On-page SEO refers to everything you can do, within your website, to optimize your content for better rankings on search engines.
And this guide will teach you how.
- Chapter 1: On-Page SEO Basics
- Chapter 2: What is User Intent?
- Chapter 3: How to Create Content that Google Wants to Rank
- Chapter 4: On-Page SEO Checklist
- Chapter 5: Advanced On-Page SEO Optimization
Chapter 1: On-Page SEO Basics
This chapter will explain what on-page SEO is and why it’s important you understand how to master it.
What is On-Page SEO?
On-page SEO (also commonly referred to as on-site SEO) is the practice that you can use to optimize your web pages to rank higher in search engines. Think of strategies like adding your keywords in headlines, URLs, content, images, internal linking, and so on.
Why is On-Page SEO Important?
If you want to learn SEO, on-page is one of the essential aspects to take into consideration.
When a user enters a query, Google delivers the best result based on the most relevant web pages.
For a chance to be included in these results, you need to optimize your website based on specific keywords.
On-page SEO is not limited to adding keywords to the content of web pages. There is much more to do.
Google wants to deliver the most relevant search result to the user for his query, so the algorithms scan other relevant content on your web pages as well. If your page is about the weather and you don’t mention weather forecasts, Google knows that there are most likely more relevant results to deliver for that specific query.
As well as if the query is “Directions to Heathrow Airport,” you will also want to include a map on your page along with directions, not just links to other sites.
The relevance of your web pages to certain keywords and queries is an essential part of on-page SEO.
And you should pay close attention to this when creating content; otherwise, it will be challenging for your website to achieve high rankings in search engines.
Chapter 2: What is User Intent?
The user intent (or search intent) is the reason that prompted a person to use Google and do a search.
Understanding this need is essential to creating optimized content, and in fact, the study of user intent has become a crucial must for on-site SEO.
The search intent is identified into three macro types:
- Informational, in which the user is interested in information on a particular topic.
- Transactional, which concerns the searches of users who intend to do something (for example, purchase a product or service or download a file or software).
- Navigational identifies the needs of those looking for information in a specific context or something on a particular site.
It follows that:
- A solid understanding of the user’s intention guides the selection and targeting of the appropriate keywords.
- Knowing the user intent at all stages of the buyer’s journey allows you to create content to direct the user to each specific step.
- Understanding the search intent makes it possible to focus on how to give users what they want, thus increasing the chances of conversion.
- When the user’s intention is correctly identified, the results for SEO and CRO come in a much more natural way. Focus on your user, and the rest will come as a result.
How Does Google Handle User Intent?
Behind every query is a real person who wants Google to help them find something.
Google uses its RankBrain artificial intelligence system to understand user intent by observing the meaning of the query.
Let’s take a practical example. When a user searches for the query “golf,” is he looking for information on the sport or the popular Volkswagen car?
Based on the entered key alone, it is impossible to establish with certainty what the user refers to.
To improve its response, Google will consider – to try to determine what the user is interested in – the other words used in previous queries and then display the appropriate results.
Chapter 3: How to Create Content that Google Wants to Rank
In this chapter, we talk about how to create content that Google wants to rank.
Before thinking about technical strategies and using keywords on your page, you need to have the following points in mind.
To be able to place your web pages at the top of the Google ranking, your content must be:
Your content can be relevant, in-depth, and interesting, but no one will read it if it’s hard to read or unclear.
Take the following image as an example, which corresponds to content few will want to read. A wall of text!
Keep these points in mind when creating content (or updating old articles) your users will want to read:
- Think about the reader. Be direct and engaging.
- Add interesting images to help text reading.
- Structure the text. Use key points for the description.
- Keep it simple and short. Use concrete and explicit language.
- Use subheadings for better reading.
- Prefer the active form and minimize the use of the passive form.
- Use a font that is simple and large enough to help the reading.
- Use the bucket brigade technique to increase user engagement.
Use the inverted pyramid to create richer content and grab the reader’s attention right away. Get into the details and hit them with what you know they would like to know.
