What is On-Page SEO?
On-Page SEO refers to the enhancements that you can make to your site to have it rank better on search engines.
These can be either to the content (i.e. text) or to the design (i.e. look) of your site.
This is in contrast to off-page SEO, which includes things done outside of your site such as creating backlinks and social shares.
Following are 11 different white-hat on-page seo factors you can optimize to rank higher on Google. I listed them in terms of difficulty vs. payout, so that if you work your way from the top you will find the best results with the least amount of effort.
1. Pick very good keywords
A big part of whether or not your content will rank and drive traffic depends on the keywords that you select.
Competing for difficult keywords with a brand new domain and a poor backlink profile is useless.
Similarly, ranking #1 for very esoteric keywords that no one searches won’t do much for you.
The solution: You need to start with keywords that are relatively simple and that still get a decent amount of traffic.
How can you find the best keywords for your industry?
I wrote an entire guide on keyword selection, but here’s the TL;DR…
- First, write down any potential topics that you’d like to write about that pertain to your industry.
For instance if you have a gadget review site, you can write things like “iPhone XS warranty”, “Samsung vs. iPhone”, “RokuTV installation guide”, etc.
- Type those keywords on Google Keyword Planner or on the keyword search on Ahrefs. You can also use a tool like Ubersuggest. Add any other relevant keywords you find this way to your list.
- Now google the keywords you picked and copy the url for the site that ranks #1 for those keywords.
- Paste the url on Ahrefs and hit “organic keywords”, from there you’ll see a list of keywords your competitors are ranking for.
- Lastly, you can look into Quora, your industry’s subReddit, and even the Google related searches for other keyword ideas.
Once you’ve followed these steps, you should have a list of very solid keywords.
With that keyword list handy, you can now pick the topics that make the most sense for your domain authority, domain age, your expertise and niche.
I personally like keywords whose difficulty is low-to-medium and that generate at least 1000 searches per month. (You can get those keywords metrics using Google Keyword Planner or any of these SEO tools)
Armed with your ideal keywords, it’s time to..
2. Write Amazing Content that is over 2000 words
First, let’s define amazing content.
Amazing content is content that:
- covers a topic in depth
- and more importantly, provides value to the reader, answering all their questions
I know that writing 300-500 word blog posts is easy, but trust me, the extra effort that it takes to write a longer blog post will be well worth it.
Why should you write long-form content?
Backlinko analyzed over 1M blog posts and concluded that posts that are ~1900 words long will rank better than shorter posts.
Through my own personal experiments I can attest that my longer blog posts tend to do much better than the shorter ones.
This post for instance easily sits over 3500 words. (which I wrote over a few iterations, not at once)
Here’s how I write comprehensive content
- I first get the cluster of keywords that I want to include in my post, and think of the structure of my post.
For instance if I’m writing a “how to run a marathon guide”, I would want to include a section for goal setting, practicing, what to eat before/after practice, some good gear/snacks to have handy, etc.
- I fill in the blanks of each section with the most useful and direct information I can.
- I search for my target keyword and try to summarize the top 10 articles on the first page of Google, making my article more comprehensive than any other article out there. (This is called the Skyscraper Technique).
- If you follow this, quite effortlessly you can be at ~1000-1500 words. At this point I’m ready to publish my article (after having followed tips #3 and #4 below).
- ?I let my article get indexed by Google and then I monitor the keywords that are bringing traffic to my site using Search Console. From there, I’ll usually find a handful of keywords that I didn’t think about before, such as “on-page SEO checklist”, which I now include into my post (ideally as new section, if applicable).
- ? A mistake I see people make is to never update their old posts. You can easily revive an old post and add 200-300 words. I constantly revise my posts and add new information that wasn’t available previously. This taps into the freshness factor I’ll cover later.
Why does long form content do so well?
Because Google wants to show its users the most complete and accurate information possible.
Google wants you to find all the answers to your questions on result #1.
The only way for your site to do this is to cover a topic in as much depth as you can.
