Table of Contents
The most comprehensive approach to scoring on-page elements for SEO of new and already published content.
Table of Contents
On-page SEO analysis is evaluating a webpage’s content for SEO best practices and benchmarking its content against the top-ranking competitors for factors such as meta tags, images, content, structure, schema, keywords, and many other important ranking factors. The analysis helps identify content gaps and areas of improvement on a webpage to help boost its ranking.
95% of people never scroll past the first page of Google — or any other search engine, for that matter. To get on that first page where everyone can see them, big and small websites are going to do everything they can to outrank others.
So we know all websites are in a fierce battle for a position on the first page, let alone on the top 3 positions on SERPs.
But why are they even fighting this battle? It’s simple: lead generation and customer acquisitions.
You need to keep your customer acquisition costs low to maintain a positive CAC. And because PPC costs are skyrocketing, you need new ways to get leads without spending direct money on PPC. Enter leads generated from organic search results — these are higher quality leads, but they’re also free and more sustainable.
We can say that on-page SEO if done right, can help you bring your ideal customers to your website without having to spend money to run the campaign. But that’s going to be hard. You’ll have to put your heart and soul into optimizing your content for all on-page SEO elements.
At least this way, your biggest competitors can’t fight you like they used to over your PPC budget.
On-page SEO elements can commonly be broken down into 11 categories, which can also break down into sub-criteria. We’ll dive into each category and criterion later in this guide, but you can also use this list below as a checklist for your on-page SEO optimization.
To help you rank even better on search engine result pages, we’ve outlined all the things you need to do to optimize your on-page SEO. While this guide explains how to do on-page optimization using Outranking, you can apply these recommendations manually or use any SEO writing checker to improve ranking.
Watch the video or see the guide below
Title analysis and optimization essentially consists of 3 components. The important entities found in other ranking pages, the average number of H tags, and the semantic search terms you’re trying to rank for. But you can also take it a step further to get a higher CTR using some title optimization tricks. That’s why our guide includes 4 parts for title optimization.
These are the common terms that appear in ranking pages’ titles. Including these terms helps ensure your content serves the readers’ search intent.
Titles that are shorter than 60 characters aren’t always viable for long-tailed queries. In these cases, keeping this range in mind dramatically helps. You can also see the typical title range on other ranking pages. Staying within that range can help ensure your title is optimized for the keyword you’re trying to rank for.
Including search terms in your title can dramatically improve your chances of ranking for semantic terms. (Semantic terms are basically terms related to your primary keyword — they have similar meanings or user intent.)
Try to use these terms naturally in your title (without considering them as an exact match). You can also try to use multiple of these terms in your title but without keyword stuffing. Doing so can help your page rank for more search terms.
If you do everything correctly, you might get into the first two pages of Google. But to keep your rank, and even climb higher, you need people to actually click on your link. A higher clickthrough rate (CTR) tells Google that people like your content more than others. Google will then boost your ranking because that’s what people want.
CTR isn’t a direct ranking factor, but it’s a very important metric to understand your page’s performance and health.
Your title also plays a big role in your CTR, which is why we’ve included these criteria in title optimization. Using numbers, superlatives, and brackets have shown to improve CTR. Of course, you still need a meaningful title that doesn’t mislead people.
Here’s a complete list of things you can do to improve CTR:
We’ll take a look at two screenshots, with two titles that are trying to rank for the same keyword, “Pet blogging”. One of them is better than the other, and we’ll tell you why.
In this example, you can see that the title is <60 characters — meaning you can see all of it at a glance. But most importantly, the title highlights the primary keyword and even uses a number to catch your eye. This title for sure has a high CTR.
Now let’s take a look at the other title and why it may not be performing as well.
Unfortunately, this title doesn’t highlight the primary keyword, and it doesn’t draw your attention to any special characters or numbers. And even worse, this title is longer than the limit, so you can’t see all of it. You probably won’t be very compelled to click on a page like that…
H1 tags are optimized almost like the title, so most people keep them the same. But for a better reading experience, you can make them different. This may also help you target another semantic term.
For example, if you’ve targeted “Pet blogging” in the title, you can target “Blogging about animals” as a term in your H1. Some marketers prefer consistency while others prefer more SEO optimization, but you can see what fits you better, and make something that makes sense.
