As you may know, search engine optimization encompasses the entire process of optimizing your website for Google search results.
You may have heard terms like technical SEO, on-page SEO, and off-page SEO. Technical SEO involves optimizing the entire website domain. On-page SEO refers to optimizing web pages on specific URLs. Off-page involves optimizing elements outside of your web page, like link building.
All three work hand-in-hand to grow websites organically.
Click here for more information on the difference between on-page and off-page SEO.
Why is On-page SEO Important?
Out of attributes that you could manipulate for higher search rankings, most reside in the content and metadata on your web page. Here is where you should focus most of your time.
Pretend you are a fast-food worker for the sake of this analogy. Your goal is to serve the best possible product to each customer.
Naturally, the easiest way to do this is to take time and effort to make your food look and taste fantastic. You could spend your time redesigning the packaging and practicing superb customer service, but none of these will matter if your french fries taste like garbage.
On-page SEO represents the food that you are serving to your customers. Think of search engines as quality inspectors that follow a strict rubric. Google judges your on-page optimization process as a quality inspector would evaluate cooking practices.
Not only are on-page SEO elements the most important, but they are also some of the easiest to change.
Let’s revisit the fast-food example one more time.
If a customer orders a cheeseburger, you’ll spend some time preparing and assembling each ingredient. Some ingredients such as the buns and the burger are always required and expected.
Other ingredients such as lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, or pickles are interchangeable depending on the customer.
It’s essential to keep the quality inspector in mind, which is why we recommend that you spend some time learning how Google’s search algorithm works.
Once you have a general idea of what Google expects, it is time to make your web page “burger.”
Here are the “ingredients” to beef up your on-page SEO strategy.
On-page SEO Elements
Here is a list of the most relevant on-page elements:
- Title and Title Tag
- Meta Description
- Heading and Heading Tags
- HTTP Status Codes
- User Engagement
- User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI)
Since the beginning of the internet, URLs have linked websites to other websites. Even though fewer people are typing out URLs to enter websites, Google still uses them as the main differentiator between billions of websites.
Not all URLs are equal. Some URLs consist of miles of letters, numbers, and a few random words placed within multiple lines of text. Others follow a logical path from left to right and explain the contents within the page.
I bet you can guess which would rank better on Google.
URLs should start with a protocol that will either show as http:// or https://. Make sure that all URLs use the HTTPS protocol to indicate that your website is secure.
Next up is the subdomain. These are short words followed by a period that helps you organize different sections of your website. We recommend avoiding these unless you want to test website demos.
Additionally, avoid using the www. subdomain because it is redundant and will make your website look outdated.
Domains are simply the name of your website. If formatted correctly, your domain should hold all additional pages and content beyond the home page.
Following the domain is the top-level domain. TLDs typically are three-letter suffixes such as .com, .edu, .org. Use .com for most for-profit websites.
These are all of the essential components of a URL. For specific pages within a domain, here are a few more.
Slugs are words or phrases that correlate with tabs and categories within your own website category page.
For example, a URL with a slug /flavors/ would direct you to pages that list out each flavor of your product. You can use multiple slugs and pages to build the hierarchical structure of your website.
Finally, the last part of a URL is called an article permalink. This section is the final group of words that describe the exact page within your website. In most cases, the article permalink uses the same words as your title, including some primary keywords.
Separate each word with a hyphen (-) to maintain proper formatting.
Title and Title Tags
If you don’t know yet, you should make sure that all of your content has some form of a title. Without one, Google’s search algorithm will get confused and may rank your website much lower than competitors.
The goal of your title is to address the query you want your article to answer. To do this, you should include your primary keywords within the title.
Some creators use clickbait titles that fail to address the proper queries. While some sound strategies incorporate forms of clickbait, you have to make sure that it doesn’t overshadow your keywords.
Besides the obvious, a few things separate an excellent page title from a bad one.
- Keep Your Page’s Title Within 60 Characters
Your title tag needs to be within 60 characters if you want the full title to fit on the screen. Google will cut off longer titles wherever they see fit. If this happens, there’s a chance your title won’t make sense to users.