Pro tip: break long complex paragraphs into bite-sized sentences and space them out.
You’ll notice that my blog posts are written one line at the time.
This is intentional.
First, it helps with the flow and readability.
Secondly, it increases the time visitors spend on my site, which is a metric Google likes to look into.
Increasing the “dwell time” of your posts will do wonders to your site rankings.
Pro tip #2: Add depth to your content with keyword variations
I briefly touched this a few paragraphs above but I wanted to make sure this idea had its separate section.
Keyword variations [also known as LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords] are essentially just words that are related to your target keywords.
For instance, in this On-Page SEO guide, I’ve included words such as “on-site optimization” and “writing SEO content”.
All of these keywords that I’ve sprinkled (not stuffed) throughout my post will help me rank for thousand of other possible keyword combinations.
This keyword variety helps Google’s Rankbrain understand the context and content of my article.
Try to naturally include synonyms of keywords, but don’t overdo it.
I like to have a keyword density target should of around 1-2%.
You should try to achieve this with a mix of exact match and partial match keywords. Use Yoast SEO to check that your post is good to go.
I also like to drop my target keyword in the first paragraph of my article.
Keywords and Content are good to go, now what?
Don’t underestimate the power of these first 2 tips.
If you do nothing but follow the aforementioned 2 SEO tips, you will do much better than if you do all the remaining ones on average or crappy content.
Now let’s take that 2000-3000 word monster article and give it the love it deserves.
For that look into tip #3.
3. Optimize your Meta Title and Meta Description
Meta titles and meta descriptions are super relevant when it comes to ranking.
A pro tip is to always include your keyword towards the start of the title.
As you can see in this post, I front-loaded the title with “On-Page SEO”, the keywords I am targeting.
On the meta description, be as succinct as possible, conveying the general idea of your post but leaving some cliffhanger at the end so that people are inclined to know more.
Also include the LSI keywords (i.e. variations of your keyword) you found on tip #1. (You can also use HitTail)
Here’s the meta description I chose for this article:
“Google analyzes over 200 factors to rank your site. What if you knew them all? Optimize your site with this ultimate On-Page SEO checklist. ”
Remember that Google’s new guidelines for meta description are 920px (about 158 characters) for desktop and 680px (or 120 characters) for mobile. Make those count.
How to boost your CTR
CTR (or click-through rate) is one of the main factors that Google takes into consideration when ranking sites.
The site that ranks #1 for a particular keyword will arguably get the most clicks.
So a good practice to follow is to create compelling titles that will get you clicks even if you’re result #2, #3 or #6.
Add modifiers to make your SEO meta titles more juicy
To create compelling titles, you should include modifiers.
Some very good modifiers for titles are
- Numbers (which incite curiosity) i.e. “6 facts about weight loss”, “ No. 5 will scare you” “19 ways to do X”
- Words like “ultimate guide”, “essential”, “free”, “quick”, “effortless”, “best” etc
- Compilation or reviews “Must-Try Tilapia Recipes”, “Top 10 psychology books” (people love compilations)
- Year – “How to do SEO in 2020”, “Christmas 2020 shopping list”
Massive tip below
You can find some of the potential modifiers by looking at the “Searches Related to X” at the bottom of each Google Search.
An added benefit of modifiers (besides increasing your CTR) is that modifiers will help you rank for long-tail keywords almost effortlessly thanks to Google’s Rankbrain.
Below are 2 more ways to crush your CTRs…
Use emojis on your meta title ?
A top SEO tip for meta tags is to use emojis.
As you can see, this attention-grabbing yellow icons will drive your CTR through the roof.
Higher CTR = higher Google rankings.
- You can get the Decimal HTML Entry code for any given emoji by searching on iEmoji. (You can also activate the emoji keyboard on mac by pressing Ctrl + Cmd + Space)
Make your site stand-out with Schema Markup
Schema Markup allows you to add things like ratings, images, author name, etc to your result, as shown here:
Luckily for you there’s a handy WordPress plugin here: Rich Schemas
You can also test your structured data with this tool by Google.
