On-page SEO is one of the most important processes you can use for achieving higher rankings in a search engine’s organic results and running successful SEO campaigns.
A website is the focal point of all SEO processes and if it’s not properly optimized for both search engines and users, you minimize your chances of getting traffic from search engines.
In this post you’ll learn everything there is to know about on-page SEO. Follow these tips every time you publish a new post and improve your search engine rankings.
What is On-Page SEO?
On-Page SEO Techniques
On-Page SEO Checklist
Is On-Page SEO More Important Than Off-Page SEO?
What is On-Page SEO?
On-page SEO (sometimes referred to as ‘on-site SEO’), is the process of optimizing the content of a webpage for search engines. The ultimate goal of on-page SEO is to speak the ‘search engines’ language’ and help search engine crawlers understand the meaning and context of your pages.
Why is on-page SEO important?
On-page SEO is important because it provides search engines with a number of signals to help them understand what your content is about.
During the indexing and ranking processes, search engines try to associate web pages with keywords and search terms users type in the search box.
It’s through on-page SEO elements that you can guide them as to which keywords you want your pages to rank.
In addition, it is called ‘on-page’ because any optimization changes made to a webpage contribute to a better user experience.
On-site SEO is a subset of SEO. Take a look at the diagram below and notice how On-Page SEO intercepts with technical SEO and Off-Page SEO.
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On-Page SEO and SEO
On-Page SEO and SEO
All three processes have to work together to get the best possible outcome, but the main job of on-site SEO is to optimize the content and structure of a particular page.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization is a general term that includes everything you need to do to improve your website’s ranking positions in the top search engines.
This includes optimizing your website for the crawling and indexing phase (that’s technical SEO). Optimization settings you can apply to your pages and content (that’s on-page SEO) and techniques you can use outside the boundaries of the website (that’s off-page SEO).
What is Off-Page SEO?
Off-page SEO is about link building and other signals you can give to search engines to convince them about the quality and usefulness of your website.
It has to do with promotion methods outside the boundaries of your website.
For more SEO tips on how to improve your On-Page SEO performance enroll in our SEO Course. It’s the most comprehensive SEO course you can find on the web loaded with actionable tips and practical advice.
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11 On-Page SEO Techniques for Higher Rankings
Now that the theory about SEO and the importance of on-page SEO is justified, let’s move on to the practical part.
Some people can argue that there are more on-page SEO techniques and not only 11, but these are the most important you can apply to your website today and quickly boost your SEO.
On-Page SEO Techniques
On-Page SEO Techniques
Here is a summary of all on-page SEO techniques:
Publish high-quality content
Optimize page titles and meta descriptions
Optimize page content
Headings and content formatting
SEO Images and other multimedia elements
Page loading speed
Comments and on-page SEO
1. Publish High-Quality Content
When dealing with SEO, you always need to have in mind the following:
A website with brilliant content can do great with or without SEO. A website with bad content will not survive with or without SEO. A website with good content can become even better with SEO!
So, what is considered good content? High-quality content has the following characteristics:
Original content (articles, text, images, videos, presentations, infographics, comments, etc.) – No copies or rewrites of existing articles.
Content exclusive for your website – Even if it’s your own content, if you have already published it on another website then it’s not good for your site (unless you specify the canonical tag correctly).
Content that includes text elements – Write text to accompany your non-text content. For example, if you post videos on your website try to add a text description as well. If you add images try to describe in words what the image is all about.
Content that is useful – Don’t publish content for the sake of publishing. Before hitting the publish button make sure that what goes live adds value to your website and readers.
Content that is well researched – Users don’t want to read quickly prepared posts and neither do search engines. Long articles are proven to rank better than short articles.
Unbiased content – If you are writing about a certain topic or answering a question make sure that what you write is justified and covers both sites of a story.
Content that satisfies search intent – Besides the above characteristics, you need to make sure that your content satisfies the search intent. Before publishing any type of content on your website you need to understand what type of content users want to see for a given search query.
In general, the search intent can be categorized into four types:
Informational – ‘how many calories are in an egg?’
Navigational – ‘Facebook’
Transactional – ‘buy coffee maker’
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The easiest way to find out what type of content to create is to take advantage of Google because they already did a great job of understanding what users like for different searches.
So, the first step is to go to Google and search for your target keywords. Navigate and carefully examine the top 10 results. Take note of things like:
The type of content
The level of detail
How they use images and video
Your goal is to use this information to build better content. Better in this context means a number of things like:
More thorough and informative
Easier to read
Possibly presenting a different view of the subject that is not already covered by the existing content.