Note that the H1’s length isn’t a ranking factor. In fact, H1 tags may not even help with rankings, as shown by inconclusive research done by Moz. But in general, it’s good to have an H1 tailored for your audience, and containing a keyword variation.
From the image below, you can see that H1s matter less for search engines and more for your users.
HubSpot is ranking for Salesforce vs HubSpot in its meta title and H1, but the title went a step further to include a superlative (the best). The H1 tag doesn’t have this extra detail, which makes it easier to look at for the readers on the page.
So, you can do the same, and optimize your title for Search and CTR, while optimizing your H1 tag for better UX.
Descriptions are an on-page SEO factor, but they aren’t that heavily scored. People have all sorts of opinions on how to create a meta description, but the most methodological approach is to use the most common terms in competing webpages’ SERP descriptions.
Read that again… it says SERP description, not meta description. Why? Because you want to optimize your page based on what Google found useful — not what random websites claim their pages talk about.
These are the most common terms appearing in ranking pages’ descriptions. It’s true Google chooses a SERP description at will from your page, but optimizing your description can reinforce what your content is about. So, summarize your content with the given keywords.
Your descriptions can be as long as you want them to be, but most CMS and SERPs cut them off at 160 characters.
Google tends to write its own description for most pages now, so you may not be able to force it to use your description. However, having a 160-character description is advised.
Your outline, or content structure, is one of the most important factors for on-page SEO optimization. More in-depth, comprehensive, well-structured content is always better than unorganized content, especially if your outline is optimized for semantic search terms.
Below are some important criteria to optimize your outlines — and the fourth one is a head-scratcher!
These are the words that most frequently appear in the outlines of the top 5 ranking pages. Outranking suggests using all the terms mentioned in this section in your H2/H3 tags.
The number of H tags can give an idea of how deep the content is, and what its structure is. You can use as many or as few H tags as you want, but we recommend staying at the higher end of typical suggestions.
Fewer than that may indicate you didn’t cover the topic well enough, and higher than that may show you went off-topic with too many details. Target the sweet spot in H tags that allows you to develop the topic with all the needed context, without going overboard with irrelevant ideas.
Emphasizing search terms in your outlines (H2 and H3) can improve the chances of ranking for those related search terms.
Outranking curates semantic keywords using SERP analysis, targeting as many terms as possible without compromising the headings’ readability.
But the last factor in outline optimization is intent, and you can’t score it mathematically. Let’s see.
A quick look at the SERPs for the search query “Day trips from Chicago” would yield blog posts with lists of 10 places to visit around Chicago. But a day trip service page for a local company may not appear in these search results.
SERP queries can yield mixed results — lists, guides, how-tos, etc. So the best way to tackle these mixed-intent queries is to cover information from (almost) all types of pages in even more detail.
How to Optimize Your Outline
What does a great outline look like? Here is an example of a comprehensive page on SEO teams that ranks in the top 3 with 0 backlinks at the time of writing this.
What makes this outline so great? For starters, it’s easy to keep track of where you are with the numbered headings. It also gave enough context before diving into the direct topic, so it has a higher chance to rank.
But then it delivered on its promise to show the reader how to map and structure their SEO team — by showing them the team’s responsibilities and actual structure!
On the contrary, check out this outline. 9 out of 10 people would bounce when they see it. It’s going in so many different directions at once, and it’s not following an organized structure and grouping similar sections together.
Just reading the outline won’t help you understand how the page is answering the H1, nor what sorts of information you should expect. -3/10 outline.
Let’s get to the meat of it all — content. Creating content used to be easy. But now, with so many people trying to game the search engines, it’s becoming more complex to optimize content to rank.
A data-driven approach to ranking your content is to cover as many areas as you can. And for a decade, many have been using NLP terms to optimize content. But that isn’t enough anymore.
Instead, you need to optimize your content for uniqueness, structure, and readability, and copywrite content with other ranking opportunities like featured snippets.
Outranking suggests staying within the typical word count range targeted by the top 5 ranking pages. Again, a modest increase in word count won’t harm your chances of ranking, but a vast difference suggests that your content might be about other things that searchers aren’t looking for. So, staying between the typical range is recommended.
Most refer to this as NLP terms. After analyzing thousands of SERP results, we found that top-ranking pages only use a small list of common entities.
