On-page SEO: Complete Guide on Web Page Optimization (February 2020 Update)
Learn how to do on page SEO and optimize webpage from a technical and content standpoint. Read the complete step-by-step guide and check your pages score with this unique checklist.
What is On-page SEO?
Put aside SEO myths and every guy who works on search engine optimization from 9 to 5 will tell you that all ranking factors are possible to divide into two main categories – off-page and on-page SEO.Off-page refers to signals outside of the page, like signals on social media, guest posting, citations, reviews, or inbound links. On-page stands for things like page speed, page content, content, internal links, images on the page, basically everything about content and HTML. Being that said, we can define on-page seo as a practice of optimizing a single page on the website to rank higher in SERP (search engine result page), and same way earn traffic that will lead to conversion. Looking at the evolution of SEO thru out the years we can say that a lot of things have changed – but on page seo factors remain pretty much the same.
The Complete On-page SEO Checklist
Here is what you need to master if you want your page to stand up from the competition, boost ranking, and starts converting.Let’s start with the technical side of a story.
Indexation and Crawling
If you want your page to be indexed and appear on Google, it has to be crawlable by search engine bots.To make sure everything is in a perfect state and that the server returns HTTP 200Response OK, sign up to Google Search Console (former Google Webmaster Tools). Go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/ and add your property (website). This includes website validation by HTML tag, Google analytics, or file upload to your server. Once you have added your domain to Search Console, it is time to check the page. Click URL Inspection, add a page, and hit the Search icon. Here you need to make sure that:
- URL is on Google
- URL is submitted and indexed.
While here check robots.txt file as well. The page you are optimizing should be excluded from robots.txt restrictions. Restrictions are possible to check in GSC as well.What if I don’t have a Search Console? In that case, you can run a few tests manually. First one is to open the page in your browser and check the source code. If you are using Google Chrome, press CTRL+U (other Internet browsers use the same shortcut) and search for Follow and Index tags.
Press CTRL+F for find and type “Follow”. Make sure that code looks like the one on the image.
The second way is to search for your page on Google. If it shows up in SERP, this means it is indexed.
If your page has described attributes, it’s crawlable and indexed. In another word, it has minimum technical requirements to show on Google.
Responsive Design a.k.a. Mobile Friendliness
While in Search Console take time and check if the page is designed to support mobile phones and tablets.Mobile friendliness became a ranking signal a few years ago, in 2015 to be precise. If your website is not well formatted for other devices, you can’t have success no matter how good other on site SEO aspect are. Consider to redesign your website or if you are using WordPress, install the new responsive theme, and that way avoid penalization. Design your site to be mobile friendly to ensure its performance across all devices.
If you still don’t have a Search Console account, to test mobile friendliness using Google checker.
Another code-related on-page seo factor on the list – speed.Google officials say website speed is also ranking signal. True or not, ask your self how many times you have bounced away from a website that takes 10 seconds to open the Home page. Speed many times is user experience killer, and it limits your business. The first thing to do is to test your web page using GTMetrix or Think With Google.
There are some general rules you should follow when writing URL strings.Try to form URL to show searchers and bots what the page is about before they visit the page.
- Keep URLs short and simple,
- Include the main keyword in URL,
- Use descriptive URLs,
- Don’t use too many parent pages or folders (maximum three folders from Home page)
- Don’t use symbols or generic terms in URL, for example, www.domain.com/category/productid-92. A better option is www.domain.com/men-shoes/loafers
- Separate each word with by hyphen (-)
- If you have two or more similar pages set canonical tag (rel=canonical) and that way avoid keyword cannibalization
Every SEO and AdWords campaign starts with in-depth keyword research.Despite the facts that Google is very smart nowadays and that with the latest algorithm updates as the Rank brain, we sometimes think it can read our mind, we still need to use keywords. In this section, we won’t teach you how to do keyword research; this will explain related reading below. Optimizing for searcher intent is totally fine, but searchers use keywords so include them in the article body, meta tags, head or subhead tags. Of course, wrapping page title or H1 and sprinkling exact keyword every 100 words in the article is not the right way (at least not the only way) to do on-page seo. Content on the page has to be on point and relevant at the first place. The first thing to do when creating relevant content is to put together a spreadsheet of keywords that have decent search volume, high CTR, and tend to convert. Additionally, classify keywords by location, keyword difficulty, word count, competition, CPC value, etc. Another consideration is to use keywords wisely and correctly. Don’t spam and use exact match words only. Include broad terms and variations, after all, you want to rank for related queries and synonyms (LSI keywords) as well. NOTE: Current SEO trend is to write for topics, not keywords. We think you need to concentrate on both to achieve complete success. Put your self in shoes of searcher and do brainstorming. This way, you’ll come up with topics. After that, proceed to keyword research in relation to a given topic.
Meta Tags (Title and Description)
Meta title and meta descriptions are the first things users and search bots see on the page. Meta tags should give a clear picture of what to expect on the page.They may not be important as in 2013, but they still play a significant role in the ranking (meta title) and in improving click-through rate (meta description).