- Use Primary Keywords First
There are some exceptions to this rule; however, it is common to display your primary keywords before other words in your title. Users will make their search intent known with queries, and your primary keywords should match these queries. Make sure it makes sense for site visitors on the search results page.
- Highlight What Makes Your Page is Unique
Selecting a relevant primary keyword should help eliminate unnecessary competition. Even with a great set of keywords, you will still have competition. You should look at your content to find ways that yours is unique compared to your top competitors. Do you have a list? Is your content more complete? If so, try to incorporate these elements into your title.
- Avoid Clutter
You have about 60 characters to work with, but you probably have more than 60 characters worth of words to include in your title. Try to avoid unnecessary words that will fill up this limited space.
If you find yourself with the opposite issue, your title is too short, consider adding your brand at the end of your title to help build your brand presence. Branding can also make your web pages more “credible” to users if you have a well-established brand. Only do this if your titles are smaller than 60 characters.
Let’s say you want to create a web page that describes how users can create compelling article titles (very meta). Assuming you conducted keyword research to find your target keywords, here’s some title examples:
Good: How to Create Effective Article Titles
Great: 5 Tips to Help You Create Titles that Rank on Google Search
Bad: (Click Here!) I bet you didn’t know these tips to help you make the BEST titles ever!!!
Terrible: BEST WEBSITE EVER!
Meta descriptions provide users with summaries of the contents within each search result. Here, you can add a few more details that you can’t fit in the URL and the Title.
Think of it as the last chance to show users that your website will answer their queries. If users are skeptical about your website after viewing the title, they can quickly skim through the meta description without committing to entering the website.
Google claims that meta descriptions are not a direct ranking factor. So you may be wondering, why do we care about them?
They may not directly affect SEO, but meta descriptions do affect factors that directly influence search ranking.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you create meta descriptions
Meta Description Tips
- Keep the Length Between 120-160 Characters
You may find it challenging to describe your entire page within this length. Google will cut off your descriptions on search results if they go too far over the limit. Sometimes, Google will even replace your description with one that they generated.
Although there is no surefire way to stop them from replacing your description, keeping yours within the proper length will lessen the chance of it happening.
- Use Primary Keywords
Include your primary keywords in your meta description as you did with the URL and the title tag. Doing so should help your page rank higher for your primary keywords and increase Google’s chance to use your custom meta description.
- Keep It Unique
You have a little more room to make your page stand out than in your title tag. Expand upon a relevant part of your page that differentiates you from your competitors.
The goal of a meta description is to prompt users to take action and click on your website. To help influence them, make sure your meta descriptions use active voice instead of passive voice.
For example, you should write “Click here to…” instead of “This website should be clicked on to…”.
Additionally, include some form of call-to-action (CTA) to push users to enter your page. “Click here” CTAs work, but consider finding new and unique ways to persuade users to commit to your website.
Be careful to avoid going overboard. Ineffective clickbait will take up too much space and can discredit your website.
Keep in mind that even if your meta description is 100% perfect, there’s still a slight chance that Google will replace it with a different description. Don’t let this stop you from creating your own!
Heading and Heading Tags
Headings help guide users (and Google) to sort your content by topic. If a user searches through your content for a specific fact, they’ll naturally look for the matching headline instead of scanning your entire body of content.
Similarly, Google’s search algorithm would prefer to sort through a collection of headings rather than paragraphs worth of words.
Just like the other elements, headings should include relevant keywords. Here is where you should add secondary and tertiary keywords. Just make sure they fit in within your hierarchical structure.
H1: Main heading for your content. Use your SEO title or an edited version of your title. Make sure you only use one main heading per web page.
H2: These are the first level of subheadings. These should be the general topics covered throughout your content. Use a mix of primary and secondary keywords.
H3: These are the second level of subheadings. Use these to expand broader topics, and incorporate secondary and tertiary keywords.
H4, H5, and on: Feel free to use as many levels of subheadings as you need to cover all relevant topics. Make sure each topic is in the correct order.
As you create content, feel free to add, subtract, or edit headings as you see fit. You want a structure that makes sense to users and Google. One great way you double-check your system is to put each heading level into a bulleted list. If the order seems logical in a list, it should work in heading structure.
