In another post, I wrote about the off-page optimization as being the sun and rain that grow your website rankings in SERPs.
But if the soil is bad, your website will not bear fruits even in perfect weather.
If off-page SEO is the sun and rain, then we can make on-page SEO be the fertilzer for your website.
On-Page optimization of a website can be split into two steps: Pre-Click and Post-Click.
Pre-Click Optimization is what the search engine displays about your page in relation to the user search query.
Post-Click refers to the actual on-page content after the user has clicked and landed on the page.
How will you convince the searcher to choose your webpage over all other search results?
Your page must promise that provides the information or offer the user is searching for. Whilst there is an element of luck you can influence the decision the user is going to make by optimizing the 3 pre-click elements: title tags, meta descriptions, and URL.
When the search results are displayed, the title of the pages is what gets stands out the most. That’s why this pre-click seo element is considered as a heavyweight SEO signal. That means that it has a big impact on how your page gets ranked in relation to the user’s search query.
The maximum length of the title tag has changed over the years. Currently, the maximum length is approximately 60 characters for desktop devices or 600 pixels. Whilst for mobile devices the title tag limit is 72 characters, roughly 680 pixels.
SEO Titles Best Practices
- The title must accurately describe what is the article about.
- Include your main keyword/s you are trying to rank for.
- Must have a natural reading flow even if that requires to swap the words of the keyword between them.
- Make it shorter than 60 characters. (mobile devices show up to 70 characters)
- Avoid using caps as they take more space and it decreases the length of the characters.
- Write a different title than the titles of other pages in the search results.
- Use your brand’s name in the title (if you have seo plugins like Yoast SEO this might be already automatically taken care of).
Written in the source code of your page and visible only in the SERPs, the meta description of your page is considered a medium-weight SEO signal.
Although it does not directly affect the rankings, meta descriptions are meant to extend on what the page is about. Google is pretty smart nowadays and the page description can work for your benefit in a smart way too.
The words that Google believes are relevant to the user’s search query are bolded out within the meta description itself. This includes exact words, synonyms, or even related words of the user’s search query.
For mobile devices, the title space is wider compared to the desktop, but the length of the meta description is the other way around. As for now, the limit of the meta description tag is approx. 158 characters – 920 px . For mobile devices, the meta description limit is 120 characters – 680 pixels.
Meta Descriptions Best Practices
- Don’t use exact same keywords as in the title but use related keywords instead.
- Don’t do keyword stuffing.
- The keywords should naturally blend in within the overall meta description.
- As with the title, the meta tag must be accurate in describing what the post is about.
- Make it descriptive while triggering curiosity to find out more.
Titles and meta descriptions are not the only visible elements in Google’s search results. Although a light-weight SEO signal, the URL of a page can positively impact its performance inside the search engines but outside too.
For example, when your link is shared on social media or on other blogs the URL works as an indicator of what the page is about.
Best practices for URL’s
- Avoid using the default generated post URL (such as www.yourdomain.com/?p=2478) and customize it using relevant words.
- Make it short (max 50-60 characters) and match the words in your title if possible.
- Avoid using unnecessary connection words (and, or, a, etc.)
- Make it readable and easy to understand what the page is about.
- Don’t use capitalized letters or punctuation symbols.
- Avoid using any other word separators but hyphens (-).
- Don’t use the same word twice: eg. if you have the folder named ‘marketing-checklists’, don’t make it www.yourdomainname.com/marketing-checklists/facebook-ads-
Quick Tip: Before you publish a post you can check how it will look in the search results using Google Snippet Preview Tools, such as this one from TechnicalSeo.com.
Another aspect of SEO is Technical SEO. It’s a highly important aspect of your overall SEO and it requires more explanation than it would be fit here in this article. This post from cognitiveseo.com explains everything you need to know about the technical aspects of your SEO.
You did a great job at the pre-click stage. The user is convinced that your page will provide the solution to his query. But if you don’t meet his expectations, then he will simply bounce off your site with disappointment.
The SEO elements we will cover in this second part are subheadings, main copy, images, and hyperlinks.
Considered as a medium-weight SEO signal, subheadings help the users skim through the article before deciding if it’s worth a full reading.
