Basic On-Page SEO Techniques
In this post we discuss some important basic on-page SEO techniques that are important for creating a well-formed piece of content optimized for search engines.
Understanding Search engine optimization (SEO) can be confusing. It's important to note that in this post we are only covering the basics for optimizing a page of content. In updating the post for 2020, we wanted to be sure we made clear that the scope of successful SEO efforts is much more than the quality of the on-page optimization.
On-Page SEO vs. Off-Page SEO
"On-Page SEO" is the practice of optimizing the content and HTML code for an individual web-page so that it ranks higher in search engine results for a particular phrase.
"Off-Page SEO" refers to linkbacks and other external ranking signals like Local SEO efforts.
BASIC On-Page SEO Components
When optimizing a page, start with these 5 Basic On-Page SEO components. Paying attention to these 5 pieces of the the SEO puzzle will provide a solid foundation for the optimization of a page.
1. Keyword-Rich Content that Satisfies User Intent
Which keywords should you target?
Creating content that targets user search queries is at the very heart of SEO...it's what makes it work. SEO allows you to deliver the exact content the user is searching for, exactly when they are searching for it. Learn more about creating a content strategy »
The trickier part of this step is determining your keyword phrase.
Find that Keyword Phrase with a Little Research
Before proceeding with any on-page SEO techniques, you need to know the keyword phrase you are optimizing the page for.
Figuring out a decent keyword phrase is such an important step...don't skip it. It completely defeats the purpose to rank for a keyword phrase that no one is typing into Google.
Make an attempt to uncover what search terms your potential customers are using to search for businesses like yours. This doesn't have to be an overbearing process.
A Little Keyword Research Goes a Long Way
Don't optimize your pages for industry jargon that customers will never type into Google
(unless you are targeting technical industry people).
The first step to writing content that is search engine optimized is to determine the primary topic of the page....or your keyword phrase.
The goal in optimizing a page is to have a full page of content centered around ONE keyword phrase.
Keyword Research Tools
Here are some tools that may help you get ideas about possible keyword phrases:
- BackLinko.com has an extremely thorough guide for DIY Keyword Research. This guide contains just about everything you need to know to do some good keyword research on your own.
- Google AdWords Keyword Tool
- Research keywords and how your site ranks for specific terms using Free Tools by SERPs SEO
- Check out SEMRush's Keyword Research Guide and Free Keyword Research Course.
- Think like your potential customer and search.
Look at the search results...do you see businesses like yours in the search results? This is usually a good indicator that the phrase is a good one for you to use.
- More about Keyword Research resources »
Checklist for writing keyword-rich optimized content that targets and answers user's queries:
- Content: Create content that targets user queries and satisfies user intent.
- Length of Content: The body length should be at least 300 words centering around 1 keyword phrase. There is a correlation between longer content and ranking higher in search engines, however, this doesn't mean that longer content is required, nor is it a magic bullet.
- Include the Keyword Phrase in at least 1 Heading (H1, H2, H3, etc.) and in the content where it makes sense. A tool like Yoast SEO will help guide an appropriate density or frequency of keywords in your content.
- Include LSI Keywords (Latent Semantic Keywords) .
This is a fancy name for related keywords which can include synonyms. The Google algorithm is sophisticated and recognizes synonyms and makes judgments based on contextual cues.
- Optimize Images:
- Include an ALT attribute for every image that is descriptive, accurate and includes keywords where it makes sense.
- Use keywords in the filenames of the images when possible.
- Check for broken links (http://validator.w3.org/checklink)
- Avoid Keyword Stuffing (see below)
Avoid Keyword Stuffing
Keyword stuffing is repeating the same words or phrases so often that it sounds unnatural. Following is an example of keyword stuffing provided as an example by Google Webmaster Guidelines:
We sell custom cigar humidors. Our custom cigar humidors are handmade. If you’re thinking of buying a custom cigar humidor, please contact our custom cigar humidor specialists at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Use the Keyword Phrase in the HTML Page Title
The page title is important to let searchers know the content of a result and why it’s relevant to their query.
Located in the top of the browser window, the Page Title is often the primary piece of information used by a user to decide which result to click on in a Search Engine Results Page...so it's important to use accurate, descriptive titles on your web pages.
Checklist of things to consider when writing HTML page titles:
- Every page should have a unique HTML Page Title.
- Title length: Google usually displays the first 50–60 characters of a title tag.
- The title length should include at least 4 words.
- Include the ONE keyword phrase for that page in the title and put the it at the beginning of the title if possible. According to Moz, the optimal format for the HTML page title is "Primary Keyword - Secondary Keyword | Brand Name."
- Avoid keyword stuffing.
See how to add the Page Title
3. The META Description
The META description is typically the brief “snippet” paragraph displayed underneath a link in a Search Results Page. However, depending on the search term, Google will sometimes display something other than the META description, highlighting words used in the content that are relevant to the user's search terms.
When Google Doesn't Display the META Description as Expected
Here is an example of Google displaying something other than the META description when doing a search for "Google Local 3-pack Alpharetta".
We don't mention the "3-Pack" in the meta description we wrote, but it is mentioned in the content. Google is displaying a snippet from the page content instead of the META description we wrote because it is more relevant to the searcher in this case.
Checklist of things to consider when optimizing the META Description:
- Differentiate the descriptions for different pages…each should be unique.
- Description length: Google usually displays up to the first 160 characters.
- Include the keyword phrase in the description. Put it near the beginning of your description.
- Make sure your descriptions are truly descriptive and human-readable....and compelling. The snippet displayed in search results can highly influence click-through rates. More information on meta descriptions from Moz »
See how to add the Meta Description
4. Use the Keyword Phrase in the URL
Using the keyword phrase in the URL of your page or post is easy to do in WordPress as long as permalinks are enabled. WordPress automatically generates post slugs from a post’s title, and you can edit the slug to contain your exact keyword phrase. (The post slug is the user friendly and URL valid name of a post. )
Checklist for an effective URL:
- Try to use your keyword phrase in the URL for the page.
- The URL should be relatively short when possible. With all else equal, shorter URLs rank better than long URLs.
- Don't include 'stop words' unless they are an important part of the search phrase.
The Bottom Line on SEO
Be relevant for what your potential customer is searching for. Write about what you want to rank for. Then write some more about that. Then write some more.
- Engage your customer in social media and with email marketing
- Provide relevant information about what you’re selling
- Be a “good match” for what the user is looking for.
Remember that you are serving users and customers. Put them first and it will help everything else start falling into place.