What is On-Page SEO?
Learn why on-page SEO is important and how your website can benefit when it’s done effectively.
Organic traffic can be a cost-effective and sustainable way to get more visitors and conversions to your site. Rather than coming from paid sources like Google Ads, organic visitors find your website by inputting queries into search engines.
In order to attract organic visitors to your site, you need to factor in both on-page and off-page SEO elements.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Search engine optimization is the practice of improving various elements of your site in order to gain organic visibility.
If done correctly, improving your on-page SEO can improve the usability of your site and help search engine algorithms properly rank your site for relevant searches. In this guide, we’ll cover what on-page search engine optimization is, why it’s important, and how you can enhance key on-site SEO elements.
Check out this infographic for a quick overview, then continue reading for all the details on how to get your pages ranked in Google!
What is On-Page SEO?
On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing your website content in order to rank higher in search engines. It includes on-page SEO elements such as headers, image alt text, and meta tags, as well as intangible factors such as trustworthiness, expertise, and authority.
What is the difference between on-page SEO and off-page SEO?
On-page SEO refers to the optimization of factors that are on your actual website – including technical factors such as page speed.
Off-page SEO, on the other hand, refers to optimization factors outside of your website itself, primarily links from external sites, and social media.
Why on-page SEO is important
Search engine algorithms are always adjusting to provide the most relevant and high-quality result for every search. Your on-page SEO tells search engines what your website is about, and therefore helps them show your website for more relevant search keywords or queries.
While off-page SEO efforts such as link building can be beneficial for your search engine rankings, they won’t work if your on-page SEO isn’t up to par. By publishing high-quality, relevant content, other reputable sites will be more likely to link your content.
Improving your on-page SEO also has a cumulative effect; the better your content is, the longer users will stay on your site, improving your SEO rankings and getting seen by more users, and so on.
Many on-page SEO optimizations can be implemented immediately. Read on to learn how to improve your on-page SEO so your site can rank higher and convert better.
How to improve your on-page SEO
Optimize for Google’s Criteria
The first step in improving your on-page SEO is to understand the criteria search engines use to rank your site. Google lists relevance, content quality, web page usability, and context as some of the main factors they use to rank websites.
The main ranking factors you can control in Google and other search engines’ optimization criteria are usability and content quality.
Website usability refers to your website’s responsiveness with different device types and sizes, whether your site appears correctly in different browsers, and page speed, among other factors. You can use free tools such as PageSpeed Insights and Webpagetest.org to measure your site’s usability and identify areas you can improve.
Content quality goes a bit deeper and takes into account whether your website is providing relevant, accurate, and readable information. Google rates content quality according to three factors: Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
We could write an entire blog post on EAT criteria alone. The most important thing is to hone in on who your website is for, what you do best, and how you can provide the most value to visitors.
One of the most important on-page SEO factors is content that’s written with both the algorithm and user in mind. Here are some of the guidelines you want to use when writing SEO copy.
Keyword research and strategy
Researching your target keywords and including them in your website content can help search engines rank your content for relevant queries.
When incorporating keywords into your content, it’s important to prioritize readability and relevancy overstuffing as many keywords into your content as possible.
Each page on your website should have one primary keyword, which you’ll strategically integrate into key areas such as the URL, headers, metadata, and first paragraph.
That page should then also have secondary keywords sprinkled throughout. For instance, if you want to rank for the query “tea subscription,” you should also include secondary keywords such as “tea of the month,” “tea subscription box,” and “monthly tea tasting.”
Instead of aiming for highly competitive short-tail keywords, long-tail keywords have less competition and can therefore help you rank better. Long-tail keywords refer to longer and more specific keyword phrases. For instance, instead of trying to rank for a short-tail keyword like “tea subscription,” consider using long-tail keywords such as “premium loose leaf tea subscription” or “tea of the month subscription.”
