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Table of Contents
What Is On-Page SEO?
Why On-Page SEO Is Important?
Tools and Resources
On-Page SEO Checklist

 

What Is On-Page SEO?

On-page SEO (also known as on-site SEO) is a set of activities directed at optimization of both front-end content and back-end source code of individual web pages for helping search engines to better understand their contents and subsequently gaining higher ranking.

 

Why On-Page SEO Is Important?

On-page optimization is one of the three essential components of a successful SEO strategy. Without proper on-site optimization, the other two components, technical SEO and off-page SEO, won’t be fully effective.

Improper on-page optimization is like a race car with square-shaped wheels. Regardless how powerful its engine, robust air intake and quality fuel are, a car with square-shaped wheels won’t get far.

Oleg DonetsSEO Expert

 

Tools and Resources

 

On-Page SEO Checklist

 

1. Keyword & Market Research

What is keyword & market research?

Keyword and market research is a strategic process of learning a targeted audience’s interests, needs and behaviors through a specific terminology used by that audience to describe those interests, needs and behaviors.

Why keyword & market research are important?

Keyword and market research is the main cornerstone of on-site optimization process.

After optimizing literally thousands of websites, I can doubtlessly say that it is one of the most underestimated and overlooked aspects of many SEO campaigns.

If not done properly (or not done at all like in many cases), this may and probably will negatively affect your SEO campaign in the long run.

It’s like pursuing a certain career for a long time and later on realizing that there is no career growth because the entire industry is in continuous decline.

Had you researched that sector prior to wasting all those years of learning and dedication to that career, you’d have never chosen that path.

The same concept applies with keyword and market research during on-page optimization phase. This is crucial part of on-page SEO.

In fact, at my agency, we no longer start any project without thorough keyword and market research. We used to, but no longer do that.

We have learnt  from our own mistakes that starting a project without prior thorough research, is a huge waste of resources.

I’ve grown my agency to 7 figures withing 5 years. So you can be confident that I’ve learnt over that time a thing or two about what to do and what no to do.

What you’re reading here is GOLD! I wish someone would tell me what i’m telling you here when I initially started…

So don’t make the same mistakes. Learn from mistakes of others. Be smart.

 

1.1 How to conduct keyword & market research?

Keyword and market research deserves a full dedicated guide by itself. It is impossible to squeeze it into this already packed on-page SEO guide.

Therefore, I’ve created for you a full guide on how to do keyword and market research. However, in order to make all this on-page optimization process effective and make sense, you need to learn keyword research guide first.

Once you understand how to conduct keyword and market research, get back to here and continue learning the rest of this on-page SEO guide.

 

2. Site & Content Architecture

What is site & content architecture?

Site and content architecture is a backbone or infrastructure of a website that’s responsible for topically-hierarchical organization of its content’s structure accessible to both human visitors and search engines.

Why site & content architecture are important?

Site and content architecture, or structure if you will, is extremely important for both humans and search engines.

Human visitors

It helps human visitors to consume content in logical sequence, which improves your users’ satisfaction that directly impacts your website’s on-site quality metrics such as longer time spent on site, lower bounce rate, more viewed pages, etc.

These by itself are indirect quality signals that do help establish your site as a quality resource in search engines’ eyes.

I don’t even mention the fact that the longer your visitors stay on your site and consume your content, the more likely they are to do whatever you wanted them to do (purchase your product, call you, request a quote, etc…)

Our KPI study shows that if you can increase pages viewed and time on site it will push up your conversion rate. (source)

Isn’t this enough for you to believe that the site architecture is important? Well, hold on, there is more…

Search engines

Besides the benefits that I mentioned above, site architecture serves a crucial role in establishing an hierarchically-organized topical relevance of your entire website’s content within search engines.

In simple words, it allows search engines clearly understand what your site’s content is about by segmenting it into separate topically-relevant content clusters, also known as “silos”, which will have higher potential to rank for keywords relevant to each content cluster.

I can’t stress enough how important it is for your successful long term SEO campaign.

Make a mistake here, and effectiveness of your future SEO efforts won’t be as high as it could have been had you organized your website’s structure properly.

In fact, it can significantly reduce your overall SEO efforts.

 

2.1 How to create site & content architecture?

There are multiple types of site architecture that you can build. Personally, I’m a big fan of the one called “silo architecture”.

From what I can see, this content structure is one of the most effective ones for SEO as well as human visitors.

Like a keyword and market research, site and content architecture requires its own dedicated guide. This is a very extensive topic that needs focused attention.

So, I decided to create a dedicated guide on how to build website SEO silo architecture. Creation of site architecture solely relies on keyword and market research.

If you followed this on-page SEO guide according to my instructions, by the time you are reading this, you already should have a complete list of targeted keywords.

If you still don’t, it means you didn’t go through my keyword and market research guide from the previous phase. Remember, these two phases MUST be implemented in the order I described.

So make sure you first conduct a full keyword and market research and based on that data build a solid site and content architecture.

Once you’re done with both of these phases, come back to this very point and continue learning other important aspects of a robust site architecture.

 

3. Content Development

What is content development?

Content development is a process of creating a relevant, unique, helpful and engaging content according to predetermined content strategy.

Why content development is important?

