In this article, we discuss everything you need to know related to on-page SEO to boost your rankings. We also included a best practices checklist.
In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know related to on-page SEO. More precisely, we’ll cover the following topics:
- What is on-page SEO?
- Why is on-page SEO important?
- Benefits of doing on-page SEO
- What on-page SEO factors affect rankings? Including best practices
- On-page SEO checklist
On-page search engine optimization (SEO) is a crucial part of SEO. It’s the more technical part of how you should set up your pages for success for them to start ranking higher in search engines like Google. But how does it work? And what aspects do you need to think about when doing on-page SEO? We’ll tackle this and many other things and provide practical tips to start implementing on-page SEO immediately.
On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing your web pages to the liking of search engine algorithms with the goal of making a page or website rank higher in organic search results. Search engines analyze different factors on web pages to decide whether they match what users are searching for.
It is a positive sign to search engines like Google when on-page SEO practices are correctly implemented. They will help improve organic ranking as they indicate that your content is relevant to Google’s users. Ranking pages higher in search engines is typically also the goal for marketers or business owners because it results in more traffic to the website.
Some of the most known examples of on-page SEO factors that search engines take into account are title tags, meta descriptions, internal linking, page content, and text formats. We’ll discuss these and many more factors in detail later.
In addition to on-page SEO, people often talk about off-page SEO. Where on-page SEO focuses on things you can do internally (on your website) to improve rankings, off-page SEO focuses on things you can do beyond optimizing your own website. Typical examples of off-page SEO techniques are backlink building or using social media and press releases to boost website rankings.
On-page SEO is important because you are essentially indicating to search engines that your pages are relevant and in good enough shape to be shown to someone searching. As a result, search engines will start indexing your pages and rank them higher when done properly. Most companies start looking into on-page SEO when their goal is to drive more traffic to their website because it can result in more customers when people can easily find your pages.
There are several benefits of on-page SEO for website owners to consider.
- With on-page SEO, you show search engines that crawl your website that it is structured and in good shape, which enhances the credibility of your website. It indicates that you serve searchers better, increasing search engines’ willingness to rank your pages higher.
- Higher rankings usually also mean more traffic to your website, which can lead to more customers. In fact, 69 percent of the clicks go to the first five organic search results.
- Searchers tend to trust the first search engine results more, which can positively influence your brand.
There are many factors influencing how your pages will rank. We listed some of the most essential elements that you need to be aware of for on-page SEO.
When it comes to the content you write for your page, you must ensure it matches people’s search intent. Matching what people search for is the best way to demonstrate to search engines that your content is optimized and relevant.
This will require keyword research and making sure that you are answering any questions people might have related to a topic. A quick hack is to check Google’s data on what people ask. You can find related search questions on the search results pages.
Or analyzing the keywords that relate to your main keywords, which you can find at the bottom of the first search results page.
If you are looking to get more comprehensive data and insights, you can use dedicated keyword research tools like Semrush or Ahrefs that help you match content with search intent even better.
Content also needs to be valuable and comprehensive. It should advance the reader’s knowledge and give them something they can take away and apply in their jobs. Most often, writers distract value by looking at other sources of information. While that’s a good start, you also want to ensure your content is unique and include tips, case studies, or strategies others haven’t considered.
Another way to capture immediate interest in your page’s content is to highlight what you’ll discuss at the beginning of the article with a small intro text or a table of contents, as we did for this article. This helps prevent people from leaving the page early. Especially with information being quicker available than ever, it’s crucial to provide the reader instant gratification on whether they’ll find what they are looking for.
When you’re writing for on-page SEO, you should use your target keywords at least once in the first 150 words of your content. This way, you show search engines that the content you create is relevant for the searcher. Especially since search engines like Google put more weight on the beginning of the article.
10 or 15 years ago, it would have been a best practice to stuff your pages with the target keywords to rank higher organically. Today, search engines have developed so much that it’s not necessary to do so.
In fact, many high-ranking pages only use the target keywords a handful of times. Avoid going overboard with the keywords but indicate that the article is about the targeted keywords. Using them twenty times in one article is already more than enough.
Search engines crawl your website to see how relevant and optimized they are for people’s searches. Title tags are an important way to demonstrate that your pages are optimized. You should always use at least H1 tags, and if you have subheaders, wrap them in H2, H3, and H4 tags, and so on.
Your H1 tag should contain the target keywords and be concise and descriptive. H2 tags can also include the target keywords, but Google indicates that stuffing your title tags with them is harmful.
Ensure your title tags are unique while still relevant to your search audiences. Create something that people want to click on. It’s also best to keep your H1 tag to 50 or 60 characters because more than that is cut short on mobile devices.
Format your pages to show search engines that there’s a structure for anyone reading your pages. As mentioned earlier, search engines crawl to see whether your pages are structured in terms of title tags, such as H1 tags, and subheader tags, like H2, H3, H4, etc.
