How to become an Onpage Pro and even better than 90% of all SEOs?
Content is king?
No. Content is not king. Onpage decides if your content can become queen. King is your Onpage and your castle is your website + offpage.
Sometimes it seems that keywords are the only thing associated with OnPage optimization. But is that really true?
No! We show you which OnPage measures have the greatest impact and which OnPage tools make your work easier, with a lot of practice instead of theory. So here it is: the ultimate checklist for OnPage SEO for this year and far beyond.
Before we get started, you should know: OnPage Optimization looks like a lot of work at first and you’re right: IT IS! But once the process is up and running, it’s almost a no-brainer – almost set it and forget it. In some niches or areas on the market it might be required to also have a competitive link profile as well. But we will later, and also in other articles, discuss about, why you’re able to save a lot of money by just implementing a professional Onpage Strategy with the help of some tools and your own brain.
I can also tell you right now: There’s NO way around this and the right OnPage approach WILL lead to success.
What is SEO OnPage Optimization?
The SEO OnPage optimization is the optimization of your website in the context of search engine optimization. While the classical assumption was that it was all about stuffing as many keywords as possible into your page (and that often worked), today On-Page Optimization includes much more. This includes technical, structural and content elements, such as:
- Information structure
- high-quality, up-to-date and comprehensive content
- creative use of different media
- internal links
- user experience
- Structured data
- This is only a short list, which (as you will soon see) is anything but exhaustive, but gives you a first insight.
Off- and OnPage optimization certainly correlate with each other. Therefore, the question of what to do first is somewhat useless. Both are important, whereas a new website benefits most from OnPage basics in combination with a stable link profile foundation. By this I mean that it is of little use at the beginning to perfect the OnPage SEO.
What does OnPage optimization offer?
OnPage optimization is the basis of all your efforts. When done correctly, it ensures that your website is easily accessible and understandable for Google.
What do I tell other SEOs and clients? Well, OnPage optimization is the blade you sharpen and OffPage optimization is the power you use to attack.
Steps for OnPage optimization for your website
And that makes it incredibly practical. I’m going to explain to you how to build your website so that Google and users love it. As we alk know, the website has the goal to generate traffic which also should convert best as possible! But in order to guarantee this at all, this website, of course, needs to generate a suitable benefit, which I have covered in great detail in this article.
Crawlability & Indexability
Why is it important, how the google bot is crawling the page?
Well. Setting up the Meta Robots tag correctly is vital. Otherwise, the searchbot of the search engine is not able to index your page accordingly. Nothing more important than that! There is no chance to get good rankings without a good, crawlable website.
Because of that, it’s important to take a close look at the robots.txt and Meta Robots tags. By this, you are able to see if Google really gets the permission to crawl and check your page.
For sure you will now ask yourself: How does this work? Well, easy as that! Just use the search console!
Brian did a very good job on how to do this and wrote a very informative article about this exact topic!
Furthermore, all important and indexable URLs should be available in the sitemap. If you want to know what a sitemap ist, then just have a look at what Google is telling us about it.
I normally don’t recommend anything of what google is telling us SEO folks but this is one of the rare articles I would recommend you to read!
Otherwise, if you don’t have time to study it – then just have a short look at the most important part which you see below:
“A sitemap is a file in which you provide information about pages, videos, and other files on your site and the associations between these files. Search engines like Google read this file to crawl your website more intelligently. That way, Google knows which pages and files on your website you think are important. The sitemap also provides valuable information about them: For example, for pages, it provides information about alternative language versions of the page, when the page was last updated, and how often this is going to happen.
You can use a Sitemap to provide information about specific types of content on your pages, such as videos and images.”
Short conclusion: In this document, you put in all important files and so that Google knows where to find it!
Why Indexing of your website is very important
How can I make sure to know if all my content is really indexed in Google? Simply by typing the URL in Google search plus a special search: site: www.yourwebsite.com
Did you find it? Yes? Fine! It doesn’t appear? Well, then you have to troubleshoot.
I just show the most common reason for that:
Your website is set to “noindex”:
Well, by this the Googlebot has been instructed to not index your page and you should change this immediately.
