on page seo

On Page SEO (2021)

In this post you’ll find out:

The Complete Guide to On Page SEO in 2021

The on page seo adjustments you make to your website can have arguably the biggest impact on its ability to rank for your target keywords.

Whilst on-page SEO is not as simple as it once was, it is still beginner friendly. In fact, with the right approach, most website owners will be able to make changes that will have a positive impact on their performance without being an SEO master.

That said, when done wrong or in a way that tries to game search engines, on-page SEO can have a negative impact on your website; so it’s important to understand the changes you are making and why.

In this post, we explain everything you need to know about on-page SEO and guide you through some of the key on-page SEO techniques required to help your website rank higher and generate more traffic.

What Is On Page SEO?

It is the practice of optimising individual pages on a website to help them rank higher for their target keywords and therefore generate more organic traffic as a result.

This form of SEO focuses on methods of optimisation that involve your own site rather than external factors such as backlinks (this is known as Off Page SEO).

Why Is It So Important?

Google uses many hundreds of factors to determine what order websites should be displayed in on their results pages, one of which is the content of your page.

If the content of your page is determined as relevant to the user’s query, Google may display your website within the results page. The intention is to be even more relevant than the top result!

On-Page SEO Techniques

Of course, if it was as simple as including your target keyword in the page content to rank, it would be far too easy to attain that number1 spot.

There are several techniques that can be used to increase the relevancy of your page to the keyword you are targeting.

Write Quality Content

It goes without saying, but if your content is poor quality – Google is much less likely to rank it for your target keyword. Even if it does, don’t expect it to stick around for long because another website will do it better eventually.

On-page SEO has to start with high-quality content – everything else comes after.

To ensure that your content is up to par, keep the following in mind:

  • Do your keyword research
  • If you write a detailed blog post or page using a keyword with zero volume, your efforts are wasted. Before creating a new page, proper keyword research can help you understand user demand and uncover related keywords including opportunities with low competition.
  • Analyse the SERPs – Once you’ve chosen your topic, taking a look at the search engine results pages (SERPs) can help you understand what Google is already ranking for your chosen term. Improving on the content already ranking well gives you a better chance of appearing for that particular term.
  • Understand the intent – Understanding the intent will come as a result of a combination of keyword research and your analysis of the SERPs. By having a better understanding of what the user wants to see (or what Google thinks the user wants to see), you can create content that fulfils this. For example, a tool, list, interview, video, or how-to guide.
  • Make it unique – Nobody likes a copycat. Of course, whatever topic you write about, chances are that somebody beat you to it but making sure your content is unique provides VALUE to users and keeps you in Google’s good books.
  • Keep on improving – To retain your position in the SERPs, it’s important to regularly review and improve your content to ensure it continues to provide the most relevant information to your target keyword.

Optimise Header Tags

  • Optimising your header tags is a fundamental SEO strategy that all website owners should be utilising. As well as providing context to Google about the structure and content of your page, header tags are also an accessibility factor.
  • For best results, ensure that your page title is wrapped in an H1 tag and includes your focus keyword. An H1 is the strongest signal you can give and should only be used once per page.
  • Then, ensure that subheadings are wrapped in H2 tags, these can be used to target broader keywords relating to the topic you are optimising for.
  • H3, 4, 5, and 6 headers can also be used if your page has multiple subheaders, though naturally, most pages won’t go all the way through to H6.
  • Internal links are an excellent way to funnel users through your site, help Google understand your site’s architecture, and get new pages indexed. Your in control this time; what’s not to love!
  • By linking from one page to another (where relevant), you can pass ranking equity throughout your website. Ensure that you use descriptive and relevant anchor text for best results.
  • In practice, if you have an ‘Our Services’ page, you can write supporting related content like blog posts and ensure they all link back to your main service page.
  • When writing new content for your website, keep internal linking opportunities in mind to make sure that you are maximising the value of your new page.
  • Whilst there is no definitive information from Google that external links boost your SEO, it is well perceived that they enhance it.
  • Providing relevant external links to backup data and help users find more useful information will ultimately create a better search experience for the user; something that Google values.
  • Of course, you do not want to be linking for the sake of it. Only use external links where they are relevant, appropriate, and beneficial to the content you are writing and the user who will be reading it. Irrelevant or spammy links can do your website more harm than good!
  • When externally linking to a new site, it’s a good idea to ensure that these links open in a new tab. By doing this, the user is not leaving your website completely and will therefore be more likely to return once they’ve finished browsing the information on the external website.

