On-page SEO is a huge factor that determines your website’s search engine ranking. Without a doubt, it is the most crucial first step in optimizing your website. You probably had the old debate SEO or AdWords, and you decided to do what you can with your on-page SEO.
For better or for worse, anything you do on the web page or to the web page is considered on-page SEO. All the information provided to the visitors on your website, correlated to their search phrases or terms, and rated on authenticity, quality, and how much the users found your content useful, is all about on-page SEO in a broader sense.
And, the interesting thing is that Google also wants the information that visitors want to find. Google uses Title tag, URL, content and image alt text from your web page to get the information. So, it is not just about what you write, but also about what you have written about your web page in the background. But perhaps I am getting ahead of myself. Either way, don’t worry, it will all make sense in a moment.
What are the key elements of on-page SEO and how you can increase your position on Google?
There are plenty of key elements, and it’s hard to say which one carries more weight with Google or the user browsing your website. From a users perspective, and that’s something you can relate to, obviously, URL structure makes an impact.
Title tags, description tags and keyword tags play a strong role. Writing great and long (at least 2000 words) posts could be considering copywriting, but if you consider repeating a certain keyword, breaking the paragraphs, adding images and URLs, then it is also on-page SEO.
Key elements like title tag and description tag also play a role with improving the click-through rate on Google’s search engine results page. That’s right! You can choose your call to action right there on the results page! This is your chance to grab clicks even if you are in the fifth or sixth position. Don’t get me wrong, it depends a lot on other circumstances (competition, timing, topic) but it can make a difference.
On-page SEO is easy to understand but hard to execute
Here’s the thing with on-page SEO, it is very easy to understand but very hard to execute. What do I mean by that? Well imagine if you are 20kg (44 pounds) overweight, and someone tells you the following.
In order to lose weight, you need to exercise 3-5 times per week, switch to a plant-based diet, and significantly drop the calory intake through beverages like soft drinks. That right there would be very easy to understand, but if you are overweight, it would be very hard to execute. Just the habits that you already have would make it hard to make the switch.
So, learning new on-page SEO habits and sticking to them would be hard. Especially for someone who hasn’t paid any attention to them in the past. First, you have to know all of them, and then you have to constantly repeat them every day. Or at least every time you post content, but not as rare as once per month…
Best on-page SEO tools in 2021
Here’s a shortlist of tools that will help you improve your on-page SEO game.
1. Yoast SEO
I don’t know about you, but I like to post my articles with WordPress. It is one of my go-to tools for building my website empire. So there’s a plugin called Yoast that helps you track some parts of the on-page SEO. Yoast SEO covers so many aspects of SEO, it would take too much space to cover them here. This is why I recorded a short video to give you a sneak peek of how useful this tool is.
Yoast SEO doesn’t just help you track these things automatically, it also teaches you the importance of that section. For example, technical SEO is not the most exciting thing you are going to encounter today, and Schema.org is a small subsection. Although not fun, Schema is important for google’s spiders to determine what exactly your content is. If you were wondering about schema, and structured data, guess where you can learn more? That’s right, Yoast explains schema in detail.
For example, it automatically tracks the number of times you typed your focus keyword. In the beginning, you set a keyword you want to focus on (rank for), and Yoast immediately tracks the number of times you mention it in the article and tells you if you should mention it more or fewer times.
2. Google Search Console
Tools like SEMRush are very helpful when you need info on websites that you don’t have access to. But when it comes to the websites you own, why trust anyone else except Google? Once you add your website to Google Search Console you will have so much information about your website’s search engine position you will have enough ideas for improvement.
This is why we integrated Google Search Console into Webmaster.Ninja’s Website Manager so that you have fast access to most important information for your entire portfolio of websites.
3. Google PageSpeed Insights
Keep in mind that your website will not jump on 1st position just because you score high on Google’s SpeedTest. But you want to make sure that users get the best experience, and that Google doesn’t hold it against you when they are indexing your content.
What is keyword density?
This is also known as keyword density. Although I won’t mention it below where I list all of them, I thought this mention will be sufficient that you need to watch it. You can’t expect to rank for a certain keyword in Google if you mention it only once in the entire 2000-words article.
Another great feature is that it automatically counts the number of characters you put in the title and description and the number of links (more on linking at the bottom of this article).
