On-Page SEO: The Ultimate Guide With Actionable Checklist
Once upon a time, On-Page SEO was blogger's bread and butter.
The idea was simple, use as many as targeted keywords as possible within the content, meta tags etc. and with few backlinks, your content will rank number one on Google search rankings, and you will get tons of traffic.
And It was true.... for a while.
Now here is an interesting question....
If you publish a post stuffed with keywords now in 2018. Will it rank number one on Google?
The answer is no. Absolutely NOT!
On-Page SEO has completely changed.
Now keyword stuffing is considered as a negative SEO tactic. And you can't manipulate search engines ranking just by stuffing keyword in your content, in title tags or in meta tags.
Now on page optimization is more than just optimizing your content around a specific targeted keyword.
But despite this, many SEO tools as well articles on the web still feed this concept of keyword density (especially to the newbies).
Their site gets penalized by Google and they never rank for their targeted keyword just because of this negative SEO tactic.
The good news?
On-Page SEO is not a rocket science. In fact, you just need to follow some really simple techniques and your On-Page SEO will be rock solid in no-time.
So today, In this guide, you will learn latest on-page SEO techniques that will boost your rankings and improve your search traffic as well.
Bonus: Check here to download a free checklist that will show you how to quickly leverage these strategies.
16+ On-Page SEO Techniques You Need For Better Ranking
Boost Site Speed
I probably don't need to tell you that site loading speed is Huge.
In fact, Google has confirmed that page loading speed is one of the most important SEO ranking signal.
Not only site loading time affects search engine ranking but most importantly user experience and ultimately conversions as well.
According to a recent research, it was found out that almost 47% of users expect your site to load within two seconds. And about 57% of the visitors will abandon your site if it's loads time is 3 seconds or more.
Wait there's more..
In another survey, it was found out that about 67% of U.K and more than half of U.S online shoppers won't buy if the site loads slowly.
A very popular study by Aberdeen Group found that "a one second delay in page load time results in 11% fewer page views and 7% decrease in conversions."
Today, SEO revolves around the user. So, it's easy to figure out why Google uses site loading speed as a ranking signal.
Now check the results:
If your website takes more than 3 secs to load then you need to increase your site speed. Today, site speed is considered to be one of the most important on-page SEO techniques.
SEO Friendly URLs
Your blog post URL is an important factor when it comes to on-page optimization.
Apart from the post title and description, the URL is meant to tell what your page is about to the users as well as Google alike.
Matt Cutts in an interview has stated that Google gives more weight to the first 3-5 words in a URL.
Another study by Ahrefs also found out that short URL tends to rank better than longer URL.
So, make your URL short.
In other words:
Avoid long and ugly URLs.
While writing your URL, Brent Carnduff recommends that your words should be separated by a hyphen (-) not underscores (_).
Furthermore, there is one more point I need to make...
Always include your targeted keyword in the URL. This not only makes your URL short but also optimizes it for SEO.
The permalink (URL) of this post could have been: www.broughtmeup.com/25/5/17/cat=SEO/on-page-seo-the-complete-guide-you-should-follow.
But instead the actual URL is:
Now you can clearly see how I made the URL of this post super short and targeted.
So, if you are using long URL, then it's good time to revisit your URL structure. Make your URLs short and see the difference in your rankings.
This on-page SEO technique takes less than a minute to implement.
Begin Title With Keyword
When it comes to on-page optimization, the title tag is considered the most important on-page SEO factor.
It's obvious. Isn't it?
Because your title tag shows what your article is all about.
For optimizing your Title tag, make sure your title tag is between 50-65 characters (including spaces).
If your title exceeds 60 characters, then your full Title will not be displayed. In fact, Google will only show the first 50-60 characters only. Therefore, you don't want your title in the search results to look something like this:
First of all, go to Moz's title preview tool and enter your intended Title and then, click on "Check" to check how your title will be displayed in Google search results.
The result will be like:
Most importantly, include your targeted keyword only once in your title.
Try to include your targeted keyword or phrase at the beginning of your Title Tag.
For example, you can see how two of the most popular bloggers Neil Patel and Brain Dean, optimizes their Title tag by beginning with their targeted keyword "link building".
According to Moz, keywords closer to the beginning of title tag have more impact on search results.
In fact, a usability study shows that people tend to scan as few as first two words of the headline.
