It’s common for people to think on-page SEO means simply throwing some keywords into the mix here and there. That’s not true. In spite of the fact that keyword placement is still extremely important, it is much less important now than it used to be.
Even though on-page optimization is more complex now than it used to be, it is still one of the easiest aspects of SEO. You can do it without a lot of technical knowledge and it’s one of the few things you can do without any problems. A bit of research and basic knowledge of website editing (or someone who can write) are all you need to do it well.
On-page SEO basics
Before we move on, let’s clarify what on-page SEO is and why it is important.
What is on-page SEO?
It involves optimizing web pages so that they show up higher in search engine results (also called on-page SEO). Optimizing visible content as well as HTML source code is part of it.
Why is on-page SEO important?
Google looks at your page’s content to determine whether it’s a relevant result for the search query. Part of this process involves looking for keywords.
You need to do more than just include keywords in your content to optimize your content for search engines.
Since Google uses its algorithms to find the most relevant search results, it also takes into account other relevant content on a page when making its decision. If you have a page about dogs but do not mention specific breeds, then Google knows there will be more relevant results.
In on-page SEO, relevance is so important that without it, you are unlikely to rank.
How to create SEO content
The first thing you must do before even thinking about ‘technical’ optimization is creating content that Google deems valuable. In order to achieve that, you must decide on a target keyword. If you think this isn’t the case, check out our keyword research guide.
Otherwise, here are the four things you need to master:
- Be relevant
- Be thorough
- Be unique
- Be clear
1. Be relevant
According to SEO experts, it is paramount that your content is relevant to search intent, which means aligning it with your website goals. If you don’t provide searchers with what they want, you have no chance of ranking.
Google understands search intent better than anyone else, so the best place to begin is to analyze the current top-ranked results for these three Cs of search intent:
- Content format
- Content angle
In our keyword research guide, we briefly discussed this concept. In this case, however, we will go a bit further, as again, aligning your content with your intent is critical.
There are typically five types of content: blogs, products, categories, landing pages, and videos. Using “black maxi dress” as an example, the top-ranking pages all come from eCommerce categories from well-known stores.
A blog post is unlikely to rank for this keyword. People are looking to buy, not to learn.
It’s not so clear-cut with others.
Look at the top three results for the term “plants” and you’ll see a combination of eCommerce pages and blogs.
Use your best judgment if this happens. Despite the fact that blog posts and eCommerce pages account for roughly half of the results, the top three results are all eCommerce pages.
Therefore, most searchers are looking for eCommerce pages instead of learning about the topic, which means an eCommerce page has a better chance of ranking.
Content format refers primarily to blog posts, such as how-tos, listicles, news articles, opinion pieces, or reviews.
For example, every result for “force restart iPad” are how-to guides, besides those from apple.com.
For the keyword “marketing ideas,” they’re all listicles.
If you want to have the best chance of ranking for either of these keywords, you should follow this strategy. You will have an uphill battle ranking a listicle when searchers want a how-to guide.
It’s important to note, however, that the SERP isn’t always as simple as in the examples above.
Look at the top-ranking search results for “how to get more subscribers on youtube.” You’ll find a mix of how-to posts and listicles.
Because the target keyword is “how-to”, in this case, it would probably be best to use this phrasing. However, it’s worth mentioning that there isn’t really a definitive answer. Different people see things differently, so you could go either way.
The content angle refers to the main ‘selling point’ of the content. For example, people who search for “how to make coffee” want to know how to make it at home without using special equipment.
For “best MacBook,” people are clearly looking for fresh results.
It may not always seem so, but the content angle isn’t always as straightforward as it appears. When you search for “fried rice recipe,” you can find results from different angles, such as best, easy, and restaurant-style.
It is anyone’s guess what the perfect content angle is in this case. Choose an angle you think somebody searching for “how to make fried rice” would find useful.
Despite the importance of aligning your content with what searchers expect, you don’t have to always follow the crowd. You can try a different type of content, format, or angle if you’re confident you can catch searchers’ attention.
2. Be thorough
While aligning your content with search intent is a good start, there is often more to it. Getting on the first page of Google means delivering on your promises. To do that, you have to cover everything searchers want to see.
By now, you probably have a general idea of what searchers are likely to be looking for based on the three Cs of search intent. It would be unwise, for instance, to explain the blockchain in intricate detail when you’re writing about how to buy Bitcoins.
