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On-Page SEO: 22+ Actionable Tips to Boost Rankings

Boosting search engine rankings is simply the first step to your SEO game plan. But before you dive into on-page SEO, you need to know the basics of ranking factors. Then you can unlock our greatest on-page optimization tips to get you climbing up page 1 on Google.

Want to climb higher in search results, faster?

All of your SEO content or link building efforts are virtually useless UNLESS Google can effectively crawl your website, determine what each page is about, and understand why your site is a cut above the rest.

That’s exactly why on-page optimization is an essential part of any powerhouse SEO strategy.

On-page optimization makes it easy for a search engine to know exactly what you’re trying to rank for and why you deserve to rank. It also provides your website visitors with a positive and valuable experience, which is critical to conversions.

But, how do you optimize your site for search?

Keep reading to learn:

  • What on page SEO is and the important role it plays in your SEO strategy

  • The 10 basic success factors that every web page should have optimised to rank

  • And 12 killer tips to help you nail your on-page optimization

Let’s jump in.

 

What is on-page optimization?

On-page optimization is the practice of creating a site structure and web pages that answer user’s questions and engage them from the very first click, while also ensuring that Google knows exactly what your content is about AND why it deserves to rank. 

In other words, it’s the act of optimizing everything ON your website for search engine algorithms.

See, there are a set of signals on a website that search engines uses to trawl the vast content available on the web, in order to serve up the most relevant and valuable results for any given search. 

These include things like:

  • Website headlines

  • Title tags

  • Meta descriptions

  • Internal linking

  • Website structure

  • Image alt text

  • Author information

  • Site speed

  • Website responsiveness

If you don’t account for on-page SEO when you create content, you make it that much harder for your website to rank — and for your customers to find you.

If you're unfamiliar with your onsite SEO and want evidence-based insights from our trusted SEO Gurus, we can get you started with a no obligation free digital analysis:

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What is off-page optimization?

If on-page SEO is everything that you do ON your page to help your website rank, then off-page is the opposite.

Off-page SEO encompasses all of the actions you do outside your own website on the Internet, in order to improve your website’s authority and ranking in search engine results. 

This includes things like link building, social media profiles, guest posting, and more.

 

Breaking it down: On-page SEO vs. Off-page SEO

It can be a bit tricky to wrap your head around the difference between on-page optimization vs. off-page optimization.

The easiest way to think of it is that on page SEO is any change you make WITHIN your own website to improve your rankings, while off-page is everything you do outside of your website. 

Let’s look at an example.

Let’s say you run a restaurant and want to add a blog post about your seasonal menu to your website. 

How you structure your blog post, the images you include, the size of the images, the links you put within your content, the headings and keywords that you add in are all actions that you do on your website, and form part of your on page SEO strategy. 

On the other hand, if you invite an influencer or local journalist to write a review about your restaurant on their website and they feature a link back to you, that’s off-page SEO. 

The same goes for social media. 

If you create a social media profile for your restaurant or publish a video tour of your restaurant on YouTube, this counts as an off-page action. 

Why? 

That’s because, in the latter actions, you didn’t change anything about your own website. Instead, you took actions outside of your own website with the goal to benefit your ranking.

If you’re ever confused about the two, it helps to think about it in terms of how much control you have over your content. If it’s entirely within your control — such as updating a product page on your website — then it’s an on page SEO action. If not, then it likely falls into the off-page bucket. 

Why is on-page optimization important?

On-page optimization matters because it demonstrates how relevant your content is to your users AND to Google.

Remember what we mentioned earlier? 

Google’s algorithm takes a number of signals into account, in order to determine where a website lands in search.

See, every user who runs a search has a search intent.

They might want to find information, conduct a transaction, navigate to a certain webpage, or discover new products.

Google factors in a whopping 200+ signals to understand WHAT that search intent is, and which websites are most relevant to address that intent.

And a lot of these factors? They have to do with on page SEO.

Google itself has stated:

“The most basic signal that information is relevant is when a webpage contains the same keywords as your search query. If those keywords appear on the page, or if they appear in the headings or body of the text, the information is more likely to be relevant.” (Google)

In short, if you don’t SHOW Google what your site is about, then it doesn’t know that your content is relevant.

Let’s say you run a second-hand car dealership in L.A., and a user runs a search for “used car shops in Los Angeles”. 