So, the bottom line is:
The Title tag is not only crucial for SEO but also for better user experience too.
Front loading your title with the keyword not only helps to rank your better in Google search results but they also optimize your Title tag for clicks (another ranking signal), as a result increasing your search traffic.
One more thing:
Don't include your keyword more than once in your title tag. Try to make your title meaningful.
Finally, never stuff keywords in your title tag because doing it, will lead to Google penalizing you and as a result, your ranking will drop.
Add Modifiers To Your Title
If you want to exploit the full potential of your target keyword, then simply adding modifiers to your blog post title will do it.
Using modifiers like "best", "review", "guide", "cheap", "offers", "2018" etc can help you rank for long tail variations of your target keyword.
Wait there's more:
Modifiers also help to increase CTR (which is a very important ranking factor), so indirectly will help you to rank better and higher in search results.
Wrap Your Title in H1 Tag
H1 tag helps the search engine crawlers to understand your content better.
So, it's recommended to wrap your keyword or long tail phrase in your H1 tag for search engine optimization.
The point is:
If you can help Google understand what your content is about. Then why leave out the opportunity?
So use a keyword, in fact, a long-term keyword.
Most CMS's like WordPress automatically add the h1 tag to your blog post title. In that case, you are all set.
But sometimes, some themes can override these settings, resulting in no h1 tag at all.
You can easily check if your page has an h1 tag. To do this, simply right click on the page and select "View page source".
Now press CTRL+F and search for "h1" and if you find one, then you are all set.
It's important not to have more than one H1 tag for a single blog post.
Because as I told you earlier Google looks for H1 tags to know what your blog post is all about.
And if you add multiple H1 tags with your different targeted keyword, then Google will not be able to understand your page context properly.
Google can view this as a case of "Keyword stuffing" which is, of course, a negative SEO strategy.
Want to know the best part?
Your H1 heading tag can also indirectly affect your other ranking factor i.e user intent which is a very crucial factor for on-page optimization in 2017.
According to Mark Purtell from SEJ, In order to have some great, Hummingbird-optimized tags, try to understand what a user may be asking when they are searching for a keyword the page is targeting and format the question on the page with h1 tags.
Whenever you write a piece of content, you want to be asking the question what the user wants when they open my article? What's their intent?
According to Neil:
Your h1 should satisfy that intent.
Google search spider can't read images, so they rely on the alt text to know what the image is about.
Descriptive alt tags help you to rank better in Google image searches. Here is what Rand Fishkin has to say about it.
So it's better to implement this on-page search optimization technique and use keywords into your images' alt text.
According to Ahrefs. there is a small correlation between images with keywords and the ranking.
This might be very small but if 10 sec of work can help you rank better. Then why not?
Here the kicker:
Images also increase engagements. They boost user interaction signals that Google has paid more and more attention to.
As always, remember not to stuff keywords in alt tags.
A non-optimized image will increase your page loading speed (a ranking signal). And as a result, your ranking will drop.
Publish Long Form Of Content
Longer content generally ranks higher in Google.
This correlation between long-form content and ranking was confirmed by serpIQ, who analyzed the top 10 search results and noticed that longer content ranks significantly rank higher in Google search results.
They found out that average content length that ranks in the top 10 is at least 2,000 words.
A more recent study by Backlinko found out that:
The average word count of the Google first page is about 1,890 words.
The best part:
Posting longer content not only helps in ranking higher in search results but they generate more engagements, links, and conversions than the shorter content.
Just look at the data by Moz showing the impact of content length on total shares and backlinks.
In fact, latest Google Fred update cracked down the sites with thin content or content which is very less valuable to the users.
Here's the bottom line:
Long form content outranks short form content.
Make sure your long-form content is valuable to the users. Try to write data-driven content.
Outbound Links (aka External links or Outgoing links) are the links that point out to some other's site from your site.
Using outbound links is one of the simplest white hat SEO strategies.
Outbound links to related pages help the search engine to understand your page's topic. This will help Google understand that your page is a hub of real quality information.
But despite this....
Few sites effectively leverage this search engine optimization technique.
They think outbound links hurt SEO.
Well, they are right.
Actually, it depends.
It depends on who you are linking to. Outbound links can positively influence your rankings if you link out to relevant high authority websites, blogs, etc.
