This on-page SEO guide is direct to the point, includes actionable tips that you can implement easily and it’s free from the guru-bullshit that is often found in many SEO articles.
You’ve probably read several SEO articles online — there sure is no shortage of search engine optimization blogs. You may have even hired a self-proclaimed SEO expert.
Yet you are still struggling to figure it out.
Should you publish content? Learn how to guest blog in order to build links? There are many components of a successful SEO strategy, but it all starts with on-page optimization — so this on-page SEO guide is a great first-step.
Many self-proclaimed experts like to throw out fancy industry jargon and technical terms, but in all honesty, on-page SEO isn’t that complicated. It’s fairly straight forward and easy to comprehend.
There is no need to be intimidated. If you are willing to learn, this on-page SEO guide will show you exactly how to improve your website pages, resulting in more organic search visibility and traffic.
Is this on-page SEO guide the answer to ranking number one on Google for all of your keywords?
No. There is not a single resource that will magically position you on top. It takes a well-designed Shopify SEO strategy.
Now, will this on-page SEO guide help improve your organic visibility and help your website attract more traffic? Yes.
I’m going to cover several on-page search engine optimization tips that once implemented, will drastically improve your website’s organic performance.
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Ready? Let’s jump right in.
On-Page SEO Defined
On-page SEO is optimizing components of your website to help it rank better in the organic search results, helping you attract more traffic. When done right — by targeting the correct keywords and search phrases — it helps you attract highly qualified visitors.
The ultimate goal of every website is to scale its organic traffic numbers, and that begins with on-page SEO.
Note: on-page SEO is often referred to as on-site SEO.
Some examples of on-page website components are HTML code, URL structure, content — both pages and blog posts, navigation and page-load speed.
Along with on-page SEO, Google’s organic search algorithm takes off-page SEO (links, social signals, etc.) and technical SEO into consideration.
You have complete control over your on-page SEO, so it’s important that you take the time to optimize it fully.
Why On-Page SEO Needs to Be a Major Focus
The SEO industry seems to be divided when it comes to who you need to optimize your website for. Some say optimize the content for your visitors while others say you need to optimize it for Google.
Want the real answer?
You need to optimize it for both. I’m not sure why some people like to dance around this topic.
It’s very straight forward. On-page optimization needs to be done in a way that satisfies both your visitors and Google.
On-page SEO components tell Google what a specific page is about, therefore helping its algorithm determine what keywords and search terms the particular page should display for, and in what position, according to relevance.
Remember, Google’s goal is to show its users the more helpful and relevant results. By optimizing your on-page elements you can help Google better understand your content.
But, you also cannot be overly spammy when it comes to your on-page SEO, because doing so can act as visitor repellant.
Stuffing your target keyword at the front of your title and at the front of every heading might help to satisfy Google, but it’s going to work against you in terms of visitors.
If your content reads spammy or doesn’t provide actual value you’re going to disconnect from your target audience.
So, it’s all about finding balance. Your on-page SEO needs to help pain the picture for Google, while also delivering an exceptional user experience.
The good news is that you have full control over your on-page SEO. Let’s dive right into the different
Every part of on-page SEO is completely up to you; that’s why it’s critical that you do it correctly. Now, let’s discuss the three important elements of on-page SEO.
On-Page SEO Guide: Three Main Elements
We are going to break down three main elements in this on-page SEO guide:
There are multiple components within each on-page SEO element, and I will dive into each of them below.
Your website content refers to both your page copy (informational pages, product pages, etc.) as well as your blog posts. Every page on your website is technically “content.”
Quality Content (Pages and Blog Posts)
Your content serves two purposes:
- Helps Google understand what the specific page is about (with a focus on providing helpful information to visitors)
- Educates and informs your visitors, while also pushing them towards your conversion goal.
Many people like to talk about publishing quality content that benefits the visitors, but let’s be honest — it needs to convert traffic. Providing helpful information is great, and step one, but without conversions your website isn’t going to generate revenue.
Your content is the most optimized component of on-page SEO. Once you know what keyword(s) you want to target for a specific page, you can optimize it specifically for those terms.
You can conduct keyword research using tools like
The actual content you publish on each page will vary depending on what your conversion goal is and what the search-intent is behind the keyword(s) you are optimizing the page for.
There are a few things you need to focus on when creating new content for your website or cleaning up old content.
- Write for your visitor and avoid stuffing “exact match” keywords throughout the content in an unnatural way. If you can include your keywords naturally, then by all means go for it. But, if not, focus on including multiple long-tail variations to help Google understand what the page is about.
- Break your content into multiple paragraphs, consisting of 2-3 sentences each at most, and use headings to highlight important information. Most visitors will simply skim through your content so small bite-sized paragraphs and headings will help deliver your message even if the visitors is skimming through it quickly.
