If you are creating content with the intention to be help your audience solve its problems, you have already aced half the SEO game.
Add to it an optimized site, and you can attract even more traffic and aim for more conversions.
On-site SEO is how you do that. It is a fundamental part of your SEO efforts and involves various things like website speed, navigation, image optimizations, etc.
As a SaaS SEO and link-building agency, we constantly stay updated with on-site SEO factors and how changes in Google’s algorithms or other developments impact our SEO efforts. In this latest guide to on-site SEO, we’ll take you through everything from the basics to some pro-level stuff.
What We'll Cover:
What is on-site SEO?
On-site SEO (also called on-page SEO) is the process of optimizing your web page content and other elements, so they rank higher on search engines and get more search engine traffic.
In simple words, on-site search engine optimization means adjusting certain elements on your website so search engines like Google can crawl and understand your website better.
For example, Google looks at keywords and other cues to check if your page matches the searcher’s intent. If it decides that your page is helpful to the user’s query, it will rank higher in search results.
This on-site SEO is not limited to but consists of all the following areas:
- Optimizing title tags and structure
- Link building in terms of internal links
- Website speed and navigation
- Content of your website and web pages
What is the difference between on-site SEO and off-site SEO?
On-site SEO refers to anything you do on your website to impact your rankings. On the other hand, off-site SEO covers everything you do outside your site (or externally) to boost your rankings.
Some examples of off-site SEO include backlinks, PR, and social media.
One simple example of how these both can work together lies in content marketing. For example, you wrote a brilliant blog on “how to find keywords” and published it on your blog (on-site SEO). You can share this link on your social profiles and other third-party sites for more reach (off-site SEO).
While both of these strategies are important, on-site SEO gives you more control as you can directly impact all the factors on your website.
Why is on-site SEO important?
Gone are the days when creating great content helped win the audience’s attention. Along with human-friendly content, you need to create search-engine-friendly content.
This means using alt tags for your images, a proper heading structure, optimizing for user experience and dwell time, etc.
This is because search engine crawlers pay attention to these on-page signals while ranking pages. And the only way to rank higher is to help search engines easily crawl and index your pages.
That’s why on-site SEO becomes so crucial. You can’t compensate for a lack of keywords or poor design with great content. That’s just not how search engines work.
On-site page ranking factors
On-site SEO isn’t as challenging as it looks. Here are the most important on-site page ranking factors you must track regularly.
#1 Website content
Nothing plays a bigger role in your SEO and inbound marketing campaigns than the quality of your content. After all, it’s the reason why people come to your site.
Providing helpful guides, engaging and unique content in different formats, and making them understand the importance of your product or service is of utmost importance.
One way Google ranks your website is by weighing your site’s content on three factors: expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (better known as E-A-T)
They have also mentioned this concept of E-A-T almost 135 times in their 175 pages of Google Search Quality Guidelines.
You can even conduct competitor research to find out how unique their website content is and the content types they focus on. This will help you better understand what your target audience is looking for and how to inculcate the same to improve your on-site SEO efforts.
#2 Headline optimization and structuring
Search engines often place more importance on your headings than other text within your website.
John Mueller, Google’s search advocate himself, said, “When it comes to text on a page, a heading is a really strong signal telling us this part of the page is about this topic.”
They also give users a preview of the content they will read in an article or web page and make your content more readable and accessible.
Here are a few best practices you can follow:
- Know how to use H1, H2,... For example, H1 introduces the topic, H2 describes the main topics/sections your article will cover, and H3 to H6 works as additional subheadings to each section.
- Break up big blocks of text with your subheadings. A scannable article provides a good user experience and also becomes easily scannable by search engines.
- Use keywords in your header tags. As Google pays attention to these headers, it’s a great idea to use these header tags to give more context to your article. Just don’t be spammy.
- Be consistent with your header tags. If you use the title case format for one heading, stick to the same for all headings.