Whereas outbound linking can hurt SEO when you link to irrelevant and low-quality websites.
Any irrelevant or low-quality links should be removed or no-followed.
The bottom line is :
Linking to high authority websites helps in on-page SEO. It will help you to rank higher in Google.
Some people also don't outlink because:
They don't want to pass link juice to the other sites. And more importantly, they don't want to send traffic away from their website.
Well, this is quite understandable but it is not a good idea.
Because, in a study by Reboot, it was confirmed that there is positive correlation between outbound links and search rankings.
According to the study, Google can determine the authority of a page based on what authority sources it associates itself with.
The same correlation between outbound links and higher ranking was again confirmed by Ahrefs.
So make sure to link out to authority site whenever possible. Make your content super informational and valuable to the user.
Let's face it. If you are not interlinking then you're missing out a lot. Internal links aka Inbound links are the links that point to another page on the same website.
Internal links make your site easy to navigate and easy for Google to crawl.
And more importantly, internal linking helps you to pass link juice to other pages on your website.
So, add internal links to your relevant and high ranking older articles when you publish a new one.
This way, Internal links also helps in driving traffic to your older posts.
The best example of internal linking is of Wikipedia.
But don't try to add as much as internal links as they did unless you are Wikipedia.
Make sure your internal links are relevant and necessary to boost your on-page SEO strategy.
Boost Social Signals
Over the past seven years or so, one of the most debated topic is whether (or how ) social media signals affect organic search rankings or not.
Though Google has made it clear that they treat social media pages similar to any other web page.
In 2014, Matt Cutts while answering a question said that Facebook and Twitter signals are not a part of ranking algorithms. He clarified that Google algorithm doesn't look how many followers and likes someone has on Twitter or Facebook.
In this infographic by Quicksprout, you will clearly see a strong correlation between the social signals and higher rankings.
And In 2016, Cognitive SEO analyzed over 23 million social shares to check if there's any correlation between social signals and higher rankings.
And they found that:
A Strong presence on social media correlates with higher rankings.
Higher social engagement also correlates with better ranking.
The bottom line is :
Though social signals are not a ranking factor. But there is some correlation between social signals and higher rankings.
So if social signals are not part of ranking algorithms, then why high share counts for higher search engine rankings?
Larry Kim brilliantly explained this correlation, according to him, the social signals and higher rankings are related but not the way we think.
Founder, MobileMonkey & WordStream
Social signals is not a direct ranking factor but an indirect one. It's not the shares that matter, it's social engagement.
It's about the percentage of total unique people saw your post and clicked on it and/or shared it. In simple terms, it's about how engaging your content is.
The social post with high engagement rates tends to rank higher in search results.
Apart from SEO, Social media also help you to build your brand and get tons of traffic from various social media platforms.
The best part is:
When more people see your content, the chances of someone linking to your content is more.
BrightEdge found out that prominent social sharing buttons increase sharing activity by up to 700%.
After analyzing 50 of the most popular websites, Webaholic found that Facebook and Twitter are the most widely used social media buttons on the web with LinkedIn and Google+ showing strong results.
In another similar study, TrackMaven revealed that 38.6% of social shares were on Twitter and 60.3% on Facebook.
So, you can use any social media buttons based on your referral traffic but by looking at the studies, Facebook and Twitter is one safe bet.
The point is:
Don't overload your website with lots and lots of social sharing buttons. Search Engine Journal pointed out why having too many buttons is a bad idea.
If you are using WordPress, then you have tons of really excellent plugins to add social media sharing buttons.
Sprinkle LSI Keywords
LSI stands for Latent Semantic Indexing. In simple language, LSI is nothing but SEO term for keywords that are semantically related to your target keyword.
You probably have heard a lot about LSI keywords lately, because due to Google hummingbird update now, search is driven more by intent than exact match keywords and Google became a lot better at recognizing synonyms and related keywords.
Now search engine bots instead of taking highest density keyword into consideration look for related keywords or synonyms throughout your article.
LSI keyword helps Google determine the relevancy of your content.
Fortunately, it's easy to find LSI keywords for any keyword.
Just search for your target keyword in the Google and scroll down to the bottom of the page where it says "Searches related to..."
You can also use Google Autocomplete for LSI keywords.
LSIgraph.com is another great tool to search LSI keywords for your primary keyword. Just plug in your primary keyword and click on generate.
