What Is On-Page SEO? Tips and Examples
This article breaks down all you need to know about on-page SEO, including tips on how to optimize your content for search and examples from real brands.
Let’s jump right in.
What Is On-Page SEO?
On-page SEO is the process of optimizing your site’s pages to rank higher on search engines like Google and attract people who want to learn about the topic or product.
Also called on-site SEO, it ensures you create content that fulfills your ideal reader’s search intent. When done right, Google will see your content as relevant and display it higher on its results page, which means more visibility for your brand.
What’s the Difference Between On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO?
On-page SEO relates to everything you do “on” your website or individual web pages to make them more visible to search engines and attractive to your ideal users.
This includes including words or phrases (keywords) your audience is likely to search for in your meta title, meta description, headings, subheadings, body content, and URLs, linking to related pieces on your site, and a lot more.
Off-page SEO relates to everything you do “off” your site to improve its organic rankings. This includes getting other reputable websites to link to your content (backlinks), repurposing and distributing your content on social media, and more.
Both elements make up a great SEO strategy — they work together to improve your site’s visibility in search engine results and increase your organic traffic.
However, you have less control over external factors and more over pages on your website, which is why you need to learn how to do on-page SEO the right way.
Why Is On-Page SEO Important?
Put simply, on-page SEO is important because search engines prioritize people-first content when processing a user’s query.
For example, Google rolled out its helpful content update in August 2022 to ensure searchers see more original, helpful content written for people, by people.
A few months later, it added another E (Experience) to its E-A-T quality-rater guidelines for the same reason: to offer its users helpful, authoritative content from experts with firsthand experience.
Both updates reveal how much Google (and other search engines as well) care about giving users the best experience possible — giving relevant answers to their queries.
Of course, as the bar keeps going higher, the best way to level up is to create high-quality content that matches search intent.
That way, Google will see your content as helpful enough to rank higher on the results page, so your audience doesn’t have to scroll all the way to find you (that’s if they already know you exist).
That’s why on-page SEO matters, in a nutshell.
7 Steps To Optimize Your Content for On-Page SEO
There’s no one-size-fits-all method to optimize your content for search, whether it’s on-page or off-page. However, there are best practices you can use as a guide to avoid veering off track and wasting your investment in content marketing.
Let’s explore each in detail.
1. Research Relevant Keywords
Keyword research forms the foundation of your on-page SEO strategy.
That’s because it helps you understand the searcher’s intent — the words users type into search engines when looking for information, products, or services. This way, you can create content that provides valuable information to meet their needs.
Plus, keyword research uncovers long-tail keywords — specific, less competitive phrases that show a high search intent. Targeting these long-tail keywords often leads to your blog attracting targeted traffic with a higher conversion potential.
For example, Asana ranks for 2,000,000 keywords, many of which have informational intent. One of these keywords, “morning routine,” has 13,000 monthly searches.
People searching using this phrase are mostly looking to build healthier habits — they want to manage their time better, prioritize tasks, and set a positive tone for the day.
Since the topic is in Asana’s wheelhouse, creating an optimized blog post on it makes lots of sense, and that’s what Asana did.
The article covers the topic extensively and ranks for 2,800 keywords as a result. And 219 of these search terms rank among the top three pages on the search results page.
Using relevant, related keywords makes it easy for search engines like Google to understand the content’s context and relevance. As a result, Google can properly index the page and ensure it appears for search queries related to morning routines. The page drives 9,500+ monthly searches, as of this writing.
An ideal user who lands on Asana’s “morning routine” page can also easily navigate the page to find the relevant information they need based on their search query, which increases the likelihood of the reader becoming a user or customer. Ranking for TOFU keywords helped Asana build trust with its active user base of 10 million monthly users.
So, how should you do keyword research?
Here’s a quick checklist:
- Clearly define your topic for the blog post and the top three goals to achieve
- Understand the intent behind the keywords. Are users looking for information, product reviews, solutions to a problem, or something else?