?Win the featured snippet (and make it rain)
The Featured Snippet is the box that usually appears when you ask a question whose answer can be found in steps or can be answered in a paragraph.
Here’s an example:
To win the featured snippet you should structure your subheadings in a way that answers people’s questions.
If you are discussing “5 steps to weight loss”, then each subheading should be one of those 5 steps.
Paragraph snippet answers should be around 40-60 words long for the best chances of winning the snippet.
Note: you will only win the featured snippet if you are already ranking on the first page of Google.
Next tip is a very easy win..
4. Have short and descriptive urls
Which url do you prefer?
I certainly hope you picked #2.
Search engines have the same preference: Matt Cutts from the Google Algorithms team stated that the first 3-5 words in your url are given more weight.
When it comes to choosing the slug, try to make it as short as possible while still fitting your keyword in.
In some cases, stop words should be removed but it’s fine if you leave them there. (Stop words are words like “a”, “the”, “is”).
Here are other things to keep in mind:
Note: On WordPress to change the default Permalink structure go to Settings > Permalinks. Then select “Post Name” as your permalink.
5. Take advantage of the H1, H2, H3 hierarchy
As we mentioned on tip #3, headers will help you win featured snippets.
Here’s a quick run-through of each Heading tag’s purpose:
- H1 should be reserved exclusively for the title of your post. It is important that you check that your website structure (or WordPress theme) respects this. Please take a second to check that NOW.
- You can use H2 tags for subheadings if you are writing a “6 steps” guide for instance. You can sprinkle your keyword in one or two H2 subheadings for an added SEO boost.
- And finally H3, H4 for any additional sub-steps that your guide has. Tip: on WordPress, you can highlight some text then press Ctrl + Alt Option + 3 for an H3 tag for instance.
Don’t forget to include an intro and a conclusion to tie it all together. But more importantly…
6. Make your post exciting with images, videos, and audio
Not everyone learns purely by reading. When you write content, target also the auditory and visual learners.
Not only will this get you more readers but will also increase the time on site, a very important metric for Google when it comes to deciding if your site is worth showing on the SERPs.
Moreover, adding multimedia to your post will also make your post seem more complete and therefore will get you a higher chance of bringing in those organic backlinks.
I usually like to embed videos into my posts, because my readers love them.
?Since I don’t generally have the time to do videos about SEO, I will often just go on Youtube and find a really good video to embed.
For example, here’s a solid On-Page SEO walkthrough by Brian Dean.
Don’t forget about the alt-text
Alt-text helps crawlers understand what the images are all about. Make sure you include some keywords when naming your images.
Now let’s talk about linking…
Outbound and inbound linking is critical to a healthy SEO article.
Internal linking refers to linking to other pages on your site. External links are links to other sites.
Cross-linking your content will not only lead to lower bounce-rates but also can help you forge a stronger relationship with your readers.
A great example of internal linking is Wikipedia.
Notice that every link is keyword-rich and links to a very authoritative and extensive post about that topic.
For outbound links, you should link to 4-6 external sites per post.
Since I manage other sites (like Future Sharks, Flux Ventures and Young Slacker), I like to link to some of them and also to a few sites that I don’t own to mix the outbound linking DA, DR of the post.
Two caveats when linking
- You should only link to relevant and useful resources.
- Also ideally you shouldn’t directly link to third party blog posts that are targeting the same keywords.
When you link to someone, make sure to drop them an email telling them so! They might shout you out on their social media profiles, getting you more social traffic.
Speaking of social signals…
8. Make sharing super easy and encourage blog comments
Social signals now make a considerable dent in rankings.
Take a look at the social shares of this article.
The added benefit of social sharing is that you will get more traffic from social networks and make more revenue through ads.
Moreover, that extra exposure will probably also land you some juicy backlinks.
You can add social buttons with this easy WordPress plugin.
Additionally, you should encourage people to comment on your post. Google notices this interaction and rewards you for creating this buzz-worthy content.
