Ultimate Guide To On Page SEO

In today's post, I've decided to revisit On-page SEO (also referred to as “On-site SEO”) and produce what I hope will be a definitive guide. I've been mentioning more and more recently how important it is to get this right. Keyword research and on-page SEO are where you should be focusing the majority of your efforts now. Given what's happened with all the PBN stuff recently, it seems like a trip back to basics is necessary for a lot of people.

Constantly blogging and putting out consistent content is always good, but get the fundamentals right first. Content is NOT king, it's just very important. Let's call it a Duke, or maybe a small messiah since people tend to worship it. Keyword research is King, and On-site is Queen.

Nine Tips For On Page SEO

I'd like to offer a tip of the hat to the No Hat Digital team for their recent podcast which covered this in great detail as well. If you've got thirty minutes spare, go and give it a listen. I didn't want to put the structure or content of this post exactly in line with their podcast, but since Greg did it pretty much perfectly, it's hard not to.

The rest of this article is going to go over the fundamentals of getting On-site SEO right.

Keyword Density And Placement

People are still quite worried about keyword density and placement, so this is the place to clear it up. Here's some guidance:

Use the keyword somewhere in your title, and use it near the beginning of the article. After that just write the article naturally and if the keyword comes up, put it in.


It's almost easier to get keyword density wrong than right, so you need to consider a few things:

– Google looks at the entire page not just the content of your post. If you've got the keywords in the sidebar, or the domain/site name, footer, or even image alt-tags, it also counts towards the density count.

– Try to avoid more than 6 mentions of the keyword (on the whole page) or be under 1% density. If you NEED to mention it more, write it slightly differently. For example “On Page SEO” could be written as “Page optimization” or “Site SEO” etc to avoid using it too much.

– Use the SEO Quake Chrome addon to help you find all your keyword mentions.

Use Media To Present Your Content

People can argue until the cows come home how well Google can read the media on your page, but one thing you can't argue with is that for any given search, the top results always have a good balance of media. This is things like:

  • Images
  • Videos
  • Tables
  • Rating Stars

Things like this will help the end user and Google knows this. As well as using media, you should also make sure to avoid having walls of text. Try to avoid writing more than 3-4 lines per paragraph.

When you're using important data and want to show it in an infographic or image, consider using tables instead. Google can read that and will reward you for it.

Subtip: Use numerals instead of words when talking about finances or similar metrics. Ie “$100” rather than “One hundred dollars”.

Be Smart With Your Homepage

There are three or four different types of homepage really. The most common debate is over “Static” vs “Blogroll” homepages, and this really depends on the type of site you're trying to rank.

If you are constantly updating the content and adding posts at least once a week, I'd go with a blogroll. Building out an authority site means you want people to keep coming back and seeing your fresh content, so the homepage is the place to do that, and a blogroll is the easiest method.

However, if you're building a site that only has around 50 pages or fewer, you might want to go with a static homepage. Since there won't be new content added, there's little point in having a blogroll anyway.

For the static homepage, a lot of people just write a little introduction to the site, themselves, and the niche. Kind of like a front-facing about page.

Other people will just target their main keyword on the homepage (something I taught in my free niche site guide) and have a 2,000 word article aimed at that keyword. This is a pretty good way of ranking for the one keyword, but I've since learned that it's not the best way of utilizing the homepage.

What the NoHatDigital guys do, and something I will do more from now on, is to set up the homepage so it links to the main inner pages. If you want to rank three or four inner pages, then the homepage would have a section of text covering the topic of each page.

Let's say your site is about shaving and you wanted to rank pages on shaving equipment, shaving techniques, razors and so on, the homepage would have a paragraph about each topic, then a link to the page to learn more.

This would mean that any link juice the homepage has (which is traditionally the page with the most juice) would spread through to your key pages very well. It would also be great from a user-experience point of view as well.


Internal Linking

This is a great way of spreading link juice around, keeping users on your site longer, and forming a well structured site. All of those things are super important from a ranking perspective.

What you want to do is find ways to link all of your articles to 2 to 3 other articles on your site. Use in-content links rather than sidebar links where possible, but make it as natural as you can. You can see in this article how I've linked to other parts of my site. I've done it naturally and relevantly. It's great for Google crawling my page, and also great for you. Win win!

You can also use things like sidebar “latest posts” or “category” widgets to help spread the juice around, or even a plugin called “related posts”. In most cases though it's really better to do via in-content linking though.

Mix it up and do both!

External Linking

Another massive part of on-page seo that most people overlook. Link out to authoritative sites relevant to the articles! They're not stealing your link juice, they're backing up or reinforcing your content.

Think about it this way, you want to show Google that your page is the BEST resource out there for this keyword. Not only are you putting tables, images, videos and other media on your page, you're also linking out to additional resources for further reading. What an excellent resource your site must be!

If you're worried about linking directly to competitors, you have a couple of options:

1.) Link to news or neutral sites like bbc.co.uk or wikipedia.

2.) Link to relevant sites but pages you're not directly competing with (like their “about” page).

Seriously, go add 2-3 external links to all your pages and notice how quickly your rankings increase.

Table of contents

You only really need to worry about this for your main pages, the really big resourceful ones. Are you getting the hint about making really resourceful articles yet? 😉

Think about how sites like Wikipedia have tables of contents. They're incredibly useful for users and search engines a like.

I'd only consider using one on an article 1500-2000 words long, which is why I've included one on this page. By using a plugin like “Table of Contents Plus“, your H2 tags automatically get added into the TOC at the top.

You also get some good internal linking and anchor text benefits out of them as well.

Really though the benefit is that users love them and Google sees your article as a really resourceful resource.

Keyword in URL

This is actually one of the things that most people talk about. As you can see by the fact there are six tips before this one, it's not the only aspect of on page SEO that you need to worry about!

