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On-Page SEO

When it comes to on-page SEO, I’m sure you’ve heard enough about meta tags and keyword density for one lifetime.

If you’re looking for some practical strategies that you can use on your site today, then you’ll love this infographic.

It’s a simple checklist that will bring in more search engine traffic from every piece of content that you publish:

Bonus: Download a free checklist that will show you how to quickly leverage these strategies. Includes 2 bonus on-page SEO techniques not found in this post.

on page seo infographic version 3

Here’s my take on the on-page SEO insights from the infographic:

1. Use SEO-Friendly URLs

Google has stated that the first 3-5 words in a URL are given more weight. And our ranking factors study found that short URLs may have an edge in the search results.

URL Length_line

So if you want SEO-friendly URLs, make them short and sweet.

And always include your target keyword in your URL.

In other words:

  • Avoid ugly URLs:
    https://backlinko.com/p=123
  • Or long URLs:
    https://backlinko.com/8/6/16/cat=SEO/pageid=890.html

Brian's Take

Brian’s Take

Click “play” to see the tip:

2. Start Title With Keyword

Your title tag is the most important on-page SEO factor.

In general, the closer the keyword is to the beginning of the title tag, the more weight it has with search engines. Here’s an example from my big list of SEO tools.

Backlinko –

Brian's Take

Brian’s Take

You don’t always need to start your title tag with your target keyword. But if there’s a keyword that you’re gunning for, try to put it towards the beginning of your title.

3. Add Modifiers To Your Title

Using modifiers like “2019”, “best”, “guide”, “checklist”, “fast” and “review” can help you rank for long tail versions of your target keyword.

Brian's Take

Brian’s Take

Click “play” to see the tip:

4. Wrap Your Blog Post Title in an H1 Tag

The H1 tag is your “headline tag”. Most CMS’s (like WordPress) automatically add the H1 tag to your blog post title. If that’s the case, you’re all set.

But some themes override this setting. Check your site’s code to make sure your title gets the H1 love it deserves.

Brian's Take

Brian’s Take

I used to assume that WordPress hooked up my post titles with H1 tags…until I actually looked at my site’s code.

Then I realized that WordPress themes sometimes use H1 tags to increase text size. As an example, my email opt-in area used to be wrapped in an H1 tag:

H1 Tag

It’s worth checking out your site’s code to make sure you only have one H1 tag per page. And that H1 tag should contain your target keyword.

5. Dazzle with Multimedia

Text can only take your content so far. Engaging images, videos and diagrams can reduce bounce rate and increase time on site: two critical user interaction ranking factors.

Brian's Take

Brian’s Take

You probably notice that I use a lot of images, diagrams, and screenshots here at Backlinko.

Brian uses lots of images, diagrams and screenshots in blog posts

That’s because I firmly believe that it makes my content straight up better.

But it has a nice SEO benefit to boot: multimedia boosts those user-interaction signals that Google pays attention to.

And it increases the perceived value of your content –which means that people are more likely to link to it.

6. Wrap Subheadings in H2 Tags

Include your target keyword in at least once subheading…and wrap it in an H2 tag.

Brian's Take

Brian’s Take

This definitely won’t make or break your on-page SEO efforts. But my tests have shown me that wrapping your target keyword in an H2 tag can make a dent.

Here’s an example of this strategy in action (target keyword=”SEO strategy”):

h2 tag example

7. Drop Keyword in First 100 Words

Your keyword should appear in the first 100-150 words of your article.

example of using keyword in first 100 words

Brian's Take

Brian’s Take

This is something that you probably do naturally.

But a lot of people start their posts off with a long, meandering intro…and use their keyword for the first time MUCH later.

Instead, drop your keyword somewhere in the first 100 words or so. This helps Google understand what your page is all about.

8. Use Responsive Design

Google started penalizing mobile unfriendly sites in 2015. And with Mobile-first indexing now live, a mobile-optimized site is a now an absolute must. What’s the best way to optimize your site for mobile devices? Responsive Design.

Brian's Take

Brian’s Take

I’d be surprised if your site isn’t mobile-friendly yet. But if it isn’t, maybe the incentive of more search engine traffic will push you to take the leap.

And if you’re going to make your site mobile-friendly, I HIGHLY recommend responsive design. In my opinion, it’s ideal for user experience. Plus Google prefers it.

9. Use Outbound Links

This is an easy, white hat SEO strategy to get more traffic.

Outbound links to related pages helps Google figure out your page’s topic. It also shows Google that your page is a hub of quality info.

Brian's Take

Brian’s Take

Not linking out might be the #1 on-page SEO mistake that I see people make. I try to use 2-4x outbound links per 1000 words. That’s a good rule of thumb for most sites.

Keep in mind that the sites you link out to reflect on you. So make sure to link out to authority sites whenever possible.

10. Use Internal Links

Internal linking is SO money. Use 2-3 in every post.

Brian's Take

Brian’s Take

If you want to see a great example of how to internal link on your site, check out Wikipedia.

They add keyword-rich internal links to every entry:

wikipedia internal linking

Obviously, they can get away with 50+ internal links per page because they’re Wikipedia. I recommend a simpler (and safer) approach: link to 2-5 older posts whenever you publish a new one.

11. Boost Site Speed

Google has stated on the record that page loading speed is an SEO ranking signal (and they recently made PageSpeed even MORE important). You can boost your site speed by using a CDN, compressing images, and switching to faster hosting.

