There are more than 200 factors that Google’s algorithm considers when ranking websites. And many of these crucial factors are directly related to how your site is structured and whether you provide convenient user experiences for your visitors.
The good news is that when it comes to on-page SEO as a ranking factor, you are completely in control of how you present yourself to the search engines and what target keyword you prioritize.
But with Google and other search engines continually improving their algorithms to meet changing user preferences, keeping track of on-page SEO best practices isn’t always easy. Your ability to stay on track of what on-page SEO factors matter the most today will significantly impact how much it will cost to get your website to page one.
To help you put your website in the best position for attaining SERP rankings through search engine optimization, let’s dig deep into the topic of optimizing your in-depth content and cover what is on page SEO, how it works, why it matters, and how you should approach it.
What is On-Page SEO?
On-page SEO, in contrast to off-page SEO, is the process of optimizing elements on a website to achieve ranking goals, instead of utilizing factors and strategies outside of the website.
It’s a broad term that encompasses everything on your website, including the content, HTML code, and the overall user experience. These elements are evaluated by Google when deciding where to rank a website, and the key factors have become increasingly important in the past decade.
On-site SEO factors are essential for ensuring that your users have a positive experience. The on-page SEO best practices ensure that your audience can find the information they are looking for, quickly jump between topics using internal links and navigation, and understand the basic structure that the website uses to present its information.
In the eyes of Google and other search engines, on-page SEO helps the search spiders better understand the core topic of each page, judge the content freshness, relevance, and quality when ranking for various search queries, and ensure that your pages display the right keywords and are seen by people who are actually looking for the information they contain.
Whether it’s content, visuals, keywords, title tags, or a variety of other on-page SEO factors, the underlying goal of all SEO efforts on your site should revolve around making it as easy as possible to understand what your pages and website are about, for both your visitors and the search engines that evaluate it.
How Does On-Page SEO Work?
When talking about on-site SEO and how it works, the first thing most people think about are keywords. And for a long time, keywords inserted into content were the primary way to help Google and other search engines figure out what your pages were about.
If you wanted to rank for a specific keyword, your best bet was to sprinkle numerous exact-match keywords throughout your content, which would then be picked up by the crawl bots and ranked accordingly.
As you can imagine, the fact that the entire process was so primitive meant that the search engine results pages were often filled with low-quality content stuffed with keywords. In fact, many of those pages served no real purpose beyond SEO, which meant that the information was at best generic and, at worst, plain useless and barely coherent.
The good news (for everyone besides the low-quality SEO agencies) is that since the Fat Panda update on Google, the algorithm learned to utilize much more advanced measures to identify useful and high-quality content, completely changing how on-site SEO had to be done ever since and expanding the on page SEO checklist that website owners had to consider.
Even though keywords still play a role in your site’s rankings, Google now treats categories of keywords more like indicators of a topic than measures of quality. And search engines now also utilize a variety of semantic keywords, synonyms, word combinations, relevance, and covered topics to determine whether a website has a genuinely helpful article or a collection of words that don’t add any value to the user and utilize keyword-stuffing techniques.
For SEO purposes, the main purpose of any article or page you design should be to provide relevant, convenient, and in-depth content that users can access quickly to get the answers they are looking for. However, it’s still equally as important to understand what high-volume, high-converting long-tail keywords need to be used and track your SEO performance through Google Analytics (and there are also advanced keyword research tools to help you figure out the target keyword and secondary keywords that should be part of your high-quality content).
Balancing in-depth information with easy-to-understand and user-friendly presentation is a key theme in today’s on-page SEO. You need to ensure that your content covers the topic in good detail while also organizing it in a way that makes it easy to read. You should also make sure to separate the content into logical parts and enhance it with visuals and various types of media.
Another key aspect of how today’s on-page SEO works is creating content that is unique and isn’t published anywhere else online. While some overlap between articles covering similar subjects is inevitable, you need to ensure that you don’t have duplicate content and that the article shares unique insights while presenting the information from your perspective.
You will also need to get your content to stand on its own as a helpful source of information on the subject. And as it relates to the keyword you’re trying to rank for, today’s algorithms have gotten good at recognizing whether the content meets the “search intent” of the user and answers the key questions they are likely to have when searching for information.
Finally, your content will need to have both external and internal links that provide readers with additional resources and allow them to learn more about specific parts of your topic. Outbound and inbound links can also help make your claims more authoritative, allowing you to link to verified sources for the claims you make.
