There’s more to on-page SEO than sprinkling a few keywords here and there, according to most people. That’s not true. Keyword placement is still important, but it is much less important now.
It’s still arguably the easiest part of SEO, even though on-page optimization is less straightforward than it once was. There are not many things you can control completely and it does not require much technical know-how. You can do it well if you know how to edit a website, are a good writer (or know someone who is), and are willing to do a bit of research.
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What is On-page SEO?
On-page SEO refers to any changes you make to your website to improve its visibility. Some examples of on-page optimization would be updating the title tag on the page, changing the H1 tag on a page, and editing the meta description on a page. These are all actions that you take on your website and are therefore classified as on-page optimizations.
Some examples of on-page SEO optimizations would be updates to the title tag of a page, changing an H1 tag on a page, and editing the meta description of a page. These are all actions that you take on your website and are therefore classified as on-page optimizations.
Let us use a car as an analogy. Winning in search engine optimization is like racing a car. The other websites you are competing with are the other cars. Your on-page SEO is the car itself, i.e. the chassis, wheels and all other mechanical components are basically your on-page SEO.
The off-page SEO would be your engine. That’s why it’s so important to focus on that and make sure that the basic functions of your car are working properly. For example, if you only have one car with one wheel, no matter what engine you have in that car, it’s not going to go anywhere.
That’s why we focus so much on perfect on-page SEO because it’s literally the foundation that we build on.
Why Is On-Page SEO Important?
As Google updates its algorithm regularly, it is better able to understand both user intent and overall user experience. Therefore, learning SEO and staying up to date with best practices are vital.
In addition, Google prioritizes user experience, so you should consider on-page SEO practices as part of your overall strategy.
In addition, well-optimized pages help Google understand what your content is about, which in turn helps it organize and rank your page. You’re essentially helping Google perform better.
According to Google, “the most basic signal that information is relevant is when content contains the same keywords as your search query.”
There is, however, a fine line. You don’t want to stuff your content with keywords. But Google is still ranking pages based on the basics.
How To Optimise On-Page SEO?
An on-page optimization strategy focuses on tactics within your control (i.e., on your website). That’s why “on-page SEO” is sometimes referred to as “on-site SEO”.
For your content and website to rank well in the search engine result pages (SERPs) and lead to higher conversion rates, you’ll need to understand several critical components of an on-page SEO strategy. Let’s look at them now.
You can begin by using the On-Page SEO Checker to analyze your site. It will provide you with on-page optimization ideas across a variety of categories.
The ideas you receive will be listed in specific categories or you can scroll down to find the top-recommended pages to optimize for your site.
Start by selecting location settings, crawl settings, and device settings. Then add URLs and keywords you want to optimize for.
You can also run a Site Audit with Google Analytics connected.
On-Page SEO Checker is a great tool to keep track of potential page optimization ideas for your website, but there are plenty of on-page SEO best practices to consider when creating content.
1. Use Your Target Keywords in the First Paragraph
You can make your purpose and topic clear from the start by using your main keyword in the first paragraph. Your readers and search engines will both benefit from this.
You need to keep in mind that search engines look for keywords and terms that provide clues about your content.
Build your content around your main topic while including semantic and related keywords without spamming keywords.
Make sure that you don’t dilute the subject theme by including irrelevant information. Some pruning might be necessary if you’re working on an existing page rather than starting one from scratch.
If the page is all about Chevrolet Camaros, keep the discussion focused on that car model, without a lengthy discussion of how it compared to the competing Pontiac Firebird back in the 1970s. Too many mentions of another type of car can dilute your Camaro theme and confuse the search engines, thereby reducing your subject relevance to [Chevrolet Camaros].
In the On-Page SEO Checker’s Optimization Ideas tab, look for keywords you may have missed.
To learn if you’re missing any keywords to target, scroll down to the “Semantic” section, which compares your page to your top 10 competitors.
For a more in-depth look, click “See detailed analysis”.
2. Use Heading tags for Titles and Subtitles
Heading tags (H# tags) set apart your on-page titles and subheadings, and search engines analyze them to determine your page’s main ideas, so make them meaningful.
You want to use an H1 for the first and most important heading on the page only. Second-level headings should be given H2, third-level headings H3, and so forth; also, they should never be placed out of order. Just think back to school term papers, and outlines.
When the search engines were built, their main purpose was to index educational, technical, and professional papers, and very little else. The engines still rely on the same basic information architecture that they started out with.
A good heading length is from one to five words, but how many headings you should have on a page depends on the content. Only use an H# tag when it defines a change in the content structure, much like a table of contents outlines the structure of a book.
You will almost never have multiple H1 tags (not many pages have more than one main topic, after all), but you could have multiple H2, H3, and so on if the content supports it.
