What is On-Page SEO?

On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing individual web pages to rank higher on search engines and earn more relevant traffic. On-page SEO refers to the content and HTML source code of a web page that can be optimized, as opposed to off-page SEO which refers to links and other external signals coming from external or “off-page” websites.

Why Is On-Page SEO Important?

On-page SEO is extremely important. Optimizing your on-page SEO is a strategic marketing decision because it tells Google everything about your website. It not only helps your site to be optimized for human visitors, but it also helps Google and bots read your site as well.

When you create a site, it’s not automatically ranked by the search engines. Through on page SEO optimization, you will send Google signals in order to rank and attract website visitors or traffic.

On-page SEO is something anyone can do. It’s what’s visible to Google. It’s not the technical stuff that requires expertise. On-page SEO can be broken down into three categories: content elements, HTML elements, and site architecture elements, the latter two being slightly more technical than the first.

Content Elements of On-Page SEO

The content on your page is just that: the words or copy you see written out on the page depicting the purpose of that page. Google and humans alike prefer high quality content. Content that is written thoughtfully and purposefully. If you’re on a web page reading about how to make homemade organic butter, well, you probably would not want to start reading about the best ironing boards on that same page.

The content on the page is truly at the heart of on-page SEO. It tells readers and search engines what the page is about, what the website is about, and what value the page will present.

High quality content is created through research of topics and target keywords. Conduct research about the keywords for which you’d like to rank. See what other web pages are ranking on Google for those keywords. How do they present their content? What is the keyword density? Study how you are going to construct your content, then you can get to writing.

Here are some must-haves for high quality content:

  • A good, natural ratio for both long-tail and short-tail keywords
  • Visual or interactive elements throughout the page through media or illustration
  • Content that is easy to read and provides information which people may share
  • Content that is organized and broken down into headings and subheadings
  • Calls to Action or CTA’s throughout the page

HTML Elements of On-Page SEO

This is a bit more technical. The HTML elements of a webpage are the elements that are found in the source code. Some major HTML elements to look out for are:

  1. Page title
    1. A web page’s title tag is one of the most important HTML elements. When you inspect the source code of a page, you’ll find the page’s title in between the <title> </title> tag. An optimized page title informs visitors and search engines of what they can find on the corresponding page.
  2. Headers
    1. Also known as body tags, headers refer to the HTML element that determines the type of heading or subheading for each block of content. Header tags look like <h1>,<h2>,<h3>etc. You’ll want to make your headers representative of the content underneath them, but also optimized with keywords.
  3. Meta descriptions
    1. These are the short page summaries that appear on Google. Here’s an example:
    2. Generally, you’ll want your meta description to be around 160 characters. Make sure to include your entire focus keyword, or keyword phrase in your meta description, in addition to an inviting sentence or two that explains the purpose of the page. You can read more about meta descriptions on Moz.
  4. Structured mark-up
    1. Structuring your site’s mark-up is the process of organizing your website’s source code so that it’s easier for Google and search engines to break down and understand the elements of your page. You ever notice how some web pages become featured snippets on Google? (example below)
      The reason Google features that recipe for chocolate milk is because through structured mark-up, the webmaster has shown Google exactly what part of the page answers the search query. Google is able to capture that part of the page and store it as a featured snippet. You can learn all about this here.
  5. Image alt text
    1. This is basically the SEO for the images on your website. It tells the search engines what these images are all about. You can optimize your image alt text by being specific and descriptive, keeping it less than 125 characters, and using keywords naturally. As always, do not keyword stuff!

Site Architecture Elements of On-Page SEO

This entails the organization or structure behind your website. Like most things in like, Google like organization. This helps Google and other search engine bots crawl your website to scan the page and the page’s content. Here are the top elements behind site architecture and on-page SEO:

  1. Internal Linking
    1. This is the process of linking to other web pages within your website. So for example, if you’re writing a post on how to make chocolate milk, and then you also have a post on how to select the best chocolate for chocolate milk, you would want to internally link both pages to one another. This is important because it sends readers to other relevant pages within your website, and increases the time they stay active and engaged on your site. The longer a visitor stays on your site, the more time Google spends crawling and ranking your site. Read more about internal linking here.
  2. Page URL Structure
    1. Your page URL’s should be simple and logical. Although this starts to tread in the technical SEO sphere, URL structure is still extremely important for on-page SEO. They should be consistent with your site hierarchy throughout your subpages, blogs, etc.
      Let’s go back to the chocolate milk example. Imagine you are a brand that sells packets of chocolate milk. You may have a page like www.chocolatemilk.com/products/chocolate-milk for your product page, but then a blog page like www.chocolatemilk.com/blog/how-to-make-the-best-chocolate-milk for your recipe post. Google will digest the hierarchy of your pages and subpages to better understand the functionality of your site.
  3. Site Speed
    1. When it comes to on-page SEO, site speed is a no brainer. Whether you’re viewing a webpage from a computer, mobile device, or tablet, Google wants your site to load quickly. Google wants to serve its users a dependable and easy experience. So if your page takes 5 seconds to load, then Google will probably rank a quicker page above it. Google knows that web users don’t want to sit around and wait for pages to load.
  4. Mobile Responsiveness
    1. Twenty years ago, it probably would have been difficult to imagine holding a computer in your hand. As functionality on our mobile devices becomes more and more robust, the need for mobile optimization and responsiveness is crucial. Similarly, Google has started to favor sites that are optimized for a faster mobile load and optimized mobile experience. So make sure that the structure of your page adapts and responds to a mobile screen.

Wrapping up

Altogether, having a well ranking website requires many moving pieces. It’s like a puzzle. These on page SEO factors, if executed correctly, will help you rank your site on page one. If you want Google to know your website and favour it on its search results, then you should follow these on page SEO tips so that Google can properly read your website.