You have got a keyword in mind for which you want to rank? Now how do you optimize your web page in a way that Google understands you deserve a place on the first page of search results. On-Page SEO is your first step in making this possible.
But before we discuss how you can optimize your webpage to rank on Google and some advanced on-page SEO techniques. Let’s start with On-Page SEO basics.
In this article, we will cover the following topics.
- What is On-Page SEO?
- 15 On-Page SEO Techniques to Improve Rankings
- On-Page SEO Checklist
- What’s the difference between on-page and off-page SEO
What is On-Page SEO?
One-Page SEO is the process of optimizing individual web pages in order to rank higher on search engines. On-Page SEO is multi-faceted and extends beyond content and involves other aspects like schema and meta tags.
On-Page SEO intercepts with technical SEO and Off-Page SEO. All three processes combine to provide you with the best possible outcome, but the primary role of On-Page SEO is to optimize the content and structure of a web page.
15 On-Page SEO Techniques to Improve Rankings
Now that we understand the importance of On-Page SEO, we can learn some of the popular On-Page SEO Techniques. Some may argue that this list is not exhaustive but we consider this list to be the starting point.
Here is a summary of all on-page SEO techniques:
- Optimize Page Titles
- Optimize Meta Descriptions
- Formatting Content on the Page
- URL Optimization
- Internal Linking
- Core Web Vitals
- Mobile Friendliness
- Content Audit
- External Links
- Protocols HTTP vs. HTTPS
- Search Intent
1. Optimize Page Titles
Each page on your website should have a unique, descriptive title. The title of the page is inserted into the title tag, which is nested under each page’s head tag.
<head> <title>Example Title</title></head>
Google may adjust how your title appears in the search results, and it also shows up in your web browsers. A title tag is an incredibly effective tool when it comes to drawing users to your website. It is the first thing your visitors see in the search results.
The more compelling your title tag, the more visitors you will attract to your website. To develop an effective title following these simple rules:
- Keyword usage: Make sure the target keyword used helps both the user and the search engine. Place your keyword closer to the front of the title tag, considering users are more likely to read them, and it will be helpful from a ranking perspective.
- Length: Most search engines usually display the first 50-60 characters. If your title exceeds the character limit, it will be truncated, and search results will show ellipsis “…”
- Branding: It is best practice to end your title tag with your brand name. As it helps in creating brand awareness and improving the click-through rate if people are familiar with your brand.
2. Optimize Meta Descriptions
Like title tags, meta descriptions describe the contents of the page. They are also nested in the head tag.
<head> <meta name=”description” content=”Description of page here.”/></head>
For example, if you search for ‘backlinks,’ Google will provide this meta description as it considers it more relevant to the specific search.
The actual meta description published by the Moz team differs from the one used by Google.
Search engines often try to improve the meta descriptions for unique searches. This shouldn’t dissuade you from writing a default meta description for your page as part of your on-page SEO techniques.
Meta descriptions are incredibly essential when it comes to improving your click-through rate. However, Google still maintains that meta descriptions are not a ranking factor. So how do you write a compelling meta description?
- Relevance: Your meta description has to be relevant to the content on the page. It should briefly summarize the content on the page.
- Length: Meta descriptions are usually 150-300 characters in length. Search engines like Google usually truncate meta descriptions that exceed 155 characters.
Header tags need to be used to designate headings on your page. The main header tag is called an H1, and this is typically reserved for the title of the page.
We also have sub-headings which go from H2 to H6. Each page on your website should have a unique H1 tag, which is usually created from the title of the page. The H1 tag of your page should contain the primary keyword or phrase that you are optimizing the page for.
Avoid using heading tags to mark non-heading elements, such as navigational buttons and phone numbers. Using heading tags to set the context and introduce readers to the next topic.
In order to write effective heading tags, following these simple rules:
- Avoid writing heading tags that use a single word. Make your headings interesting and useful for users.
- Do not use the same heading tags multiple times.
- Present the information using the heading hierarchy, i.e., H1 to H6.
- Sub-headings are a great place to use related keywords and phrases.
4. Formatting Content on the Page
Formatting doesn’t guarantee that your content will be read, but it improves the readability of the content published. We recommend using the following on-page SEO techniques to promote readability.
- Font and colors: Google recommends 16-point font and above to minimize the need for pinching and zooming for mobile users. The text color used in relation to background color should enhance readability.
- Heading: Use heading to provide a logical flow to your content. Additionally, we recommend that you use anchor links to allow users to skip sections that they consider important.
- Bullet Points: A list allows users to skim through and quickly find the content they are looking for.
- Paragraph: Break your content into short paragraphs to enhance readability.
- Supporting Media: Use a mix of images, videos, and other media embeds to complement your content.
If you are looking for more ideas on how users read online, we have compiled various studies to answer some of your most frequently asked questions.