Your website is set to be “blocked”:
In robots.txt the URL or directory has been excluded.
Your site structure is “too massive”:
If your site is kind of hidden, Google will stop before even discovering your site. If this happens, you need to pull it out, clean it up and provide the best possible internal links to this inner page.
You inner page has too many redirects:
The Googlebot doesn’t like to follow more than 4-5 redirects or rather loses the interest to follow them. Delete those and link it directly!
Again, you can use the Google Search Console. If you can’t find a certain URL in the index, you can enter it in the GSC at the top of the search bar to check the URL in more detail. You will then get accurate feedback on what Google didn’t like about this site.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
Well. The first time when I read about this topic I really didn’t want to get a deeper look into it. But folks, it’s worth taking a deep look, because they contain all necessary standards of how google likes to get your website so that it’s easier for their server and crawlers to understand your website. These are often technical in nature, but it can be done quite easily. E.g. the so-called “Mobile Accessibility” (important at least since Google’s Mobile First Index) is also covered.
To sum up:
Your website should be perceptible, understandable, functional and the code behind it should be robust enough without spitting out any bugs or confusing lines.
And this applies in particular to each inner page and to both content and technical aspects. For your OnPage optimization, you should take a look at it and care about it!
Do you also know people who put everything important in the subject of their email and actually say nothing in the content? Some do the same to the URL. Suddenly the URL is 10-15 words long – way too long and this also looks very spammy. In short words:
Google hates that and your users will get confused!
Google itself says that it simply weights the words at the end of the URL less. Therefore, my recommendation is: Create URLs that are short, hot and beautiful. Yes, your main keyword should appear in the URL, but only in a natural way.
By the way, that is also the main reason why a good URL structure will remain in your brain because it’s easy to remember, can be easily copied and shared, and in general, it simply looks legit and thus creates trust which is indeed the basis for building a big authoritative brand!
Be aware of this: Many bloggers and forums like to link to the “Naked URL”. So if your URL contains the main keyword, you will automatically get a good anchor text when people linking to your content.
My short conclusion:
- Write it as short as possible
- keep it meaningful, such as: https://casper.com/mattresses/casper-original/
Not like this: https://www.athome.com/alyssa-studs-18in-grey/124295276.html
- hierarchically structured, e.g. seogeeklab.com/seo/onpage/title-tag/
- It has to contain the Main Keyword
- It shouldn’t contain meaningless words like you can see above!
- Words have to be separated by “-“.
- Never use KW spamming in the URL – never ever!
You can’t do without a good title tag and the right meta description. The first impression for new visitors is key and will be right here. Accordingly, Title Tag and Meta Description need to appeal to visitors.
The Meta Description is designed to increase the CTR (click through rate), because it ‘s not a ranking factor in itself – but CTR is!
Therefore, the question of what this page is about should be answered clearly and as excitingly as possible. You should use as many characters as necessary, but never more than possible, otherwise your snippet will be cut off by Google.
Test it – there are nice benefits in it and you can increase your ranking very fast and easily.
The title tag should contain the main keyword in any case. The closer it is to the beginning, the more weight you give the title tag in the search engine.
The title tag should contain the main keyword in any case. The closer it is to the beginning, the more weight you give the title tag in the search engine.
You can also change the title to include longtail keywords. You can do this, for example, by placing the year after the keyword and use it to display your blog article or page as a checklist or guide. Does the title of this guide catch your eye?
Best practices for the title tag:
- The Main Keyword must be included.
- The Main Keyword must be at the beginning if possible.
- It should cover as many keyword variations as possible in one go, e.g. a good title tag would be: “WordPress SEO: The guide to plugins, speed & good rankings” Included keywords: WordPress SEO, WordPress SEO plugins, WordPress SEO speed, WordPress SEO rankings
- The click rate is an important ranking factor. In addition, an increase in the click rate leads to more traffic immediately
- Check length with https://seomofo.com/snippet-optimizer.html
Best Practices for the Meta Description:
- Exciting introduction to the article
- It is a teaser for the content and not the content itself.
- Active instead of passive!
- The Main Keyword must be included.
