The Fundamentals of On-Page SEO

SEOOn-Page SEO is a process used to influence the rankings of a web site by modifying the actual code “On the Page”. This could include a variety of fundamental SEO factors but the main difference between On-Page SEO and other optimization techniques is that it can be directly controlled by the webmaster.

SEO is a collaboration of distinct methods, but not all of them are of equal value.  Some factors are considered more important than others for higher rankings. It is essential for webmasters and SEO professionals alike, to recognize the fundamentals of SEO and the elements that should be considered a priority. There are certain on-page SEO factors that are more effective than others and it’s important to know the influence that each of them can deliver.

The foundations of On-Page SEO should start from the outset. Developing a website with sound fundamentals and structure will make it easier as you move on to more advanced forms of SEO. We’ll start with the most important fundamentals of On-Page SEO and then move on to other less important, non-critical elements.

Critical On-Page SEO

Keywords in the Page/Post Title

One of the most important tags in SEO. The title tag is found in the <head> of your page. This is where it all starts. Used to tell the search engine bots exactly what your page is about. Be descriptive, be original, be honest and you will be rewarded.

Internal Anchor Text

The internal anchor text and navigation for a website should be setup in the developmental stages. It should give your visitors, as well as search engine robots, the ability to easily navigate your site. This not only includes navigation, it also means linking from relevant keywords found in the content of your articles, pages, and other content. Internal links with relevant anchor text are extremely important to your rankings & traffic success.

Theme Relevance

The primary goal of On-Page SEO is to create web pages with content and targeted keywords that build upon the overall theme of a site. Google uses a complex algorithm to determine the theme relevance in order to rank a web page. By examining high-ranking pages, it is possible to discover the ranking factors used in the algorithm to make a site the most relevant. In order to achieve high rankings for keywords in the major search engines (Google, Yahoo and Bing), a website must offer content that is arranged in a well-defined structure so that search engines understand the overall theme.

Unique Content

If the Google Panda update taught us anything, it was not to post copied or duplicate content from other sites. This penalty was huge and it helped clean up many lower quality sites that have skated by on the hard work of others for years.

Fresh Content

Google, Bing, and Yahoo have shifted their philosophies toward giving the user a good experience by providing them with the newest and most relevant results. Whether or not they do so is debatable but providing fresh content to their visitors is a good start. Update your blog or website regularly and you will be rewarded.

Page Speed

The load speed of a website is a fairly new measure that goes along with the idea of giving a good user experience. Some search engines will rank websites higher for faster website load times.

Important On-Page SEO

Keywords in Heading Tags

Heading tags (H1 to Hx) are important SEO tags and are often used to break up the page and support the the Title tag. The H1 tag supports the relevancy of the Title tag. The H2 tag gives specific insights into H1 tags and Titles. The other H3-H6 can be used to support where appropriate.

Keywords in Image Alt Text

Originally used for the visually impaired they have since been used to describe images and have become useful for indexing images. It’s all about the user experience. Adding images to your site make it more visually appealing and will give your visitors a better overall experience.

Keywords in the File Name

Having search engine friendly URLs with keywords included in the file name is a good way to not only give the SEs an indication of navigation and structure but also a way to attract visitors that see their keywords in the URL on the search pages.

Correct Use of rel=”canonical”

Canonical tags can be setup at the server level or added to the <head> of a website. Without this markup a search engine could mistake the WWW version of your website with the non-WWW version, in which case they may see them as having duplicate content. Using the rel=”canonical” attribute solves this problem.

Use of the rel=”Author” Tag

When implemented correctly this small code addition will display a picture (head shot) next to any authored pages in Google’s search results. A very powerful addition, that in some cases, will allow for higher click-through rates compared to standard listings.

Outbound Linking to Relevant Sites

The internet was built to share. Many website owners, however, have become deathly afraid to link to other sites for fear of penalties or loss of PageRank. Most search engines don’t have a problem with site owners linking to other “Relevant” websites. The problem they have is with linking to irrelevant sites. Passing along relevancy is a good thing and should be encouraged.

Good On-Page SEO

Keywords in the Domain Name

Having keywords in the domain is an outdated strategy that will soon be gone. It is however a fairly decent short term strategy that will be utilized until the search engines stop rewarding it. The EMD (Exact-Match-Domain) update was a good start towards decreasing the power of this metric. Eventually branded domains will have greater success.

Keyword Density

Another outdated strategy. A writer shouldn’t be required to add keywords to their work after it has been written. In a perfect world the ranking of a page shouldn’t be influenced by how many times that keyword is found on the page, it should be based on the merits of the writing alone.

There have been improvements though. According to a blog post at, “Latent semantic indexing, which refers to the indexing and retrieval method used by Google to deliver results to searchers. Is one part of Google’s algorithm that can establish associations between different keywords & keyword phrases. Due to LSI being included in the algorithm, articles can now be written with multiple keywords rather than simply focusing on one”.

This is good news and shows that many search engines are trying to move away from rewarding pages based purely upon how many times a keyword is included on a page.

Meta Descriptions

The Meta Description tag is a tag that web owners use to entice a web searcher to visit their page. When a search is performed, the Meta Description appears directly under the Title and URL in a SERP (Search Engine Results Page). It doesn’t have any ranking influence but it is very important to the Click through Rate (CTR) of a page. In many cases the Meta Description that is shown is tied to the actual search term used.

Bold/Underline/Italic Keywords

This one is also very old but may carry some value. Only Matt Cutts knows for certain if this factor carries any weight. It may be worth doing and is actually useful for showing the most important points of an article.

Valid Code/CSS

Valid code and CSS will often have a direct effect on the page speed of a website; therefore it does have some influence on rankings.

Non-Critical On-Page SEO

Meta Keywords

Meta Keywords were the most abused tag pre 2000. Since it was abused so heavily in the past, most search engines have disregarded it entirely.


Having a site developed from the ground up with the proper fundamental On-Page SEO elements is important for the continued success of a web property. As you get into more advanced SEO strategies, you will notice that these first steps could be considered the most important. Without them, all of your hard work in the future may not reach its full potential.

The info-graphic below displays the most important points of On-Page SEO & Off-Page SEO.