But the way your content is structured is only part of the on-page optimization strategies you’ll need to consider. Today, Google and other search engines also put a lot of emphasis on providing a good user experience beyond the contents of your pages. Here are some examples of what you should consider:
- Ensure your pages load quickly, as page load speed has become an increasingly important ranking factor.
- Implement the Schema structured data tag vocabulary.
- Utilize a mobile-friendly site design that adapts to different screen sizes.
- Use metadata that allows search engines to categorize and contextualize pieces of data.
- Have a clear website hierarchy and structure your SEO-friendly URLs in a way that’s easy to understand for both the users and the crawl bots.
This is just a brief introduction and we’ll cover different on-page SEO elements in more depth later in this article. But first, let’s look at why on-page SEO matters in the first place.
Why On-Page SEO is Essential
On-page SEO may not offer the appeal of instant rankings through backlinks. But while it may be more technical and require more effort, on-page SEO is the only way to ensure every page on your website is represented accurately and meets the current Google Webmaster Guidelines, which play a vital role in your SEO success.
But how exactly does on-page optimization for your blog content work as an SEO tactic? And what are some of the benefits of implementing the various on-page SEO techniques?
Let’s explore the main reasons why on-page SEO is essential below.
You Won’t Rank Without It
The primary and most compelling reason for taking the time to do on-page optimization is that it’s simply impossible to rank on page one without having at least a basic understanding of what Google expects from each website and page.
If you’re interested in gaining organic traffic from SEO, you will need to implement the various strategies discussed in this article, which include creating high-quality content, learning how to optimize it for SEO, and building your website in a way that reflects the expectations of today’s online audiences.
The good news is that while on-page SEO can seem like a big challenge when you’re getting started, once you start using the same process consistently, it becomes relatively simple. That’s because the way Google evaluates on-page search optimization efforts is based on improving the customer experience, and that’s something most businesses strive for anyway.
It Attracts More Relevant Readers
When getting started with SEO, most businesses are focused on the idea of getting their website on top of the various SERPs in their niche. But after getting more serious about gaining traffic that’s actually useful, they realize that not all search queries are worth ranking for and that not all of them bring in relevant readers who you want to target.
Getting good at on-page SEO means you will be able to direct your efforts towards search queries that your ideal customers are likely to type in. Then, you can focus on providing the best possible experience to these readers, answering any questions they might have while positioning your solutions in a positive light.
Search engine optimization, when done right, can be an incredibly powerful source of new customers. And on-page SEO helps you zero in on the people that your company can help the most, both through relevant content and through the products and services you can offer them. By attracting the right people, you can dramatically increase your conversion rate, needing less traffic to achieve better outcomes than before.
Provide a Better Experience to Your Customers
As mentioned before, on-page SEO is not just a way for Google to sort through various websites when deciding the rankings order. It’s also a set of rules designed to provide the best experience to its users.
And for any business operating online, keeping visitors happy should be a top priority anyway, which means the goals for attaining organic traffic through search rankings will usually align with your general business goals.
Whether it’s having a clear website structure, improving loading speeds, or making sure your site displays correctly on any device, on-page SEO is a set of practices that you should be following anyway, even if you aren’t actively seeking to improve SEO rankings.
Diversify Your Traffic Sources
There are many ways to attain traffic online. You can buy paid ads, partner up with influencers in your niche, or build a strong following on social media yourself. But there probably isn’t a more cost-effective way of ensuring long-term blog traffic to your site than by getting it ranked for the primary keywords in your niche.
And whether you like it or not, for that to happen you need to follow the rules that search engines set when deciding who to rank higher.
The good news is that on-page SEO is relatively simple, at least when you have your visitors’ best interests at heart and want to ensure they have a pleasant experience browsing your site.
Build a Trustworthy Image
Finally, on-page SEO will help you build an image of a brand people can trust. If you create high-quality page content and structure your website according to the on-page SEO guidelines, people stumbling on it for the first time will be much more likely to believe what you’re saying and trust the brand image you are trying to create.
At the same time, attaining one of the top spots for keywords in your niche is a strong trust signal in itself. Today’s consumers have learned to trust Google as a reliable source of information about almost anything, so by merely appearing at the top of the rankings, you will already be perceived as a company that is probably reliable and trustworthy to do business with.
