Your Step-by-Step Guide to On-Page SEO

If you have a website with words on it, you've likely heard about the importance of SEO. After all,  91% of internet users in the U.S. use the internet to search for information. Having basic SEO best practices on your website will help users uncover your company, product, or information.

But SEO is an overwhelming topic to cover, especially if you're just starting out in managing a website or blog and its content. Run a simple Google search and you'll find results for on-page SEO, linking strategies, metadata, and so much more.

You can't tackle everything at once, so start with what you can control which is on-page SEO. In this article, we'll walk you through everything you need to know to optimize the SEO on your page.

What Is On-Page SEO?

There are two main chunks of SEO you should know about - on-page and off-page SEO.

On-page SEO has to do with how you optimize your website, content, and HTML to basically make Google like your stuff more. You have direct control over your on-page SEO whereas off-site SEO can be a bit more out of your control.

Google and other search engines' bots look at several factors when they evaluate your website. Some of these things include:

  • Meta elements like title, URL, and H2 tags
  • Site is bot-accessible
  • Website is mobile-responsive
  • Targeted keywords are used throughout

We'll go into more detail into how these factors and more can help you rock your on-page SEO strategy.

Dig into the HTML

As you start working on your on-page SEO, you'll spend a bulk of your time working on the HTML side of your content.

Before you panic, this doesn't mean you need to get into all the code that exists for your website. All you'll need to do for these steps is to open the source code editor on each page or post in your content management system (CMS).

To understand why each of these pieces of HTML is important, you need to know about the importance of using a single keyword for each page and blog post. Ideally, each of your pages and posts will feature a long-tail keyword that is relevant to your content and/or business.

Long-tail keywords (and even medium-length keywords) are ideal for adding to your website because they help attract engaged traffic that's looking for something specific. Finding the right long-tail keywords does require a bit more work than using a simple one-to-two word keyword but putting in the effort upfront will pay off significantly.

You need to have these keywords nailed down because you'll be adding them to your HTML.

Title Tag

Your keyword should appear in your title tag which is usually the title box on the page or post content module in your CMS. The closer you can get your keyword to the beginning of the title, the better.

The title tag is also what appears on the search engine results page (SERP). You want to be both concise and informative in the title to get users to click on your listing.

Meta Description

The meta description is displayed underneath the title on the SERP. It should also contain your selected keyword for that page or post.

You have more characters to work within a meta description. It should also be informative and include a call-to-action to encourage readers to click through to your site.


URLs are often overlooked when it comes to optimizing for user experience and keyword optimization. If you can, include your keyword in the page or post URL.

If your keyword has stop words like "the," "and," or "them," consider reworking your keywords to eliminate those stop words so they are more optimized for URL usage.

H2 and H3 Tags

If you haven't caught onto the pattern yet, yes, your keyword should also go in your H2 and H3 tags. Your H2 and H3 tags should be used as your section headers and divvy up content on your pages.

Image Alt Text

When you have images on your posts or pages, you should also add the keyword to the alt text. The alt text is what a computer reads out to reading-impaired individuals who use audio technology to browse websites.

While it's useful to describe the actual image, try working in your keyword for one more sticking point with search engines.

Focus on the Content

Working on the HTML side of on-page SEO is actually the easy part. The challenging part comes with developing informative and useful content for your users. Great content is what's going to attract and retain users, thereby boosting your SEO score so more people can find you.

Here are some things to know about optimizing the actual content on your pages.

Keyword Within First Hundred Words

Before you start working on a webpage or post, you need to have a set keyword in mind. You'll want to sprinkle this keyword throughout the on-page text.

One place you definitely want your keyword to make an appearance is within the first 100 words of your on-page text. The closer you can get to the beginning, the better.

Use Natural Variations

Years ago, the way to rank at the top of the SERP was to stuff your web pages with your chosen keywords. However, this practice quickly got out of hand and lead to tons of content that didn't read quite right because it was full of the same keyword phrases.

For example, if your chosen keyword for a post is "writing for search engines," you could naturally include phrases like "how to write for search engines" and "search engine writing." Search algorithms are only getting better at understanding context, so the more you write for humans, the better off you are.

Make It Easy to Read

Continuing along that vein, you want to write for humans in terms of readability, too.

What this means is keeping sentences short (less than 20 words is ideal). You should also try to keep paragraphs under three sentences.

Reading level can also come into play for readability. If you're writing for a large audience, you want your content to score at about an 8th-grade reading level. For more complex topics, you can afford to go to about grade 9 or 10.

Link to Your Content

Internal linking - i.e. linking to other content on your website - can make it easier for search engines to crawl your website and index it. Add text links where it makes sense to point your users to related content.

Be an On-Site SEO Master

We covered a lot in this post. By now, you should feel confident in how you can enhance your on-site SEO.

Bolstering your on-page SEO can help improve your SEO score which can help you rank higher and therefore get in front of more people.

Create a great user experience

Using tools like ​Hotjar, you can collect user feedback to improve the experience of your website. 

About the Author

Ryan Leisure is the founder of Polaris Webmasters, based in Perrysburg, Ohio. Polaris Webmasters provides partners with a dedicated US-based web developer to tackle all your website edits, updates, and improvements for one flat-rate monthly cost.

If you have more SEO questions, need help with implementation, or want to learn more about our full-service website management plans, please visit us at Polaris Webmasters.

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