If you hire an SEO agency or consultant to work on your website, they might say you need on-page SEO work. At least that is what they should be saying.
It is vital to get this bit right first before getting stuck into off-page SEO which is something we will explore in more detail in our next post.
As this article on Moz suggests, on page SEO on a basic level includes everything from the content to the source code of your website, and I would add where that source code applies to particular elements important to SEO in particular, including page titles, meta tags, alt tags and descriptions of what each page of the website is about.
Build Firm Foundations
Getting these areas right will provide your website with a firm platform that should see it indexed by the major search engines including Google and Bing. It is then beneficial to move towards other areas of SEO to improve the search presence of your website such as content marketing, link building and so on (often referred to as off-page SEO).
While on-page SEO began as rather simplistic and related to the amount of times a keyword featured in page content and meta data, search engine algorithms particularly those used by Google and Bing have become a lot smarter.
The Evolution of on-page SEO
The emergence of Rank Brain and other branches of technology used to crawl websites and place them in order of importance in search listings means that webmasters and SEOs have also had to become smarter to keep pace with this technology.
This is why a DIY or old school approach to SEO can often result in a failure to gain prominence in search results despite the best efforts of those involved. A common complaint of website owners is to highlight how competitors they view as having inferior looking websites rank higher in search.
The reality is, on-page SEO is not so much about how a website looks, it is more about how it is put together with the right on-page elements in place. How these are working to give visitors the best experience and search engines clear pathways to crawl the website and its content are of primary importance.
Think of your website like a good book
If we think of a website like a book, then understanding what on-page SEO is becomes a little easier to digest. While SEO has changed considerably in the past decade, this fundamental part of it hasn’t.
If you open up a book, you naturally expect to see signposts in the form of chapters, headings and indexes that help guide you.
If you imagine that same book without chapter headings and indexes or structure, it becomes extremely difficult and time consuming to read and find parts of the book you are interested in. You may not even be able to find the place where you fished reading unless you insert a bookmark.
Similarly, a website that doesn’t include the correct headings for pages or the keywords that tell people what a page is about can lead both human visitors and search engines down the wrong path.
That said, in the early days of search engines, keywords were exploited to the point where search results became unreliable and these signposts were overused, particularly when it came to key word stuffing, to try and gain an advantage.
Google became popular from the late 1990s onwards largely because it ranked pages according to popularity and that popularity was measured by the number of links pointing at the web page.
This too was soon exploited by SEOs and website owners resulting in the development of new technology to analyse web pages. Therefore, it is only in recent years that the quality of the content of web pages is considered alongside the number of links pointing to that particular page.
Naturally pages that give a poor user experience or contain content of questionable or inferior quality can result in a website featuring well down on search results.
So it is of the utmost importance to get your on-page SEO right to begin with, before focusing attention on other important elements such as link building, content marketing and the fine tuning that will enhance search presence further.