On-page SEO is a must-have for any blog.
While off-page SEO techniques help users and search engines discover your site, on-page SEO makes sure your content actually ranks.
You’ll understand what I mean in a minute.
Also, don’t worry — you don’t need to be an SEO expert to execute on-page optimization strategies.
Let’s get on with it.
What is On-Page SEO?
As a self-taught blogger, the first thing you’ll learn about SEO is that it has two sides: on-page and off-page.
Off-page SEO encompasses everything you do outside of your website, which can improve your rankings.
Guest blogging is an example of an off-page SEO tactic. Not only will guest posts get you referral traffic, it will also boost your rankings by bolstering your backlink profile.
On-page SEO, however, involves the optimizations you perform within your site.
Without further ado, here is an on-page SEO checklist that will optimize your site from top to bottom.
On-Page SEO Techniques
Just a friendly note, the screenshots you’ll see in this post are taken on WordPress with the Gutenberg editor.
The reason? Because it’s the content management system I use.
Other bloggers should be able to find similar features in their platform to accomplish the same end results.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s proceed with on-page optimization.
1. Insert Your Target Keyword into the Right Places
I’ve been blogging for many years.
Believe it or not, there was once a time when bloggers simply had to spam keywords all over their site. They’d get to Google’s first page in no time!
To avoid being penalized, bloggers used keyword density checkers to know when they’ve used keywords enough.
You may also find SEO guides that tell you to follow a certain keyword density — supposedly for maximum effect. But since there’s never enough evidence to support them, even SEO experts like Brian Dean don’t worry about them anymore.
Today, it’s now all about ensuring your target keywords appear on the right places.
As Brian Dean’s comment above states, the first 150 words of your content is a good place to start. Other than that, there are five other content elements where your target keywords should go to:
You can’t forget about your content’s title tag if you want to optimize it for your target keyword.
Basically, it’s an HTML element that tells readers and search engine crawlers what your content is about.
For WordPress users, all you need to know is that it can be changed using the post editor.
If you have the latest version of WordPress, look for the “Add title” field. This is where you ought to place your keyword-optimized title — preferably near the beginning.
For your reference, let’s take a look at the search engine results page or SERP for “email marketing.”
Take note of how these sites weave the keyword into the title tag:
The URL slug is another content element that appears in SERPs.
To be clear, I’m not talking about the entire URL shown below the titles in SERPs and browser address bar. Rather, the URL slug is the extension you put next to the domain address to open a specific page.
Yes — that’s another content element that needs to have your target keyword in.
On WordPress, you can easily change the URL slug by editing the post’s “permalink.” Just select the post’s title and click ‘Edit’ next to the permalink field.
Other than having your target keyword, try to make URL slugs short and memorable. This will make it easier for some readers to find your post again whenever they need to.
You already know that you should put keywords into your content’s main body.
At least once and within the first 150 words should suffice.
Throughout your content, you should also sprinkle a few keyword-optimized subheadings to improve its overall SEO value. In the HTML language, these are content elements within tags like “
,” and so forth.
For example, here’s how the subheading of this section looks like in HTML:
On the Gutenberg editor, subheadings can be created by adding a heading block. To do this, click on the ‘Add block’ button and select ‘Heading.’
The “H1” tag is usually reserved for the content’s main title. “H2” onwards, on the other hand, are used for the subheadings.
That’s why you can only create H2, H3, and H4 tags on the heading block.
A lot of SEO guides forget to mention that categories deserve to be optimized for keywords, too.
In any blog, categories help both readers and search engine crawlers identify the content’s topic. With the right implementation, category pages can also help readers get around your site and find the content they need.
You can create categories on WordPress by going to ‘Categories’ from the ‘Posts’ sub-menu. Right off the bat, you can create a new category by entering a name and URL slug.
Just like actual posts, category names and URL slugs must be keyword-optimized. The only difference is that, with categories, it’s better to go for broad topics instead of long-tail keywords.
For instance, if you blog about videogames, you may use categories like “RPG,” “Action,” “Horror,” and “Multiplayer.”
I’d love to tell you everything about WordPress categories, but that’s a blog post for another day.
Going back to SERPs, the page’s meta description provides users a brief summary of the content.
Although it doesn’t have a direct impact on a website’s rankings, it can influence click-throughs to an extent. This, in turn, affects the organic traffic a post can generate, which sets in motion other aspects of ranking.
Get this: while Google clarified that the meta description doesn’t affect rankings, top pages are observed to use keyword-optimized descriptions.
