SEO is an integral part of digital marketing. It has two main categories: On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO. Although both are equally needed, On-Page SEO is the very first step you take when getting started with SEO. It is considered the core component of it. The external optimization applied Off-Page comes much later in the game.
Consider a business analogy: you create and improve a product and then you market it. The efforts made in polishing up the core product resemble On-Page SEO. And the latter part of marketing resembles Off-Page SEO. And you are here to focus on the very first part of it: the essential On-Page SEO.
This guide on On-Page SEO for Beginners covers all the major aspects. We will begin with knowing what exactly it is, understanding why it is important, and then going through the complete checklist covering all the major factors to consider while implementing On-Page SEO on a website.
So, if you are new to this term or want to know more about it comprehensively, this is the guide for you.
Table of Contents
What Is On-Page SEO?
As the name suggests, On-Page SEO (also called On-Site SEO) is the practice of applying optimization techniques on a website/webpage for achieving high rankings on a search engine results page (SERP). Unlike Off-page SEO, it aims at improving all the internal aspects of a website/webpage.
On-Page optimization techniques involve improving a website’s content, architecture (some technical set-up), and user experience. For example, creating relevant and quality content, integrating keywords, optimizing headings, meta tags, URLs, improving site speed, etc
Here, the target behind all the improvement techniques carried out on a site’s page is to make it the best for the users (and for search engines too).
Search engines, as we all know, are responsible for finding, curating, and delivering the most suitable information (web pages/content) for a given user query. How does it decide whether a page is suitable or not? Through the ranking factors.
Google has some internal and external SEO ranking factors which help determine whether a webpage is eligible to be provided with high rankings or not. Now the internal ranking factors majorly focus on the content, structure, and user-friendliness of a web page itself. And this is what On-Page SEO is all about.
Now that you have understood what On-Page SEO is, the next question that pops up is why at all is it important for you?
Why Is On-Page SEO Important?
On-Page SEO is important for multiple reasons. One major reason is that content is the most important thing. You must have heard that “content is the king.” And On-Page SEO majorly focuses on optimizing this king.
There is no meaning in applying all the tactics of SEO if you do not optimize your website and its content itself. Consider the same analogy: when you don’t bother about improving your product, what’s the point in marketing it? And who’s going to buy it? Even Off-page SEO will require you to have quality content first.
Moreover, it is also important to apply On-Site SEO to your website because it helps in making your content useful for users. Most of the On-Page SEO deals with improving the areas which are directly connected with users, and it optimizes your content for them so they can receive value and usability out of it.
It also makes it easy for search engines to understand and recognize your content better, to make it reach its audience.
And, since on-page and off-page SEO are interconnected with each other, implementing on-page SEO also helps in better off-site optimization. For example, a website having quality content will be beneficial in getting authority backlinks.
Plus there is an added advantage that On-Page SEO gives you. That is, you have all the control in your hands. You can improve all aspects of your website without being dependent on external factors unlike in Off-Page SEO. This allows you to give your best when applying On-Page SEO.
So, this is how On-Page SEO is crucial for you. Now if you are convinced, you will next ask how to implement it on your website. Well, here is the complete On-Page SEO Checklist having all the steps to optimize your website.
The On-Page SEO Checklist
⇒ Compelling Meta Title And Description
When search results appear, your meta title and description are the foremost things that are visible to the users. They are your first impression on your users. Just like you judge a book by its cover before you buy, the meta information of your page makes users decide whether to click on your result or not.
The meta title is your page title (also called title tag or SEO title). This needs the most attention in designing well. It should not only clearly state what your content’s crux is, but should also compel the reader to click on your result.
Some tips for optimizing them:
↳ Keep it concise:
They should not be too long/complex for readers to understand. The ideal length for a meta title is 70 characters (if exceeded, it is truncated).
↳ It should match the search intent:
It should align with what your user wants. And this tells them that you have what they need.
↳ Don’t make it clickbait:
Don’t allure users to click by making impractical promises that you don’t fulfill through your content. It should be relevant to your content.
↳ Include the focus keyword:
This will help recognize your content by telling them what it is about.
↳ Use active voice:
This relates to the users well as if you are directly talking to them.
A meta description is a short description of your content (like an overview) appearing under the title. This should briefly state what users will receive in your content in a few sentences (ideally 160 characters). It’s like a trailer representing your content.
So design it well and include your keyword in it. Google bolds this in results. With some more tips to write an effective meta description for SEO, you can make it all the more compelling.
You can also consider adding schema markup to your website. Although it is not a ranking factor, it helps increase click-through rates and traffic.
⇒ Optimizing Headings And Subheadings
Headings and subheadings are the components that define the structure and organization of your webpage. Properly designing them will not only help search engine skim your content easily but also contributes to easy readability and better understandability by users.
⇒ Use the H1 tag for your page title
The H1 tag indicates the main heading of your webpage. It should be similar to the page title. This tells users and search engines what the page is about. Use this tag for your page title to clearly state the point of discussion.
