Today we are going to discuss the basics of on-page SEO.
Here’s what you’ll learn:
- What is on-page SEO?
- What’s the difference between technical SEO and content optimization?
- How to properly optimize your website and its content for search engines?
Want to get more organic search traffic?
What Is On-Page SEO?
All search engine optimization strategies and tactics can be divided into these two categories:
- On-page SEO, also known as on-site SEO, is the practice of optimizing your website and its content for search engines. As the name suggests, it’s about what you do on your
- Off-page SEO, also known as off-site SEO, is the practice of optimizing for external ranking signals, the most important of them being backlinks. As the name suggests, it’s about what is happening on other
Both your on-page and off-page SEO need to be on point if you want to stand a chance of ranking on the first page of Google’s search results for your target keywords.
Technical SEO vs. Content Optimization
On-page SEO can be further divided into:
- Technical SEO, which is the practice of optimizing your website for search engines. It deals with site speed, site structure, URLs, meta descriptions, etc.
- Content optimization, which is the practice of optimizing your content for search engines. It deals with article titles, keyword frequency, related keywords, etc.
How To Optimize Your Website for Search Engines
Technical SEO often gets overlooked because the connection between it and search engine rankings isn’t as intuitive as that between content and search engine rankings.
However, it is nevertheless extremely important, so make sure that it’s taken care of before you proceed with other SEO efforts such as content creation and link building.
Use Flat Website Architecture
Website architecture refers to the way pages on your site are linked with one another.
You want to optimize it in a way that helps search engine crawlers index your entire website.
Ideally, all pages on your website should be only a few clicks away from your homepage, which is known as “flat” architecture.
Here’s how flat website architecture looks like:
Make Sure That Your Website Is Mobile-Friendly
Google started using mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal back in 2015 and continues to do so to this day.
It’s probably safe to assume that the importance of this ranking signal will continue increasing in the foreseeable future as mobile devices become even more ubiquitous.
You can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to see whether your website meets this standard.
Increase Your Page Speed
Page speed is another ranking factor that you should optimize for.
Here’s how you can increase it:
- Use dedicated hosting. Shared hosting means sharing the server with other websites, dedicated hosting means having the server all to yourself. Switching from the former to the latter can help you make your website load faster.
- Pick a fast content management system (CMS). When you are evaluating different content management systems, you should take page speed into consideration.
Say, WordPress is the most popular blogging platform out there, but it’s also notoriously slow, while its less known competitor Ghost has been shown to be up to 1,900% faster.
You might still decide to go with WordPress, but you should be aware of the trade-off you are making in terms of page speed.
- Compress the images that you use on your website. Adding images to your content can help you make it more readable, but it also increases the size of that web page and therefore slows it down. Use TinyJPG to compress WebP, PNG, and JPEG files before uploading them to your website.
Google offers a free tool called PageSpeed Insights that you can use to optimize your website for speed.
Optimize the URLs of Your Web Pages
Every web page on your website has its own address.
These addresses are called URLs and should include the primary keyword that you are targeting with that piece of content.
They should follow this pattern:
Let’s say that you have a health and fitness blog and you wrote an article that targets the keyword “carnivore diet”.
The URL of that blog post should look like this:
Optimize the Meta Descriptions of Your Web Pages
HTML tag <meta> allows you to provide a brief summary of your web page that is then displayed on Google’s search results pages.
You can either add meta descriptions to your pages manually or use the meta description feature if your CMS provides one.
Your meta description can be as long as you want but it’s advisable to limit it to 155-160 characters because Google will cut it off after that.
While meta descriptions themselves aren’t a ranking factor, they can help you increase your click-through rate (CTR).
How To Optimize Your Content for Search Engines
Okay, now that you understand the basics of technical SEO, let’s take a closer look at content optimization.
Make Sure That Your Content Meets Search Intent
Search intent refers to the goal behind that particular search query. Why are people using this keyword?