- Brainstorm a list of seed keywords people use when searching for the topic
- Use tools such as Google Keyword Planner, Semrush, or Ahrefs to find keywords
- Focus on keywords relevant to your topic and with decent search volumes
- Choose low-competition keywords, as they are easier to rank for
- Include long-tail keywords — they attract people with higher buying potential
- Choose keywords that match the intent of your blog post
- Use search engines like Google to see the suggestions that pop up as you start typing your main keyword
- Research what keywords your competitors are targeting for similar blog posts
- Select a primary keyword that best represents the main topic of your article, along with a few related secondary keywords
Once you’ve finished finding the right keywords for your article, create a content brief.
Your brief should have a main keyword, the one that describes your article’s main idea. Then, add a few other related keywords that you want to focus on in your content.
2. Create High-Quality Content
Quality content engages and retains readers.
If your content is well-written, informative, and visually appealing, users are more likely to spend more time on your page, reducing bounce rates. This signals to search engines that your content is valuable and user-friendly.
Plus, quality content is more likely to attract backlinks from other websites and social media shares. When other reputable websites link to your content, it improves your site’s authority and credibility, which leads to your pages ranking higher on Google.
For example, Buffer acquired 10,000,000+ backlinks from high-authority sites such as Shopify, Calendly, Weebly, and the New York Times. These links aren’t a result of product mentions alone; high-quality, search-optimized content also plays a major role.
Let’s take a look at one of its main backlink-driving assets, “21 Top Social Media Sites to Consider for Your Brand in 2023.”
The page has almost 8,000 backlinks and counting — it acquired 1,000+ more within the past month — from Adobe, HubSpot, Thinkific, Yahoo Finance, and 2,800+ other sites. Its traffic has almost doubled in less than two years; it’s currently at 29,200/month. It also ranks for 7,000 keywords, 753 of which drive the most traffic for the brand.
The piece clearly aligns with the user’s search intent; it answers the user’s questions on the top social media platforms they should consider using for their business in terms of popularity. Buffer also makes it easy for readers to navigate through the answers using a sticky table of contents:
I particularly love the benefit-driven structure of the table of contents: A reader can have a quick view of social media sites on the list and easily click to read the section.
Optimizing the page this way helped Buffer snatch the featured snippet for several keywords, including “social media companies” and “most used social media platforms.”
This approach also thoroughly covers the topic, which demonstrates Buffer’s expertise as a social media company and signals to search engines that this is a comprehensive resource users will love.
Buffer also weaves keywords naturally into its content. “Social media,” for example, appears 42 times in the piece and in different variations.
When you put keywords in naturally, you prevent using too many of them, which can annoy readers and hurt your search rankings. Plus, it helps you include synonyms and related terms, so search engines can better understand the broader context of your content and rank it higher on the results page.
You can steal Buffer’s strategy to make your content more valuable for readers. Here are some other ways from Buffer’s playbook to make your content higher quality:
- Spice things up with pictures, charts, or videos that help tell your story visually
- Use simple and relatable language so everyone understands what you’re saying
- Chop up big chunks of text using short paragraphs or bullet points
- Back up what you’re saying with reliable sources to earn the trust of your readers
- Include your primary and secondary keywords throughout your piece (naturally)
- Give your readers stuff they can actually use — practical tips/step-by-step advice
- Keep your writing style consistent so readers stay engaged throughout
Write well-structured and engaging content that provides value to your readers. And don’t forget to place your main target keyword in the title, introduction, and several times naturally throughout the content.
3. Craft Compelling Metadata
Metadata gives context and structure to your online content.
While your metadata isn’t primarily what your audience searches for, it plays a crucial role in how your content is displayed and discovered online: It helps search engines understand what your content is about and also evokes your readers’ curiosity.
Metadata has three main elements:
Title Tag or Meta Title
Your meta title is often the first interaction users have with your content. This is the headline for your webpage that appears in search results.
If it immediately conveys the value and relevance of your content, users are more likely to click through to your page. That’s why you should create descriptive and concise titles that accurately reflect your core message and contain your primary keyword.
For example, Cloudinary uses a meta title that clearly communicates the value of its M4A guide to its ideal users:
A meta title like this sets clear expectations for what users will find on the page.
When users know what to expect, they’re more likely to click to read your content, which improves your click-through rate (and conversions, if your piece matches their intent).
You should keep your meta titles short and sweet — aim for around 50-60 characters so your title isn’t cut off in search results. Your title should also accurately represent your content; misleading titles can lead to frustrated readers who leave quickly.
