Since the day I got into digital marketing space, I’ve been hearing a lot about on-page SEO. So much, that I ended up finding these 16 tips to improve search engine ranking highly useful for my own blogs & businesses I consult. However, for the beginners, it’s highly confusing which of the on-page SEO techniques are actually worth implementing & which of those are negligible.
With the beginners in mind, this guide deals with all the top On page optimizations that you should ritualistically focus on (backed with hard-core data). As part of this guide, I will be covering the following:
What is On-Page SEO?
What is the importance of On-Page SEO for your blog?
What is the difference between on-page & off-page?
On-page SEO techniques that actually work
Before you dive into this guide, get yourself some coffee. This is going to be a long guide.
What is On-Page SEO?
On-page SEO is simply a set of practices or techniques you implement in order to serve “optimized” web pages to the search engines. Web pages, that the search engines will be pleased to show it its end users.
One thing to pay attention to is the difference between on-page SEO and onsite SEO. Here’s the difference between the two.
On-page SEO: These are the optimizations you make on an individual page level. These changes are exclusive for that page only. It doesn’t affect by any means to any other webpage or the entire domain. You should do the optimizations for all the pages you have under your domain. That’s what I’d recommend doing, at least.
For eg: you have a target keyword(s) for an individual page, you have page structure/format for individual pages.
Onsite SEO: These are the optimizations you make on a domain level. These optimizations are done once(most of the times) or twice, as and when needed.
For eg: Setting up the permalink structure or to create a robots.txt file.
If not already known, this guide will strictly focus on on-page techniques.
What’s The Importance of On-Page SEO Optimization For Your Blog?
If I’ve to be very specific & brutally honest, I’d say, “On-page SEO is a luxury, most of the beginners don’t have time for”
Because there’s a ton of data out there and it’s way too heavy to stomach it. Furthermore, there’s an endless list of on-page SEO optimizations that “they” say should be done.
But are they actually important?
Well, it depends on a lot of factors
To what degree you apply it
Where you apply it
For how long you do it
Geographic locations you target
The ethnicity of your target audience
….. and a lot of such factors
On-page SEO is the first step towards ranking higher in the SERPs. Search engines do consider on-page SEO optimizations that you make for your webpages, but this doesn’t end here.
There are over 200 ranking factors that are the reason behind the search results ranking. A handful of those are
Social signals(shares, likes, retweets etc)
Domain authority &
Bottom line, On-page SEO makes your foundation strong just enough for the search engines to consider your webpage as the best result for the end users.
To extend your knowledge, here’s a beautiful infographic from Entrepreneur
I know this infographic has shared a lot of information about the ranking factors. But the main essence of this guide is, are they actually important & worth implementing?
“Reality Check” For the Top On Page SEO Optimization Techniques
There’s a flaw with recent marketing trend. There are a ton of talks floating around the web regarding on-page SEO techniques.
These many talks make it look like they’re important.
Let’s see what data says regarding these tweaks.
#1 Use Short URLs
Here’s the thing. URL is the face of your webpages. It’s the first thing that people notice upon seeing your webpage. It has to readable, short, sweet & SEO-friendly.
Here’s what I don’t recommend having as a URL.
Wouldn’t you find these URLs suspicious? I won’t click on such URL. It’s not friendly enough.
What does data say?
A study found that URLs with 17 characters or so ranked first on SERPs. Here’s the chart stating so.
#2 Include Your Target Keyword in The URL
Off late, there are many marketers who have admitted that including URL is NOT mandatory. But should you have only the target keyword as URL?
I think not.
Sure, it keeps your URL short & sweet, as I mentioned in the previous point. However, spend a little time to think of a URL that’s short & sweet.
It’s not mandatory to include the target keyword, but it’s good to have the target keyword in the URL, at least the related one. From an SEO standpoint, there’s no need to include the keyword in the URL. The URL tells the end user about the information they’re going to get when they land on that webpage. Therefore, from a UX standpoint, it’s important to have a URL that clearly conveys what’s the webpage about.
Look at this URL. I won’t call this as user-friendly but still, it has a hell of domain authority, as the URL is under a super high domain, Business Insider.
Now, look at this URL. Again, this is from a very high domain authority, Neil Patel. But look at the URL, it’s super cute & readable.
That’s how amazing is having the target keyword in the URL. If you closely look at both the URLs, you’ll notice that keywords in both the URLs. But one is readable & one is not.
Bottom line is, have short & readable URL. Doesn’t have to necessarily include your target keyword. Just make sure it’s readable.
Do I recommend having a keyword in the URL? Of course.
Here are two reasons:
People can identify what the post is about
Backlinks will have the keyword in anchor text by default
#3 Include Your Target Keyword in First 100 Words
Before you shoot a question. I already answered it.
When crawlers scan your webpages & find the target keyword in the first 100 words, it signals the crawler what’s the page is about. That’s enough to introduce your webpage to the crawlers.
Here’s what Matt Cutts has to say about this.
#4 Add External Links To Your Webpages
External links are important. It extends the user’s knowledge by linking to a webpage that’s not directly related to the webpage but simply supports the topic your webpage is on.
However, external links have been a bit controversial since it’s inception. Whether or not to have external links is a golden question for most of the content marketers. External links pass the SEO link juice(crawl budget) to those external links & spending the crawl budget on crawling those links is something all content marketers don’t prefer doing.
Every time a crawler spends crawl budget on crawling the external links, it passes on the authority & the SEO link juice to those links. In other words, crawler’s attention shifts from your link to those external links.