Failure to create content that satisfies the search intent will eventually lead to lower rankings. Even if you manage to rank high on Google, this will be only temporary because Google uses different signals to measure whether or not users are happy with the websites shown at the top of the results.
So, before even start thinking about on-page SEO, make sure that the content you create is what a Google searcher wants.
Resources to help you with content creation
Website content – best methods to create awesome website content
Content strategy – how to design a content strategy so that you produce high-quality content for your website
Content marketing courses – the best courses to learn content marketing
2. Optimize Page Titles and Meta Descriptions
This is SEO 101 but very important for on-page SEO. When search engines ‘read’ your pages, among other things, they check the page title and the description of a page.
They do so because they need to understand what the page is all about and then based on other factors (off-page SEO, domain authority, competition, etc.), they will rank your page (for various keywords) in a position in their index.
Hint: If you are not familiar with this process, spend a few minutes and learn how search engines work.
Title in Google Search Results
The page title is shown in the Google Search Results.
Each page must have a unique title that will help both search engines and users understand what the page is about.
A page with the title “SEO Tips for Beginners” is better than a page with the title “index.html”.
The page title is one of the most important on-page SEO factors.
The most important page title optimization tips are:
Add keywords to the beginning of your page titles – When possible add your target keywords to the beginning of your page title. This helps search engines understand right from the beginning what keywords the page is targeting.
That does not mean you should cross the line and start doing keyword stuffing. If you cannot have a keyword at the beginning then it’s not the end of the world. Just make sure that your target keyword is part of the title.
Write short and descriptive titles – A page title doesn’t have to be very long. The general recommendation is to keep it below 60 characters because this is the average amount of characters displayed by Google in the search results.
Include numbers and power words – Having numbers in the title as well as power words like “Ultimate, actionable, amazing, checklist, etc.”, make titles more interesting and this increases their CTR (Click Through Rate).
No need to include your domain in the title – There is no need to include your domain name in the title because this is added automatically by Google. You can make use of the 60 characters to provide an accurate description of the page.
An exception to this rule is when you have a strong brand that people can easily recognize, in this case, you can consider having your domain in the title.
Resources to Learn More
Page Title Optimization – best practices to follow to optimize your page titles (includes examples).
Optimized Meta Description Example
Optimized Meta Description Example
The page description is shown on the search engine results page (SERPS). It has to be descriptive, up to 200 characters, and unique for each page.
It’s your opportunity to advertise your page and convince users to click your link and visit your website rather than selecting one of the other links.
It should be noted that Google does not always show the custom meta description, but many times they use an automated description if they believe is more useful for the searcher.
The most important meta description optimization tips are:
Avoid auto-generated descriptions – Even though Google may not use your description, it’s always a best practice to avoid using auto-generated descriptions that sometimes don’t make sense.
Add your target keyword(s) in the description – Google still highlights the search terms both in the title and description so adding your target keywords, makes descriptions more relevant and appealing to the searcher.
3. Optimize Page Content
Content SEO is part of on-page SEO and has to do with optimizing the actual content for your target keywords.
Before publishing a piece of content (whether this is text, images, audio, or video), the first step is to do your keyword research.
This is necessary to find out what search terms users are typing in the search box and create content that can satisfy their intent.
Once you decide on your target keywords, you should create a list of related keywords (also called LSI keywords), longtail keywords, and use them in your titles, descriptions, headings, and page content.
Why? Because with the introduction of Rank Brain, Google search algorithms have become more intelligent and besides keyword relevancy in content, they are also looking for topic relevancy.
This means that in order to make your content more relevant to broad topics, you need to enrich your content with LSI keywords.
There are various ways to find out which keywords are considered by Google to be relevant to your target keywords.
The easiest and fastest way is to take advantage of three features provided by Google: Google suggests, People also ask for, and Related Searches.
When you start typing a query in Google search, you are presented with a list of possible phrases to use in your search. These are great keyword candidates to mention in your content.
Google keyword suggest
Google keywords suggest tool
People Also Ask
When you click search, Google shows you the results and among them, a section called “People also ask”. These are good candidates to use in your sub-headings.
people also ask
Example of Google’s ‘People Also Ask’
At the bottom of the search results, Google shows you a list of related searches.
Google Related Keywords
All you have to do is that you mention some of the above words in your content (without doing keyword stuffing).
4. Headings and Content Formatting
A page needs to be properly formatted. Think of it as a report which needs to have a heading (h1) and subheadings (h2, h3).
The H1 Tag
Each page needs to have only one H1 tag. If you are using WordPress then by default the title of a page is wrapped into H1 tags.
You can either choose to have the same <title> and <h1> tag or provide an alternative title for the heading.
Remember that search engines display in the results what they find in the title tag and not the h1 tag.
