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On-Page SEO: The Complete Guide to Ranking Web Pages

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Chris Kirksey


What is On-Page SEO: A Marketer's Guide

Robust on-page optimization creates the SEO foundation that elevates your web pages in search rankings, driving more qualified traffic and leads to your business website.

What is On-Page SEO?

On-page SEO refers to optimizations made directly on your website’s pages to improve rankings and traffic from search engines like Google. It involves tweaking elements that you have full control over on your own site.

Some key on-page factors include:

  1. Page titles – Craft compelling, keyword-rich titles to grab searchers’ attention.
  2. Headings – Use important keywords in H1, H2 tags to indicate page topics.
  3. Meta descriptions – Short snippets that characterize the content on web pages.
  4. URLs – Format URLs with hyphens and keywords for readability.
  5. Alt text – Describe images with keywords for better indexing.
  6. Content – Include keywords naturally in sufficient content quantity (400+ words).
  7. Internal links – Link relevant pages together to build site navigation.
  8. Content design – Ensure your content is easy to read and adds value to the user experience.

The goal is enhancing how pages appear to both prospective visitors and search engine bots. Unlike off-page efforts like link building, on-page optimization can be done by your in-house team using best practices. When executed properly across a site, on-page SEO delivers major search visibility and traffic gains.

Why is On-Page SEO so Important?

Winning the battle for rankings against competitors demands smart on-page SEO. Without optimizing your actual pages, it’s nearly impossible to rank highly in Google and earn clicks for your most valuable keyword targets.

On-page factors like compelling titles, strategic headers, relevant content, image alt text, and technical site health are integral signals Google uses to evaluate pages. Doing on-page best practices enables your site to surpass rivals for coveted top spots for searches that generate leads and sales.

For example, the difference between ranking #1 vs #5 for “buy shoes online” is massive in funneling site traffic. On-page SEO empowers you to bridge that gap by making your product and category pages irresistible to search algorithms and users.

Your competitor, who is already ranking well, has done their on-page work. You need to do yours better to displace them.

All in all, on-page optimization establishes the strong SEO foundation necessary to win first place for the searches that will impact your revenue most.

8 Essential On-Page Optimizations

On-page SEO is crucial, but it’s also nuanced work with many components.

What exactly should you optimize to maximize search rankings?

While the list can be extensive, we’ve identified eight on-page elements that offer the biggest bang for your buck. These high-yield optimization areas provide excellent return on effort and will subsequently increase your search rankings on Google.

Think of them as the first building blocks of ranking success.

1. Page Title Tags (H1)

What is the first impression your site makes on potential customers? What is the first thing they see when they find you in search? It’s not your pretty graphics… It’s not your fancy new web design… The first thing users see and what convinces them to click through to your site has nothing to do with branding. That first impression is the page’s title tag and meta description.

A title tag is simply the title of the webpage. It’s the name of the page and is supported by the URL. Your title tag is the biggest clue for both humans and search engines on what the page is about.

Page titles are a strategic factor in helping search engines understand what your site provides. We ensure that page title tags accurately describe each website page properly.

We also ensure that the title contains focus keywords and captivates people to click. Search engine crawlers will always consider your page title when deciding what to expect from the page. 

All of this plays a role in increasing click-through rates through SERPs while reducing bounce rates on your website.

exampel of seo title tag

The Importance of Title Tags

Title tags are an essential part of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and play a crucial role in improving the online visibility of a website. In search results, a user has nothing to base their selection on except the title of the page and the description you’ve provided about the page content (meta description). They serve as a summary of the content on a page and help search engines understand the relevance and importance of the content.

By carefully selecting and crafting title tags, you can improve your website’s click-through rate, organic search rankings, and overall user engagement. A properly optimized title tag can make all the difference in how a website is perceived by search engines and users, ultimately leading to increased traffic and conversions.

How to Write A Great Title Tag

Once you’ve done your keyword research, you’ll know what you want the page to rank for. You want to include the primary keyword somewhere in the title without sounding robotic.

