12 Vital On-Page SEO Factors to Boost Stronger Rankings
- 1 12 Important On-Page SEO Factors to Focus On
- 2 Frequently Asked Questions
- 3 Conclusion
On-page SEO factors are the things search engines look for when ranking a web page.
What’s great about on-page factors is the full control you have to implement them yourself.
Better still, you can see improvements to your rankings almost immediately after making the changes.
But, which one’s should you focus on?
Well, in this post, we’re looking at the 12 most essential on-page SEO factors you need to pay attention to.
Let’s dive in.
12 Important On-Page SEO Factors to Focus On
After doing the research and getting dozens of page one results, I have found these to be the most important on-page SEO factors to focus on.
1. Quality Content
Almost all on-page SEO rankings factors relate to content quality.
That means if you focus on publishing high-quality content, you’re on to a winning start.
The question is:
How do you create quality content?
Thankfully, Google provides a lot of guidelines to help determine what quality content looks like.
Here’s a quick breakdown:
- Content that demonstrates expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness
- Google’s system aims to prioritize content that seems most helpful
- The systems also analyze content to see if the information is relevant
- Content quality goes beyond just the text
Let’s break these down.
First, content that demonstrates expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, or E-A-T is heavily referenced in Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines.
These are guidelines that real people follow to help establish whether a website and its content are trustworthy.
An easy way to establish E-A-T is with an about page and author bio. Include details about your experience and expertise on the topics you write about.
And try to avoid topics in YMYL niches, unless you’ve got the necessary credentials.
Second, Google aims to prioritize helpful content. To that end, they launched a system called the “helpful content update” in August 2022.
The guidelines for producing helpful content are simple. Content that gives readers a satisfying experience will be rewarded.
And content that seems to provide little value or low-added value will have less chance of performing well in search.
Third, quality content is also relevant to the search query. More on relevancy later.
Lastly, quality content goes beyond the text on the page. In an office hours hangout, Google’s John Mueller explains:
“It’s really the quality of your overall website. That includes, everything from the layout to the design, how you integrate images, how you work with speed, all of those factors come into play.” – John Mueller
2. Keywords and Search Intent
Search intent simply means the reason or meaning behind a search query.
This is a critical on-page SEO factor to get right, otherwise, you may experience some on-page SEO problems.
On the surface, search intent relates to different types of content. These fall into four categories:
- Informational intent: These are queries where the searcher is looking for information (e.g. “vegetable soup recipe”)
- Navigational intent: These queries are when the search wants to visit a specific site or page on a site (e.g. Facebook contact)
- Transactional intent: This is to do with a searcher wanting to buy something (e.g. vacuum cleaners).
- Commercial investigation: These queries are when the searcher wants to research a product before buying (e.g. best electric scooters)
Beyond matching the search intent into these categories, it’s also important to match the intent on a deeper level.
For example: Let’s say you search the keyword “how to bake a potato”, and you click a result, but it’s talking about cooking potatoes in a microwave.
This is a clear example that the search intent is completely off. Your goal is to make sure the content matches what people are searching for to satisfy their needs.
3. Relevance of Content
Relevant content is also an important ranking factor for on-page SEO.
This can be broken down in a couple of ways:
First, the content should contain keywords that match the search query. This also means including other related terms in the title, body, and subheadings.
For example, a broad term like “dogs” can suggest the searcher wants a wide range of information about dogs.
So relevant content might include different dog breeds, types of food, grooming practices, and pictures of dogs. Not just the term “dogs” on the page.
Second, Google mentions the following in its documentation:
“We also use aggregated and anonymized interaction data to assess whether Search results are relevant to queries.”
This means Google measures how people interact with your blog to assess if the content is relevant to what they searched for.
This demonstrates the connection between quality content and relevancy. Focusing on just one of these signals might not be enough to rank high in the SERPs.
Therefore, it’s necessary to find a good balance between relevancy, quality, and meeting the search intent.
4. Internal Links
Without links on your website, visitors can’t navigate to different pages.
Imagine you have a blog about tennis, but you only had one article.
Even if the article was a 10,000 word ultimate guide on the topic of tennis, overall, the blog is far from optimized for on-page SEO.
