The On-Page SEO Cheat Sheet
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a strategy that is focused on ranking as high as possible on the search engine results page (SERP). In order to achieve this, you have to design and develop a website that Google’s algorithms will rank. We’ve compiled a list of the best practices for On-Page SEO.
While there are many factors that go into creating and designing a website, that is SEO in a nutshell. Google’s algorithm can be divided into two separate, but equally important categories. On-Page factors, and Off-Page factors.
There is a constant battle trying to determine if on-page SEO more important than off-page SEO. We like to think that they are equal. Essentially, on-page SEO is the peanut butter to jelly (off-page SEO). Without one, it will be much more difficult to achieve high onsite SEO rankings.
With all that being said, the question is what are good SEO tips for on-page? We’re here to answer that question for you.
On-Site Search Engine Optimization and Off-Page SEO
What Is On-page SEO?
On-Page SEO are the elements of your own website. These factors include technical set-up, text and visual content as well as the user experience (UX) of your site.
- Source Code
- Meta Descriptions
- Site Speed
- Meta Keyword Tags
- Internal Links
- Images & Alt Text
What Is Off-Page Search Engine Optimization?
Off-Page SEO are the factors that you control on your website. Such as…
- Blogs Posts
- Page/Content Updates
During the infancy of SEO, “on-page optimization” referred to keyword placement. Search engine crawlers wanted to see keywords in certain locations of the HTML code, but that is no longer the approach today.
Off-page factors would include links from other websites, social media, and other marketing activities outside of your own website. Focusing on off-page SEO you will be aiming for more links to your site. The more relevant links you acquire the higher your ranking in Google will be.
The Importance Of On-Page SEO
What is the best method for an on-page SEO?
The elements of on-page SEO are controlled by you and your marketing team. If you own a website, you’re responsible for all technical issues and the quality of the content. You can hire an SEO company to help with on-page factors, but it is best handled by you and your digital marketers.
Starting with an awesome website will lead to better rankings from the start. Focusing on on-page SEO will lead to increasing the probability that your off-page SEO strategy will be successful as well. If you have a mediocre site, link building will be very tough as no one wants to link to badly written or dull articles. Use Google webmaster tools such as keyword planner when starting your website planning in order to determine the most effective keywords to incorporate into your new site.
There are four major on-page search engine optimization factors that are the pillars you should focus on when starting your SEO strategies.
Technical SEO Excellence
Technical SEO should not be taken for granted. The quality of your code should be high. Double check the code to ensure you are not unintentionally blocking crawlers from indexing your website. Search engines use automated bots, more sophisticated than when first designed, but it is important to follow some best practices when building pages:
- Make sure the page on which the content appears is the only URL with the content, and if it’s not, all other URLs canonicalize back to the original (using redirects or the rel=canonical protocol) URLs should follow best practices around length, being static vs. dynamic, and being included in any appropriate RSS feeds or XML Sitemaps files Don’t block Google bots! Robots.txt and meta robots can be used to intelligently limit what engines see, for instance, older blog content that is not relevant that you are working on revamping.
- Be cautious, however, do not to make errors that prevent bots from crawling and indexing your content.
- Utilize a status code 503, not a 404, If the page is temporarily down. If you’re redirecting a page to a new location, don’t go through multiple redirect chains if possible. Use 301s (permanent redirects), not other kinds of 30x status codes.
Creating interesting and relevant content is the reason people will visit your site. Search engines read your text and index your site, and content is a large part of the Google ranking algorithm. Therefore you should have high standards for your content, including the right keywords, information and easy to read. There are several important keywords targeting best practices that are important when creating content.
Now, with the thought of various content, you want to ensure that you are not posting duplicate content on your website. Google’s algorithm crawls all of your web pages for various keywords, search terms, meta tags & images. You cannot post duplicate content, such as the same page over and over again, but hidden to the normal user. This will cause some serious red flags and definitely decrease or rank, or even worse, get your site blacklisted.
You can find a link to the Top SEO Tactics here for more information on relevant content.
Website Page Titles
Having a proper page title is the first step in creating compelling content. You’ll want to use the primary keyword phrase at least one time in the page’s title and close to the start of the title tag. Titles are the key to how search engines weigh relevance and impact a searcher’s probability of clicking.
There are mixed reviews over the use of H1 tags, specifically for keyword placement. Consumers click on a page expecting to see certain titles and content. Failure to do so may increase the odds of a decrease dwell time and a high bounce rate.
Our most recent rank correlations suggest that a topically relevant H1 is associated with higher rankings. The title and H1 shouldn’t match exactly, but they also shouldn’t be so dissimilar that it will turn-off the consumer. It should come as no surprise that using your primary keyword and keyword phrase(s) in the content of the page are important.