Make sure your site doesn’t take more than 4 seconds to load: MunchWeb found that 75% of users wouldn’t re-visit a site that took longer than 4 seconds to load.

You can easily check your site’s loading speed using the excellent GTMetrix.com:

page loading speed report

Brian's Take

Brian’s Take

CDNs and cache plugins are nice, but investing in premium hosting is the #1 thing you can do to make your site faster.

$5/month hosts are decent for the money you’re paying. But they don’t hook you up with serious speed.

I’ve literally dropped load times from 6 seconds to less than 2 seconds by switching from a $5 shared hosting plan to a top-notch host (I use Synthesis Hosting here at Backlinko).

From a conversion and SEO standpoint, the ROI of premium hosting can’t be beat.

12. Sprinkle LSI Keywords

LSI keywords are synonyms that Google uses to determine a page’s relevancy (and possibly quality). Sprinkle them into every post.

Brian's Take

Brian’s Take

I don’t go nuts about LSI keywords because I usually write REALLY long content.

(Long content increases the odds that you’ll naturally use LSI keywords).

But if you want to make 100% sure that you’re using LSI keywords, search for your keyword in Google and scroll down to the “Searches Related to…” area at the bottom of the page:

searches related lsi keywords

Toss one or two of these into your post.

13. Image Optimization

Make sure at least one image file name includes your target keyword (for example, on_page_SEO.png) and that your target keyword is part of your image Alt Text.

image optimization

Brian's Take

Brian’s Take

Another reason to optimize your images for SEO: it gives search engines another clue of what your page is about…which can help it rank in organic search.

When Google sees images with alt text “blue widgets” and “green widgets” it tells them: “this page is about widgets”.

14. Use Social Sharing Buttons

Social signals may not play a direct role in ranking your site. But social shares generate more eyeballs on your content.

And the more eyeballs you get, the more likely someone is to link to you. So don’t be shy about placing social sharing buttons prominently on your site.

In fact, a study by BrightEdge found that prominent social sharing buttons can increase social sharing by 700%.

Brian's Take

Brian’s Take

Social signals aren’t an important part of the Google algorithm. But social shares on sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn may give you an indirect rankings boost.

That’s why we put social sharing buttons in the sidebar of every post:Backlinko – Social shares bar

15. Post Long Content

The SEO adage “length is strength” was supported by our industry study which found that longer content tends to rank significantly higher on Google’s first page.

02_Content Total Word Count_line

Aim for at least 1900 words for every piece of content that you publish.

Brian's Take

Brian’s Take

As a rule, I make sure all of my articles have 1000+ words of meaty, useful content. And some of my ultimate guides clock in at over 5,000 words.

Longer content helps you rank better for your target keyword. It also brings in more long tail traffic. A win win!

16. Boost Dwell Time

If someone hits their back button immediately after landing on a page, it tells Google in black-and-white: this is low quality page.

That’s why Google uses “dwell time” to size up your content’s quality. Increase your average dwell time by writing long, engaging content that keeps people reading.

Brian's Take

Brian’s Take

Want to improve your dwell time (FAST)? Use the tactics from my SEO copywriting guide (especially bucket brigades):

examples of bucket brigades

Here are a few more important on-page SEO factors that I didn’t have room to include in the infographic:

Quality Content: I know that you’re sick and tired of hearing about “quality content”.

Even though search engines have no direct way of determining quality, they have plenty of indirect methods, such as:

  • Repeat visitors
  • Chrome bookmarks
  • Time on site
  • Dwell time
  • Google searches for your brand

In other words, great content definitely won’t hurt you. So there’s no reason NOT to publish awesome stuff every single time.

Encourage Blog Comments: I’ve long suspected that sites with lots of high-quality blog comments get a slight edge in Google’s search results.

That’s why I wasn’t surprised when Google said that having a thriving community on your site can help “a lot” with rankings:

google employee tweet

That’s why it’s smart to encourage people to comment on your blog posts.

Maximize Organic CTR: There’s no doubt in my mind that Google uses organic click-through-rate as a ranking signal.

And even if they don’t, you STILL want to optimize your Google listing for CTR.

(More clicks=more traffic)

This video will show you exactly how to do it:

User Intent: This is a big one.

Google RankBrain measures how searchers interact with your content.

(For example, RankBrain pays close attention to CTR and Dwell Time… two factors I talked about already in this guide).

The ultimate goal of RankBrain is to determine if users are satisfied with your content.

In other words, does your content match user intent? If not, it’s going to be VERY hard to rank (even if your page is keyword-optimized).

But if you create a page that makes users happy, Google is going to rocket you to the top of the SERPs.

For example, let’s say you want to rank for the keyword: “Paleo diet breakfast”. Do a Google search for that term and peruse the top 5 results:

SERP example

What do you notice?

All of the results are lists of recipes, like this:

user intent content

In other words, people searching for that keyword don’t want to learn why breakfast is important (or not important) on the Paleo diet. They don’t want to know the “5 elements of a Paleo breakfast”. They just want a big ol’ list of recipes.

So the better you can satisfy user intent, in general, the better you’ll rank.

Here’s How to Use These Techniques For Your Site

I made a free on-page SEO checklist for you that will help you put these strategies into action for your site.

It outlines — step-by-step — exactly how to use the techniques that I talked about in this post…including 2 strategies that I didn’t include in the infographic.

Here’s where you can download the checklist:

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