The SEO gods have a good sense of humor.
Back when Google and other search engines first were created, there wasn’t much to SEO. You just needed to have the right keywords in the right places and you could show up at the top of the search results.
In fact it was so bad that website owners were spamming their pages with phrases like Brittany Spears all over the content and meta tags to steal traffic.
Well as you know the search engines grew up quickly and things like link building became much more important.
The problem is the spammers just switched their strategy and started getting thousands of links that all had the same anchor text and they were showing up at the top of Google again.
I admittedly was doing the same thing because it worked.
The Exact Match Anchor – An Endangered Species
With the abuse of exact match anchor text came some really big updates from Google that shook the internet world.
Pretty much every website that had participated in this practice was penalized and their rankings dramatically dropped.
The SEO world had to figure out a new way to rise to the top of Google.
From Google’s perspective, what they have always been trying to do is to stop people from being able to game the system.
They want to show results that deserve to be on top and have made it there by getting links naturally.
So they continually tweak and change their algorithm to that end.
What does all of this have to do with on page SEO?
As I began the preliminary research for SEOJet, I spent hours upon hours looking at the link profiles of #1 ranked webs pages. I’m talking thousands of links. (You can read more about my in depth backlink research here)
What I found was really surprising.
First, as expected, websites that rank #1 on Google for any particular phrase have a very low percentage of links with exact match anchor.
In other words, if they were ranked #1 for “donkey socks”, only about 3% of the links had that phrase as the anchor text.
Think about that. 97% of the links didn’t have that exact phrase as the anchor and it ranked #1 on Google.
I knew Google had made changes to penalize people who had many links with just their key phrase as the anchor but I was still surprised to see it in action.
Second, many of the backlinks to these #1 ranked pages had as the anchor text either the brand name, some form of the url or something totally random. In other words, the key phrase was nowhere to be found in the links.
This of course begged the question, if these websites were ranked #1 on Google for these key phrases, but many of the links didn’t include the phrases, then how did Google know what to rank the site for?
One of the biggest factors is from the on page SEO. Building out your page to cover the topic you are trying to rank for with all of the on page pieces in place is as important now as link building.
Many SEO professionals love to say that content is all that matters, or link building is king, but great on page SEO is critical to show Google what you should be ranking for.
All three pieces work together in perfect harmony like it always should have been.
Another Case For On Page SEO
I was recently reading this post by Brian Dean that talked about actionable SEO you could do right now.
One of those tips was to find your most popular long form content pages, and to be sure to include links in the content to some of your pages that are stuck on page 2 or 3 of the search results.
I was a little skeptical of how much affect this would have on my rankings but I tried it anyway.
I had a bunch of category pages that were either stuck on page two or the bottom of page one of Google.
I went to one of my “power pages” that had some awesome authority links pointing to it and added internal links to those category pages in my site.
Sure enough, within 3 days my rankings for all of the category pages jumped to page 1. It was like magic.
And the coolest thing about that was most of my category pages had 0 external links pointing to them. They just pulled the SEO power from the other page.
It has been many years since I have seen on page SEO changes have such an impact on actual rankings.
But it makes perfect sense.
If so many of your links tell Google nothing about what is on your page, then they are forced to use those links to give your page a value and then look at the on page SEO to rank it.
And I don’t think they stop at just that one page on your site. I think they also check your other pages and see how in depth you cover the topic that you are trying to rank for.
This means it is important to have many pages that speak about your topic and all of those pages need to have good on page SEO.
So if you have been spending all of your time writing guest posts and neglecting your own website, give your rankings a boost by giving your on page SEO the time and attention it deserves and watch as your rankings move from stuck on page 2 to the top 10 of the search engines.