Figuring out how to plan and create high-quality content is at the forefront of any on page SEO checklist. Without informative, relevant, and SEO-optimized content, no amount of SEO strategies will be able to get your page to the top of the rankings for relevant keywords.
At the same time, developing an effective process for creating and optimizing the content on your website will put you in an ideal position to take advantage of on-page optimization techniques, as well as off-page strategies like obtaining top-quality inbound links.
In fact, good content your audience enjoys will facilitate almost every part of your marketing, not just SEO. Most importantly, it will help you create lasting relationships with your customers that you can turn into more sales and a bigger market share.
But how can you use high-quality page content to maximize your on-page SEO potential?
Well, for the purposes of SEO, it’s good to look at content as a sort of roadmap. Your content (and the links between different types of content) should be structured in a way that makes it easy for both your readers and the search engines to get thorough and detailed answers to specific questions.
The main reason people choose to read content on websites is to find solutions to specific problems. Therefore, identifying the ways you could help your audience is a great starting point you should consider.
At the same time, you should gain a solid understanding of the different formats of on-page content, since having only blog post content will not suffice if you want to have a comprehensive on-page and off-page SEO strategy. It’s also important to know the different content types and at what stages of the buyer journey they should be used.
Let’s go over some of the most common content types and formats you should be aware of.
Types of Content
Although the terms content type and content format can sometimes be used interchangeably, they actually define different things and have distinct purposes aimed at helping you provide the best possible experience to every type of customer in your audience.
Even people who are interested in similar things can differ in many significant ways. For instance, one customer might be much further ahead in the customer journey and be much more aware of the solutions they have available than another. Then, there are those who like watching videos or skimming through infographics and those who enjoy reading long articles full of external links.
When it comes to content types, it’s best to look at them in terms of what the content can offer a specific customer based on the current problems they are trying to solve.
For instance, someone who has just recently discovered they have a problem they need to solve will most likely be looking for “how-to” content, guides, or roadmaps for solving a problem. Meanwhile, if the prospect is already aware of multiple solutions and is nearing a buying decision, you want to focus on content that goes through the top options, compares the pros & cons, or explores case studies of how different solutions have produced different outcomes.
Finally, those who have already become your customers can benefit from high-quality page content that explores how to make the most of your solutions, exploring potential applications, getting ahead of any roadblocks they might face, and suggesting additional tools that could enhance performance even further.
Now that we’ve understood how different types of content can be applied as part of your on-page SEO to improve search rankings and the customer experience, we need to look at different formats that a piece of content can utilize to engage your audience.
And there are a large number of different options you can consider, each with its unique benefits and opportunities.
Here are just some of the most effective content formats today:
- Blog Posts. Even with many other content formats becoming more prominent, blog posts remain a staple that most successful businesses utilize extensively. Blog posts are not just a great way to provide a ton of value and information in a convenient format, but they’re also an integral part of any on-page SEO strategy, allowing you to insert both external and internal links, as well as optimize the page with various media elements. Finally, writing blog posts can create guest posting opportunities, which can boost your link-building efforts.
- Case Studies. Case studies are incredibly effective, especially in the B2B world. They entice readers by providing tangible data that can be used to make informed decisions, which most industry specialists are always looking for. Even though it’s time-consuming, having valuable case studies to showcase on your website can help you rank for some specific high-intent keywords in your niche.
- Video Content. In an age where an increasing percentage of the population mainly watches visual media, businesses have been transitioning towards a more video-heavy content marketing strategy for the past decade. Video content can be incredibly useful for grabbing the attention of a broader audience and building an additional revenue stream, but it should not fully replace content if you want to build an effective on-page SEO strategy. Instead, it should work to enhance your blog posts and articles, building on their content and catering to a different segment of your audience in the process.
- Infographics. There’s a reason so many companies invest time and resources into creating infographics about a range of topics. They not only help position your business as an expert in your field but are also incredibly shareable, meaning that you can reach audiences you had no access to before and get a ton of high-value external links in the process.
- Ebooks. One of the best ways to build on your on-page SEO success is to capture the traffic onto your email list. But for that to happen, you need to offer something valuable that entices people to share their email address and allow you to send them newsletters or promotional content. And that’s where informative and useful ebooks can be effective at generating interest and allowing you to add a steady stream of new leads into your funnel.
