On-Page SEO: The Complete Tutorial for Beginners (2021)
By Tommy Griffith • Last Updated: January 5, 2021
A simple and comprehensive on-page SEO tutorial to get higher rankings and drive more traffic through organic search.
Together with off-site optimization (with external link building being part of the SEO tactics here ) and technical optimization (which includes, for example, making sure your robots.txt file is in order and making sure your site speed is high), on-page SEO is at the very foundation of SEO. Therefore, it’s something you want to do, and, more importantly, something you want to do excellently.
In this blog post, I will show you the best way to do on-page optimization for your pages – so let’s get going.
First, though, let’s get through the high-level overview of what we will do next:
Goal: Optimizing each page and blog post on your website to be easily found on search engines.
Ideal Outcome: Your website pages and blog posts will be properly optimized – ergo, users will find them when using the Google search to find businesses similar to yours.
Pre-requisites or requirements: The exact steps described in this SOP will only work on WordPress.org websites. Other Content Management Systems (CMSs) might use the same principles and best practices, but the steps and methods needed to perform on-page optimization may be different.
Why this is important: On-site SEO is one of the three pillars of SEO (along with offsite SEO and technical optimization). Together, they help businesses make themselves noticed on search engines (thus, they help increase the number of site visits and, consequently, the number of conversions). Remember, though: no matter how crucial on-site optimization may be, you should never compromise quality content over this. At the end of the day, on-site SEO is not just about using the right keywords, but also about creating an amazing user experience – and relevant content plays a big part in this.
Where this is done: In your WordPress.org admin panel, on each web page and blog post that will go live.
When this is done: Ideally, before the pages and blog posts go live. Realistically, it can be done afterward too (e.g. if your website is already live and you haven’t optimized it yet).
Who does this: You, your SEO specialist, your VA, your content manager or content writer (if they also upload the page content and/or blog posts), or an agency you have hired for your digital marketing needs.
Before getting your hands dirty, make sure you download the free SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) that complements this blog post. It will teach you exactly what to do, which tools to use, and what to look for with an almost painful level of detail:
Get This Entire Walkthrough and All the Resources in This Post
Set up your WordPress.org site and install the Yoast SEO plugin (see how to do this here).
Based on your keyword research and mapping spreadsheet, select the keyword and searcher intent you want to use for the page or blog post you want to optimize. Remember: in general, you want to make sure each page targets only one searcher intent (or a “bucket” in the keyword mapping spreadsheet you have worked on).
For the purpose of this blog article, we will be going through an example blog post that’s being optimized for “red emojis”.
Write the content of the page or blog post without optimizing it for the target keyword. I did this a lot when I first started writing for Search Engine Optimization, but it’s a lot better to write the content without worrying about the optimization process or the keywords you need to use. This way, you will be able to produce content that’s more natural, focused on the users, rather than the search engines.
Optimize the meta data
The meta tags on each of your pages and blog posts are just as important as the content itself – so you should first make sure to optimize it before moving on to optimizing the content.
Start by optimizing the page title with your chosen keyword.
a) When you’re in the “Edit Post” section of your WordPress site, scroll down to the “Yoast SEO” bar (you will find it right after the box that allows you to paste/ edit the content). Click on it if the bar is not expanded.
b) Click on “Edit Snippet” to expand the editable metadata boxes.
c) Optimize the title in the “SEO title” box. Here’s how to do this:
Click on the “SEO title” box
Enter your desired SEO title (including your target keyword).
Remember to keep it under 65 characters – otherwise, Google will truncate it when displaying it in SERPs. This will consequently lower your CTR.
Yoast will help you determine if the SEO title is too long. As long as the bar underneath the “SEO title” box is green, you haven’t exceeded the 65-character limit. If the bar gets orange, you have exceeded this limit (or the title is much too short, as you can see in the caption below).
Rankings are not just influenced by keywords. The CTR on your search result is an important ranking factor, so this step will help you write attractive and compelling titles.
Aim for a score above 70 on CoSchedule’s Headline analyzer, but don’t stress or obsess over it—it’s an automated tool and you should only use it as an indicator.
Optimize the URL slug:
Keep it as short as possible (4 words at most—it makes it easy to understand and remember by users, but it also improves your CTR.)
