There’s a lot of noise out there around which on-page SEO strategies you should follow, so I’m going to show you the tried and true best practices I’ve used over the past 7 years to drive more than 500,000+ monthly readers to my blog.
Now before we jump over to looking at the backend of one of my most popular recent articles (in the video tutorial below), it’s important to realize that these on-page SEO strategies aren’t a guarantee of content success… you won’t immediately get thousands of readers just by following these on-page SEO strategies.
These are the best practices you need to implement in order to position yourself well for higher organic search rankings, but they’re not going to be responsible for ranking your content as a standalone activity—you’ll still need to go out and write guest blog posts to attract high quality natural links back to your blog, you’ll want to promote your blog content on the social channels your audience spends time on, interact with your target audience in the most popular communities and groups for your niche.
Putting in the work to promote your content on a regular basis is what’s going to help you rank as quickly as possible—but at the end of the day, you still need to check the box of properly optimizing the on-page SEO for your blog posts. Now, let’s do exactly that.
10 On-Page SEO Strategies (How to Optimize a Blog Post for SEO Ranking)
- Write a Strong Headline
- Pick a URL with Your Target Keyword Phrase
- Be Clever with Content Categories
- Utilize Strategic Meta Tags
- Design a Featured Image that Stands Out
- Use Smart Image Alt Text (Alternative Title Tags)
- Include External and Internal Links
- Double Check Your SEO Title (Meta Title)
- Craft a Keyword-Optimized Meta Description
- Keep an Eye on Keyword Density
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a commission. Know that I only recommend products and services I’ve personally used and stand behind. When you use one of my affiliate links, the company compensates me, which helps me run this blog and keep all of my in-depth content free of charge for readers (like you).
When starting a blog, it’s important to start mastering the foundational on-page SEO strategies that’ll help you rank your content well in organic (Google) search results. Let’s quickly dive into the top on-page SEO strategies every blogger should implement today—and if you’d rather watch this guide as a video, tune in below:
Now, let’s dive into my ultimate guide covering the most effective on-page SEO strategies I use on my blog today.
The importance of a strong headline can never be emphasized enough in blog writing.
Recent studies have found that 80% of readers never go beyond reading the headline. So, to improve the chances of your readers going beyond just your headline, you must master the art of crafting an enticing headlines that encourages them to want to read on and see what your content has to offer.
However, your headline goes beyond just hooking your readers. It also has a bearing on your overall blog SEO friendliness—if you optimize the headline for search engine rankings.
Headlines are one of the most crucial elements search engines use to determine whether an article is relevant to a searcher’s query. Because of this, you must pay attention to the way you write and structure yours.
Here are a few pointers to help you craft more effective headlines to nail your on-page SEO:
Lead with a Number
Headlines that feature a number tend to drive more clicks.
One reason for this, is that numbers indicate to readers that your content is easy to scan (and digest). This drives clicks which, in the eyes of search engines, indicate that your content is valuable and should thus be ranked higher.
Front-Load Your Keyword Phrase
Placing your target keyword phrase at the forefront of your headline shows search engines that it’s important. It’s a strong indicator of what your article is all about, as you can see from this example:
Front-loading your keyword also helps readers immediately know what you’re writing about. Remember, people’s attention spans are short (just 10 to 20 minutes on average). If they don’t immediately see the keyword they typed into the search bar right there within your headline, they’ll move on to other blog posts on the SERPs that do feature it clearly.
In a nutshell, front-loading your keyword in the headline:
- Indicates to search engines what your blog post is about
- Drives more clicks, as readers immediately know that your post is relevant
So, as long as it’s possible and your headline still makes sense, make sure your keyword phrase is located within your headline’s first few words.
Another headline hack that can help your blog post’s SEO is to use parenthesis. One reason parentheses help boost SEO is that they help make your headline more visually appealing.
A headline that stands out to the eyes of your potential reader, is more likely to be clicked on—and thus read.
Add a Year
What difference does showcasing the year make in your headline? Well, I’d argue a whole lot!
Including the current year in your headline makes it look a lot more relevant to your readers. We’re living in a fast-paced world and information becomes outdated quickly. Putting a date in your headline is a great way to indicate to search engines and readers that your blog post contains current and relevant information.
Your headline may seem like a small element of your blog post, but believe me, it plays a huge role in how your blog post performs. So, don’t just be clever in your headline writing. Be strategic too.