The advantages of the inverted pyramid are many. In fact, by writing your content in this way, you are more likely to keep your readers on the page. When you want to create content, always keep in mind that users decide in a few seconds whether they want to read the entire article or not.
They are eager to get results: if they can’t understand what your article is about, they may decide to leave your web page and go looking for an alternative that is easier to browse, something that catches their attention more quickly.
Also, starting from the conclusions, those first sentences in which you tell the article’s focus will contain most of the relevant keywords on your web page, improving your on-page SEO.
Creating clear content is not enough.
Bloggers worldwide publish a few million posts a day.
So to stand out from the crowd and get noticed, your content must be valuable.
Here are some tips you can follow to achieve this:
- Write without spelling or grammatical errors.
- Think about how to create new material with updates and examples that bring value.
- Add images, screenshots, graphics, data, and anything else that can help make your content smoother and more digestible.
- Share direct experiences and reports based on your knowledge of the content.
Duplicate content can get you into trouble.
Therefore, it is essential to create original, clear, and valuable content. But you must also try to bring something new and creative.
Some concrete examples can be:
- New case study based on your experience.
- Best product descriptions.
- Reviews from a unique point of view.
- New strategies or advice.
- Professional photographs.
- Better design or UX.
- A more comprehensive list of resources.
- Media created ad hoc, such as infographics or photo collages.
You can build clear, valuable, and unique content, but relevance is the most important aspect of on-site SEO.
Creating relevant content means satisfying user queries and therefore search intent. It is the principle on which Google is based, to align the content present in the results to what the users are looking for.
To understand search intent, try considering the following:
- Type of content
- Content format
Let’s see them in detail.
Type of Content
Content types usually belong to the following groups:
- Blog posts
- Landing pages
Take as an example all the results at the top of the query “tennis shoes.” They are all eCommerce of famous brands:
If you want to rank high for these keywords, you will be very unlikely to succeed with a blog post.
Because all users will want to buy those shoes, not knowing their features or functionality.
On the other hand, if you are looking at the top results for “how to create content that ranks“:
You will notice that they are all pages with blog posts. This means you can outrank them by creating better content.
This principle is usually considered for blog posts, which differ in:
- News Articles
- Opinion Articles
- How To
Take the results of the “how to tie a knot” query as an example. They are almost all practical guides.
Or, if you analyze the results for “business ideas,” they are all items in list form.
If you want to rank among the top results for specific keywords, you need to follow these examples.
Don’t try to create content in the form of a list if users are looking for practical guidance on accomplishing a certain intent.
That would be wasted time and energy!
Chapter 4: On-Page SEO Checklist
Understanding search intent and creating the type of content Google and users want to find is the hardest part.
Now, it’s time to have fun!
You just have to work on the technical optimization, that is, the appropriate use of keywords (and avoid keyword cannibalization).
This way, you will let users and search engines know that your page is the best of all.
Here’s what you should do:
- Include Your Keyword in the Title
- Include Your Keyword in the URL
- Optimize Your Title Tag
- Use Your Keyword In The First 100 Words
- Write an Optimized Meta Description
- Use Your Keyword in Sub-Headings
- Optimize Your Images
- Internal Linking
Now, let’s dive into it!
1. Include Your Keyword in the Title
H1 tags are normally used for page titles.
Like in voice search optimization, you should include your keyword in the title of your page to tell search engines and users what the main topic is.
Pay attention to respect the length of characters that search engines reserve for the snippet. Google displays the first 60 characters, so try to stay within this limit.
Don’t cheat by creating irrelevant headlines, but try to be as brief and meaningful as possible.
Avoid keyword stuffing by inserting the keyword several times in the title of your page. It’s a bad practice for your on-page SEO!
2. Include Your Keyword in the URL
Aim to create a short and descriptive URL for your content. Not only will they be optimized for search engines, but they will help visitors understand the topic of the page.
Users can be frightened by URLs that are too long and incomprehensible.
In short, include your keyword in the page URL and try to be as concise as possible.
3. Optimize Your Title Tag
The Title Element, also called the Title Tag, is one of the most important factors in on-site optimization.