On top of that, make sure to format your paragraph text (the one your reading now) is formatted as actual paragraph text. Some experts also suggest keeping your paragraphs short and formatted with bullet points or numbered lists because it enhances readability and allows better crawling for search engines.
According to Google’s technical advice, you should always add a meta description to your page even though they can decide to override it. A meta description helps searchers understand what your text is about and can set it apart from other search results.
When writing a meta description, use the target keywords at least once because Google bolds them, which can positively impact click-though-rates. Also, keep the meta description concise, preferably limited to 155 characters.
When creating optimized URLs, you should always include the keywords you are targeting. There’s not always a need to add anything else, but adding one or two more keywords is fine. By keeping the URLs short, they also appear much nicer in the search results.
Internal linking / external linking
Another important factor in on-page SEO is internal and external linking. You should always link to other pages on your website, especially those with higher authority, because it shows search engines how your website pages are structured and related. Around 1 to 2 internal links per 500 words are sufficient.
External linking is equally important. Experts advise linking around 1 or 2 times to other websites per 500 words. Make sure to link to relevant pages that have a good reputation. You might want to avoid using external links to competitors as well. The best way to set up external links is by making sure they open in a new tab to prevent people from leaving your page.
Search engines like Google value the use of images, videos, or other illustrations because they know it’s more engaging for their searchers rather than having only plain text content. That doesn’t mean you need to go overboard with images. Only a few in one blog post are sufficient.
When search engines crawl your website, they need to be able to identify what an image is about. For that reason, images have alt texts and file names. As a result, you should always add descriptive alt texts and image file names to images on your website. That way, Google can identify the image’s relevancy for the content.
Another factor that Google considers important is how fast your pages and images load. The bigger the file size of your images, the longer it takes for everything to load, which will negatively impact your SEO rating.
Keep your image sizes under 200kb. Many tools can minimize your file size without blurring the image too much, such as Squoosh, Image Compressor, or TinyPNG.
Unique images are just as important as unique content. Some tests by experts have shown that content with unique images ranked higher than content that uses stock photos because they can also be found on many other websites.
A major component of on-page SEO is page speed: how fast your pages are loading. Google has noted that speed can affect your page’s ranking. With the increasing pace of information available online, most users don’t want to wait too long for a page to load.
Make sure to optimize your page speed by using good domain hosts and avoiding irrelevant code on your website. Heavy images, GIFs, or videos can also affect page speed, so avoid large file sizes altogether. Also, third-party scripts and tags can slow down your pages, so keeping them to a minimum is good.
You can analyze your page speed with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. Simply enter your URL and it will provide an analysis of how your page performs as well as some recommendations to optimize it. According to Google, a page speed score of 90 or above is considered good, 50-89 needs improvement, and below 50 indicates poor condition.
Google analyzes your webpage’s interaction data to see how engaging it is for users. And engaging content ranks higher. Part of this analysis looks at bounce rates and dwell time. A low bounce rate indicates that your page loads fast and provides value immediately when searchers land on it because they don’t click the back button.
Dwell time is the time someone spends on your page before they return to the other search results. Long dwell times typically indicate that your content is interesting and engaging, which is a positive sign to search engines like Google.
Therefore, you need to create engaging content that immediately gets the user’s attention to minimize bounce rates and optimize it for increased dwell times.
There is a lot of advice out there on how to write for SEO. What is thought to be most important is how unique your content is. Especially with the recent AI-generated text trend, content needs to stand out even more. So far, this hasn’t been too hard because most AI-generated texts are fairly similar, and Google has already updated its algorithms to detect them.
Another SEO writing best practice is to write a text for humans by improving readability, for example. Blog content ranks better when there isn’t too much fluff or complicated language because people don’t like reading that. Keep sentences concise, and don’t put too much text in a paragraph. Bulleted lists can also help improve readability.
Another way to keep users interested is to make your texts easy to skim. For example, you can do this by using the right headers, short sentences, and bulleted lists.
Your pages’ mobile-friendliness also impacts your rankings because an increasing amount of traffic these days comes from mobile devices. So it is extremely important that your website has an optimized mobile version. For example, your indexing is affected by how your pages load and how fast they load on a mobile device.
On-page is extremely important for websites to rank higher in search engines organically, and implementing best practices can really pay off.
To summarize, these are the main factors that you should always consider and check before publishing a page:
- Does your page content match search intent?
- Are you focusing on using the right keywords?
- Are title tags and texts formatted properly?
- Did you add a descriptive meta description?
- Is your URL optimized?
- Have you linked to other internal and external sources?
- Did you use images and are they optimized?
- Is your page speed health in good condition?
- Is the content engaging?
- Did you write for SEO?
- Is your page mobile-friendly?
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