On-Page SEO Guidelines: Everything You Need to Know

Chris Tweten30 Nov 2022 • 10 MIN READ

On-page SEO is the foundation by which Google understands your web pages. It can be especially frustrating to put in massive efforts into a blog post, only to have it not be indexed or ranked by Google. On-page SEO will help your website be picked up by the big G, improve chances of ranking higher in search results and attracting more impressions.

This guide will cover everything you need to know about on-page SEO, including how to optimize your title tags, meta descriptions, header tags, and more! So whether you’re a beginner or an experienced SEO specialist, this guide is for you. Let’s get started!

What Is On-Page SEO and Why Is it Important?

On-page SEO is the process of optimizing your own website for search engines, allowing them to understand its purpose and content better. It includes altering page elements like meta titles, meta descriptions, alt text and headers in an effort to rank a page for specific keywords.

Why is on-page SEO important?

Because it helps search engines understand what your website is about and how relevant it is to the keywords people are searching for. If you haven’t done any on-page SEO, your website will likely be buried deep in the search results (page 2 and onward), where people will likely never see it.

How does on-page SEO differ from off-page SEO?

The main difference between on-page and off-page SEO is that on-page SEO focuses on optimizing a website’s internal factors, while off-page SEO focuses on promoting a website by external means such as backlink building, directories and third-party review sites.

On-page SEO includes optimizing a website’s meta titles, meta descriptions, header tags, images, and other elements contributing to its overall ranking in SERPs. Off-page SEO includes practices like link building and citation building, which aim to improve a website’s visibility, trustworthiness and authority.

On-Page SEO: 8 Essential Ways to Optimize Your Pages

Optimizing your pages takes several steps, all dependent on each other. We like to think of each on-page optimization as incremental contributions to ranking. What this means is that you don’t have to follow each and every optimization step by the book for every page, so use your best judgment. Sometimes it isn’t time-efficient to update everything for on-page SEO. For example, if you were missing alt text on 50 pages that aren’t indexed by Google, it’s unlikely that you’ll see significant improvements by doing so. However, if you were neck in neck competing for a search term with another website and you realized you’re missing alt text on your landing page, it might help level the playing field.

If you’re ever unsure if an on-page SEO effort is worth your time or not, feel free to contact me directly on Twitter @ctwtn. Happy to help give guidance when needed!

Before you ask for help, make sure you understand the on-page SEO tasks that contribute to your rankings. Let’s begin.

Use the Right Header Tags

Header tags are one of the essential elements of on-page SEO, yet they’re often overlooked. Header tags indicate the different content sections on a page and help search engines understand your site’s content structure.

There are six different header tags that you can use, ranging from H1 to H6. Most websites only use one or two-three header tags. Some SEO experts will claim that Google ignores header tags 4-6 anyway, meaning you can definitely get by using only h1, h2 and h3 tags.

Here’s an example of how header tags might be used on a page:

  • <h1>This is the main header or title of the page</h1>
  • <h2>This is a subheading</h2>
  • <h3>This is a smaller subheading</h3>

Have a Natural Keyword Density

A natural-looking keyword density is vital for appearing trustworthy in the eyes of Google. This means your keywords should appear naturally throughout your content and not be stuffed in unnaturally or used too frequently. Doing so can help search engines better understand what your page is about and ultimately lead to better Rankings.

There are a few things to keep in mind when aiming for a natural keyword density:

  • Never Keyword Stuff: This will not only make your content difficult to read, but it will also likely result in lower Rankings.
  • Find The Right Balance: Using too few keywords will make it difficult for search engines to understand your page while using too many can trigger spam filters. Semantic SEO operates on the principle that building topical depth will allow crawlers to understand your content more easily.
  • Vary Your Keywords: Using different variations of your keywords (e.g., “SEO tips,” “search engine optimization tips,” “how to optimize for SEO,” etc.) can help you avoid keyword stuffing while still getting your point across.

Following these best practices can help you ensure that your keyword density is natural, which won’t necessarily improve rankings but will prevent them from falling. Keyword stuffing looks and feels spammy, so Google penalizes pages with unnaturally high keyword density. It’s also worth noting that keyword density is no longer a ranking factor.

Create World-Class Content

Content is king when it comes to SEO.

Creating high quality, semantically-rich content is the best way to expand your website’s opportunities to rank on search engines. When you create content that search engines find helpful, you’re more likely to see your website near the top of the search results.

  • Write Quality, Keyword-Rich Content: Creating quality content is the first step to improving your presence on search engines. Make sure your content is well-written, informative, and provides unique value.
  • Use Unique Titles And Descriptions: When you create new pieces of content, include unique, descriptive titles and descriptions. This will help your content stand out from the competition and make it more likely to be found by searchers. Meta titles and descriptions that break the mold while still satisfying search intent are often high CTR, so consider how you can stand out from competitors.
  • Utilize E-A-T: E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. Google looks for these factors at a domain-level when determining whether or not to rank a piece of content. Make sure you establish yourself as a trusted source of information so that your content can outperform other websites.
  • Master Writing For Seo: You can’t optimize your page without applying the basics of SEO writing that consists of SEO best practices, topical knowledge and expertise, and deep writing knowledge.

Add Optimized Visual Assets

Most website owners are aware of the importance of on-page SEO. However, many don’t realize that optimizing your visual assets is one of the most important aspects of on-page SEO.

Visual assets include images, infographics, videos, and other multimedia content. Optimizing your visual assets for search engines can improve your chances of ranking higher in search results and getting more traffic to your site.