- Check length with http://www.sistrix.de/serp-snippet-generator/
- Spice up with special characters such as check marks, see http://saney.com/tools/google-snippets-generator.html
You probably know that the title should be an H1. However, you should take a look at the code to make sure that the main heading is really marked H1 and really has nothing else than H1.
Subheadings are marked as H2 (H3, H4). Create a logical structure for this and make sure that your focus keyword is also present in at least one subheading. If you have secondary keywords, they are particularly useful here – and often structure the text in advance.
Best practices for the H1 headline:
- The title must be implemented as H1.
- The title should encourage reading, e.g. Facebook Marketing: 12 valuable tips for guaranteed success
- The main keyword and different keyword variations (secondary keyword or search refinements) must be included in the (sub)headings.
Structured web data gives crawlers insight into what is going on on your site. Optimizing this structured data can basically only have a positive effect. In the best case, you have a CMS or a suitable plugin that makes it easy to insert important data and control whether it is displayed correctly and is available.
Depending on the niche and search query, Google conjures up all kinds of things from the structured data. For example, they turn them into Rich Snippets. Although this is not a ranking factor, it guarantees high click rates.
Depending on the industry, other snippets are also important:
If you only offer your services at certain company locations, you should definitely include structured data according to the “local business” scheme on your website. By correctly indicating opening hours and ratings, you can get much more striking snippets in the SERPs
As an operator of an e-commerce company, you should definitely include structured data according to the “product” schema on all product pages of your shop. If you make content such as user ratings, price or current stock level understandable for Google, the search engines usually reward you with eye-catching rich snippets.
Bloggers and news pages:
Companies that regularly publish news content on their site should definitely add the “NewsArticle” scheme to all their content. This allows the articles to be listed in the special “headline” blocks in the search results.
Mobile First as a mandatory
This slogan is well known, often quoted – and quickly forgotten. If you’re still in its infancy with the OnPage optimization, you should not leave smartphones out of the equation, because this will save you annoying and time-consuming “conversion work” later on.
More and more it is becoming an absolute must (or maybe even already is) that everything is displayed perfectly on the smartphone. According to Google, the easiest way to do this is through a Responsive Design that is displayed perfectly on all mobile devices.
But before you go to great lengths, take a look at your Google Analytics data. How important is mobile in your niche? If you’re starting from scratch, you can create a free account at SimilarWeb and analyze your top competitors.
According to the traffic between mobile and desktop in your niche, you should invest time in web development. Of course, the ultimate goal should be that both the desktop and mobile versions are perfect.
Fast loading website
Mobile is what loads quickly. And even at the desktop, people are not necessarily known for being very patient. Loading times of less than 3-4 seconds are good for SEO and for your business.
In fact, loading speed is a Google-approved ranking signal. With a few tricks and knacks your site will build up in no time. The prerequisite: You choose a reliable hosting that won’t let you down.
Other tips to do well in the PageSpeed test of your site include these:
- enable http/2
- Prioritization of visible content
- Minify CSS and JS
- compressing images
- Reduce internal 301 forwarding
- lazy loading
- Use CDN (Content Delivery Network) if you are travelling internationally
The best way is to use WebPageTest and Google PageSpeed Insights to find out where the weak points of your page are and to start there. Because there is no one-size-fits-all answer.
AMP sounds like a good idea, but here you have almost no chance to make your content look good and you often lose control over your content.
If you only have a small budget available for performance optimization and are looking for a “quick win”, you should definitely focus on TTFB (Time to First Byte). This usually has a large impact on loading speed and is the performance metric that correlates best with good rankings on Google.
In reality, we always face the same two problems when dealing with a bad TTFB:
Incorrect server location:
If your server is located in Germany and all your customers are from USA, you’ve certainly done something wrong. Your server location should always be as close as possible to your visitors.
If each of your web page calls requires numerous calculations in the background, the response times of your server will be very slow. With a well-implemented cache you can remedy this and store the results of your calculations for a longer time. Many content management systems offer special plugins for this – you should definitely use them!
https and SSL for more security:
The move to HTTPS should have been done long ago. Google show to be very strict here because security creates trust. What is no longer encrypted via SSL today, Chrome identifies as not secure! And who wants to be on the insecure side of life? Therefore, you should make the change here at the latest when you start working on your OnPage optimization.
