What Is On-Page SEO?
On-page SEO (also known as on-site SEO) in simple terms, is everything we can do on our website to affect SEO.
Every page is unique and has its own necessary optimization. The concept both refers to individual webpages, and the whole site.
Comparatively off-page SEO are actions taken outside of your website to influence SEO. It’s important to know the difference.
Why Is On-Page SEO Important?
On-page SEO is important because it helps search engines recognize what your content is about.
Google wants to find out how relevant content is to keywords. It wants to understand websites in the context of what people are searching for.
On-page SEO is about telling Google what it’s crawling, indexing and ranking. It’s telling them what it should look like on SERPs.
On-page SEO Elements (The Fundamentals)
To understand how any concept works, you need to know the fundamentals.
On-page SEO is not complex—there are specific ranking elements that affect on-page SEO. Once you understand these elements, you can easily optimize any webpage.
There are 3 main on-page SEO elements:
- Website Architecture
Content on-page SEO ranking elements are the elements of your website’s copy and content. Here we are focusing on the quality of page content.
Content quality has 2 main implications we must consider.
- How it affects user experience—did they like it, were they informed/educated/entertained
- How user experience is communicated to Google—time on page/dwell time, bounce rate, backlinks
The focus is user experience.
Keyword research is the process of analyzing words/phrases that people are searching for. These words/phrases are called keywords.
Keyword Research will let you know:
- What keywords people are searching for
- How often/frequently they are searching for keywords
- How they are searching for those keywords
The right keywords will allow you to rank well on SERPs—putting you in prime position to reap in organic traffic.
- Related Reading: Check out our full article on Keyword Research.
Search Intent, or user intent, is the primary goal an individual has when they type search queries into search engines.
Search Intent: What they are looking for
Search Query: What they type into Google
The search queries people type into Google don’t always line up with what they’re looking for.
Common types of Search Intent include:
- Informational – Information on something
- Commercial – Buying something
- Navigational – Directions to somewhere
Search Intent is important for SEO because it is a ranking factor. It is the primary, idealistic goal for all search engines, especially Google.
Google’s algorithm is intelligent—it closely watches user activity on different search queries. It notices which ranked webpages are being clicked on—they are rewarded.
When you create content, you need to have a search intent in mind.
- Related Reading: Check out our full article on Search Intent.
With the right keywords and search intent in place, you can now begin to write the content.
Writing content for the internet is not complicated. It is simply a matter of writing a specific style. You want to write scannable content.
“Scannable content is short, sweet and to the point. Sentences and paragraphs are brief. Bold text and bullet points highlight key points.”Forbes
Scannable content maximizes readability—it is written at a level everyone can understand. You don’t get points for writing like an academic.
Here are some keys to follow.
- Incorporate keywords in a natural fashion, no stuffing
- Keyword in 1st 100 words
- Keep sentence length under 20 words
- Keep paragraphs 3-4 lines max
- Use subheadings to breakup/structure post
- Keyword in at least one subheading (H2/H3)
- Use bullet points/lists to breakdown specific points of information
Great content is not complete without some media content.
Media content are the visual assets of webpages—the images, GIFs, videos. It is important to include media content because it simply makes your content better. Blog posts with images get 94% more traffic than those without.
Images are also processed 60,000x faster than text. The age-old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is actually true.
Litter your content with media content to improve readability, and further breakup the monotony of walls of text.
Some types of media content you can use include:
- Interactive Content
- Page Titles
- Meta Description
- Image Alt-Text
- Image Title
- Image Filename
- Structured Data
- Keyword Density
HTML Markup relates to the elements that make up your web source code. HTML is a basic coding language that is used to make websites and webpages.
HTML looks like this.
Before CMS platforms like WordPress and Squarespace made web design easy, it was left to coders.
Aside from the design of websites and webpages, HTML also tells search engines what it is. This is important because search engines like Google use that information to rank webpages in context of things people search for.
You can view the HTML of any page.
Simply right click on any webpage and click “View page source”.
HTML has 2 focus points you need to consider for on-page SEO.