#3 Internal links
Internal links are hyperlinks that point to different pages on the same domain. For example, the link “Benefits of our tool” on the pricing page is an internal link.
These links help search engines find, index and understand the different pages on your website.
Backed by a strategy, these internal links can also send page authority to important pages.
They also help establish an information hierarchy for your website and allow users to navigate different sections easily.
One way to gain equitable ranking for your sites is by using a tool like Ahrefs to find the best-performing pages on your site.
You can link from those pages to the pages you want to rank most. Make sure you use keyword-rich anchor text but be careful not to have all your anchor text look the same.
With this, you’re good to go.
#4 Page speed
Page speed is an important factor for SEO as well as conversions.
According to a survey, 1 in 4 visitors would abandon a website if it takes more than 4 seconds to load.
Not only that, this slow speed impacts your search engine ranking as well. Google has also confessed this by adding the signal to their search ranking algorithms.
This minimum speed that your website should target keeps on changing, so it’s a good idea to track it regularly and optimize your pages to load faster.
You can even use various tools, such as Google’s free Page Speed Insights tool, to get an overall performance score for your website and understand what actions you can take for further improvement.
When eBay made certain cuts and improved above-the-fold content, their pages loaded 12% faster, resulting in a 0.5% increase in “Add to cart.”
#5 Image optimizations
The era of all-text is gone. Whether it’s your website or your blog, you need to use images to engage your readers.
You must also optimize these images further to strengthen your on-site SEO.
Adding images to your content also increases your chances of ranking in Google images, which accounts for 22.6% of all searches.
Here are a few ways to optimize your images:
- Ensure your images are mobile-friendly.
- Give every image on your site a descriptive filename and alt text. This helps Google and visually impaired readers understand what the image is about.
- Use keywords in your alt text and filenames.
- Choose the right file size and format so that it loads faster. You can even use lazy loading that signals the web browser not to load the images until the user scrolls to them.
How to optimize your page?
Here are ten steps to optimize your page and strengthen your on-site SEO.
#1 Write unique and SEO-optimized content
This is one of the most important on-page SEO steps you must take to bring more readers to your website and influence your overall search ranking.
You can start this step by performing keyword research to identify topics and keywords you should rank for.
For this, you can use a tool like Ahrefs. Enter some seed keywords in the Ahrefs Keywords Explorer tool, and you’ll get a list of other keyword ideas.
You can filter these keywords based on search volume, keyword difficulty, and relevancy.
Once you have narrowed the relevant keywords, you can create content around them. Ensure you align your content with the search intent for that particular keyword.
Here are some other best practices for your content and keyword strategy:
- Use your target keyword in the first 100 words of your content. Google places more weight on terms that show up early on the page. For example, look at how we used the term “SaaS sales funnel” in the introduction itself for this article.
- Keep the keyword frequency in mind. If you use your target keyword too less, Google may have difficulty understanding what your page is about. Ensure that you use it more times, but it shouldn’t cross the limits to seem like keyword stuffing.
- Use unique content that your competitors are not offering. This could be in the form of unique examples or case studies.
- Use external links. While it may not directly impact your rankings, if you can provide value to your users, it’s an advantage you shouldn’t miss out on.
#2 Optimize your URLs
We can easily call URLs the foundation of any website, and optimizing them can increase your website traffic.
This optimized URL performs much better in a Google search, becomes easier for the audience to share, and looks more trustworthy.
While it’s an underrated part of on-site SEO, these URLs get displayed above the title tag and thus can’t be ignored.
Search engines like Google recommend using simple URLs that don’t look complicated or intimidating. This means eliminating any unwanted text or numbers in your URLs and instead sticking to a short URL with words relevant to the content.
For example, look at how we create simple URLs for our articles.
Our URL for the guide to SEO ROI is optimized for the target keyword and isn’t too wordy.
This also makes our URL relevant to the content and gives another signal to search engines about the targeted keyword in our content. This helps them match our content with relevant search queries.
