On Page SEO
What is on-page SEO?
On-page SEO (also called on-site SEO) is the practice of optimizing web pages to rank higher in search engines. It includes optimizations to visible content and the HTML source code.
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.
How to create SEO content
Before you even think about making ‘technical’ optimizations like placing keywords here or there, you need to create content that Google wants to rank. For that, you need a main target keyword in mind. Read our keyword research guide if that’s not the case.
Otherwise, here are the four things you need to master:
1. Be relevant
Relevance is arguably the most crucial part of on-page SEO, which means aligning your content with search intent. Fail to give searchers what they want, and your chances of ranking are slim to none.
2. Be thorough
Having content that broadly aligns with search intent is a good start, but it’s rarely enough. To be deserving of a place on the first page of Google, it needs to deliver on its promise. And that means covering all the things searchers expect and want to see.
Given that you’ve identified the three Cs of search intent, you probably already have a rough idea of what searchers might want to see. For example, if you’re writing about how to buy Bitcoin and the top-ranking pages are for beginners, it probably wouldn’t be wise to explain the blockchain in intricate detail.
However, analyzing the three Cs only gives you a high-level view of intent. To better understand what your content should cover, you need to dig deeper by further analyzing relevant top-ranking pages.
The keyword here is “relevant.” If you’re targeting the keyword “best golf club sets” and plan to write a post about the best sets, then there’s no point analyzing and taking inspiration from top-ranking ecommerce pages or posts about individual clubs. You want to analyze similar pages to yours.
3. Be unique
It’s vital to give searchers what they want, but you also need to bring something new to the table. Fail to do this, and your content will be like everyone else’s. And nobody wants to link to another ‘me too’ piece of content.
Everything we’ve covered so far should have provided a winning framework for your content, but there should still be scope for some creativity.
For example, if we look at the SERP for “SEO tips,” the intent is clear. People want a list of tips to improve rankings and boost traffic.
4. Be clear
No matter how well your content aligns with search intent or how thorough it is, nobody will read it if it’s unclear. For example, the page below matches user intent for the keyword “all grain brewing”—but it’s a wall of tiny text that nobody wants to read.
How to optimize your content
Creating the kind of content that Google and searchers want to see is the hard part. Now you just need 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.
1. Include your keyword in the title
Page titles usually get wrapped in an H1 tag. That’s probably why including your keyword in the title has been conventional SEO wisdom since forever.
Google’s John Mueller even confirmed the importance of headings in 2020.
Just know that it won’t always make sense to use the exact keyword in your title, but rather a close variant. For example, the main target keyword for this post is “seo outsourcing,” but the title is “How to Outsource SEO (Simple Framework).”
It’s also important to keep your titles sounding natural, so use conjunctions and stop words where necessary.
2. Optimize your title tag
Having a compelling title tag is important because it shows up in the search results.
Often, the simplest way to create one is to set it as your page or post title. This is what we do for nearly all blog posts. For example, the post above has the same title and title tag.
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.
3. Write a compelling meta description
Google often shows a page’s meta description as the descriptive snippet in the SERP.
Meta descriptions are not a ranking factor, but they’re still important because an enticing description can lead to more clicks and traffic.
Use these tips to write a compelling description fast:
- 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 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.
Don’t spend too much time writing meta descriptions as they’re relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things.
4. Optimize your images
Images can rank in Google image search and send more traffic your way. In fact, over the past 28 days, we’ve had over 4,000 blog visits from image search.
a) Name images appropriately
Google says that filenames give them clues about the image’s subject matter, so dog.jpg is better than IMG_859045.jpg.
Unfortunately, most cameras and smartphones use generic names for photos and images. And so do 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
Alt text (alternative text) is an HTML attribute used on tags to describe the image. It’s not visible on the page itself and looks something like this:
The primary purpose of alt text is to improve accessibility for visitors who use screen readers. These convert page content, including images, to audio. Browsers also show alt text in place of images if the image fails to load.
When creating alt text, Google says to ‘focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and is in context of the page’s content.’ But they also say to ‘avoid filling alt attributes with keywords (keyword stuffing) as it results in a negative 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
Compressing images makes file sizes smaller, leading to faster load times. That’s important because page speed is a ranking factor on desktop and mobile.
Plenty of tools exist for compressing images, but ShortPixel is one we like. It has a web interface where you can compress up to 50 images at a time for free and a WordPress plugin that compresses images when you upload them.
You can compress up to 100 images per month with the free version of ShortPixel, then from a fraction of a penny per image after that.