- Keyword Placement: page titles, headings, image alt-text/filename
- SERP Representation: meta description, geo-tagging, schema markup/SERP features
It does not need to get more complicated then this.
- Related Reading: Check out our full article on SEO HTML Elements.
Page Titles (Title Tags)
The page title is the most important place to put a keyword. The page title tells people and search engines what that webpage is about.
This is what the page title looks like on SERPs.
It can also be seen on web browsers.
In the HTML source code the page title will look like this.
This is also why the page title is referred to as title tags.
- Related Reading: Check out our full article on Title Tags.
The meta description is your webpage SERP blurb. It looks like this.
It does not directly affect SEO. It is not a ranking factor. Putting a keyword here will not have direct search engine implications like it would elsewhere.
It does however affect click-through rates.
The meta description acts to entice and persuade search engine users to visit.
A better meta description will have a higher click-through rate, sending more traffic to your webpage. More traffic will earn you more backlinks, a higher domain authority, among a host of things.
So it can impact SEO indirectly—which is why it’s important to consider.
Images have their own HTML optimization for on-page seo. We may see the image, but search engines see the HTML code. The image might always look the same to us, but depending on the HTML it can be very different to search engines.
You can view the HTML source code for any image. Right click on the image and select “Inspect”
The HTML code should come up. It is highlighted in blue.
There are 3 things we must consider for image on-page SEO.
- Image Alt-Text
- Image Title
- Image Filename
The image alt-text can also be known as the alt attribute, or alt description. It is used to tell search engines what an image is about. It also helps those who can’t view images or have low bandwidth internet connections.
The alt-text is essentially a long-tail keyword for images.
This is important because people can find your website through images. When people do an image search, they often click through to the website the image came from.
I found Serp Co through an image search.
A good alt-text can also make an image appear for a larger net of search queries/terms.
This creates even more pathways to your website.
- Related Reading: Check out our full article on Alt Text.
The image title attribute is used to provide additional information. It does not impact SEO, therefore it is not as important as alt-text or filename.
It is the little pop-up that can appear when you put your cursor on an image.
The image filename is the unique name given to images. It is used by search engines to help rank and index images. Just like alt-text it is important because image searches are a pathway to your website.
- Related Reading: Check out our full article on Image Filename.
Geotagging (For Local Related Queries)
Geotagging is when you attribute a geographical location to a specific webpage and/or its content. This content can include images and videos for example.
When you geotag an image or video, you are giving search engines very specific information. It will allow you to appear on SERPs for search queries with a location.
“Pet stores in Manhattan” for example.
When you geotag webpages and content, you are giving search engines more and more information. The more information you give them, the better.
It is an effective SEO strategy for local related search queries.
- Related Reading: Check out our full article on Local SEO.
Structured Data are HTML tags you can add that make crawling, indexing and ranking easier. It improves the way search engines read your webpages, resulting in better SERP representation.
Utilizing structured data can help content of your webpage show up as SERP features.
SERP features are special results you see on search engine results pages.
Here is an example.
The incentive of SERP features are that people can get answers to questions without clicking through. It is priority positioning with unique, additional information.
Although structured data is not considered a ranking factor, SERP features generally have higher click-through rates. Much like a good meta description, this can indirectly affect SEO.
There are many types of SERP features (with Google creating more almost daily), but we will cover a few of the main ones:
- Related Reading: Check out our full article on Schema.
Keyword density is the frequency, or how often keywords are used on a single webpage. This isn’t just how many times a keyword is used, but how often it is used.
Keyword density = number. of times keyword used ÷ total number of words
Keyword density used to be extremely important for SEO. Because of that, low quality keyword stuffed content was considered ideal.
That is no longer the case.
Google evolved their algorithm in 2013, to punish black hat (illegal) keyword stuffing. They want high quality content, not cheap tricks to game the system.
“Keyword density, in general, is something I wouldn’t focus on. Search engines have kind of moved on from there.” (2014)John Meuller, Senior Google Webmaster Trends Analyst
As such, keyword density is no longer as important—but it still needs consideration.
- Related Reading: Check out our full article on Keyword Density.
