A Comprehensive Guide To On-Page SEO in 2021
Succeeding in your race to the top spots of the SERPs (search engine results pages) requires optimizing for a combination of the three core aspects of SEO, which are on-page, off-page and technical SEO.
However, recent trends have revealed that many webmasters, including some SEO professionals focus more on the off-page technique, such as link building and other technical optimization while neglecting on page SEO.
But the truth is, your off-page SEO efforts may not yield much results if you don’t pay attention to the fundamentals – on page SEO. Interestingly, on page SEO is not as herculean as you might have imagined and could prove to be highly effective if done right.
In this post, you will learn what on-page SEO is, why it is important and proven strategies you can start implementing now to improve your website’s ranking and visibility on search engines like Google.
What is On-Page SEO?
On-page SEO, also known as on-site SEO, is the practice of optimizing your web page content in order to gain higher ranking and earn more visibility in search engines. On-page SEO has evolved over the years; therefore, it’s important to keep up with the latest practices to get the most of your organic search campaign.
The common on-page SEO practice involves everything that’s visible to humans and search engines from content and HTML source codes to internal links and title tags.
While individuals may have different approaches to on-page SEO, the general objective is to make it easy for search engines to understand what each page on your website is talking about and then rank them for your target keywords.
Why Is On-Page SEO Important?
When search engines crawl your website, it takes note of everything from your content to your alt tags to understand what each page is talking about as well as identify whether the content is relevant to a searcher’s query.
Search engines use highly sophisticated algorithms that enable them to spot relevance and semantics in SERPs. Google, for example, with its complex algorithms, is able to understand what users are searching for and then return results that match user intent.
The search engine can tell whether the user is simply looking for information (informational search) or already at the point of making a purchase (transactional search).
To rank higher in the search engine, you must ensure that your website and its content, including your HTML tags, structured data are properly optimized in line with the best on-page SEO practices.
Create Unique Content
Content is one of the fundamentals of on-page SEO. For your website to stand out among the competition, you need to normalize creating and publishing high quality content. But what exactly is unique content?
Unique content is any form of content that adds high value or brings something new and helpful to the searchers. This could be a comprehensive report about an event, a “how-to” article, a case study, a collection of new tips or strategies, a step-by-step guide and more.
High quality content often indicates Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness (EAT) which are important ranking signals in Google’s algorithm. Google rewards sites that publish high-quality content with better ranking while sites with low-quality content get less visibility in the SERPs.
Here’s a simple guideline to follow to create valuable content that searchers want to read:
Create content putting customers’ needs in mind
Add details such as images, screenshots or graphical illustrations to make it easy for users to easily understand and digest your content
Create expertly written content
Share real time experiences that are relevant to the subject matter of your content
Always update your content to incorporate the latest trends and developments in your industry
Use Your Target Keywords Within The First Two Paragraphs
Based on rule of thumb, you are expected to use your primary keywords in the first 100 words or within the first two paragraphs of your content. Although this is an old school on-page SEO tactic, it still works and can make a difference in your efforts to rank in search engines. For example, if your article is talking about the “best SEO tools in 2021”, you need to make sure that the keyword is naturally used earlier enough in the opening part of your content.
Choose the Right Headings
Headings are used based on need and not just for decorative purposes. Headings help Google understand the structure of the pages on your website. Blog post titles are traditionally wrapped in H1 tags while subheadings take H2 tags.
Content management systems like WordPress automatically add the H1 tag to your blog post title. So, if you use a WordPress website, you may not need to worry over checking your H1 tags manually. But it’s safer to double check. You can do this by checking your website’s code to ensure your title is cast in an H1. Also, you should make sure that your keyword is included in the H1 tag.
Please note that H1 tag can only be used once per page to avoid creating confusion for search engines.
Add Internal links
Internal links refer to any links from one page of a domain linked to another page within the same domain. When you link to other pages on your website, you make it easy for search engine crawlers to understand what your page or blog post is talking about.
Internal linking is crucial to any on-page optimization as it helps to establish site architecture and spread the link equity (also known as link juice) to other pages on your site. Additionally, effective internal linking enables visitors to navigate your site quickly and intuitively.
A page that internally links to relevant pages points visitors to many helpful resources and enhances their user experience. Although there’s no right or wrong amount of internal links that can be added to a page, it’s best to link only when it’s necessary. Thus the expression, “think before you link”.
Optimize Images for SEO
Images are important to ensuring that your web content is more engaging, attractive and accessible to users. They also have a lot of benefits in terms of SEO. First, images provide important contextual information about your content to search engines. Second, optimized content enhances page load speed, which improves user experience and increases search engine ranking.
