What is on-page SEO?

In SEO, there are on-page factors and off-page factors. On-page SEO factors are aspects of your website that you can optimize for better search rankings. It’s about improving things like your technical set-up, your content, and how user-friendly your site is. In this post, we’ll explain all about on-page SEO and how it differs from off-page SEO, and we’ll talk about some on-page optimizations that can help you to rank better..

On-page and off-page SEO: what’s the difference?

Every SEO strategy is focused on ranking as high as possible in the search engines. To do this, we all try to design and develop a website that Google’s algorithm — and people! — will love. That’s basically what SEO is about. The factors in Google’s algorithm can be divided into two categories that will determine the ranking of your website: on-page factors and off-page factors.

On-page SEO factors all have to do with elements on your website. For instance, things you work on to improve your E-E-A-T also fall in this category. Some of the most important on-page SEO factors are:

  • Your site set-up and technical features, site speed in particular
  • The quality of your content and use of keywords
  • How do you use additional media, such as images and videos
  • Your site structure and internal linking
  • Structured data and search appearance
  • Your URL structure
  • User experience

Meanwhile, off-page SEO looks at what happens away from your website. Some off-page SEO factors include:

  • Relevant links from other websites leading to your site
  • Social media activity
  • Business and map listings
  • External marketing activities

Pro tip: Find out more about on-page SEO with our front-end SEO inspector! You can use the front-end inspector tool in Yoast SEO Premium to explore the SEO data, metadata and schema output for pages on your site. It’s a great way to get to grips with your on-page SEO.

Importance of on-page SEO

On-page SEO consists of all the elements of SEO that you have control over. If you own a website, you can control the technical issues and the quality of your content. We believe you should be able to tackle all of these factors as they’re in your own hands. Remember: if you create an excellent website, it will start ranking.

Focusing on on-page SEO will also increase the chance that your off-page SEO strategy will be successful. Link building with a crappy site is very tough. Nobody wants to link to poorly written articles or sites that don’t work correctly.

How to optimize on-page SEO factors

1. Make sure search engines can crawl and index your site

If you’re unfamiliar with crawlability and indexing, here’s a quick explanation of what it is and what it has to do with Google. To show your page in the search results, Google must first know about that page. It has to be indexed by Google, meaning that this page has been stored in their index. And for that to be possible, you must ensure you’re not blocking Google from indexing your post or your whole site. So check if you’re not unintentionally doing that (we still see this happening!), and ensure your site is indexed.

Although this isn’t technically a ranking factor, getting your site into the search results requires it, so we thought it should be included here.

2. Invest time in creating quality content based on solid keyword research

Why do you think people visit your site? Most likely because it contains the information they’re looking for. Therefore it’s essential to write excellent content that corresponds with their needs. Search engines like Google also read your text. Which site ranks highest for a specific search term is primarily based on a website’s content. That’s why your content should be informative, easy to read, and focused on the right keywords that your audience uses.

Aside from creating quality content, you must remove or remedy low-quality pages. So-called thin content can harm your SEO. Take time to find these pages and do something with them occasionally to keep your content in good shape.

Learn about writing high-quality content in our Ultimate guide to SEO copywriting, or take our SEO copywriting training course.

3. Improve your site speed

A significant on-page ranking factor is site speed. Users don’t want to wait for pages to load, so Google tends to rank fast-loading sites higher. If you’re unsure how fast (or slow) your site is, check out your Core Web Vital scores using the report in Google Search Console. This helpful tool will point out areas where your site speed can be improved so you know what to work on.

If you’re tech-savvy, you can probably handle this on your own. If you’re unsure where to start, our Technical SEO training can help you.

4. Get your site structure and internal linking right

A good site structure helps Google (and users) understand your site and navigate your content. And when it comes to making that site structure, internal linking is the way to do it. Firstly, you must channel many internal links to your most important content. We call those pages cornerstone content. Secondly, you should tidy up pages that aren’t getting many (if any) internal links. Those pages are what we refer to as orphaned content. It would be best if you decided whether to improve those pages and add more internal links pointing to them or remove them altogether.

Yoast SEO Premium has two SEO workouts to help you improve your site structure and internal linking. Using the workouts can help you to make big improvements quickly, so give them a go!

5. Optimize your use of images and videos

You’ll want to include images on your site to make it attractive, and maybe some videos too. Doing that wrong can harm your SEO, but doing it correctly comes with some SEO benefits.

High-quality images are usually large files that can slow your site down, and that’s a problem. Using smaller image files and giving them descriptive names, captions, and alt tags will favor your SEO. Plus, there are additional benefits. For one, you’ll make your site more accessible, so it’s helpful for a wider audience. And for another thing, you’ll have a chance of your images ranking in the Google Image search results. Read more about these topics in our posts about image SEO and alt tags.

Adding videos to your site is a bit more complicated than images. And ranking your videos on Google (or YouTube) comes with its own set of challenges. We’ve got a great series of posts all about video SEO, if you’d like to learn more about optimizing in this area. There’s also a dedicated Yoast Video SEO plugin, if you’re serious about getting your videos ranking.

6. Create a persuasive search appearance

How your site looks in the search results is vital for SEO. While the search results aren’t part of your site, the things you do to optimize your search appearance are. Therefore, we consider SEO titles, meta descriptions, and structured data part of on-page SEO.

Optimize your SEO title and meta description, and then add structured data for results that stand out

Optimizing the text for your search snippets is fairly straightforward. Adding structured data can be trickier. Good to know: Yoast SEO can help with all these tasks. With checks and previews to help you, getting your SEO titles and meta descriptions right couldn’t be easier. And when it comes to structured data, Yoast does all the hard work for you — all you need to do is select the content type and fill in the blanks.

7. Make your URLs SEO-friendly

A well-crafted URL structure helps your on-page SEO — it’s like giving your web pages a good road map. Think of it as a friendly address that guides search engines and invites users to explore your content. Creating SEO-friendly URLs makes it easier for humans and search engines to understand what your page is all about. Opt for concise and descriptive URLs that include relevant keywords, as they provide a clear signpost. A clean and organized URL structure enhances navigation, making it easier for everyone to understand your website. Don’t forget to keep it short and readable.

8. Design an excellent user experience

The last thing we want to mention is user experience. Simply put, users need to understand your website easily. They should be able to find what they want in a heartbeat. They should know where to click and how to navigate through your site. And your site should be fast! A beautifully designed website is nice, but you should make it your top priority to create a user-friendly website first.

If you want to learn more about combining SEO and UX to get more people to your site, we’d advise you to look at our other articles on user experience. Or check out our all-around SEO training course.

To conclude

We’ve talked about the most important on-page SEO factors. First, ensure that your website works correctly and that your technical SEO is up to par. Secondly, create content that is user-centered and focused on the right keywords. Thirdly, work on the usability and speed of your site to help users and search engines around your website.

As these factors are all a part of your site, you can work on them to ensure your on-page SEO is top-notch! That being said, do remember to also work on your off-page SEO. Although you may not have total control over these factors, you can still put some effort into creating that exposure on other sites too!

Read more: What is off-page SEO? »

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