Images help to break the monotony, especially when you writing long-form content. Publications like the New York Times measure the visuals to story ratio. This becomes considerably important if you are producing hundreds of pieces of content every day.
Alt text (Alternative Text) descriptions help the search engine bots to understand your images better. Alt text should provide context and should read naturally to people.
<img src="grumpycat.gif" alt="A black cat looking very grumpy at a big spotted dog">
Images are also the biggest culprit when it comes to slowing down your website. You have to compress images to make sure they load fast. We recommend using tools imagify or short pixel to compress your images.
Additionally, you can use lazy loading to load images faster on the website. WordPress, with the latest update, 5.5 has made lazy loading a default feature.
If you have a larger number of images on your website, we recommend that you submit an image sitemap using your Google Search Console account.
6. URL Optimization
URL is the location or address for individual pieces of content on the web. The naming and format of your URL can impact your click-through rates. There are three aspects to URL optimization: Naming, URL structure, and URL length.
Clear Page Naming
Search engines need unique URs to display your page in the search results. URL naming is important, considering it helps users to understand what a specific page is about. For example, which URL is clearer?
Users are more likely to click on a page that provides them context and clarity on what is contained on the page. URL is considered as a minor ranking signal when it comes to rankings by search engines. Google, with its recent EMD update, has targeted low-quality exact match domains. This doesn’t mean that you won’t rank for a certain keyword even if you own the exact match domain but the quality of content on your site is even more important.
If you are discussing multiple topics on your site it is better that you organize them under relevant folders. For example:
Dated URLs sometimes create the impression that the content is time sensitive. If your content is time sensitive it better to host it on a non-dated URL. For example:
Arranging the pages into appropriate folders also helps search engines to understand content on site better.
Various studies indicate that users prefer shorter URLs compared to longer ones. Longer URLs like the title and meta description will get truncated in search results. Having a descriptive URL is important, so don’t cut down on the length just to make it shorter.
Additionally, some plugins and tools recommend removing stop keywords from your URL. But we recommend retaining the stop keywords considering it sometimes the URL reads better with them. For example:
In case your plugin removes stop keywords by default, we recommend that you disable it and do this by case to case basis.
7. Internal Linking
It is important to have a good internal linking structure. When your page links to other pages on the same website that ensures the search crawlers can find other pages on your website. Internal linking also helps in passing the link equity across other pages.
The optimal structure for a website should resemble a pyramid. This ensures that link equity flows through the entire website, thus increasing the ranking potential for each page. If you are looking for additional guidance on how you can improve your internal linking strategy. We recommend you read our article on 7 steps to improve your internal linking strategy.
8. Core Web Vitals
Despite Google’s best efforts, AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) hasn’t been a successful initiative. Over 2 Billion sites use AMP, but that’s just 0.1% of websites based on a study conducted by W3Techs. AMP ranks your site for the carousel display that you usually see for Top Stories on Google Search.
With Core Web Vitals, Google is trying to measure users’ experience on the web and is also going to optimize sites for top stories that don’t use AMP. We believe optimizing your site for Core Web Vitals as part of your on-page SEO techniques will gain further prominence in 2021.
To do this, they have developed a new metric called Core Web Vitals. It measures the following aspects:
Loading: Looks at how fast your site can load; Google’s benchmark is 2.5 seconds. Page load time has been a ranking signal that search engines use before they rank your site for a query. We recommend using a CDN or VPS to speed your website. If you are using shared hosting, plugins like WP Rocket or Autoptimize will assist you in speeding up your website.
Visual Stability: Measures user experience and looks at how your site behaves in production. It basically looks at the stability of the content as it loads (so you don’t accidentally tap that button when it shifts under your finger – how annoying!).
9. Mobile Friendliness
A mobile-friendly website is a critical part of your online presence. Smartphone traffic exceeds desktop traffic in many countries. To assess whether your website is mobile-friendly you can use Google’s mobile-friendly test.
Additionally, we recommend that you check the mobile usability via Google Search Console to fix any issues identified. Also, keep a close tab on the plugins used on your site to make sure that they are mobile friendly.
10. Content Audit
Content Audit is an inventory of content assets available on your website. When you audit your content, you should look at both quantitative and qualitative aspects.
The audit should help you determine which content assets need to be retained, repurposed, and deleted from the website. You should ideally consider a mix of qualitative and quantitative parameters to grade each page.
- Quantitative measures evaluate the content outcomes that include the overall impact on traffic and rankings. They include metrics like traffic to the page in the last 30 days and the average SERP position.
- Qualitative parameters measure the quality of content. How many people read the piece of content? Did they engage with the content in some form?
Keep the evaluation criteria simple to make sure that you complete the audit faster. This exercise needs to be repeated every 3-6 months to ensure you are constantly refining your content strategy.
Sitemaps allow webmasters to inform about pages on your site that are available for crawling. A sitemap is an XML file that carries a list of URLs along with additional metadata for a site.