#3 Optimize title tags
In a YouTube video, Google’s John Mueller said, “One of the things I think is worthwhile to keep in mind is we do use titles as a tiny factor in our rankings as well.”
But what exactly is a title tag?
A title tag is a piece of HTML code that indicates what the title of your content or webpage is. It displays that title in search engines, social media posts, and browser tabs. It also acts as an influencing factor in whether a user will decide to click on that page.
It looks like this on a SERP (Search Engine Results Page).
Here are four tips you can use while creating title tags:
- Have your targeted keyword in the title tag. This gives search engines an overview of what your page is, and they can direct relevant users to that page.
- Don’t make it too long. Aim for your title tag between 50 to 60 characters, so it doesn’t get cut on the SERP.
- Avoid duplicate title tags. Having unique title tags lets Google know the purpose of each individual page
- Use modifiers like “best,” “free,” “guide,” and “checklist” to help you rank for long-tail versions of your target keyword. It also helps you rank when people search for terms like “best growth hacking agencies” or “best growth hacking practices.”
#4 Write engaging meta descriptions
A meta description appears below your title tag and provides a more in-depth description than your title.
Here’s what it looks like on a SERP.
While these descriptions may not directly impact your rankings, Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide states, "Adding description meta tags to each of your pages is always a good practice.”
It can also be a deciding factor between a user clicking on your link instead of another link.
Here are some best practices you can use to increase the probability of Google using your chosen meta description for ranking:
- Include your targeted keyword at least once in the meta description because Google bolds the terms that match the searcher’s query. This can help you boost clicks and stand out visually.
- Create meta descriptions that work well on mobile devices. For example, you can only see meta descriptions on mobile devices up to 120 characters. The rest gets cut off by Google.
- Use active voice as it can help you showcase your message more clearly and even saves space.
You can even use Ahrefs site audit tool to see if any of your pages have duplicate meta descriptions and correct them.
#5 Optimize for user engagement
One way Google ranks a page higher is because users spend more time on that page. If users leave for another website or content, it’s a sign to Google that there’s something wrong with the current page.
We have all heard of terms like bounce rate and dwell time. But does Google really consider all of this?
Yes, they do. They use interaction data to determine whether a search result is relevant to the query searcher has typed.
This data helps Google understand the relevancy of each page via machine learning.
So, how can you engage your users and make them stay on your page longer? Here are a few strategies that you can try using:
- Make your content easily skimmable and readable. For example, don’t use long paragraphs. Instead, break it into small bits, or you can even use bullets, as we have used in this article on content marketing.
- Provide users with what they want right at the start of your webpage (above-the-fold content). This addresses the user’s query immediately, and they can further go into more detail about it.
- Make use of visuals to engage your users. You can even use infographics to support your arguments. Here’s how we use relevant visuals for our articles.
#6 Optimize page speed
We already know that page speed is an important factor in improvising your on-page SEO efforts.
The Google Page Speed Insights tool assesses core web vitals that impact page experience. These factors are:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Denotes the amount of time the main piece of content will take to load
- First Input Delay (FID): Denotes the amount of time your website will take to respond to the first user interaction (like click on a button)
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Denotes the amount your webpage will shift as more content loads
Here’s how you can use this tool:
- Enter your URL in the tool and click on the Analyze button
- A report like the one given below will be generated.
- You can scroll to see the “Diagnostics” section showing the list of errors slowing your site.
- You can even find improvements to make in their “Opportunities” section.
Other best practices to increase page speed are:
- Reduce white space in coding
- Reduce the file size of your images
- Reduce the number of redirects on your site
- Leverage browser caches
- Use a Content Distribution Network (CDN)
#7 Add schema markup
Schema markup is one of the most powerful but least-utilized aspects of on-page SEO. It allows search engines to understand your page better.
Schema markup is essentially a code that is added to a page to communicate the page topic better. This helps search engines rank your page for relevant queries.
