On-Page SEO: Anatomy of a Perfectly Optimized Page (2016 Update)

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.

So make your URLs short and sweet.

And always include your target keyword in your URL.

In other words:

Avoid ugly URLs: backlinko.com/p=123
Or long URLs: backlinko.com/8/6/16/cat=SEO/on-page-seo-is-so-amazing-omg-its-the-best

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.

keyword in title tag
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 “2016”, “best”, “guide”, 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.

image use in online content

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

But it has a nice SEO benefit to boot: multimedia helps you boost those user-interaction signals that Google has been paying more 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 they’re likely crack down even more in the future. If you want to make your site mobile-friendly, I recommend 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. 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 Google+ may give you an indirect rankings boost.


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.

Longer content helps you rank better for your target keyword and 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:

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:

download the on-page-seo checklist pdf
      1. Hey Brian, I am currently busy with a blog consisting of 121 topics.

        My question is, can I upload pictures for every single topic, so 121 images?

        Also, if I use my main keyword in every image alt tag and title will that be overboard and will I then be penalized?

        Looking forward to your response 🙂

  1. This is fantastic! It is so true that on page SEO is vital to get right and great to see such an in depth look at it!

    1. You’re so right: it’s super important. Let me know how the tips from the infographic work out for you, James.

    1. Good, question Rameez. I think that keyword density plays a small role today, but it’s not as important as it used to be. I actually don’t measure it anymore: I just make sure that my keyword is in the title and the first 150 words.

      1. Hey Brian.

        I was going to ask the same question. From now one I won’t measure keyword density any more.

        I also want to thank you because I am achieving some results in my blog, santanderencanta.com, after applying the tips you share on backlinko

      2. I agree completely – don’t measure the density, but make sure you use the keywords early, and use variations of the keyword throughout the post.

        I always have a difficult time conveying to clients that they are not selling “it.” The product/service has a name – use the name instead.

  2. Great infographic! I have a question re: content length. Does your 1,000-1,500 word recommendation apply to site pages as well as blog posts? All the locally targeted keywords relevant to my site are highly competitive, and I’m trying to figure out how much content I should shoot for on each page. Thanks!

    1. Thanks Kate! Yes, longer content also helps site pages rank better. So it’s something I recommend doing for those competitive keywords that you’re gunning for.

      1. I’m curious about this, too. Doesn’t that run counter to the trend towards streamlined, uncluttered landing pages with few click-away choices? Do I need to build my site with some kind of mix of conversion-optimized pages and SEO optimized pages?

        1. Good question, Susan. It’s possible (with the help of a pro web designer) to incorporate all of the on-page SEO tips here and rock an uncluttered design. If you look at Backlinko, you’ll see that it’s pretty streamlined and SEO-friendly.

        2. A strategy that I use regularly with client websites is to build a landing page that is streamlined above-the-fold and just under the fold

          Then lower on the page add long-form text content to expand upon the service/product/idea. There’s no doubt that long-form content ranks better, is shared more often, and builds trust with the reader/potential client.

          I get just as many leads from people who found me via search and landed on my long-form content, as people who locally search for a service I provide.

    2. With my clients who have locally targeted websites, I encourage them to tell a story about the service/product they offer.

      Walk through the journey with the potential client/customer.

      When might they need the service?
      What happens when they contact you?
      What do you do?
      What should they expect after?

      This is a great method to turn a short/simple/boring service/product description into a robust page with strong SEO.

  3. This post is beautiful in its simplicity, Backlinko:)
    I’m a SEO amateur (but hopefully a quality-copy writer) and this info is really helpful to me. You’ve just given me a big job to go back over my blog and edit it with all of the ideas above. Thanks! Glad I found you.

    1. Thanks Dr. Naomi! I’m positive that implementing just a few of these strategies can make a significant difference in your organic traffic. Shoot me an email if you have any questions along the way 🙂

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