Content about Ford Reviews (200 words)
Content about Ford Mustang Reviews (200+ words)
Content about Ford F-150 reviews (200+ words again)
In the preceding example, the H1 and H2 tags are used properly. Think about it as a school or technical paper. It has to follow an outline format completely. You can have an H3 heading, but only if it’s below an H2 tag. If you had a section for the engine specs of the Ford Mustang, for example, that could be considered an H3. The usage of H4 and H5 tags would have to be, again, related subcontinent to the H3 tag, and so on.
3. Optimize Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
The Title tag should appear at the top of your HTML code’s Head section. It should be unique and contain your page’s main keyword (with no word repeated). Normally the Title tag should be between 6 and 12 words in length (brief).
The Meta description tag should appear after the Title tag in your HTML Head section. It needs to contain all the keywords used in the Title tag, and it should be written like a sentence because this is often what search engines display within a result listing. Any word should not appear more than twice. The length guideline is 12 to 24 words.
The Meta keywords tag should appear after the Meta description tag in your HTML Head section and should contain all the words used in the Title and Description tags. It can be written as a list separated by commas, starting with the long phrases and ending with single words. No single word should be used more than four times, and the total length should not exceed 48 words.
4. Prioritize Outbound and Internal Linking
Your outbound links are the links that you have going out of your site. Having outbound links to resources and experts in your industry that help your visitors is important.
Also, such links show the search engines that you recognize who the other experts in your industry are and help the search engines define your site by association. Here are some aspects to keep in mind for your outbound links:
- Link to other experts. Pick non-competitive sites that you feel are relevant to your own site and are experts in their subjects. Having these links not only increases your standing with the search engines (experts linking to experts) but also makes you appear more trustworthy to users.
- Make sure that the link is useful to your users. Having a bunch of irrelevant links on your site damages your expertise in the eyes of the search engines. It also makes you look bad to your users. They’re coming to your site for research, and if you can’t give them any useful links to follow, they probably won’t come back.
- Relevancy is key. Your links have to be relevant to your site, for you, and for the search engines.
- Validate links. Make sure that your links are legitimate and won’t get you in trouble with the search engines.
- Be selective. If you’re associating with another website, make sure that it’s a good one — no bad neighborhoods, no irrelevant links.
Having a strong internal linking structure also allows searchers to engage with your site further, as they are more likely to click on the link and continue exploring – reducing your bounce rate and enhancing positive brand associations.
Google is also provided with information about the architecture of your site through these links. By analyzing how your site’s content relates to one another and the depth of your content on particular topics, Google can enhance your authority. Learn more about how internal linking works.
5. Optimise URL
Your webpage’s URL structure provides SEO benefits as well. By creating URLs that include important keywords, you make it clearer what the page will cover.
Based on the URL, both users and search engines should be able to easily determine what a page is about.
Your URLs should be clear and concise, though. Make sure you don’t use stop words.
6. Write Fresh Content
Content freshness can affect a web page’s rankings, depending on the topic. Google likes to show current information, especially for queries on trends, celebrities, technology, and other quickly evolving subjects.
With our Bruce Clay, Inc. blog, we have noticed that posts about competitive keywords show up higher in Google search results when they are newer and decline in ranking over time. We have a few notable exceptions, but overall, newer blog posts have a ranking advantage over older ones, all else being equal.
Another benefit is that the more often your site has fresh content, the more often the search engines want to index it. News sites, for example, have to be crawled constantly because of how frequently they post new stories. On a lesser scale, if you have a blog on your website that has a new activity every day, the spiders crawl your site more often than a site that updates once a month.
If your site content gets indexed in news searches, you definitely need fresh content to stay near the top. Without frequent posts, news articles may fade into the oblivion of the search results’ back pages.
For a blog, you want to post often enough to merit frequent return visits from readers as well as spiders. Set your posting schedule based on your own and your target audience’s needs, but try to make fresh, original content available on a regular basis.
Your site’s ranking in normal search results does not change based on how frequently the search engine spiders crawl your site. Where you might suffer as a result of infrequent search engine indexing, however, is if you’ve made SEO-related changes to your site since the last time the search engine spiders crawled the site, and those changes have not yet been indexed.
If that’s the case, you can bring them to the search engine’s attention by manually submitting the changed page URLs.
Periodically, you should review your site content to make sure it stays fresh. See if anything has changed, and either update or add to the text that’s there. This is pretty much common sense, but it has the added benefit of providing fresh content to keep the spiders coming back to your site.
7. Including keyword synonyms
Synonyms of your keywords also need to show up on your web pages, in your HTML tags, and in the anchor text of links to your pages. People don’t use the exact same words to describe things, so it appears more natural for search engines to find backlinks to your pages using a variety of different terms that all mean roughly the same thing.
Including keyword synonyms also helps you match more search queries. People search for things in their own words, not yours. For instance, if you have a page on the site of your classic car all about Oldsmobile 98s, you should make sure your keywords include both [Ninety-Eight] spelled out and the numeric  because people could search either way.
