Thankfully this guide provides everything you need to know about on-page SEO. From metas to titles, URLs to keywords, this guide covers it all. You’ll find it especially helpful if you’re running your own business, are in charge of your company’s website, or simply want to understand what your SEO company is talking about.
What Is On-Page SEO?
SEO or Search Engine Optimization covers the entirety of the topic, typically, however, On-Page SEO is the part that the majority of people get involved with. That’s because it’s the most straightforward to understand and can make huge differences in search engine rankings.
When working on one’s on-page SEO you’ll complete tasks such as:
- Optimizing titles and headers
- Adding keywords to page titles, and descriptions and using them within on-page content
- Including a good handful of internal and external links
- Adding, optimizing, and tagging images
- Writing interesting and engaging content
- And more!
At the very core of on-page SEO, there is the user. When working on SEO you should always be thinking about the user and how they experience your website. Google is first and foremost a customer service tool. They are helping people to find information based on queries. Their job, therefore, is to serve the very best information available so that people keep coming back to their search engine time and time again.
Google has always been quiet about exactly how they judge what makes the very best information and how they rank sites accordingly, but one thing they have said is that websites need to be judged well against E-A-T.
E-A-T is an acronym that stands for Expertise-Authoritativeness-Trustworthiness. What Google means by these terms is:
Expertise – Is this website seen as an expert in its field? Google now realizes just how big a part they play in decisions that people make about their lives and their money. Google will only rank pages that are deemed experts in their field.
Authoritativeness – Is this website an authority on the subject? Google wants to be sure that this site holds the authority to release this information and that they have the reputation amongst its following that deems them worthy of sharing the information.
Trustworthiness – Is this website legit? This comes down to the ease of information such as business location, contact details, etc, but also whether this website is trusted by others in the online community. Reviews and backlinks affect a trustworthiness “score”.
On-Page SEO vs Technical and Off-page SEO
SEO is split into 3 major areas, on-page, off-page and technical. The simple way of looking at these three is that:
On-Page SEO is everything you can do actually on your webpage.
Off-Page SEO is everything that affects SEO away from your webpage, things like backlinks and directory listings.
Technical SEO is the art of site indexing and making the site as readable as possible by robot crawlers.
There is some crossover between on-page SEO and technical SEO. For instance, image optimization (on-page) can hugely help overall page speed (technical). The key difference is that technical tends to look at the website as a whole, whereas on-page works on a page-by-page basis.
Why Does On-Page SEO Matter?
Google might be a huge, multi-billion dollar company, but the actual search engine is still a robot just trying to understand what is on a web page and deciding whether to rank it. Seeing as it is a robot and not a human, Google needs help understanding what content is on a web page. This is where on-page SEO comes in.
Using On-Page SEO techniques we’re able to help Google understand new and updated content. Essentially, you’re more likely to rank by following the typical on-page SEO strategies than if you don’t.
On-Page SEO Checklist
High-quality content should be at the very top of everyone’s checklist when publishing to the web. This, specifically, includes the words on the page and how they are written. Becoming a master copywriter can take years of practice and experience, but there are some best practices worth exploring:
- Keep content clear and concise.
- Never write for search engines, always write for the reader (no matter how tempting it might be).
- Avoid keyword stuffing – only include keywords if they sound natural.
- Format pieces of writing so that they’re easily accessible – use formatting styles such as bullet points and headers.
Google will also look to rank content that it deems is going to best satisfy user search intent. User search intent is split into 4 core areas:
- Informational: searching for information
- Navigational: searching for a certain page or website.
- Commercial: conducting research into products
- Transactional: searching for a site to purchase something.
When creating a web page, consider which of the 4 search intents you’re looking to satisfy and focus on what a user would want from that page.
Titles And Headers
Titles and headers not only help Google to understand what a page is about but also help the user to easily navigate through content. They should be written in a way that the user clearly understands what the page is about before even clicking on it on the search engine results page (SERP).
There was a time when keywords were the beginning and end of SEO. Throw in the keyword as many times as possible and you’ll rank. Those days are gone. Now keyword use should be used sparingly but enough that Google sees that this is the term you’d like to rank for.
- Use the keyword early on in the piece, definitely within the title, the first header, and the first 100 words of paragraph content.
- Don’t just focus on one exact keyword – Google is smart and understands terms/keywords that are synonyms or at least relevant.
Meta descriptions are the small paragraphs of text on a SERP that gives the user a bit more information on the page. They’re there for user experience and also to help Google understand the page.
- Include your keyword early in the description.
- Remember to keep it clear and concise, without stuffed keywords.
- The maximum description length should be 155 characters.
- Consider the meta description as a chance to convince the user to click your page.
Images are data-heavy, and the more data that a browser has to download the more time it takes to load. Slow page speeds are the death of user experience and are a major ranking factor. Taking the time to compress and optimize images using an online tool is well worth the effort.
You should use filenames that describe your images and then add alt text that concisely explains, using keywords, what an image is.
A page with the URL “website.com/post8712837-author%james#123-upload” is nowhere near as useful as “website.com/on-page-SEO-guide”. A clear URL helps the user and Google understand what’s on a page.
Be sure to include a keyword and keep them short.
Internal linking shows Google the architecture of your site, and how easily information is accessible. A good internal linking structure allows users to seamlessly navigate around your site, in context, without having to search extensively. Furthermore, when a user moves around within your website from page to page, bounce rate is decreased and Google looks more favorably upon your site.
- Use keywords of the target page as your anchor text.
- Only link where appropriate and in context.
On-Page SEO takes time to perfect, but it’s worth it. Not only because Google is far more likely to rank your page, but also because you’ll have created a page that is far better for the user to spend time on.
- Of the three types of SEO, on-page SEO is the most accessible.
- Working through the checklist is a major first step.
- Practice makes perfect, don’t be afraid to revisit old content if it isn’t performing as well as you’d like.