Together with the meta description and the URL, the title is the first point of contact between the user and the site within the search results pages. By ensuring that both are optimized correctly, you will increase your click-through rate and the number of users resulting from organic search.
While creating an effective title for a page, it is important to consider the following points:
- An optimal title should consist of a maximum of 60 characters (excluding spaces). Otherwise, it could be cut in search engine results.
- The title should be optimized for the user (bringing an added value, which prompts him to click on the result).
- Each URL should have a unique and different title.
- Your keyword should appear in the title, preferably in the first position.
- Make sure that the title looks as natural as possible to offer added value to the user.
4. Use Your Keyword In The First 100 Words
It sounds like an old technique, but it still works.
You simply need to use your keyword once in the first hundred words of your page.
For example, in this article about “on-page SEO,” I added the keyword at the beginning of the article.
All you need to do is use your main keyword once in the first 100 words of your article.
This seems like a small strategy, but it’s one of the things that helps Google understand your page’s topic.
5. Write an Optimized Meta Description
The meta description is an attribute or HTML tag of limited length, generally of one or two sentences, which is used to provide readers a concise preview of the content of a web page.
For this reason, the meta description is used to bring a reader from the Google results page to your site, and it is one of the tools to win a click at the expense of competitors. Therefore, meta descriptions can be defined as a means of generating click-throughs from search engines.
Meta descriptions are not a ranking factor, but they can increase your organic click-through rate (CTR), giving a boost to rankings.
You can keep these tips in mind as you create compelling meta descriptions:
- Explain the title tag. Add descriptions and features that you would not be able to put in the title.
- Amplify the search intent. Specify why your page matches the user’s query.
- Use the active voice. Remember that you are addressing the user.
- Be clear and brief. Try to fit within the 160 max recommended characters.
- Add your keyword. Remember that Google bolds words and phrases closely related to the query.
6. Use Your Keyword in Subheadings
Remember to add your keyword in your subheadings too.
This means including the keyword the H2 or H3 of your articles.
7. Optimize Your Images
SEO-optimized images can create a lot of relevance, bring traffic, and complement the search query.
To do all this, however, Google must understand them, and therefore they must be optimized.
So, how to create an SEO-friendly image?
Technically, it is necessary to take care of three fundamental characteristics:
Each of these components is crucial to make Google and a certain audience understand what the image is about and provide a positive user experience.
Images are a crucial component of the modern web, and as such, you must properly optimize them during your on-page SEO practice.
As stated by Google, you should place your images next to the text and on the pages that are relevant to the subject.
The filename is part of the information Google takes from your page, so be sure to give the correct title.
For example, my-new-white-kitten.jpg is better than IMG00056.JPG.
You can use dashes between words, and remember to be as clear and concise as possible.
Alt text improves the experience for users who cannot see images on the web, including those who use screen reader applications or don’t have broadband connections.
To understand the subject of the image, Google uses alt text along with the page content.
Try to create images rich in information that include the keyword and fall within the context of the page content.
With that in mind, here are some tips:
- Description. Include keywords where relevant.
- Simplicity. Help users by giving them short descriptions.
- Accuracy. Commit to describing what you see in the image clearly.
- Keyword placement. Avoid keyword stuffing, as it can damage your website.
It is good practice to compress images to reduce file sizes.
In this way, you will speed up the loading of your web pages, and you will improve the experience of your visitors (page speed is a Google ranking factor, both in desktop and mobile search).
There are many ways to compress images, but I particularly suggest ShortPixel. I’ve been using it for years, and it’s convenient. This WordPress plugin gives an easy-to-use interface and a free version for up to 100 compressed images per month.
8. Internal Linking
An internal linking strategy improves the visibility on search engines and helps the user to navigate the site by accompanying him toward a path of in-depth content.
It also defines the website’s architecture, accelerates the process of page indexing, and improves the click-through rate.
Internal linking is a good ally to improving your on-site SEO strategy.
Help readers identify the content they care about the most
Insert links and insights that are consistent and offer value to the reading of your content.