One mistake many bloggers make, is to leave their URL settings on default without optimizing them—and thus miss out on a major on-page SEO strategy that takes very little effort to implement.
Put simply, if you don’t place your keyword phrase directly into your URL, you’re missing out on a huge SEO ranking factor that search engines place a lot of importance on—which you should be using to your advantage.
Every time you write a blog post, make sure to edit the URL to include your target keyword phase. I’d go as far as to say you should probably never use a dynamically generated URL that WordPress suggests. The presence of any non-essential numbers or symbols in a blog post URL does more harm than good to your on-page SEO ranking ability.
Including your keyword in the URL, on the other hand, makes it readable both for search engines and readers. This is an on-page SEO strategy that goes a long way in helping to optimize your blog posts for maximum SEO ability.
Note: Keep your URLs relatively short and simple. Sometimes, all you have to include is your main keyword phrase and nothing else. I usually recommend removing all stop words (like “a,” “and,” “the,” and such) if you’re considering including more than just your keyword phrase in the URL.
One aspect of on-page SEO that’s commonly ignored (or improperly done) is thoughtfully deciding on site structure, which in one way translates into the categories that your content live within.
I know, it isn’t sexy or exciting, but if you want to optimize your blog post for maximum SEO ranking ability, you have to consider site structure. And one of the most important aspects of site structure that can help your on-page SEO, is assigning a category to each of your blog posts.
Again, it’s all about letting search engines like Google know what your blog (and especially your individual blog post) is all about. Categories help you do just that. They help search engines know that your blog post is relevant to a user’s search query.
Another reason that content categorization is useful for on-page SEO, is that Google recently announced that user experience (UX) will be an important ranking factor from 2021—and having clear categorization in place allows users to more easily navigate to the content they want.
Note: I personally recommend only assigning one category to a blog post, which helps make it extremely clear the topic your article lives under.
Meta tags are small snippets of text that are used to indicate what a page is about, and WordPress makes it very easy to add them into your post during the creation process, like so:
While there’s a lot of debate in the SEO community on whether meta tags actually boost your on-page SEO or not in 2020, I like to believe that at the very least… they don’t hurt!
In theory, meta tags reinforce to search engines what exactly your specific post or page is all about. Think of it as adding a handful of (5 to 10) keyword phrases that describe your article.
Plus, it won’t take you more than a minute or two to include a few of the most relevant meta tags for your blog post—so it doesn’t hurt to include them, just in case they help move the needle with on-page SEO.
How do you write smart meta tags for your blog posts? Simple!
Use your main target keywords and add in a few variations of them. Your tags don’t have to be long, just a few words per tag like my example above. As for how many you should include, 5 to 10 will do the trick.
A featured image is the “thumbnail” image of your blog post, that’ll appear when your article is shared on social media and sometimes in organic search results too. It should serve as a visual summary of what your blog post will cover.
That’s why you absolutely need to assign a featured image to your blog posts—and ideally one that stands out visually.
What does a featured image have to do with on-page SEO and optimizing your blog post to get more traffic?
I’ll show you two good reasons:
- Google sometimes ranks images at the top: Depending upon the type of search query, Google serves up images at the top of their SERPs. If your image stands out from the crowd (i.e. it’s not just a simple stock photo), search engines may favor displaying your image first, thus increasing the chances of users clicking on it to come read.
- It helps with social engagement: When your readers share a link to your blog post, the featured image is what their network sees first. If the featured image is relevant to the content of the article, that helps drive engagement.
Remember that humans are visual creatures—so giving us enticing eye candy is a great way to attract more of us into reading your blog post.
Alternative title text (also known as image alt tags) describe the purpose of an image on a page. While their primary purpose is to enhance accessibility, they also provide better context to search engines that helps them index the image properly—and take their text into account for the greater purpose of the page as a whole as well.
Here are three tips for writing smart alt text:
- Alt text must be as descriptive of the image as possible without being too long (think 5 to 15 words maximum)
- Include keywords in your alt text as long as you don’t keyword stuff (you can get penalized for keyword stuffing)
- To avoid keyword stuffing, use different image alt text for different images and stay true to describing each image
Whatever you do, don’t just upload your images into WordPress without adding alt text to them… because an image with blank alt text (1) doesn’t give screen readers any assistance and (2) also leaves the purpose ambiguous in the eyes of search engines.