If you don’t have your address listed anywhere on your site, then Google has NO idea that you’re in L.A — and most likely, you won’t appear in search results.

Likewise, if it doesn’t say anywhere on your site that you sell second-hand or used cars, then you won’t appear for searches for that keyword.

You need to tell Google what your web page is about, in a way that it understands — and that means including relevant keywords in your HTML tags, headings, and throughout your content.

Backlinko backs this up in a study of over 1 million search results

According to the analysis, the websites that rank on top of Google search results (and that get the most traffic) typically have the exact keyword in their title tag.

But on-page optimization isn’t as simple and straightforward as keyword stuffing.

Back in the day, SEO practitioners would try to cram as many relevant keywords as possible into a website. 

In 2020, Google’s algorithm is FAR more sophisticated. 

Google is incredibly good at understanding what users are actually searching for, and the types of results that best meet those needs. 

What they want is clear: a website that’s both relevant and valuable to users.

Again, from Google:

Beyond simple keyword matching, we use aggregated and anonymized interaction data to assess whether search results are relevant to queries.

Translation: the user experience you provide (i.e. site load times and website structure) and how long a user stays on your website (measured by dwell time and bounce rate) play a role in your search engine rankings — and they NEED to form part of your on page SEO efforts.

What’s more...

These relevance signals help Search algorithms assess whether a webpage contains an answer to your search query, rather than just repeating the same question. Just think: when you search for “dogs”, you likely don’t want a page with the word “dogs” on it hundreds of times. With that in mind, algorithms assess if a page contains other relevant content beyond the keyword “dogs” — such as pictures of dogs, videos, or even a list of breeds.

This means that the content you provide on your website needs to be VALUABLE as well as relevant. It needs to truly consider what the user is searching for and what type of information best addresses this intent.

This is done through elements like internal links, image optimization, content headings and structure, author authority, and more.

Beyond optimizing your website for relevance and intent, on-page optimization is valuable because it’s entirely within your control.

There’s no waiting or hoping for another website to link back to you.

YOU can determine what keywords to include in your title tag and headings.

YOU can establish your site structure and improve your page speed with information architecture and image optimization. 

It’s all up to you.

With that in mind, let’s move on to the next part: the most important elements of on page SEO.

 

10 essential on-page SEO ranking factors

Now that we’ve covered off what on-page SEO is and why it matters, it’s time to explore each ranking factor in detail.

If you want to NAIL your on page SEO, you need make sure you get all of these SEO basics right.

 

1. Information architecture

Your goal is clear: Create a website that’s relevant and valuable to your customers.

Everyone who visits your website should enjoy a positive and valuable experience. 

This starts with your Information Architecture (IA).

Information Architecture is designed to help users accomplish their goals on your website quickly and easily.

Put simply, it’s the way you structure your information on your website. Another way to think of it is like your sitemap, or your navigation bar.

In practice, it looks a little something like this:

 

Image credit: Adobe

Information Architecture is a critical component to on page SEO for three reasons:

  • It delivers a user-friendly experience for visitors. A well-structured website guides users to discover more information, improves their engagement with your website, and decreases your bounce rate.

  • It creates a clear hierarchy of information. Your IA gives emphasis to the right pages and content. This makes it easier for websites like Google to understand what your website is about and what you offer.

  • It guides people to convert. Your IA should naturally lead people through the conversion funnel from awareness to consideration and conversion. A website that’s structured for the customer journey helps Google serve up the right pages based on user intent.

A good site structure is tailored to what your audience is searching for, and how they search (more on how to create this later).

 

2. Title tag

Each page should have a unique, descriptive title tag that’s well-structured and provides a clear indication of what your content is about.

The title tag is a descriptive HTML element that specifies the title of a page. 

It’s found in the head tag of each page, and looks like this:

 

 

Title tags are used in a number of ways across search. They get displayed in search engine results pages like so:

 

They also show up in the browser tabs:

And when somebody shares your page on social media platforms like Facebook:

And while title tags have little impact on organic SEO rankings, they play a huge role in the clickthrough rates of your content in search engine results.

Let’s say you run a search for “SEO guide”, and receive these two titles in your search results:

  • Discover The A-Z SEO Guide For Incredible ROI

  • SEO Guide - The Best Guide For SEO

Which one would you click on?

One final word on title tags: make sure that these aren’t spelled incorrectly or poorly written. This a surefire way to turn people off your content — and send your website plummeting in search.