The three Cs provide a high-level overview of intent, but they are not conclusive. Analyzing relevant top-ranking pages will help you better understand what your content should include.
Relevance is important in this case. For example, if your post is going to be about the best golf club sets, then you won’t get any points for analyzing and taking inspiration from posts about individual clubs. It would be useful to analyse pages similar to yours.
Let’s look at how to do that.
Look for common subheadings
Generally, a topic is divided up into subtopics with subheadings. This offers quick insight into searchers’ interests, especially when you notice similar or identical subheadlines across multiple pages.
We see that many on-page SEO guides also include definitions in their subheadings, for example.
The fact that all top-ranking pages have this information suggests that searchers are interested in it. Pages having this information are likely to lead to higher satisfaction than those whose content does not-and Google prefers to rank pages covering these topics higher.
Consider including subheadings in a listicle if you’re writing about specific products, services, or tips.
Be sure to keep a pinch of salt in mind. If your keyword is ‘best golf club sets’ and all the top-ranking pages mention a set that you know is terrible, you shouldn’t include it just because everyone else did.
Look for subtopics among keyword rankings
According to a study by Ahrefs’ of three million search queries, the average top-ranking page ranks for nearly 1,000 other relevant keywords in the top 10.
Many of these keywords will be other ways of searching for the same thing. Take, as an example, the keyword “digital marketing agency”, which has resulted in a search on Google that shows related keywords such as:
- Best digital marketing agency 2021
- Best digital marketing company 2021
- Cheap digital marketing service
Look at the pages manually
The fastest way to discover what to cover is to locate common subheadings and keywords. However, this won’t help you learn everything. The best way to determine the topic is to manually go through the pages.
By performing an in-depth analysis of your competitors’ pages manually, you get the idea & clues about how you should structure your post for searchers and the product attributes they care about the most.
Look at SERP features
In addition to analyzing competitive pages, you can learn a lot by looking at SERP features like featured snippets and ‘People also ask’ (PAA) boxes.
While there is no featured snippet for ‘best golf clubs,’ there is a PAA box. These questions offer insight into other things searchers may want to know.
That second-to-last question tells us that searchers are probably quite price-conscious and want a quality set of clubs for a fair price. This confirms what we thought after manually analyzing the top-ranking pages. Most searchers are almost certainly beginners and aren’t looking for the absolute top of the line clubs.
When we search the results for “how to swing a golf club,” we find that the featured snippet is a YouTube video.
The presence of a video ranking in the snippet suggests that searchers want visual aids even if you were to target this keyword with a blog post. Having that in mind, including videos or images that demonstrate the swing would be useful.
3. Be unique
Providing searchers with what they want is essential, but bringing something new as well is equally vital. You’ll sound like everyone else’s content if you don’t do this. Nothing is more boring than linking to another piece of content that is similar to yours.
So far, we’ve discussed everything we need to know to write a winning content piece, but we could still use some creativity.
Consider, for instance, the SERP for “SEO tips,” where the intent is obvious. People are looking for tips on how to boost traffic and improve ranking.
Although many of the tips on the lists of different blogs aren’t unique, you will find some that you won’t find anywhere else.
As an example, Ahrefs mentions embedding videos in relevant posts to get Google traffic on their blog. A visitor to their page may find a tip useful, decide they want to share it with others, and link back or share their page.
It may seem near impossible to create a unique product or category page, but you can always rely on things like:
- Better filters
- Better product photography
- Unique product descriptions
4. Be clear
If your content is unclear, it won’t be read no matter how well it aligns with search intent.
To produce clear, engaging content, follow these simple tips:
- Use bullets to help skimmers.
- Use descriptive subheadings (H2-H6) for hierarchy.
- Use images to break up the text.
- Use simple words that everyone can understand.
- Use short sentences and paragraphs to avoid “walls of text.”
- Use a large font to help readers avoid eye strain.
- Write as you speak to make things more entertaining and conversational.
In short, it’s about making it as simple as possible for users to find what they are looking for. Your page may cover everything people want to know, but if they cannot find it, they’re heading for the back button to look for a page that’s more clear and easy to understand.