I can’t stress enough how important proper content development strategy is. You have probably heard many times that content is KING.

Didn’t you?

Well, I totally agree with that statement despite the numerous so-called “gurus” who say otherwise. Content is a crucial cornerstone of a successful SEO campaign.

In fact, content is the core element of any internet marketing channel (besides SEO) around which all the campaign is built.

Without quality and relevant content you won’t be able to build relationships with your targeted audience, which will directly affect your sales or any other objective that you set.

However, before you start making those sales, you have to first make sure your content is found and consumed by real people.

How do you do that?

Well, there are various internet marketing channels you can pursue to make people find your content. In this guide we’re only covering search engine optimization channel.

So, if you want your content found through search engines, besides other important things that I covered in this and other guides, you have to make sure your content is organized and optimized properly.

This brings us back to our on-site optimization process.

 

3.1 How to develop content properly?

Once you’ve got your keyword research and site architecture down, you can start developing content accordingly.

However, let me reiterate some very important point again:

Every step of this guide must be followed according to provided order! Do NOT start content development BEFORE you finished with your keyword research and site architecture.

These two properly completed prerequisites will help you with overall content organization throughout your site and further content optimization that we’ll discuss in this and next sections of this guide.

If you skip them, it will screw up your entire SEO campaign and you’ll never have the same potential to rank highly in search engines like you would have, had you followed the steps in provided order.

Alright, at this point I believe I persuaded you not to skip these steps. So, let’s now talk about how to actually develop properly optimized and organized content.

Let’s start with content organization. Content organization of your website will be automatically taken care of right after you finish site architecture phase.

This is because during the site architecture phase you’ll find out how the structure of your site will look like and therefore you’ll be able to assign group/s of targeted keywords to each page you want to rank.

So there is nothing to worry about here. If you finished your site architecture, you’re good. But what about proper content optimization?

Well, there is a long list of items you need to take care of while optimizing your content. I listed the most important ones in the next section of this guide right below this one.

However, I’ll cover one of them right in this section because it directly relates to it. In fact, this item must be done during content development phase. This is why I’m including it here.

So, let’s get started.

 

3.2 How to develop optimized content?

As I mentioned earlier, during the site architecture steps, you assigned group/s of targeted keywords (found during keyword research phase) to your pages.

This means that every page that you want to rank in search engines has targeted group/s of keywords assigned to them. Knowing this, you can freely proceed to the content development phase.

You can either writhe your content yourself or outsource to somebody else. When I first started with SEO in 2011, I used to write all the content myself.

However, I personally hate writing. Not even mention that I barely spoke English back then because I just came to the US.

Anyway, I pretty quickly realized that this is a huge time waster for me and I better outsource the writing to a professional writer.

So I did exactly that and since then I don’t touch content development for my personal projects as well as for my agency’s clients (except to key projects like this one where my expertise is absolutely necessary to communicate everything I’ve learnt over the years).

Over the years I’ve tried tons of outsourcing sites. I tried to hire writers full time as well as work with them on per-project basis.

At this point, we don’t have any full time writers. Instead, we order 90% of our content from iwriter.com.

I like their service because it is very quick and affordable. There are tons of other sites that offer content creation services. So you can use whichever best suits you.

However, I’d recommend using these guys if you’re looking to outsource your content development to someone but don’t know whom.

I’d not recommend any product or service which I personally haven’t used.

So, regardless whether you decide to write your content yourself or outsource it, at this point you can successfully accomplish initial content optimization.

Let’s say you decide to outsource your content creation. To start ordering your content, you’ll need to utilize the info which you prepared during the site architecture and keyword research phases.

Let’s say you have a local real estate website. After finishing site architecture and keyword research steps, you discovered that you need to have 10 pages which you’ll need to optimize for different keywords.

So let’s take only one page from those 10 and use it here as an example. Let’s say that the main topic of the page that we selected is about homes for sale in Houston TX.

During our keyword research we found many synonymous keywords (we call them “keyword themes”) that we can optimize that page for too (i.e. homes for sale in Houston TX, houses for sale in Houston TX, buy house in Houston, etc.).

All these keywords contain different words but all of them mean exactly the same thing. People just search differently. This again symbolizes the importance of keyword and market research.

So, if during your keyword research you miss out some phrases/terms that people search when trying to find a product/service that you/your client offer, you most likely will lose those people because your page copy as well as Metadata won’t be optimized for those keywords.

Therefore, it is crucial to conduct a thorough keyword research in order to identify as many synonymous keywords (also known LSI words) that can be used in addition to optimize each page.

Let’s get back to content creation.

Include as many keywords as possible from the list of keywords that you assigned to each page when ordering content.

This way your writer will see all the keywords you want him/her to include in the copy and be able to incorporate them within your content.

However, it is extremely important to give your writer a very clear instructions on how to incorporate your keywords within the copy. If you don’t do that, in 90% of the times you’ll get back an article stuffed with your keywords all over, which will read like a spam.

You can use our detailed instructions that we use in our agency when ordering content. You can access them here.

In 95% of the times it does the trick and we get back a nice copy with naturally inserted keywords so the overall content reads smoothly.

This is exactly what we needed – a content piece that naturally mentions as many relevant keywords (found during the keyword research phase) as possible and at the same time reads perfectly fine for a human reader.