Now you have your LSI keywords with you. It's time to sprinkle these keywords across your entire article. Make sure it sounds natural. It will be useless if you stuff these LSI keywords, not only it seems spammy but LSI keyword will lose all it's relevancy.
The bottom line is Don't include LSI keywords just for the sake of it. Make sure it sounds natural.
Improve UX And Content Readability
After Google Hummingbird update, Google is gets a lot better at recognizing synonyms. This has certainly given a brand new dimension to the SEO. Now, SEO revolves around the user. Now, User Experience is the new SEO.
And readability is one the many user behavioral signals that Google uses for ranking.
Readability in simple terms is a measure of how easy it is for someone to read and understand your content.
Apart from one cryptic tweet by Google's Gary Illyes, Google has not yet confirmed readability as a direct ranking signal.
But it has been affecting SEO indirectly and it seems to have some correlation with User Experience.
In a research on how people read websites, it was found out that Concise and scannable writing style accounts for 124% better usability.
The bottom line is:
higher readability = higher rankings.
So, readability plays a very important role in enhancing the usability of your website by reducing the bounce rate and boosting audience retention. And as a result, boosts your on-page SEO and ultimately search rankings as well.
Remember "Keep it Simple".
Audit Broken Links
Broken links impact on rankings has to do with user experience ( Not again 😉 ).
Broken links destroy user experience, increase bounce rate, lower conversions and ultimately a demanding relationship with Google.
If you have broken links across your site then this signals Google that the site is poorly maintained.
These links tell Google that visitors will have poor experience while browsing your site because they are more likely to encounter broken pages.
According to Ahrefs, Google seems to demote pages in the search rankings which had broken links.
So it's recommended to audit your site links.
Boost Dwell Time
Dwell Time is considered by many to be a mysterious ranking signal. But as always Google is tight-lipped over dwell time as a ranking signal.
Dwell time is the amount of time that elapses between the moment a user clicks a particular result in the search results and subsequently returns back to them (search results).
In simple terms, dwell time is the time spent on the particular webpage.
More the dwell time more the chances of you to rank higher in Google results.
Using multimedia, writing engaging content helps in boosting dwell time and send strong behavioral signals to the Google which does correlate with higher Google rankings.
Using multimedia not only boost user engagement but only increase the content value and provides a better user experience which is also only of the most important search engine ranking signals.
Boost CTR With Meta Description
There is no doubt that Google uses long click to rank any page in search results and of course you should make the most of it. One the simplest yet very effective technique is by writing a well-optimized meta description.
While meta description is not a direct ranking factor but it greatly impacts your search engine rankings.
By writing well-optimized meta description, you are not only optimizing it for search engines but also for your users too.
A well-optimized meta description boost your CTR, which is again a very important ranking factor.
Along with your title, it's your meta description which tells more about your content to the user.
I am sure you might have seen the bolded keywords in search results. You can clearly see the same in above screenshot, this is the reason why you should adding meta description and using your targeted keyword in the meta description.
So if you are neglecting meta description you are missing out on a lot...
Well, this needs no introduction and probably no explanation as to why your website should be responsive.
Back in April 2015, Google has started considering mobile friendliness as a ranking factor making easier for the users to get relevant and high-quality results optimized for their devices.
This won't affect your desktop traffic. But will surely affect your traffic from the smaller screen like mobile phones and tablets traffic.
And considering the addiction of people to their smartphones and apparently, the rise of mobile searches as Search Engine Land reported that almost 60 percent of the searches are now from mobile devices. And the number is on the rise.
Will it be wise to ignore the impact of having a responsive website can have on your website traffic?
The bottom line:
Make your website mobile friendly and unleash your mobile search traffic.
You can make use of Google's Official Tool to check if your website is mobile friendly or not.
If you website is not mobile friendly here are few tips to make your website mobile friendly.
Bonus On-Page SEO Techniques
Give your Post the Best chance you can
No doubt, Backlinks are still the number one search engine ranking signal.
To actually rank your content for a target keyword your On-Page SEO need to be perfect. So try to implement these On-Page SEO optimization techniques.
Feel free to use On-Page SEO checklist to put these strategies into actions for your website.
Use these techniques and keep you updated with latest SEO techniques.
And If you have any question, please do let me know.
Well, that was fun!
See you in the comment section. 😉