Also, try to include the keyword in the URL as well—it will definitely help with the on-page optimization.
If your page has already been published for a while, do not change the URL, especially if it’s already ranking in the SERPs or if other pages already link to it. Doing this would mean you are migrating your URL and it’s best to avoid it in most cases.
Remember, the meta description should be under 230 characters—anything above that will be truncated by Google in the SERPs.
Same as with the page titles, keywords are not everything. Your meta description should be compelling and tell readers exactly what information will be provided on the page.
While meta descriptions don’t have a direct impact on rankings, they will increase the click-through rate and that is a ranking factor.
This walkthrough is covering on-page optimization for a page on your site, however meta descriptions are important on other platforms as well. For example, the description you write on a video uploaded to YouTube is also what’s used for the meta description of that video.
Once you’re done with this section (or any of the following ones), don’t forget to mark it as done on the free SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) that accompanies this blog post (if you haven’t downloaded it yet, get it here):
Optimize the page content
Now that you have optimized the meta data supporting your page or blog post, it’s time to move on to optimizing the actual content on it.
Here are the steps you need to follow to do this:
Try to include the keyword in the h1 heading, but do not force this. Again, it is far better to publish natural (rather than keyword-stuffed) content.
Make sure your page or blog post has an h1, but remember that there should be only one h1, and it should be above the fold. Typically, your h1 will be the actual title of the blog post or page.
Same as with the meta tags optimization, focus on creating an attractive, compelling h1, rather than something that feels built exclusively for Google’s crawlers.
Try to include your target keyword in the first 100 words of the page or blog post.
In general, avoid including the exact target keyword more than 3-4 times/page.
Add other keywords from the same keyword bucket in the body of your content. This will help Google contextualize your page or blog article, so that it shows it to users searching for the information you provide.
Try to add synonyms to your target keyword as well. This is an excellent move not only because it will help Google contextualize your content, but also because it will help you avoid using the exact target keyword too many times.
Include LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords too. These keywords are semantically related to your target keyword. To find more LSI keywords, go to https://lsigraph.com, enter your target keyword and pick the most relevant suggestions to include in the body of your page content.
a) Rename the image you want to upload into your page or blog title with a descriptive name. For example, “img17348.png” is not a descriptive name, but “red-emojis.jpg” is a descriptive name.
Always use the “-” sign to split the words in the image names.
To rename a file, download to your computer, right-click it, choose “Rename” from the drop-down menu, write the new name, then press “Enter”, and re-upload to WordPress.
DON’T include keywords in the file name unless they are actually relevant for your content.
b) Include descriptive ALT tag for each of the images you upload into your page or blog post.
Within the media selection view in WordPress, select the image you want to edit, you will see a series of fields in the right side of the window.Scroll to the “Alt text” field and enter it.
Make sure your ALT text is relevant and descriptive. For instance, “image 17348” is not a descriptive ALT text, but “beautiful red emojis” is.
Again, do not try to include keywords in the ALT text if they are not relevant.
Adding ALT text to your images will also improve accessibility. For instance, this feature can be used by screen-reading software applications for the blind or visually impaired.
Do some internal linking (adding links to other pages within your domain).
Try to include at least 2 or 3 links to relevant related content that’s already published on your site.
To do this, select the words you want to create a link on, click on the “Insert/Edit link button”, and paste the URL you want to link to.
Include external links, to other domains.
Try to link to authoritative sources of information or pages that are already ranking very well on the search results for your target keyword.
To add an external link, follow the same steps as described above for internal links.
That’s it! If you have completed all of these steps, your on-page optimization is done. Together with your technical optimization and off-page optimization, your on-page optimization will help search engines better understand your content, pushing it higher into the Search Engine Result Pages for your target keywords.
If you want to do this periodically or have a member of your team to do it, download and use the free SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) that accompanies this blog post here.
Once you’ve got your pages good to go and you are seeing results, use our template to create a simple SEO report that shows how your new on-page SEO expertise has improved the site.
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Tommy Griffith has been doing search engine optimization for almost 10 years. He was previously managing SEO at PayPal and Airbnb.
He feels weird writing about himself in the third person, but admits that it sounds slightly more epic.