3. Meta tags (meta title and meta description)

Meta tags are the little snippets that appear in search engine results under your title.

In Google, they look like this:

 

In the HTML code for your web pages, they look like this:

 

Image source: Content Marketing Institute

Well-written meta tags provide users with a preview of the content on your web pages, and help with clickthrough rates.

While Google won’t always pull up your meta description in search results, it’s still in line with best practices to include a unique, optimized meta description for every page. 

 

4. E-A-T

E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. This is the set of SEO factors that Google uses to assess the credibility of an author, landing page, or website.

Google has always prioritized high-quality content. With more and more pieces of content being created by different brands and creators every single day, it needs a framework to evaluate which pieces of content are the most valuable and authoritative.

That’s where E-A-T comes in.

From a website and web page level, E-A-T means having good-quality, well-researched content with external links to quality sources. However, it also means having credible websites linking back to your page, such as major media publications or .gov websites (this is off-site SEO). 

But E-A-T also applies at an author level. 

Here's the deal: search engines don't view everyone’s opinion as equal. 

Let’s say you’re creating content about cooking. Google is FAR more likely to rank content by Chrissy Teigen than by a first-time home chef who has never written a single blog post or tweeted in their lives.

E-A-T matters, and it needs to be a consideration in your on page SEO strategy.

 

5. Headline 

The headline is the single most important piece of content on your page.

Why?

If no-one gets past your headline, then the rest of your content may as well just say “lorem ipsum”. 

Your headline is what hooks people in.

It piques their interest.

Gets them reading.

And in fact, 80% of readers never make it past the headline

It’s CRITICAL to spend time crafting the perfect headline for your content. 

Your organic traffic, engagement and rankings depend on it.

 

6. Header tags

Header tags are HTML tags that are used to distinguish subheadings from your paragraph text, and structure your content. 

They range from H1 to H6, with H1 being the most important heading and H6 being the least important.

In the HTML code, they might look something like this:

While they’re not as important as they used to be for on page SEO, header tags still have an impact on where your page lands in search results.

Keyword-rich header tags can also help your page rank for featured snippets. For example, if you want to rank for the keyword “What is the best tasting coffee?”, adding it as a subheading will make it easier for Google to rank in the “People also ask” section:

 

 

Last but not least, incorporating headers makes your content easy to read and scan. This is a must if you want your content to keep your audience engaged in what you have to say.

 

7. Image optimization

Google likes content that is relevant and delivers an outstanding user experience. 

And the best pages? 

They include multiple forms of media, such as image content and video content.

Optimizing images is an important part of on page SEO. On the flipside, not having optimized images can actually hurt your rankings rather than help them.

Your images should load fast and have alt text that tells Google exactly what the image is showing. This also gives your content additional ranking opportunities in Google Image Search.

 

8. Site speed

Page speed is a massive part of on-page SEO.

MASSIVE.

Google fast, zippy sites that load well. Faster websites offer better usability, which is one of the most important considerations Google takes into account when deciding where your content ranks.

Beyond search engine rankings, Think With Google found that a longer load time has a direct correlation with landing page abandonment rates — a HUGE missed opportunity.

 

There are a few tools that you can use to determine your current site speed and identify opportunities for improvement (more on this below).

 

9. Internal links

Internal linking is the process of linking anchor text to other pages.

Internal links connect your content and help Google understand the structure and hierarchy of your website.

It also spreads ranking power from one page to another — giving lower-authority pages a much-needed boost:

Image source: Backlinko

10. Mobile-friendliness

When it comes to the importance of mobile-friendly design, Google's SEO knowledge experts say it best:

If you haven't made your website mobile-friendly, you should. The majority of users coming to your site are likely to be using a mobile device.”

 

Smartphone penetration in the U.S. has reached a whopping 85% in 2020. And the majority of those people? They’re searching using their mobile device.

That’s why mobile-friendliness is one of the most important best practices for any on page SEO strategy.

If your pages don't appear correctly on different devices, your content is going to be less user-friendly — and you’re far less likely to rank on top of search.

12 actionable on-page SEO tips you can implement right now

Now that we’ve covered all the different SEO factors of on-page optimization, it’s time to put these into practice.

These 12 tips will help you transform your website into a well-optimized, well-oiled ranking machine.

