On-page optimization

Complete guidance to improve on-page SEO for already-published or new content. The most comprehensive approach to scoring on-page SEO elements.

Score the most important on-page SEO elements

The most granular way of scoring your content for all important on-page SEO elements, from title to content depth. Optimize your content for more organic traffic.

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Optimize content for more reach using semantic and related keywords

Get the right data to make sure your content includes all the semantic terms and keywords related to your focus topic. Increase the reach of your content.

Create content that meets the search intent using NLP data and questions people ask

Optimize content for the right Google NLP terms to nail the search intent and cover the topic in the most comprehensive manner. Get insights into all the questions on the SERPs that can help create great content.

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Get internal link suggestions without having to access the CMS

Connect your sitemaps with the Outranking platform and automatically get suggestions to include internal links, saving tons of time.

On-page SEO is one of the few things you have complete control over. By optimizing your content for search, you can bring qualified visitors without spending money. 

In this guide, we will discuss what on-page optimization is, why it's essential, and how you can optimize your content to rank higher.

What is on-page optimization in SEO?

On-page optimization refers to the optimization of the content and design of your web page to better align with search engine optimization best practices. Some on-page SEO factors include optimization of:

  1. Title
  2. Click-through rate (CTR)
  3. Description
  4. Headings
  5. Outlines 
  6. Keywords
  7. NLP terms and topic coverage
  8. Internal links
  9. External links
  10. URLs
  11. Images and videos
  12. Schema markup
  13. Page experience

Why is on-page SEO important?

On-page SEO helps search engines understand your website's content, allowing them to better meet a user’s needs or intent. Here are a few facts to know:

  1. On-page SEO is important to help your website gain a high ranking on search engines like Google or Bing.
  2. On-page SEO is important because Google constantly updates its algorithm, and it's necessary to change your website accordingly.
  3. On-page SEO is important because it helps search engines rank and understand a website, which in turn provides good rankings and traffic.
  4. On-page SEO offers the best return on investment because it helps websites grow and bring in traffic for years.
  5. The first result on Google gets over 32% of all keyword traffic, and first-page website traffic makes up 91% of the traffic from all searches performed online.
  6. On-page SEO is important for not only ranking on search engines, but also for fending off competitors.

Things to know before performing on-page optimization

Now that the basics are out of the way, let's understand what we need to master before we do a deep dive into how to do on-page SEO. The prerequisites:

Learn how to do SERP analysis manually or with Outranking

SERP analysis is the process of analyzing the search engine results pages (SERPs) for on-page and off-page SEO metrics for a given keyword you want to rank for.

Manual SERP analysis involves going through the top 20 web pages, collecting all the content, and then ranking related metrics by organizing data on the content in spreadsheets. This process is not easy to understand, and manually collecting this information can take hours. Outranking automates this entire process and suggests information that you can use to plan your content brief and strategy.

How to find the right target keyword query to go after

The first thing you need to do to create content briefs is to pick the keyword for which you want to create content and rank. Performing keyword research with tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs can help you narrow down your focus area and the keywords that matter the most to your business. Using that keyword research, you can plan a strategy to create content.

Keyword research is the core of creating any ranking content, and your brief should include all the important terms related to the topic.

The below screenshot is taken from the Outranking SEO content editor, showing the focus keyword and how the platform pulls out all the semantically matched keywords associated with the primary search query. 

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Including all the related keywords for the content you are writing is of utmost importance for optimizing content. While Outranking automates finding related keywords, it is important to learn how to do keyword research manually to create a content strategy.

Understand Google Analytics and Search Console

Google Search Console and Google Analytics help you visualize how your website looks to a search engine and provide metrics on how your content is consumed by visitors. This gives you a complete breakdown of the information you need to optimize your strategy, create content, and fix errors. 

Search Console holds data related to your website, such as search queries that are and are not performing well. Outranking integrates with Search Console to collect important information about keywords that bring traffic to your website. It also tells you which keywords have the potential to help you improve your content and hit your ranking goals. Then, it suggests ways to approach these gaps and improve traffic.

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Improve page speed if you haven't already

Search engines use page loading speed to rank websites. And for a good reason! Even a second or half-second delay can reduce conversions by 4.42%.

Moreover, nearly 70% of customers agree that page loading speed impacts their willingness to make a purchase. So, to avoid losing prospects, we recommend improving your page speed. 

