On Page Search Engine Optimization

An Actionable Guide

This guide is written to be actionable.

Some of the optimizations are low-hanging fruit and can be done quickly and easily. Some will take more time and technical skill . You don’t need to do everything at once. You can keep coming back to this guide to continually improve the optimization of your pages.

Some of the actions listed in the article can be taken before you start composing your content. Some actions can be taken during. And some actions can only be done once you’ve finished creating a piece of content.

No matter where you are in the cycle of creating a particular piece of content, this guide will help you to push your results to the next level.

For the technical actions the guide focuses on the WordPress way of doing things. However all major CMS’s have similar means of doing the same things:  this guide is nearly universally applicable.

What is on-page seo?

Search Engine Optimization has two branches: on-page and off-page. The term ‘on-page SEO’ describes the optimization of individual pages  in order to those pages more visible on search engine results pages.

Why it matters

Search engines create giant indexes of all content they can find.

The appearance and position of a link on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) depends on:

  • how relevant the search engine thinks that the page is.
  • how trusted the search engine thinks that the page is.
  • how authorative the search engine thinks that the page is.

However, before Google can assess the value that a page has to someone searching for information, Google needs to:

  • Know that the page exists.
  • Know what the page is about.
  • Know who the page is relevant to.

Google is very good at working out these things for itself. However it has become extremely clear that Google rewards pages that have content and markup structure that help Google to understand the page.

Well-structured markup and content can have dramatic effects on search engine positioning.

Good content and structure can be built-in from the start of the content-creation process. Some optimizations are easier than others: some take time, effort and skill. Some are dead easy. And even the dead easy optimizations can have dramatically positive effects on how Google ranks your content.

The Foundations Of SEO: Website Performance

 
The underlying things to get sorted first. You can skip these and go straight to working on the rest of the on-page factors. Taking care of these things takes some work. But if they get done then combined with on-page SEO factors your results will be massively accelerated.

Site Speed Matters

Google declared a long time ago that site speed is relevant to SERP’s rankings.
These things will help to make your website much faster:
 
  • Use a reputable hosting company
  • Remove unnecessary plugins from your website
  • Use as few images as possible
  • Use image compression on any images you use on your site
  • Use a content distribution network for images and scipts
  • Reduce 301 redirects on your site

Speeding Up Your Website With Compressed Images

 
Two images can be indistinguishable to the human eye, have the same width and height and yet have vastly different file sizes. Large files increase the time a page takes to load.
 
So before you upload new images to your website you want to use images that have had their file-sizes compressed.
 
A good compression tool can reduce the file-size of an image without reducing the image quality.
 
 Action Step: before uploading images from your computer to your website, run them through compressjpeg.com. The images you get back will have a reduced file-size.
 
Action Step: If you have a running WordPress site, then sign up for ShortPixel and install the ShortPixel plugin. ShortPixel can do batch processing of the images already on your website. Their free plan automatically compresses up to 100 images per month.
 

Use A Content Distribution Network To Host Your Images

 
Your web hosting company will host yourentire website in one place. A Content Distribution Network hosts files in multiple geographic locations, as close to your visitors as possible. The shorter the network distance is, the faster your website will be.
 
There are many different CDN’s. They all work a little different. If  you are using WordPress you have an easy option.
 
Action Step: Install the Jetpack plugin for WordPress. Once installed, activate”Site Accelerator”. This will activate a free CDN that will host your websites images.
To activate Site Accelerator, go to ‘Jetpack’ -> ‘Settings’ -> ‘Performance’.
In the ‘Performance & speed’ section, toggle on ‘Enable site accelerator’.
 

Mobile-Ready Design

Make sure that your website works on devices that are smaller than desktop monitors.

This is a lot easier than it used it be. All modern platforms are able to produce content that adapts to small screens. Developers and designers familiar with modern best practices are able to design and build for mobile devices.

Action Step: If you are using WordPress this step is relatively easy. All modern WordPress themes are built to work on small screens. A good choice of theme is the free theme Astra, or it’s powered-up commercial version Astra Pro.

 

Implement HTTPS

Get in touch with your hosting provider and ask them how you can implement https. Technically it’s called TLS/SSL. It provides a way to ensure a private channel of communication between a web browser and a web page.

TLS/SSL doesn’t matter as much as fast-loading pages or original content when it comes to rankings. But Google does give a slight SERP reward to SSL-enabled sites. Most importantly, visitors trust SSL-enabled sites more than non-enabled sites.  And Google pays attention to which sites user trust.
 