Research suggests that it’s not just about keyword usage or repetition. It is about making your content comprehensive, useful and relevant, not over-filled with keywords. The content should be read smoothly and naturally and therefore keywords should be used judiciously.
Website Page URLs
A good URL has a few key aspects, one of those is keyword use. Not only does it help with search engine relevance, but URLs regularly get used as anchor text around the web (mostly through copying and pasting).
Images now can be keyword-targeted on the page. It is wise for an abundant of reasons, most importantly is that these can help directly and indirectly with rankings. When properly used your image has an opportunity to show up in an image search result.
Pages should be accessible through no more than four clicks from any other page on your site (three for smaller sites). Your content should also provide useful links to relevant information on any topics that are discussed on other pages. There is still some debate about external linking, but Marshall Simmonds in his Whiteboard Friday Interview suggested that Google’s algorithm rewards external linking to quality sites and pages.
A page’s meta description isn’t used directly in search engine ranking algorithms, but that doesn’t mean they’re not critical. The meta description tag usually shows up in the search results. The meta description does play a part when searchers consider whether to click. When keywords appear in the meta description they will be bolded, helping with visibility. The primary goal of a meta description is to earn the consumers click.
Superb UX (User-Experience)
Finally, you have to make sure the user experience is above par. The UX is made up of many elements, similar to how search engines’ ranking algorithms are. Users need an easily understandable website, that is clear and has an easy to follow a call to action. They should be able to find what they want within a few seconds. A beautifully designed website is wonderful, but you should insist on creating a user-friendly website.
You might not be able to satisfy all the elements of UX perfectly but reaching for 100% will only provide better rankings and increase in second-order impacts from shares, likes and follows. The most basic website should include the following to guarantee a great UX:
- Easy to understand Load quickly on all platforms Rendering properly in the browser regardless of size and device Provide intuitive navigation and content consumption Designed to be visually attractive, pleasing and compelling
An important element in the user experience is having a website that responsive and adjusts to the screen size. This is an important element in the Google algorithm, and websites are being ranked lower if their sites are not responsive. With more people using smartphones and devices, it is imperative to have a mobile-friendly website.
- Uniquely valuable
When designing a website and coming up with a content strategy you’ll want to think of want to give an unique value to your consumer. Anyone can provide unique content, something that doesn’t appear anywhere else, but unique value refers to the usefulness derived by consumers to the webpages. Many pages are valuable, but few truly provide a unique value – one that can’t be discovered on other pages that target the same keyword phrases.
The unique value is more than just unique content. When you have a page that is on a higher level than other sites, social shares, links and other positive associations through branding and ranking signals are going to follow.
Creating perfect on-site SEO is an evolving process. What works today might not work tomorrow. Google changes their algorithms often, and therefore you will need to adjust your approach and make sure to make the necessary changes.
Notwithstanding new tactics in Google’s algorithms, the model described above is reliable and stable. It is essentially the “O” in SEO, and it is becoming broader as marketers start to see its relevance. A best practice when working on on-site SEO is to think of the consumer and not targeting an algorithm.
When you target the algorithm you completely miss the mark on the UX experience and ultimately will negatively affect your Google ranking.
Now, with all of that information, you’re asking yourself how do I start on page SEO and what are the best on-page SEO analysis tools. There are so many SEO tools out there today, but we definitely have our favorites, both free and paid.
SEO Audit Tools
Free SEO Tools
These tools will provide you with a quick snippet of information about the health of your website. Essentially, these are quick, free SEO audit tools that will give you a snapshot of keyword density, site-speed, page ranking factors and other requirements for Google search.
- Neil Patel’s Website Grader – https://neilpatel.com/seo-analyzer/
- Hubspot’s Website Grader – https://website.grader.com/
- Google’s Keyword Planner – https://ads.google.com/home/tools/keyword-planner/
Paid SEO Tools
The paid SEO tools that we have outlined below are our favorites. Each tool offers slightly different capabilities. Overall, if you’re just getting into the world of on-page SEO or off-page SEO & content marketing, my suggestion would be Moz. It’s an easy interface to use but is limited in comparison to SEMRush or Ahrefs.
SEMRush is my personal favorite and what we use here at Blue Water Marketing. SEMRush provides us with so much information, data & is constantly updating on a daily basis. For the beginner SEO’er, this could be information overload, but for the more confident SEO specialist, SEMRush is great!
Feel free to comment below for any questions you might have about on-page SEO. We will be sure to create a video or podcast to help you out!
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