To create meta descriptions on WordPress, you’ll need the help of Yoast SEO — the go-to on-page optimization tool for bloggers.
Once installed, you can access Yoast SEO’s features within the post editor. For Gutenberg users, this can be done by clicking on the Yoast icon on the upper-right corner of the interface.
Clicking on ‘Snippet preview’ will display how your post looks on SERPs. From there, you may also directly edit your post’s title, URL slug, and meta description.
Bear in mind, if you’re using WordPress, a similar panel can be found just below the editor.
When writing meta descriptions, see to it that you only use anywhere between 150 and 160 characters. Any more than that and your description may not show properly on SERPs since Google truncates text for uniformity.
Conveniently, the Yoast SEO plugin renders a live preview of your meta description as you type. Use it to avoid writing meta descriptions that are way too long.
2. Optimize Your Images
Speaking of places to put keywords, remember that images must be keyword-optimized as well.
In the past, I’ve written about the best strategies on how to optimize website images for SEO.
Give that post a thorough read and you may skip this section entirely. Regardless, allow me to reiterate everything you need to know about image optimization.
Using Optimized Image Filenames
You may be thinking, how in the world can I use keywords on images?
Easy — the image’s filename and alt text tag.
Both elements don’t require any special tool. Renaming images, for one, should be child’s play to you by now.
The question is, what are you supposed to call your images?
Well, other than describing what the photo shows, try to include your keywords when it makes sense.
The goal here is to be as descriptive as possible to help search engines comprehend the image.
Let’s say you have this sweet photo of the Grand Canyon. Rather than keeping the name “photo_2019_05_10_13-29-01.png,” call it “Grand Canyon National Park” or “Grand Canyon Travel Photography.”
When uploaded to WordPress, the image’s filename will automatically be converted with dashes in-between words. For example, “Grand-Canyon-National-Park.png” instead of “Grand Canyon National Park.”
Don’t sweat it — search engines can understand those filenames all the same.
Optimizing Image Alt Text Tags
Apart from image filenames, the alternative text or alt text tags should also be descriptive and, if possible, keyword-optimized.
You can edit alt text tags on your WordPress media library or as you add images to your post. Look for the “Alt Text” field on the image uploader or media library.
When it comes to image alt text tags, any descriptive phrase should be acceptable from an SEO standpoint. I personally use a user-oriented approach when writing image alt text tags.
For example, if I’m uploading an infographic that visualizes the affiliate marketing business model, I may use:
Compressing Your Images
From this point on, you should adopt the habit of renaming images and adding alt text tags.
There’s just one more thing you shouldn’t overlook when using images on your blog.
I talked about this when I wrote about the ways to reduce blog page loading times.
Put simply, you need to use an image compression toolto reduce the file size of your images. This will have a considerable impact on your website’s performance and, in turn, search engine rankings.
For this job, I’ve always recommended Kraken.io — a free-to-use, lossless compression tool available on the web. It uses a web interface that lets you compress images in bulk without any noticeable reductions in quality.
3. Integrate External Links to Authoritative Sites
Writing SEO-friendly content has a couple of rules you need to remember.
First and foremost, your content must be of killer quality in order to appease readers and search engine crawlers alike.
That’s something that requires a more in-depth guide, which is why I published this post some time ago.
What you need to remember while writing your posts is to integrate outbound links to other sites.
What are Outbound Links?
In the SEO world, outbound links are considered as a relevancy signal that helps search engines determine the content’s topic. If done right, external links can also maximize the value that readers can get from your blog.
For example, I could go on right now and link to Raelyn Tan’s post about SEO tools and resources. Most of the tools there could prove to be useful in applying the knowledge you’ll learn from this article.
If you’re a loyal Master Blogging reader, you’d know that I, myself, am a big fan of external linking.
External Linking: Things to Remember
Below are some tips you should remember about external linking:
1. Don’t Spam External Links
As helpful as external links are to SEO and your readers, overusing them has a few disadvantages.
Here’s the thing: external links can definitely take your readers’ attention away from your content.
The more outbound links you use on your page, the more reasons your audience gets to leave.
Furthermore, search engines perceive too many links as a sign that you’re intentionally selling links. That is something every self-respecting blogger doesn’t want to be associated with.
As a rule of thumb, use less than five outbound links for every 500 words in your content.
Also, try to spread them all over your content as opposed to cramming them together into a single paragraph. That should make your external linking strategy more natural — as it should be.