A simple “comment below what your new favorite SEO technique is” will give you a great amount of engagement.
Now let’s get technical, shall we?
9. Optimize Your Site (Technical Changes)
Three very important things you need to have on your site
- Small Image sizes: You should reduce the file size of the images before you upload them to your editor, with a tool like ImageCompressor.
- Mobile responsiveness (If your site is still not optimized for mobile, what the heck are you doing? Google has explicitly stated that it will penalize sites that are not mobile-ready) You can buy a ready-made responsive theme from Themeforest and save you the headache.
Pro tip: Install the AMP plugin for WordPress to rank even higher.
If you are not comfortable with making the technical changes, talk to your developer (or web host) about making these important changes to your website.
Even though backlinks are not technically considered part of On-Site Optimization, I wanted to include them here because they are super important.
A lot of guides about the perfect seo post always seem to omit the fact that you need to create backlinks for that specific page/post.
When you analyze the top results for any given keyword you will notice that the top results will generally have a strong backlink profile.
On Ahrefs, if you type a given keyword on their Keyword Research tool you will find just about how many backlinks you need to rank at the top 10.
For instance, a website writing about “hire a plumber” needs ~20 backlinks to be in the top 10 results.
Once you have an amazing piece of content and know roughly how many backlinks you need, it’s a simple game.
You can build backlinks by reaching out to bloggers and have them link your article, guest posting on great sites, and more. (I wrote more about my ranking tips and backlinking techniques on my SEO guide.)
11. Bonus: Don’t just stop here. Keep your content fresh by regularly updating and optimizing old posts
You can push the freshness score of your post up by taking a look at trends, updating posts with new information and also looking at seasonal things like Holidays.
A hack that also works is to update the published date of your posts whenever you make substantial changes to them. I have experienced a bump in rankings whenever my posts seem recently published.
?Lastly, take full advantage of the data available to you via Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Both of these places will show you the keywords that are driving traffic to each blog post, which pages are performing well, and more.
My 5 Favorite WordPress SEO Plugins
Here’s my ultimate essentials when it comes to wordpress SEO plugins
- Yoast SEO: to review every on-page detail I’ve discussed here
- WP Fastest Cache: to load content fast
- Shortpixel: for image optimization
- AMP: to render blazingly fast websites on mobile
- Redirection: for 301 redirects
A word of warning about Blackhat seo ?
So far, all the techniques I’ve shared have been fully white-hat and complaint with Google’s best practices.
If you follow these steps you should see your posts rank within a few weeks.
However, you might be tempted to shortcut your way to the top of Google.
You might come across some shiny new technique on a forum that claims #1 rankings by means of artificial backlinks, doorway pages, cloaking, PBNs and so forth.
I encourage you to stay away from these.
These techniques might get you ranked quickly today, but rest assured Google will catch up to them tomorrow, destroying all your rankings and probably even penalizing you.
It is much better to build a site for the long-term with quality content and quality links.
I’ve shared with you my best white-hat SEO tips.
These are the top on-page SEO factors out there that have helped me get over 100,000 visitors per month to my site.
If you follow this checklist, you will start seeing more traffic and higher SERP positions (also a higher Alexa rank).
As a quick recap, you need to
- Select the right keywords and their variations
- Write long posts of over 2000 words
- Use compelling meta copy to increase CTR
- Link to high authority domains and link to other posts when appropriate
- Structure your post with H-tags, bold keywords, alt text, intro and conclusion
- Add images and videos
- Clean up your permalinks
- Encourage sharing and commenting
- Create backlinks to your article
- Review and update your articles every so often
- Ignore the blackhat temptation
Here’s a handy infographic about On-Page SEO from Brian Dean from backlinko.com to drive all my points home:
Hope you found this post valuable.
If you did, drop a 5+ sentence comment telling me which factor you didn’t know about and share this article with your marketing friend. I’m running a contest to give a free Flux Charger to one lucky commenter!
(Commenting will also earn you a free backlink!)