Moreover, if a visitor were to find this article, they’re unlikely to read it in one sitting. They would leave your blog resulting in a lack of interaction data for Google to see as a positive signal.
Now, compare this to a tennis blog with ten 1,000 word articles.
Interlinking each of them can help Google understand the context of the website better and gather more interaction data from users.
To get the benefits of internal links, see our case studies on how customers are using Link Whisper to achieve significant results.
5. Mobile Responsiveness
Mobile responsiveness is an on-page SEO factor because mobile traffic is rising.
In fact, this study reports the percentage of website traffic from mobile devices was 59.16% in the 4th quarter of 2022.
This is important because Google only wants to offer search results that give a good experience.
Thus, a good mobile experience needs to be optimal. This can be achieved with a mobile responsive website.
To clarify, a mobile responsive website adjusts the design to fit the size of the screen it’s being viewed on.
Helping with readability and user experience, which all contribute to improved rankings.
Fortunately, most WordPress themes and other platforms are built with mobile responsiveness in mind.
But to be on the safe side, you can check how mobile responsive your website is with Google’s mobile test tool.
You can also resize a desktop browser to see how the design responds to its width.
Then choose a different WordPress theme if you need to.
6. Image Optimization
As you know, websites are mostly made up of text and images. And images are key when it comes to improving engagement rates on your blog.
The problem occurs when images slow down the loading speed of a page, causing visitors to leave.
Not good for search engines or your visitors.
That’s why it’s important to serve optimized images on your site to provide the best possible experience.
To do this, here are a few steps you can take.
First, when downloading images, make sure you download the right size.
The resolution of royalty-free photo sites is way too big. But many of them let you adjust the resolution.
Alternatively, you can scale your images down with a tool like PhotoPea or directly inside the WordPress media library.
Second, use an image optimization plugin for WordPress. These tools will compress the image, cutting down the file size without losing image quality.
The last optimization tip isn’t about speed. Instead, it’s to add image alt text to help Google understand what the image represents.
This can be done with a WordPress SEO plugin such as Yoast SEO or RankMath.
7. Site Speed
Here’s what Google had to say about site speed back in April 2010.
“Today we’re including a new signal in our search ranking algorithms: site speed.”
Straight to the point!
The reason, as for many on-page SEO factors, comes down to user experience.
As you can imagine, it’s essential to maintain a fast-loading website, otherwise, visitors will get frustrated and leave.
Other than images, there are a few more things that can cause sites to get sluggish.
These are the biggest culprits:
- Cheap or shared web hosting
- The use of poorly coded themes or plugins
- Code being loaded inefficiently
Luckily, there are a few things you can do to make your website run smoothly.
First, make sure you’re using a decent web host. This can often solve 90% of site speed issues.
Cloudways is a great option for beginners and costs around $10 per month.
Or for more established sites, Iridium Hosting is excellent for site speed and offers great support.
Second, you want to use a popular theme from a well-established developer.
If you’re using WordPress, Astra or GeneratePress are both great options.
Lastly, use a speed optimization plugin such as WPRocket. This is a paid tool that will minify all the files with a click of a button.
Or some free tools like WP Fastest Cache will do a good enough job.
8. Page Experience
So far, we’ve seen that page experience plays a vital role in optimizing on-page SEO.
Google even outlines page experience signals in their documentation.
One of these signals is mobile responsiveness, which we’ve already covered. Another is HTTPS, which we’ll explore later in this post.
But there are two more signals that impact page experience you should be aware of:
- Core Web Vitals
- No intrusive interstitials
Let’s break both of these down.
Core Web Vitals are factors Google uses to assess the user experience of a website.
These factors are broken into three categories: largest contentful paint, first input delay, and cumulative layout shift.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) is how long it takes a page to be visible to the visitor. It’s measured from the moment they click on a link to the majority of elements being loaded.
First Input Delay (FID) is the actual amount of time it takes for the user to be able to interact with the page.
This means that your LCP might be fast, but if people can’t scroll down, click on links, or submit a form, your FID will have a poor result.
The last factor in Core Web Vitals is Cumulative Layout Shift, which is how well a page loads in the browser.
What you want is for the elements to appear seamlessly, instead of shifting around on the page as it’s loading.