Website Architecture Elements
Website architecture is less about optimizing a specific page and more about optimizing the website as a whole.
Better structuring your website architecture allows search engines like Google to crawl and index easier.
This is usually done by your technical SEO team, and we have a dedicated resource about this, but it is worth mentioning here briefly, as any on page SEO guide would not be complete without at least covering the basics.
- Related Reading: Check out our full article on Website Architecture / Sitemaps.
How fast a page loads is very important. Google analyzes user experience to better rank your site and content.
What does it say about your site when visitors leave before the page even loads?
There are many negative consequences to a slow site speed. The most obvious is bounce rate.
Tests have shown bounce rate increases as page loading time increases.
Google has also done their own tests. Increasing page load time increased bounce rate dramatically.
Page speed is also a Google ranking factor for mobile searches, which makes up majority of searches nowadays.
It’s best to maximize site speed to get the best user experience possible.
- Related Reading: Check out our full article on Page Speed and SEO.
A responsive design is a website design that adapts to the screen dimensions of the device used.
In a world where mobile accounts for 58% of website traffic, responsive design is essential to maximize user experience.
The main benefit of a responsive design has always been about user experience.
That hasn’t changed.
In recent times however, search engines have evolved to reward websites with responsive designs. This is mostly to do with the ever increasing focus on mobile usage.
The infamous 2015 “Mobilegeddon” Google update prioritized webpages with optimal mobile design, giving them priority positioning on mobile SERPs.
The focus on mobile has only gotten more dramatic since then.
Google’s index now prioritizes mobile—websites with features like a responsive design, will be rewarded.
Responsive design is commonplace, a necessity going into the future. It is essential to improve your SEO efforts.
- Related Reading: Check out our full article on Mobile SEO.
URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. It is also known as the website address. It is located in the top left corner of internet browsers.
There are 4 main parts to a URL.
- Protocol: Either HTTP or HTTPs
- Domain Name: The unique purchased domain name
- Subdirectories: Category/group of pages
- Specific Page Name: The specific individual page
Some websites (like us) don’t show the “protocol” HTTP/HTTPs section of the web address URL. It is purely a marketing/aesthetic decision, even though it still is technically there.
How you structure your URLs is important because it can impact SEO.
URLs are actually small ranking factors for search engines. Brian Dean of Backlinko reported URLs featuring a keyword increased click-through rate by 45%.
A good URL structure can also increase user experience, indirectly influencing SEO. Microsoft discovered that “descriptive” URLs had 25% higher click-through rates.
The URL is something you should not forget to address.
- Related Reading: Check out our full article on URL Structure.
Internal linking is the process of hyperlinking from one page to another, on the same website.
It helps create a better link architecture for Googlebot to crawl and index. This better spreads link equity across a website, providing substantial SEO benefits.
- Related Reading: Check out our full article on Internal Links.
External (Outbound) Links
External links are hyperlinks that go to another website/domain.
There are 2 types of external links.
- Ones you receive (inbound/backlinks)
- Ones you make (outbound links)
Backlinks are considered one of the top 3 Google ranking factors. This is not terribly shocking. Anyone with even a novice understanding of SEO knows this.
What’s more unknown, is the value of outbound links.
Outbound links are not specifically a ranking factor. It can however indirectly influence SEO by improving user experience.
“Linking to other websites is a great way to provide value to your users. Often times, links help users to find out more, to check out your sources and to better understand how your content is relevant to the questions that they have.” (2019)John Meuller, Senior Google Webmaster Trends Analyst
- Related Reading: Check out our full article on Nofollow Links.
Duplicate Content (Avoid it)
Duplicate content is content that is a copy, or similar to other content on the web. This can be either on different sites or the same one.
“Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar.”
Duplicate content can negatively impact SEO.
Google does not want to index duplicate content. They prioritize indexing original, unique informative content. This is what they want to appear on SERPs.
It is essential that you avoid creating duplicate content.
- Related Reading: Check out our full article on Duplicate Content.
On-page SEO is everything you can do on your website to improve your search engine efforts.
In this post we covered the basics.
Everything you can do on-site, to improve your search engine efforts. It is all right here.