- Webinars. If you want a content format that not only provides value to your audience but also creates incredible engagement opportunities, you can’t go wrong with putting together high-value webinars that will set you apart from the majority of your competitors. With a compelling webinar around a topic your audience cares about, you can not only get a lot of people to attend but can also pitch them your solutions after priming your audience to want them.
- Podcasts. If you want to branch out in your industry and get visibility from other prominent figures in your niche, podcasts are a great way to engage in meaningful conversations that get shared and talked about on a larger scale. With podcasts, you can have industry experts come on and share their insights, providing your audience with a lot of value while also positioning you as an authority in the field.
Creating a variety of different content types is an integral part of outranking the competition and getting to the first page of Google for relevant keywords. But for that content to be effective, you will also need to develop an effective approach for optimizing it for SEO purposes so that the time and effort you put in translates into positive outcomes for your business.
Let’s look at a comprehensive on page SEO checklist you should be aware of, as well as how to use these content optimization tactics when optimizing every piece of content you create.
As most people are aware, keywords play a key role in how well a page can rank on Google and other search engines. But what far fewer are aware of is that you can’t just blindly stuff your content with a few keywords and expect Google to rank it on the first page.
Today’s search engine algorithms have become much more sophisticated and have learned to recognize natural writing patterns to distinguish between content that’s artificially stuffed with keywords from remarkable content that is informative and written naturally.
If you want to perform effective keyword research, you need to not just know what queries your audience is likely to type in but also the topics they want to find and the overall search intent they start with.
That’s the only way to bridge the gap between keywords and what people want to find out, which will help achieve rankings while also ensuring that the reader finds what they’re looking for on your website.
At the same time, you need to evaluate which keywords have the right search intent that aligns with your business goals. In other words, you need to prioritize keywords that people who would be interested in what you have to offer would typically search for, focusing on creating evergreen content that will remain relevant for a long time.
Sometimes, there are subtle differences between keywords that are typed in by users who are looking for solutions and those that are merely informational or even not directly related to your industry.
But while keyword research can be a complicated part of on-page SEO, once you understand what you want to achieve, it can also become an amazing tool that allows you to laser-focus your efforts and ensure that the people who end up on your website are ideally suited to become your customers.
Understanding how to use URLs is an effective way to ensure your keywords have the maximum impact while also showing Google that your page is valuable and resourceful.
And the good news is that there are a few simple rules that can help you maintain an effective system for structuring your blog page URLs for SEO and better user experience.
For starters, make sure your URLs have a clear hierarchy that’s logical and makes sense for both the search engines and your site’s visitors. If you have many categories, include them in the URLs and use URLs that include the name of the page or article to maintain clarity and consistency.
If you have long and clunky names for pages or blogs, consider shortening them to the primary keyword that clearly reflects what that page is aiming to achieve. Sometimes merely using the name of the page as the URL will suffice, but don’t be afraid to use custom URLs to make them easier to understand.
Finally, make sure that the keyword you use in the URL is actually related to the primary keyword of the content so that it serves as another SEO signal that search engines can use when recognizing what the page is about. For added clarity, each word should be separated by a hyphen, which will make the URL structure easier to understand.
Most website owners look at meta descriptions as an afterthought. They are very short, annoying to write, and aren’t even technically part of the page, so many simply leave them to include the beginning of the page, which is what happens if you don’t write a separate dedicated meta description.
However, taking that approach is a missed opportunity to score SEO points and gain a potential advantage over your competition. What’s more, by not having a compelling and detailed description, you will have a harder time increasing user intent and getting people to click through to your article instead of the competition.
But how can you create meta descriptions that have a positive impact and deliver results?
Well, the first step is to clearly understand your limitations. If you want the meta description to be visible, you must make sure that it doesn’t have more than 155 characters. That way it will be visible in its entirety and won’t get cut off mid-sentence.
Since meta descriptions need to be short, you might as well make them punchy and actionable. Think of them as little sneak peeks of what the user would find on your site, building interest and urging them to click through a clear and compelling call to action.
For SEO purposes, it’s always a good idea to include your main keyword in the meta description as well. It shows Google that the page is actually centered around the content topic that the title suggests.
Outbound and Internal Linking
Both outbound links and inbound links are an integral part of any high-quality page that ranks at the top of competitive keywords. In fact, if you’d go and explore some of the top results in your niche, you are all but guaranteed to find pages that are full of high-quality links that expand on various parts of the content and provide helpful external resources to the reader.
