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What is On-Page Optimisation in SEO in 2023 + How to Optimize Your Page

By | First Published: | Last Updated: 3 August, 2022

You want your website to rank higher on Google and you are interested in SEO. But you may be wondering, what is on-page optimisation in SEO?

There are a lot of things you can do to rank higher in Google and these things are often grouped into two different types of SEO:

  • Off-Page SEO
  • On-Page SEO

Both help your webpages to rank on Google and other search engines. But the focus of this guide is on-page SEO.

diagram showing a website moving up Google's rankings as a result of on-page SEP
On-Site SEO Helps Your Webpages to Rank Better
seo growth top bar icon optimised

Off-Page vs On-Page SEO

Off-page SEO is largely concerned with gaining links to your website from other sites. Google sees quality, natural links as votes of confidence in your site.

You can create links yourself within directories (especially Google Business Profile) and your social media accounts, but what really helps with SEO are links from sites controlled by other people.

On-Page SEO is about creating what Google regards as the best content for a particular search query to help that specific page to rank better.

This guide will explain how you should use on-page SEO to boost your rankings.

icon representing on-page optimisation with a webpage, a gear cog and a magnifying glass
seo growth top bar icon optimised

On-Page SEO Factors

Creating helpful content

Focusing your page on one key thing

Choosing a focus keyword based on both the above point and some keyword research

Creating in-depth, longer content

Building a list of keyword variations to use throughout your page’s content

Using your focus keyword and a keyword variation in your page title

Using keyword variations in your subheadings

Using your focus keyword as your URL slug

Using keyword variations in your normal, paragraph text

Including relevant and optimized images on your page’s content

Including structured data and rich snippets in your page’s content

Using formatting such as lists, bold text and italic text

Ensuring that your page’s content is mobile-friendly

Creating pages with good core web vitals scores

download the on-page seo checklist

screenshot on page seo ranking factors checklist

1. Content Is King – Create Helpful Content

There is an old saying in SEO that content is king and it is still true.

Google wants to show its users the best results for their search queries. SEO is about showing Google yours is one of the best pages. So, the first thing you need to do with page optimization is to make sure that the content on your page is incredibly helpful

The first step is to match your content to the searcher’s intent.

If someone is searching for a service in their local area, your page is about one of your paid offerings, your page’s content needs to show how your paid offering helps your website visitors. For example, I offer website design to small businesses in my local, regional city – Mackay. So I created a page with content that highlights how an independent, local designer can help them to get online and get found online.

If your page is about offering advice, make sure it’s content is:

Great advice

Presented well

2. Focus Your webPage On One Thing

Pages that focus on more than one of your offerings are unlikely to rank for any of them. Why? Because Google and other search engines want to give their users results that focus on their search queries.

The SEO jargon for this is that your page’s content should focus on user intent.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a page that outlines your various offerings. A home page is a good example. A homepage should tell people about what you offer and why they should buy from you. But if your homepage ranks for anything, it is likely to be your business name.

So, sort your offerings into key areas and create a page for each of them. For example, I have two key offerings:

  1. Website Design
  2. SEO

On-page SEO Tip #3 – Choosing the Best Focus Keyword

Once you have decided to make a page dedicated to a particular offering, such as web designer Mackay, the next SEO task involves choosing the best focus keyword. For this, you need to use an online keyword research tool. My favourite is SEMRUSH. But other good ones include ahrefs and Moz

Most of these are paid tools (no affiliation) and they are quite expensive.

However, they offer free or low-cost 7-day trials. This is normally enough time for small business owners to do their keyword research. But, make sure you cancel your subscription before the end of the trial.

Once you have signed up, log in to your account and head to the keyword tool. In SEMRUSH, the tool is called Keyword Magic.

If you type in a relevant search query such as web designer Mackay, you will see a list of similar keywords. Beside them are some numbers.

The 2 numbers that are important are for Volume and Keyword Difficulty (KD). 

Choose the keyword with the highest volume with a comparable KD as your focus keyword. In this example, with a volume of 50 per month, the best focus keyword would be website design Mackay.