As far as the other headings are concerned (h2, h3), the things you need to have in mind are the following:
Avoid using a single word for a heading but make your headings interesting and useful for users that like to skim-read an article.
Use headings hierarchically i.e. the first heading tag is the <h1> and then the <h2> and then <h3>, <h4> etc.
The subheadings are a great place to use related keywords in your content.
Page Title Vs H1 Tag – the difference between a page title and an H1 tag (with examples).
Do not just throw text on a page but make sure that it is readable.
Use bold, underline or italics to highlight the important parts of a page.
Use a good size font (at least 14px).
Split the text into small paragraphs (max 3-4 lines).
Use enough spacing between the paragraphs to make the text easier to read.
Make use of CSS to create sections that stand out and break the text into smaller more manageable parts.
5. Images and Other Multimedia Elements
Image SEO Best Practices
Image SEO Best Practices
Images are important for presentation purposes. They make a page more interesting and easier to understand.
The biggest problems with images are that search engines don’t understand them and that they add to the loading speed of a page.
Best practices for SEO optimizing images
Use original images. If you need to use an existing image from the web you need to reference the source.
Optimize the size of the images – the smaller the size (in bytes) of the image the better.
Use an ALT tag to describe the image – This helps search engines understand what the image is about.
Use descriptive filenames – Don’t just name your image ‘image1.jpg’ but try to use descriptive filenames, for example, ‘man-doing-push-ups.jpg’.
Use a Content Delivery Network – If you have a lot of images on a single page you can use a CDN service that will make your page load faster. In simple terms, your images will be hosted and served by a number of servers and this speeds up the loading process.
Image SEO – everything you need to know about optimizing your images for SEO.
6. URL Optimization
Optimizing your URLs is important for maximum SEO. It has two parts. The first part is URL optimization and the second is the URL structure.
A permanent link (also known as a slug) is the unique URL of each page.
A URL has two parts: The domain and the Slug.
A URL has two parts: The domain and the slug.
Good URLs should be less than 255 characters and use hyphens to ‘-‘ separate the different parts.
Just like the page title, an SEO friendly URL is short, descriptive, and includes your target keyword.
These are some examples of good URLs:
Example of SEO Friendly URL in SERPS
Example of SEO-Friendly URL in SERPS
These are examples of bad URLs:
Best practices for optimizing your URL structure
The URL structure should mimic the actual structure of a website.
Make use of categories – Group your pages into categories to help users and search engines find what they want faster.
It’s like having a warehouse with lots of uncategorized items versus a warehouse with all the items assigned to a dedicated category.
You can have sub-categories as well but my advice is not to go over two levels. For example, a good category structure is:
Homepage > Social Media > Facebook > Article
Homepage > Social Media > Facebook > How To > Article
Add a Breadcrumb menu– A breadcrumb is helpful because it allows users to navigate your website in a structured way since they always know where they are and how far from the home page.
7. Internal Links
Internal Linking Best Practices
Internal Linking Best Practices
Linking to pages within your website is very important for SEO because:
It’s like building your own web
The first step a search engine spider will do once they discover a page, is to follow the links they find on that page (both internal and external links).
So, when they arrive at your page, if you don’t have any other links within the text they will read your page and go.
If you have links pointing to other pages within your website they will take those into account as well.
It’s a way to let search engines know about your other pages
As explained above when search engines find a page with links, they will go and read those pages too, so you can use this technique to tell search engines about pages of your website they have not yet discovered.
It’s a way to tell search engines which your most important pages are
Every website has some pages that are more important than others. Internal linking is one of the ways to pinpoint the most important pages by sending them more internal links.
It’s a way to increase the time users spend on your site
A user that is reading your post is more likely to click on a link to read more about a certain topic and thus increase both the time spend on your website, the number of pages per visit, and decrease the bounce rate.
Best practices for internal linking:
Don’t use keywords only for your internal links
Add internal links when they are useful for your reader
No more than 15 internal links per page (this is my opinion and not based on any research or studies)
When possible, add the links in the main body of your webpage (not in the footer or sidebar)
8. External Links
An external link is a link pointing to a page outside your website i.e. on a different domain. For the website that links out, it’s an external link and for the website that receives the link, it’s a backlink.
We know that backlinks are important for SEO but what about external links?
External links to related pages help Google figure out your page’s topic. It also shows Google that your page is a hub of quality info.
Adding external links to your content will not directly help you with SEO, it’s not a ranking factor but it can help you indirectly.
You can use external links to link out to other websites and then email them and let them know about it. Webmasters will be pleased to know that you have linked to them and this is a great way to start a conversation. You can gradually build on this relationship and eventually get backlinks to your website as many webmasters will be more likely to return the favor.