Start by using Google Page Speed Insights to check your website's loading speed. This will also help you identify factors affecting your page speed. 

Keep in mind that site speed optimization includes various levels of effort but usually starts with loading time and code optimization. You can use tools like Nitropack to quickly improve your page speed on WordPress websites. For enterprise websites, site speed optimization requires intensive development and more technical implementation. 

Consider using a content delivery network to boost the speed of your website 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.

E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness)

E-A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. E-A-T is a guideline that Google uses to determine what content is of high quality and should be ranked higher. 

Google considers E-A-T characteristics that include the expertise of the creator of the content, the authoritativeness of the creator and content, and the trustworthiness of both. Improving your website's E-A-T can indirectly impact your overall search rankings.

Great content should help users, be created by an expert, be posted on an authoritative site, be trustworthy, and be updated regularly.

Pages that spread hate, cause harm, or misinform or deceive users may receive a lower E-A-T rating from search evaluators.

Understanding E-A-T helps you create and promote high-quality content that improves the user experience, addresses the search intent, and is generally considered valuable.

Choose quality over quantity

When it comes to SEO, Google has always been clear about its priorities: the company wants to provide quality results for users. This means that websites with high-quality content are more likely to rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Content must be original, exclusive, useful, and well-researched

One way in which Google determines whether or not a website provides quality content is by checking if the content is original, exclusive, useful, and well-researched. The company also looks at how much time people spend on a page and how many people share it.

Unbiased content is important

Another factor that Google takes into account when ranking websites is the presence of unbiased content. The company wants to ensure that its users can see a variety of viewpoints so they can make informed decisions.

Search intent must be satisfied

In order for content to be considered high quality, it must satisfy the searcher's intent. If you're creating informational content, make sure your website provides comprehensive information on the topic. If you're creating commercial content, make sure your offers are relevant and valuable to users.

Creating thorough and informative content is better than creating a large amount of low-quality content 

Google uses different signals to measure whether or not users are happy with the websites shown at the top of the results.

Google determines if users are satisfied with a website by looking at how many people click on it from the SERP. If a large number of people that click on a result quickly return to the SERP, it's likely that Google will demote that website.

Improve page experience and mobile-friendliness

There are two main things you can do to improve mobile-friendliness and page experience:

1. Make sure your website is designed responsively. This means that the layout of your website changes depending on the size of the screen it is being viewed on. So, if someone visits your site on a phone, they will see a version of your site specifically designed for phones, and if they visit on a desktop, they will see a version of your site that is designed for larger screens.

2. Make sure all content is easily accessible on all devices. This means using large font sizes, leaving plenty of space between elements, and making buttons big enough to easily tap with a finger (at least 37 x 37 pixels). Also pay attention to load times, especially on mobile devices, and make sure your site is as fast as possible.

How to do on-page optimization: On-page SEO factors

To help you rank even better on search engine result pages, we've created a quick checklist of the top on-page optimization factors and 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 platform to improve ranking. 

The key is DATA!

1. Title tag optimization and scoring

The title is the most important on-page SEO element and holds the most weight. Google and the browser tab display this. Therefore, the most important keywords should be in the first 50 characters of your title, although your title can be longer and target more related keywords.

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Exact focus keyword in the title

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Length of the title at least 50 characters

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Highest frequency keyword in the title

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After accessing the top-ranking pages, Outranking shows the keywords that appear most frequently. While these keywords may be already present in your title tag, make sure that you check this to align with the search intent that Google has already established.

Target the related keywords listed below. The more the better.

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Adding related keywords to the title can increase your ranking more than just using one keyword can. These keywords don’t need to be included exactly as-is. Add as many as you can in a natural way. Make sure not to do any keyword stuffing, which can make the title unreadable.

To find the full list of related keywords or more long-tailed ideas, click More Ideas.

2. Optimizing titles for click-through rate (CTR)

After all the efforts you put into optimizing a blog post and getting it to that first milestone of page 1 on Google, you may find that it's either not moving up or can't hold its position. These signs can indicate two things. The first possibility is that your content isn't a good fit for the search intent. The second is that even though Google is showing your page, not many people are clicking on it. While copywriters usually have a few tricks up their sleeves to come up with the best title, there are a few others that SEO pros can suggest for creating content. 

Outranking connects with your Search Console and gets the CTR data. You can filter the data and narrow it down to the exact pages you need to improve. Then, click the suggestions given by Outranking and implement a few improvements to your title.