Image alt text may not be as big a factor as our other on-page SEO strategies here, but they do help optimize your blog posts for maximum SEO ranking ability—and the goal is to hit all of these best practices that work well when combined together.
Links are the truly backbone of the Internet, which is why search engines like Google place a huge emphasis on them when it comes to ranking signals. If your blog post is linked to from a highly authoritative website, then Google is likely to reward your post with a higher organic ranking position as a result.
And if the search engines place so much importance on links, then you should too.
When it comes to on-page SEO, there are two main types of links you need to include in your blog posts—external links and internal links. Moreover, you need to be strategic in the way (and locations) you create both types of links.
External Links in On-Page SEO
Also sometimes called outbound links, external links are links that point to other sites. They’re usually used to back up facts or to give your readers more information you can’t cover in your particular blog post:
When adding external links to your blog posts, three of the most important rules to observe include:
- Avoid linking to a direct competitor website (where there’s a lot of crossover on content topics) if you can
- Never link to a competing blog post that targets the same keyword phrase you want to rank your article for
- Don’t link externally (or internally) with the anchor text you want this blog post to rank for in organic search
And when you do link to other websites, make sure you prioritize external links that are:
- Reputable websites. Linking to a reputable website is a great way to “tap into” their authority. It indicates to search engines that the content on your page can also be trusted.
- Recent posts. As much as possible, try to link to a page with a publish (or update) date within the last couple of years.
- Original sources. When citing a statistic or fact, make sure to link to the original source whenever possible.
Adding relevant, value-adding external links to your blog posts, is a great way to solidify the on-page SEO of your article, as it helps build trust with both your readers and search engines.
Internal Links in On-Page SEO
Internal links are simply links to other posts or pages on your blog. And while you have the power to, you shouldn’t link to every single post on your blog within a new article, just because you can.
You should have an internal linking strategy that’s designed to boost the on-page SEO of your most important articles (or pages). Here are a few tips to crafting an internal linking strategy that makes sense:
- Regularly link to the most important pages of your blog (the most frequently)
- Always link to relevant and related pages as you’re writing a new article
- Try to include around 5 to 10 internal links per new post you publish (if possible)
When executed well, your internal linking strategy will help boost your blog posts on-page SEO by sharing around the authority your overall site receives whenever it gets linked to from another website.
So, next time you draft a new article, remember to link to at least a few other relevant posts or pages on your blog.
Your SEO title (also called a meta title) is another critical element you need to get right if you want to optimize your blog post for maximum SEO ranking ability. It’s an on-page SEO strategy that absolutely must be leveraged every time you publish something new.
What is an SEO Title?
An SEO title is the title that shows up in organic search results. Its main function is to tell search engines (and searchers) exactly what to expect from your blog post. Here’s an example of my SEO title for a recent article:
How Do You Optimize Your SEO Title?
This is where the right blogging tools (like Yoast) really come in handy.
If you haven’t installed Yoast for WordPress on your blog yet, you must. It’ll help you efficiently and easily optimize your on-page SEO with a checklist of best practices like so:
Now, how do you optimize your SEO title?
- Watch your SEO title length: The optimum length for SEO titles is typically considered to be under ~60 characters long, but it’s worth some experimentation because search engines will occasionally give you more title real estate. Anything beyond 60 characters often gets truncated though. Don’t worry, Yoast will help you see when your SEO title is too long.
- Front-load your keyword: Placing your keyword phrase as close to the beginning of your SEO title as possible, will show both search engines and readers the most important topic your article is covering.
- Avoid all caps: Aside from the fact that it’s basically shouting in Internet language, all caps can confuse search engines, as well as reduce the number of characters you can use.
- Don’t keyword stuff: Keyword stuffing your SEO title can get you penalized by search engines (your ranking will be lower). It also results in a poor user experience for searchers, resulting in low click-through rates.
- Write for your readers: Your SEO title must make sense to your readers first and foremost, don’t just write it for search engines alone.
An optimized SEO title goes a long way in boosting your on-page SEO game, as search engines will use it to determine whether your blog post is relevant to a searcher’s query.
A great SEO title also helps drive more clicks, as it shows the true value of your post—so spend a little time on it!
A meta description is a short summary of your blog post that appears below your SEO title on the SERPs:
While search engines can automatically generate this snippet by pulling the first sentence or two from your introduction, it’s best to create your own optimized version (which Yoast allows you to easily do).