How to optimize your content
A difficult part of creating online content is making it relevant to Google and search engines. Your only remaining task is to optimize the ‘technical’ stuff like meta tags and URLs. This is the icing on the cake and helps make it doubly clear to Google and searchers that your page is the best result.
Here’s a quick checklist.
1. Include your keyword in the title
Usually, page titles are wrapped in H1 tags. This is probably the reason why the convention has been to include the keyword in the title for many years.
SEO professionals are accustomed to including the keyword in the title. Our previous posts have featured them.
Just keep in mind that not always it is a good idea to use the exact keyword in your title, but rather a close variant.
Your titles should also sound natural, so make sure to use conjunctions and stop words whenever possible.
2. Use short, descriptive URLs
The URL should be short and descriptive so searchers will know what the page is about before clicking.
Take a look at these two URLs, for example:
In spite of the fact that the URLs don’t indicate it, both pages are about the same thing. It is only the second URL in the SERPs that tells you what the page is about, and this makes it arguably clearer and easier to click.
A CMS usually allows you to modify the URL slug (the part after the domain and subfolders) easily, and putting the keyword in there is often the easiest way to optimize the site. We do this for nearly all our blog posts.
3. Optimize your title tag
It is important to have a compelling title tag since it appears in search results.
The easiest way is almost always to make it the title of your post or page. This is what we do for nearly all blog posts.
However, there are times when it makes sense to switch things up slightly, such as when your title is too long. As with URLs, Google truncates lengthy title tags in the search results.
In most cases, you should use the same formula for title tags on products, categories, and services pages if you’re creating hundreds or thousands of them.
4. Write a compelling meta description
Meta descriptions are often displayed in SERPs as descriptive snippets.
Although meta descriptions don’t affect rankings, they can still affect clicks thanks to their enticing nature.
You can write a great description fast by following these tips:
- Expand on your title tag. Include USPs that you couldn’t fit in the title.
- Match search intent. Double down on what searchers are looking for.
- Use an active voice. Address the searcher directly.
- Be concise. Keep it around 120 characters or less.
- Include your keyword. Google bolds words and phrases closely related to the query.
Do not spend too much time on meta descriptions, as they are relatively unimportant.
5. Optimize your images
You can get more traffic if your images rank well in Google image searches.
Here’s a quick three-step guide to optimizing your images.
a) Name images appropriately
In Google’s opinion, filenames give away information about the image, so dog.jpg is better than IMG_859045.jpg.
It is unfortunate that most cameras and smartphones label photos and images generically. The same is true for computers. If you’re taking screenshots for a blog post, they’ll usually be named something like Screenshot 2021-01-12.png.
For that reason, you should rename them. Here’s how:
- Be descriptive. black-puppy.jpg > puppy.jpg
- Be succinct. black-puppy.jpg > my-super-cute-black-puppy-named-jeff.jpg
- Don’t stuff keywords. black-puppy.jpg > black-puppy-dog-pup-pooch.jpg
- Use dashes between words. black-puppy.jpg > black_puppy.jpg (this is Google’s official recommendation)
b) Use descriptive alt text
Alternate text (Alt text) is an HTML attribute used within an img> tag to describe an image.
Alternative text’s primary purpose is to make visitors using screen readers more accessible. They convert images, as well as the content of the page, into audio. The alt text is also displayed instead of images when the images fail to load.
In addition, Google has stated that alt text can help you rank in Google Images.
Google recommends writing alt text that is ‘useful, information-rich, use keywords appropriately, and is relevant to the page’s content.’ They caution against stuffing alt attributes with keywords (keyword stuffing) which can negatively affect user experience.
With that in mind, here’s our best advice for creating alt text:
- Be descriptive. Use relevant keywords where appropriate.
- Be concise. Keep things short to avoid annoying users with screen readers.
- Be accurate. Describe what’s actually in the image.
- Avoid keyword stuffing. It can cause your site to be seen as spam.’
- Avoid stating that it’s an image. Don’t include “Image of…” or “Picture of…” in descriptions. Google and screen readers can work that out for themselves.
c) Compress images
By compressing images, you can make them smaller and speeds uploading. That’s important because page speed is a ranking factor on desktop and mobile.
Compress your images before uploading them using tools or plugins (if applicable).
6. Add internal and external links
By adding links to relevant internal and external resources, visitors will be able to navigate your site and find more information. Still, some say linking to other sites is detrimental to SEO.
