Does the very thought of SEO make your head spin? SEO, or search engine optimization, might sound complicated, and it can be. However, there are small steps you can take to improve your site’s SEO in minutes.
On-page SEO is half the work of effective SEO. And the best part is this: on-page SEO is relatively simple to achieve. You don’t have to be an SEO expert to implement these best practices. You just need to consistently implement these small steps whenever you create or publish a new web page.
Each step you take to make a well-performing webpage will result in a healthy website. This will make it easier to rank in search results for the keywords you want and attract more of the right visitors.
What is On-Page SEO?
As a whole, SEO helps a website perform its best. It’s like an ongoing nutritional diet and exercise for website health.
How does a website perform its best? By taking steps to rank at the top of search results, your website will naturally increase its visibility and the number of visitors to your website. This means you can increase website traffic without paying a single dime for an online ad.
On-page SEO focuses on what you can do to improve the health of a single webpage rather than looking at the site in its entirety--which can be overwhelming. However, by tackling one page at a time, you can make incredible progress on the overall health of your website.
Why is On-Page SEO Important?
To increase the health of your overall website, on-page SEO focuses on the tiny improvements you can make on each page within your website. On-page SEO includes proper keyword placement, adding the right links, optimizing your images, and ensuring your webpages are mobile-friendly.
On-page SEO might sound like busywork, but once you get into the habit of implementing these tips, you’ll improve your website with every page you publish.
Here are a few ways to start improving the on-page SEO for your webpages.
Use Proper Keyword Placement
Finding your target keywords is only half the battle. Then you need to know where to place the keywords so that they can maximize their search power.
Here are a few places you should include your focus keyword. And, if you have space, you can also sprinkle your secondary keywords in these areas. Just make sure to keep your text clean, concise, and easy to read.
1. Header or <H1> Tag
The first place to include your focus keyword is the main heading, or H1 tag, typically found at the top of the webpage.
Whether creating your homepage or writing a blog post, each webpage should have headers and body text. Headings separate body text into digestible sections to make it easier for a reader to scan the content. Titles also give search engines a clear indication of what a webpage is about.
Search engines put a lot of power in the H1 tag, because it's the title and indicates what content the page includes. Google Webmasters said that having more than one H1 tag doesn’t harm your SEO; however, it’s been common to include only one near the top of the webpage.
2. Body Text
Make sure to include your focus keyword within the page’s body text--but you want to do this naturally. Search engines will look for contextual clues of a webpage within the first and last paragraphs. Your main goal is to incorporate the keyword without sounding robotic or spammy.
Best practice says to use the target keyword at least 2-3 times for every 500 words. That makes for a keyword density of 2-3% of your total word count.
Using a target keyword too many times can harm your on-page SEO. Overuse of a keyword, or keyword stuffing, was frequently used when search engines used to rank by the number of times a keyword appeared on a webpage. This led to poorly written and misleading content. Now, keyword stuffing is frowned upon and can make search engines flag your website as spam.
A concise and accurate URL helps the searcher and search engine determine what your page is all about. Because of this, it’s best practice to include your focus keyword in the URL of a webpage when you can.
If your target keyword is long, you may want to remove the prepositions or “stop words,” and only include the main words. However, if removing the stop words would change the meaning or context of the article, it would be best to keep the stop words included.
When creating your URL, make sure to separate each word with a hyphen (-), not an underscore (_), to ensure that search engines read it correctly. For example, Google doesn’t know what onpageseochecklist means. By including hyphens to separate the words, Google can read the previous example correctly as on-page-seo-checklist.
4. Title Tag and Meta Description
The title tag and meta description aren’t found on your webpage, but both should contain your focus keyword. Together, these create the snippet that appears in a search results list. It will also entice searchers to click on your webpage over another one.
The title tag is the SEO-friendly title for your article or landing page. This is often an exact copy of your header or H1 tag. However, it can be beneficial to write these differently if your header doesn’t showcase your focus keyword initially, or you might want to highlight a synonymous keyword to capture more search results.
A title tag will show 50-60 characters, while a meta description will show 160 characters before the search engine will cut it off with an ellipsis. This is one reason why it’s crucial to put the target keyword near the beginning of each. It will grab the immediate attention of a searcher, but it will also have less risk of getting cut off in the search results snippet.