Use language your ideal readers understand and relate to; imagine you’re searching for your own content. What title would make you click?
If you can, experiment with different titles and see which ones get better results.
Or use a tool like CoSchedule’s headline analyzer to test and choose the best meta title for your piece.
A meta description is a short snippet of text that provides a concise summary of the web page’s content. It appears in search engine results under the title tag and helps users understand what the page is about before clicking on the link.
Meta descriptions give a sneak peek of what your content is about and influence whether people click on your link. For example, anyone who reads Cloudinary’s meta description gets a high-level description of what’s on the page and clicks to read more.
To create great descriptions that drive clicks and engagement, you should:
- Highlight the benefits users will gain — show them why the piece is worth reading
- Include relevant keywords in the meta description, but don’t force them
- Aim for around 150-160 characters so it isn’t cut off in search results
- Don’t simply repeat your title — the meta description should complement the title by providing additional information
- Summarize your content in a clear and relevant way and make sure the description accurately represents the content on the page
This is the web address of your page.
URLs contribute to the overall user experience, help search engines understand your content, and influence how your web pages are ranked in search results.
Search engine bots use URL structures to crawl and index your website. When URLs are structured logically, bots understand the hierarchy of your site and index pages better.
Including relevant keywords in your URLs signals search engines about the topic of your content, which contributes to your page’s visibility in search results for specific queries.
Your URLs should be simple and descriptive and include your target keywords. Here are some tips to keep in mind while creating an effective URL structure:
- Choose short, straightforward URLs that give users a quick idea of your content
- Use hyphens (-) to separate words in your URLs
- Include relevant keywords in your URL to give users and search engines a hint about what’s on the page
- Use a logical hierarchy for subpages — for example, /blog/topic/article-title, which helps users understand the content’s context
- If you change your URL structure, set up redirects from old URLs to new ones to avoid broken links and maintain SEO equity
- Maintain a consistent URL structure across your website — this helps users navigate, and search engines understand your site’s organization
- Your URL should make sense to humans. If someone looks at it, they should have a rough idea of what’s on the page
- Use subfolders (example.com/blog) instead subdomains (blog.example.com), as they are generally better for SEO than subdomains as they consolidate authority
4. Use Header Tags
Header tags are also part of your metadata.
Just like chapters in a book, they break down your content into easily digestible sections, making it more organized and reader friendly. Simply put, header tags help both humans and search engines understand what each section is about.
Header tags are usually made up of different levels:
Heading 1 (H1)
This is like the main title of your whole webpage, just like the title of a book. It’s usually the biggest and most important heading. There’s usually only one H1 on a page, and it describes the overall topic or theme.
Heading 2 (H2)
These are like the chapter titles in a book. They’re smaller than the H1 but still big and bold. H2 headings divide your content into major sections, helping readers understand what each section is about.
Heading 3 (H3)
Imagine these as sub-chapter titles in a book. They’re smaller than H2 headings and are used to break down sections even further. H3 headings are great for dividing content into more specific topics within each major section.
You can have more levels, like H4, H5, and H6, depending on how deeply you want to organize your content. But usually, H1, H2, and H3 are the most commonly used.
Beyond SEO, header tags improve the user experience, making your content easier to skim, read, and understand. Here are some tips to keep in mind when writing them:
- Start with an H1 for the main title of the page, then an H2 for major sections, H3 for sub-sections, and so on
- Use the actual header tags (H1, H2, etc.) to give structure to your content. Search engines rely on HTML tags to understand your page’s layout
- Keep the hierarchy of your header tags consistent; go from H1 to H2 to H3…
- Write descriptive headers that give a clear idea of what the section is about
- Include relevant keywords in your headers in a natural, sensible way
- Avoid relying solely on styling (like making the text big and bold) to create headers
- Break your content into manageable chunks using header tags
5. Optimize Images
Optimized images help your website rank higher, as search engines use image-related information to understand the content and relevance of your page.
Plus, many people use image search to find specific visual content.
Optimizing your images increases their chances of showing up in image search results, which, in turn, drives more targeted traffic to your site.
For example, Hotjar shows up twice in the first two rows of the image results for the keyword “user persona examples”:
The descriptive alt text for these images helps search engines understand what the images are about.