Google recently announced in its latest ranking updates dubbed as Core Web Vitals that it will now start using page speed as a ranking signal. However, mages that are not optimized can slow down your page speed. You can improve page load time by compressing heavy images.
Although there are many ways to compress images, some of the options include image sizing, “save for web” or by using compression tools like JPEG Optimizer, Optimizilla or Kraken.io. You can experiment with different options to decide which one works best for you.
Another way to optimize your images to improve page speed is by picking the right file format. JPEG, PNG and GIF are some of the popular formats and each has its benefits and context where they’re most appropriate. For example, JPEG is ideal for images with lots of color while GIF is best used for images that require animation.
Adding alt text
Alt text or alternative text is a strategy used to increase web accessibility to your content and provides clues to search engines about what each image represents. A good alt text provides context and helps those who are visually impaired to understand what each image means.
Even when images are not loading, probably because of a system glitch or bad network, search engines can still read the alt tags to rank your page. Make sure you include your target keyword or brand-relevant words in the alt tag to boost visibility. Also, ensure that your alt description reads naturally for people, and avoid keyword stuffing.
Use the Right Anchor Text
Anchor text is extremely important to SEO, as it indicates to Google what a page is about. Anchor text is that clickable portion of the text with which you link to pages. According to Google, anchor texts are a ranking signal. It sends a signal to the search engine about the content of the destination page.
For example, if you link to a page on your website using the anchor text “SEO tools”, it’s a good indicator to Google that the destination page is talking about an SEO page. While anchor texts are truly relevant to ranking on search engines, you need to use them with great caution.
Google frowns at people trying to manipulate a page’s ranking by using exact, keyword-stuffed anchor text. It’s best to use anchor text naturally. Likewise, not using anchor texts or using generic anchor text such as “click here” is considered an unhealthy SEO practice.
Create Search Engine Friendly Title tags
A web page’s title tag is an HTML element that shows the title of a particular page. Title tags are displayed on SERPs as the clickable headline or title for a particular query and are crucial to user experience, SEO and social sharing.
When creating a title tag, it’s best to make it as accurate and descriptive as you can. It’s equally important to make sure that the title tag is directly related to the page’s content.
A code sample of a meta tag can be found below:
While it is quite common to see people use the same H1 and title tag, this is not the best practice and should be banished from your SEO tactics if you really want to succeed in organic search. Your title tag is your customers’ first experience or impression with your website. It determines whether or not someone will click on your link.
That said, you need to make it as descriptive, and relevant as you can. Additionally, your title tag should contain your important keywords, and avoid keyword stuffing to prevent Google from using another title, which might be totally unrelated to your content.
Like title tags, meta descriptions are HTML elements that describe the content of a page and it’s also displayed on SERPs. Although Google says meta descriptions are not a ranking factor, meta descriptions if well written, can increase click through rate.
For example, an engaging description that coherently articulates the benefits of a post will likely encourage searchers to click on your link while a poorly written description has just the opposite outcome.
Meta description is cocooned in the head tag, and looks like this:
How to write an effective meta description
Ensure that the description is relevant to the content of your page. In other words, the meta description should summarize the key concepts and what the users will benefit by clicking on the page.
Keep the length moderate. Search engines tend to truncate meta descriptions that are too long to about 155 characters. Therefore, it’s best to leave your meta description between 150 – 200 characters in length to avoid Google cutting out some important portion of your description.
If you provide a service, you can include your contact details such as your phone number and email in the meta description.
Optimize Your URLs for SEO
Your URL is more than a mere link, it’s a vital property that can be used to boost your on-page SEO. Although there’s not clear indication that a particular type of URL leads to increased ranking, there’s abundant evidence that short, descriptive and keyword-rich URLs are more likely to result in higher click through rate. On the contrary, if your URL is excessively long and confusing, there are chances people will not take interest in the page.
There’s no fixed formula to creating an acceptable URL structure, but there’s a guideline that, if followed, can help you come up with SEO-friendly URLs that searchers will like to click on. Some of the tips include:
Try to maintain short URLs
Include target keywords in your URLs
Use hyphens in-between instead of using underscore
Use lower case letters throughout
Avoid the use of symbols or uncommon characters
Optimize for Voice Search
Although voice search has been introduced by Google since 2011, its popularity in the last three years has grown tremendously. Not only does voice search increase your ranking in SERPs, it enhances user experience.
According to recent voice search statistics, more than 41% of adults in the United States use voice search at least once per day.
Studies have also indicated more than half of all smartphone users will engage with voice search on their device in 2021.
Here are some of the top tips for optimizing for search voice: