Day 4: On-Page SEO Tips

A Ranking Dropkick From Google, From #1 to #1,000 :(

In November of 2003 Google did a major update to their search relevancy algorithms, which was known in the SEO community as the Florida update. That update marked the day that SEO became hard. Prior to that point in time, on-page optimization tips from many SEOs would have sounded something like this "use your keywords heavily everywhere." But that update changed how on-page-optimization works.

"Over Optimized" = Spammy

Keyword density is an ineffective measure of relevancy, so excessive repetition is not an effective SEO strategy. Many (formerly top ranked) pages and sites that use keywords too aggressively end up getting completely filtered out of the search results.

In 2012 Google rolled out another on-page keyword classifier when they did the Penguin update. That made keyword dense pages even more likely to get filtered out of the search results. In the post about it, Google shared the following image as an example of a problem page (you can click on the image to see a larger sized font).

Google's Matt Cutts described the type of pages that disappeared in this video

Mix Up Your Keyword Usage

Your on page SEO strategy should use semantically related phrases and mix up your keyword usage. If your page title is "Chicago Dentist & Dental Care : Business Name" then your on page heading tag should be something like "Your Friendly Dentists in Chicago".

If you are already a subscriber, this spreadsheet in our member's area offers examples of how you might want to mix up your keyword usage

4 Ways to Include Variation in Your On-Page SEO Strategy

  • Singular vs plural forms of a keyword
  • Use synonyms
  • Add in relevant keyword modifiers
  • Change word order

In many ways, the difference between good longterm sustainable SEO & the crash-n-burn variety is subtlety. This is why keyword variation is a much better strategy than keyword repetition.

We created an infographic that aims to illustrate this, modeled after Goldilocks. ;)

SEO strategies

Dealing With Problem Words

While a keyword density analysis tool can highlight overt issues, another way to get a feel for keyword density is to type the beginning (or stem) of common phrases into our SEO Toolbar's highlight function.

So for our site we would type something like SEO train tool (for SEO training & tools) & then hit highlight.

That will visually highlight each occurance of the word, which in turn will make it easier to highlight keyword dense problem areas (for many sites, these are often things like navigation & auto-generated repetitive portions of pages).

In some cases there are fairly natural synonyms that can take the place of a problem word (you can get some ideas for substitutions by reading copy on competing sites, reading related blog posts & forum discussions, & by going to sites like

In some cases there isn't an easy replacement & in those cases it is best to try to craft sentences in a way that you can either use more distant but related words or simply drop the word from the sentence.

Visualizing a Keyword Map

A (now defunct) cool tool named Quintura helps you visualize related phrases. For instance, if you search for cookies they might return a cloud likeso

While their tool has since went offline, you can still get related terms via a number of other options.

You can also put the content of a page in a tool called Wordle and it will return a word cloud.

Google offers related searches at the bottom of their search result pages, and Microsoft's Bing shows common related keywords directly in the upper right of their search results. In addition, most search engines offer a search suggestion / search autocompletion feature (on their homepage, on search results, on search toolbars, and in the browser search box) which recommends popular related keywords directly in the search box.

Our keyword density tool is probably the best tool offering a quick glance at seeing a page's on-page content the way a search engine does. It lists the most frequent terms & phrases appearing on a page and how many times they appear.

  • First you can enter a number of competing page URLs or some arbitrary text to see what terms appear frequently.
  • Then you can enter your own page's URL or a draft article and see if there are important terms you are missing.

Once you have your core themes and topics in place, some other keyword tools like Answer the Public and can be great resources for topical theme expansion ideas.

Tomorrow, we cover how search engines like Google decide which site to show in the Number One position

Aaron Wall

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