On-page SEO relates to the content on your website. It includes strategies to optimize an individual page on a website. These factors (all of which are outlined in this on-page SEO checklist) help search engines understand the topic of the content and see that the website is a valuable source that people would want to find.
WHAT is on-page SEO?
On-page SEO (also known as on-site SEO) refers to the practice of optimizing web pages to improve a website’s search engine rankings and earn organic traffic. In addition to publishing relevant, high-quality content, on-page SEO includes optimizing your headlines, HTML tags (title, meta, and header), and images. It also means making sure your website has a high level of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
HOW to do on-page SEO?
Mastering on-page SEO requires broad knowledge, as it includes many aspects. In this guide, we’re going to walk you step by step through the most important on-page success factors and techniques.
WHY should you work on the on-page SEO?
Because it is an integral part of SEO that can help you get higher rankings, reach a bigger audience and get more organic traffic.
- Crawlable website – the website is crawlable and indexed by search robots
- Site architecture – there is a clear structure and logic in the architecture of the pages
- Quality outbound links – the website is linking to high-quality external resources
- Website speed – the pages load fast on all devices
- Mobile friendliness – the page renders on every device and browser properly
- Use of HTTPS – the website is secured and has an SSL certificate
- User-friendly URLs – URL addresses are simple and UX-friendly
- Well-targeted content – the page targets a specific search intent
- Keyword optimization – the page uses relevant keywords in relevant places
- Image optimization – the images are optimized for search engines
- Readability and UX – the text is well-optimized, readable and UX-friendly
- Click-through rate – the page has optimized title tag and meta description
E-A-T, which stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness, is the framework that Google raters use to assess content creators, webpages, and websites as a whole. Google has always put a premium on high-quality content. It wants to make sure that sites producing high-quality content are rewarded with better rankings and sites that create low-quality content get less visibility. There is a clear relationship between what Google considers high-quality content and what appears in the search results.
The title tag, an HTML tag that exists in the head section of each webpage, provides an initial cue or context as to what the topical subject matter is of the respective page it is on. It is featured prominently in the search engine results pages (typically used as the clickable link) as well as in the browser window.
The title tag by itself has little impact on organic rankings, this why it’s sometimes overlooked. That said, missing, duplicate, and poorly written title tags can all negatively impact your SEO results, so make sure you’re optimizing for this element
The page description is shown in 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.
Want your website content to perform well on search? Then start writing compelling headlines. Coming up with a title for a blog post might seem too basic, but a great headline can mean the difference between a click and an impression – that’s why it’s important to create them strategically.
Your headlines need to spark interest for it to stand out on the SERPs – enticing users to click through and continue reading the rest of the content.
Images and Other Multimedia Elements
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.
SEO writing means writing content with both search engines and users in mind. There is a strategy behind writing solid SEO content – and it is more than just keyword research and fill in the blanks. Simply producing content for the sake of it won’t do. Remember that you’re writing content for people – therefore that content must be high-quality, substantial, and relevant.
Research your keywords
Although most on-page SEO guides do not deal with keyword research, it is an essential step when creating new content. So it deserves some space here.
Why is keyword research important? It helps you to:
- find new topic ideas
- find phrases that are popular, relevant and easy to rank
- understand what people are interested in
The last point is especially important when it comes to on-page optimization
Keyword research will tell you what people are searching for (and how many of them). It also helps you to see what exact questions they have and what phrases they use to find the answers.
Based on these insights, you can start creating content that will be perfectly tailored for your visitors, and both Google and your visitors will love it.
As Google has evolved over the years, so did keyword research. Today, the focus lies on these things:
- Quality content – keyword research (and SEO in general) won’t help you if your content sucks, great content should be your #1 priority
- Topical keyword research – keyword research is no longer only about finding one focus keyword, it is also about understanding the whole topic and its related terms and subtopics
- Search intent – search volume and keyword difficulty are not the only things to focus on when looking for the keywords, be careful about the intent behind the query too
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.
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.
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.
Page Loading Speed
Google is investing a huge amount of money to make the web faster. In every Google, I/O someone will talk about the importance of speed and their desire to include the fastest websites in their index.
In order to ‘force’ web site owners to take speed into account, they have officially added speed as one of the known ranking factors.
So, we know for sure that website speed does matter when it comes to SEO and ranking.
As a webmaster, your job is to make sure that your website loads as fast as possible by taking into account Google’s recommendations. Having fast-loading websites is not only good for SEO but for customer retention and conversions.
Almost 60% of the searches in Google are now coming from mobile devices. This means that if your website is not mobile-friendly, you are already losing half of the potential traffic.
What should you do?
As a first step, make sure that your website is mobile-friendly. Check your website with the Google mobile friendly tool and fix any potential problems.
Then go one step further and test your website on mobile, like a real user would do, and make sure that everything is displayed correctly including your CTA buttons.
In general websites with a responsive design, have nothing to worry about mobile-friendliness.
Get Our Complete Guide to On-Page SEO
We’ve only just scratched the surface. Ready to go much deeper? Search Engine Journal’s ebook, The Complete Guide to On-Page SEO, tackles the top on-page SEO factors that impact your pages’ visibility on the SERPs.