In this scenario you’ve successfully accomplished the initial content optimization step. You’re not done at this point.

The next content optimization phase is to optimize all the rest crucial content optimization aspects.

 

4. Content Optimization

What is content optimization?

Content optimization is a process of marking up contents of a web page in a specifically defined way that helps search engines better understand what a page is about.

Why content optimization is important?

Content optimization is a crucial part of an on-page SEO process. Properly optimized content is like coordinates for a ship (search engine) in the ocean (billions of pages on the web).

If you don’t add those coordinates to your web pages, search engines will never be able to find your relevant content while retrieving the results for a user query.

It is not a rocket science. Just follow some best practices here and you’ll be fine. Unfortunately, many webmasters and site owners neglect this critical aspect of on-page SEO.

As I mentioned previously, there is a long list of items that you can optimize to make your content SEO friendly. Below I listed the most important ones.

 

4.1 Metadata Optimization

What is Metadata?

Metadata is a type of information that’s intended for search engines’ use. It transfers important key data about web pages of your website, which allows search engines better understand what each page is about.

All the Metadata elements are located within the <head> and </head> tags of your web pages.

Meta head section

Optimization of Metadata is simply a process of adjusting the content that’s marked up with Meta tags to match the query of a search engine user in a best possible way.

For example, if a user made a search request for homes for sale in Houston TX keyword in a search engine, you have to make sure that your page that’s targeting this keyword will have a potential to come up as one of the first 10 results returned by the search engine.

How you do that? You guessed right – you start from optimizing Metadata of that page according to the query of the searcher.

How do you know what terms/keywords a searcher searches for? Again, the answer lies in keyword research phase.

After the keyword research you will have a decent idea what terms your targeted audience use to find products/services that you offer.

With that intelligence you can confidentially proceed to Metadata optimization.

However, if you’ve learnt about Metadata a little more than an average SEO dude, you’ll know that there are many Metadata elements out there. Not all of them matter for SEO.

Which Metadata elements deserve your attention? Well, below I listed only those that influence SEO one way or another.

 

4.1.1 Meta Title

What is Meta title?

Meta title is an HTML attribute that specifies a main title of a web page.

Meta title is probably the most important Metadata element when it comes to search engine optimization. Below is an example of a Meta title of this guide:

Meta title

This is the first signal that provides key information to search engines about the topic of a web page. Therefore, you have to be very smart when determining what your Meta title will be.

If you want your page to have an opportunity to rank for certain keywords, you must strategically determine which keywords you will include in the title.

However, never spam your titles by trying to include all the keywords (like many people do).

Remember, your titles are not only visible to search engines; they are also visible to your potential customers. Therefore, they must appeal to both.

Nobody will click the title with bunch of stuffed keywords in it that looks like a spam. You have to entice users to click your title in SERPs.

So, while creating your titles, you have to keep in mind the following three key elements that make up a successful Meta title:

  • SEO-optimized: should contain targeted keywords
  • Human-readable: should read naturally for humans
  • Conversion-optimized: should entice humans to click

Your Meta titles should be optimized for as many keywords as possible to cover the largest possible range of available terms about a given subject.

For instance, let’s take our previous example with houses for sale in Houston TX. So while conducting your research, you would discover various keywords that directly relate to that topic.

I previously mentioned few of them, but for purpose of this example, let’s extend the list of possible keywords that could have been found.

Below, I broke down our list of keywords to three different keyword themes.

Theme 1: Houses for sale Theme 2: Homes for sale Theme 3: Buy houses
houses for sale in Houston TX homes for sale in Houston TX buy houses in Houston TX
houses for sale in Houston Texas homes for sale in Houston Texas buy houses in Houston Texas
houses for sale in Houston homes for sale in Houston buy houses in Houston
Houston houses for sale Houston homes for sale buy Houston houses
Houston TX house for sale Houston TX home for sale buy Houston TX houses

If you look at each keyword theme, you’ll see that all the keywords mainly consist of the same words.

Some keywords may not contain words that others do contain but in general you will see that each keyword has the same root.

For example, keywords from Theme 1 all contain words “house“, “sale” and “Houston“. There might be supplementary words like “Texas”, “TX”, “in”, “for”, etc. However, they all belong to the same root.

The same exercise you can perform for the rest two themes and you’ll find out that all the keywords in those themes share the same root.

So how are we going to incorporate keywords from three themes in a single Meta title that will meet all the three previously mentioned key elements?

Well, we’ll get there in a bit. For now, let’s understand how we should not use our keywords. Check out this title:

You should never use your keywords this way. This is pure keyword stuffing and will be considered as spam by search engines.

Also, it will not benefit your potential customers when they see such title in SERPs. So how to create this Meta title the right way?

Well, here is how we do that…

First of all you must understand how Google and other search engines digest keywords.

Gone those days when search engines needed to detect exact match keywords within your Metadata as well as in the content itself in order to rank pages for those keywords.

Today major search engines are smart enough so webmasters no longer need to ‘stuff’ Metadata with bunch of keywords.

Instead, they need to compose a human-readable titles with smoothly and naturally inserted targeted keywords.

This is not a rocket science. Everyone can do it with a little bit of effort.

So where do you start from?

You start from reviewing your keyword themes. Let’s get back to our previous example and do a little demonstration.