Schema, or semantic markup, are the groups of HTML source code that help classify individual elements of your website. For example, using <p> and </p> between a body of text helps classify that specific text as paragraph formatting.
These codes are the basis of modern website structure. Unless you have a background in web design or coding, use a website like WordPress to handle the nitty-gritty of HTML coding.
Google focuses on a few specific semantic codes when ranking websites. Here are a few basic ones you should know.
<title> : SEO title
<meta name= “” content= “”> : Meta description
<H1>, <H2>, and on: Each level of heading
<img src= “” alt= “”>: Image with matching alt text
For more information, here is a deeper dive into the world of web semantics.
HTTP Status Codes
These three-digit codes represent communication between your website’s server and the browser that wants to access your website. For SEO purposes, it’s not as important to understand the intricate communication process between server and browser. Instead, you should understand the meaning of the HTTP status codes and how to fix them.
Here’s a list of the different status code levels.
100 Level: The server is processing a request. This level should be temporary
200 Level: Successful request
300 Level: Successful redirect to different URL
400 Level: Request is made to an invalid page, resulting in a “page not found” message
500 Level: Request is valid, but the server failed
Check out Moz for more information about HTTP status codes.
Status codes at the 300 level indicate that an old URL redirects to a new URL with the same content. Redirects help prevent duplicate content that would dilute search results, skew metrics, and confuse users and Google’s search algorithm.
Although there are a few different methods to redirect URLs, you should use code 301 for SEO purposes. This code permanently redirects to a new URL and helps Google avoid splitting rank equity between new and old URLs.
If you need the redirect to be temporary, consider using code 302. Although this code also transfers ranking to the new URL, it is far less reliable than a permanent redirect.
There are a few other redirect methods like code 307 and meta refreshes, but both are outdated and negatively affect SEO tactics.
If you haven’t noticed yet, most of these SEO elements also help users navigate the content of your web pages. Alt-text is no exception. They help give context to images to help Google understand pictures. They also help visually impaired users understand the context of each image.
When you write image alt text, remember to explain the contents, context, and essential details of images using as few words as possible. Don’t worry about adding keywords or filler words for alt text.
Here are a few examples of alt-text for this image:
Good: Co-workers looking at laptop screen
Okay: People around a laptop
Bad: This is a photo of three people around a table with a laptop on it; they seem to be smiling; maybe there is something funny on the screen?
Now that you know how to make alt text for images, you may be wondering how to implement images and other forms of multimedia throughout your content.
Well, you’re in luck!
There are few better ways to improve on-page quality than adding multimedia elements throughout your content. Here are some of these elements and how you can incorporate them.
Images are the most accessible and crucial multimedia elements to use.
You can use them to break up the space between topics.
You can use them to improve the overall aesthetic of your page.
You can use them to provide context for confusing topics.
The possibilities are truly endless.
You may want to grab random pictures from google images and slap them all over your page. There are a few issues with doing this. Here are a few general tips to make sure you use the correct images in the proper places.
- Use an image search tool like 123rf
- Use royalty-free, licensed images, or your own images
- Use mostly JPEGs and small file sizes
- Use sharp, high-quality images
- Include captions and alt text
- Don’t overdo it
Videos are great tools to improve quality and retain users. While you shouldn’t include videos as liberally as images, a few related videos can go a long way.
Consider making your own videos if you have the time and resources to do so. Doing so will help keep your content on-brand. Also, creating additional content like videos gives you a whole new avenue to improve off-site SEO.
If you would rather include external videos, pick content related to your content. Users may feel the need to look elsewhere for answers to their queries if the video goes too far off-topic.
Regardless of what video you pick, make sure to use an external website like YouTube to host your video to cut down page loading time significantly. You still have the option to view the video on your page, so there is no reason to upload large video files directly to your website.
You can use infographics in the same ways you would use other images. Most of the time, you should reserve using infographics for topics that need further clarification.
You can also use infographics as gated content to acquire emails, phone numbers, or other user information.
