On-Page SEO: a Dead-Simple Guide (With Examples)

a picture of Tom Donohoe
Written by: Tom Donohoe
Last updated: July 1, 2018

If you want to use the best on-page SEO strategies on your website, then you’ll LOVE this guide.

I’ve personally tested and used all of them to grow my website.

Want to know the best part?

You can start using them on your website today. Let’s get started!





What is on-page SEO

On-page SEO (or on-site) search engine optimisation is one technique used in a wider search engine optimisation campaign.

It is the process of implementing strategies on individual web pages to improve their organic rankings in search engines.

“On-page” refers to the content and HTML code on the page, which can be optimised for search engines.

Below are some on-page SEO concepts to be aware of throughout this guide.





On-page SEO Definitions

Below are some on-page SEO concepts that I mentioned throughout this guide that you should be aware of.

Keyword

Are words and phrases that people use in search engines to find your website.

Keyword research

Keyword research is the process of finding words and phrases that people type into search engines.

Search engine rankings

The position your website appears at in a search result. Rank 1 being the best.

User experience

Is the experience a person has using your website. Particularly how easy it ease to use and find information they want.

User’s search intent

It’s more than the keyword a person searches. It’s the meaning and understanding exactly what they are asking.

Click through rate

The number of times your website is clicked divided by the times it appears in SERPs.

Ranking factor

Influence how websites rank in search engines. Whether they are confirmed, proven by data or theories there are over 200.

Authority

Authority is a term scored by Moz, an SEO tool, that ranks a website on a scale of 0-100 with 100 being the best. It is used to judge the trustworthiness and power of a website.




Chapter 1

Optimise your Page Titles

The page title is a HTML element that names and describes the contents of a web page.

Page title are a ranking factor that search engines, like Google, use to understand a page. An effective page title can help get you more traffic from search engines.

Let’s take a closer look.





How to write a page title

When writing a page title you need to keep a few things in mind:

  1. How you can influence search engine rankings
  2. User experience
  3. Click through rate from search, social and email

Your primary goal is to help the page to rank in search engines, but you need to consider other factors mentioned above.

You don’t want to hinder the user experience by misleading people about the contents of the page. Make sure that you describer the page in a concise matter.

On the other hand, you also want the title of the page to be catchy and entice people to click through when it’s share on other channels like social media or email marketing.

Best Practices for writing page titles

There are certain best practices to follow when writing a great page title:

  1. Put your keyword at the start: where possible you should try to place your target keyword at the beginning. It’s important not to force this. You won’t see a major difference on the placement of your keyword.
  2. Make every title unique: it’s very important that you don’t have any duplicate title tags on your website. This can confuse search engine crawlers and hinder your chances of ranking that page.
  3. Add modifiers to capture long tail keywords: including extra words within your page title, such as “how to”, “guide” or “2018” can help you pick up some extra traffic.
  4. Keep it within the character limit: to avoid having your page title being cut off in search results you should keep it under 70 characters.
  5. Optimal Format for title tags: while you shouldn’t follow this formula every time. If possible you should structure your title tag as follows, “Primary Keyword: Secondary Keyword | Brand Name”. But only use this structure where it sounds naturally.
  6. Use power words and emotion: pages title tags also have a big impact on your click-through-rate in search, social and email. Using ‘power’ words and emotion can help you get high CTR, which in turn can help your rankings.
  7. Don’t keyword stuff: stuffing keywords into your title tag is against Google’s guidelines. It will also impact user experience. The days of “tricking” Google are over and you’re better off trying to create a great experience for users.

Examples of page titles

Here is an example of what a page title looks like in HTML code:

<title>Tom Donohoe: Expert Digital Marketing Consultant Sydney</title>

Here is an example from the search results page in Google:

an example of a page title as an on-page SEO technique

 




Chapter 2

Write compelling meta descriptions

Meta descriptions are the text that appears under the page title in search results. They aim to describe the contents of the page and entice people to click through.

Here’s the thing:

Meta descriptions aren’t a ranking factor in Google. But they are still very important for on-page optimisation. As they help improve your click through rate in search results.

Let’s take a look.





How to write a meta descriptions

The primary goal of your meta description should be enticing people to click through to your website.

The ideal meta description is a concise, benefit-driven description of the page. It also includes a clear unique value propositions and a strong call to action.

You should include your target keyword in the meta description. Search engines will place it in bold, which can help improve your click-through rate.