 

1. Use pillars to structure your content marketing

Content pillars organize your content marketing in a way that makes sense to users. This strategy focuses on topics, rather than keywords. You create lots of valuable content around one central theme, or “pillar”, instead of focusing on a specific keyword.

In short, it makes it easier to navigate your content.

See, most content on the web looks a little bit like this:

Sure, there are topics — but there’s no real organization. You talk about everything, but it’s much harder for your users to find content on a specific topic.

Structuring your content by pillars, on the other hand, looks something like this:

Image credit: Hubspot

Once your user has found the pillar page that they want, they just click on that link to find other valuable pages and content, also known as “clusters”.

It’s that simple.

Structuring your content into pillars come with a TON of benefits:

  • It makes it easier for search engines to find what they need to index and rank your site.

  • It ensures every piece of content is focused on your target audience and what they want.

  • It provides a solid user experience, which leads to people spending more time on your site pages.

  • The more you add to a content pillar with clusters, the higher your page will rise in the ranks.

We use this exact technique on the OMG Academy:

As the majority of our site visitors are interested in marketing tips, we structured our pillars by topic and service — making it easier to find relevant content for SEO, copywriting, PPC, and so on.

 

2. Make sure your site loads FAST

A fast loading site is a non-negotiable for on page SEO.

So how do you find out if your site is up to scratch?

Simple: use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.

Just pop your website into the tool, and the tool will give your pages a score like so:

 

A lower score means your site loads slower, while a higher score means your site speed is on point.

Scroll even further down, and you’ll get a list of on page SEO suggestions from Google on how to make your page load faster:

Google also provides diagnostic information for developers:

Use this SEO knowledge to lay out a road map to optimize your pages for speed.

 

3. Use an image compressor

While we’re on the topic of site speed, here’s an important (but often neglected) piece of on page SEO knowledge…

Compress your images.

Image size is a crucial part of image optimization and page load times. Try to keep your images as small as possible, while preserving image quality.

If you don’t have Photoshop, there are plenty of web-based tools to help you do this:

A final word of advice: Make sure you don’t go too far in the other direction and make your images TOO small. According to Google, images should be at least 1200px wide.

 

4. Keep an eye on your keyword density

Keyword stuffing DOESN’T work.

It just doesn’t.

Cramming keywords into your web pages as much as possible – even in places it didn’t make sense - is a black hat technique.

In other words, it might help you rank in the short-term…

...then send you spiraling to page 30 of search before you can say “SEO”.

Select one target keyword for each of your web pages. Use this keyword and variants in strategic places that will show Google what the page is about, such as:

  • Title tag

  • Meta description

  • H1 or H2 tag

  • Introduction

After that, incorporate them naturally throughout your content:

 

There’s NO need to go overboard. Keep your keyword density at 1-2% — this means a keyword should appear once or twice every 100 words. 

This is enough to indicate what your content is about to Google, without the risk of being penalized for keyword stuffing.

 

5. Keep your meta data under the word count

Your meta title and meta description are what appears in Google’s results. However, you don’t have an infinite character count. 

At a certain point, Google cuts off your content with ellipses, like so:

A short, succinct description will go a lot further than a descriptive sentence that gets cut off before you’ve made your point.

Optimize your meta data for word count. This means:

  • Title tag: 60 characters or less

  • Meta description: Between 50 and 160 characters.

Lastly, if you want to preview how your meta title and description will appear in search, use a tool like metatags.io. Just pop in your content and the tool will instantly generate previews across Google, Facebook and Twitter.

 

6. Keep your URL structure short and keyword-rich

So many site owners spend countless hours optimizing their content and header, but don’t spare a second of thought for the URL.

That’s a huge mistake.

Google uses the URL to understand what the page’s content is all about. 

A URL structure for an SEO about page like “http://www.onlinemarketinggurus.com/109124708124” means nothing to Google. 

Meanwhile, a URL like https://www.onlinemarketinggurus.com.au/about clearly indicates exactly what the page is about.

Likewise, if you have written a blog targeting search engine optimization content marketing, a URL like https://www.onlinemarketinggurus.com/blog/seo-content shows Google the keywords that you are targeting.

Make your URLs both short and keyword-rich. Cut out any contractions or unnecessary words, and get straight to the point.

That way search engines know exactly what the page is about and how to index it.

 

7. Boost your E-A-T

Remember what we said about E-A-T?

This ranking factor plays a big role in determining how authoritative your website is.