- Focus on creating content that answers questions and solves problems. Then, include strategically placed calls-to-action. Delivering value, answering questions and solving problems is the easiest ways to attract conversions.
- Don’t publish content until you feel it’s good enough to trigger social shares and provides enough value that other websites will want to link to it. This mindset will help you created higher quality content, which long-term will greatly benefit your SEO.
Remember, your content strategy needs to be quality over quantity.
Your website’s code plays a major role in your on-page SEO. These are the HTML components of your website. Even those with zero technical or coding experience can view the source code of any webpage.
If you are using Google Chrome as your browser, simply navigate to the top menu and follow this flow:
View » Developer » View Source
This will show you the entire HTML source code. Let’s touch on four very important HTML elements that play a role in your on-page SEO.
Back in the day these used to be referred to as title tags, but today most simply call them page titles. Not only does your page title tell your visitor what the particular page is about, but Google puts a lot of weight on your page title.
Think of your page title as one of the most significant ‘signals’ a search engine is going to take into account when determining what a particular page is about.
Here is the HTML code for the title of the Kylie Jenner infographic we published:
If possible, you want to incorporate the keyword(s) you are targeting on the specific page in the title. But, only if it can be done naturally.
That example title works well because it’s the exact keyword the page is targeting and it describes the page content. In this instance, it’s the best possible title for on-page SEO, while also remaining 100 percent natural.
If not your title will just appear to be spammy and work against you. Some things to keep in mind when creating your page titles:
- Do not stuff your title with keywords. Not only will it turn-off potential visitors, but Google’s AI can spot a keyword stuffed title from a mile away. Doing this is asking for a penalty.
- Ensure that it is highly relevant to the content found on the page.
- Be descriptive (this will help you convert a higher percentage of traffic).
- Stay under 55 characters. Any more and you risk having some of your title clipped from the search results.
Headings are also called body tags and they are structured from H1 down to H6. These help to break up your content and format it for a better user experience, while also telling Google what sections are about and what elements of the content are emphasized.
For example, here is H2 tag on text at the bottom of the infographic I mentioned above. In order to draw attention, I used H2 tag to signal its importance. This was done more so to draw attention from the visitors; not necessarily for Google.
Incorporating your keyword(s) and variants in your heading text is a good practice. H2 and H3 are going to be your main go-to heading choices.
If your keyword appears in your title you don’t necessarily need to include it in H2 text — long-tail variations would be a better choice.
Let me get one thing out of the way: your meta description doesn’t play into Google’s algorithm directly. So, there is no reason to stuff it with keywords.
Indirectly though, it does play a role. Your meta description can help you attract clicks in the search results by drawing attention to your listing over the other choices.
So, a well written meta description can help increase your CTR (click-through rate) and this can play a role in telling Google that your page content is high quality and if clicked on more, possible deserves a higher organic position.
Here is the meta description for our online community. It’s very direct to the point, explaining exactly what it is and inviting the person to join for free.
It’s also short enough that the entire meta description will display in the search results across all devices and screen sizes.
Some things to consider when writing your meta description for each page:
- Include your keyword(s) for relevance and do so in a natural manner. If someone is performing a search for a specific keyword, they are going to be drawn to a result that also includes it.
- Write in complete sentences. Avoid unnatural descriptions that don’t flow properly or don’t include correct grammar.
- While Google sometimes allows descriptions of 220 characters, many experts tell you to keep it at 160 — but I go even less. I like to make sure my full description displays on all devices, and with mobile traffic being such a large percentage I like to stay below 150 characters. The meta description in the example above is 144 characters (with spaces) and fully displays in the mobile search results.
When Google crawls your pages they don’t know what your images refer to unless you help them understand them, and this is where your alt-text comes into play.
Image alt-text tells the search engines what the image is about. This can also help you pull traffic from image searches, so it’s worth the extra effort to make sure all of your images are optimized correctly.
Here is the featured image for this article. As you can see the alt-text is “on-page SEO guide,” which is the main keyword this piece of content is targeting.
For e-commerce stores especially, image optimization can help potential customers find products, resulting in additional website traffic.
A few things to keep in mind regarding image alt-text:
- If you can use a keyword naturally go for it, but don’t stuff it with keywords. Make sure it reads naturally.
- Make sure it’s highly relevant to the content on the page.
- Be descriptive if you want, but don’t exceed 120 characters.
Structural elements of your pages help Google understand the flow of your website and how to best crawl your pages. Paying attention to these structural components not only help Google navigate your website, but they contribute to a better user experience as well.