This is important because you want the users on Google to get the entire message you want them to read. And also, you don’t want to leave any opportunities on the table.
Why should you care about on-page SEO?
It probably crossed your mind at one point… why should you care about on-page SEO in the first place? Isn’t backlinking how you score a high position on Google? Surely, backlinking is perhaps the most important thing in getting a high position on Google. But, it is also the hardest.
If you thought on-page SEO was hard, wait till you see what you have to do to get a solid backlink. Besides, even if you have a ton of solid backlinks, you still have to compete with your “neighbors” on the search engine results page.
Just look one more time at the screenshot I posted above. Even if you are the best, the first result, you have a very strong competitor in second and third place. If they have their on-page SEO game on, and you don’t, pretty soon, one of them is going to replace you in the first place.
Here are a few crucial on-page SEO tactics you can use to increase your position on Google.
I know I’ve been hammering about content up to this point (and I will again below), but there’s one step you should never avoid before deciding what content to create. And that’s research. You should conduct solid keyword research, competitor research and evaluate the opportunities that come out of that research. Finding a keyword that’s often searched with low competition is golden, and that’s what you should strive for.
This is very hard to do without tools like Keyword Finder or Long Tail Pro. You could help yourself with free tools like Google AdWords keyword planner but there are disadvantages to this tool and you still have manual labor involved.
This is where you can break away from competition, and it pays to invest in tools like this. Use them to find opportunities, rank for them and get the traffic! If you have a solid foundation, just posting great content around keywords that have low competition can bring thousands of people to your website. (Probably even more, but “thousands” is something I was able to achieve and track in a timespan of 2 weeks during Christmas time).
2. Content on your web page
Your content is the essence of your website. According to Google Panda updates, it is important to keep your content fresh, unique and informative. It is the content on the web page that makes it commendable of a search engine position. It is what the user came to see on a website, and is thus extremely important to the search engines. So, it is important to craft good content. Good content helps to rank a website on Google. If you want to keep Google happy, you should keep your content good.
Content is considered text, images, and video. So you should pick one you are great at, or combine all three! Since session duration is a ranking signal (time spent on a website) it is important to keep the user engaged. Or you can focus on resolving the user’s issue, and have a low session duration.
One example is checking the weather forecast or simple questions like “is it going to rain today in Florence”. Obviously, those requests are easily resolved and you don’t need 2000 words, 4 images, and 1 video.
3. What is considered a great on-page SEO content?
According to SEO experts, great content has two characteristics. It must supply a demand and must be linkable. Good content is one that does the best job of supplying the largest demand. And the second attribute is it should be linkable. There is no good or bad content on the web if it is not linkable or shareable.
If viewers cannot link to it, Google will be unlikely to rank it, and as a result, the content will not drive traffic to any particular website. So valuable content is one of the most crucial factors for ranking a website on Google.
Earlier I mentioned that text, images and video all qualify as content. Think outside the box! A PowerPoint presentation qualifies as content. A great infographic, ebook in PDF, whitepaper in PDF, screen share a video, explainer video and many others, also qualify as content.
You can record audio (like a podcast) or an interview and have it transcribed, which also counts as content. Interview someone important, and surely it will be shared and linked! There is something very powerful in that tactic which I will reveal in another post.
4. Title Tags
Title Tags are also one of the most important on-page SEO factors. They tell Google what the page is all about. It is an HTML constituent that specifies the title of the web page. They are important for usability, search engine optimization and social sharing.
Title tags will appear in three important places:
- Search engine results page,
- Web browsers and
- Social networks
5. URL structure
The URL of the website holds a lot of importance in ranking your website. Its structure helps the search engines to understand the relevancy of a web page. The category hierarchy of a given website is reflected in the URLs.
The information in the URL is used to determine the relevancy of the particular web page by the search engines. Based on the information provided on the URLs, they can be categorized as good or bad URLs.
A good URL is one which depicts the information about that particular page and Google can understand what the page is all about. It means the information provided by the URL is of the great value to the users.
On the other hand, a bad URL does not reflect the information hierarchy of the website. This means the information provided by the URL is of little use to the search engines.
6. H tags (body tags H1, H2, H3, H4)
For example, the title above is written in an H2 tag. I call these the nuclear tags (hydrogen bomb – H-bomb), and also because I set them throughout the article to form a chain reaction.