Google can pull more data if you use schema markup, which can even result in rich snippets. It looks like this:
It not only gives your webpage more visibility and prominence in the SERP but can also result in increased CTR (Click Through Rate).
To get started with schema markup SEO, you’ll have to add different tags to your site’s HTML. Some of the important tags you can get started with are:
- itemscope specifies that the HTML within the <div> block is about a particular item
- itemtype specifies what that item is (book or video)
- itemprop gives additional information about that item (author or actor)
There are many interesting ways schema markup can be used. Let’s take a look at some of those examples.
- You can get a knowledge panel or knowledge graph on Google using schema markup. This is a box that highlights all the important pages of your website.
- You can use schema on your FAQ pages to get a rich result on SERP. This result will include answers to commonly searched questions about a searcher’s query.
- Using schema markup for your product page, you can show ratings, reviews, and even prices on the SERP.
#8 Optimize for CTR
Click through rate is the percentage of people that click on a search engine result.
This rate can be an important Google ranking factor. When people visit URLs frequently, the search engine algorithm considers your page valuable and relevant for certain keywords.
Moreover, by optimizing this rate, you can increase traffic to your site.
Below are five simple ways you can optimize for CTR:
- Use “Question” title tags. According to an analysis of 5 million Google search results by Backlinko, question-based title tags had an above-average CTR.
- Use visuals in your web pages. These visuals are an important part of your content appearing in featured snippets.
- Simplify your title format. You can even add your brand name at the end if you hold authority in your niche. This can encourage visitors to click on your link. Look at how HubSpot does this.
- Use the listicle format. Not only does it become easy for readers, but you can increase the probability of getting ranked in the featured snippets section.
- Leverage Google analytics reports. You can see which pages generate the most results and find out how to optimize your other pages to improve CTR.
#9 Incorporate responsive design
Today, mobile accounts for almost 60% of website traffic. This means your audience is accessing your website through multiple devices and not just desktops.
In this scenario, imagine you provide a desktop version of the website for mobile devices too. The user will have to zoom in and out, they won’t be able to navigate easily, and your images may appear too large or too small.
To create a positive experience on all devices and do on-site SEO correctly, you must incorporate responsive design for your website.
This helps your users interact with your website seamlessly for longer periods.
Here are some best practices for incorporating responsive design:
- Define appropriate responsive breakpoints. Often called CSS breakpoints, these are points defined in the code. With them in place, website content aligns with the screen size and facilitates visual consumption.
- Take touchscreens into consideration. For example, here’s one navigation rule you should keep in mind. It's called the thumb zone. Think about putting the most commonly used buttons within the natural thumb zone.
- Responsive websites need responsive fonts. Your typography should adjust to the screen size and be easily readable on multiple devices.
- Test responsiveness on multiple devices. We often miss out on this point and assume that our websites are responsive. But testing them and finding the finer details you might have missed is important.
#10 Target featured snippets
A featured snippet is what you see on the top of SERP when you type in a query.
Because they appear at the top (position zero), even before the first search result, it helps you boost your CTR and enhance your on-page SEO efforts.
The different forms of featured snippets include definitions, videos, lists, tables, etc.
The catch is that the featured snippet almost always comes from the top 10 results. This means you can shortcut your way into the top 10 by winning a featured snippet.
To find opportunities, you can use Ahrefs’ Site Explorer tool. Enter your site and filter for the top 10 rankings where you don’t own the snippet.
You can then check the featured snippet for that particular keyword and see how you can beat that.
Understanding the search intent and formatting the answer accordingly is important to get your business in “position zero.”
With the right onsite SEO strategies, you can create a better website for your audience and keep them engaged on your website for longer periods. You can even provide a better customer experience and get your audience to know your products and services in a better way.
Additionally, on-page SEO helps you demonstrate your value to search engines and improve your rankings.
With these two goals, you can start seeing results on your bottom-line metrics.
To understand how our team at MADX can help you optimize your on-page SEO efforts, reach out to us today.