As I showed you previously, we have got three keyword themes.

Now we need to combine all of them together and come up with a perfectly optimized title according to our 3-key element criteria.

To do that we follow this 2-step formula:

 

1Step 1: Come up with a single main keyword that will represent each keyword theme.

In other words, we need to analyze all the keywords in each keyword theme and then come up with a single main keyword that will cover majority of the keywords from that theme.

You may ask what does it mean “cover majority of the keywords from that theme“.

Well, the quick answer is: it will allow us to rank our targeted page not only for that single main keyword that we came up with but also for majority of the keywords from the same keyword theme.

You may ask how I know it will work that way.

The quick answer is: I know for a fact it works that way based on tons of sites that we’ve been ranking here at the agency over the years.

In order to understand how it actually works, it requires a fundamental knowledge on how search engines rank web pages for targeted keywords.

Unfortunately, these days there is a very little useful information available on the web about this extremely important topic.

I personally didn’t see a single source that talks about it in-depth. Instead, I discovered it on my own on practice.

A lot of SEO agencies don’t understand this fundamental principle and it shows up accordingly in their offering.

For instance, they tell their prospective clients that they will rank their websites for X amount of keywords.

Usually it is a quite small amount of keywords; almost ridiculous. For simplicity purposes let’s say only three keywords: “houses for sale in Houston TX“, “homes for sale in Houston TX” and “buy houses in Houston TX“.

But this is NOT how it works in reality.

It is impossible to isolate ranking of specific keywords. When they start pushing those 3 keywords, they simultaneously push all the rest keywords that belong to the same keyword theme.

In other words, if an SEO company says they will rank your site for mentioned above 3 keywords, when they start pushing them, they will also automatically start pushing all the rest of the keywords that belong to each of these three keywords keyword themes.

When we first found out in the agency that it works this way, we immediately changed the way how we approached SEO in general and on-page SEO in particular.

If you get this fundamental principle, you will be able to not just compose highly effective Meta titles, but also strategically and intelligently optimize every web page of your site.

Also, if you are planning to hire an SEO firm, by knowing this fundamental principle, you can instantly realize that an SEO company that tells you they will rank your site for X amount of keywords, either don’t know how SEO works or they just want to up-sale you later on for all those additional keywords (from the same keyword theme) that will be coming up naturally anyway.

Alright, so now that you’ve learnt this extremely important part, let’s get back to how you actually come up with a single main keyword that will represent each keyword theme.

To do that the right way, we need to take into consideration each keyword’s monthly search volume (MSV) that we extract from keyword research tools that we use during keyword research phase.

For instance, let’s take our Theme 1 and list all its keywords along with monthly search volume in descending order:

  • houses for sale in Houston                 8,100 (MSV)
  • houses for sale in Houston TX            4,400 (MSV)
  • Houston houses for sale                     2,400 (MSV)
  • houses for sale in Houston Texas      1,300 (MSV)
  • Houston TX house for sale                  320 (MSV)

From this data you can clearly see that the keyword “houses for sale in Houston” is having the most searches a month (8,100 searches).

Based on this, we’ll need to use this keyword as a seed keyword for our main keyword that will represent this keyword theme.

Here is how we do it…

We take the seed keyword and compare it to all the rest keywords in the list. Then we try to add to it as many individual words that other keywords contain but our seed keyword doesn’t.

However, we need to make sure it reads naturally and not like a spam. Here is an example:

Our seed keyword is “houses for sale in Houston” (8,100 MSV). From here we go to the next keyword in order and look for some extra words that our seed keyword doesn’t contain in it.

The next keyword in order is “houses for sale in Houston TX” (4,400 MSV). Looking at this keyword, we can see that our seed keyword doesn’t contain word “TX“.

Therefore, we are adding “TX” to our seed keyword and our updated main keyword becomes “houses for sale in Houston TX“.

Here is very important point! Pay close attention…

Before we added word “TX” to our seed keyword, it would cover 8,100 monthly searches. However, after we added “TX” to it, now our new keyword basically consists of two keywords.

  • Seed Keyword:houses for sale in Houston” (8,100 MSV)
  • 2nd Keyword:houses for sale in Houston TX” (4,400 MSV)

This means that now we are covering 12,500 (8,100+4,400=12,500) searches if we include our newly updated keyword in Meta title as well as throughout the content.

At this point you can say, how “houses for sale in Houston TX” keyword now covers 12,500 searches if initially it was our second keyword in the list and its monthly search volume was 4,400?

Technically you are right but what i’m demonstrating here is how you need to calculate your potential traffic. You see, it is true that if we isolate this particular keyword “houses for sale in Houston TX“, it receives about 4,400 searches a month.

But don’t forget that this same keyword consists of our seed keyword “houses for sale in Houston” that worth 8,100 searches.

In other words, by having only this keyword “houses for sale in Houston TX” you in fact covering both keywords. And this how I came up with combined search volume of 12,500 a month.

You may ask, so why didn’t we start our process from that second keyword right away instead of trying to figure out the seed keyword first?

Because this is the right way to do it. There may be many other keyword combinations and variations.

So if we would use the second keyword right away, we could have missed something else.

Remember, you must first find out the seed keyword and go through this process that I outlined.