Your URL structure should make it easy for Google to comprehend, while also making sense to those who visit your website. If your website is built using WordPress you can access your URL permalinks from your dashboard:
Settings » Permalinks
It looks like this:
As you can see we use the “Post name” option, which is the cleanest URL structure. It’s the best for Google as well as your visitors.
For example, this is what the URL looks like for a post on this blog about how to start a Shopify store:
Look at the other options in the “Common Settings” above. They are clunky and not descriptive at all.
Consider this when creating your URLs:
- Don’t include words that aren’t needed. Keep them short and sweet.
- If you can use your main keyword in the URL without it looking spammy do so — it plays key role in your on-page SEO.
- Don’t jam your URL with multiple keywords. Someone should be able to read your URL and have a good understanding of what the page is about.
Tip: make sure your website uses HTTPS, as Google now uses it as a ranking signal. Also, many browsers will give users a warning message if your website isn’t sure via HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure).
The micro-data that helps Google understand your page content is called schema markup. This is where Google pulls content for features snippets (the highly coveted position zero) and knowledge panels.
If you want to better understand how structured data works, check out this write-up by Google.
Interlinking involves linking to other relevant pages on your website within your page content. For example, in this post there are links to other helpful resources that are relevant.
This helps your on-page SEO because it keeps your visitors on your website longer. If they click-through to engage with another pieces of content it prevents them from bouncing off your website.
The time someone spends on your website and whether or not your website has a high bounce rate are taken into consideration. If the average time spent on your website is high, Google views it as an informative and helpful resource.
If someone clicks over to another page rather than leaving it reduces your bounce rate. Low bounce rates are often good indicators of high quality website content and a great user experience, both of which Google rewards accordingly.
If your website isn’t mobile-friendly you are at a major disadvantage. Google has not been shy when stating how important mobile-friendliness is.
Want to know how Google views your website in terms of how mobile-friendly it is? Then run it through Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool.
It’s that simple. There are several tools out there — but getting feedback directly from the source cannot be topped.
A fast loading website is very important for both user experience and SEO.
A lot of factors contribute to your website speed — your
If your website loads slowly not only will your traffic leave quickly, but Google will not display your website high in the search results as a slow website isn’t going to give their users the best experience.
There are two great free resources you can use to test your page speed and learn what is slowing it down (and how to fix it).
Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool is the first.
The second one, GTmetrix, gives you a nice breakdown of what you need to fix.
If your website it built on WordPress you will want to install the
Those are the three main on-page SEO element you need to focus on. Now that we have covered them, let’s dive into an eight-step checklist that you can use to optimize the on-page elements of your website and improve your website’s online visibility.
On-Page SEO Guide: 8-Step Checklist
- Create a Conversion Goal for Each Page
- Optimize Page Content for Your Target Audience
- Optimize URL Slugs, Titles and Meta Descriptions
- Audit Headings and Image Alt-Text
- Interlink Related Content
- Optimize for Mobile-Friendliness
- Optimize for Speed
- Audit Pages for Keyword Relevance
While all of this might appear to be overwhelming at first, you will quickly get the hang of it — remember, on-page SEO isn’t a mystery. This on-page SEO guide walks you through all of the steps necessary to properly optimize the on-page factors that are important.
To help you even more, I have put together a simple eight-step checklist that you can use as you audit each page on your website.
Use this as a guide and follow it step-by-step. After a while you will develop your own system to quickly audit your pages, resulting in improved on-page SEO.
1. Create a Conversion Goal for Each Page
Each page on your website needs to serve a purpose. I see too many brands hear experts preach about the importance of creating content and literally publish random content for the sake of posting something.
Not only is that approach a complete waste of time, but it will not help your SEO at all. Having a specific conversion goal for each page allows you to properly target the correct keyword(s) for that page and then optimize the on-page elements to help rank for those terms.
So, whether your goal is to drive a direct sale, gain a newsletter subscriber or push the visitor onto another page, it needs to be clearly spelled out.
You cannot effectively move onto the other items on this list until the conversion goal is clearly identified.
2. Optimize Page Content for Your Target Audience
If your page content was outsourced or perhaps written for Google-only, then you might want to re-write it so it appeals more to your target audience.
Remember, there is a way to do this while also having it be a positive factor in your on-page SEO. The days of keyword stuffing and spammy content are long gone.
Not only do you risk a possible Google penalty, but low quality content doesn’t help your conversion goals. It takes a lot of effort — both time and money — to attract quality website traffic. Make sure your content is written in a way that it both provides value and helps to convert visitors.
Find content on some of the biggest websites in your niche and run it through a tool like
3. Optimize URL Slugs, Titles and Meta Descriptions
These elements were all explained in detail above. It’s best to optimize these at the same time on each page, as they will often be highly related.