Some terms are very important because they appear in all the top 5 pages. Others are less important, but they do appear on more than one top-10 ranking page.
You can use a term map as shown below to understand which NLP terms you can target in your content.
Targeting common entities is essential, but it’s equally important to introduce unique entities (that don’t appear on other ranking pages). Doing so will validate that your content is actually unique.
Outranking’s SERP analysis indicates the number of unique entities mentioned in the ranking pages. So, you can try targeting the upper bounds or exceeding the suggested typical range. But beware: AI can’t produce any unique entities — so you need to count on your human thought process to optimize this section.
AI can’t add accurate details, and content writers often miss these details unless you specifically tell them not to. Content that lacks statistics is often flagged as AI-generated, and it’s considered thin content.
So to get around this issue, you can add statistics to improve your credibility and demonstrate your expertise. But having too many statistics can negatively impact your readability. So, target the typical range suggested by Outranking.
With the rise of AI, search engines prioritize those who spend time and energy creating content. Adding tables to your content is one way to do that — and it comes in handy because you can even use AI to help you with these tables.
Adding tables in the content demonstrates expertise and helps structure the information better. Many SERP pages may not target tables in their content, so this is an opportunity for you to do so.
It’s no myth that structuring your content in a logical and modular format can help create a better reading experience. But did you know that this can also demonstrate your expertise?
For example, outranking analyzes top-ranking pages and understands how other carriers use ordered and unordered lists. Try targeting list items in your content towards the higher end of the typical range.
Featured snippets are answers that Google shows for some queries that have a precise answer. If a topic ranks for this snippet, the brand gets exposure because snippets take up a large section of SERP estate.
To rank for featured snippets, you need to optimize your heading and the content that follows in a specific manner. While this isn’t an on-page SEO factor, it’s one of the optimization items on our checklist.
Take a look at this page below that ranks for “Examples of professional writing”. This page is also optimized for the featured snippet. How so?
Well, the keyword is in the first sentence, and the answer is precise enough to fit under 300 characters.
No one wants to read content if it doesn’t make sense to them — emphasis on it for them. Why? Because content readability depends on the people you’re writing for. You can’t write the same content for a person with a Ph.D. in marketing and for a food blogger. One would have to be at a higher level.
The overall objective is to ensure your content can be understood by your target audience. Tools like Hemingway Editor and Grammarly, a fan favorite, can greatly help improve content readability. Again, don’t go for static readability analysis here. 8th-grade readability is probably okay for more advanced professionals.
Google is paying more attention to the efforts you put into creating your webpage. This doesn’t just mean content — rather, elements that can’t be AI-generated, like images and videos that demonstrate a solution or help digest the information.
Many SERP queries will need visually-driven content. For example, when someone searches for “Best henna ideas for small palm”, they’re looking for ideas and images, not explanations of henna and designs.
Videos have also proven to improve rankings lately — but not just any videos of course. Rather, the videos should carefully be chosen to improve UX and support the content, which could lead to higher rankings.
Google uses alt text along with computer vision algorithms and the contents of a page to understand what the image is about. It uses a similar technique to transcribe videos and understand their topic. So you can’t trick Google with just any videos or images — nothing on your page will go unnoticed.
Images aren’t just visually pleasing. They help show your expertise and understanding of the topic. Of course, this doesn’t refer to wallpaper-like images that add zero value.
Rather, include screenshots, quotes, and infographics demonstrating the ideas you’re talking about and improving readers’ experience. But don’t go overboard, as too many images can be distracting and increase the page’s loading time. Add the number of images suggested in the typical range.
Including your primary keyword in image alt texts is a direct ranking factor. Outranking extracts the most commonly appearing terms in image alt texts on top-ranking pages.
Try creating natural alt text that is meaningful for search engines, and helps understand the context of the images. Include as many of these terms in the alt text.
Videos aren’t always present in ranking pages, but adding relevant original videos on any webpage can significantly improve the user experience and keep the users on the webpage longer.
In addition, original videos created to accompany the content can help demonstrate expertise.
Check out this example where Outranking is ranking for “AI featured snippets” by using a video and title on that page.
Many pros say external links are a ranking factor, while others disagree. But a case study by Shai Aharony ar Reboot can help give a clear answer.