This may sound confusing first, but when you get the whole concept, you’ll be able to do it really quickly.

Anyway, let’s continue our example.

Our next keyword in order is “Houston houses for sale” (2,400 MSV). So if we look at this keyword, we don’t see any new word here that our updated main keyword doesn’t contain.

The only difference here is the order of words within the keyword. It means that our main keyword automatically covers this keyword.

Therefore, the only thing we do is adding this keyword’s 2,400 searches to our main keyword.

So, our current main keyword itself stays without change “houses for sale in Houston TX“. The only change we have is in the coverage of searches which brings us to 14,900 MSV (12,500+2,400=14,900).

We can also add the search volume of all the rest keywords from our keyword theme to our main keyword without changing it.

Why? Because our current main keyword contains all the words that all the rest keywords contain.

You may say, well our fourth keyword “houses for sale in Houston Texas” contains word “Texas” that our main keyword doesn’t have. What we do with that?

Well, again, search engines are so clever these days so they can easily understand that when users includes word “Texas” in their query, they also mean”TX”.

So don’t worry about it. “TX” will cover “Texas”.

Alright, so according to our calculation, updated main keyword “houses for sale in Houston TX” now will cover 16,520 searches if you combine all the searches together.

Remember, we started with five keywords in our keyword theme. But after our process we narrowed our keyword list down to a single keyword (main keyword) that will cover ALL the keywords from the list.

Isn’t that cool?

Before we proceed to the next step, I wanted to expend this example a little more because we had very small list of keywords. Due to this you may not have the chance to experience the full fun 🙂

So, let me introduce a new keyword for this keyword theme – “best houses for sale in Houston” (500 MSV).

You can clearly see that we have here a new word that we lack in our main keyword. This word is “best”. So, now we will need to add this word to our main keyword.

So, the most updated main keyword will be “best houses for sale in Houston TX” with updated search volume of 17,020.

Ok, so at this point we figured out our main keyword for keyword Theme 1. Now we need to go through the same process for the rest two keyword themes.

I’m not going to do it here. I believe you can follow my instructions above and do it yourself. Once you are done, you will get the following main keywords for the keyword themes 2 and 3:

  • Keyword Theme 2: best homes for sale in Houston TX
  • Keyword Theme 3: buy houses in Houston TX

 

2Step 2: Come up with a single Meta title that will smoothly combine all the main keywords and will read naturally for humans.

Alright, we’re almost done. This last step is very similar to the previous step except that here we’re combining all the main keywords together.

Note: Depending on your web page’s subject matter, you may initially find more or less keyword themes. In our case we found 3 keyword themes. But in your case, it may be different. So, according to the amount of the keyword themes that you find, you’ll have a single main keyword that will represent each keyword theme.

So let’s list our three main keywords below:

  • Keyword Theme 1: best houses for sale in Houston TX
  • Keyword Theme 2: best homes for sale in Houston TX
  • Keyword Theme 3: buy houses in Houston TX

How can we compose a single title of these three keywords so it will meet all of our three key elements of a successful Meta title (1st. SEO-optimized, 2nd. Human-readable, 3rd. Conversion-optimized)?

Well, very simple. Let’s follow similar formula we followed in step 1. We’ll take all three main keywords and compare them with each other.

Then we’ll try to combine them together in a single title enforcing the following 3 rules:

  • Rule 1: the title consists of all the words that all the main keywords contain in them.
  • Rule 2: the title reads naturally and smoothly for humans.
  • Rule 3: the title consists of a single or maximum two independent parts.

So, following these rules, here is the final Meta title I came up with:

By looking at the colorful underlines, you can see that Meta title contains all the words that our three main keywords consist of.

Also, you can see that my title consists of two independent parts separated by pipe “|”:

  • Part 1: Best Houses for Sale in Houston TX
  • Part 2: Buy Homes in Texas

I also added a third part to the title “Your Brand”, which I always recommend to add. You simply need to replace it with your company name in the very end of each Meta title.

And finally, I included additional words like “Texas”. You always can add some extra words that will make your title read naturally.

With this Meta title, a local realtor/real estate agency can target a single page for all those keywords (and many more) listed under each of our three keyword themes.

Of course, in addition to that they need to make sure that other elements mentioned in this guide are optimized correctly.

But in general, getting the Meta title right will significantly increase your chances to rank for targeted keywords higher and rank for more targeted keywords.

 

4.1.2 Meta Description

What is Meta description?

Meta description is an HTML attribute that provides a concise summary of a web page.

Meta description is not as important directly for SEO how it is indirectly. In fact, according to Matt Cutts, you may not even use Meta description for SEO purposes because it is not a ranking signal.

However, if you do decide to use Meta descriptions, make sure they are unique on every page where you use them. Below is an example of a Meta description of this guide:

So, as I already said, Meta description is NOT a ranking factor in SEO. However, it does help SEO indirectly. How does it help you ask?

Well, here is the explanation:

So, if you don’t have a Meta description added to your web pages, Google picks a random piece of text from each page and uses it as a Meta description.

As you understand, that piece of randomly selected text may not be the best representation of your page. Therefore, it won’t look appealing for the searchers in SERPs.