Remember the fast-food analogy from earlier? Well, here is the meat section of your on-page burger. Content has been, is, and always will be king. Nearly every element in the SEO process is useless if your content lacks quality.
You need to create content for users, not Google. Once you draft content that users will enjoy or find useful, you can go back and edit for SEO.
Content marketing helps extend the value of your products or services. A video, blog post, or infographic can do wonders to inform and promote.
Here are some tips for beginners of content creation.
Keywords and content go hand-in-hand because your content should come from keywords. In fact, you should conduct extensive keyword research before any other part of the content creation process.
Once you’ve established your set of related keywords, you want to use them as headings throughout your content. Additionally, you should find ways to include them in meta descriptions, title tags, and your first paragraph.
Keywords answer customer queries—the more quality keywords you include, the more likely Google direct users towards your website. Remember that gimmicky strategies like keyword stuffing will lower your page’s search ranking.
If you don’t know what gives a keyword “quality,” consider reading more about how to improve search rankings.
Basically, you want to use long-tail keywords that combine relevant content with other descriptive words. You want at least a few keywords that you can use as main topics throughout your content.
You will likely spend a considerable amount of time finding ways to persuade users to click your website.
Once you feel like your other SEO elements are up to par, it is time to focus on how users should engage with your website. The goal is to retain users, move them through your content funnel, then direct them towards converting.
Use multimedia elements to keep users from clicking away from your website. Users who spend the time to view videos, images, and infographics should feel committed to viewing the rest of your content.
Use internal links to direct users to other pages within your domain. Doing so helps reduce bounce rates and helps Google understand the relationship between your pages. Consider using content clusters to create linkable content.
Try to incorporate a call to action in each of your web pages. Determine the goal of your website. If you want to sell an item, your call to action should persuade users to consider purchasing said item. You can include CTAs throughout your content, in pop-ups, or embedded content.
User Experience and Interface
User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) are just fancy terms that signify how users interpret the design and usability of your website.
Most of the topics discussed earlier in this guide help improve UX and UI. For example, proper heading structures that support a sound user interface can enhance the user reading experience.
You can streamline the UI and UX process by using a web design tool like WordPress to create and add additional elements to your website. Plugins like Yoast SEO will provide helpful tools and recommendations related to SEO elements.
As you design your page with user experience in mind, consider the growing number of queries from mobile users. Your website should have the same capabilities on mobile devices as a computer now more than ever.
Google considers mobile optimization when they rank websites, so use this mobile-friendliness check to ensure your website is good to go.
In addition to mobile capabilities, you should also make sure your page’s SEO strategy includes optimizing site speed. Users should have the ability to view your first page within 3 seconds of clicking. You should gradually find ways to increase site speed since it is one of the more critical on-page factors.
What is the Most Important On-page SEO Factor?
According to terakeet, Google considers title tags, heading tags, and other meta tags over other on-page SEO factors.
You should spend the time to make sure your titles and headings are optimized, but don’t rule out the importance of all the other SEO elements. Google considers the entire collection of on-page, off-page, and technical SEO factors when they rank websites.
Perfect Your On-page SEO Process
If you couldn’t tell, search engine optimization is a gradual process. Even if you perfect every element, there are still no guarantees that your page will rank above competing websites.
Stay diligent with your SEO efforts. As you apply these tips to multiple pages on your website, the results should start compounding to boost your website’s authority, relevancy, and trustworthiness.
On-page SEO is only one piece of the puzzle. Consider reading more about how you can improve your search engine rankings.
Feel Ready to Tackle On-page SEO?
As you begin implementing SEO into your website, you may feel as if the process is too tedious for you. If so, do not fret. Search engine optimization is long, complex, and sometimes mind-numbing.
Worse yet, you often won’t see any notable results for months.
Remember, proper on-page optimization will compound over time to drive organic search traffic. Your time and energy will be worth it in the long run.
You probably still have some questions, as you should. Check out our frequently asked questions about SEO for more guidance.
Additionally, there is no shame in outsourcing search engine optimization. We get that you are busy and may not have the time to optimize your websites. Feel free to reach out to a trusted search marketing agency to find out more!