small ranking factor, but it’s tricky to rank for a query if your page title does not contain the target keyword at all.
Here are some things to try and test with a page’s title:
It is arguable whether meta descriptions are a direct ranking factor themselves.
I would suggest that they are an indirect ranking factor, as having a well-written meta description that includes primary and secondary target keywords will help boost CTR, which I would consider a ranking factor. If your page click-through rate improves, over time I would expect the rank to improve.
Some suggestions and actions for crafting clickable meta descriptions:
Ideally, from a technical SEO point of view, your page should only have a single H1.
I once heard someone say:
“Page titles make people click (from Google), H1’s make you stay” - if you said this please let me know and I will credit you!
Often, a page title and H1 will have exactly the same value, but if you are on page 2 this can give you an opportunity to experiment with the length and words used.
Having said that, if you have noticed your page titles are being rewritten by Google, and the page title and H1 are different, try setting them as the same.
Experiment with the page structure and especially the first section of an article.
"Make sure the most important information is near the top. Try using a summary at the top of the article that covers the most important information, yet still encourages the reader to continue to read the article for more detail."
Use an article contents section after the summary, or anchor links within the summary, that allows the reader to jump to later sections in the document for more information.
Headings give a document structure. This makes it easier for computers (ie Google) to understand what each section of a document is about, and how sub-sections relate to each other.
Ideally, in a perfectly designed web page and document, headings should be in a nested tree.
Headings may be incorrectly used within the design of a page’s template - and this may be outside of your control, but assuming you do have control of the main body of the text of the page ensure the heading hierarchy is observed correctly there.
Headers make it easier for users to scan a web page and be able to locate the section of information that answers their query.
"A basic principle is to use target keywords in the main heading and long-tail variations of keywords in subheadings. Then you have a better possibility to rank with several keywords with the same page."
Try putting numbers in front of your document h2 headings, especially if you are adding a table of contents section to your document.
If your document is a large body of text, with large paragraphs, visitors will find it difficult to read and understand. Attempt to break the content up into smaller sections, making use of headers to indicate a new section and its topic.
Google generally likes refreshes of content. It shows that an article is being kept up to date with new and relevant information.
Adding published and updated DateTime stamps will allow users and Google to understand how fresh and relevant an article is.
If you want to go a step further you can add the relevant structured data to your article so it is even easier for Google to process when the document was created and last updated.
If a rich snippet is present within the Google Search results for a query, sometimes the rich snippet will be the table of contents from the document Google has selected to take the snippet position.
Your page can only take that snippet if it has a table of contents towards the start of the article.
A table of contents will also help the user understand the full contents of a webpage without having to scroll through it. The user will be able to navigate to a specific section of the page that helps answer their question more clearly.
I would still keep an introduction paragraph or two first, with the table of contents after this (you should of course test this :))
As we have already mentioned, refreshing content and updating the ‘Updated’ DateTime value for the web page is liked by both users and Google.
A great way to get ideas for new content sections is to have a look at search console data for keywords already driving clicks to the page.
"If there are keywords you've not covered properly, but they have a high number of impressions, go back to your content and see how you can include it to help your visitors find what they need on your page."
The PageDetails view in SEOTesting.com is really useful for this, as it quickly brings back the queries for a URL, and lets you know how often a specific query is used on a page.
Expanding content with frequently asked questions on the page’s topic will help users and your page in Google.
Frequently asked questions, when properly marked up using structured data, can be pulled out and displayed directly in the Google search results. This will increase the size of your result within the results page, and potentially improve click-through rates.
If it isn’t try adding the target keyword into the first paragraph of the text.
Run your content through a tool such as Grammarly to check for readability.
If your content is hard to read and understand, people won’t hang around and will be clicking the back button.
If your content is easier to read, people will hang around on the page longer, be able to scan the page to pick out the information they need, and convert better if that’s your goal.
If your content is informational, and long form-based, run it through one of the content optimization tools suggested above and try updating it as suggested.
Continue to iterate on the content with a test-driven process until you get the rankings you feel your page can achieve.
Take a look through the content and see how often the target keyword is used. When you read it (out loud helps), if it seems the keyword is crammed into sentences where it wouldn’t normally be used, consider removing it.
Look in Google Search Console to see what queries the page is ranking for, and see if you can use alternatives or variations of the target keyword. This may help both the target ranking and also the ranking for a wider variety of keywords.
If the current page would be more useful with a video explanation, and you have the budget, consider recording and hosting a video on the page.
If you do a search on a page’s target keyword and a video carousel appears within the search results, it would certainly make sense for a video to accompany your content and also be utilized on a YouTube channel.
The video can be as simple as a webcam recording of someone reading the article. This adds personality behind the content. If the budget allows an animated explainer video can work well..