In another example, a web page that sells ski boots would optimize that page for the keyword phrase [ski boots]. But they’d also want their listing to display when people search for [ski footwear], [snow boots], or [winter apparel].
Unless they have synonyms like these within the page, the search engine won’t find it relevant and won’t include it in the search results.
Also, don’t forget nicknames! If your main subjects have common nicknames, these are important to include — possibly as keywords, but at least in your body content. For instance, on the site of your classic car, your Chevrolet Camaro page should include the word [Chevy], your Ford Mustang page should include the nickname [Stang], and so forth.
8. Optimise Images
Images can be identified by topic as long as the text surrounding them relates to the image or video. Spiders are also looking at the filename, so instead of naming your image file 00038.jpg, call it redporsche.jpg or something equally descriptive.
Definitely include Alt attribute text for every image on your website. Alt attributes are used to describe an image for users who are using screen readers or when an image does not display.
In some browsers, this text becomes user-visible when they move their mouse over the image. Spiders also read and index the Alt attribute text. Because people (and spiders) read it (it’s required by dis- abilities laws supporting visually impaired users), it’s worth the effort to write something meaningful.
For example, the HTML of the image of the red Porsche could look like this: <img src=”redporsche.jpg” alt=”Red 2005 Porsche with leather interior”> A short, simple, descriptive phrase is all you need for the Alt attribute. Stuffing it with keywords, however, is considered evil and might get your site dropped.
Keep it simple, keep it short, and keep it to the point.
Consider the size of the image as a guideline: Smaller images probably only need a couple of words to explain what they are. Larger images might require several words. Don’t go overboard. If you have paragraphs of information about the image, consider putting that on the web page as content.
9. Optimize for User Engagement
You should keep the reader engaged with your content. In order to increase dwell time on the site, you should also decrease bounce rates.
You can use these factors to demonstrate to Google that your content is appreciated by customers. It also helps to establish a relationship with the visitor, who may become a potential lead in the future.
You can create engaging content on your page by:
- Improve the readability of your content by using clear headlines that indicate the topic of each section
- Making the material easier to scan by using bullets and lists
- Including video and images in your content
- Engaging users with relevant calls-to-action (CTAs) for accessing relevant content
- A clean, crisp layout that does not detract from the content
- Using load time best practices to ensure a fast page
- Incorporating above-the-fold can also increase engagement, since users may quickly leave if they do not find what they’re looking for.
Be sure to address the main question or topic right off the bat when providing a solution.
Advanced On-Page SEO Tactics
When you’ve mastered the basics of on-page SEO, you’ll want to move on to more advanced aspects of it.
1. Featured Snippets
Google’s featured snippets are selected search results that appear below the ads below its organic results.
Featured snippets are intended to answer the user’s question right away (hence their other well-known name, “answer boxes”). They can increase exposure for brands on search results pages.
An analysis of a study shows that the following types of search queries are most likely to get featured results:
- DIY processes
You have a chance of getting featured for the terms your pages already rank in the top 10. To become featured, you need to improve your overall search ranking (especially for long-tail informational queries, which are the easiest to rank for).
Find out which phrases you are already ranking highly for so you can focus on those. Following your optimization for answer boxes (more details below), these will be the easiest to get featured for.
You can see which search queries send you clicks through Google Search Console. Click “Search Traffic” then “Search Analytics” to access the report.
You’ll be able to see which queries are the best-performing ones when you check the box to show the position of each page.
2. Schema Markup
Schema markup is a digital road map for Google bots that is perhaps the most technical component of advanced on-page SEO.
Google uses automated bots to crawl, index, and render your web content. In order for Google to understand your site, it uses a simple, technical language called schema markup to make sense of what your site is about and how your web pages relate to each other.
Structured data is also known as this coding vocabulary. Schema markup signals when content is about:
- Local businesses
- Medical conditions
- And more
Using Google, you can find out what local events are taking place in your area, for example.
By typing “New York events near me,” you can see what’s happening near you, along with the dates and locations. You, the searcher, can easily find events that interest you.
Using schema markup, websites promoting events are letting Google know that they can rank these events higher in the SERPs.
To ensure you’ve created the code correctly, check out Google Schema Markup Testing tool before you try creating structured data.
Once you implement the code, use Site Audit to identify any issues with structured data.
3. Page Speed
There is no way to know what every Google ranking signal for desktop and mobile is, but Google has stated directly that page speed is one.
Google’s free PageSpeed Insights tool gives you a mobile and desktop Performance score, along with suggestions on how to improve it.
Learn more about how to improve page speed.
Now that you understand more about on-page SEO signals, make sure you keep them in mind when creating new pages.
Having said that, patience is the most important aspect of any SEO strategy. Getting great results takes time, effort, and a little experimentation.