Also, H1 should be used only once on a webpage (and visible) to avoid ambiguity. Since Google reads the HTML code while skimming your webpage, if this important tag (H1) is missing, your topic will be overlooked and it will be difficult for your page to get recognized and understood by the search engine.
⇒ Use H2-H6 tags for subheadings
<H2> to <H6> tags in HTML are designed for properly structuring your page. Use <H2> for subheadings, <H3> for sub-subheadings, likewise. This will hierarchically organize your page, providing an easy manner to divide it into sections and subsections. This makes your content easily digestible and skimmable.
However, use these tags after proper planning for an outline. Don’t use subheading tags when other tags like bold or italic are more appropriate. Never overdo the use of headings; only use them when it is required to structure the main content. Also, it is not necessary to use all the subheading tags; it depends on the length and branching of your content.
⇒ Keyword Integration
A keyword is a term (group of one or more words) that is the key focus of your content and it shows what your page is about. This is the exact term that users search for, and integrating it helps search engines match and find the relevant content as per the searched query.
It is important to intelligently place keywords throughout your content to be able to reach the audience who is the target of the information you are providing. This keyword is also referred to as the primary keyword, focus keyword, or target keyword.
There are some important areas of your content where the keyword benefits the most. You should insert your primary keyword in your meta title and H1 tag (preferably at the start). Keywords should also be present in the webpage URL, meta description, and (obviously) the main content.
It is better to include your primary keyword in the first 50-100 words of the body (opening paragraph). The sooner the keyword appears, the easier it is for google to determine the topic.
However, keyword integration should be natural. It should not seem like you have added them for the sake of adding them; add them at appropriate places.
Moreover, you should not overdo the insertion either. Bombarding keywords in content without sense and relevance is known as keyword stuffing. That is why the word “intelligently” is used in the beginning. For more info, the ideal keyword density in your content (blog/webpage) should be around
Additionally, the order of the words in your keyword also matters for ranking. People search for the same thing in multiple different ways. So it is essential to consider the search possibilities and include a good mixture that helps in keyword matching. (The next point is related to the same.)
⇒ LSI Keywords In Content
Apart from the exact keyword, you can also incorporate words that are similar to your primary keyword. They are known as LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords. (It can be a solution to the keyword stuffing problem) They are words related to the main keyword (not synonyms) which help show the context of your content. This also helps search engines eliminate ambiguity and get a clear idea of what your content is about.
Insert LSI keywords in meta tags and throughout your content to make it recognizable for all the matches related to your focus keyword. This will also help cover more keywords that are relevant to your content and increase traffic. There are many ways to figure out LSI keywords; one of them can be Google autocomplete in the search bar.
⇒ SEO-Friendly URL
The URL of your page also needs optimization to help you rank better. Include the focus keyword in your web page’s URL to reflect the main topic.
Make the structure of your URL short and clear for a search engine to understand and recognize it better. A simple and concise URL is also easy for users to remember. One more tip will be to use a dash to separate words in the URL.
⇒ Working Links
All the internal and external links on your page should work and not lead to 404 errors. Such non-working links are known as deadlinks. Crosscheck them through any dead link checker tool as it will not only create a bad experience for users but will also create issues while crawling from your page.
Moreover, when talking about links, including relevant internal and external links to your page is a good practice. It adds value to readers by providing them with good sources for further information and also improves authority on your page. This in turn helps you gain Google’s trust more.
⇒ DA/PA Of Website
DA stands for Domain Authority and PA stands for Page authority. Both are measuring factors defined by Moz. DA is a ranking score for a website and PA is for a specific web page. This helps determine how well-reputed a website and a page are to be eligible for high rankings.
Improving this DA/PA score by improving your content and other areas helps in enhancing the authority and trustworthiness of your site. One sure-shot way you can improve your DA/PA scores is through quality backlinks.
So you should know the importance of backlinks to learn how they can significantly impact your site’s reliability.
Moreover, you can check the DA/PA score of your website or page using the link explorer tool of Moz.
⇒ UX-Focused Content Structure
When it comes to content and webpage, user experience matters. We optimize everything for users because ultimately it is them who will be converted, not search engines. Everything on your page that a user interacts with needs to be well-designed keeping ease of use in mind.
The structure and layout of your content should be well-organized and consistent. The sections on your webpage should be easily navigable. It should be easy for readers to understand your content. You can do so by using proper formatting and styling on your pages.
Some simple things like proper headings, using bullet points, using images, arranging content into small and digestible paragraphs, using active voice as much as possible, and expressing your message in a simple language make the user feel good when they browse your page. And this is what UX-focused optimization is all about.
⇒ Image Optimization
As we talked about UX, images play an important role in that. Firstly, content with all text and no visuals makes your Jack (reader) get bored. You want to engage a user and not help them leave your site.
Plus, adding proper images whenever needed also helps people understand the discussed point better. But just adding images is not enough. You need to optimize them as well.
This can be done by adding proper and relevant ALT text to your images. ALT text (an HTML attribute of <img> tag) is what gives information to a search engine about your image. Without it, images will be difficult to interpret.
- Give short and well-describing alt text and file names to images to be able to rank better in google image search results as well.