Note: Your focus is keyword is just for your optimizing site’s pages, not your whole site.

on page seo with semrush keyword tool results 1
Keyword Research with SEMRUSH is part of On-Page SEO

on-page SEO TIP #4 – BUILD A LIST OF KEYWORD VARIATIONS

There was an old approach to SEO that involved finding a focus keyword and then stuffing your page with the same phrase as many times as you could. It didn’t help create great content as it often sounded awkward, but it used to work. Why? Because it helped Google understand the focus of your page.

The process was repeated for each page on a site.

Thankfully, Google has gotten smarter and keyword stuffing no longer works. Yet, you still need to help Google understand the focus of your page. A list of keyword variations helps you to do this – keyword variations = new SEO. And, you build your keyword variation list in batches.

keyword variation list from vatches diagram 2

The first batch of keyword variations come from the same keyword research I described in Tip #2. For the focus keyword website design Mackay, keyword variations were local web design, web design Mackay, website builder Mackay, Mackay web design, web designers Mackay, affordable website design Mackay, and web design and development Mackay.

You build the second batch of keywords by breaking apart the keyword variations from your first batch. For example, your second batch of keywords could include website design, web design, website designer, and web designer. You can even break them up into individual words website, web, design, designer, builder, Mackay, and affordable.

Your third batch of keyword variations by varying the structure of the above word. For example, design becomes designs or designed, white website can become websites.

Finally, your fourth batch of keyword variations comes from brainstorming related terms. For example, website design services, domain names, hosting and email. 

You will need to use your keyword variations throughout your content (see following tips).

SEO Tip #5 – In-Depth, longer content

There is a relationship between the length of content and rankings on Google. But, I don’t believe that long content itself helps you to rank well. Rather, longer content helps you offer more in-depth and helpful advice.

How long is long does content need to be for on-page SEO? The answer depends upon 2 things:

  • Searcher intent
  • Your competition

Let’s look at each of these in turn.

If you found this article by searching for on-page SEO, it is likely you wanted a long, in-depth article with practical tips.

But, if you searched for, HP Pavilion Laptop 15-eg1045TX you probably wanted a list of shops and prices, each with a brief description of the product and its specifications. 

Different pages on your site can, do and should have varying lengths. But, longer content is better if it suits the searcher’s intent.

It isn’t always so easy to tell. That’s when you should analyse the relevant pages of your competitors that rank above you in Google.

seo minion icon

One way to do this is by using a free, Google Chrome Extension called SEO Minion. However, SEO Minion only analyses one page at a time.

If you want to analyse the pages that rank above you (or just the top 10), you need to use a paid tool. The best I have found is called Page Optimizer Pro (no affiliation). But another good one is SEO Surfer. 

analysing page length as part of on page seo copy
A snippet of Page Optimizer Pro Report

SEO TIP #6 – Use Keywords in Your Title Tag & H1 Tag

Every page on your site has a page title. Your page title is perhaps the single, most important aspect of on-page SEO. It is not enough on its own, but it is likely to have an even larger impact than any other single factor. 

But how does Google know what the title of a page is? The answer is tags, specifically the title tag and the H1 tag

A tag is part of the HTML code that surrounds your website’s visible content. Tags surround blocks of text and they are seen by Google and other search engines, but not by human users.

The H1 tag indicates the page title that shows on your website. If I wrote a page about speeding up your website, I would surround the page title with H1 tags like so <h1>8 Ways to Speed Up Your WordPress Website</h1>

code using title and h1 tags as part of on page seo
Code Showing Title & H1 Tags

Title tags serve a similar purpose, but they tell Google what title to include in its search results. These two titles can be identical. But they can also vary slightly. For example, I may prefer my Google search result title to be <title>Discover 8 Ways to Speed Up Your WordPress Website<title>.

SEO Tip #7 – Use Keyword Variations in Your Subheadings

Your page content is easier to read when it is broken into sections and you use subheadings to do this. There are different levels of subheadings on your webpage, just as there are different levels of subheadings in a textbook.

Easier to read = better content = relevant for SEO.