People often argue that the keyword in the title is enough, but I like to put it in the URL as well. I think the URL is arguably more important than the title.

Alt Tag, Description, and File Name On Images

Your image “alt tag” is a good opportunity for a keyword, and the description and file name should include something relevant to the topic. If your keyword is “Fishing in Alabama” and you've included a picture of a fish, the alt tag could be “Alabama fishing” the image name could be something like “fish caught in Alabama” and the description could say “This is the fish I caught last week while fishing in Alabama”.

This isn't the best example, but I hope you get the point!

Word Count

A lot of people know that the minimum length an article should be is 300-400 words. However, for real optimization and seo benefits, I'd say you want your articles to be longer.

If you're going to follow the other eight tips, then you're going to need a few more words in order to get it all in.

There's no IDEAL amount. You want this article to be a great resource, but you don't want to just fill in words to get your word count up. I'm just saying that 400 words probably isn't going to cut it anymore.

Conclusion: Put In The Effort

I know a lot of people want to just keep blogging consistently and putting out content until they get the traffic. This has its advantages, as you'll be able to rank for more long-tail keywords in the future. However, from an optimization point of view, you really ought to be writing longer articles that are very useful, like I hope this one has been for you.

It will take you a lot longer to write, but the payoff will be much bigger. When your on-site SEO is this good, you won't need to worry as much about the rest of the SEO picture.


Got any question? Comments? Thoughts? Been fishing in Alabama? I'd love to hear from you!

20 thoughts on “Ultimate Guide To On Page SEO”

  1. So when you do an external link, are you keeping them subtle?

    For example – you have a sentence with a word in it that someone might not understand, so that word is highlighted and linked to Wikipedia for greater explanation.

    Or would you have all your external links called out: like “this article ‘here’ has more information you can learn about” etc.

    Which is better?

    1. I always do it naturally so don’t really think about how I link. I’ve used both examples that you used.

      Normally for wikipedia I’ll link the actual word so people can click to learn more, but for a website I might say “There’s a great article here about it” and just highlight some of that sentence and link.

      Whatever you feel works best. Also, it’s a good idea to make external links open in a new tab.

  2. Hi Dom

    I think I am doing almost everything on my blog except for external linking and a table of content. I think I am going to go back to my blog and change that. You said that I must link to 3 authoritative sites.

    How do I exactly know if a website is and authority?

    1. Good question. Usually you can look at their site and it’s easy to “feel” if they are a big authority. Another thing you can do is enter their URL into http://opensiteexplorer.org and see their metrics. If they have over 20 DA/PA then they are big. Over 50 they are huge.

      You can also link to generic sites like news sites or wikipedia, wikihow etc if you don’t want to link to your competition.

      1. Hi Bryon. Thanks for the reply

        I forgot to ask you about affiliate links. This might sound dumb but does an affiliate link count as an external link?

        1. Affiliate links don’t generally count no. When it comes to aff links I’d say don’t worry about over or under use. If it seems like you’re cramming them onto the page and it’s a bad user experience, then you’ve got too many, but don’t be afraid of using them multiple times.

          For external links, don’t force yourself to use them, but try to whenever possible.

          There are many advantages to this, besides on page SEO. I constantly link out to others in this niche and some of them have linked back to me in turn. Others have stopped by and commented on my site, purely because they noticed me linking to them.

          So when you link out to a good site in your niche, you’re telling Google that your site is a good resource, because people can get good information, and links to even more information, but you’re also reaching out to others as well which will have SEO benefits down the road.

  3. So I typed in my keyword in Google, I know I wasn’t going to be anywhere near the top since I just started this whole thing, but I wanted to see what my competitor websites look like. I checked out one of the top ones which looked like an affiliate site and he had it all, tables, lots of content, etc. The thing is though his information was way too much and way too detailed and technical which made it a boring read. So lets just say for the sake of this post I have a decent website and it is easy to read for people, they get the information they are looking for, and they love it. Will this guy still rank over me because of all this stuff he has on his website but people find it boring? I want to rank top but I do not want to rank top if I can’t give my customers a good experience.

    1. Great question Luke.

      Google doesn’t really have an idea whether or not your content or his is boring to read, which is why it uses things like on page SEO to get a feel for what is quality.

      When it comes to things like boring content, yours will be at an advantage because it will get more user engagement, more shares, and more people linking to it. In fact, there’s an opportunity here if you are smart about it. His article likely has a lot of links to it, so you can reach out to those people and let them know you’ve got a more user friendly version. They’ll be more likely to link to yours as well.

      On page SEO is a big part of the picture but it’s not the sole factor. His site is probably older and more authoritative then yours.

      Still, there’s plenty you can do to best him. If you want more help/insights, fill out my contact form with your keyword and URL and I’ll take a look for you.

  4. These are some really good tips. I think the thing I can takeaway the most is the Table of Contents for some of my longer posts.

    Overall, I think I do a decent job of most of these with a majority of my posts. I have at least three review posts that are ranking on page 1 and many others on pages 2 & 3. I even have a couple keywords in the #1 spot…so it feels good!

  5. Appreciate what you say about word count. All of my blogs are way beyond 400 words so the TOC plugin will be nice. Many thanks!

  6. Thanks Bryon, great info. I will definitely pen in a review of my site to walk through all of these points. I do some of them to some extent but there is definitely a lot of room for improvement for sure.

      1. Thanks Bryon, that’s what I’ll do. I will make changes to one key page this evening noting the ranking etc., make the changes and see what happens.

  7. Very Interesting post Bryon, thank you so much for sharing! I am already doing most of your points, but will re-study them all again to make sure I do not overlook anything. Please, keep me updated for new posts (I have already subscribed!). Thanks again, Marian

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