There is no truth to this. There is no evidence that linking to other websites hurts your SEO.
In fact, Google has stated that providing value to your users through links to other sites is an excellent idea. Linking to other sources often gives users more information, improves their knowledge and helps them to understand how your content relates to their questions.”
Outbound links aren’t mentioned here in terms of SEO implications, but they are mentioned as helping users. And we know from Google’s guide to how search works that the search engine is designed to help people ‘find the most relevant, useful results.’
Naturally, this does not mean that you should link anywhere and everywhere simply for the sake of it. You should only link to internal and external resources that are relevant, such as articles, product recommendations, or blog posts related to the source. You’ll notice that this guide includes links to both internal and external resources.
Advanced on-page optimizations
Even though all we’ve discussed so far is enough to optimize pages well, there’s more you can do. Here are a few ‘advanced’ optimizations you can do if you are already ranking well but you want to push things higher.
1. Optimize for featured snippets
In the SERP, featured snippets are often shown near the top. In the event of a search query, the top-ranking pages provide a short answer with an excerpt.
Basically, by ‘winning’ the snippet, you can get to the top of the search results page quickly.
While this is easier said than done, the basic steps are as follows:
- Be in the top 10. Google usually pulls the snippet from one of these pages.
- Make sure Google already shows a featured snippet. You’ll use this to understand how to ‘answer’ the query.
- Provide the answer on your page. Google can’t pull from your page if it’s not there.
- Use the right format. Paragraph, list, or table—what do Google and searchers expect to see?
2. Get rich snippets with schema markup
Search results with rich snippets are those that provide additional information beneath the title, description, and URL.
Recipe pages on Google, for instance, show ratings, prep time, and calories.
Google pulls this information from a type of structured data on the page called schema markup. In this case, the pages are using a specific type of schema markup called recipe markup.
Here are a few other types of schema markup that can lead to rich snippets:
- How-to markup
- Product markup
- Review markup
- Software markup
- FAQ markup
For example, here’s a page in the SERP that uses FAQ markup:
Despite the fact that rich snippets do not contribute to ranking, many believe they can increase clicks for certain pages.
Plugins like Yoast or Rank Math, which are available for WordPress, can help you add schema markup to your posts. Just know that not all types of content are eligible for search enhancements like rich snippets.
4. Improve topical relevance
As Google states, a page is more relevant when it contains other content in addition to the keyword. If your page is about dogs, then listing breeds may generate a more relevant result when someone types in ‘dogs.’
As a result of following the advice in previous sections, your content should already include a number of relevant words, phrases, and concepts. Your writing will naturally lead to this.
On-page SEO tools
Before we wrap things up, let’s examine a few free tools that can help with everything above.
Add titles, meta descriptions, OG tags, and structured data to posts and pages.
SIDENOTE. Rank Math, All in One SEO Pack, and The SEO Framework all do much the same thing.
Preview how title tags, URLs, and meta descriptions will look in the search results.
SIDENOTE. Yoast SEO, Rank Math, All in One SEO Pack, and The SEO Framework canl do much the same thing.
Compress and optimize images.
Merkle’s Schema Markup Generator (Free)
Create many types of structured data in Google’s recommended JSON-LD format.
Rich Results Test (Free)
Check the structured data on your page to see if it’s eligible for rich snippets in the SERPs.
Let’s wrap this up
Follow the advice above, and your pages will likely be better optimized than the competition. Just remember that satisfying search intent is the most critical part. While the ‘technical’ things are also important, they’re more like the icing on the cake.
Even if you have time to devote to On-Page SEO, you might be unable to make the most of it, whether it’s because you’re less experienced or have other business concerns. As a result, you may look at On-Page SEO as a hassle and neglect it. If your content has not been optimized properly, it will appear to Google as “low-quality” thus adversely affecting your business.
That is an extremely erroneous mistake. If you don’t want to deal with it yourself, let a digital marketing agency handle it for you!
Damex Digital is a digital marketing agency located in Smithers, British Columbia, offering its expertise in Digital Marketing in Canada.
Our years of experience, coupled with our growing list of satisfied clients, make us the premier Digital Marketing Agency in Canada. With expert services from Damex Digital, you can optimize your website and blog with superior On-Page SEO and achieve your online marketing goals.