On-page SEO is an important part of SEO because it tells Google what each piece of content on your website is about. The better Google understands your content, the higher you’ll rank in search results, which means more organic traffic, conversions, and revenue. Even better, if you do on-page SEO right, it can improve the user experience.
In this step-by-step on-page SEO guide, I’ll explain the most important best practices for optimizing each page and why they’re so important to your overall SEO strategy.
What is 'On-Page SEO'?
On-page SEO, also called on-site SEO, is the process of optimizing web pages so that they rank higher in search engines for specific keywords, which increases organic traffic. It means making sure that a page’s title tags, headings, content, and search intent are all in line with a certain set of keywords.
Technical SEO vs. On-Page SEO
Some SEOs use the terms technical SEO and on-page SEO interchangeably. But I’d rather keep them apart. In my opinion, technical SEO includes things like page speed and site speed, duplicate content, site structure, crawling, and indexing. In other words, technical optimization looks at your whole website, while on-page optimization looks at certain URLs.
Off-page SEO is everything that happens outside of your website, like building links and mentioning your brand.
Why is On-Page SEO Important?
Google’s search algorithm is always getting better. It did 800,000 tests and changed its search algorithm more than 5,000 times in 2021.
And yet, even though it keeps getting better, it’s not perfect. Google still needs help to figure out what new content is about. On-page search engine optimization (SEO) is what helps with this.
On-page SEO strategies aren’t as hard as some people say they are. In fact, there are only a few things you need to worry about when it comes to ranking. Your top priority should be giving users a great experience, not just making sure your content is optimized for bots.
URLs are Helpful for On-Page SEO
Google has said that URLs help them understand what a page is about better. So, how do you make your URLs work best?
- Include a keyword: Putting your main keyword in your URL will help search engines and people understand what your page is about.
- Think about the page’s purpose. Along with the main keywords, use descriptive words to help show what the page is about.
- Use real language: Use real words in your URL instead of the numbers and letters that some content management systems generate.
- Be succinct: Keep the structure of your URLs short and simple so that search engines can understand them. Also, Google’s search results often include URLs. Users won’t be able to figure out what your page is about if the URL is a long list of random letters and numbers. The more they know about what your page is about, the more likely they are to click on it when it comes up in a search.
- Use hyphens between words: The use of hyphens make URLs easier to read. Use the URL www.yourcompany.com/coffee-bean-grinders for a page about coffee bean grinders.
- Avoid session IDs: If you can, don’t put session IDs in your URLs because they create a lot of URLs for the same page. Google says that you should instead use first-party cookies.
Improve Title Tags & Meta Descriptions
Meta tags, which are part of page titles, are one of the most important on-page SEO factors. Every page has a title tag, which shows up as a headline in search results. The meta description is a short summary of the page that shows up in search results under the title. Both are important because they tell search engines and people what a page is about.
The title tag directly affects a page’s SEO ranking, but meta descriptions do not.
Both the title and the meta description have a lot to do with whether or not a person clicks on a search result. When both the title and the meta description are optimized, the Click-Through Rate (CTR) goes up. This means that more people click on your link, which means you get more traffic.
Google changed how it handles title tags in August 2021, which is bad news. After the update, Google may change the titles of pages based on other parts of the page, such as headings or anchor text from links. Even though this change has no effect on rankings, if the new title isn’t good, it can have a huge effect on CTR.
In fact, Wordstream’s CTR went down by 37%. See how they fixed it here in their article.
How to Do On-Page SEO on Meta Tags
Your title and meta description should be the first things you look at when doing an on-page SEO analysis. do these things:
- Put your main keyword close to the start of the title.
- Keep the title to about 55 or 60 characters so it doesn’t get cut off in search results. If your meta tags are too long, a WordPress plugin like Yoast can tell you.
- Don’t use all caps in title tags.
- Give each page a different title so that Google doesn’t think you have pages that are exactly the same.
- Write titles that are clear and interesting so that people will want to click on them.
- In the meta description, you should include your main keyword. Google will make that keyword stand out in the search results when someone looks for it.
- Don’t use more than 155 characters in the meta description.
- Make sure your meta description says what the page is about. Think of it as an ad and try to word it in a way that makes people want to click.
Configure Your Page Schemas
Structured data, also called schema, makes it easier for Google to understand your content. It should be a key part of your on-page SEO audit. Say, for example, you have a page for a product that has information like prices, availability, ratings, etc. Google won’t be able to understand that information unless it is set up in a certain way in the HTML.