This can happen if specific code doesn’t load in the right order or if display ads show up too late.
You can see a report of your Core Web Vitals in Google Search Console:
Monitoring this report will help you determine whether you need to make improvements to your site’s design and layout.
Lastly, Intrusive interstitials are popups or dialog boxes that obstruct the main content of the page.
These are often to collect email addresses when offering a lead magnet.
Google’s suggestion is to use banners or dialog boxes that are less intrusive and don’t stop the visitor from viewing the content.
9. Meta Tags
Meta tags provide more details about what your pages and blog posts are about.
The most important Meta tags to focus on are the meta title and meta description.
When you customize these to include the primary keyword (and engaging copy), you’ll get more traffic and higher rankings.
That’s because better copy in the title and description of the search results, yield better conversion rates.
And optimizing them with relevant keywords helps Google rank them accordingly.
To add custom meta tags, you’ll need an SEO plugin like Yoast or Rank Math.
When posting content, you’ll get the option to customize the SEO title and description.
It’s a good practice to edit these for every page and post them on your site to get optimal results.
10. Outbound Links
Outbound links are links to other websites from your own content.
You might not realize it, but adding at least one outbound link from each of your articles can improve your rankings.
This is for several reasons:
- Linking to a related resource that goes into more detail adds value to the reader. It means they don’t have to do a Google search themselves because you’ve provided one for them.
- Linking to other quality content on the web can also align you with other experts in the niche, which can increase your perceived authority.
- External links help Google crawl the web and find more content for it to organize. Therefore, it makes sense that Google would favor sites that link to others, rather than keeping all the link juice themselves.
- Thanks to the law of reciprocity, linking to other sites consistently will result in others linking back to you. And backlinks are one of the most powerful off-page SEO factors.
For a bonus tip, send an email to all the bloggers you link to, letting them know you linked to their content.
They will appreciate the link and help you network with others in your niche. They might also share your article and possibly link to your content in the future.
11. URL Structure
URL structure is the string of words used after the trailing slash and end of the domain name.
Also known as the slug, naming and structuring the URLs can have a positive impact on search engine rankings.
Many sites’ default URL structure creates illogical conventions or adds unfriendly characters.
When you use clean URLs, your visitors will trust the page they’re on and search engines will make better sense of the page.
Many SEO gurus also suggest keeping the slug shorter, because it’s quicker and easier to read.
To change the URL structure in WordPress, go to Settings > Permalinks in the admin.
Then choose the structure that makes sense to you. A common option for blogs is to simply choose the post or page name.
This offers the shortest URL structure in WordPress.
To customize the slug, you can change it inside Gutenberg here:
HTTPS secures the connection between the website and the server. That means any information your visitors submit on your site will be encrypted.
This is crucial if you want to collect information such as emails, passwords, or credit card details.
And since 2014, it’s been a Google ranking factor, not to mention a requirement to protect the privacy of your site users.
Luckily, it’s easier than ever to secure your site with HTTPS encryption.
In fact, most web hosting companies provide you with a free SSL certificate to do just that.
To check your site is secure, look for a closed padlock symbol on the left of the URL browser bar.
It should look like this:
However, if the padlock is open or displays a warning, check with your host. They should be able to fix it for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few common questions about on-page SEO to clear up any confusion.
Why On-Page SEO Factors are Important
On-page SEO factors are enhancements you can make to your website to improve search engine rankings.
These factors are important because neglecting them can make it difficult for users and Google to know what your site is about.
How Do On-Page vs Off-Page SEO Factors Differ?
The difference between on-page vs off-page SEO is where the optimization takes place.
On-page optimizations are made directly on your website.
Whereas off-page optimizations are signals that come from other websites.
Off-page factors include referring domains, anchor text, social shares, brand mentions, and more.
What’s the Most Important On-Page SEO Factor?
The most important on-page SEO factors are difficult to say. But, Google shares a ton of information that can give us clues.
A recurring theme in their documentation comes down to content quality, relevance, internal links, and user experience.
There you have it, 12 on-page SEO factors to boost your rankings and gain more organic traffic.
The most important ranking factors for on-page SEO come down to improving relevancy, user experience, and providing helpful, quality content.
Try to implement as many of these factors as possible and you’ll achieve significant results.