On page SEO has progressed a lot in last few years. I remember when I started blogging back in the days, it was all about keyword stuffing. If you wanted to rank for cat food, all you had to do was stuff ‘cat food’ (not literally) a thousand time in your article and that would be enough.
I even saw cases where people used to write a normal article and then they put cat food a thousand times under the actual piece and marked it white (on a white background) – good old days.
As you would imagine, ‘tricks’ don’t work forever and Google is now smarter than they were ever before. While off page SEO is very important and crucial for your rankings, I would say on page does 80% of the job.
Let me give you an example.
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If you Google around, you will find my site for a few very specific – keywords:
I have been dominating page 1 for keywords like these for ages now and it regularly gets 2-5 leads/week.
Now, If I look at the backlink profile of that page, it looks something like this:
Everyone else who are targeting that keyword have stronger off page profile, better authority and – more traffic than me. I simply use that keyword as a tool to get direct leads + proof of work to get indirect SEO gigs.
Now, why did that happen? Is it because of my magical approach to on page SEO? Well, let’s leave that aside for now and focus on what the anatomy of a perfectly optimized page should look like.
On Page SEO: How to Optimize a Page For Better Visibility Online
There are a number of factors that play major roles in your on page optimization game plan. Where optimizing the page is important, you don’t want to optimize it so much that it starts losing conversions. At the end, you want a balance in between proper on page and proper conversion numbers.
I will give you an example. I can publish a blank page that will score 100% on every page speed tool on planet. However, that page won’t convert so it makes no sense to do that. What I am trying to get to is that you should always use your marketing brain when you are playing with data. It is very easy to be lost in the speed score, keyword density, TF-Idf, LSI and more. But you should always keep the end result in mind which is ideally more conversion, action, dwell time or simply getting a hit on your retarget pixel.
Having said all that, these would be my recommendations for a perfectly optimized page:
Clear Keyword Target Throughout
Ideally, for 90% of you, you would want to target one main keyword for every page you publish on the website. Is it an eCommerce product page? Try to find out what gets most search – is it the product name? Is it the product + review query? Use whatever is your convenient keyword research tool to figure out the search volume and select that as your target keyword for the page. Every page you publish on the website should have a keyword target in mind.
Playing With H Tags
Now, this strategy changes from time to time. For now, I recommend putting your main target keyword as a H2 tag once and then a few different versions of your keyword long tails as H3s. Be natural – don’t force it though it is a tough task. If you absolutely can’t put a few natural H3s that would have your main keyword + supporting content, you can skip this part.
The Average of your 3-5 Competitors
It is time to look at your competitors. Let’s use an example. Assume we want to rank for ‘Guitar lessons in London’.
Go on to Google.co.uk (important to use the right country version of Google) and type the keyword you want to rank for.
You will see a list like this:
We will only pick the true competitors from Google results. Is it another company offering guitar lessons? If yes, that’s a competitor. Is it a random blog talking about guitar lessons or is it an Amazon page trying to sell guitars? It is not a competitor and we will ignore those results (Google results are not perfect).
Once you have 3-5 of your competitor URL pages (we will select the exact page that ranks, not the whole website), use a tool like SERP Analyzer to get a list of their keyword percentage, H2s, H3s, alt texts, ratio and image alt texts. You can also do all these manually – it just takes a little while to calculate everything.
The goal here is to know the following:
- Average number of times our competitors used the keyword on their pages
- Average number of images on our competitors’ pages
- Average number of videos
- What H tags our competitors used (from H1 – H6 tags)
- The image alt texts our competitors used
- Average word count of our competitors’ pages
Once you have the above numbers, it is time to construct your page.
You guessed it right, we will try to match or beat our competitors. More is not always better so I would recommend going 20% more on the word count but everything else can simply match the average. For the H tags, we simply want to analyze and see how they constructed their page – what headings / topics they discussed to get ideas. This is a qualitative data point.
Creating the Page
You now have enough research based data to create your page. There are a few things you need to keep in mind while you are at it.
The shorter the URL, the easier it is to index for Google. Matthew did a test I remember where he had both short and long URLs, while everything else remained unchanged – the short urls always got indexed faster. Having said that, I want you to keep the keyword you are targeting within the URL. If you are targeting guitar lessons in London, the ideal URL should be: domain.com/guitar-lessons-London.
While there’s no direct co-relation between more images or videos and higher rankings, there are indirect benefits which possibly helps. For example, when you have a video on your page, it makes people stay longer on that page (as they are watching the video) which then improves your Dwell time score – which may or may not help your rankings (I know).
Try to have an image or a video for every scroll (wherever the reader is on the page, he should be able to see an image or a video somewhere). That’s a good UX practice to keep in mind.
Image Names + Alt Text
You already know this. Image names don’t really help but they don’t hurt either – especially if you want to appear on image search of Google. I would recommend doing that. Alt text is important. One of your alt text should be the keyword that you are targeting and the other alt texts should be different long tail variations of that main keyword.
Inbound and Outbound Linking
Both internal and external links will play a major role in your on page SEO success. Many think that outbound links (links you are giving to other websites) don’t matter but they 100% do. Here’s what I tell to my writers: Always link out to facts when you are talking about them, never link out to my direct competition and do a minimum of 3 outbound links for every 1000 words.
Now, I know this is not a hard math – you might have to do more or less depending on what you are writing about. But that’s how my writers approach it generally.
Internal linking is trickier. While I want you to go ballistic with internal linking, keeping a few strategies in mind would help:
- There’s no penalty for internal linking – feel free to use the exact anchor text, where-ever possible. So if I am writing a post about guitar lessons in London and I have another page on the site that I want to rank for best acoustic guitars, I would like to that from my new page with an anchor text that says “best acoustic guitars”.
- Never use your main keyword that you are targeting for that page as an anchor text. If I am creating that guitar lessons London page, none of my internal or external link should have guitar lessons London as an anchor. Think about it. You are telling Google that if they want to know more about that ‘topic’ they can visit – that URL. You shouldn’t do that.
If you can naturally insert a video within your page, a good hack is to get the video transcribed using a tool like Rev (or you can use a freelancer) and then post it in a click to open transcription area. Here’s an example:
This helps you to improve your word count, topical relevance and as it is a ‘click to open’ area – it doesn’t affect the reader’s attention. And this is a perfectly legal way to get more content jammed into a page which would help you to target random long tail keywords.
The Page Speed
I want you to look at the page speed as the last step. You have done everything that you could to have a solid on page SEO structure. It is time to check what speed do you get on a tool like GTMetrix. Try to bring it down to 3 seconds or as close to 3 seconds as you can without removing any front end content from the page. If you have a lot of videos or images, you might have to do a compromise there.
In my books, a 7 second loading page with lots of dazzling multimedia is way better than a boring 3 second loading page. There’s more to the world than just a perfect on page SEO score. You would want to get social shares, traffic from Pinterest and more – which you wouldn’t get if the page is boring. If SEO is your only traffic strategy (which it shouldn’t be) – you need to compromise with the multimedia as it is difficult to rank heavier pages.
If you are using WordPress, you can safely ignore the suggestions that some of the plugins offer. You don’t have to go green on ‘Yoast SEO’ or Rank Math plugin. Those are just suggestions to have the basics right and with on page SEO, there’s no one solution fits all.
As you are reading this, I am pretty sure you know more than just the bare minimum so I wouldn’t even look at the Yoast settings if I were you.
All the best 🙂