In this post, I”m going to show you 7 crucial on-page SEO tactics that will give you an edge over your competitors who either don’t know and/or don’t use them. There is an SEO tool that works just as fine too though but this blogpost is technical.
So in this post, you will see examples I found in the wild of these tactics in action + why they work, and how to use them to your advantage.
No time to waste, so let’s go!
What is On-Page SEO? Why is it Important?
On-page SEO is using your main keyword and related keywords in hot zones of the page to tell Google what your post is about.
Google is a machine run by an algorithm, and no matter how smart they say they are, you still need to spoon-feed keywords to them if you want to promote your page to higher positions in the SERPS.
And I’m sure you do, right?
In this post, I focus on 7 on-page SEO elements that move the needle the most.
Do them well and you’ve done 95% of your on-page SEO.
And almost certainly more and better than your competitors.
Unless you’re competing against me, that is:)
7 Most Important On-Page SEO Factors + Examples in the Wild
#1- Meta Title
Meta title, also called SEO title, is the blue link you see in the SERPs when you search for something.
It’s the first “on-page” element web users see of your page, which is somewhat ironic considering meta titles don’t appear on the page itself, but they do show up in the HTML (put there by your SEO plugin of choice).
Here’s what an SEO title looks like when I search for “Whogohost”.
The SEO title is the single strongest on-page SEO factor there is.
Here’s how to optimize it:
- Always include your target keyword. Even if it’s long tail;
- Put your target keyword as close to beginning of the title as possible;
- Limit title length to 600 pixels, or ~60 characters;
- Include odd numbers as those are click magnets.
For example, here’s how Voila Norbert intelligently crafted their SEO title for this post on discovering a person’s email address.
So, their target keyword is “ways to find someone’s email address” and sure enough, they include it in their SEO title.
Think that’s an accident? A happy coincidence?
URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator and it’s simply the virtual address where your page lives.
It’s also an SEO factor and according to a prominent SEO whose name escapes me at the moment, URL is the fourth-strongest on-page SEO element (the first three are SEO title, content body, and h1tag)
How to Optimize URL’s for SEO?
- Include your target keyword;
- Remove stop words as they don’t contribute to SEO;
- Make it as short as possible but not at the expense of reduced meaning and relevance.
For example, this post on best Zendesk competitors and alternatives targets keywords “Zendesk competitors” and “Zendesk alternatives”.
And sure enough, it has those 2 crucial words in the URL and without stop words.
This small detail alone tells me they have a capable SEO on their team:)
#3- Headline (h1 Tag)
Normally, meta description would be the third on-page element I’d cover, but not this time; this is the post that covers the most important on-page SEO elements.
Blog post headline is the third most important on-page SEO factor.
It helps boost the relevance of the page you’re trying to rank;
but it also helps the visitor understand they’re in the right place and should not hit the back button.
Before I write another word about headline optimization, here’s what h1 tag (headline) looks like on this Whogohost post on on-page SEO best practices (note: read that post after this one as it’s a great companion piece).
Should You Be Optimizing h1 Tags, and How?
Yes, you should.
It will help your page rank higher and it’s a big SEO miss if you don’t do it.
Here’s exactly how.
- Include your target keyword in verbatim, at the beginning of the title if possible;
- Include other relevant keywords and entities if possible, but without it being stuffed.
- Write for the user. Make it enticing, use power words to encourage reading.
- Write long headlines, but not a mile long.
Now, here are some examples of what to do and what not to do.
For example, this Bulk.ly post is SEO optimized. How do I know?
Their post targets the phrase “top social media apps” and sure enough, their headline contains that keyword.
They also include 2021 to imply the relevancy of the current year, and they use the power word “rule” to give their headline a bit of pizzazz.
I like it!
Here’s another good example of what I mean.
This Udacity review targets the phrase “Udacity review”.
But their headline also contains words like:
- Most compatible;
- Elearning platform;
- For you.
I’m sure you realize how this makes their post’s headline that much more compelling and inviting.
They talk directly to the audience, and they ask an intriguing question with the implication being they’ll answer it in the post.
So they just need to keep reading to learn the secret… very clever:)
Numbers work wonderfully at attracting and keeping the attention of web users. Studies prove it again and again.
So whenever it makes sense, make sure you include an enticing number into the headline mix.
For example, this post on customer service interviews has the number front and center. And it makes their headline significantly better.
You can also use a number in your meta title. This then becomes a CTR play as titles with numbers gets more clicks.
For example, this post on essay writing tips keeps the number 17 front and center in its meta title.
There’s zero doubt in my mind it helps them get a higher CTR in Google SERPS.
#4- Keyword Frequency
Keeping close tabs on your industry and monitoring your competitors has always been a major part of doing proper SEO.
Monitoring keyword frequency on the competing pages you’re trying to beat in rankings is no different.
As an SEO trying to fine-tune your page, your goal is to find the average keyword frequency for the first 3 results, then match that count + add 10% more exact match instances of your keyword on the page.
How about an example?
Let’s say I wanted to rank for the keyword “Scrumban 101”.
First, I’d go to Google and search for it.
Second, I’d take the 3 results and measure their keyword frequency and get the average across that winning set.
Simple, go to a competing page, for example, this Scrumban 101 beginners guide (which currently ranks number #2 for the phrase), hit CTRL+F, and type “Scurbman 101”.
The numbers that show up are the ones I want to match and beat.
Third, I’d repeat that for the other 2 top-ranking results.
Finally, I’d find a way to naturally weave them in my content.
And this would give me a substantial, but super easy SEO advantage.
Pro tip: for a better understanding of the competing page’s strength, you also need to factor in backlinks.