Help crawlers understand your website structure
Each website crawl budget is limited, so the main pages should be no more than three clicks away from the home page.
The easier the important pages are to reach, the more attention they get from Google.
Select the most important pages on your website
Before starting an internal linking strategy, identify the most important pages on your website.
Make sure that the anchor text best describes the linked source
Consistency with the linked source is important.
Enter your keyword in the anchor text
The sentence contained in the anchor text within the sentence must be relevant and meaningful.
In addition to consistency, remember that the linked source must deepen the anchor text topic.
Chapter 5: Advanced On-Page SEO Optimization
We covered on-page SEO basics, creating SEO-optimized content, and the best techniques to do so.
Now that you know where to place your keywords and how to create content that Google wants to rank, here are some tips that can help you take your on-page SEO to the next level:
1. Featured Snippets Optimization
Featured snippets are search results that Google rewards, placing them in a particularly prominent position in the eyes of those who do a search.
You have probably seen one when you have searched for something on Google:
Like other SERP features, the featured snippet is located on top of the search results page, made even more evident thanks to a box that encloses it.
This is why the snippet is also referred to as the Zero Position (higher than the first search result).
But what does Google’s featured snippet contain?
Inside the box, you will find an excerpt of a web page, a photo, and the link to reach that page. But it can also be a video or a bulleted or numbered list.
In the vast majority of cases, the query made is a question. When a user searches for content in the form of a question, the system finds the page with the most relevant answer and highlights it.
It is not possible to mark your page as a featured snippet. Nor is it achievable through a pay-per-click campaign. Only Google determines whether the page has the quality and relevance to deserve this privileged position.
The CTR of pages that have achieved this ranking has increased significantly. Especially in mobile viewing, the content that appears in the top box far outclasses even the first organic result in terms of visibility.
To recap, here are some tips for appearing in featured snippets:
- Identify a question that generates interest in users.
- Create quality content that answers the question easily and immediately while also taking care to provide added value.
- Useful information should preferably be included already in the first paragraph. And then, they must be better explained and detailed in the content.
2. Fully Cover the Topic
Semantic SEO refers to the practice of creating content optimized around topics, not focused on a specific keyword
And Google loves those pages that contain other relevant information in addition to the keyword being searched.
For example, if the user enters the query “cats” in the search engine, a list of the various cat breeds would be very relevant.
I mentioned many tips about this in chapter 3 of this on-page SEO guide: How to Create Content that Google Wants to Rank.
You can also get help from the “Related Searches“ function of Google.
If, for example, you enter the query “red wine,” it will give you a lot of advice on what to cover on your content page, such as:
These are the so-called LSI keywords.
LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords are related terms that search engines consider to understand the website’s content better.
If you are writing a post about on-page SEO, you should consider covering also these other aspects, as suggested by Google:
3. Improve Page Loading Speed
Site speed is a signal that Google has been considering for web search rankings, since 2010:
Google also recently stated that page speed is used in mobile search rankings too:
Users love to find quick answers to their queries and therefore much prefer sites with pages that load fast.
To give you an idea of the importance of a fast-loading website, take a look at this study published by Google showing that slow sites on mobile have a higher bounce:
So, how can you improve your page speed?
There are many ways to decrease the loading time of your website, and the first and most important is good hosting.
Then, it’s essential to compress the images you upload into the content. You can do this by using a WordPress plugin called ShortPixel.
More strategies to improve the page speed of your site are using a cache plugin (the most popular are W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache) and a CDN (Content Delivery Network).
It’s a good practice to periodically check the loading time of your site using PageSpeed Insights (a free tool created by Google).
Not only it will give you, at glance, a score of your page speed:
But it will also show you passed audits, diagnostics, and opportunities to improve your performance.
Now, Over to You
On-page SEO involves lots of concepts, techniques, and strategies. But today, writing content that Google loves to rank is possible.
So, I’d like to know if you found this on-page SEO guide useful.
Have you read something new?
Would you like to recommend something else?
Did you find something wrong in this guide?
Let me know what you think by leaving a comment. Thanks!
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