Content – oh my dear…
Probably the most important factor for OnPage optimization is your content. Everything else is of course important, too. But excellent content can generate way better overall results. Is there a mantra that you can work out here? Yes: Your site has to be different and better and show the world from a completely new perspective.
But what’s meant by different and better? Well… we will prepare you some nice stuff which will help you to create better content while you decrease it’s effort to generate it!
Text is, of course, great, but even better is interaction. Important guiding questions that help you to plan and design content:
What is the competition doing?
By just looking at your Top 10 you will see which sites with which content are at the top of the rankings. Also look at the sites to see if they have videos, pictures, infographics, etc. and what you can do better than they do.
The SERP features will also show you what the users are looking for in this search query. Media elements reduce the bounce rate and increase the length of stay. They also increase the perceived value of content.
What is the search intention?
Looking at a keyword in particular and building your own world around it, is rarely successful. SERP analysis is important here. What do users want who google this search term? Are they looking for information, do they want to compare or conclude a transaction? Take them into the Marketing Funnel and lead them further.
Normally I advise you to look at the top 3 and skim the top 5, but in this case it is worth looking at the Google Ads. Because there, clever minds have invested a lot of money and time to find out what converts and what doesn’t – a role model to learn from. Take a close look at what words they use in the ads!
Option 1: Pictures
Use the number of images used by the competition as a guide and build in about the same number or more. Visuals emphasize textual content, but you should still take care not to slay visitors to your site. Unique or selfmade images usually have a clear advantage compared to stock images. If you can and want to invest here, you should do so, because unique and great images attract lots of attention.
Furthermore, your images should be high resolution so that they are displayed correctly everywhere. JPEG or PNG is the format of your choice. And then it’s all about finding the right size in relation to the loading speed and compressing your images accordingly.
This is where you should place the focus keyword, at least once in the ALT attribute and in the file name. The ALT attribute, which is supposed to contribute significantly to accessibility on the Internet, is your opportunity to show the search engine exactly what the image is about.
- high resolution
- JPEG or PNG
- Keyword in file name
- Keyword in the ALT tag
- Keyword wrapped as a sentence in the title attribute
Option 2: Videos
Videos are becoming increasingly important. If you share videos on your site that are actually viewed, you will notice that the length of time you spend watching them increases automatically.
From an SEO perspective, uploading videos to YouTube makes the most sense. This is also because YouTube has now established itself as the third-largest search engine (Google Images is number 2). The videos must be viewable on all devices – you should definitely pay attention to this.
Visual content is the future. Because it’s becoming more and more important, you should consider including videos on your site even if the competition does not. For agencies: Your next job posting should definitely be a video content professional!
Videos should be:
- for all devices
- preferably longer than 5 minutes (depending on the topic)
And then there are the SEO copies with which you can establish yourself as an authority. Correspondingly long texts give you a starting advantage. SEO experts from the US claim that nothing works under 2000 words. Well… it depends 😉
See our case study which will come in the near future….! It will be a complete mindfuck!
But if we have to tell something to the people… we do the do because we want to create value!
Almost as important as the right length is the structure. Short paragraphs, logical headings and covering everything – that should be the declared goal. Create streamlined content that has something to say and can be easily browsed. When writing, always ask yourself if users can understand what it’s all about without having read every word.
The easier a search engine optimized text is to read, the better. Accordingly, keep a close eye on readability. You should also think about what fits your site.
Storytelling can also be fantastic! Think about which stories can enhance and underline your content. That way you can create unique content of outstanding quality. Fact-based writing is incredibly important in times of fake news. Do you know what you’re talking about and do you present yourself accurately and impartially? The users will thank you for it!
By the way, text is not just text. SERP analysis is also worthwhile here: Do your competitors have many lists and tables? Or are there some very detailed guides? Inspire yourself – and do it better.