Joking aside, they separate the article nicely. Making it easy to read, and help you rank better. Keywords inside an H1-H4 tag are more important than the rest of the text. Also, some users like to skim the article before deciding if they want to read it or not.
Some great storytellers and marketing experts advise that the titles written with H tags should follow their own story.
7. Image alt text
An image alt text is an HTML feature applied to image tags to provide a text alternative for search engines. It serves a good purpose for a web page.
Google and other robots cannot read images but images play a good part in how people interpret a particular web page. Alt tags solve for this by providing text which is read by the search engine. When Googlebot and other crawlers inspect a page, images with properly formatted alt text contribute to how the page is indexed and where it ranks. They are also beneficial for users viewing a webpage on screen readers or browsers that cannot progress images.
I also go so far that when I upload a picture, I name the picture file properly and describe it with keywords. Instead img376.jpg i would name it on-page-seo-list-of-tactics.jpg. I also make the effort that the images are relevant so that the keywords used to describe it are relevant to the keywords I want to rank for.
8. Make your content easy to share
It’s hard to talk about on-page SEO without mentioning backlinking at least once. So, is there an on-page SEO tactic that could help your off-page SEO? Sure there is.
Make your content easy to share! Create social share buttons, create twitter ready sentences, and give readers a reason to bookmark your page. Besides, if people share your content on Facebook, Twitter or other social media website, people can come directly from there! No more search engines! 🙂 Ah, you wish…
9. Linking (internal and external)
One of the last, but definitely not the least important tactics is linking. Google takes into account your internal and external linking. Are you linking to expired domains, spammy websites, or authority websites?
Do you have similar or complementary content on your website, and are you linking to it? Which keywords are you using to link those pages? How often have you done this in the past? Here’s one question up for debate. Is Google tracking how often users click on those links, measuring if those URL’s you places are providing value?
10. Final on-page SEO advice: Responsive design, SSL, speed and other good things
Here’s the thing. It’s 2021 and users expect a certain level of quality. They expect the website to load quickly with a certain degree of security and without errors.
It’s not really rocket science, and someone would dismiss this as an on-page SEO tactic. But tactic or no tactic, everything else being equal a fast, responsive website that loads on an SSL certificate will have a better Google position compared to another website that doesn’t. I’ve already mentioned on this blog why it is important to have an SSL certificate installed, and what providers you can consider.
There is one more thing that I haven’t mentioned but can easily fit the profile of this title. One of the “other good things” may as well be the domain and website age. If someone is ranking number one for a particular term in years, it’s going to be harder to outrank them with a brand new website!
11. Take care of your technical SEO
I’ve already mentioned some of the aspects of technical SEO. So I might as well list more of them. Responsive design (mobile friendly), SSL, website speed and:
- Responsive design (mobile friendly)
- AMP-valid markup (Accelerated Mobile Pages)
- Website speed
- XML sitemap
- Structured Data Markup (Schema)
- Eliminate duplicate content
- Delete links to expired domains
- Fix crawling and indexing errors (Google Search Console can help)
- Use canonical tag
There will probably be more of them, as the technology behind them is constantly being upgraded. So you have something to look forward to.
This is a comprehensive list and there’s a lot to be said for each item on it. Take Schema for example. We already mentioned it when describing Yoast SEO. An in-depth Schema.org integration will increase your chance of getting rich results, by helping search engines to understand your content. Yoast SEO provides Innovative Schema blocks for the WordPress block editor, so that your FAQ and HowTo content can be shown directly in the search results. Plus a breadcrumbs block to guide your users.
On-page SEO conclusion
The above-mentioned techniques will help your web pages to work better, rank better and provide a better experience for the end-user. They will help you to get your website crawled by search engine spiders and improve your rankings on Google.
I hope you liked the article enough to bookmark it and return to it later when you need to check if there are any updates or when you need to refresh your memory.
After all, this article began by saying this will be easy to understand, but hard to execute. Therefore, even if you understood intellectually everything that was posted here, it’s a matter of doing it every day!
I’ve been an online entrepreneur for more than a decade. Back in 2011, I sold my first small business. 500 Startups alumni. I love to read and write in every shape or form. Founder of WhoAPI and webmaster.ninja and website investor.