I’m about to show you something as close to an “SEO easy button” as you’ll ever find. The secret lies not in what you do, but where you apply your efforts.

Like most companies, you probably have a number of pages on your website that rest on the border between search engine results pages for a particular keyword. It could be a page in the 11th spot, or it could be in the 22nd spot. The jump from 11th place to 10th place might not seem like it would make a difference, but the vast majority of Googlers don’t even click past the first page.

In fact, the top results on page 1 get far more clicks than all of the results from page 2 and beyond combined. In hard numbers, according to a 2014 study from Marketing Land and Advanced Web Ranking, the first page of results garners more than 70% of the total clicks from organic (unpaid) searches.

Google Rank CTR graph

This means that the work you put in to optimize the pages on the borders of SERPs will be much more effective in driving traffic. With a few small tweaks, a.k.a. tipping point optimizations, you can rank with the best of them.Importantly, on page optimization (especially tipping point optimization) is the best way to increase your Google ranking quickly.

On-Page Optimizations: A Checklist

Here at CanIRank we use a checklist for page optimizations, to ensure we don’t miss any valuable chances to include keywords that Google might miss otherwise. Before you can begin, however, make sure you know the keyword your page is targeting, along with secondary keywords and variations. Articles that target too many keywords can sometimes compete with themselves, washing out one or both of the keywords’ rankings in the results pages. Another note before we start is that you might want to keep a changelog of the changes you make to existing pages as you optimize them. Keeping track of changes can help to track results, and if a change has an adverse effect on rankings, it’s easier to reverse if you know exactly when and where the change occurred.

Follow this step-by-step process to quickly optimize your on-page SEO. Click To Tweet

Step 1: Check the Title and URL

The first step on the checklist is to review the page’s title and URL. The title should be attention-grabbing, but should also not be so dramatic that the audience will be disappointed when they read the content. A good way to check the strength of your title is with the headline analyzer tool offered by CoSchedule. Now that you’ve made sure your title is share-worthy, it’s time to look at your URL. A strong URL is made up of several factors.

A strong URL should:

  1. Be readable by human beings. Avoid URLs like www.blog.com/what/AdRedirect.aspx?type=sslk4h8asjh-ghty
  2. Include the keyword you are trying to rank for
  3. Be as short as possible while still making sense. About 60 characters is ideal.Longer titles are truncated in Google search results.
  4. Match the page’s title. It doesn’t have to match word for word, and articles (and, or, but, a, the) aren’t strictly necessary.
  5. Use hyphens or underscores instead of spaces to separate words. This might not help your Google rank, but it will help people understand your URL.

Fun fact: A 2014 study by RadiumOne found that click-through rates on social media were increased by 25% with shorter, readable URLs as compared to long, hard to decipher or artificially shortened URLs.

Short URLs improve CTR

Step 2: Optimize your Meta Description

Your meta description is like your sales pitch to Google users- it needs to convince them that your page is the answer to their question. As such you need to make sure it includes your keyword in a way that makes sense, without overusing it in a way that drives people away from your site. You also need to make sure that Google isn’t picking something else from your page up and using that as a meta description instead. The best way to check this is to Google your keyword, find your result and see what Google has listed under your page title.

Pro tip: if you are using WordPress to host your content, the plugin Yoast lets you easily monitor and control your meta description and URL.  Also, keep in mind the length of your meta description- 150 to 160 characters is ideal.

Step 3: Ensure your Images have Keyword-based Alt Text

Your page or blog post probably has images in it; make sure their alt text contains some variation of the keyword or phrase that your page is targeting. Your audience doesn’t see the alt text on images, but Google does, so use them to improve your ranking without making changes to content. That’s not to say you should fill your images with your keyword repeated over and over (you don’t want to risk getting spammy with Google). Make sure those images aren’t driving visitors away by optimizing them.

Step 4: Use H1 and H2 Headings Wisely

Each page should only have one H1 heading. The H1 heading is a powerful indicator to Google, so make sure it reinforces the article’s topic. As such, the H1 heading is usually the title of the post. Don’t confuse Google by using them stylistically throughout the article. For H2 tags, use them sparingly, and at logical points in your page. They help to organize the page, and again shouldn’t just be used for stylistic emphasis. H2 tags carry more SEO weight than body text, so use related keywords in them.