URL: Many people assume that the URL needs to be the entire page title. This can add many unnecessary words to the URL. Manually edit your URL slug to include your keyword if possible and keep it a short description of the page contents. [Example: the URL slug for this guide is “/on-page-seo-guide/”]
Page Title: This is the main element that tells your potential visitors and Google what the page is about. If possible, use your main keyword in the title, as close to the beginning as possible while remaining natural. [Example: the Page Title for this guide is, “On-Page SEO Guide (How to Attract More Traffic to Your Website)”]
Meta Description: Your meta description should be written with the goal of attracting a click from the organic search results. Google doesn’t directly use this as a ranking signal, but it’s still a good idea to include your main keyword in the description naturally, as the individual performing the search is more likely to click on a listing that includes the term he or she searched for. [Example: the Meta Description for this guide is, “This definitive on-page SEO guide explains how to optimize your website to rank higher in the search results and attract more traffic to your website.”]
4. Audit Headings and Image Alt-Text
While auditing your pages you will more than likely find several opportunities to structure your content better using Headings. Focus on H2 and H3 text, working in your keyword and multiple variations of it (if you can do this in a non-spammy way).
This not only helps to tell Google what your page content is about, but it provides a better user experience. Most of your visitors will skim through your content — very few will read it word-for-word. Headings allow you to summarize your content into bite-size nuggets.
Unless you were focused on optimizing on-page elements from the start, there is a good chance that none of your images have proper alt-text. Include your keyword in a natural way, and if you have multiple images on the page make sure to work in several long-tail variations and related search phrases.
You do not want to use the same keyword as alt-text on all of the images on a particular page. This can be viewed as spammy in Google’s eyes and can put your website in line for a possible penalty.
5. Interlink Related Content
Interlinking is beneficial for your website’s SEO, and I’m just talking about the most basic form of internal linking.
There are more advanced strategies that involve creating massive resource pages or content assets and doing a major outreach campaign to build links to that specific page. Over time that page’s authority increases tremendously. From that page you can then pass some of that authority to other pages, moving them up in the search results.
But, that is for another more advanced SEO guide in the future! 😉
For now, focus on linking to other relevant pages on your site in an effort to keep your visitors on your website for longer periods of time.
Not only does this help your SEO (by lowering your bounce rate and increasing visitors’ average time spent on the website) but the longer someone is on your website, the higher the probability of them converting.
6. Optimize for Mobile-Friendliness
This step is simple: run your page URLs through Google’s mobile-friendly test tool. Each page. Not just your homepage.
This is the mistake many make — they assume that if their homepage passes the test the rest of their website will be mobile-friendly by default. This is not the case.
Some plugins or third-party services and applications that your website might be running could potentially hurt your mobile-friendliness.
The only way to know for sure is to test every single page on your website. It’s simple — don’t be lazy. Identifying and addressing (fixing) any mobile-friendly issues is important if you are serious about your SEO.
7. Optimize for Speed
Just like mentioned above, it’s important that you analyze every page on your website for speed optimization. The two tools mentioned above — Google’s PageSpeed Insights and GTmetrix are both free tools.
The only “cost” to optimize your website’s speed is your time. Some pages might have images that aren’t compressed properly for example, while others might be slowed down due to a plugin using too many resources.
Some of the suggestions these tools will give you might be beyond your technical scope, and there is nothing wrong with that.
There are plenty of developers capable of addressing these issues and improving your website speed available on the popular freelancing marketplaces.
I would suggest fully auditing all of your pages and creating an Excel document that contains all of the ‘fix’ feedback and giving that to the developer you hire.
Also, WordPress users: make sure to install the
8. Audit the SEO Score of Your Pages
When installed it creates section within your WordPress dashboard on each page and post that looks like this:
As you can see, it gives you a SEO score as well as a Readability score. The example above is from this guide. The focus keyphrase is “on-page SEO guide” and both the SEO and Readability score is perfect.
Now, this is only a guide. Just because you achieve perfect scores on this tool it doesn’t guarantee you will rank. There are many other factors. But, it’s a great start.
Using Yoast SEO to help you nail down basic on-page optimization gives you a strong foundation to build your SEO campaign on.
On-Page SEO Guide: Final Thoughts
Hopefully this on-page SEO guide has been helpful and you now have a better understanding of what needs to be optimized on the page-level in order to thrive in Google’s organic search results.
Once you audit your existing pages and optimize them accordingly, use this guide anytime you publish a new page or a new blog post. When you focus on your on-page SEO from the start it allows you to create content targeting the keywords and search phrases you want to rank for.
Do you have any questions about the information outlined in this on-page SEO guide? If so, leave them in the comments below and I will do my best to answer them for you.