For instance, if you are trying to rank for “fresh food delivery,” include it in your title. A good title for that keyword could be “The Top 5 Fresh Food Delivery Services in Austin, TX Revealed”.

What makes this a great title? It’s clear, concise, and contains the primary keyword near the beginning. Try to use “power words” in your title as well. These are words that are proven to increase click-through rates.

2. Headers and Sub Headers (H2-H6)

Headers are used to communicate to search engines what information is on your website, starting with the h1 down in importance to the h2 and h3 tags.

These tags support the page’s overall theme/purpose with targeted, researched topics that are relevant to your business. Search engines pick up on this and rank your page accordingly.

Subheadings are smaller text than the headers/titles but should still be signified within the text to stand out.

Not only does this help with readability, but for ranking, too. Oftentimes these will be in H2, H3, or H4 tags, all the way up to H6. The key here is that they’re different from paragraphs or bolded/italicized text.

example of SEO header tags

3. Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions are an essential aspect of any successful SEO strategy. These short, succinct snippets that typically contain 160 characters of text provide search engines with a summary of the content that can be found on a specific web page. In other words, it’s a short blurb showcasing what the page is about, giving the potential reader a preview of what they can expect from the page’s contents. 

By crafting compelling and informative meta descriptions, you can entice potential visitors to click through to your site, ultimately leading to higher traffic and increased conversions.

Additionally, it’s important to note that meta descriptions also help search engines understand the relevance of your content, making them a critical component of on-page optimization.

Without well-written meta descriptions, your website may not rank as highly in search results, severely limiting your online visibility and potential for success.

With this in mind, taking the time and effort to develop thoughtful and engaging meta descriptions is an investment that is sure to pay off in the long run.

example of SEO meta descriptions

4. URL Optimizations

URL optimization is an important on-page SEO technique that involves improving the structure and formatting of a web page’s URL to boost search rankings and click-throughs. Here are some key tips for optimizing URLs for SEO:

  • Include target keywords naturally in the URL but don’t over-optimize.
  • Use hyphens to separate words and phrases instead of underscores or camelcase.
  • Keep URLs short and simple in structure without unnecessary parameters.
  • Avoid excessive dynamic parameters like session IDs whenever possible.
  • Structure URLs to accurately indicate page hierarchy and describe content.
  • Format URLs consistently across site architecture.
  • Update broken URLs that result in 404 errors immediately.
  • Make sure pages can be accessed with and without the ‘www’ prefix.
  • Avoid excessive capitalization – go for all lowercase.

Optimized URLs are descriptive, easy to read, keyword enriched and user-friendly. They establish relevance for search engines and encourage clicks from users. URL optimization is a small but impactful on-page SEO technique.

5. Image Optimization and Alt Text Descriptions

Another key aspect of boosting SEO is to make your images as SEO-optimized as possible. This means adding ALT tags to your images and giving them a title. Rather than “IMG-456,” you can resave the file as “best-womens-shoes-1” or “blue-womens-shoes.” Or, if you have a non-product image, for example, you could label it by the title of your post. You could also title it by its description like this: “Woman wearing blue shoes,” etc.

Not only does this help make your images more searchable, but for those with vision impairments, having ALT tags allows them to access the material in a different way. This makes your site overall more accessible and user-friendly. And this is key for Google to rank you higher.

example of image alt description

6. Optimizing Historical Content

Optimizing historical content as a part of on-page SEO is crucial for any website. Historical content refers to previously published blog posts, articles, and other types of pages/post types.

Updating and re-optimizing these pages can potentially attract more traffic and revenue from new sources. This is because search engines continue to crawl and index older content, and these older pages can still rank for relevant search terms. Search engines love to see content updated as long as it is truly beneficial to the reader, providing value.

Optimizing historical content can also strengthen a website’s overall authority and relevance, as search algorithms prioritize websites with high-quality, informative, and up-to-date content.