Step 5: Use Primary and Secondary Keywords in Your Body Text, and Use Emphasis Where it Makes Sense

This step speaks for itself somewhat, but it can be easy to start writing and neglect to use the keywords you are targeting. If there aren’t enough mentions of your keywords in the body of your text, it makes sense that Google won’t rank you for it. Just be careful when going back through and adding in your keyword; you want to rephrase things in an organic way, not fill paragraphs with awkward keyword spam. Further, proper use of italics to emphasize important words in your content can help Google see them as important as well. Like with anything in SEO however, use emphasis in moderation- when too many words are emphasized the importance of each is diminished. A final note on body text is that if you’re attempting to push a high ranking blog post to page one, the length of your article matters (not just how you use it).

Step 6: Support your Content Silos with Internal Links

SEO silos are a staple of the search engine trade. Make sure you support yours by including links to related content on your site in the context of your body text. The link in the first sentence of this paragraph does exactly that. If your articles consistently reference each other, you can establish your site as a hub of related knowledge. Think of it like Wikipedia, who is the veritable king of ranking on Google. Every Wikipedia article is full of internal links to related topics in the context of their text. Be like Wikipedia- I can already feel my high school history teacher glaring at me.

Step 7: Link to Your Competition

No, it’s not about being the better person; it’s about appearing to be the better person. To continue the Wikipedia example, they cite all of their sources externally- who would trust them if all of their information came from themselves? The same goes for your website. Make sure you cite informational sources appropriately but be careful linking to sites that outrank you… you don’t want to give them too much link juice.

How do I Find Pages at Tipping Points?

You may be thinking after reading this checklist, “that sounds great, but I have tons of pages on my site, how do I know which ones are close to moving up a page in search engine results?” One way to search for these tipping point opportunities is by googling your target keyword and scrolling through search pages until you find your site. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but finding search rankings like this can be time-consuming and tedious.

CanIRank has two great ways to find these tipping points: the Opportunities feed and the Improve My Rankings tool.

Using the Opportunities Feed to Find Pages viable for Tipping Point Optimizations

Using the Opportunities Feed, scroll until you find an opportunity that describes boosting a page from one page of Google to another. A great example of this can be seen on our client BuddyTV’s Opportunities feed:

AGT Ranking Easy Win

As you can see, if BuddyTV conducts the right on-page optimizations for their America’s Got Talent page, they stand to gain a huge boost in organic traffic. CanIRank users then have the option of completing the actions described in our checklist above on the page listed in the opportunity card, or delegating it to one of the experts at CanIRank. Here’s another format in which tipping point optimization opportunity cards appear:

The Voice Ranking Easy Win

If no tipping point opportunities appear in the Opportunities feed there is another easy way to identify these pages: using the Improve My Rankings tool.

Locating Tipping Point Opportunities in the Improve My Rankings Tool

To find tipping points in the Improve My Rankings tool, simply open the Improve My Rankings tab, and click the “high rank” tab or the word “rank” to sort keywords by rank. Scroll until you find a keyword that is at the border between two pages (in the 11-15 spots, or even at the 21-25 spots). There will likely be several options within those border ranges, so an easy way to pick the most lucrative is to look at the number of searches and pick the one with the highest number. This isn’t always a guarantee, and sometimes keywords that show zero searches don’t actually receive zero searches, but it’s a good starting place. It’s also helpful to analyze those keywords for which you’re at the tipping point so that you can study your competitor’s ranking pages, and subsequently optimize yours even better.

CanIRank Keyword Rankings to Improve Google Ranking Quickly

A promising opportunity on CanIRank’s own Improve my Rankings feed might be for the keyword “ecommerce SEO expert.” If we click on the percent on the right-hand side of the entry, we get more information about the opportunity. The report shows us the page that’s close to ranking, shows how competitors are targeting and ranking for this keyword, and suggests ways to better optimize our page to boost its ranking.

ecommerce SEO expert tipping point optimization

Take a look at our video for more help on using the CanIRank tool to optimize your site.