You don’t have to know the technical details if you don’t want to. But any modern host can switch on SSL for you upon request.
 
Action Step: Contact your host and ask them to switch your site to https. If they cannot do this then chances are that the hosting company is deficient in other ways and you should consider moving hosts.
 

Publish Original Content

Google rewards high-quality content. One of the markers for quality is uniqueness. Content that has previously been published elsewhere is not necessarily punished by Google. But it certainly isn’t rewarded.
 
People are searching for unique content. So it’s no surprise that Google rewards it. The side-effect is that original content will be good for your brand.
 

After The Foundations

 

seo-friendly urls

Make sure that the URL of your page is human readable, and that the URL closely matches title tag.  You want to have a URL that looks more like this:

http://example.com/lighting-gear-for-photography

… than this:

http://example.com/category3mdn-nb43

It also helps if both the URL and the title tag closely match the first H1 of the page.
 
Pretty much all content management systems generate human-readable URL’s by default now.
 
How To Create SEO-Friendly URL’s in WordPress
 
From the dashboard go to ‘settings’ > ‘permalinks’…
 
 
… then select the option that says ‘Post name’
 
 

Put The Keyword in The title tag

In the html source code of a page the title of the document is described by the title tag. The title tag shows up on search engine results page as the clickable link for a result. In Google’s results the title tag shows as the blue text link to the document.

So if the source code shows this:

 Then the clickable link in the  Google result will look like this:

Use The HTML Tag Hierarchy

In a human conversation some subjects are subtopics of other topics. HTML captures this idea in the tag hierarchy.

Topics and subtopics should be indicated by headings. These headings should be wrapped in heading tags. The headings for the parent-level topics should be wrapped in h1 tags.

Second-level headings should use h2 tags… and so on, down to h6.

You don’t have to use all the heading tags down to h6. Just use what makes sense. Most of the time using h1 down to h3 will be fine.

You don’t have to do any actual coding. All modern webpage editors have a way to let you set the level of heading. The WordPress Gutenberg editor has a headings block that lets you set the heading like this:

How to use heading tags in Gutenberg

In the WordPress Classic Editor you simply highlight the text you want to use for a header and choose the header type:

How to apply headings in the WordPress classic editor

Keyword in first 100 words

Putting your keyword in the first 100 words of a written article helps Google figure out the relevance of your article to searchers.
 
 

Edit The Page Meta Description

 A ‘Meta Description’ is an HTML element that Google displays along with your page link in a search result.
 
If your CMS is self-hosted WordPress then there is an easy way to update your page Meta Description: the WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast.
 
After this plugin is installed, every post and page has a new groups of settings.
 

Editing The Page Meta Description With The Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin

Google will show up to 275 characters on the SERP. You should optimize your meta description tags to be up to 275 characters long.

The WordPress SEO Plugin will gives you hints if your Meta Description is too short.

Internal Links

Create hyperlinks from the piece that you are creating to relevant content within your own website.
 
Internal links help Google to understand where your content fits in the web of meaning created by your own website and the larger web. This helps Google to fulfill it’s quest: to provide searchers with meaningful answers to questions.
 
Internal links also help Google map out your site, other resources on your site are less likely to be invisible to Google if they have internal links pointing to them.
 

Link internally to your own categories tags and archive pages.

If you are using WordPress as your CMS, and you are making use of WordPress archives, tags and categories then it’s recommended that you link to those pages.

This helps visitors and Google understand what your page is about. And it helps Google to promote your page in the right set of results. Basically, doing this helps you train Google.

Link Externally When It Makes Sense To
Sensible outbound links signal to readers that you understand the subject of your articles, and also increases the value of your content to those visitors. Visitors that trust your authority will be more likely to return and link to you in turn.
 
 If you are linking outward to content that is created by your users, is paid for, or that you don’t want to endorse then use nofollow attributes in those particular links.

Turbocharging Content Performance

Create content that is better than the content of your competitors

This is the most important element of good content strategy. And it’s also important for attracting sustained, sustainable traffic to your site.
 

It’s very likely that other publishers offer content that is similar to the content that you intend to publish. This isn’t a bad thing, because companies only compete in environments where a hungry audience exists.

If you want your content to rank higher on the search engines, then make your content better than existing content. Make it more detailed, more clearly written, more attractively presented. Consider making your articles longform and illustrate them with original graphics. Provide information that is more up-to-date.

The better your content is, the more appealing it is for other sites to link to. And the more high-quality backlinks you get, the better your own content will perform in Google results pages.