Now, when you manually set your Meta descriptions and you don’t just throw there a keyword-stuffed text but you actually take the time to compose enticing description that will appeal to your targeted audience, you’ll receive more clicks from the SERPs.

When your CTR is higher, it sends a quality engagement signals to Google which indirectly positively affects your ranking.

To summarize, even though technically by not having Meta descriptions won’t negatively affect your rankings, adding them should potentially improve your ranking indirectly.

So it is worth to create unique, optimized and enticing Meta descriptions to at least your most important pages.

 

4.1.3 Heading

What is heading?

Specifically in SEO, headings (also known as H-tags) are titles that are marked by <h> </h> tags within the HTML code. The tags consist of 6 hierarchically important headings starting from H1 (being the most important) and ending with H6 (being the least important).

In contrast to Meta title and description, headings and all the rest elements listed below are not located within the <head> section of your web pages.

Regardless of their location within the source code of a web page, they are quite important for on-site optimization because they also positively influence ranking in one way or another.

Headings (or H tags) also have a moderate positive influence on rankings and therefore they are considered to be an important piece of every on-page optimization process.

This is very important to use a few most important headings throughout each piece of your content.

For example, I try to always use the following H tags in my content:

  • H1: The most important of all the H tags. It should be used only once throughout each piece of content.
  • H2: Can be used as many times as needed throughout each piece of content.
  • H3: Can be used as many times as needed throughout each piece of content.

Headings are very important not only for SEO but also for user experience. They help your visitors to consume your content more effectively.

As far as search engine optimization is concerned, H tags carry an incredible opportunity to include your targeted keywords in them.

I always try to insert into headings multiple variations of my targeted keywords, which helps search engines make better connection between different keyword themes.

For example, let’s say I composed the following H1 heading for my real estate website:

  • H1 heading: Browse Best Houses for Sale in Houston, TX

Then, in the same piece of content, I also added two H2 headings in different sections with synonymous keyword themes like so:

  • H1 heading: Browse Best Houses for Sale in Houston, TX
    • First H2 heading: Featured Homes for Sale in Houston, Texas
    • Second H2 heading: Want to Buy a House in Houston, TX?

And finally, under those H2 headings I added multiple H3 headings like so:

  • H1 heading: Browse Best Houses for Sale in Houston, TX
    • First H2 heading: Featured Homes for Sale in Houston, Texas
      • First H3 heading: 3-Bedroom House
      • Second H3 heading: 5-Bedroom House
      • Third H3 heading: 1-Bedroom House
    • Second H2 heading: Want to Buy a House in Houston, TX?
      • First H3 heading: Houston Neighborhood 1
      • Second H3 heading: Houston Neighborhood 2
      • Third H3 heading: Houston Neighborhood 3

Not only this helps my site to rank for many variations of each keyword theme, but it also sends a signal to search engines that all these keyword themes are topically relevant.

This will allow you to establish broader, yet very targeted topical relevance of your page which in turn will help you rank for more keywords that you target.

 

4.2 Structured Data Optimization

What is structured data? 

Structured data is standardized coding format that allows you to markup certain content (elements/objects) that can be easily understood by the major search engines.

Structured Data is another, quite effective way to markup content on your web pages to make them more understandable to search engines.

In addition to that, it allows you to make your content visually stand out in SERPs by enhancing the appearance of your listings.

For instance, take a look at this enhanced listing of a sunglasses product.

structured data in product search

(image source)

With structured data, you can markup individual elements/objects such as brand, rating, price, special offers, availability, etc.

It helps Google find your web pages easier and they look way more appealing to searchers than a regular blue and green listings.

Similar way you can implement structured data for local businesses, books, events, movies, recipes and more.

There are three main formats of structured data encoding that you can use to mark up your content with:

  • JSON-LD
  • Microdata
  • RDFa

I personally prefer using JSON-LD format because it is more convenient from various perspectives (I don’t want to get into technicalities here).

If you’re not familiar with how structured data works, it may be challenging for you first. When I first was exposed to it, I said to myself, “what the heck is that???”

It does look scary when you first try to digest it because you’re basically working with a raw code. But the more you research about it, it starts making sense (like with many other things in life I guess).

Anyway, I wouldn’t recommend you go ahead and start researching on how to manually create structured data for your website.

There are many free automated tools out there these days that help you create the right code in seconds.

However, I personally tried many of the available tools and I found them very limited.

Therefore, I was forced to develop our own in-house tool which we use on daily basis at the agency and it saves us tons of time.

You are welcome to use it. It is totally free. Here is the link. If you like it, please let other people know about it too.

However, before you start creating structured data and using it on every single page of your site, I have to warn you about the misuse.

As always with all the good stuff, there is an abuse. So Google created certain structured data guidelines that I strongly encourage you to read carefully.

You can get a penalty from Google for misuse of structured data. Here at the agency, we received a penalty twice through Google Search Console for improper use of structured data .

This penalty, per se, does not affect ranking. However, it is still a penalty and until lifted, Google will disable rich snippets of your website from showing up in SERPs.

As you know rich snippets (which mainly come from structured data implementation) are a huge traffic driver from search results.

As I mentioned before, they enhance your listings’ appearance thereby attracting more clicks.

So when you lose them, obviously your traffic will drop. That, in turn, can cause a chain reaction of signals that indirectly may negatively affect your ranking (I spoke about it in 4.1.2 Meta Description section).

