Basically, on-page SEO provides the foundation upon which all of your other SEO techniques, like link building, grow. If you have a weak foundation, it’s going to be a lot harder for your off-page SEO efforts to take root.
So what goes into nailing your on page SEO?
On page SEO techniques to rank higher in Google
I’m going to divide it into four broad categories:
Let’s go through some do’s and don’ts to help you nail each category…
Work on your SEO titles and meta descriptions
Your SEO title and meta description roughly control how your site appears in Google search results, as well as a few other spots.
Let me give you an example. Here’s one of our posts and its listing in Google:
The texts you see there have been set by us. Those texts are your SEO title and meta description.
Here’s what it looks like to set your titles and meta descriptions in Yoast SEO:
And here are some do’s and don’ts for optimizing your SEO title and meta description:
✅ Do … try to naturally include your target keyword
Whenever possible, you want to include your target keyword one time in your SEO title and one time in your meta description.
Not only does this signal to Google what your page is about, but it also helps human visitors assess whether your content matches what they’re looking for in Google’s search results.
⛔ Don’t … make them too long
Google typically displays around ~50-60 characters from your SEO title and ~160 characters from your meta description in its search results.
But when it comes to your SEO title, you might be better off keeping things well under Google’s limits.
Based on the data, the sweet spot seems to be around 15-40 characters for your SEO title. Pages with titles inside this range had an 8.6% higher CTR in Google’s search results than those outside that range.
✅ Do … add modifiers
Modifiers are little additions like “best”, “2020”, “top”, “free”, etc. They help you rank for long-tail versions of your core keywords by capturing more queries and intent.
For example, if someone is searching for a “WordPress RSS plugin”, there’s a good chance they’ll plug in something like “best WordPress RSS plugin 2020”. By adding those modifiers to your SEO titles and descriptions, you can give your site a chance to capture that long-tail traffic.
In fact, that’s exactly what we did in our collection of the best WordPress RSS plugins here.
⛔ Don’t … forget about organic CTR
Beyond helping with on-page SEO, your SEO titles and descriptions are usually (but not always) what Google shows in the SERPs.
So remember that you’re not just trying to stuff in keywords, you’re trying to get people to click on your site once they see your listing among other results. That’s your organic CTR, and a well-written, click-enticing headline can make you stand out in the SERPs…even more than people ranking above you.
You wouldn’t place a Google ad with an unoptimized, keyword-stuffed title, so why wouldn’t you apply that same standard to your organic titles?
So, how can you boost your organic CTR? Here are some data-backed suggestions:
- Consider skipping “power words” because titles with “power words” had a 13.9% lower CTR.
- Add some positive or negative emotions. Titles with emotions in either direction had a ~7% higher CTR.
- Do questions improve organic CTR? You betcha! Titles with a question had a ~14% higher CTR. See what I did there?
✅ Do … include your keyword near the beginning
According to UX experts Nielsen Norman Group, users typically see about the first two words in list items (like a list of websites in Google’s SERPs).
In order to communicate to your visitors that your website matches their search intent, you want to try and get your keywords as close to those first two words as possible so that searchers see relevant keywords when they’re scanning.
Here’s an example of how this can work (the focus keyword highlighted):
⛔ Don’t … forget your meta description
A lot of these tips have focused on your SEO title, but it’s important to write a unique meta description, too. Search results with a unique meta description get ~6% more clicks than those without – so don’t skimp on your meta description!
Once you optimize your SEO title and meta description, it’s time to move on to the meat of these on page SEO techniques – your content.
Here are the do’s and don’ts to optimize your content itself…
✅ Do … include your target keyword multiple times
The days of stuffing your content with keywords are long gone, but it’s still important to include your target keyword multiple times in your content.
So what’s the perfect keyword density for your content? Well, Google is always careful to point out that there’s no ideal keyword density, and that there are diminishing returns to adding additional keywords beyond the first few mentions.
In general, for your average piece of ~1,000-1,500 content, you probably want to include your keyword somewhere around ~5-7 times.
In addition to including those keywords in the body of your content, you should also try to add your keyword to one of your
Finally, don’t go overboard and stuff your keyword in as many times as possible. After a certain point, adding more exact match keywords isn’t going to help you, and it might even hurt you if you go too crazy.
Thankfully, you don’t have to worry too much about striking the right number of keyword mentions. SEO plugins like Yoast SEO will let you know what the keyword density of your content is.
✅ Do … include your keyword in the first 100 words
While you want to sprinkle your keyword throughout your content, it’s especially important to include your keyword at least once near the beginning. Specifically, within the first ~100 words.
Beyond helping with search engines, doing this also helps human visitors understand that your content is going to deliver on what you promised in your SEO title.
This early mention of your target keyword should come fairly naturally. After all, if your content really is about what you’re promising in the headline then mentioning the keyword shouldn’t be a challenge, right?
✅ Do … include related keywords
Over the years, Google has gotten a lot smarter about understanding the topic of a piece of content. Now, in addition to including your target keyword, Google also wants to see keywords related to your main topic/keyword.