Try to cover everything in your SEO content. That way you will also meet longtail keywords and increase your “Content Comprehensiveness”. Depending on your niche, it may also be necessary to update your content regularly. Be sure to review your content and make adjustments regularly. An annual content audit is advisable – that’s also what we do 😉
And finally: Kill those spelling mistakes! The Internet invites you to be less careful with grammar and spelling. But anyone who has ever closed a window because a perhaps even valuable text was overflowing with mistakes knows: spelling is and remains important for the user experience. Quite apart from that, Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines explicitly call this type of error Low-Quality Content.
But well… we also found something interesting here as well – which shows us – again – that this is not always right. But please wait for our case study so that we can also prove it so that you know how to do it better also with a technical approach.
Summaries and FAQs are not only nice because they answer specific questions, they also find their way into featured snippets every now and then. A convenient tool for finding typical questions is Answer The Public.
- Length matching the search intention
- Correct (style and content)
Content on commercial pages
For information sites this is all well and good and relatively simple, but how does it actually work with the content if you are the owner of an online shop or a commercial site?
Especially if you want to establish yourself into the local market, there are some ways to offer real added value. Especially because – to be honest – we see more terribly built sites than those that are simply beautiful and perfectly optimized.
Underline what makes your products and therefore your site unique, answer the typical questions of the customer as quickly as possible and create a user experience that is simply better than any other. This includes a pleasant and unobtrusive design that structures your site.
Videos and pictures are real unique selling points in many industries. If you do the same, if you produce videos yourself or take pictures, you will generate excellent user signals and enjoy a way higher conversion rate.
You can also score points with the page structure: Make sure that all-important forms (e.g. newsletter registration) and the call-to-action button are prominent and easy to find. This way you will quickly find out whether you have really created content that converts.
- Videos and pictures
How to use keywords correctly
Maybe you expected it to be about keywords earlier. Somehow that’s some kind of art and of course, they are not unimportant for SEO today. So take them seriously, but not too important. The experienced placement of keywords is much more relevant than the keyword density some people still hang on to.
To make sure you optimize for the right keywords, make sure you check my guide to keyword research.
Between 0.5 % – 1 % keyword density is already more than sufficient today. Keyword stuffing is like 2009, but you can win by using them naturally.
Where does the Main Keyword have to appear?
- in the title tag
- in the Meta Description
- in the H1
- in at least one H2
- in the URL
- as file name of the first image
- in the first image as ALT attribute
- contained in the title attribute of the first image
- in a caption (if applicable)
- in the first 100 words
- in the text at least three times
Where should the secondary keywords be?
- in the title tag, if possible
- as file name of other images
- in other images as ALT attribute
- in other images in the title attribute
- in at least one H2
- in the text at least once each
But also here we will show you a nice tool so that you can do this perfectly right in ANY case!
Keyword difficulty (KD)
The Keyword Difficulty shows you how difficult it is to achieve top rankings on Google for a particular keyword. Of course, it is nice to be able to play along for the really big keywords of your niche with extremely high search volume. But at the same time, you have to ask yourself for which keywords it is really worth fighting for.
Various tools provide information about how difficult it is to rank for a term. For English keywords, Ahrefs is the best. What I recommend for a beginner, is KWfinder!
Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)
Latent Semantic Indexing? What the hell is that? Rocket science? As a mathematical method, it was developed in the 1980s. But we don’t need that much background knowledge. We recommend that you discover the keywords around your focus keywords that are closely related to your topic.
These can be synonyms that are relevant to the page or variations of the keyword. A look at the field “others also searched for…” in the SERPs can also be very revealing. Often these terms are automatically covered – but not always – so check your text and optimize where necessary!
TF – IDF and WDF*IDF
More formulas? TF-IDF stands for term frequency – inverse document frequency. This allows the relevance and frequency of a search word to be calculated. The key question: How often does a word occur in your content compared to other relevant documents?
As far as WDFIDF is concerned, we can only say: Even though many well-known SEOs swear by this formula, the studies on it are rather thin. In our experience, a WDFIDF analysis is only useful to prevent important sub-topics from being forgotten.
In any case, I do not use the formula… because I know something to do which works better!
