The Basics of On-page SEO and the Roles They Play for Your Page

By Terrance G Kern on December 25, 2017

The whole search engine optimization process can be categorized as what happens on the site and off the site. This brings up two types of SEO; on-page SEO and off-page SEO. The difference between the two categories is the location of the action and the amount of control you have, tactics and resources used, and audiences you are dealing with.

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The vast nature of SEO and the interactions of elements from each category mean it is not a matter of choosing either of the two, but rather you integrate both methods into your SEO strategy. Off-page SEO builds on On-Page SEO making the latter the foundation of any successful SEO project.

You have to get the basics right since even with the changing strategies and different methods, the role of the main elements of on-page SEO remain the same. Here is a look at the basics of on-page SEO and their different roles.

URL Structure

The URL structure of your pages is the first place to stop when doing on-page SEO. The recommendation here is to have a search engine friendly URL. First, the length should be should be short enough as short URLs have shown better ranking results. You also should be strategic with keywords use as it boosts performance but this should be done naturally.

Other factors to consider include minimizing the use of numbers and replacing underscores with hyphens. It is also important to mind how deep you set your main pages in the directories. The URL structure should portray the hierarchy of the site.

Finally, whenever changes are made to optimize the URL do not forget to use 301 redirects from the changed URL to the new one to avoid 404 errors.

Page Title

A page title or Title tag states what a page is all about and also shows up on the search results pages. The use of keywords, length of the title and how user-friendly it is are some of the things to consider when writing page titles.

Avoid keyword stuffing and instead, use one primary keyword and its variation or a secondary keyword. The Title should read naturally and the primary keyword should be in the first part. Use about 60 characters on the title though Google currently uses pixels to display titles and their limit is 600 pixels.

Meta Description

Meta descriptions used to help in ranking but in 2009, Google made it clear that they do not have an impact on its algorithm. However, they are still an important part of on-page SEO since they are the first bit of your page that someone interacts with. Without them, the search engines just pick text from your content and it may not be the best description of your page.

To optimize the Meta descriptions, use a couple of keywords making and exciting pitch on what the page is all about. Let it be user-friendly rather than targeting search engines since you want to pull the people reading it to your page.

Page Content

This is easily the most important on-page SEO factor. All the others largely work around the page content. To put it simply, the page content is what provides the solution to a search engine’s user query. This requires the page content to fulfill a number of things in order to serve its SEO purpose.

First, it has to be useful to visitors on the site this means you have to create comprehensive and unique content beyond just promotional aspects. It should be able to create demand for it and also encourage people to share and link to it.


The use of keywords in Meta descriptions, Page Title and in URLs has already been discussed. In page content as in the above cases, keywords help target and focus page to serve people looking for information, goods or services you provide. They help search engines to know what the content is all about.

The best practice is to maintain a keyword density of about 2-5% of your content. Make use of synonyms and long tail keywords to broaden your audience targets as well as avoid keywords stuffing. This ensures you do not repeat the same keywords and you avoid potential bans by the search engines.

Heading Tags

Heading tags are a usually overlooked aspect of on-Page SEO. Yet, these simple element performs an important role in page optimization as well as making the content easy and attractive to read for visitors.

They do this by breaking down the content into smaller sections and directing the reader where specific information is covered. They also inform search engine crawlers the important aspects of your content and its relevance to a visitor.  Optimize the heading tags in order of priority from H1 to H3 headings. Use relevant keywords but avoid repeating the same keyword in each heading and opt instead for variations.


As the name suggests, a sitemap provides direction to search engines when they are crawling your site. It ensures every link and page can be tracked and indexed leaving nothing out and boosting your overall SEO. You do not have to worry so much about the process involved since there are many plugins and modules you can use to generate a sitemap.

Checking for and Fixing Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is basically the same type of content appearing in more than one place on the internet. Duplicate content on your website presents a challenge to search engines. This is because they cannot show several versions of the same content to users since it will affect the experiences of their users.

They are thus forced to select which version they deem fit and this may not be your or original version. Further, they will not be able to know which version to index and also where to pass on link metrics or share it across multiple pages. Your link value is affected because people intending to link back to your site do not know which copy to link to.

You have to regularly check for duplicate content since it affects your ranking. Using canonical tags and 301 redirects are some of the ways to fix duplicate content.

Image SEO

Images play an important role in your page’s SEO. First, they improve the value of your content to the user by breaking up the text and also helping highlight your main points. They also provide an opportunity for you to integrate your keywords in them and boost your rankings in image rankings which also improve your overall position in SERPs.

Besides the image descriptions and titles, you have to optimize the image ALT tags or texts as this is the only way search engines and readers used by those who are blind will find out what the image is all about.

Internal Linking

While much emphasis is placed on getting backlinks, internal linking is an important aspect of your site’s SEO. First, it allows visitors to your site to navigate easily and find content in just a few clicks. It also enables search engine crawlers to find all your pages and also build relevancy optimizing your pages to relevant keywords.

All this helps in improving your ranking and also spreading link authority and traffic around your page.

Page Speed

This is an important aspect because it directly influences your ranking as search engines reward sites with fast loading pages. This Google tool can help you get insights on your site’s loading speed and how you can improve them. Since speed affects user experience, it also has a bearing on your conversion rates.

Regardless of the SEO stage, you are at, the above areas of on-page SEO will always require regular fine-tuning to ensure you are not losing the gains you are making.

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