Perhaps the only reason to put links close to each other is when you’re listing down tools or statistics. Else, they should have a nice helping of text between them.
2. Only Link to Authoritative Sites
If you’re using outbound links for relevancy, you might as well link to the most authoritative resource you can find.
In most cases, it should be enough to pick only sites from Google’s first page.
Suppose you want to link to a post that discusses the importance of SEO. A quick Google search using the keyword “importance of SEO” should point you to the right sites.
If you are, however, targeting unpopular keywords that may yield low-authority pages in SERPs, be sure to double-check the sites.
You don’t want to send readers and search engines to poor-quality content.
3. Know When to Use No-Follow Links
For those who are new to SEO, there are two types of external links you should be aware of:
“Nofollow” and “Dofollow” links.
I’ll spare you the SEO jargon and tell you this — dofollow links pass on authority, whereas nofollow links don’t.
This means dofollow links have more weight on the Google PageRank algorithm, which directly influences a website’s organic rankings.
If that’s the case, then what’s the purpose of the nofollow attribute in links?
Using nofollow links also helps bloggers avoid penalization for linking to low-quality sites or having too many outbound links. This makes sense if you are reviewing another site, creating a paid link, or writing a very long roundup post.
To create a nofollow link, simply plug in the rel=”nofollow” between the tags.
4. Set External Links to Open a New Tab
Another way to retain your reader’s interest in your post is to tell all external links to open a new tab.
You don’t need to be a blogging expert to know why this is important.
If a link opens a new tab, you can retain the reader’s attention even after showing them a new page.
To make links open a new tab on WordPress, the easiest way is to use the ‘Open in New Tab’ toggle. You can access this option when inserting links using the post editor.
Via HTML, you can set links to open a new tab with the target=”blank” attribute. This must be inserted within the tag in your page’s code.
5. Only Use External Links Naturally
Lastly, you should never insert outbound links for the sake of having external links in your content.
From a reader’s perspective, posts with no outbound links are preferable than articles with forced links. That said, make it a point that each link fits the context of your post.
Typical scenarios include linking to data sources, mentioned tools, explanations of technical terms, and other references.
If you really must insert a link, allot an entire paragraph or two to explain where it goes to.
Take a gander at how I insert external links in my blog:
4. Use Internal Links to Spread PageRank
Unlike external links that bring readers to a completely different domain, internal links let you keep them on your site.
I’ve written about internal links in this full-length guide so I won’t cover it as much here.
See that? I just used an internal link to show you something useful.
That’s what internal linking is all about — giving your readers more useful information from your own content library.
In addition to improving your audience’s experience, internal links also have SEO benefits.
They pass on PageRank to other pages and help search engine crawlers index more of your content.
Internal Linking Tips
To fully utilize internal links, observe practices similar to when you were creating external links, such as:
- Set Internal Links to Open a New Tab — Even though you’re still technically keeping readers on your site, internal links can still the user experience. Setting internal links to open new tabs ensures they don’t forget why they came in the first place.
- Use Informative Anchor Texts — This may seem like a no-brainer, but a lot of beginners still forget it all the same. Regardless if your link is external or internal, readers should know what to expect on the other side.
- Link to Related Pages — If you really care about the experience of your readers, you wouldn’t spam them with links to irrelevant pages. As much as possible, only link to posts that can help them accomplish the goal they originally had in mind.
If you want to direct readers to somewhat unrelated posts, consider links in your conclusion or navigation sidebar instead.
Here at Master Blogging, I consolidate those links under the “Useful Blogging Guides” panel:
5. Improve Your Website’s Loading Speed
So, you now have amazing content on your blog that you can’t wait to show your audience.
They also can’t wait to view your content — in a bad way.
In an age of short attention spans, 20-40 percent of users leave a site that doesn’t load in three seconds.
That’s a huge number, especially considering the amount of work it takes to build traffic.
Loading Speed as a Ranking Factor
Since Google is all about user experience, loading speed is also a well-established ranking factor for SERPs and ad placements.
In other words, a sluggish performance causes a double whammy to any site. On top of losing up to 40 percent of readers, it would also hurt your chances of getting high rankings.
Fortunately, a slow website is something you should be able to remedy if you’re a long-time Master Blogging reader. If not, then check out this list of tips on reducing page load time.
Using GTmetrix as Your Launch Pad
GTmetrix is a great alternative to PageSpeed Insights if you’re planning to optimize your website’s performance.
