If you’re a new blogger or website builder and have spent any time in related forums or Facebook Groups, you’ve probably heard the phrase “On Page SEO.” If you don’t know what that means, that’s okay. This article will answer the question “What is on page SEO?” and explain it in a way that even a total beginner can understand.
A Quick Definition
Before we get into on page SEO specifics, it’s important that we define it and explain how it differs from off page SEO, another term you’ve probably heard before. On page SEO is defined by the steps you, the blogger or website builder, actively take to optimize a specific webpage for the search engines. It applies to everything directly involved with the webpage you’re trying to create.
How On Page SEO Differs From Off Page SEO
Off page SEO is different in that it’s an indirect kind of optimization. Off Page SEO is generally aimed at getting the website found in general rather than a specific page. You’ll try to do things that make your website hold more authority as a whole and this will make all of your pages rank better indirectly. Kind of “the whole ship rises with the tide” sort of a deal.
Off page SEO can be its own article. In this case, we’re strictly talking about what you can directly control on a specific page. There are two ways to go about this. You can do it manually following the concepts below OR you can use an AI tool like Rank IQ to do a lot of the heavy lifting for you.
Primary On Page SEO Elements
There are a few things to look at when optimizing a page for search and each one of them helps in their own way. The more of these you optimize, the better off you’ll be.
All SEO starts off with keyword selection. What do you want to be found for? Who is the audience you’re writing for? If you choose an irrelevant keyword or something where competition is too high for a beginner to rank, all the SEO in the world isn’t going to help.
Choosing the wrong keyword and then optimizing your post for it is like learning how to shoot a gun with perfect aim and then facing away from the target when you shoot. It doesn’t matter how good you are at shooting, you’ll never hit the target.
How Do I Know What Keywords to Focus On?
When choosing a keyword, it’s important to choose what’s called a “long-tail” keyword. A long-tail keyword is a specific phrase that is less searched but usually has less competition. A simple, but more commonly searched keyword is called a “head” phrase. The labels come from this graph:
The shorter, simpler terms like “tomatoes” would fall at the “head” of the graph on the left. It’s not specific or targeted, so it’s searched very often. By contrast, “when is the best time to plant my tomatoes if I live in Ohio?” is very specific and probably only searched a few times (less than 10) a month. This would put it firmly on the right side of the graph and in the “long tail.”
Because head terms are so broad and so many people try to get found for them, it’s nearly impossible to rank in the top 10 without being a huge company or government entity. Long tail terms, on the other hand, are very easy to rank for because they’re so specific. If you optimize for those, you’ll rise very quickly.
Google wants to give the searcher the answer to their question in as few clicks as possible. If someone in Ohio was searching the best time to plant tomatoes, do you think Google would show your page that gives the exact answer to the question or a Wikipedia page about Tomatoes in general? That’s the power in choosing long tail keywords.
Where Do I Find Long Tail Keywords?
There is a tool called Ubersuggest that is totally free and possibly the best free tool out there. All you need to do is type in the topic you’re looking to write about and it will spit out keyword phrases people are searching. From there, you can see how competitive those topics are and choose one that’s both relevant and not competitive. “SD” means “search difficulty.”
Notice how much less competitive the specific questions are than the general search terms? This is how you need to be thinking when choosing a keyword to optimize for.
Sorry for spending so much time on keyword selection. It is the single most important part of on page SEO. If you get that wrong, you don’t have a chance of getting found. Let’s move onto meta descriptions.
What Is A Meta Description?
The meta description is what Google shows your prospective reader on the search results page and also is one of the first things Google reads to determine what your content is about. Think of it as an ad for your page.
What Is A Good Meta Description?
You want to write this is such a way that it’s begging to be clicked on, but also lets the reader know they will get what they want when they click. Make sure the exact keyword phrase you’re targeting appears here at least once!
How To Edit Meta Description
Unless you manually edit your meta description, you’ll end up with a jumbled mess that WordPress or whatever blogging platform you chose thinks is the best way to describe your article. On stock WordPress, you can edit the meta description is the “excerpt” section of the document settings.
However, I recommend using the plugin “Rank Math” for all of your SEO needs. This free plugin will organize all of the things I talk about in this post automatically and let you know if you missed one. In Rank Math, you simply click “Edit snippet” and you can write the description. It will even preview what it looks like for you.
The URL slug is what comes after your website name. For instance www.thedadapreneur.com/URL-Slug. This is a simple element to optimize. Just make sure it includes your keyword phrase and isn’t too long. By default, WordPress uses the post title. Change it in the “permalink” section.
Pictures & Alt Text
The use of pictures is both a great way to make your message more clear and engaging as well as a way to get found another way. I use pictures throughout most of my posts and every picture has what’s called “alt text.” The alt text is how Google determines what the picture is about. All you have to do is change the alt-text to your search phrase and it will show up on google images when someone searches for it.