Google’s search algorithm optimizes for meeting search intent because the primary function of a search engine is to deliver the most relevant search results.
So when you are targeting a particular keyword, you need to make sure that your content meets its search intent.
Make each post as long as it needs to be to cover the subject in a comprehensive manner but don’t pad the word count just to make the article longer.
Use the Target Keyword in Your Title
Including your target keyword in your title sends a signal to Google that the content in question revolves around that keyword.
Plus, it helps Google users understand what your content is about, which is important for its CTR.
Use the Target Keyword Within the First 100 Words
This is another way to send a signal to Google that your content revolves around your target keyword.
Don’t try to be clever with your introductions – it’s better to get straight to the point. What is this article about?
Use the Target Keyword Multiple Times Throughout Your Article
You also want to use the target keyword multiple times throughout your article, as this is yet another signal that your content is relevant to the search query.
However, you should make sure that it looks natural.
Avoid using the target keyword so many times that the content becomes impossible to read.
Google provides this keyword stuffing example:
“We sell custom cigar humidors. Our custom cigar humidors are handmade. If you’re thinking of buying a custom cigar humidor, please contact our custom cigar humidor specialists at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Atrocities like that won’t help you rank for your target keyword because Google penalizes keyword stuffing.
Include Related Terms in Your Article
Initially, Google would evaluate the relevance of its search results simply by looking at the frequency at which the target keyword appeared in them.
However, over time, its search algorithm evolved to also take related terms into consideration, as that provides Google with a better idea of whether the content in question meets the search intent.
That’s why you want to think about what terms might be related to your target keyword and then include them in your article.
Say, if your target keyword is “how to lose weight”, you might want to also include terms like:
- Caloric deficit.
- Body fat percentage.
- Intermittent fasting.
- Ketogenic diet.
- Carnivore diet.
…and so on, as that would signal to Google that you are indeed discussing weight loss.
Link To Other Articles on Your Website
Interlinking, which is the practice of linking to other related articles on your website, is believed to help with SEO.
Make sure that you use keyword-rich anchor text as opposed to generic “click here” anchor text.
Say, if you want to link to your article about the carnivore diet from your article about weight loss, place the link on the phrase “carnivore diet”.
Link to Authority Websites
Linking to other websites is also believed to help with SEO provided that those websites are considered to be trustworthy.
You want to link to authority websites in your niche, websites of prominent educational institutions (e.g. Harvard), and trusted media outlets (e.g. The New York Times).
Conversely, you should avoid linking to questionable websites, so if a site looks dodgy then don’t link to it even if it has decent content relevant to the topic of your article.
The reasoning behind this is that links to trustworthy websites send a signal to Google that your website is a reliable source of information, while links to dodgy websites send a signal that your own website is dodgy.
Use Content Optimization Software
There are various apps out there that can help you optimize your content for search engines.
Clearscope is one of the most popular solutions for that.
It shows you:
- Related keywords that you should include.
- Target word count that you should aim for.
- Target readability level that you should keep in mind.
It also provides a content grade on the scale of F to A++.
This makes it easy to understand how your content measures up against what’s currently ranking for that keyword on the first page of Google’s search results.
Other solutions that you might want to check out include SurferSEO and Topic, both of which are more affordable than Clearscope.
It probably seems obvious to you that you need to optimize your content for your target keywords if you want to rank for those keywords. Duh, right?
But it’s important to understand that all the seemingly minor things that aren’t as self-evident, such as compressing images or interlinking articles, can also have a massive impact on your rankings, especially as they add up over time.
And if you choose to overlook them, you will be outcompeted by people who have optimized everything they could, no matter how inconsequential it seemed.
That’s why you can’t afford a lax approach to on-page SEO – you need to do everything in your power to optimize both your website and your content for search engines.
Otherwise, you won’t stand a chance of ranking on the first page of Google’s search results, much less reaching one of the top 3 spots that get 75.1% of all clicks.