Add Relevant Internal Links and External Links
Links included on your webpage play a significant factor in on-page SEO. The quality, type, and amount of links you have can help increase on-page SEO. Experts say that you should use a combination of internal and external links, as Google pays attention to these. Internal links are those within your website domain. External links are those from any other site.
I try to use at least two internal links and three external links for every 500 words of text, but it’s not an exact formula. Verblio explains some other best practices for including links in blog posts.
The amount of links is not nearly as significant as the quality of links. When you include an external link, you want to ensure it has a high domain authority (DA). This score, 1 to 100, estimates how authoritative or trustworthy Google ranks the website. Sites like Wikipedia, Facebook, and WebMD, will likely have DAs of 99 or 100. Start-up sites will rank much lower because search engines are still analyzing them. Unfortunately, there isn’t a definitive guide on what is deemed a “good” DA for an external link. My rule of thumb is that the higher the score, the better.
You can determine the DA of any site by downloading the chrome extension for Ubbersuggest or MozBar. Both are free to use. Once installed, whenever you make a search query in Google, each search result will show the site’s DA. Both tools are slick and easy to use.
As for internal links, you want to use these strategically. Because your internal linking acts like a map of your website, you want to use links from your core content. If your articles are constantly linking back to your most important pieces of content, like your services or contact page, Google will start to understand those are your most valuable pages and can rank those higher.
There’s a slew of information on internal linking with dedicated strategies for maximizing your internal linking structure. Check out Neil Patel’s Guide to Internal Linking if you want more information.
Optimize Your Images
Images are a less-considered aspect of on-page SEO. However, you can optimize images in a couple of ways to maximize your on-page SEO.
Even if you don’t immediately see it, each image comes with alt text (or alternative text). Alt text helps Google understands what's in the image. Google reads words, not pictures, so optimizing your alt text is important for your rankability. Alt text will also appear in place of an image if it fails to load on the page.
Alt text is overlooked by many people, as they usually stick with the default alt text that’s added when an image gets uploaded. This can be the file name of the saved image or a random mix of letters and numbers populated by your web software. To optimize your alt text, you want to customize it to suit your needs.
Including your keyword in the alt text can be helpful. However, its primary purpose is to describe the image accurately. Therefore, the alt text is not a place for keyword stuffing. If you want to learn how to write good alt text, check out this article from Moz.
Another part of image optimization is that you don’t want to upload too large images. Otherwise, your images can slow down the load time for your site. Web searchers only give a page about 3-5 seconds to load. So if your site doesn’t load quickly, they will click off the page to find something else.
Make It Mobile Friendly
If you used a website builder like WordPress or Squarespace, chances are your site is already mobile-friendly. This is because many web programs include pre-built code that automatically makes their sites change to accommodate various screen sizes. But that’s only the first step.
Even if your web provider automatically reformats your template to fit different screen sizes, you want to make sure your site still makes sense on desktop and mobile. For example, what looks great on a desktop might get rearranged in the mobile format, so sentences get split awkwardly, buttons become out of place, or images get cut off. Your mobile version might also remove or add entire sections to your site’s template to make it easier for navigation--and more confusing for context. Make sure your site’s “cut-and-paste” makes sense in both formats.
It might take a little playing around, but you’ll find the right balance between how your site appears and navigates on desktop and mobile.
If You Have a WordPress Site…
Yoast is a free SEO plugin for WordPress that will save you time implementing these small details for on-page SEO.
If You Have a Squarespace Site…
Each template in Squarespace includes SEO features automatically.
Check out what Squarespace does for SEO and how you can manually improve and customize your site’s SEO. Squarespace handles basic SEO techniques, but those who want to go the extra mile on their website should customize it to fit their needs.
Feeling Overwhelmed About SEO?
That’s okay! There is so much to learn with SEO, and this is only one part of it! Now you know a few ways to optimize your on-page SEO and improve your search rankings.
By taking the tiny steps in this blog, you will be well on your way to positively impacting your future search rankings.
If you have questions about this process or want an audit with custom suggestions on how to improve your current on-page SEO, I would be happy to talk with you! So feel free to send me a message, and we can chat.