The highest level of subheading is marked with an H2 tag, showing it is the second most important after the page title. This is similar to chapter headings being the second most important heading after the book title. 

The headings go down from there, H3, H4, H5 etc.

Thankfully you don’t need to know how to code to add these headings. Within WordPress, simply choose the heading block, select the level of heading and type away. Other platforms have similar features.

screenshot of using subheadings for on page seo
Screenshot of Adding Subheadings to a WordPress Page

When choosing subheadings, choose headings that make sense, but for SEO purposes, try to include keyword variations when it makes sense. 

You can explore your competitors’ pages using the free tool SEO Minion, or either of the paid tools Page Optimizer Pro or SEO Surfer. 

So break your content up with subheadings and use keyword variations within these subheadings.

On-Page SEO Tip #8 – Use Your Focus Keyword in Your URL Slug

This is a quick and easy SEO tip optimizing your pages has never been easier. Use your focus keyword in your URL slug with individual words separated by dashes. 

Every page  on your site has a URL slug (except your homepage). The URL slug is the part of the URL at the end, after your domain name. For example, https://websmall.net/website-design-mackay 

In WordPress, you can specify your URL slug in the Page section of your editor.

A simple task, but a potent way to optimize your page.

url slug is part of on page seo
Code Showing Title & H1 Tags

On-Page Tip #9 – Optimize Your Paragraph Text with Keyword Variations

Most of your site’s and your page’s content is paragraph text. Like headings, paragraph text is surrounded by tags – paragraph tags. For example. <p>This is paragraph text. It has two sentences.</p>.

But with modern web systems such as WordPress, you simply select the paragraph block and type away. If you are finished one paragraph and want to start another, just press enter. You only need to change blocks when you want to add something new, like a heading or image. 

Optimizing your paragraph text may involve using your focus keyword. But it mainly involves using your keyword variations.

Sometimes you can use your focus keyword within your paragraph text. If you do, use it very sparingly.

It is safer and easier to use your keyword variations throughout your paragraph text. 

How many of each keyword variation should you use? While many articles and SEO plugins promote the idea of an ideal ratio, the real answer lies within your competitors’ pages that are outranking you. 

This involves using a paid tool such as Page Optimizer Pro or SEO Surfer. Sorry, I haven’t found any free alternatives. This SEO tip also takes the most time.

Tip #10 – Include Relevant & Optimized Images

Image optimizations are an important part of page optimization.

The first part of this on-page SEO tip is to include images on the pages of your site. Images are an important part of your page’s content.

Images include photos, diagrams, and graphs.

The next part of the tip involves ensuring that the images are relevant. Put another, part of optimizing your page’s images is to ensure that they are helpful to the user of your site. Putting irrelevant images on your page will not help your SEO.

Finally, you need to make sure you optimize your images. Image optimization means two different things. The first involves reducing the file size of each image so that your page loads quickly – but more on this in on-page SEO tip 16. For this section, optimizing your images involves naming them carefully, using captions wisely and adding appropriate alt text.

Use your focus keyword in one or two names of your images. Use keyword variations within the names of your remaining images. 

Where it makes sense, use keywords in the captions below the images.

Finally, there is the alt text. Alt text is short for alternative text and it is designed for screen readers used by visually impaired people. Google and other search engines can also read alt text. Back in the early days of SEO, shady SEO professionals just put keywords in an image’s alt text. Don’t just do this.

Make sure your alt text would genuinely help a visually impaired person to understand each image on your page and site. Where it makes sense, you can include a keyword – but only if it flows naturally and actually helps a visually impaired person. 

image optimisation
Using Images for On-Page SEO

Tip #11 – Include Schema Markup & Rich Snippets

Schema markup, which is also known as structured data, is code surrounding text that indicates what sort of content it is.

Structured data can be applied to a whole pages or even your whole site. For example, there is schema markup for local businesses, articles and recipes.  

There is also schema markup for elements on a page. This type of structured data is called rich snippets. For example, there is schema markup for products, breadcrumbs and FAQs. When it makes sense, use rich snippets in your content.

