What is on-site SEO?
On-site SEO (sometimes referred to as on-page SEO) is the optimizing of elements on a website. This is used as a substitute for external links (Off-site SEO). Why might you do this? To rank higher than other websites! In return, this earns you more relevant traffic from search engines.
If done correctly, on-site SEO can help users quickly and clearly understand what a page is about. They also can find out if it applies to their search query or not. Good on-site SEO helps search engines understand what we would like to see. That is, the value we would get from reading it! Search engines use this to serve up what we would consider high-quality content about a particular search query or keyword.
The goal of on-site SEO is to make it as easy as possible for both search engines and users to:
- Understand what a webpage is about
- Identify that page as relevant to a search query or queries (i.e. a particular keyword or set of keywords);
- Find that page useful and worthy of ranking well on a search engine results page.
Keywords, content, and on-site SEO
On-site SEO is closely related to keyword use, including high-value keywords in several key locations on a website.
Keywords are no longer at the center of on-site SEO, and it’s important to remember what those terms actually are. Historically, whether or not a page ranked for a given term was dependent on using the right keywords. User experience was secondary; simply making sure search engines found keywords and ranked a site accordingly was at the heart of on-site SEO practices.
Today, though, search engines have gotten exponentially more sophisticated. They can extract a page’s meaning from the use of synonyms. The context in which content appears, or even the frequency with which specific word combinations are mentioned. While keywords still matter, methods like using exact-match keyword in specific locations is no longer a necessity of on-page SEO. What is important is relevance. For each of your pages, ask yourself, how relevant is the content for the user?
On-site SEO is less about keyword repetition or placement and more about understanding who your users are. What they’re looking for, and about what topics (keywords) can you create content that best fulfills their need. Pages that meet these criteria have content that is:
- In-depth.“Thin” content was one of Google Panda’s specific targets; today the content must be sufficiently thorough in order for a chance at a good ranking.
- User-friendly. Check to see if the content is readable? Is it organized on your site in such a way that it’s easily navigable? And is it generally clean, or littered with ads and affiliate links?
- Unique. If not properly addressed, content duplicated from elsewhere on your site may impact a site’s ability to rank on SERPs.
- Authoritative and trustworthy. Does your content stand on its own as a reliable resource for information on a particular topic?
- Aligned with user search intent. Part of creating and optimizing for quality content is also delivering on searcher expectations. Content topics should align with the search queries for which they rank.
How do you optimize a page?
Fully optimizing a page on your website requires both text- and HTML-based changes. Check out this article about on-site factors that can help you improve your own website pages.