To optimize your images, you should:
- Use the appropriate image format based on the content — JPEG is for photos and images with many colors, while PNG is for images with transparency or text
- Resize images to the dimensions needed on your webpage — avoid uploading large images and resizing them using HTML/CSS, as this slows your page
- Use image compression tools to reduce file size while maintaining acceptable quality — online tools like TinyPNG or ImageOptim can help with this
- Rename images using descriptive filenames that include your target keyword
- Include descriptive alt text for each image so visually impaired users and search engines can know what the image is about
- Use browser caching, lazy loading, and content delivery networks to distribute images across different servers to ensure your images load quickly
- Use responsive design practices to serve appropriately sized images to different devices to improve the user experience on both desktop and mobile devices
6. Include Internal Links
Internal links make it easier for users to navigate your website and find related content.
When people can find related articles easily, they’re more likely to spend more time on your site and engage with your content.
These links also serve as a form of sitemap for search engines.
When external links are limited, internal links become even more important for ensuring that all your pages are crawled and indexed.
NerdWallet is an example of a brand with a strong internal linking game.
The team creates comprehensive guides that cover various financial topics, such as credit cards, mortgages, and insurance. Within these guides, they strategically use internal links to connect to related sections. For example, in its “how to make money” guide, it links to other finance-related posts:
This approach not only enhances user experience but also helps search engines understand the depth and relevance of its content. It’s no wonder the page drives more than 205,000 monthly organic sessions and ranks top five for the high-volume keyword “how to make money,” which sees 80,000 searches each month.
To start or improve internal linking on your site:
- Determine the main categories and subcategories of your content
- Use descriptive anchor text that accurately portrays the content of the linked page — avoid using generic phrases like “click here” or “read more”
- Link related content together — the linked pages should provide additional, complementary, or relevant information to the user
- Consider the intent of your users when adding internal links — what information would they find helpful next? Use this insight to guide your linking decisions
- Focus on quality over quantity, and ensure that each link adds value
- Include important internal links in your navigation menus, especially in drop-down menus that can guide users to relevant sections
- Identify your “pillar” or core content pages that cover broad topics comprehensively, then link to these pages from various related posts to signal their importance to search engines
- Implement breadcrumb navigation on your website — breadcrumbs provide clear paths back to the main categories and help users navigate through your content
- Place important internal links early in your content, where they are more likely to be noticed — also, include multiple links to the same page if it’s relevant
- Link from high-authority pages (more backlinks) — they pass on more authority through internal links and boost the visibility of other pages
- Use tools like Google Analytics and Hotjar to analyze user behavior and see which internal links are being clicked the most
- Keep an eye on your internal links to make sure they aren’t leading to non-existent pages — broken links can frustrate users and negatively impact SEO
7. Optimize for Mobile
We covered six ways to optimize your web pages.
While they are all relevant, optimizing your page for mobile matters just as much.
That’s because the majority of internet users now access websites on mobile devices. So, ignoring mobile optimization means missing out on a significant portion of your potential audience.
Google also uses the mobile version of a website’s content for indexing and ranking. It considers mobile-specific factors like mobile page speed and responsive design, so if your site isn’t mobile-friendly, it could impact your search engine rankings on both mobile (and even desktop) searches.
From the get-go (or now that you’re aware), implement a responsive design, which ensures that your website adapts and displays properly on various screen sizes and devices. Design your pages with mobile users in mind: use larger fonts, spacing, and touch-friendly buttons to delight users. Ensure interactive elements, such as buttons and links, are easily clickable and not too close together to prevent accidental taps.
Create content that is easy to read and digest on mobile devices; use shorter paragraphs, bullet points, and subheadings to break up text. You should also use responsive images that automatically adjust to different screen sizes. Use the “srcset” attribute to provide different image resolutions for different devices.
Use On-page SEO To Increase Your Organic Traffic
On-page SEO is all about making your web pages super-friendly for both users and search engines.
To boost organic traffic, focus on keywords your ideal users are searching for, create quality content around these keywords, use proper heading tags and metadata, and add relevant internal links.
Ensure your website loads quickly and is mobile-friendly and pay attention to user experience and readability. Don’t forget to regularly update and refresh your content, as well as link to new, relevant content. This also increases your chances of ranking higher and driving more organic traffic.