Schema markup is designed to help Google and other search engines help their users get the type of information they are searching for. So, for SEO purposes use schema markup on your page.

The plugin SEO Press allows you to add schema markup easily on WordPress. I recommend the Pro version (no affiliation). It handles the most common schemas for local businesses (local business, webpage, article, product, FAQs, breadcrumbs). 

on-page seo Tip #12 – Use Text Formatting

This on-page SEO tip is easy to implement because we are all familiar with Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or both.

Text formatting helps make your content easier to understand. So it helps your site’s visitors, which is what Google and other search engines want. 

Text formatting includes bolditalics, bullet lists, numbered lists, tables and even highlighting. 

But how much formatting should you use? There are two ways to answer this:

  • By thinking about what helps your site’s users
  • By analyzing what your competitors who rank higher than you do
formatting as part of on page seo

Personally, I start with what my competitors do as a minimum. You can manually check your competitors’ pages or you can use the paid tool Page Optimizer Pro. 

I add additional formatting if it helps my site’s users. 

Tip #13 – Ensure Your Page is Mobile-Friendly

In 2019, Google introduced mobile-first indexing. This means that Google stores information about the mobile version of your site and its pages. It then uses this information to decide where to rank your page – even if people are searching on a computer.

It’s not surprising given the rising use of mobile phones to access the internet. In 2022, mobile phones accounted for 59% of website traffic.

Why does this matter for on-page SEO? Because mobile have smaller screens and vertical screens. So you need to make sure that your page is mobile-friendly

You can test whether your page is mobile-friendly using Google’s free testing tool.

59 percent of internet use is via mobile phones
Percentage of Internet Use by Mobile Phones

Specific actions that you can take to help make your page mobile-friendly include:

  • Using a responsive theme – so 2 pieces of content that were beside each other on mobile are stacked on top of each other on mobile
  • Using a font size that isn’t too small or too large (14-16 px for paragraph text)
  • Adjusting your padding and margins
  • Using a hamburger menu for the navigation bar
  • Ensuring there is enough space between page elements (e.g. buttons)

Tip #14 – Make Sure Your Page Has Good Core Web Vitals scores

Google wants its users to have good experiences (UX) on the website pages they visit. It attempts to measure this experience using two factors that annoy website users if the page doesn’t have them:

  • Fast loading time (the opposite being slow loading pages)
  • Visual stability (the opposite being site elements that move around as the website loads)

Google actually uses 3 separate measures, but 2 of them are aspects of page loading speed while the other is about visual stability.

When other factors are equal, Google uses the pages’ core web vitals scores as a way of ranking pages. So, it is an important part of on-page SEO.

You want your core web vitals scores to be at or above 90/100. And, as mobile scores are normally lower than the computer scores, you want your mobile scores to be above 90.

Some factors, such as your hosting, affect the speed of your whole site. But here are 5 page-specific strategies you can use to improve your page speed if you have a WordPress site: 

core web vitals report where scores affect your on page seo
Core Web Vitals Score on My Blog
  1. Full page caching (your host needs to have a Litespeed server to activate this) or other caching if not
  2. Avoid using page-builders (use GenerateBlocks to build your page instead)
  3. Resize images to the actual size they need to be on a computer screen
  4. Compress images (manually through Photoshop, online using WP Wheelie’s free Image Optimization tool, or using a plugin)
  5. Convert images to WebP format (Photoshop, WP Wheelie’s free Image Optimization tool, or using a plugin)

For more suggestions see the article 27 Potent & Practical Tactics to Speed up WP Websites on my WP Wheelie blog.

No. The old practice of keyword stuffing for SEO is dead. But keywords are still critical in helping Google understand what your page is about.

On-Page Optimisation involves creating useful content and then helping Google understand that content so it ranks better in search results.

shaun killian profile picture.jpg

SHAUN KILLIAN

Shaun Killian (me) is a small business owner, who is passionate about helping other small businesses succeed. He has been working with website design since 2008. He is also an expert in digital marketing, including SEO, content marketing and email marketing. In a former life, Shaun was a school teacher and principal before a heart transplant and bilateral leg amputation led him in other directions.