What it does is assess your website’s performance and identify underlying factors that could be slowing it down.
To use GTmetrix, enter your website’s URL into the main field and click ‘Analyze.’
After a few seconds, GTmetrix will present you with a comprehensive performance report. This contains your overall speed score, total loading time, and number of handled HTTP requests.
What really matters in the report is the list of actionable recommendations that will help you speed up your site.
You don’t have to scroll far to find these:
If these recommendations look like hieroglyphs to you, refer to the guide I linked to earlier — you won’t regret it!
You may notice that the tab says “PageSpeed” above these recommendations. That’s because GTmetrix aggregates information from PageSpeed Insights to build the performance report.
Why use GTmetrix if the recommendations are from PageSpeed Insights, anyway?
Two words: more data.
PageSpeed Insights isn’t GTmetrix’s only source of data. It also collects insights from YSlow — an open-source tool that analyzes website performance based on Yahoo’srules.
Moreover, GTmetrix supplies additional data such as the Waterfall Chart, page load timings visualization, and performance data history. All of which can help you monitor and fine-tune your performance optimization efforts over time.
6. Make Your Pages Mobile-Friendly
The next aspect of on-page SEO also has a Google tool you can use — namely Mobile-Friendly Test.
In case you haven’t heard, Google now prioritizes the mobile version of websites in the indexing process. This is rolled out as the Mobile-First Indexing initiative announced in 2018 on the official Google Webmaster blog.
Long story short, focusing on the on-page optimization of your site’s mobile version is no longer an option. In fact, it should be at the top of your to-do list as far as SEO on-page is concerned.
How to Use Google Mobile-Friendly Test
Mobile-Friendly Test can point you in the right direction by analyzing your website and offering optimization suggestions.
Like PageSpeed Insights, Mobile-Friendly Test only requires your website’s URL to get the ball rolling.
To demonstrate how Mobile-Friendly Test works, let’s check out the test results of an unoptimized site.
The World’s Worst Website Ever — intentionally designed to be terrible — should be the perfect candidate.
One of the things I like about the Mobile-Friendly Test is how straight and to the point it is.
It doesn’t complicate the task with a bunch of metrics. Instead, it tells you upfront whether or not your site is mobile-friendly and lists down the much-needed fixes.
Of course, these recommendations come with helpful resources for non-developers.
On the “Additional resources” section of the report, click on ‘Learn how to fix these errors.’ This will take you to the “Search Console Help” page where you can gain more context on the detected issues.
To help you save time, here are some of the common errors you might encounter through Mobile-Friendly Test:
Viewport Not Set
In web development, the “viewport” property helps browsers determine the suitable page dimensions for the user’s current device.
Implementing responsiveness on your website is the most practical way to resolve this issue. It pertains to a website’s ability to automatically reposition, rescale, and adjust on-page elements for mobile viewing.
The good news is, most modern blogging services and content management systems have mobile-responsiveness baked into the platform.
WordPress, for example, has dozens of free, mobile-responsive themes readily available.
The downside is, implementing mobile-responsive manually is a job for an experienced developer.
If you’re a DIY blogger and would like to take on responsive design yourself, have a look at this post. It’s an A-Z guide on responsive web design by Shay Howe.
Content Wider than Screen
There is a downside to experimenting with responsive web design without any coding background.
It could lead to unexpected issues, such as the “content wider than screen” problem.
If Mobile-Friendly Test detects this issue, it means your site is showing elements outside the user’s default, horizontal viewing space. As a result, your audience has to scroll left and right to view your content in full.
It may sound trivial, but it breaks the intuitiveness of browsing websites using a touch-screen device.
You’ll be mildly annoyed, too, if you’re used to only swiping up and down when viewing content on your phone.
Again, starting with a mobile-responsive theme from the get-go could easily prevent this issue. You no longer have to fiddle around with your website’s code just to have everything render properly on mobile displays.
But if you’re not the type who would back away from challenges, remember this tip:
Always use relative width values.
Whenever setting width values for page elements on CSS, use relative values like width: 100%. As opposed to absolute widths like “width: 500px,” a percentage up to 100% should keep everything within the screen.
Text Too Small to Read
All things considered, the “text too small to read” issue is easy to fix.
As you may have guessed, Mobile-Friendly Test will present this issue if your blog uses fonts that are too small for mobile screens.
I shouldn’t have to spell out for you that the solution is to increase your content’s font sizes.