The moral of the story, read the guidelines in order to not violate Google’s guidelines in regards with structured data implementation.

Ok, so let’s say you got the guidelines right and you are not going to abuse the system.

Now, how do you know which structured data type to implement on your web pages?

Yes, our tool will help in many cases to determine which structured data type to use. But it still doesn’t cover 100% of all the possible cases since it is consistently growing and evolving vocabulary of structure data types.

There are hundreds of possible structured data content types, properties and extensions available for all sorts of types of websites.

Majority of them can be found on the schema.org, the main collaborative communities that creates, maintains, and promotes schemas (vocabulary of structured data types) for structured data on the web.

Since structured data can be applied to other uses besides search engines, you need to make sure you follow the documentation on developers.google.com as definitive for Google Search behavior, rather than the schema.org documentation.

So, every structured data code that you create, always test it through Google’s structured data testing tool to make sure it is valid.

If there are no errors reported by Google’s testing tool, you’re good to go.

We at the agency started using structured data on our own as well as our clients’ websites as part of our on-page optimization process.

This all structured data thing is still so new and under utilized by majority of SEO agencies and especially individual business owners.

So if you add it to your arsenal of on-page SEO strategies, you may get an edge over your competitors (even though I always highly suggest to adopt every single point that I mentioned in this extensive guide).

 

4.3 Images Optimization

Images optimization is also considered as a part of on-page optimization. There are few important things that you want to take care of with your images.

  • Name image file with relevant title
  • Use Alt text attribute
  • Use Title text attribute
  • Optimize image for web for faster loading

#1 Name image file with relevant title

This might sound so obvious but I can’t stress enough how many people overlook it. You can often see image files named something like this: xSrk187img.jpg.

This name of an image file doesn’t really provide much info about the image. Wouldn’t you agree?

Image’s file name should be descriptive. It should ultimately include your targeted keyword within it. Check out the file title of the image on the top of this guide:

image file title sample

So, every time you want to add an image to your content, always start from appropriately naming the file of the image.

#2 Use Alt text attribute

Alt text (also known as Alt tag, Alt attribute or Alternative text) has been mainly created for visually impaired and blind people to provide them with a text equivalent of images.

alt text sample

How to use Alt text?

In general, Alt text should clearly describe an image. For example, if you have an image with kissing couple, you can just add the following Alt text: “kissing couple” or man and woman kissing”, etc.

Here is a great guide made by Penn State University on how to use Alt tags for images.

How this applies to SEO?

Alt text is read by search engines to better understand the contents of a web page. Therefore, each image on the page that supports your content should have an Alt attribute specified.

Search  engines in general and Google in particular have indicated very clearly about importance of proper optimization of images.

In Google’s image publishing guidelines, they explained in-depth about how important it is to have a descriptive Alt attributes. They extract a lot of valuable info from them.

Therefore, besides making sure that visually impaired people can understand what your images are about, you also want to smoothly insert your targeted keywords in to the Alt attributes.

This will send another relevancy signal to search engines indicating that your page is about your targeted topic.

#3 Optimize images for web to load fast

This particular topic is a little out of the scope of on-page optimization. So I won’t cover it in this guide.

Instead, I invite you to read my another guide that explains in-depth how to optimize images for web to load fast.

 

5. Internal Linking

What is internal linking?

Internal linking or interlinking is a process of connecting relevant content on your website by linking to it from other relevant content.

There are two main purposes for it:

  • To provide supplemental relevant content to human visitors to improve their engagement by making them consume more of your content and stay longer on your site.
  • To open up additional pathways for search engines to discover and crawl other topically-relevant pieces of content on your site and establish stronger topical relevance.

In general, there are multiple ways how you can leverage power of internal linking. Below I listed the most important and effective ones.

 

5.1 In-Content Internal Linking

In-content internal linking is a very powerful aspect of on-page optimization process. It’s when you create a link to other topically relevant page/s right from the body content of your article.

Notice I mentioned the word “relevant” throughout the last few paragraphs multiple times. This is because it is highly important to interlink pages that have topical relevance or at least somehow supplement linked content.

Here is an example of internal linking right from this guide:

internal linking

Interlinking topically irrelevant pages will provide little or no value to your visitors as well as to your rankings.

If you care about your business, I’d not suggest compromising your visitors’ satisfaction by interlinking topically irrelevant content.

They will hate you for wasting their time lol.

Instead, I suggest you to get into a habit of creating your content with an idea of potential internal linking in mind. This way your content interlinking strategy will work naturally.

Actions to Take:

  • Make sure you link from pages’ body content itself to other relevant and appropriate pages of the site.

Note: As I already mentioned, don’t just link to a page for a sake of creating a link; only link to other pages if those pages will provide additional value.

The best example for content interlinking is Wikipedia. So always keep that in mind when linking from the content to other pages of the site.

  • Make sure to vary anchor text of the link when linking to the same page. For example, let’s say we’re linking to page A from article X. So we used AnchorText1 for the link.

Let’s say later on we came across a page Z to which we also can link from article X. So this time we’ll use AnchorText2 for the link.

The rule of thumb here is always try to switch anchor text of a link when linking to the same page. I’m saying to do that not because of potential over-optimization.