There are a few different things you can do to optimize your visual assets for SEO:

  • Use Descriptive Filenames And Alt Text: When you upload an image or video to your website, give it a descriptive filename and fill out the alt text field with a brief description of the content. This will help search engines match your content with relevant searches.
  • Optimize Your Thumbnails: Your thumbnail images are often the first thing people see when they come across your content in search results. Make sure your thumbnails are clear and descriptive, so people know what they’ll get if they click through to your page.
  • Use A Responsive Design: With more and more people using mobile devices to access the internet, it’s vital to ensure your visual assets are responsive. That means they should be able to resize and adjust automatically to fit any screen size.
  • Compress Your Images: Large image files can slow down your website, hurting your metrics across the board. Use an image compression tool to reduce the file size of your images without compromising quality.

By following these tips, you can optimize your visual assets for SEO and improve your chances of ranking higher in search results. Optimizing your images will also allow them to rank on Google Images better, an additional source of traffic when done right.

Write Compelling Titles and Meta Descriptions

One of the most important aspects of on-page SEO is writing compelling titles and meta descriptions. This helps your pages stand out in the search results and attract clicks.

Here are some tips for writing effective titles:

  • Keep it short and to the point.
  • Use keywords wisely.
  • Write for your audience, not just for the search engines.
  • Make the title unique but relatable.
  • Test, test, test! Try different versions of your title to see what works best.

The meta description is a short description of your article that appears in the search history and is a crucial factor in making people click on your page.

Here are some tips for writing compelling meta descriptions that will help you get more clicks:

  • Keep It Short And Sweet: Your meta description should be no more than 160 characters, so ensure you’re getting to the point quickly.
  • Use Keywords: Include relevant keywords in your meta description so that it appears in the search results for those terms. But don’t just stuff your keywords in there—use them naturally as part of a sentence or phrase.
  • Write for Your Audience: Your meta description is your chance to speak directly to your potential customers, so make sure you’re writing in a way that appeals to them. Use clear and concise language, and focus on the benefits of your product or service.
  • Include a Call to Action: Tell people what you want them to do once they get to your site–buy your product, learn about a topic, etc. A strong call to action will increase the likelihood of people clicking through. A little persuasive writing goes a long way!

By following these tips, you can write meta descriptions that are both informative and compelling, and that will help you get more clicks (and customers) to your site.

Improve Your Site Speed

A slow loading and lagging site drives customers away. A faster website means happier users and better search engine rankings. Your site speed standards should align with Google’s Core Web Vitals minimum requirement.

If you need to improve your site’s speed, there are a few different ways to do it.

One is to optimize your images. Ensure that your images are saved in the correct file format and compressed before you upload them to your website.

Another way to improve your site speed is to minimize your CSS and JavaScript files. This means removing unnecessary characters and code from these files so that they load faster.

You can also use a content delivery network (CDN) to improve your site speed. A CDN stores your website’s static files (like images and CSS files) on servers worldwide. When a user visits your website, they’ll be able to load these files from the server closest to them, which can help improve your site speed.

Optimize for Mobile

Mobile traffic has been steadily increasing year over year and now accounts for over half of all web traffic worldwide. Google has stated that they are increasingly using mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor in their search algorithm. If your website isn’t optimized for mobile, you could lose out on valuable organic traffic. 

Fortunately, optimizing your website for mobile considers only a few things. Here are a few simple tips: 

  • Use Responsive Design: Responsive design is the best way to ensure your website looks great on all devices. With responsive design, your website automatically adjusts to fit the screen size of the device it’s being viewed on. 
  • Use A Large, Easy-To-Read Font: In mobile design, simplicity is key. Make sure your website uses a large, easy-to-read font so that mobile users can navigate your site with ease.
  • Avoid Pop-Ups: Pop-ups can be very annoying on a mobile device and make it difficult for users to navigate your site. If you must use pop-ups, make sure they are small and easily dismissible.

Links, Links, and More Links

Links are essentially like votes from other websites—the more links you have pointing to your website, the more popular, trusted and relevant your site appears to search engines. In addition, links help search engines understand what your website is about and how it relates contextually to other websites on the internet.

There are a few different types of links that you should include in your content:

  • Internal links: These links point to other pages on your website. The search engine uses internal links to understand your site’s structure. It also helps visitors navigate your website more easily.
  • External links: These are links that point to other websites. External links show search engines that your website is connected to other relevant websites on the internet.
  • Image links: These links use images instead of text to link to another page. Image links can effectively get more people to click through to your website, but they provide less information to search engines than text-based links. When hyperlinking images on your website, keep in mind that the alt text will be used as the anchor text in the eyes of Google.

When adding links to your content, it’s essential to:

  • Use relevant and keyword-rich anchor text
  • Link to high-quality websites
  • Limit the number of outgoing links on each page
  • Include a mix of internal and external links
  • Use a variety of link types (text, image, etc.)

Key Takeaways

  • On-Page SEO is optimizing your webpage, allowing the search engine to understand and index it better so it can rank it accordingly.
  • On-page SEO includes optimizing website elements, including title tags, meta descriptions, header tags, images, and other elements contributing to its overall ranking in SERPs.
  • You can optimize your on-page SEO by using the right header tags, having natural keyword frequency, creating content that search engines prioritize, optimizing visual assets, writing compelling titles and meta descriptions, improving your site’s speed, optimizing your site for mobile, and adding a decent amount of links.