On-Page SEO: The Complete Beginner’s Guide

This is a complete guide to on-page SEO for beginners.

In this on-page SEO guide, you’ll learn:

  • The definition of on-page SEO and why it’s important
  • On-page SEO basics and best practices
  • How to do on-page SEO
  • And more

By the end of this guide, you’ll know how to create and improve SEO content that ranks well in search engines.

Let’s get started.

What is on-page SEO

On-page SEO

The simplest definition of on-page SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is directly improving aspects of a web page to increase its rankings in search engines.

This may include adding relevant keywords, optimizing the meta title, internal linking to your own content, and more.

Search intent is also an important aspect, as the intent or meaning of the content needs to match the intent of the search query.

When you put on-page SEO practices in place, it helps search engines and users understand what the content is about, thus improving its value and rankings.

Why is On-page SEO important?

If you want to get (free) organic traffic from Google and other search engines, then you need to carry out on-page SEO strategies.

Ignoring on-page SEO can prevent search engines from finding your content.

Worse, it won’t match what your visitors are looking for, which will decrease its value.

Each search position on the first page gets a different percentage of clicks. Studies show that the 1st position in Google gets 27.6% of the clicks.

This percentage of clicks is also known as the click-through rate or CTR.

The further down the page you show up, the lower the CTR. For instance, position #6 drops to 4.9% CTR.

Google Click Through Rate
Credit: Backlinko.com

This means that a keyword phrase with a search volume of 1,000 will only get 49 clicks per month in the 6th position.

For comparison, position 1 would get 276 clicks, which means a significant increase in traffic by jumping up a few positions.

The best practices in this post will help you optimize content for on-page SEO and improve your ranking positions.

On-Page SEO Basics

The most basic on-page SEO activities include:

  • Adding related keywords to the content, subheadings, title tag, and meta description
  • Choosing a short keyword-rich URL
  • Creating other relevant content and adding internal links
  • Linking to external sites
  • Adding keyword-rich alt tags to images

This is like the 80/20 of on-page SEO. Follow these simple on-page SEO tips and you are more than halfway there.

The great thing about focusing on the basics is that you can return to older posts in the future and implement more advanced techniques.

Such as adding schema markup, updating content for freshness, and improving E-E-A-T signals.

More on these in the next section.

The key is knowing how to produce content for humans first, whilst implementing the basics of on-page SEO.

This is what Google wants and the algorithm will pick up on that.

On-Page SEO Best Practices

Here are the best on-page SEO techniques to rank your website in search engines and increase organic traffic.

These techniques work because they are the most important on-page SEO factors .

Use keywords strategically

Keywords are the backbone of on-page SEO. They help search engines and users know what the content is about.

But, targeting one primary keyword isn’t enough.

They need to be used strategically throughout the content to provide context and relevance.

Imagine searching for “best electric cars in 2023”, you click on a result and Tesla doesn’t appear in the list.

This would be strange as Tesla dominates the car industry and they specialize in electric cars.

So you see, it’s important to target the primary keyword, but just as important to include other keywords closely related.

These keywords also need to be placed strategically.

For example: Aim to include the primary keyword in the H1 and at least one H2, and also in the introduction and conclusion of an article.

It’s also best to place the primary keyword at the front of the page title and within the first 100 words of the content.

Prioritizing the main keyword this way tells search engines that it’s an important term.

Other related keywords need to be naturally sprinkled throughout the content.

You can find contextually relevant keywords manually by looking at the top results in Google.

Or by using a content optimization tool such as MarketMuse.

MarketMuse

Content optimization tools analyze the top rankings and highlight the most recurring keywords for a particular search query.

Try not to aimlessly stuff these keywords into the content though. Keyword stuffing will only decrease the content’s value.

Aim to add them as naturally as possible and prioritize for readability over-optimization.

Write helpful, quality content

Ever since Google was launched, its mission has been the same.

To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Google

For them to succeed with this mission, the algorithm uses hundreds of signals to determine which content provides the best information.

But what does “best information” really mean?

It means creating helpful content that satisfies the users’ expectations and needs.

To do that, focus on creating content for humans first, instead of trying to game the search engines.

This means understanding the topic you’re writing about better than what’s currently ranking.