While building up your page’s E-A-T largely falls under off-page search engine optimization, there are a few things you can do to boost your authoritativeness and credibility on your owned channels.

On top of looking at your content and ranking, Google also takes the author of the content into account when ranking pages for authority and trustworthiness. 

Remember the Chrissy Teigen vs. no-name home-chef example? 

If you have more clout in your domain and industry, Google will naturally favor your content in rankings. 

One of the ways you can build up this expertise is to add an “About the author” section to every one of your blog posts.

Once Google knows who the author is, it will scour the internet for your social profiles, other articles written by you, and other articles written about you.

If you’re active and continually contributing to industry publications, Google will see you as an expert in your field — and the content you produce will get a ranking boost.

 

8. Use AMP mark-up 

AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages. Since 2016, Google has given priority to pages that use this type of mark-up, as it allows websites to provide a better experience for mobile users.

Even if you don’t know what AMP is, you’ve DEFINITELY seen its little lightning bolt symbol in search:

Google prioritizes AMP results for mobile searches — and in some cases, a site that uses AMP mark-up can rank above ads on mobile platforms.

AMP mark-up looks like this:

 

 

Creating an AMP page can be done through a plugin via your Content Management System, or directly in the code. Google has detailed instructions on how to build an AMP page, but if you’re not certain, a developer or SEO agency may be able to help and will advise whether it's suitable for your website.

 

9. Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly test

Google’s Mobile-Friendly test is a simple, easy-to-use tool that allows you to test just how easily a visitor can use your page on a mobile device.

All you need to do is plug in your website URL:

 

After this, Google will run an analysis and give you your test results. If your page is mobile-friendly, you’ll get a result like this:

 

If your pages need to be improved on the mobile-friendly front, the tool will provide a list of best practices and recommendations:

Use these to guide your mobile optimizations and improve your user experience.

 

10. Get responsive

Keeping track of a desktop and mobile site is a PAIN. 

Every change you do on one page, you have to do on the other. You have two sets of HTML code to maintain. And in those grey areas between desktop and mobile (tablet, anyone?), neither option really works.

That’s where responsive design comes in.

Responsive HTML allows your webpages to adapt to the size of the user’s screen.

If a user sees your site on a desktop, the page will balloon up. If they find it on mobile, the page will shrink the content and adjust the formatting to work on the smaller screen.

And the best part? 

You don’t need to be a coder or have tons of SEO knowledge to put this into place.

Popular CMS such as Wordpress, Squarespace, Wix and Shopify ALREADY have responsive templates in place — making it easier than ever to build a beautiful, responsive site.

 

11. Get rid of Adobe Flash content

Flash content was all the rage back in the day. 

Today, it’s a surefire way to send your website plummeting in search.

Put simply, search engine platforms don’t like Flash — and mobile search engines HATE it. 

Adobe Flash slows down the user’s device and has several vulnerabilities. Many web browsers, such as Safari, have also stopped supporting Flash in their latest iterations.

Plus, Google doesn’t support Adobe Flash in its AMP mark-up.

This is a no-brainer. If you’re using Flash content, it’s time to replace your code FAST.

 

12. Write for scanners 

We have a pretty short attention span these days.

That means most people won’t read every word on your page — in fact, they’re most likely going to only read around 20%.

A big part of on page SEO is structuring your content in a way that allows users to glean content quickly and find quick answers on the page.

To do this, follow these best practices:

  • Create bulleted lists

  • Write in short paragraphs of only one or two sentences

  • Use white space to break up text

  • Use headings and subheadings to highlight different topics or ideas

  • Add images to draw the eye. 

The final word

With an effective on page SEO as part of your search engine optimization strategy, you can rise through the rankings to the top 10, faster.

On page SEO ensures your site is crawlable by search engines, while delivering a positive experience for users. 

Win, and win.

But with so many pieces to optimize on each page, plus off-page SEO, keyword research, technical SEO and content ideation, it’s easy to get confused, overwhelmed — or just overlook something that could be boosting your visibility on search.

Don’t worry. We’re here to help.

If you want to gain all the SEO knowledge needed to optimize your content for rankings and revenue, you’ve come to the right place. Just click on the link below to book an obligation-free chat with one of our gurus today. 

We’ll ask you a few questions and tell you honestly if SEO makes sense for your situation. Plus, we’ll give you a FREE audit of your current online marketing channels and a six-month game plan to supercharge your SEO strategy.

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