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  1. Add superlative words such as “best,” “most,” or ”biggest”
  2. Make your title sentence case (Refer to this study from Moz)
  3. Use words that spark emotions
  4. Use numbers,  such as “10” 
  5. Add brackets such as “[5 quick tips]”

3. Meta descriptions

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Although the description, previously known as the meta description, isn’t the most important on-page ranking factor, it helps Google understand what your content is about (in your own words). In addition, this is a great place to target additional related keywords.

Exact focus keyword in the description

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Using the exact focus keyword in the description reinforces what your content is really about and stresses the importance of the focus keyword. Using exact focus keywords in the meta description may lead to improved ranking potential.

Length of the meta description at least 150 characters

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While we have seen Google not penalize pages for a meta description of inappropriate length, it is important to keep it concise from the standpoint of SEO best practices. Target about 150 characters for the meta description.

Highest frequency keyword in the description
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After accessing the top-ranking pages, Outranking found that these keywords appear most frequently. While these keywords may be already present in your description tag, make sure that you check this to align with the search intent that Google has already established.

Target the related keywords listed below. The more the better.
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Adding related keywords to the description can increase your ranking more than just using one keyword can. These keywords don’t need to be included exactly as-is. Add as many as you can in a natural way. Make sure not to do any keyword stuffing, which can make the description unreadable.

4. H1 heading optimization and scoring

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Most often, people use the same headline as the title and H1 heading. Although this is not a bad practice, there are only so many keywords you can target in either one while making sure they are readable and not stuffed with keywords. You can additionally use the H1 as a second place to add related keywords and attract additional traffic.

Exact focus keyword in the H1 tag
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Using the exact focus keyword in the H1 tag increases the chance of ranking for that keyword. Use the keyword in a natural way.

A little different than the title, ideally targeting different keywords
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Your H1 tag is the first thing someone sees when they land on your page. The H1 tag should target semantically similar variations of the focus keyword or other related keywords. This can improve your chances of ranking for other keywords with the same content.

Highest frequency keyword in the H1 tag
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After accessing the top-ranking pages, Outranking found that these keywords appear most frequently. While these keywords may already be present in your H1 tag, it is important to make sure that you check this to align with the search intent that Google has already established.

Target the related keywords listed below. The more the better.
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The H1 tag should target other variations of the focus keyword with semantic similarity or other related keywords. This can improve your chances of ranking for other keywords with the same content.

5. H2–H3 subheadings and outline optimization and scoring

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Number of sections at least __
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The H1 tag should target other variations of the focus keyword with semantic similarity or other related keywords. This can improve your chances of ranking for other keywords with the same content.

At least 4 questions from People Also Ask or related keywords
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Including answers to questions that appear in People Also Ask and related keywords can increase your chances of ranking in the PAA box and featured snippets. While there is no golden rule about how many questions to include, we recommend targeting at least four.

Include NLP terms from SERP data
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NLP terms are keywords extracted from ranking web pages using Google’s natural language processing AI.

It is important to include these terms in your H2 and H3 tags to serve content close to the user intent. Using these terms increases your chance of ranking for the focus keyword.

Include related keywords from SERP data
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Related keywords from SERP data are keywords that your competition is ranking for using the same focus keyword and related content.

Using them in H2 or H3 tags increases the chances of your content ranking for additional search terms. This multiplies the amount of traffic you can bring to the same web page. 

Using them exactly isn’t necessary, but it is recommended.

6. Content depth optimization and scoring: Words, sentences, and readability

For content depth, Outranking analyzes the number of words and sentences on the ranking pages along with the target readability score.

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Target between the average and a maximum number of words for your content. If the topic entails more details, such as for a pillar page, you can go beyond the maximum suggested. The same goes for the suggested number of sentences. 

The readability score suggested is based on the analysis of the top 5 ranking pages. Outranking suggests keeping the readability close to the suggested grade level.

7. Related target keywords and topic optimization

Related keywords and topic optimization are two of the most important elements in optimizing content for better rankings.

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To navigate to the full list of related keywords, click the More Ideas button or SEO in the left menu > Related Keywords.

For a detailed explanation of how to use this feature, refer to step 12, Optimization and scoring of related keywords

To navigate to the full list of Google NLP topics, click the More Ideas button or SEO in the left menu > Topics. For a detailed explanation of how to use this feature, refer to step 13, Topics and Google NLP optimization and scoring.