When you know what your audience wants, based on their search queries, and can deliver tangible solutions, content creation becomes easy.

In an ideal world, you’re already an expert on the topic you write about.

But you don’t need to have a master’s degree on the topic to outrank the competition.

You just need to balance on-page optimization practices with well-researched content.

By reading the top 3 results for a given keyword, you’ll already know more than 99% of the population.

And this will set you apart from most content marketers.

Aim to make your content stand out by offering unique insights and your personal experience.

Creating the best, most helpful content, isn’t about over-optimizing the content with keywords.

It’s about constantly learning about the niche and providing nuanced information that makes the content original.

When you do this, no one will be able to compete with you.

Include the keyword in the meta title and description

A meta tag adds information about a page inside the HTML. Search engines use this data in search results as the title and description.

Customizing these meta tags with your keyword has a couple of on-page SEO benefits.

First, it helps Google and potential visitors know what the page is about.

And second, it can encourage more clicks when it stands out from the rest.

To optimize your title and meta description, follow these principles:

  • Try to front-load your keyword: Adding the keyword near the start of the title and description makes it super clear what the content is about.
  • Character limits: Titles should be a maximum of 60 and up to 120 for descriptions. This will avoid them from being cut off in the SERPs.
  • Be specific: Be direct and as specific as possible. Being too generic will result in lower conversions.
  • Add the date to your titles: People want to read up-to-date information, so this can make a big difference.
  • Use a CTA: Calls to action can help entice the reader to click through to your site.

Most SEO WordPress plugins enable you to customize your title and description tags.

Add the keyword in the URL

Just like the title and description, the page URL or “slug” needs to clearly define what it’s about.

You can set your URL slug inside WordPress under each post or page.

Put the keyword in the URL

And you can customize the URL structure from the Permalinks page.

Most blogs will use postname as default and some include /blog/ in front of it.

url structure

However, changing the URL structure should be set once and then left.

Changing the structure or URL slugs once they’ve been indexed can hurt your rankings.

Optimize user engagement

Another on-page SEO best practice is to make the page more engaging.

This is important because Google measures people who leave and a lack of engagement as a negative signal.

The more time people spend on your site and the more they engage, the more it signals your site is a satisfying experience.

Try adding as many of these to keep people reading for longer:

  • Images
  • Videos
  • Bullet points
  • A table of contents
  • Subheadings
  • Bold and italic text
  • Podcast players
  • Quotes
  • Different background colors

Also, write shorter sentences and smaller paragraphs. Big walls of text only overwhelm the reader.

Add internal inks

Internal links are a powerful (and often overlooked) on-page SEO practice.

Link Whisper speeds up this process and helps you find the best pages to link to.

Each piece of optimized content can perform significantly better when other relevant pages are linking to it and from it.

Internal links also provide further reading for your visitors and add more context for Google to make sense of things.

To make the most of internal links, follow these guidelines:

  • Add the most valuable links up higher in the content: This helps Google crawlers find your most important pages and they typically get more clicks from users. A good place to start is after the first H2 heading.
  • Internally link to the most relevant pages: Each internal link should be placed methodically. Try to link to posts that are closely related the each other.
  • Use Link Whisper: Link Whisper for WordPress takes over the guesswork and automates the process, saving you a lot of time.
  • More links are better: Don’t be afraid to add 10 internal links to a page, just make sure it makes sense to link to those pages. This is one of those cases where less isn’t better.
  • Use keyword-rich anchor text: Try to use the primary keyword of the page you’re linking to when possible. Variations of the keyword can also be used.
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Improve pagespeed

Page speed is essential for maintaining a quality user experience.

It also helps search engines get to the content faster and takes up less computing power.

Both of these outcomes mean higher rankings and more traffic.

To stay on top of page speed issues, check your Core Web Vitals in Google Search Console regularly.

Use a premium WordPress theme and install a speed optimization plugin.

You might also consider a fast web host like Iridium hosting and a content delivery network like Cloudflare.

Empasize E-E-A-T signals

Google E-E-A-T stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.

Each encompasses a set of standards that are outlined in the Google quality rater guidelines.

These guidelines are used by real people who rate the website and content quality. The rater’s feedback then instructs whether Google’s algorithm updates are successful.

Therefore, to give your site the best chance of ranking, it’s important to establish E-E-A-T.