Be cautious of keyword cannibalization, which is when your various web pages are competing over the same target keyword. Each page on your website should focus on one primary keyword and optimize for that. For instance, if you offer loose leaf teas and tea bags, don’t try to rank for both keywords on the same page. Instead, create one page for loose leaf teas and a separate page for tea bags, incorporating appropriate secondary keywords on each page.
This should go without saying, but the relevance of your content is crucial for an effective on-page SEO strategy. You want to create content that meets your ideal user’s search intent.
Continuing with the tea subscription example, you want to fill your website with useful content on tea origins, brewing tips, and other content related to your product. If you don’t offer coffee, then it won’t serve you to publish content related to coffee products.
Content Quality and Readability
Even if your website has the optimal keyword density and loads in less than a millisecond, that won’t help you if no one wants to stay on your site long enough to read your content. Make sure your content is well-researched, accurate, and easy to read so that visitors stay longer and take more actions on your site.
Some ways to increase the readability of your site include organizing content into easy-to-skim headers, including images, and writing concisely.
The title tag or page title is the HTML meta tag that encapsulates the topic of each respective webpage. Optimizing your title tags not only helps the algorithm understand your website, but also helps searchers by previewing your content on search engine results pages.
Let’s look at the search engine results for the query “tea subscription.” The first and third results prominently display those keywords in the title tag.
Make sure your title tags are relevant to each webpage, unique (as in not duplicated throughout your site), and well-written.
The meta description shows up right below the title tag on the search engine results page and previews the content of the web page in further detail. The optimal meta description contains relevant keywords, is between 145-165 characters, and is unique.
When optimizing any meta tag, it’s important to avoid duplicate content. No two title tags or meta descriptions on your site should be the same.
Proper URL structure can help both visitors and website crawlers better navigate your site. It’s also an opportunity to include your target keywords, when relevant. Because they show up on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), your URL can preview your webpage content to visitors (for instance, company.com/blog/black-vs-green-tea).
Header tags are HTML elements (H1, H2, etc) used to break up text on a given webpage. While header tags don’t hold as much importance for the algorithm as they used to, they’re still beneficial for improving readability and providing keyword-rich text for website crawlers.
Structured data is special code that search engines use to pull key information onto the search engine results page. This structured data can help increase your visibility on the SERP and entice more clicks – for instance, this “People also ask” rich snippet puts quick answers right on the first page of Google search results.
Other examples of structured data include recipes, ratings, company name, dates, address, geolocation, and more. While adding structured data to your website code can be beneficial to your search rankings, it takes some technical knowledge to implement. Google provides detailed instructions for adding structured data to your site through Search Console.
While images add visual appeal and help illustrate information on your website, they can slow down your website speed. As we discussed earlier, page load speed is a critical SEO factor, so you want to avoid adding any large files that will slow it down.
Before adding images to your website, make sure to:
- Compress the file size
- Add a descriptive title
- Add alt text describing the image
Search engine algorithms are smart, but they’re not human. They’re not always able to deduce the contents of an image, and sometimes need the help of alt text to figure out how to rank the image. Adding relevant alt text to your website images can not only help you show up in Google Image search results, but is also best practice for improving website accessibility.
Internal linking is the practice of linking to existing content on your site. This helps guide readers through your website content, which then helps to increase time on site and decrease bounce rate.
Internal links also help crawlers explore your site and understand the relationship between different pages.
Outbound links refer to links in your content that direct users to external sites. Strategically linking your content to other reputable sites can improve your on-page SEO by lending authority to your site and improving the user experience.
Get help optimizing your on-page SEO
There are tons of factors that go into improving SEO, and you may not be up to the task of making these on-page optimizations on your own website. Especially if your site has been active for several years, it could be quite time-consuming to go back and fix all of the on-page SEO elements such as meta descriptions and URL structure.
At 42connect, we help our clients enhance their on-page SEO by performing a website audit and systematically optimizing each element in order of priority. We’ve been able to help our clients boost organic traffic and reduce bounce rates exponentially after only a few weeks.
Get in touch with us to learn how our SEO services can help increase your organic visibility and attract more customers.