Make Sure Your URL Structure is Optimised

  • URL structure is fundamental to on-page SEO and helps ensure your focus keyword is presented to users within the search engine results pages. Which URL looks better to you, as a browser? http://www.example.com/product.aspx?ID=11536&IT=5f7d8d OR http://www.example.com/dvds/the-legend-of-king-arthur/
  • By using a URL that is short and descriptive, you are able to provide context to users about the content of the page before they even click through.
  • Furthermore, optimising your URLs dependent on the content of the page provides a signal to Google about what the page is about, allowing it to appear for related searches.
  • Most content management systems (CMS) will allow you to create a custom URL for each page and will also let you define parent and child relationships between URLs.
  • If you alter an existing URL ensure that you set up the correct 301 redirects.

Utilise & Improve Your Title Tags

Title tags are the main excerpt that will appear to users when they search anything into Google, so it’s important to ensure they are well optimised.

As well as giving you the ability to include your keyword, title tags should be written in a way that encourages click-through from users; see them as your shop window in Google.

Well written title tags should:

  • Be 50 – 60 characters in length
  • Include your target keyword
  • Include a related secondary keyword
  • Include a call to action
  • Be concise and easy to understand

Title tags should be treated as an ongoing on-page SEO task. Make sure that you update your title tags to accurately reflect the content of the page and check the SERPs to see what title tags Google is giving favour to.

To measure results, you can use a tool such as Google Search Console which will show you the click through rate (CTR) of the keywords your page ranks for. If your position is high but your CTR is low, consider updating the title tag.

  • Leverage Those Meta Descriptions

Like title tags, meta descriptions are displayed when a user searches anything into Google. Meta descriptions provide more space but are less prominent than title tags.

It is generally accepted that Meta Descriptions don’t have that much SEO power nowadays but don’t keyword stuff! However, Uncle Google will still be looking at your CTR (Click Through Rate) to check for relevancy and will use this as a ranking factor.

As a result, you can fit more into meta descriptions and provide more information to users about the content of your page.

Well written meta descriptions should:

  • Be no greater than 120 characters in length (it could get truncated on some devices)
  • Include your target keyword
  • Include a related secondary keyword
  • Provide concise additional information about the page
  • Include a call to action

Like title tags, meta descriptions can be tweaked from time to time to ensure that they still accurately represent the content of the page and look compelling within the SERPs.

Optimise Your Page for Speed – Especially For Mobile!

If your website is slow to load, users are far more likely to give up waiting and go and find the answer to their query elsewhere.

Google’s own data shows that if a website takes up to 6 seconds to load, the chance of a user leaving after only viewing one page (bouncing) increases by more than 100%.

As well as providing a poor user experience, site speed is a ranking factor so you may find that your rankings suffer as a result of a slow loading time.

Here are some of the most common methods of speeding up your website loading time:

  • Use a high-quality hosting provider
  • Be careful with too many plugins or add-ons
  • Ensure your images are optimised
  • Use caching on your website
  • Embed videos rather than uploading them directly to the website
  • Compress your code
  • Consider using a content delivery network (CDN)

You can use tools including GT Metrix or Google Page Speed Insights to measure speed and receive suggestions to improve the loading time of your web pages. Be warned – It’s not for the faint hearted!

Optimise All Your Images

Image optimisation is an important on-page SEO and accessibility factor that is often overlooked by webmasters. Some glossy hero images may look great but if they’re are not optimised, the file size can be huge. That’s bad for speed, rankings and the planet, due to server load.

Ensuring your images are optimised can help improve your visibility in Google Images and can also benefit users on your website who are visually impaired. *Eh? Read on…

Here are a few actionable tips:

  • Name your images appropriately – Whilst this can be time consuming, naming your images in a way that’s descriptive and natural helps Google better understand the subject matter of the image.
  • Name your images appropriately – Whilst this can be time consuming, naming your images in a way that’s descriptive and natural helps Google better understand the subject matter of the image.
  • * Use alt text – The primary purpose of alt text is to help visually impaired users understand the subject matter of your images. However, alt text is also fundamental to ranking in Google Images. For best results, ensure that your alt texts are descriptive concise, and accurate.
  • Resize and compress your images – Large images can greatly slow down the loading time of your page. Before uploading, resize your images to fit the space they are filling and run them through an image compression tool to reduce their file size.
  • Bonus Tip – Use natural imagery where possible. Whilst there is no official Google recommendation on stock vs. natural imagery; it can help promote a more authentic user experience whilst ensuring your web page does not get flagged as duplicate.