How to tell if your fonts are big enough?
In the meantime, refer to a tool like mobiReady to test how your site would appear on various displays.
Clickable Elements Too Close Together
“Clickable elements too close together” is another self-explanatory issue that you could figure out yourself.
It means you’re not utilizing enough whitespace between clickable elements like links, buttons, and images. This makes it frustrating for mobile users to click or “tap” these objects and get around your blog.
Carefully planning your site’s design and page layout should help users, especially those with big fingers, navigate your site.
As an example, allow me to share with you how my website displays clickable elements on smartphones.
Notice how the navigation menu and sharing buttons are switched to a vertical layout:
Uses Incompatible Plugins
Let’s face it, very few of you probably use fancy Flashcontent on your blog.
Don’t get me wrong — I admire bloggers who aren’t afraid to try something different.
If it means spicing up the user experience and standing out from the competition, then don’t be afraid to “overreach.” However, your efforts shouldn’t come at the expense of accessibility.
You see, Flash content is known to be incompatible with most Android and iOS mobile devices. That being said, using them on your blog may single-handedly kill the experience of mobile users.
If you are determined to enhance the user experience on your blog with rich content, do so with HTML5. Unlike Flash, it is natively supported by a significantly longer list of web browsers.
7. Lesser-Known On-Page SEO Techniques
There you have it.
The list above encapsulates the strategies you need for the latest SEO updates this year.
Everything that most SEO articles, courses, and tutorials would mention, anyway.
You can take your on-page optimizations a step further with the lesser-known techniques described below.
Embedding Related Videos
Among the latest SEO trends entering this year is the growing significance of video content for organic rankings.
Videos not only improve the overall learning experience of readers and maximize dwell time. They also boost the shareability of your posts on social media where you’re more likely to turn heads with well-made videos.
Investing in video content is more viable now to small bloggers — thanks to cloud-based platforms like Animaker. These tools take away the intricacies of video-making, particularly with basic formats like whiteboard explainer videos and animated infographics.
Generating More Blog Comments
Believe it or not, blog comments directly affect your website’s ability to generate organic traffic.
Read this post on the ways to get more blog commentsfor the full details. Nevertheless, here are the key takeaways you must know in order to spark conversations in your posts:
- Write using a conversational tone to get readers in the mood to communicate
- Create lists within your posts and ask readers for more suggestions
- Insert a CTA or call-to-action by the end of your posts to encourage readers to comment
- Make the blog commenting process streamlined and accessible
Mind Your Content’s Reading Level
Take note, there are two types of bloggers out there:
Those who care about their content’s reading level and those who don’t.
Yoast SEO for WordPress features a Flesch Reading Ease checker that measures how “difficult” it is to read your content.
The higher your Flesch Reading Ease score, the better. Lower scores, conversely, indicate that your content may be too hard to read.
To improve your content’s Flesch Reading Ease score, chew over the following writing practices:
- Keep Sentences Short — In case you haven’t noticed, 99 percent of the sentences I write have only 20 words or less. I do this to make long articles substantially less exhausting to read.
- Break Paragraphs Often — Another thing you’ll notice is that most of my paragraphs are extremely short — up to only two sentences each. If you think that’s too much, you can shoot for an average of only five sentences per paragraph.
- Use Low-Syllable Words — The Flesch Reading Ease test factors in the average number of syllables per word in a write-up. To improve your score, opt for shorter, low-syllable words instead of complex ones, like “bad” instead of “unsatisfactory.”
Keep Your Titles Short
Last but not least, yourblog post title should be more than just keyword-optimized to do well in SERPs.
The basic tactics include being user-oriented, inserting numbers, and asking a thought-provoking question. You should already be familiar with these — unless you’re a rookie blogger.
In terms of on-page SEO, however, plenty of bloggers forget to keep their post titles within 50-60 characters.
Just like meta descriptions, Google also truncates page titles in SERPs. Keeping your titles below 50-60 characters in length would pretty much guarantee that they’ll be displayed properly.
When in doubt, use the Title Tag Preview tool from Moz. All you have to do is enter the title you want to use and click ‘Check.’
How about that — you finished yet another guide that will elevate your blogging game!
On-page SEO may be one of the things that we full-time bloggers find tedious. Still, it’s acrucial aspect of blogging that you can’t hope to compete without.
The guide above should be more than enough to get your on-page SEO campaign on the fast track. If you have any questions, suggestions, or feedback based on what you read, please leave a comment below.
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