Here are some tips to help establish E-E-A-T signals on your site:

Experience

To establish experience, share first-hand experiences on the topics you write about. A good way to do this is to tell stories or explain from your own perspective. You can also add your own photos or videos to articles to make them even more unique to you.

Create an About page with details about your experience in the niche. This could include how long you’ve been involved in the niche, things you’ve achieved for yourself and others, and any credentials that boost your authority.

Expertise

To establish expertise, write well-researched informational content that covers an entire topic. The more content you can add to a single topic, the more you’ll be perceived as an expert.

Add an author bio to your articles that communicate your expertise and experience in the niche.

Consider hiring an expert writer that has qualifications or expertise in your niche. Add these authors to your About page with links to their social media profiles.

Authoritativeness

To establish authoritativeness, create topical clusters that establish your site with topical authority. This requires covering relevant topics that blanket the niche, instead of only covering a few categories.

Share case studies or testimonials on your site from successful projects you worked on or successes you had with customers.

Trustworthiness

If you establish the first three in E-E-A-T, trustworthiness will be a lot easier to establish.

To take it a step further, be transparent and open about your content, who wrote it, how it’s factually accurate, etc. Also, make sure you clearly show signs your website is safe and secure if you take card payments or collect other information from visitors.

Update content for freshness

update content for on-page seo

People are constantly evolving and with that, more details are needed to fully understand the intricacies of life.

Even seemingly trivial topics can be expanded on and explained differently to better convey a message.

This is how old content can become less relevant and lose its place at the top.

Additionally, if other people in your niche create content that is better than what’s already ranking, then your content can eventually be outranked.

So, an effective on-page SEO strategy isn’t about creating content once and forgetting about it. You’ll need to make updates regularly to keep up.

By reading through old content and checking current rankings, you’ll be able to see gaps for improvement.

You can also add up-to-date resources, FAQs found in the Google “People Also Ask” section, recent innovations and products, and even new experiences you’ve had.

Add external links

Just like internal links, external links can provide more value to your content.

This sends positive signals to Google in a couple of ways.

First, Google wants its bots to be able to find all the information online so that it can be organized. If your website links to relevant sources, it helps Google achieve its mission.

Second, it provides readers with more content to read even if it’s not on your website. This helps them learn about the topic further, without them needing to search for it themselves.

Remember, the more value you add to a page, the better the engagement, which also contributes to your on-page SEO efforts.

Also Read: How to Add Outbound Links to WordPress

Optimize images

Images are great at breaking up the text on a page and providing a better user experience.

It also adds more context and helps paint a story in the reader’s mind.

However, search engines don’t see images the same way humans do. And you can combat this by adding keyword-rich alt text to each image.

add keywords to alt text

An advanced tip is to also name the images with relevant keywords.

But that’s not all.

To further optimize images, make sure their sizes are the same width as they are viewed.

If a larger image is scaled down smaller, it still has to load the bigger version, which slows down the page.

Lastly, use an image optimization plugin to compress them. This cuts down the file size without sacrificing quality and making them load faster.

Check mobile responsiveness

Mobile responsiveness is how well a webpage displays on mobile devices.

Google and other search engines are putting more emphasis on mobile devices because more people are browsing the web on them.

Most WordPress themes or web developers will make their design mobile responsive as standard these days.

However, it is still important to check that your site is easy to view and navigate.

Check your Core Web Vitals in Google Search Console or run a scan on Google Insights.

These tools will tell you of any errors and potential ways to fix them.

Fixing these errors can be as simple as changing some settings or hiring someone to fix it for you on Fiverr.

Implement Schema markup

Schema markup is a method of structuring data to help search engines understand specific content better. It also adds details to the featured snippet in search results.

schema for on-page SEO

For example, a product page will have schema markup that indicates the price, different sizes and colors, and stock availability.

Other typical content types that are prime for schema data include articles, reviews, recipes, events, and videos.

Adding schema is easy enough if you’re using a WordPress SEO plugin like Yoast or RankMath.

Some themes also have schema markup baked into the code.

To learn more about it, Neil Patel has a helpful guide on the topic.

Install HTTPS and SSL

https for on-page seo

Google wants to encourage websites that are safe and secure, which is why HTTPS is a ranking factor.