Sitemaps help web crawlers to identify and crawl all the pages on your website. They also provide search engine information on when a page was last modified and how frequently was the page changed.
12. External Links
By linking to other websites, you improve the trustworthiness of your content. Adding external links to your website page might sound counterintuitive, but it helps you to establish your authority when you link it to a relevant website in your niche. External linking is one of the most critical elements of the on-page SEO techniques that we recommend.
13. Protocols HTTP vs. HTTPS
A protocol which is either “http” or “https” that precedes your domain name. Google recommends that all websites have a secure protocol (s in the ‘“https” stands for secure). To ensure that your website is secure, you need an SSL certificate from your hosting provider.
SSL encrypts your data and ensures the data passed between your web server and browser of searcher remains private. HTTP/2 also helps you to improve efficiency and improves your loading time.
Most of us disable comments on the website, considering we all get spam. However, there are a few inherent advantages to having blog comments to boost your SEO.
It helps in latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords. These keywords are synonyms for the main keywords your blog post targets, which lets your blog post appear higher in search results. When search engine crawlers see tons of text below your post, they use it as a signal to rank your article higher in search results.
15. Search Intent
Over the years, Google has become significantly better at identifying what the user is looking for without solely relying on classical SEO factors. Search intent has become a more dominant factor, often outweighing classic factors like title, heading, links, and other SEO basics.
Traditionally search intent was divided into these broad categories:
- Navigational: The intent is to reach a particular site or location.
- Informational: The intent is to acquire information that is present on a particular website or page.
- Transactional Search Intent: The intent is to purchase or identify a product/service for future purchases.
But over time, search engines realized that this classification was too broad and are overlapping in nature. For example, if someone types ‘amazon laptop deals’, you could label this as both transactional (trying to buy a laptop) and navigational (trying to reach amazon) intent.
To make sure that your website ranks well for search terms, you have to understand the intent as well as search engines do. The folks at Content Harmony classify search intent into the following categories.
Research Intent: This includes phrases and keywords which generate results like Wikipedia pages, knowledge graph, featured snippets, and carousels.
Answer Intent: They are slightly different from the research query considering here the user wants a quick answer. For example, this is as simple as someone asking, ‘what is the weather like today?’
Transactional Intent: This includes users looking to buy or research products. Such results often generate shopping boxes and other purchase intent features.
Local Intent: They are keywords or phrases that trigger information maps or offer localized research based on your IP. They include popular terms like ‘near me’.
Visual Intent: They include results which usually include image packs and thumbnails. Image packs are a stronger indicator of visual search intent. They also trigger results from platforms like Pinterest.
Video Intent: This intent includes keywords and phrases which feature video carousels, video thumbnails, and even video featured snippets. Video has become critical for certain types of queries.
Fresh/News Intent: News intent covers the top stories, recent tweets, and stories that are covered by date, month, and year. Google usually features the latest updates related to developing news stories creating chronological order or timeline for the news event.
Branded Content: Branded intent queries are usually dominated by brand home page results. A large number of links to a common site is an indicator of branded intent.
Split Intent: This is a meta intent type where the user could have several potent intents, which triggers a ‘split intent’ since Google finds it difficult to decide what the user is looking for. For example, when the user types ‘Kapil Sharma’, they are either looking for information about Kapil Sharma, stream the show, research comedy nights with Kapil video clips, or check the show timings.
Search Intent will continue to gain further prominence as one of the critical on-page SEO techniques as search engine evolve to meet the user’s needs.
On-Page SEO Checklist
If you have read the article so far, then the below checklist summarizes the key points covered before.
- Make sure your content is original, well researched, and address the user’s search intent.
- Use the targeted keyword or phrase in the title, heading, alt text, and body content.
- Ensure that your website is mobile-friendly and meets the guidelines defined by search engines.
- Optimize your title, URL, and meta description, considering they create the first impression for your website and boost the click-through rate.
- Add an appropriate number of internal and external links to each article.
- Provide clear page naming and URL structure that enhances readability.
- Keep track of your website core web vitals and make sure that it loads within 2.5 seconds.
- Secure your website by installing an SSL certificate with the help of your hosting provider.
- Heading tags should follow chronological order starting from H1 to H6.
- Perform a quarterly or half-yearly content audit to repurpose and delete non-performing content assets.
What’s the difference between On-Page and Off-Page SEO?
On-Page SEO is more important than off-page SEO, considering you have complete control over the process, whereas that is not always the case with off-page SEO.
For example, if you reach out to someone asking for a link that’s off-page SEO. On-page SEO gives you complete control over the process, irrespective of whether it is modifying metadata or improving your website load time.
Getting On-Page SEO right is very crucial before moving to technical SEO and off-page SEO. On-Page SEO lays the foundation for a successful SEO strategy.
If you don’t get on-page SEO right, no amount of optimization will help you rank.