Not at all. Using the same anchor text for your internal links won’t get you penalized due to over-optimization issues according to Matt Cutts.

I’m saying that because there is actually a great benefit for it. Varying anchor text with relevant terms will only help you rank for those additional terms because search engines will now consider those terms relevant too.

However, at the same time, don’t SPAM. Placing thousands of links on your site with identical anchor text “best cheap used cars” and pointing all of them to the same page, won’t get you far.

The same anchor text usage rules apply to all the rest listed below internal linking methods.

 

5.2 Breadcrumbs Internal Linking

Breadcrumbs are navigational links that allow both human visitors and search engines to more clearly understand the content organization of a website and more easily navigate through it.

There are two main benefits of having breadcrumbs navigation on your site. One benefits human visitors and the other search engines.

Human visitors

Breadcrumbs allow visitors to more clearly understand where they are located on your website in respect to the home page of the site. They also facilitate navigation throughout the website thereby improving user experience.

Search engines

Breadcrumbs serve as navigational paths that allow search engines flow through them very easily and better understand relations between pages in terms of their topical and hierarchical relevance.

breadcrumbs navigation links

Actions to Take:

  • Make sure you are leveraging power of breadcrumbs navigation on your site. If you are using WordPress, there are plenty of themes that have breadcrumbs navigation built-in already.

 

5.3 HTML Sitemap Internal Linking

HTML sitemap is a plain HTML page like other regular pages on your site. However, unlike other pages, this page is created solely for listing links that point to all the existing pages of your site.

This is the only instance where the topical relevance, which I mentioned multiple times in previous sections, does not apply.

And this is totally fine here because sitemap page serves as an index of the entire site, which in turn justifies its linking to every existing page of a website.

Actions to Take:

  • Make sure you have an HTML sitemap page on your site with hierarchically organized links. Below is a screenshot of my sitemap page:

HTML sitemap

  • Make sure your sitemap page links to every page of your site (obviously only those that you want to be crawled and indexed).

You can see on the screenshot above that my sitemap lists links to every page of my site in hierarchical order. If you’re using WordPress for your site/s, here is a great news.

I developed an awesome HTML sitemap generator plugin for WordPress sites that allows you to map out the entire site in 1 second 🙂 For my readers I give it away for free. You can download it here.

  • Make sure there is a site-wide link in the footer pointing to your HTML sitemap page.

 

5.4 Home Page Internal Linking

Home page internal linking greatly helps both human visitors and search engines. While user experience aspect is extremely important here, in this section I want to concentrate on the SEO aspect only.

In most cases the home page of a website will have the most amount of inbound links comparing to all the rest of the pages.

This means that usually home pages are the most powerful pages on the entire site. So how this relates to internal linking?

Well, since the home pages are usually the most powerful pages, their ability to pass link juice (or SEO power if you will) is the greatest.

Therefore, linking right from the home page to other pages on your site will have the greatest SEO impact in terms of crawlability, indexability and rankability of those linked pages.

This all means that you always need to try to link from your home page to the most important pages.

Actions to Take:

  • Make sure you link from your home page to the most important pages on your site (i.e. pages that you try to rank the most).
  • Make sure you link from your home page to the hierarchically most important pages on your site (i.e. main category pages).
  • Make sure you also take care of a user experience aspect here and not just build internal links for SEO purposes.

 

5.5 Navigation Internal Linking

Navigation internal linking is quite similar to home page interlinking concept. It also equally helps both, human visitors and search engines.

However, navigation in general, contains more opportunities to link to greater amount of pages than the home page.

Therefore, you can link to additional important pages of your site from navigation if you couldn’t link to them from home page.

However, it also should make sense here. Don’t try to list bunch of irrelevant links in your navigation menus. While it definitely will help search engines, it will negatively affect your user experience.

First and for most, navigation menus are created for human users; not for search engines. However, with smart use of navigation menus, you can create an intuitive navigation for both, human visitors and search engines.

Actions to Take:

  • Make sure main navigation links to hierarchically most important pages (usually service/product category pages) and other important pages.
  • Make sure your navigation menus don’t use some fancy technology that’s not fully crawlable by search engines. Even though, over the years Google significantly improved its ability (and keeps improving) to crawl the content embedded within a particular technology, it is always best to use plain HTML or CSS format.

 

5.6 Footer Internal Linking

99% of all the sites on the web have a site-wide footer (the same footer on every URL). It means that the same exact footer and its contents are accessible from every URL of your site.

This makes it a strategic area of your site to utilize internal linking. Why is it important you’ll ask?

Well, since footer is accessible from many URLs of your site, the links that you’ll place there will be discovered way faster than in-content links for instance.

Therefore, you need to link from the footer to other important pages that you couldn’t link to from other areas. Also, I like to link from the footer to deeper pages on the site helping them to be discovered easier.

Finally, as I already mentioned in this guide, link to a key page from your footer – your HTML sitemap.

This page has direct pathways to every single page of your site making it easy for both, human visitors and search engines to discover all the pages on your site you want them to discover.

Actions to Take:

  • Make sure to link to important pages that are not mentioned in the main navigation or elsewhere throughout your site.
  • Make sure to deeper pages of your site.
  • Make sure to link to the key page – HTML sitemap.