This is where an SSL certificate encrypts the connection between your website and the server.

In most cases, this comes standard with most web hosts and only needs to be activated once.

However, it’s still important to make sure your website gets redirected to the secure URL version.

If the redirection isn’t set properly, it can result in multiple versions of your site being indexed and cause on-page SEO problems.

You should be able to set up redirection in your hosting account.

Then, when someone visits www.yourdomain.com or http://yourdomain.com, it will automatically forward to https://www.yourdomain.com or https://yourdomain.com.

It can also help to correct errors by using a plugin like Really Simple SSL, although it isn’t always necessary.

How to Do On-Page SEO – Step-by-Step

You can transform a lot of the on-page SEO process into a repeatable system.

Knowing how to start on-page SEO might seem a little daunting at first.

But, once you’ve got the basics down, writing optimized content begins to flow naturally.

Here is a quick step-by-step on-page SEO plan for you to follow:

1. Perform Keyword Research with SEO Tools
2. Create a Topical Map (cluster into groups/topics)
3. Blog post writing and optimization (H1, H2, H3, keyword placement)
4. Adding and optimizing images and videos
5. Internal and external links
6. Write your meta title
7. Write your meta description
8. Check the URL structure
9. Add relevant schema markup

Periodically check the performance of your pages and website as a whole. This can be done with a website audit.

Things you want to look out for are:

  • Page speed
  • Broken links
  • Missing metadata
  • Missing image alt tags

Refer to the best practices section in this post from time to time, making sure your on-page SEO is up to scratch.

On-Page SEO FAQs

What is an example of on-page SEO?

An example of on-page SEO is keyword optimization. This involves including your primary keyword throughout the content, as well as other related terms that add context to the information.

Another example is using keyword-rich anchor text when adding internal links. This helps search engines and users know what the page is about before clicking it.

Which tools are used for on-page SEO?

There are many tools used for on-page SEO. Here are a few different types that can complement your content marketing efforts:

Keyword Research: Tools like SEMRush and Ahrefs assist you in identifying the keywords people are searching for and determining their ranking difficulty.

Internal Linking Tools: Link Whisper is the perfect example. This SEO tool automates your internal linking strategy, saving you time and enhancing on-page SEO.

SEO Audit Tools: These tools scan the pages of a site to look for areas of improvement. Screaming Frog is a good example, but many keyword research tools offer this feature.

Content Optimization Tools: Tools such as SurferSEO and MarketMuse provide semantically related terms that are common amongst the first page rankings. Adding these terms add relevance and context to the content.

What is the difference between on-page SEO and off-page SEO?

On-page SEO is improving ranking signals on your site, such as content quality, and off-page SEO are signals from other websites, such as backlinks.

To learn more, read our post on-page seo vs off-page SEO.

What is the difference between on-page SEO and technical SEO?

Technical SEO covers a specific area of on-page SEO, such as site architecture and URL structure. Whereas on-page SEO covers a wider range of optimizations, such as keywords and internal links.

To learn more, read our post technical seo vs on-page SEO.

How long does it take to see the results of on-page SEO?

This depends on a multitude of factors. Some of these include:

  • How competitive the niche is
  • Keywords targeted
  • Content strategy
  • Age of the domain name
  • Domain authority and number of backlinks
  • Quality and quantity of content

That being said, if you consistently apply a good strategy, on-page SEO can yield results within 3-6 months.

What is the future of on-page SEO?

Google makes regular changes to its algorithms several times a year, which aims to improve how the system assesses content and provides better results.

With the recent announcement of Google’s Search Generative Experience, it is likely to impact on-page SEO in the future.

An AI-driven integration in search will likely see an increased focus on comprehensiveness and nuanced details in the content.

However, it’s difficult to know exactly how these changes will impact organic traffic until these changes take effect.

Where to learn on-page SEO?

There are lots of places to learn more about on-page SEO. Here are a few resources:

Conclusion

That concludes this on-page SEO guide for beginners.

In summary, Google and other search engines want to show the best results at the top of the page.

Optimizing your page means helping search engines recognize that your content is worth ranking higher.

The most basic on-page SEO techniques are including relevant keywords, creating helpful and original content, adding internal links, and optimizing the meta title and description.

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