Best Practices for writing meta descriptions

  1. Compelling, unique text: every meta description on your website should be unique and compelling. You should never leave it blank and let search engines decide it for you.
  2. Avoid getting cut off and keep them under 160 characters: there is a character limit of 160 characters, which you should attempt to stay under to avoid being cut off. This year we’ve seen the character limit increase to 300 characters. But, I’d recommend writing the key information with 160 characters.
  3. Make sure they include your focus keyword: by doing this you’ll see the keyword in bold. This will help increase click-through rate and relevancy.
  4. Include a call to action: be sure to tell people what you want them to do next. Close your description off with a strong call to action to push them through to your website.
  5. Include your value proposition to encourage clicks: you’re competing against other website owners to get the click. You need to give people a reason to click you and not your competition. Highlight your point of difference.

Examples of meta descriptions

Here is an example of what a page title looks like in HTML code:

<meta name="description" content="Looking for a digital marketing consultant to grow your website traffic? I can help. I specialise in lead generation through SEO, paid search, content strategy &amp; analytics.">

Here is an example from the search results page in Google:

an example of a meta description




Chapter 3

Break up your content with heading tags

Website owners often make the mistake of not using heading tags. Heading tags pass relevancy signals to Google, and improve the user experience.

Headings are for more than just styling a page. Using they can help user engagement and rankings.

Let’s go through them.





How to write a heading tag

Having a page full of content can be overwhelming for your website traffic. Use heading tags to break up your content to make it skimmable and easier to read.

A great heading tag should read like a headline of an article. Descriptive, compelling and contain your target keywords where it flows naturally.

The Heading 1 (or H1) is the most important, and should be present on every page.

Best Practices for writing heading tag

  1. Only use one heading 1 tag per page: the heading 1 (or h1) tag holds the highest importance, and should only be used once on each page.
  2. Include your focus keyword: where natural include your target keyword in your h1s. While many studies continue to suggest the decline of its importance. It still helps the user understand if the page will meet their need. In turn, this will improve other metrics that can enhance your rankings.
  3. Use heading 2 or heading 3 to break up content: while not as important as the H1 you should use other subheadings to break up content through the page. This can increase the time spent on page and reduce bounce rate, which has be correlated to better rankings.

Pro tip: never use heading tags for styling purposes, if you want to make headings bigger or smaller use CSS.

Examples of heading tag

Here is an example of what a page title looks like in HTML code:

<h1>Expert Digital Marketing Consultant Sydney</h1>

Here is an example from the SEO consultant landing page on my website:

an example of a heading 1 tag




Chapter 4

Smart URL Structure to Improve relevancy & UX

Often overlooked or unknown to SEO beginners is the importance of your URL structure.

You probably wondering:

“What is URL structure?” A URL is made up several parts: a protocol (http://), domain (www.example.com) and subdirectory (seo/). It can include other things like query strings and resource id but they are a little more advanced.

Let’s dive into how we can use this to improve our organic traffic.





How to craft the perfect URL Structure

A perfect URL helps the user, and then search engines understand how the site is organised.

Your URLs should be short, concise and contain your target keyword. This will show relevancy to search engines, such as Google.

Try to be descriptive of the page, and use a logical structure. For example, for a blog article you may want to use something like this:

www.example.com.au/blog/my-first-blog-article

Best Practices for URL Structure

  1. Define your own URLs: define your own URL structure. Don’t let CMS, such as WordPress, create them for you. For example, www.example.com.au/pageid=123 doesn’t give any context to what the page is about compared to www.example.com.au/blog/on-page-seo.
  2. Contain the target keyword, where possible: placing your main keyword as the url for the page or blog article helps user and search engines better understand the context of your page.
  3. Keep URLs Short: super long URLs are messy and don’t provide a great experience. Moz recommend keeping your URLs to 50-60 characters.
  4. Use hyphens (-) between words to make it easy to read: using hyphens to separate words within your URL make them much easier to read. Other methods like an underscore work to but don’t have the same aesthetic appeal.

Examples of URL Structure

Here is an example using a breadcrumb structure from my blog:

an example of URL structure

As you can see it’s short, concise and contains my target keyword: “what is seo”.




Chapter 5

Image Alt Text: why it’s important for SEO

While search engines are getting very smart they can’t understand images on your website.

You need to help them out by explaining an image with alt text.

But here’s the deal:

Humans need them too! Many people have accessibility issues and use screen readers. The image alt text is what will be read to them to help understand the image.

Let’s talk image alt text optimision.





How to optimise your image alt text

Images give you an excellent opportunity to enhance your search engine rankings. And drive website traffic.