Investing in historical content optimization for SEO can be a highly effective way of maximizing the value of existing content vs. creating new content, providing a great return on investment. Create a schedule in which you update your site with new content every so often.

7. Internal and External Links

Internal and external linking are fundamental components of on page SEO.

Internal linking helps search engines find and index your site’s pages easily, distribute page authority, and create a clear hierarchy. Therefore, it’s critical to ensure that your site architecture includes clear navigation paths that will allow users and bots to move from one page to another.

We use a WordPress plugin called Link Whisper to conduct link audits and build great internal linking structures.

The key thing to keep in mind with internal linking is that you should always strive to make the anchor text contextually relevant to the page you are linking to.

At the same time, external linking enhances your site’s authority, context, and relevance. To improve your external links, hunt for high-authority websites that relate to the topic in discussion and link to those sites.

For example, if you have a recent study in your text, you’ll want to link out to it for verification purposes. This will tell Google that you’re a site to be trusted.

Quality external links also promote your site’s credibility, which can improve your search engine rankings.

The trick lies in carefully balancing internal and external link strategies while giving priority to user experience, which will contribute to better website performance and SEO results.

8. Content Design

One of the most significant and important aspects of on-page SEO is to ensure the content you create is readable and enjoyable – mentally and visually. Your content should be quickly navigable. This applies to both desktop and mobile versions. Regardless of where your content’s being searched—it should be easy to go through and absorb multiple types of content. This could include images, quotes, videos, infographics, and more.

If your content isn’t captivating and engaging enough for users to stay interested, they will be quick to leave and never return.

SEO brings the visitors, yet mentally and visually stimulating content keeps them returning for more - and encourages them to share it with their friends.

Geo-Targeting When Appropriate

Google estimates that about 73% of online activity has to do with local searches. Therefore, Google likes to display relevant, local results. If you’re in an industry with fierce competition and seemingly unlimited budgets, this is a powerful way to get around the competition & rank in search engines. When we work on the technical SEO of a page, we always research & determine how to better target an audience geographically with location-specific keywords when applicable.

Tips for Creating an On-Page SEO Roadmap

Prioritize Keyword Targets

Start by identifying your most important keyword targets. On-page efforts should focus on optimizing pages for ranking well for these terms. Categorize keywords as primary, secondary, and tertiary priorities.

Audit Existing Pages

Conduct an audit of existing website pages. Assess which are already decently optimized versus those needing significant work. Document issues to address like thin content, technical errors, etc.

Map Target Pages

Map target keywords to relevant pages on your site. Identify which pages you want ranking for each term. This allows creating an optimization plan.

Start with High-Priority Pages

Tackle the pages you want ranking for your most important keywords first. Also optimize critical pages like the home page, blog, contact pages, etc early on.

Schedule in Phases

Phase your roadmap with on-page optimizations done in manageable stages over time. Quick wins first, larger initiatives later after foundations are built.

Set Realistic Timelines

Factor in resources available and allocate reasonable timeframes for each optimization effort. On-page SEO takes time – pace activities accordingly.

By strategically sequencing on-page efforts, you maximize impact on priority keywords and pages first. The roadmap keeps efforts focused and organized.

Wrapping Up

On-page optimization is integral for any effective SEO strategy. It establishes the core website foundation necessary for capturing search visibility and traffic.

By thoroughly optimizing titles, headers, content, URLs, media, and more as outlined in this guide, you empower each page to reach its full ranking potential.

Remember, Google wants to satisfy the searcher’s intent with the most relevant, useful web pages. On-page SEO allows you to demonstrate precisely why your content deserves a top spot for valuable queries.

Execute these best practices diligently across your site. Be patient as rankings gradually climb month to month. And focus on providing visitors an outstanding user experience once they click through.

With the proper on-page SEO groundwork in place, your web pages will thrive in search results. Coupled with off-page optimization, these on-page tactics allow pages to rank where they deserve – sending streams of qualified visitors your way.

Put in the work to perfect your website’s content, technical factors and optimization or get in touch with our team for a free SEO strategy call.

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