Strong in-page seo optimization begins with strong meta title.Title tag defines your page and should include targeted keyword, modifier (best, complete, super-fast, for 2020, February update) or call to action phrase (on sale) – all that in 60 characters, ideally. This page has following meta title tag: On Page SEO: Complete Guide (February 2020 Update). In 2018 Google said they could read meta titles up to 80 characters long. They also extended a number of characters for meta description up to 300 characters for desktop users and 172 characters (spaces included) for mobile users.
Description tag is not a ranking factor, but writing a magnetic meta description can be extremely beneficial. It can increase CTR and conversion. Many studies showed that more than 40% of searchers click on page driven by meta description only.Same as with title tag, the description needs to include the main keyword (or two, but it has to sound natural) and call to action element to grab searcher attention. Add your brand name to add authority and clearly describe what benefits searcher will gain if he/she visits your page. Three main things to keep in mind while writing a meta description:
- Write for humans,
- Avoid keyword stuffing,
- Write the optimal length.
Here comes the KING!Along with links, content carry the most weight in search engine optimization. Since links are the part of off-site optimization, it means that content on the webpage is the most valuable portion of on page optimization in SEO. But what kind of content? Content that drives relevant traffic is:
- Not long, but in-depth,
- satisfies user intent,
- solves problem,
- optimized with keywords,
- unique (one of a kind),
- user-friendly and engaging,
- relevant and authoritative,
- fresh and up to date,
- without spelling and grammar errors,
- structured well.
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Perfect blog post or landing page should utilize different heading tags, from h1 to h3.They help visitors to scan the page and jump to the section they are interested the most. This means that headings are essential for crawlers (from a technical aspect) and humans (usability point of view). Never include more than one h1 on the page. Wrap keyword (or keyword variation) in headline tag. If you are using WordPress than page title is headline tag at the same time. You can have multiple subheadings, h2 or h3. Those can include keyword variations or LSI keyword (Latent Semantic Indexing), keywords semantically related to your primary keyword. To check page anatomy and headings as well use browser plugin SEO Quake (for Chrome and Mozilla).
Inbound links are still the most potent algorithm signal for ranking web pages.Internal links, on the other hand, don’t have that much of power but can help Google to understand page content better, help indexation and crawlability of other pages on the site and navigate visitors to relevant resources. Internal links should use anchor text that is keyword rich (don’t use generic phrases like “click here” or “this link” as anchors) and need to be relevant. Don’t use internal links for the sole purpose of ranking. You are creating a page to satisfy searchers in the first place. Interlinking can be in the form of breadcrumbs or related articles section. There is no general rule of thumb how many internal links you should include on a page but don’t spam. Wikipedia is a perfect example of how to link internally.
Many times we use sources from other websites, usually to backup data with statistic figures, research, or case studies.If we intend to help the reader to solve a problem or satisfy his/her intention, then linking to other websites is a common thing. Linking out to trusted and domains who have authority increases page quality. Several studies from 2018 found that pages with relevant outbound links outrank pages without them. Google wants us to serve searchers with useful content. Linking to other domains is part of that process.
Call to Action Elements (CTA)
If your page is here to “transform” visitors to customers, you’ll need a few CTA elements.CTA elements like buttons, banners, contact us forms drive visitors to take some action and increase conversion rate. Action or goal completion can be the download of your latest e-book, signup for the newsletter, phone call, or purchase. Depending on the goals you’ve set implement one or two CTAs and start collecting leads.
Structured Data Markup
Dead-simple definition of schema markup or structured data markup is: it’s a piece of an HTML code added to your page to help search engines to understand better what the page is about.You have seen million search results with images, reviews, or stars, right? That exactly is the implementation of schema markup. There is a ton of data markup types. Choose according to your business. You don’t need to add a markup to all pages, use it where is appropriate and don’t spam. Found necessary documentation at https://schema.org/ but you may need help from web developer to implement chosen schema. If you run a WordPress website, there is a bunch of plugins (free and paid) which can help with data markup. Let say you are car dealer in Houston, TX. By adding schema markup, you tell Google what type of a business you are, address, phone and fax number, where are you located (geo-coordinates), working hours, price range, what payments you accept, what brands you carry, car reviews and much more. How to validate structured data? To check how successfully schema markup is done open your page in the browser and use already mentioned SEO Quake plugin and click Details. Scroll down to schema.org section.
For more detailed test use Google Structured Data Testing Tool. Test results need to be error and warning free.
Image Optimization (Alt Tags)
Images are necessary elements of every website and play a crucial role in user engagement and conversion; thus, they need some tender loving care.SEO for images is a relatively straightforward process. Three things to point out when optimizing the image:
- image file names (title) – include the keyword in the image name.
- image alt tags – alt tags describe what is on the image. Google and other search engines use this tag also to understand better what the page is about. Include the main keyword in image alt tag but don’t spam.
- size – optimize the image for the web. Use appropriate size and compress the image to reduce the size, not quality. Use Photoshop or online image optimizers heaving in mind page loading time. Large images are usually the first thing you need to fix to speed up the page.
Pages that utilize video have 50% more chance to rank on the first page on Google compared to pages without videos. Plus, watching video on the page increases time spent on site, which is also one of the ranking signals.There are two video SEO strategies to implement:
- share videos on YouTube and then embed on page. YouTube is the second largest search engine and the most popular video sharing platform. You can try other services like Vimeo.
- upload videos to your server, add to the page and don’t do YouTube syndication.