From a coding perspective, the main title of your post will always have a <h1> tag whilst the titles within the article should have a <h2> to <h6> tag. You can take advantage of the <h2> to <h6> title tags to create a hierarchy of what’s more important within the article.
Subheadings Best Practices
- Although using keywords in your headings it’s beneficial for SEO, focus on user experience instead and write descriptive subheadings.
- Before they start reading the full article, users skim through the headings first, therefore make them short too.
- Use synonyms of your targeted keywords when possible if still relevant to the description.
- Make them all have an equal length when possible.
- Use more keyword-focused headings only when trying to rank for transactional keywords.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that the text that makes up the paragraphs of your article is a heavy-weight on-site SEO factor.
Your body copy determines the performance of the article more than any other on-page SEO element. Based on how useful is the information for him he may decide to check other posts, or even to share the article online.
Main Copy Best Practices
- There is no right article length. You should understand when the user needs a quick answer or a detailed article and write based on his expectations.
- Use keywords naturally. If inserting your keywords breaks the reading flow then avoid using the keyword in its full form or don’t use it al all.
- Avoid keyword stuffing. There is no exact keyword percentage to use in your main body, but a good practice is to use your main keyword 2-3 times, your secondary keyword 1-2 times and your tertiary keyword maximum once.
Use synonyms of your keywords when possible.
- Make the text easy to read using short sentences and paragraphs.
Write it in a familiar tone and language style to your target audience.
Use numbered lists, bullet lists, bold text and other text formating when relevant and helps to better convey the message.
Related article: 5 Steps of an Effective Content Strategy.
Although a light-weight SEO factor, images can break or make a post. A good image can bring new visitors to your website, a bad one can make them say bye-bye.
Images are visible by humans and scannable by search engines. Therefore you need to optimize them for both humans and robots.
Website Images Best Practices
- Add relevant images that complete or supplements the content around the image. It’s best to use your own photos but feel free to use stock photos from a website such as www.pexels.com or pixabay.com.
- To optimize page load time, you want to upload images no larger than the size they are displayed in the browser. To be on the safe side don’t go larger than 1,200 by 675 pixels (16:9). A good online resize tool is this one from Shopify.
- To make your site pages faster always upload images no larger than 300kb. It’s better to lose a little bit of image quality and win back a few good milliseconds in page loading time. I use Jpeg.io or TinyPng to optimize my images.
- Use a descriptive and relevant name for your image file. Instead of a filename like DSC08483.jpg, use on-page-seo-infographic.jpg. If relevant, insert your keywords or a close variant.
- A good place for inserting your SEO keyphrases, the alt tag also provides the image information for the visually impaired. Therefore, write for the reader first, and then for image SEO.
- Where applicable insert descriptive captions to your images. You can use captions for SEO purposes, but the visitors scan the headings and image captions too before reading the full article – so write captions for visitors, not for SEO.
Our last element for performing your own on-page SEO are the clickable links in your posts.
Advantages of Internal Linking
- Improves overall user experience when providing more relevant supplementary information for visitors.
- When linking to your own pages Google bots crawl and index your new content faster.
- Internal linking helps Google determine what the post is about and to understand the relationship between the linked content.
- Linking to relevant posts for more valuable information will improve user time on site.
- It helps to pass link juice (Page Authority and Domain Authority) from one post to the other.
Best Practices for Hyperlinks
- Diversify the anchor texts. If you are linking multiple times to the same page use different anchor texts.
- Use generic anchor texts (click here, this post, etc.), and naked links as well (www.yourdomain.com/on-page-seo) when linking to it from another post.
- Link to relevant content that supplements or adds new information to the idea you are trying to convey.
- Use external linking. Linking to other authoritative sources in your industry is proof for google and your visitors that your content is researched and trustworthy.
- Don’t be afraid to hyperlink to more sources. There is no recommended limit on how many external links your post should have. As long as it is not spammy and you keep them contextual you are on the safe side.
Taking care of the On-Page SEO might seem daunting. Although there are many points that seem more on the technical side, it is not that hard actually.
You too are searching on Google for information many times per day. If you watch yourself through that process you can precisely understand what will make others click on your own website. And most importantly, try to realize what will make them stay on your site.