That’s because sometimes the snippet search engines automatically pull from your blog post may not actually include your target keyword phrase—or be the absolute best representation of what your article is designed to cover.
In order to be truly impactful for your on-page SEO, the meta description must include your target keyword phrase.
Another reason you should always write your own meta description, is so that you can use it as a mini “sales pitch” for your blog post. If executed well, a meta description can hook readers and encourage searchers to click on your post first.
To do this well, take a few passes at writing a short teaser (or trailer) of what your blog post is all about.
As much as the number of times your keyword phase is mentioned through out your article plays an important role in optimizing your blog post for effective on-page SEO, you also need to be careful not to go overboard into keyword stuffing territory.
This means you have to keep an eye on your keyword density… but how much is too much?
Personally, I aim for a keyword density of somewhere between 1-3%, but this answer can vary depending upon the SEO consultant you’re talking to 😂
Going beyond the range of 1-3% though, can sometimes be pretty aggressive and lead you down the slippery path of over-optimization that (if detected) search engines will often bury your ranking for. Thankfully, Yoast’s SEO for WordPress plugin will help you see what the keyword density of your blog post is and guide you to staying in a safe range.
If you find your keyword density is a bit too high, try replacing your exact keyword phrases with some synonyms that could also be searched by potential readers.
Bonus On-Page SEO Factors to Consider for Boosting Your Search Rankings
On-page SEO takes into account a lot of different factors that work together to help create well-rounded blog posts that are optimized for ranking well in organic search. While I’ve mentioned the major on-page SEO strategies you need to take into account here above already, there are a few other smaller factors worth considering.
Use Headers to Your Advantage in On-Page SEO
Your headers are another on-page SEO factor that can help boost the ranking ability of your blog posts. Here are two tips for optimizing your header usage throughout your blog layout:
- Use HTML tags: HTML tags (H1, H2, H3, H4 and so on) help search engines understand the structure and purpose of your blog post more easily.
- Include your keywords in headers: Wherever possible, include your target keyword phrase and its variations in a wide range of heading sizes throughout your blog post.
Don’t treat your headers as an after-thought. Remember, every aspect of your post can be optimized for on-page SEO friendliness—and headers play a vital role in boosting the overall on-page SEO of your articles.
Speed Up Your Pages
Pages that load faster have an advantage over those that load slowly. That’s why you should do everything in your power to ensure that the pages and posts on your blog load as quickly as possible.
Google even built a tool, called PageSpeed Insights that you can use to test how long it takes a particular page on your site to load—and offers up extremely actionable & specific advice for how to make your pages load faster.
On that note, an important on-page SEO strategy to help improve your page load speed, is to optimize all of the images within your blog posts (as those can often be the largest files that get loaded every time your article is requested).
Here are a couple of ways to optimize the images on your blog:
- Image and video compression: This reduces the size of your images and videos, making them load faster. You can use free & cheap tools or plugins like TinyPNG to help do that directly in WordPress.
- Use the right image format: PNG and JPEG are the preferred file formats for blog post images, as they are easy to compress.
Next time you add visuals to your blog post, make sure to optimize them for speed first. This’ll help you curry favor with both search engines and your readers.
On-Page SEO Final Thoughts: Optimizing Your Blog Posts for SEO is Crucial
Whether you like it or not, ranking well on search engines has become more difficult in recent years as the competition becomes fiercer by the day—yet it’s still one of the most sustainable (large) traffic sources if you can nail your on-page SEO and do a good job at building the domain authority of your blog as well.
That’s why it’s important to lay the right foundation for blogging success right from the start, by implementing these on-page SEO strategies across your content.
Now, I want to wrap this up by reiterating that these foundational on-page SEO strategies are the things you must be doing with your content in order to get it to a place where it’s viewed as high quality & authoritative in the eyes of search engines.
There are still other off-page SEO factors that’ll need to be implemented in order to get your content ranking at the top of competitive search results too. Some notable off-page SEO factors include:
- Guest blogging (for the purpose of acquiring high quality, natural links and driving incremental traffic)
- Racking up a meaningful amount of social shares (signaling to search engines that your content is popular)
- Driving referral traffic from communities, publications and other reputable online destinations
All of these signals together, in conjunction with good foundational on-page SEO, will help you rank at the top of search results—and of course, help drive traffic to your blog at the same time.