You’d be surprised how much traffic you can get from Google Image Search. Furthermore, you can get your images featured in rich snippets with well-crafted alt text.

A well-optimised image alt text is descriptive, concise and contains your keyword.

Pro tip: when you write your alt text image you are explaining the image to someone who is blind.

Best Practices for image alt text

  1. Contain your keyword: place your target keyword in your alt text. But, don’t make your alt text your keyword. Unless it makes sense.
  2. Be descriptive: by being descriptive you make it much easier to place your keyword without being spammy. But it also gives the best user experience to people who rely on alt text.
  3. Give images a relevant filename: when uploading a file to your website consider giving it a relevant file name. Rather than uploading ‘223202232.jpg’ offer context to search engines such as ‘seo-checklist.png’.
  4. Include the images and locations in XML sitemap: Having an xml sitemap for your images can make it much easier for search engines to find and crawl your images.

Examples of image alt text

On my blog post, The Complete SEO Checklist, I have a very detail infographic. I want Google to understand and rank this for my keyword ‘seo checklist’. I need image alt text optimisation to achieve this.

Here is an example of what image alt text looks like in HTML code of the page:

<img alt=”seo checklist infographic that covers 32 steps to get your website on Google”>



How to optimise Internal Links and Anchor text

Your internal linking strategy goal is to pass authority throughout your website. Making it easier for Google to crawl through deeper into the website.

You should look to link to your most important pages straight from your homepage. Then have those important pages link to their sub-pages and so on.

Here’s a nice graph that visualises the theory:

a graph illustrating how you should internally link your on-page seo content

It’s important to make sure the pages that you link from and content around the link makes sense.

The text that you link is also crucial. You want to make sure the anchor text is relevant, contains your keyword and descriptive of the page you’re sending people to.

Don’t over optimise your anchor text with you main keywords. Try to keep it natural throughout the website.

Best Practices for Internal Links and Anchor text

  1. Contain your target keyword where natural: as always where possible contain your target keyword. But, you want to be careful to not ‘over optimise’ your anchor text. Keep them natural.
  2. Link to relevant pages: don’t link for the sake of linking. Make sure the page you link to is necessary and relevant to the page content that surrounds it.

Examples of Internal Links and Anchor text

In my article ‘what is seo?’, I explain some key off-page optimisation for Local businesses. So it makes sense to link to my guide to that covers everything about local seo.

an example of internal linking on my website




Chapter 7

Page content

Your page content is very important. It’s what people are looking to find through search engines. And to rank it needs to be great.

First, your content must meet the user’s search intent. Second, it must be so awesome that people want to link to it and share it online.

If your content doesn’t hit the mark with these two things then it’s not going to rank well.





How to optimise Page content

Throughout your content, you’ll want to put in place the best practices mentioned above. But you must also focus on the way you write your content.

To optimise your page content for search engines you’ll focus on:

Search intent: Google is looking for content that matches the search intent. And satisfies that particular user’s query. Your content should cover and answer every question related to your target keyword.

Quality: there are millions of pieces of content published online every day. To stand out you must publish content that helps the users. High-level pieces won’t work anymore. You should go in-depth and cover everything related to the topic.

Length: If you’re writing a blog article try go over 2,000 words. For a product page go over 500 and answer the pain points/questions that someone wanting to buy may have.

Link-worthy: a good test to determine if the content you publish is great is ask yourself a question. If I had no idea who my company was, and read this article would I link to it? Would I share it? Be honest.

Best Practices for Page content

  1. Quality content over quantity: it might be cliche, but it’s never been truer. I usually spend 20-40 hours per an article I write. You might not need to spend the same amount of time. But you should focus on the quality of content you put out rather than quantity. For example, I always define something, then show people how to actually do it. Take this approach and you’ll win.
  2. Longer form content ranks better: several studies have concluded that content that is longer ranks higher. Most studies conclude that over 2,000 words is the ideal length. It may seem like a lot to write but when you break it down over a week it’s not too bad.
  3. Content must be unique, search engines don’t rank duplicate content: every piece of content you write needs to be unique. If Google encounters two pieces of content that are the same it won’t know which piece to rank.
  4. Contain target keywords. But don’t keyword stuff: search engines can interpret what your content is about. SEO isn’t like it was 10 years ago. You can’t stuff a bunch of keywords into your page and rank. Drop your target keyword throughout your content where it’s natural but don’t overdo it.



Over to you

Now you should be confident to put in place these techniques onto your website.

On-page optimisation is one part of a wider SEO strategy. Read my guide on how to rank in google to understand the wider strategy.

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about on page SEO.



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