To change alt text, you go into the WordPress media library and you’ll see a section for it. You can also change it on the right side menu while writing a post.
There are many conflicting theories on word count and I feel that one is no more valid than the next. However, it’s pretty universal that your posts should be at least 600 words long. Less than that and Google may see it as “thin” content and decide not to show it to anyone regardless of how good it is.
When writing about a topic, use as many words as it takes to cover a topic thoroughly and no more than that. People hate filler and if they see you using it, they will most likely leave your site never to return. You’ll be surprised how much you can write if you outline a post correctly and fully form the thought before you start writing.
Additional On Page SEO Elements
The elements talked about above are going to carry the most weight when trying to get found for a specific keyword. However, here are some additional elements to optimize on your posts.
When writing an article, you want lots of headings laid out in a logical order. Not only does this tell Google what the post is about, but it allows the reader to skim read and find the section they’re looking for the most. If this post were a giant wall of text, it would be intimidating to read and the person would most likely click out in a few seconds.
When making your headings, make sure to use the H1,H2,H3, etc formatting and not just bolding and changing the size. By using the H tag, you’re actually changing the HTML code and telling the internet what’s a heading and what’s not. If you just change bold and size on normal text, Google will think you wrote all one paragraph and penalize you for it.
When writing an article it’s always good to cite your sources and link to things where you got your content from. By including an outbound link (non-affiliate) in your articles, you’re telling Google that you’ve cited your sources and they are more likely to see the info as valid. When they see your info as valid, they will show you to more people.
Internal links are meant to enhance user experience. When you link to another page on your site, you’re letting the reader go deeper into your ecosystem and follow a thought further. Google likes sending people to sites with a good user experience (Also called UX) so if you provide that, you’re more likely to be shown more.
Of course, internal links need to be relevant. That’s why you need to have many articles on your site and lay them out in a logical order.
Keyword density is another topic where there are a number of theories and you kind of choose which you believe. While you need to include your focus keywords in your writing to get found, they also need to make sense to the reader. If you stuff the keyword in too many times and it makes the article sound unnatural, the reader will click out and never return. This is where the term “keyword stuffing” comes from.
Imagine if I tried to work in the phrase “What is on page SEO?” a million times in this article? It would sound terrible and you would have no idea what I was saying half the time. This would lead to bad user experience and because of that, Google would start showing me to fewer people.
Your title must both include your search phrase and spark a desire to click. Remember the “H” tags in the headings? Google reads the H1 tag to determine the focus of an article for the most part. H1 is your article title and it’s also the blue text people see when they are looking in the search results.
Make this both relevant and inviting and you’ll see a higher click-through rate onto your site.
This is something I learned first hand. When writing a blog post, you want to keep the writing style as informal as you can while still maintaining proper English. This will increase your “time on page” which sends good signals to Google that people are having a good time on your site. If people are having a good time, you must be worth showing to more people in Google’s eyes.
Fancy English Alienates Readers
When I first started writing this blog, I wrote at almost a college-level because that is how I learned to write at Penn State. I used words like “notwithstanding” and “rhetorically” as well as other words not found in common usage. I studied Latin as well so I would use the passive voice and odd sentence structures that while grammatically accurate, were unusual and uninviting to the common reader.
Look at that last sentence. How many times did you read that in order to understand what I was saying? Now imagine an entire blog post like that. Yeah, my time on page was well under a minute when I wrote with “proper, educated English.”
Keep It Simple Stupid
By “dumbing down” my writing I was able to keep more people engaged for longer. I kept my posts to about a 9th-grade reading level. This way people would understand what I was saying with less effort. When searching for the answer to a question, people are not looking for a doctoral dissertation. They’re looking for a no BS answer to their question they can apply immediately. Keep your writing style simple and to the point and you’ll be fine.
Table of Contents
Every post needs a table of contents. It both allows Google to better understand the content and allows the reader to skip to a section quickly. The best part about this is that you do not have to create these manually, just use a plugin. I use LuckyWP Table of Contents and love it. It’s lightweight meaning it won’t slow my site down and as long as I use proper H tags in my headings, it will always be accurate.
Remember the section on Headings? Go back and read it if you skipped it. By using H tags for your headings you allow the plugins to work properly.
Quick Wrap Up
To bring this all together, On Page SEO is all about creating a piece of content that both the search engines and humans can understand easily. By targeting the correct keywords and placing them in the right spots, you’re ensuring that the search engines will index your content properly and show it to the right people. When you create quality content that’s easy to read and understand, you’ll end up sending positive signals to the search engines that will, in turn, start showing you to more people.
To make everything discussed in this article super easy, I just recommend getting the free Rank Math Plugin. It takes every element here and puts it in a simple checklist on the right side of the screen. When you’ve completed an item, it turns green. when it’s all greed you’re fully optimized and ready to go.
Once you’ve completed On-Page SEO for all of your posts, it’s time to start focusing on Off-Page SEO.