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On-Page SEO – A Beginner’s Guide (2022)

Excerpt: On-page SEO is exactly what it sounds like, you are on your webpage, optimizing it for search engines.

Table of Contents

On-page SEO is exactly what it sounds like, you are on your webpage, optimizing it for search engines. Now, what does this mean exactly? There are a lot of different elements that are on your web page. 

Some of the most important on-page SEO elements include:

  • Heading tags
  • Images
  • Copywriting
  • Mobile responsiveness
  • Speed
  • Page path
  • Keyword research
  • In-linking
Are all of these elements equally important? No! But together they are critically important, even if you have really good content Google will penalize you for having a slow website, or one that is not responsive. 

Check out this video by Ahrefs!

What Is On-page SEO?

On page SEO is defined as optimizing your website for specific keywords that you are targeting.

Technical SEO Vs. On-Page SEO

To some SEOs, on-page SEO is an umbrella term that will cover all parts of the optimization process. However, you can consider doing site speed, and mobile optimization as, “technical SEO”. 

Why On-Page SEO Is Important

Since SEO is such a big industry and it is almost entirely aimed at Google, Google changes its algorithm and the signals they are looking for constantly. In 2021 alone, they ran 800,000 experiments and updated their algorithm thousands of times. It is for this reason that SEO is a never-ending experiment since the algorithm is constantly changing.

However, even with virtually no experience a content creator can follow the best practices and have an optimized article without too much effort. 

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URLs & Page Path Optimization

This might sound like a scary thing to start out with, but it seems more complicated than it is. Google has articles stating how important URLs are.

So what are some basic URL tips?

  • Include your keyword – There have been mixed views on whether or not keywords in the URL are still useful. However, since Google pays attention to your URL they should be placed there as well.
  • Front-Load – Front-loading is the act of putting the most important information first. You should “front-load” the URL so the keyword appears as far left as it can.
  • Keep URLs Short – Technically a URL can be 2048 characters long! But long URLs confuse search engines and look ugly. Keep them as short as you can while still conveying relevant info.
  • Use Hyphens – Google won’t be able to tell words apart from one another if they are not separated by a special character. The hyphens separate words according to Google’s requirements.
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Title Tags And Meta Descriptions

Your “meta info” for the page is critically important to itself. If your title and meta are optimized properly they will show in the search results for the user’s query. They help your page with ranking for Google, and they are super useful for getting users clicking on your website. If you have a high-ranking page with a poor non-relevant description you are probably scaring valuable traffic away.

Google’s August 2021 Update

Google used to take whatever you decided was the title of your page, and it would either take what you decided as the meta description, or it would show the first content on the page. Now Google is smart enough to understand the query and relate it to the section of your web page. This means if your page ranks for 100 keywords, different titles and meta descriptions will show based on the query. This is known as snippet optimization and is a slightly more advanced topic we’ll talk about later.

Here are some very beginner tactics you can follow for meta optimization.

  • Front-load your keywords in your title
  • Keep the title shorter than 60 characters. 
  • Avoid ALL CAPS
  • Make each page title unique
  • Make sure your titles are clear, concise, and compelling
  • Front-load your meta description with your keyword
  • Shorten your meta description to be 155 characters or less
  • Keep your meta description clear concise and compelling 
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Structured Data (Schema Mark Up)

Before structured data, you basically had to hope Google would understand the basics of your web page and would understand it based on your optimization. Now, we have “structured data“, Structured data is code that informs Google about certain elements of your website such as:

  • The logo
  • The business type
  • The authors
  • The location
  • Your social profiles
You can say a lot more than this through structured data but those are some of the important things you can tell Google.
Certain elements from the schema can even show up on the search rankings! This helps you acquire more real estate and will help convince users to click on you.
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You can see in the description they have the review rating, number of reviews, price, and stock status! This all helps convince users of the relevance of your page before they even click on your page.

Implementing structured data is an advanced tactic that will be covered in another article, but it’s good to be aware of how important it is.

Header Optimization

The Google algorithm has evolved to be smart enough to distinguish headers, their importance, their relevance, and even how they are structured on page. H1 tags have the biggest impact, but they are closely followed by H2 and H3. Not to mention, your head “structure” should be thought out as well. If you have an H2 tag followed by an H3 tag as a sub-heading, the H3 tag should be directly relevant to the H2 tag. Google will assume this regardless so it’s good to plan it out ahead of time.

Some bullet points you should be aware of:

  • H1 tags are the most important
  • H2 & H3 tags are also important 
  • Keep subheadings relevant to the main heading
  • Front-load your headings
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Content Optimization For Modern SEO

Finally, we’re getting to actually optimizing the content. We distinguish between modern and traditional SEO because on-page strategies have changed so much. Traditionally you would need a page targeting “SEO”, another page targeting “Search engine optimization|”, and another for “on-page optimization”. Each page had a specific goal for a specific word. Now Google can rank one page for many different terms that fall under that same topic since the algorithm understands the connection between words. This will actually save you lots of work with a really well-structured page since you don’t need to optimize 50 pages for 50 unique keywords. You can make 1 long page with a focus on long-tail keywords. 

For some basic content optimization, here are some tips:

  • Be clear concise and compelling
  • Keep sentences and paragraphs short and easy to read
  • Break up long sections with H2 and H3 tags
  • Use bullet points or numbered lists to display info
  • Break up your content with images
  • Use outbound links
  • Use in-site links
  • Longer articles are better
There’s even more to it then this, but these are some best practices that work to rank.

Keyword Density Optimization

This is a tricky subject to teach to a beginner since there isn’t really a “hard and fast” rule you can live by. You should always pretend you speaking to the user, and not the algorithm (Google knows the customer is king). However, don’t forget to use your keyword early and often, as well as different variations and synonyms. If it’s in the budget, tools like Surfer SEO can give you great, actionable advice on what keywords to add, and how much you should add them.
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Use Your Content To Satisfy Search Intent

If you landed on this page from Google or another source, we’re assuming you’re a beginner researching on how to improve your optimization. If we had a more advanced topic like “topical authority”, or “semantic SEO”, we can assume you’re probably not a beginner and are aware of basic strategies.

Here is a brief overview of the types of intent:

  • Informational: People are looking for information.
  • Navigational: People are trying to find a specific page.
  • Commercial: People are doing the research before they purchase something.
  • Transactional: People are actively wanting to buy something.

Image Optimization

You should never use an image that hasn’t been optimized through a service like TinyJPG or TinyPNG. These are free services and can decrease the size of the images by large amounts. You can decrease the image size by 50% or more frequently while keeping the same visual quality.

Thoughts On On-Page SEO

On-page SEO has a lot of things to consider when trying to optimize a page. But it is always important to remember that your talking to the user, and not to Google. Even non-optimized pages can rank on Google, and if your content quality is high enough, you will eventually get users on your site. On-page SEO will just help you get there faster. You should remember to focus on both on-page and off-page SEO optimization.

Frequently Asked Questions

Even if you don’t know anything about SEO, you probably can tell good content from bad. Write high-quality content and focus on talking to the user. If you’re a total beginner, start with our “What Is SEO?” article!

There’s no right answer. Cover your topic in detail and focus on quality. If you need a number to shoot for try to write 1000 word articles.

Early and often, if you have content already, look at the highest performing pages in Google Search Console, or Google Analytics and start with those.

If you can afford to pay a specialist or agency, and the web project is important enough for dedicated SEO, then you should consider paying someone.

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