I review a lot of websites. As a professional website copywriter, I sometimes review dozens of sites a day, and I often see the same SEO mistakes being made across all of them.
It’s understandable. These are the kinds of little, persnickety details that small business owners and scrappy start ups don’t often have the time or bandwidth to worry about.
But, your on-page SEO does matter. Optimizing your site’s core and blog pages for on-page SEO can lead to big wins in search traffic and will ultimately determine where and how your content is ranked by Google. When it’s done well, it can lead to more targeted leads to your site.
And you know what they say, just five minutes a day will keep the Google Gods at bay.
While Google is rumored to use hundreds of ranking signals to rank your site, the on-page elements are those that affect your page-level rankings. In other words, these factors assess the structure and content of the page. In contrast, off-page elements include things like site speed, quality backlinks, mobile responsiveness, and user experience. While those things are also important, I won’t get into them in depth here.
On-page SEO is all about the content and structure of your page. Even better, unlike many of the other, more difficult components of SEO, you have complete control over the quality of your on-page SEO. That makes it a great place to start when you’re looking for more traffic and want to give SEO a try.
These six quick on-page SEO tips are a great way to ensure every page on your website is optimized for both bots and humans.
First, I realize that this may not be something you can control. If you’re updating content to an existing page or have already created your URL structure, that’s ok. Go grab a cup of coffee and move on to the next item on this list.
But if you’re adding a new blog post, product page, or resource to your website, customize your URL so that it’s logical and aligns with the content on the page. Your website builder will give you a default URL that is often meaningless (‘page-43’ or ‘product/category/3334444-1’) and these don’t mean much to your users. They also make it difficult for Google crawlers to understand and properly categorize your content so people can find it.
Customize your URL so it’s self-explanatory to anyone viewing it.
For example, this blog post URL is hdcopywriting.com + /blog + /on-page-seo-checklist, or site + /category + /content-description.
Here are some tips to consider when thinking about URL structure:
Use hyphens instead of an underscore, and avoid spaces
Keep your URL clear but concise. Try to limit your page description to the 3-5 most essential words.
Categorize your URL. Consider where it sits within your site’s overall structure. Does it live in blogs posts? Resources? Is it a product that lives within a certain category (like Kitchen, Shoes, etc.)?
Never change your URL after it’s set without making sure the old URL is properly redirected! Orphan pages make it difficult for Google crawlers to follow and can tank your rankings.
Bonus points if you can integrate your primary keyword phrase into your URL (more on keyword research in a later post).
Your title tag and meta description are the little blurbs you see on a search results page, and it’s important that you give them some TLC. These two elements are easy wins for boosting your page rankings, but are often overlooked.
Title Tag: Using one of your top keyword phrases (if possible), describe your page in 3-4 words (or around 60 characters), and then add your brand name.
Meta Description: In under 160 characters, write a direct summary of your page’s content. Make it more compelling by adding a call to action like ‘Shop Now,’ ‘Save 10%’, or ‘Free Shipping’. Include your brand’s most important elements or differentiators (AKA your unique selling proposition) for your core pages. For product pages, make sure to add reasons why your product is unique and worth a second glance, like ‘organic,’ ‘artisan’, or ‘one-of-a-kind’.
Organize your content under a clear H1, H2, and H3 header structure. Your page needs to have an H1 that includes your primary keyword and describes the content or goal of that page. Think of your H2s and H3s like a table of contents that groups and organizes sub-sections logically. While it seems straightforward, it’s easy to lose track and create headers that don’t make sense, so take a moment after you write to review your sections and subsections for clarity.
Whenever possible, use meaningful keyword phrases in your headers.
If you take the time to optimize your visuals, not only will Google likely reward you for it, but you’re also ensuring that all users, even those who require additional accessibility support, can benefit from your website.
There are a host of best practices for making your website more accessible, but when you’re looking specifically at your on-page images, there are really three things to consider:
Image Names: Format files so that they describe the image. This ensures that when the filename is read aloud, it’s decipherable. Examples: ‘White_Sneakers.jpg’, ‘Grey_Organic_Sheets.jpeg’
Alt tags: Alt tags are an additional place to describe your image. For visual readers, we typically only see alt tags when an image fails to load properly; but for those using a screen reader, each image is read aloud. Add a short summary of your image and give yourself a pat on the back if you can (naturally) integrate an important keyword phrase. Examples: ‘organic sheets & bedding’, ‘reusable cotton bag in black’
Video Transcripts: Add a transcript to any audio or video content on your page.
As a final note on optimizing your images, Google increasingly favors fast websites, so consider compressing your images or using a preferred format that won’t weigh down your load time.
Readability is an increasing important ranking factor but is also just common sense when it comes to delighting your readers with interesting content. Because reading on a device or computer is less natural than reading a book or other hard copy, keep your longer-form content scannable and visually interesting with these tips:
Consider Browsers: Review your content across different browsers like Chrome, Safari, and even Internet Explorer, if you have it. These browsers are proprietary and have their own way of formatting text and graphics. You’d be amazed at how your pages will perform differently across them.
Consider Devices: Similarly, as consumers increasingly move to mobile, make sure your content is readable on smaller devices. Make sure you use at least a 16 px font and break up sections of text with clear headers to make them more scannable on mobile devices.
Use Visuals: Instead of long paragraphs, break up your text with videos, graphics, and other images that will pique your reader’s interest and keep them engaged. If you don’t have visuals, use tables, charts, or bullet points to break up list items.
Links–both those going to other sites, and those that link to other pages of your own site–are important to SEO for a few reasons. Outbound links are an authority signal to Google that can boost your own domain authority and overall rankings.
Internal links help you in a couple ways:
You can more easily direct readers ‘down funnel’ to similar relevant content, similar products and add-ons, and to next steps in your customer journey.
Internal links help boost your site engagement metrics. When readers land on a page of content and then click through to other pages to read more, they signal to Google that your content is meaningful while increasing your site’s dwell time and lowering bounce rate. Plus, if site visitors like what they see, they’re more likely to return, to complete a purchase, and to follow your brand on social media.
Your on-page SEO is a checklist, a series of boxes you need to check to make your page more accessible to both humans and to Google, and can help you improve your site’s authority with:
Increased page views
Higher rankings in search results for your target keywords
Bringing new users to your site who actually want to engage with your content and products
Think of your on-page SEO as regular housekeeping task rather than a one-time exercise. As keyword interest and conversations evolve, updating your on-page SEO will help you re-use the same content to yield consistent new traffic and leads.
If you’re looking for help with your on-site strategy or know your pages could use a bit of boost but are unsure where to start, let’s connect. I’m happy to help.
Hey there, I’m Heather, Chief Copy Nerd & Owner of HD Copywriting. I help service providers and online entrepreneurs get laser-focused with copy that’s grounded in persuasion and influenced by my deep understanding of data and search engine optimization. So you can launch and sell more confidently.