- No need to explicitly mention (in alt text and filenames) that it’s an image.
- Don’t use dashes in your alt text, you can use them as separators in the file name.
- Use a relevant keyword in the ALT text and filenames without stuffing.
- Compress them to reduce their size and make them load faster.
⇒ Unique Content
The content is something through which you provide value to your users. It should not have duplicate content. When google detects the same content being used on multiple pages, it will only consider one of them (telling which one is unpredictable).
Moreover, if you are just going to repeat what other websites have written, then what is the point of creating content yourself? What added value does your content provide? There is nothing original to it, nothing meaningful to it. Duplicating or scraping existing content only helps reduce your ranking on Google.
There are many more reasons why avoiding plagiarism is important. It can negatively affect your SEO. There are multiple tools to check for plagiarism (content duplication) which can help you avoid duplication.
⇒ Mobile Responsive Website
A mobile-friendly or responsive website means that it can render and function well on all devices (especially on mobile screens). This is a part of improving user experience. All of your users will want to access your website through mobile phones and if it is not adaptable to their device, they will simply leave your site or have a bad experience browsing it.
So it is essential to use technology that provides responsiveness to a website. Your website developer takes care of this aspect by using CSS, Bootstrap, etc. You can check if your website is mobile-friendly or not using Google’s mobile-friendly test.
⇒ Fast Site Speed
This is again a technical aspect but an official ranking factor on Google. Your website needs to load fast and not make users wait longer than three seconds. The users of this era are not much patient. If you don’t speed up, you’ll lose ranking and traffic.
Certain things like lazy loading of your images and image compression can help you improve the speed of loading. Moreover, it is the task of a web developer to take care of the speed. You can check your site’s speed using various tools.
⇒ HTTPS Security
HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. Having your website HTTPS means that the communication between your site’s browser and server is safe and secure (encrypted). If the URL of a website shows HTTPS at the start, it means it is secure. (You can also see a padlock near the URL bar which is also a sign of security that you have an SSL certificate).
HTTPS has become a ranking factor for SEO. Google marks the sites not having HTTPS as “not secure”. So if you have yet not made your site secure, make no more delay.
⇒ Dwell Time
Dwelling means engaging. The dwell time is the amount of time a user spends on your page. This will only improve if your content is useful, engaging, and provides value to the users. It doesn’t take much time to press that back button and leave a site. Your task in On-Page SEO is to hold that user by solving his query and giving him the information he needs.
There are many ways to increase the dwell time like using images, multimedia, providing quality content, etc. You have to improve the user experience and the main content to increase the dwell time of your site. The ideal dwell time is around 2-4 minutes. Dwell time helps google determine the quality of your content.
⇒ Bounce Rate
This implies the percentage of visitors leaving your page without taking any action. This clearly shows google that your content is not worth engaging and interacting with or has some other issues. This also means that the user did not convert. You need to aim to reduce the bounce rate and increase dwell time by again focusing on the quality of your content and some other SEO aspects.
Implementing On-Site SEO properly can help reduce the bounce rate significantly.
Here are some steps to do so:
- Make sure you meet your readers’ expectations through your content.
- Design your website well and provide good UI and UX.
- Make your content easy to read, interesting and entertaining. Avoid “dead zones” (boring text areas of your content).
- Keep grabbing the user’s attention periodically throughout your blog.
- Improve your page speed.
⇒ Content-Length and depth
Long-form content is more engaging to users and is more shareable because it talks at length about the topic discussed, showing your topic expertise. Lengthy content shows that your information is not superficial and has proper knowledge. It provides more information to users, and thus adds value to them.
However, it is not sufficiently true that writing 2000+ words will rank your content high. Merely word count is not important. The relevance and depth of your content are equally important. Provide users with in-depth information and detailed solutions to their queries and they will surely prefer to read your content, increasing your rankings in turn.
Here, there is no fixed rule for content length. It depends on and varies with every niche. Although content length is not a Google ranking factor, it still helps increase dwell time and build a reputation.
⇒ Freshness Of Content
Fresh content implies properly updated and up-to-date information according to the current trends and situation. This is a query-dependent factor that allows those pages to rank higher that provide fresh content when needed.
For example, “why morning walk is important” doesn’t need fresh content. While “Hollywood movies 2022” requires google to show fresh content.
So the key is to make your content stay updated. And also create new articles as per the current situation and demands.
⇒ Spelling And Grammar
The content needs to be proficiently written in the preferred language. And proper grammar and spelling are no-brainers here. When there are grammar mistakes or spelling errors in your content, it makes it difficult to understand the point. Such mistakes may also irritate the readers while also leading to confusion sometimes.
Such mistakes are signs of low-quality content and can spoil your reputation among users. You can easily check the grammar and other syntactical errors using tools like Grammarly.
On-Page SEO is a method to optimize your website to make it achieve high rankings and increased traffic. It lets you provide value to your users through quality content and a good UX. This in turn helps you gain the trust of the users and perform better on search engines. By implementing the On-Page SEO techniques mentioned in this guide, you will be able to significantly improve rankings and drive more traffic.