In 2016, Aharony conducted a small experiment in which his team created 10 brand new sites with articles of “comparable structure and text length”. The test aimed to see whether outbound links influenced ranking. So, they included very authoritative external links on 5 of the pages. Guess which ones ranked the highest? The ones with reputable external links.
Note: The team also recreated the experiment in 2020 — and got the same results!
John Mueller hasn’t given a direct yes or no answer, but here are his two cents:
User experience often comes before best practices, so if a citation or link can improve your statements’ credibility, go for it, even if it doesn’t have that big of an impact on SEO.
Of course, adding an external link on your home, product, service, or landing pages makes zero sense. You don’t want to pass on the authority from your most important pages to external websites.
External links directly correlate to higher ranking in SERPs. Carefully adding external links to credible sources can demonstrate you’ve spent time creating well-researched content.
While no-follow is the often go-to choice for your external links, giving a few do-follow to great pages and details can significantly improve your chances of ranking. Add the type range of citations suggested by Outranking and any common sources mentioned.
Internal links help improve your Pagerank, and they show search engines your webpage is connected to more information. Creating a bigger information pool around a topic makes it easier to rank. This concept is called building topical authority and using silos to build internal links.
Outranking can take your sitemap and search SERPS to find where you can get links to and from (based on PageRank data of semantic URLs). Target the typical range of internal links.
Adding the correct anchor text for all your links tells search engines what information is in those links. Doing so also shows how your webpage connects to the others.
Adding the correct anchor text can help improve your internal links’ ranking. It also builds a proper flow of information between your web pages. Target the typical range of keywords and add the most common appearing keywords.
Better user experience makes everything SEO even better. When someone finds great UX on your page, they’ll stay on it longer, and engage with you further.
Breaking up your text with insightful images, ensuring your paragraphs aren’t too long, and neatly organizing your sections, will be key to keeping your readers satisfied — and staying on the page longer!
Dwell time is the amount of time users spend on a page — from when they find it on the search engine results page to when they go back to the SERP. This is essentially the amount of time they are spending on the page before realizing, “Nah, this ain’t for me”.
This shows search engines what users’ behavior is on a page, and it provides insight into the contents of your page. Did the users find what they were looking for or did they not find any value in your content? Less value = lower dwell time.
Here’s how you can avoid low dwell times:
Structured data is code you can add to your website to help search engines understand your content better. Adding structured data can improve your website’s ranking, CTR, and dominance over the competition on SERPs. You can also find Google’s guidelines on how to use Structured data on your webpage.
Schema markup is a small code placed on the HTML that better communicates the context of the page elements with search engines. It usually includes (but isn’t limited to):
Adding this data can help your website’s SEO. How so? Because it helps Google create rich snippets that appear in SERP results. A relevant and valuable snippet may result in increased long-tail traffic.
URLs aren’t heavily scored, but you should still make them readable and concise. Longer, over-optimized URLs stuffed with keywords don’t rank better or faster.
You should still include the highest-frequency words and your focus keyword in your slug. Chances are these two will be the same, but note if they’re different — don’t stuff keywords.
Keep your URLs natural, and short, and use primary keywords.
Search engines use page loading speeds to rank websites. And for a good reason! Even a second or half-second delay can reduce conversions by 4.42%. And did you know that 70% of customers say that page loading speeds can impact their willingness to purchase?
So, to avoid losing prospects, we recommend improving your page speed. Use Google Page Speed Insights to check your website’s loading speed and see why it’s struggling. Keep in mind that site speed optimization relies on several things, but it all starts with loading times and code optimization.
You can use tools like Nitropack to improve your page speed on WordPress websites quickly. But if you have an enterprise website, you may need more intensive development and technical implementations.
Consider using a content delivery network to boost your website’s speed by allowing multiple servers to cache content in different locations. You may also choose WordPress hosting over a shared hosting plan to enjoy better site performance.
If you’re looking for a good business SEO platform to help improve your website’s on-page SEO, Outranking is a great choice. It’s easy to use and has many features to help you optimize your content and increase your content’s ROI.
Outranking is the perfect tool for anyone who wants their pages to rank higher on search engines. It compares your on-page SEO elements to the ones on ranking pages and gives you suggestions to optimize your creations. You’ll also get ongoing suggestions to help you keep — and improve — your page’s ranking, so you’ll have no trouble producing content that ranks every time.