Headers Also Affect On-Page SEO
Using more than one header (H1 tag, H2 tag, H3 tag, etc.) on your pages helps SEO in more than one way. First, it makes it easier for people to read what you have to say. When people come to a page and see a wall of text, they are much less likely to want to read it and will often leave the page. Users can quickly understand the content with the help of multiple headers, which improves the overall user experience (an important factor for Google).
Second, subheadings help Google figure out what a page is about. Make sure to use your main keyword in at least one or two H2 headers when writing them. If it makes sense in the context, repeat the main keyword in the H3 or another header.
Copywriting is Essential for SEO
Copywriting can boost your SEO efforts on a page. When you spend time and money on good content for your landing pages, users will be more interested. It’s important to remember that the best practices for SEO copywriting aren’t just good for search engines. They also improve the marketing of your content for users.
The best bloggers are experts at writing SEO copy, and these are some of the things they do:
- Write introductions that are clear and interesting. Explain the problem and how you plan to solve it.
- Long sentences and paragraphs should be avoided. But don’t get rid of paragraphs altogether, or your writing won’t flow well.
- Use subheadings to break up parts that are longer than 300 words.
- Use the SEO keyword in a natural way all over the page copy.
- Align your content with what people are looking for.
- Write for the people who will read it.
- Use “bucket brigades” to get people to keep reading. Bucket brigades are transitional phrases that make your writing sound more conversational. Think of phrases like “here’s the thing,” “no wonder,” “but that’s just part of the story,” and “as it turns out.”
- Include stories and feelings to get people interested.
Include Easily Understandable Content
Even though readability doesn’t directly affect your ranking, it should still be a part of your on-page SEO. This is because the text that is easy to read is easier for Google and users to understand, which is good for your SEO in the long run.
If your text is hard to read, people may leave your site quickly, which hurts conversions, revenue, and return on investment (ROI).
To make your writing easy to read:
- Make the page easy to read. Break up your content into pieces that are easy to understand.
- Use a lot of different headings and subheadings.
- Use a lot of paragraph breaks so you don’t end up with big walls of text.
- Make bullet points out of lists.
- Use images and other visuals to back up your points.
- Use clear, actionable sentences.
- Most people will look at your website on their phones, so make sure it is responsive, easy to read, and easy to skim.
Include Internal Links
Internal linking is an important part of on-page SEO because it shows Google how your pages relate to each other. With a lot of internal links, you can show context, relevance, and how much you know about a subject.
Links inside a website are also great for the user experience. They make it easier for people to find more of your content, like more blog posts or a useful case study.
A strong internal linking strategy is also a great way to lower your bounce rate and improve other Google Analytics metrics like conversion rate and average session length.
When it comes to on-page SEO, you should link to and from other pages on your site that are relevant. Linking out from authoritative pages like your homepage is especially important.
Use anchor text that is short, descriptive, and focused on a keyword. It’s also important to link the most important parts of your content to other pages that talk about the same thing.
As a side note, don’t use keywords you want to rank for in links to other websites.
Internal links don’t help your site’s authority like backlinks do because you can add them yourself. Instead, they use your backlinks to spread the authority and relevance that are already on your site. Keeping this in mind, if your domain already has a lot of authority, linking to other pages on your own site can make a big difference in how it ranks.
Add External Links
External links are not a direct ranking factor, so linking out to trusted websites won’t help your on-page SEO rankings. But putting links to your sources builds trust, which is important for users. So, it’s best to add external links when you need to, especially when you’re quoting someone or talking about a statistic.
But don’t use anchor text that includes keywords you want to rank for when you add external links. Read my article What Is Anchor Text in SEO to find out why.
Optimize Images & Other Elements
For SEO, images also need to be fixed up. Start by giving them file names with words separated by hyphens that tell what the file is about. Next, make the file size as small as possible while still keeping the image’s quality. For example, if your website is full of images that are always over 400kb, your page load time will be slowed down, which will hurt your ability to rank high on Google.
Lastly, add text to the image alt tags, and sometimes use the right keyword in that text. The alt text tells search engines what the picture is about.
Bottom Line Review
Let’s go over the most important things you need to do for on-page SEO:
- Use short, descriptive page URLs
- Optimize title tags Write compelling meta descriptions
- Implement structured data
- Improve headers
- Use best practices for SEO copywriting
- Use the keyword you want to rank for in the first 100 words.
- Make sure your keyword density is right.
- Make content that answers what the user wants.
- Write text that is easy to read and add both internal and external links.
- Optimize your images for Google
Remember, SEO on the page is important. If you build your web pages with these things in mind, you’ll be well on your way to better organic search engine rankings. Want to go even deeper? Check out our ultimate list of SEO tasks.