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8. Featured snippet optimization

The first section for many search terms is a featured snippet and questions that users search for in Google. A featured snippet can contain the requested definition or a precise answer to the search query.

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There is another box a few positions down on Google that contains a list of questions. This box is known as People Also Ask.

Answering a question or explaining the meaning of the primary search term in around 300 characters right under an H2 or H3 tag that contains the question can significantly improve your chances of ranking for the featured snippet or People Also Ask.

9. Internal and external linking

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To configure the internal and external links correctly, add your domain name to the Profile tab of the Settings or manually add the domain name to the URL input in the header. Links within that domain are considered internal links.

10. Optimizing URLs

URLs are not heavily scored, but it is important to make your URLs readable and concise. A longer over-optimized URL stuffed with keywords does not rank better or faster. 

It is also important to include the highest-frequency words and the focus keyword in your content. Chances are that these keywords will be the same in many cases, but pay attention when they are not.

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11. Image and alt tag optimization

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Having images or examples of the things you are explaining greatly improves the on-page time. This is proven to reduce bounce rates and increase engagement on your website. Google is increasingly leaning toward content that provides more value.

Having images optimized with proper alt tags can greatly improve your chances of ranking for both image and text searches. 

Target at least the average number of images with the most frequent words and the focus keyword. 

You can select the image and add the alt tag by using the small pop-up.

12. Optimization and scoring of related keywords

Using related keywords in the most-emphasized tags of your content, such as H2, H3, H4, and bold tags, can greatly improve your chances of ranking for search terms. 

The search terms Outranking suggests are based on an analysis of the top pages and the keywords they rank for. Outranking also provides all terms that are closely related to the focus keyword that you should include in your content.

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Vol: This shows the average monthly search volume for the given keyword for the location you select when you create the document. 

Diff: This shows the difficulty in ranking for this keyword. The highest difficulty is a score of 100.

SERP: This shows the number of times this keyword has been mentioned in the search engine ranking pages, conveying the importance of that related keyword. 

AI icon: This small icon at the very end allows you to find out where this keyword is mentioned in the SERP and get ideas for how to include this keyword in the content.

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To find the keyword gaps in your content vs. your competitors’ content, you can click the Heat Map button at the bottom of the Related Keywords side panel.

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13. Topics and Google NLP optimization and scoring

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One of the major aspects of SERP analysis is collecting important terms that make up the true intent behind the search. 

For example, if your users search for “Ford Bronco 2021,” you would want to write about pricing, features, mileage, and so on. You need to create information around these terms to serve the intent.

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This screen shows the minimum and the maximum number of times a keyword has been mentioned on the ranking pages. 

The option next to that shows the number of times the keyword or phrase was found in your content. While there is no golden rule on how many times to use a keyword, some tests have suggested that Google might look at how dense a topic is (density) as one of the many ranking factors. Ideally, target somewhere between the minimum and maximum. 

Although the number of topics used in your content is scored, your score is not negatively impacted if you don’t exactly meet the density conditions. To see NLP keyword content gaps, click Heat Map.

14. Adding video

Adding a video has been known to increase the rankings of a webpage. Using a video also keeps the users on your website longer, telling search engines that users love your content. For example, check out this example where Outranking is ranking for “AI featured snippets.”

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15. Structured data: Review, FAQ, Q&A, and schema optimization on your website

Structured data is code that 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.

There are two places to include structured data: on FAQ pages and on other pages with an FAQ section. For example, FAQ schema markup can also be added to product and service pages, which can improve click-through rates from SERPs.

Search engines are all about the content that answers the intent behind a specific search query, so including FAQ schema markup can be very beneficial.

Adding this data can help your website's SEO by helping Google create rich snippets that appear in SERP results. A relevant and valuable snippet may result in increased long-tail traffic.

The ultimate tool to improve on-page SEO for existing and new content

If you're looking for a good platform to help improve your website's on-page SEO, Outranking is a great choice. It's easy to use and has a lot of features that can help you optimize your content. Plus, it can also help increase your content’s ROI.

Outranking is the perfect tool for anyone who wants to rank their content higher in search engines. It provides a comprehensive scoring of important on-page SEO elements, so you'll never miss anything that could stop you from producing ranking content. It also offers ongoing suggestions to further improve your page’s rank.

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