I’m sure, you don’t want this to happen. Above this, having all the external links as no-follow is yet another issue content marketers face in this regards.
Again, Matt Cutts is at our rescue. Here’s a video to learn more.
To add a cherry to this cake. Here’s what John Muller has to say.
Sure, external links are important. Does having external links help you rank well? Here’s what study by ahrefs has found.
I’d recommend having a small percentage of external links as no-follow. Which one to have as no-follow?
You decide. It’ll come naturally.
#5 Add Internal Links in Your Blog Posts
Internal links help your low ranking pages get some attention from search engines. I’d bet my last dime on internal links. I ritualistically include internal links in all my blog posts. As a best practice, I maintain a tracker sheet that houses all the drafts for my blog. Where I also include all the posts can be interlinked against the drafts. This also helps me come up with new topics for my blog posts.
If this is too much of work for you, head over to Google search console & filter out the pages that are ranking on page 2 of SERPs. Next, place those links in the pages that rank well (at least top 3).
That should do the needful.
#6 Reoptimize The Title & Meta-Description
Title & description are the pitch you make for the end users do nothing but click. It’s your chance to get your attention. It’s recommended to include target keywords & its variations in the title & description. This will attract the search engine’s attention and if you’ve nailed it, you’ll be gifted with a flood of organic traffic.
You don’t have to reoptimize every blog posts you have. But if you think the titles & descriptions need a change, consider the following:
Refer ad copies
Refer to high traffic websites like BuzzFeed & UpWorthy
#7 Write Long-form Content for Blog Posts
Everyone is talking about writing long content. But how long?
1000? 4000? 10,000?
The average length of posts ranking on top results is 800 words. But there’s no written rule to write only in this length frame. I’d recommend you to focus on coverage rather than the length of the post. Furthermore, you should cover sub-topics in a way that serves the searcher’s intent.
Sure, write spacious & informative content. But don’t overdo it, just for the sake of doing it. Also, don’t compromise on coverage so as to keep the post short & sweet. You are not Seth Godin, yet.
#8 Modifiers in Your Title Copy
Best, Top, Buy, <current year> etc are the modifiers that create high CTR. Sure, it’s not mandatory but it’s good to have. Bottom line is to create tempting titles so as to get high CTR. Furthermore, having a keyword in the H1 tag has also proved to be of great help. But a problem arises here. Most of us target multiple keywords in our blog post. But does it mean having all those keywords in H1 tag? I wouldn’t recommend it. If not me, hear what Matt Cutts has to say:
Here are a couple of ways to figure out various modifiers you can include in your title & H1 tag.
Use google suggestions to find the modifier keywords
#9 Leverage Load-time of Your Webpages
Did you know that the attention span of human beings has gone down to 3 seconds from 12 seconds? That’s less than goldfish. Therefore, you have less than 3 seconds to capture the end user’s attention. How’d you do it? By speeding up your blog. Unless you are a life-saving star, they’re gonna leave your webpage if it doesn’t load within 3 seconds. Before I share how to speed up your blog, here are some cool stats straight from Google.
Now, about speeding up your blog, here are some things you can do in order to achieve that <3s load time mark. Apart from this, you should opt for a light theme that’s not too clumsy to load in the end user’s browser.
Page speed is a ranking factor since early 2018
Use page speed insights & Pingdom to figure out what’s slowing down your webpage
Use CDNs & cache plugins
Compress images using short pixel
#10 Enhance UX by Improving the UI
Take my word. All search engines want to give the best user experience to their end users. Even if they lose 0.001% of all the searches happening per day, it’d be a huge loss to the owners. According to SEMrush, in the month of Jan’19, Google had 57B hits, i.e. 57B searches were made in the month of January alone.
Imagine, January had 0.001% fewer searches. It would be 570,000 searches less which would me loss of millions in just one month, let alone the upcoming months.
So, there’s no way search engines are going to compromise on user experience. Therefore, it becomes a stone graved rule to give a great user experience to your readers. Which will reciprocate as high rankings in SERPs eventually.
Here are some tips you should conder doing so as to give a great UX to your readers.
… and anything creative you can think of
Bonus: On Page SEO checker I Recommend
Okay, this might sound I’ve been paid for saying this, but trust me, I’m not. I’ve tried a lot of tools to work on the on page SEO for my various blog, but nothing has even feathered SEMrush’s very own Writing Assistant tool.
If you are a wordpress user, there’s a plugin they offer to assist you for your blog posts. If not, there’s a Google Doc add, which I guess, everyone uses to draft the first copy of their blog posts. Here’s my answer on Quora that has everything about the tool in detail. Apart from this, you should already be knowing about the Yoast SEO plugin. It has been my go-to plugin for years now.
Final Thoughts about On Page SEO Techniques
Google and all search engines are moving towards smart & mobile future. The algorithms are getting smarter each day passing. Gone are the days when keyword stuffing was actually a thing. Instead of searching for the search query in the webpages that contain those keywords, search engines delivers search results that are contextually related to the search query.
So there’s no way you can fool search engines forever. Therefore, it’s better to follow techniques that are white for the search engines & actually work.
I’m sure, this post has helped you understand that some of the on page SEO techniques you knew has little to no effect on rankings of your webpages. Furthermore, some of those techniques do not have a direct impact on SEO. That’s why I referred to this post as a “reality check” for the on page SEO techniques.
I’m curious. Which of these techniques are you going to trash right away? Is it reoptimizing title & meta tag? Or is it including the target keyword in the URL. Let me know in the comment section. It can simply be a Hi, I’ll wave back at you.