The best way to measure link strength is via the free Mozbar Chrome extension provided by Moz SEO company.
It’s the easiest way to see if the page you want to beat is getting the following link from other blogs or not.
If you’ve never used it before, it’s really easy, and here’s a tutorial that can help you.
In this case, it’s not so this page and this keyword is easy pickings:)
#5- Internal Links
After content, internal links are the strongest SEO lever you can pull to rank higher in Google.
In fact, I toyed putting them as the number #1 on-page ranking factor but ultimately didn’t.
Because the title tag has always traditionally ranked number #1 in importance. And because internal links are not actually on the page you’re fine-tuning, but on lateral pages on your site linking to it.
Now, internal linking is a whole guide in itself. Read this Whogohost internal linking tutorial to learn the ins and outs of proper internal linking.
But here are some basic rules to follow when optimizing internal links for SEO.
- Exact match internal links are the best for SEO.
- Keywords in internal links alway help, and they never hurt (there are no internal linking algorithmic or manual penalties).
- The more keyword rich internal links you send to a page, the higher it’ll rank.
- Generic anchor text links are a waste of SEO potential.
- Building outbound links to a page strengthens its internal links through PageRank funneling.
- Internal links have a stronger effect when targeting long tail queries, compared when targeting head terms.
I could go on and on, but these rules will get you really far.
Now, here are 2 instructive examples
Nice and effective.
Second, internal links, besides being valuable for SEO, are also valuable from the UX perspective i.e, they serve to funnel traffic to the more important pages on your site.
For example, this site is selling bundles of marketing courses. See how there are not one, but two internal links pointing to the same course section of the site?
And notice how the second one is very long and infused with CTA words? It’s simply inviting you to click and you feel bad and like you missed out on something important if you don’t.
That’s an excellent example of using internal links for UX purposes.
Note: for smaller blogs, I recommend manual internal linking. It’s simply the best way to interlink pages on your domain.
But, for larger blogs, or if you’re simply strapped for time, I recommend either Link Whisper or one of their many competitors.
They pretty much all do the same thing.
#6- Image SEO
I will lump all image SEO under one subheadline.
It’s because image SEO is at its most effective when you do everything you can all at once.
So, just adding keyword-rich alt attributes alone won’t help you much.
Just adding image filenames will go unnoticed by Google.
But when you combine:
- Alt attributes;
- Image filenames;
- Image captions;
- Image title attributes.
Then you have a strong image SEO play that will help you rank higher in both Google Images and regular Google search.
Here are some SEO pointers:
- Optimize only the first, hero image for the entire post (example of the hero image below).
- Include keywords in all 4 on-page elements.
- Write alt attributes with the user in mind. Meaning, you need to describe the image, and not just include your target keyword.
- Write image filenames with dashes and not with underscores.
- Include power words in your image caption so you encourage people to keep reading.
As an example, here’s how I optimized the hero image for my Link Whisper discount page and guide.
All 3 elements + image filename which cannot be seen here, are super optimized and targeting my main keywords for that money page.
Note: I mentioned hero images several times and it just occurred to me that you might not know what these are.
The hero image is one that’s the main image for any post. It typically sits at the top of the article or a page, below the headline and before content, and its purpose is to entice people so they scroll down and start reading.
Here’s an example from this post on business phone lines.
It’s a somewhat boring topic, at least to me, but their hero image is top-notch.
Makes me want to read the whole post:)
Pro tip: don’t use paid tools to make hero images. And definitely don’t pay a pro designer to make them for you.
Instead, make your own or hire a VA on a cheap side to do it for you.
They can use Canva free account, Visme, Design Wizard, or one of many Canva alternatives.
Again, never pay for something you can get for free.
Similar to the headline which I covered way above, subheadings have a double role on your page.
First, they carry and send relevant signals to Google.
Page structure displayed through subheadings is a big clue for Google-bot in determining first what your page is about, and then how comprehensive it is.
In fact, that concept of page division (through headlines) is the basis of the recent big Google passage rankings update.
Since that update, the upgraded Google is able to scan your page and rank it for specific queries even if you rank on the 15-th page of Google
And it just emphasizes the importance of heading tags for SEO.
Copy what’s working for your competition. No need to reinvent the wheel.
For example, let’s say you were trying to rank for “Cloudways free trial” and related keywords. And you see my Cloudways Black Friday page ranking highly.
Then you’d just go to my page and copy my table of content.
Bottom line: Google is already showing you what works, so you just need to copy the winning formula.
However, not all posts have a handy table of content perched at the top of the page.
Some make you work for it.
For example, this post about guitalele musical instrument doesn’t have a TOC.
So if you are trying to deduce their content structure you’d need to manually extract their outline by following their subheadings one by one.
Usually, the headings are arranged like this.
- H1 at the top- it’s the post’s headline.
- H2- these subheadings designate the major parts of the page.
- H3- these designate parts of the content within those H2’s.
- H4 and H5 and H6 are almost never used.
Pro tip: besides passage indexing, headings are also crucial for showing up in featured snippets.
Featured snippets are most often triggered for queries that start with:
So the best way to capture them is to have an FAQ page on your site, where each question is written as a subheading, followed by an immediate answer below it.
Google will gobble that up just fine:)
Note: you can also have FAQ sections within your existing articles. In that case, you should also use FAQ schema to try and capture more SERP real estate.
On-page SEO simply works.
Do it and do it consistently and your pages will rank higher in Google.
These 7 tactics are 95% of the work you need to do, and more than enough to be competitive for 98% of keywords you’ll ever target, no matter the niche.
As for the remaining 2 percent, either drop me a comment here and I’ll gladly help you out, or visit my site which you’ll find in my bio section below.