Improve the On-Page User Experience

Ultimately, it is the user’s experience that matters most when you are creating a website. By ensuring that your website creates a good user experience, you are more likely to climb up the rankings.

If your content serves the user well, they are more likely to engage better – spending longer on your website and visiting further pages.

These signals indicate to Google that your website is meeting user intent and you will start to build stronger brand loyalty amongst visitors to the site.

Within your website, you can create a better experience for users by ensuring:

  • Content is structured in a way that’s easy to use
  • Content is broken up by clear and relevant headers
  • Video and imagery is used to enhance your page
  • The page does not feature any intrusive full-size ads or pop-ups
  • Clear and concise calls to action to help users explore further content
  • The layout of the page is designed with the user in mind
  • The page works well on whatever device the user is on
  • There are no broken links or images on the page
  • Every element of the page loads quickly

Page experience is becoming a more important factor to Google, as they look beyond the binary factors associated with basic SEO.

Of course, user experience is subjective, but in the latest development, Google is using Core Web Vitals to benchmark the quality of the page in terms of the experience it provides to the user.

This new set of measurements takes into account variables like how much the page moves as it loads, perceived load speed, and how elements respond when they interacted with.

On-Page SEO Methods To Avoid

In the SEO world, there are some methods of optimisation which are designed to deceive search engines into attaining higher rankings. It’s a quick fix that’ll soon break!

These are known as ‘black hat’ SEO methods and can result in ‘manual actions’ from Google on your website. These manual actions which are flagged in Google Search Console will significantly reduce or even completely eliminate the visibility of your website in SERPs until the issue is resolved.

If you come across or are recommended to implement any of the following black hat SEO methods, we highly advise that you ignore them:

  • Keyword cloaking – Deceptively adding hidden keywords to your pages.
  • Keyword Stuffing – Unnaturally filling your content with keywords you want to rank for.
  • Copying content – Finding and copying high ranking content to pass off as your own.
  • Guest posting networks – Allowing low quality reciprocal guest posts on your site.
  • Article spinning – Finding and loosely copying other articles to post on your site.
  • Doorway pages – Creating pages to rank for highly specific keywords.

On-Page SEO Tools

Did you get all that? As you can see there are many techniques that can be used to improve the overall optimisation of your web pages.

Thankfully, you won’t have to do it all alone as there are many tools that can be used for every on-page SEO technique mentioned in this post.

Our top picks of both free and paid tools to help improve the on-page SEO of your website include:

  • Keyword Research – Google Keyword Planner | SEM Rush | Ah Refs | Keyword Sheeter | Answer The Public
  • Title Tags and Meta Descriptions – Moz Title Tag Length Checker | SEO Mofo SERP Snippet Optimizer | Yoast SEO (WP) | SEO Mofo SERP Snippet Optimizer | Seo Powersuite
  • Internal and External Links – Sitebulb | Screaming Frog | SEM Rush | Ah Refs | Seo Powersuite
  • Header Tags – Web Accessibility Checker | Screaming Frog | SEM Rush Audit | Seo Powersuite
  • Image Optimisation – Image Optimisation Plugins (WP) | Canva | Image Compressor | Smushit
  • URL Optimisation – SEO Friendly URL Checker | SEM Rush Audit
  • Creating Great Content – HubSpot Blog Ideas Generator
  • User Experience – Google Mobile-Friendly Test | GT Metrix | Google Page Speed Insights | Fastest Cache (WP) | HotJar
  • Tracking Rankings and Traffic – Google Analytics | SEM Rush | Ah Refs | Google Search Console | Moz | Seo Powersuite

Need Help With Your On-Page SEO?

We hope this article has given you the knowledge you need to start optimising your website to rank higher in search engines and provide a high-quality user experience.

If you are looking for a great SEO company to help give your site a boost, we can help.

Get in touch with us today to arrange your free, no-obligation consultation.

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