For that please see our other content for onpage and how to write seo content.
And there it is again, the lovely competition. If you know the top 3 sites almost as well as your own, you will see what your starting position is and what chances you have.
In the next step you can compare the top 3 with each other. Which overlaps do they have and for which keywords do they still rank? Are there any content gaps that you can fill? This way you can optimize your own site.
Attention: Keyword cannibalization
One page per search intention: This is the basic rule and here you should be self-confident because keyword cannibalization can have very bad consequences. When it’s time to revise your content, you should revise this one page instead of creating a new one. Exception: The new page has a completely different focus and user intention.
CTA is incredibly important not only for online shops. It’s an opportunity that you should not forget to get the maximum success out of your project. Place a button or link accordingly so that the user on your site can quickly see what next steps he or she can take. Clear graphical help is definitely needed here.
Links are another ranking factor that Google has now clearly named and which is not only part of OffPage optimization, but should also shape your OnPage efforts. Links are important and they should be clearly marked so that they are really recognizable.
Should I really link to other sites? Yes! It’s very helpful because Google understands what it’s all about when it finds links to related topics and can better classify and theme your content.
If you’re linking to other sites, make sure that they open a separate window. Sponsored links and links from user-generated content are marked with nofollow.
Also note the domain authority of other sites. The following applies: You should only be able to be associated with others if the other site is a high-quality online presence! NO low quality in any case!
Set 2-4 links per 1000 words to show your users which sources you work with. If you revise content in the future, you should always check briefly if your links still work. Broken links should be replaced as soon as possible.
Internal links are important for the distribution of authority on your site. For internal links you should always use a keyword-rich anchor text and vary as little as possible so that you send clear signals to Google.
Important: Have you ever heard of First Link Priority? If not, you should watch the next video!
You should also make sure that you always link to the actual URL and not to a redirect or non-canonical URL. Apart from that, think carefully about what content you link to, as you will add weight to these pages.
Some more OnPage tips
Unfortunately, I can’t present those in detail, among other things because most of them are absolutely self-explanatory. Nevertheless, they can make the difference for OnPage optimization and ensure that you can stand out from your competitors.
No, they are not a ranking factor, but with standard integrated buttons to share content on social networks (Twitter, Facebook etc.) or via email, you are guaranteed not to do anything wrong. Because this way you attract more attention to your posts – at the latest when your users are actually sharing your content.
Enable the Comment Function
At the very beginning, we have already let it ring out: Interaction is a good thing, so you should encourage your users to interact. This function is particularly suitable for this, and surveys, for example, can also be helpful. This way Google can see that your users really get involved.
If comments are posted, it is rather useless to simply ignore them. Reply to them at regular times and be responsive to your users. You will see that the number of comments increases with this approach.
Avoid annoying pop-ups
Google has something against them and for users, they are incredibly annoying (not only, but especially on the smartphone) – we are talking about pop-ups. The same applies to advertise. We know that it can’t always be avoided, especially if it’s used to monetize the site.
Nevertheless, it’s better to place it naturally and not like the pop up for a silly newsletter cannot be closed in any case… I hate this!
By them, you’re able to speed up and review your work!
All done? OnPage optimization is very complex in the beginning, but you will benefit from it in the long run. You can check the performance of your page for free via the Google Search Console.
For some extra power and, in the end massive power, I’d recommend various SEO tools.
- Screaming Frog SEO Spider
- Texting Tools
- Webcontent Studio
If you don’t want to spend money:
- TechnicalSEO.com: A gold mine for small but powerful SEO tools
- Varvy SEO tool: Various OnPage tests
- Browseo: SEO browser to view your website from Google’s perspective
- SEO Meta in 1 Click: Extension for the browser
- Siteliner: Detects Duplicate Content and Broken Links
- Google PageSpeed Insights: Gives recommendations to reduce loading times
- WebPageTest: Shows you exactly how fast your website is
Onpage Optimization – read, learn, implement and then – make money!
Folks… NOW is time to implement, test and make success measurable. But I would also be interested to know what your priorities are when we think of OnPage optimization. Leave us a comment. Are there any points you are missing in this guide?