Therefore, if you want to maximize your chances of improving the search rankings through on-page SEO, you will need to think not just about things like keyword density but also about what pages you’re linking to both within your site and outside of it.
Good SEO content should feature plenty of links, but the good news is that these links will be well worth the effort for multiple reasons.
When it comes to internal links, you can use them to showcase other pages on your website, making the visitor spend more time on your site and get more immersed in your content and what your business is all about.
On the other hand, outbound links that direct the reader to reputable websites are not just valuable for the user but also signal to Google that your site uses reputable sources and can be trusted to provide relevant information about the primary keywords you are targeting.
To ensure that your internal and external links have the maximum impact, make sure you’re strategic about how and where you place them.
For instance, when you add a new page, think about what older pages could be used to bring in traffic to the new page by adding an internal link. At the same time, regularly check for broken links to ensure that all the resources you’re linking to are still up and running, which will help maintain content freshness.
It’s almost impossible to create engaging, high-quality content that will bring in search engine juice without images. In fact, Google has made it a priority to rank content that utilizes plenty of visuals that are relevant to what the page is about. But for that to matter, you need to not just place more images in your articles but also know to optimize them in a way that provides a boost to your search rankings.
One of the top priorities when creating visual content through images is to ensure that they all display correctly and quickly. For that to happen, you should have consistent dimensions of the image files, as well as a smaller file size to ensure fast loading times on all devices and at different internet speeds. In fact, loading time is particularly important because slow-loading images will lower your content quality and increase bounce rate, both of which will lower your Google search rankings potential.
Another key aspect of image optimization for both desktop and mobile users is creating relevant and descriptive names that contain the primary keywords you want to target. When creating file names, make sure to separate each word with a hyphen so that Google can understand it.
At the same time, the visual content on your pages should contain the descriptive search term in the alt tags. You want the search engines to be able to accurately index your images, which has a positive impact on the Google search rankings. But at the same time, alt tags can help the visually impaired better understand your pages.
Finally, make sure all of the images you use are fair to use and attribute them accordingly. If you want to take it a step further, you could even create your own visuals which will make your pages more engaging and help you develop a more distinct brand, both of which can help make your high-quality page content seem more engaging.
Advanced On-Page Optimizations
Getting the basics, such as the focus keywords, keyword frequency, valuable content, and a good user experience are essential to the SEO process. But in today’s hyper-competitive SEO landscape, you need to take a more comprehensive SEO perspective and look into more advanced ways to enhance your content elements with SEO strategies that can give you an edge over the competition.
Here are a few of the more advanced on-page SEO strategies you should be aware of:
- Semantic Keywords. Most business owners can understand that keywords are an important part of any SEO campaign. But even though having primary and secondary keywords is important, today’s algorithms look at the broader picture, which also includes semantic terms that may not be directly related but serve as an indicator of valuable content. Therefore, you should try to discover the terms and phrases that your primary keywords are related to and include them in your pages.
- Start with Your User’s Needs. The ultimate goal of any business is making sales. But today, you can’t expect to achieve your SEO goals and design modern content if you only focus on keyword frequency and ignore whether your page actually solves the problem the reader has. Therefore, as part of your SEO process, it makes sense to always consider whether a decision you make will help the reader and use it to guide you.
- Simplify Your Website. Usually, having more pages on your website can be seen as a positive thing from an SEO perspective, since it allows you to expand the number of keywords you can rank for through additional content creation. However, at the same time, you should be strategic about the way you want your website to expand and map out your user journey so that each click gets them closer to solving their problem, simplifying the navigation and reducing the bounce rate in the process.
- Consider Keyword Segmentation. The location of your keywords on a page can have an impact just as the specific keywords you end up using. Because of that, you should be deliberate in placing more important keywords in the main body text sections and higher in the article, as that’s what both Google and the users are more likely to recognize as important.
The Bottom Line
Long gone are the days when you could use generic content to improve your Google search results and achieve search engine success. Today, you must have a solid understanding of not just how to attain search rankings through in-depth content but also put in extra effort in figuring out how your SEO process could be enhanced.
By understanding the underlying principles of on-page SEO listed above, you can be more deliberate about improving the various aspects it contains to maximize your chances of not just ranking higher but also getting a good click-through rate to your site from the results.