Content is expensive to create, and so reusing it in various formats such as text, video, and audio, plus publishing it on different channels, ensures you get the most return on your content investment.
Expand your coverage of a topic and keyword by creating a topic cluster of pages. While topic clusters can be meticulously planned out with a pillar page and separate spoke pages written and published all in one go, you can start simply by writing about an associated topic and linking back to the target page you are trying to boost.
An easy way to get started with an existing topic you cover on your site is to review the content of the existing page. Would one of the sections, particularly an FAQ or question-based heading, make sense as a standalone page with reciprocal internal links.
If you want to build a topic cluster from scratch or expand an existing topic cluster, you can do the following:
See what content they have related to the target keyword that you should also be creating. [credit to Steve Toth @ SEONotebook for this tip]
Another way to build a topic cluster model is to use ahrefs or a similar tool to export competitor keywords that they rank for, plus the export of all the queries of your own site from Google Search Console, and a tool such as keywordinsights.io to generate the clusters for you.
Another complicated and argued topic is whether EAT is a ranking factor.
Rather than get into that debate, consider it from a user's perspective. If an article has been written or reviewed by a qualified expert, and this fact is clearly displayed, the reader is more likely to trust it and spend more time reading it.
I would suggest that these user-based signals are likely to be direct ranking factors, and thus displaying EAT is an indirect ranking factor.
If your existing content or page hasn’t been written by an expert that you can directly attribute it to, seek out an expert who is willing to review it and have their name associated with it.
It takes time, money, and effort to become qualified and people are often keen to recoup their investment by allowing their qualification to earn them extra income.
Also being published on a respectable website will look good for the qualified individual, so the relationship works both ways.
An addition or alternative to getting an expert to write or review existing content is to source and add expert quotes around a topic.
A good source is to reach out to customers for quotes. This is a good way of thanking a customer for supporting your product, helping your content, and can provide a contextual backlink to their website.
Additionally, HARO (Help A Reporter Out) is a service that sends requests for quotes and thoughts to subject matter experts. If you are seeking out expert insights, send a request for sources using HARO, or put out a tweet using the hashtag #journorequest.
Quick and responsive (in terms of loading quickly) websites are important these days.
Check your PageSpeed scores and Core Web Vitals using the free Google scores, and fix the issues reported.
Fixing site-wide PageSpeed issues created by a template or theme can be a big win as they can improve scores across the entire site.
Page-level issues are important to fix if you want to tick every box when it comes to ranking factors.
Google is open that PageSpeed is a ranking factor, although never clear about how much weight it has. You may as well fix the things Google is indicating to you as an issue. Especially as you are trying to move a page that is stuck on page 2 of the search results.
Adding structured data to your site and pages helps provide information about the page to Google and other search engines.
Google does a pretty good job when it comes to understanding a page’s content, but structured data gives you the opportunity to specifically describe to Google the topics and content.
Structured data can be used to markup specific elements within a page that Google can pull out and display within your site’s listing in the search results.
If you are using WordPress there are plugins that can help you add structured data to your page.
Linking to external resources that further explain topics will help your users. The web was built on websites linking together, and in my view, it demonstrates a genuine attempt to cover, explain and offer further information on a topic.
A lot of people do not want to link to external websites. It’s a natural thing to do, and also an in-between measure while you develop out the pages and resources that you can eventually internally link to.
This is SEO 101, but the alt text for images on a page can help users who have vision issues and use a screen reader.
The alt text should describe what the image is of, rather than cramming keywords into the text. But if you are using relevant images on your page, this will no doubt give the ability to naturally include target keywords within the image description.
If you (or previous SEOs) have crammed keyword text into alt text values, try deoptimizing them by actually describing the image rather than using it as an opportunity to keyword stuff.
A big part of PageSpeed scores and Core Web Vitals, but worthy of its own mention, is image optimization.
Image optimization is one of the best things you can do to improve these scores and also improve the usability of your site over slow or mobile phone internet connections.
Resizing images in HTML or CSS is a common tactic used by web developers or content creators who do not have an eye on SEO, so if you find any images that could be resized to the display size, this can be a good win for your page.
Increase the time spent on the site and number of pages visited by adding a lead magnet download available from the page.
This can be as simple as a PDF version of the article they are reading.
Getting this into people’s inboxes increases the likelihood of it being emailed around, leading to more direct visitors to the original page.
If it’s a download resource that accompanies the original page (think templates and worksheets) it can even become a link-building resource within itself.
Hopefully, these suggestions have given you some ideas to try on your pages.
The most important thing to remember is to keep experimenting, and tracking the results of your SEO experiments using something as simple as Google Sheets or SEOTesting.com.