OnPage SEO Basics: Foundations and Basic Strategies

Are we not already “on the page?” What exactly do you mean “OnPage?”

An astute point, but no, we’re not already on the page: merely visiting a website is not exactly what is meant by “OnPage SEO.” “OnPage” means what it sounds like, though: it’s SEO that deals within the content, copy, and pages of your site.

Wait, does this mean there’s an OffPage SEO?

Yes, absolutely. OffPage is occasionally also known as Off-Site or OffSite SEO. OffPage factors include items such as link building, social signals, guest posts, brand mentions, and beyond. Mostly, OffPage consists of tasks that perform a valuable function but do not directly correlate to a page. 

But wait, wait, wait. Let’s not get lost before we’re even started. Let’s actually get back to discussing OnPage, too.

Foundations: OnPage SEO Ranking Factors

Text Content is King typed on retro typewriter

It bears repeating.

Like other forms of SEO, OnPage SEO is a combination of ranking factors considered by algorithms while fetching your search results. So before we go straight to some bombass techniques, let’s start foundationally and discuss the main OnPage factors:

  1. Content
  2. Title Tag
  3. URL
  4. Alt text on images

Content

When flitting through OnPage factors, the content of a page is paramount to an algorithm’s consideration.

We’ve said it before and we'll even repeat ourselves: outstanding, compelling content should function as one of your number one priorities in SEO-taming. Click To Tweet

Sure, that seems to make sense, but how is the content of a page judged? What makes materials good or acceptable?

Well, algorithms are “trained” (read: programmed) to ensure that:

  1. The content can fulfill a need or demand.
  2. The content can be linked.  

Er, okay, so how do we make sure this is the case for our content?

Another important question! Someone has had their coffee today, apparently!

Content: Providing Fulfilling Content

Whether text, video, images or sounds, content should fulfill a need or demand viewers. This can mean Star Wars gifs for Star Wars fans in IT, or it could look something like an SEO article written for small business owners working on their own SEO. Another way to look at “fulfilling content?” A niche audience actively targeted and engaged.

See? You got this.

Content: Linkability

Next, if you can’t have your content linked to, not only are you bottoming out on the necessities of effective SEO, but even the algorithms will rage at/exclude your page. Here are a few examples of how this can happen:

  1. Paywalls
  2. Content that’s only viewable after a login
  3. AJAX-powered slideshows
  4. Inability to reproduce or easily share

There are more examples, let’s break it down like this: if it’s not easy to link to, you’re unlikely to rank at all or rank well thanks to the algorithm’s programming on hard-to-link resources.  

Title Tag

Business concept: Printed html code for "About us" page - technology banner, includes title tag

Is “About Us” enough for a title?

We discussed the role of content, but what other factors impact and culminate OnPage SEO factors?

Welp, up next, let’s talk about the good ol’ title tag.

If you’re posting in an HTML based editor, or just know HTML, the title tag is in the <head> tag and looks like this:

          <head>
<title>Getting ON OnPage SEO 101</title>
          </head>

Most CMS management editors, such as WordPress, have a convenient blank where you input your content’s title, and the editor throws the title into the HTML for you. Dope, right? Definitely, in our opinion. We can’t imagine having to hand-code every post or even worry about coding in HTML tags for each blog post. Web designers and writers of a certain age, though, might remember having to do that back in the day of GeoCities and the like.

Woof. Let’s surf away from that wave on Memory Lane. Damn.

So what are algorithms looking for in a title? How do we optimize a title tag?

The format of title tags should be consistent throughout all blog posts and usually look something like this:

Top 10 Pizza Cheeses - Cheddar is Champion | PizzaHut

As a breakdown: (Primary Keyword) – (Secondary Keyword) | (Company Name)

In Google’s case, the search engine displays 50-60 characters, regardless of how long your title tag runs. Make it count and keep your title tags within that limit as best as possible for the algorithms to give your page a passing grade.

Optimizing title tags may feel a bit too specific, but don’t forget that your title shows up on the search engine result page (SERP), as the title on shared social media posts, and at the top of web browsers.

Title Tags: What to Avoid

Character length isn’t the only thing to keep an eye on. When putting together a worthy title, there are more considerations you should keep in mind as no-gos or in the “avoid” category:

  1. Don’t keyword stuff. Use the keyword, but use it once.
  2. Keep your customers happy. Write a title that would function as both pleasing and helpful if you were the viewer.
  3. Make the title relevant to the page. If your page is about horses, the title should indicate such and not mention things like boats or sales.
  4. Keep primary keywords first. Try not to push the primary keyword to the back of the title.

URL

Search bar on virtual screen

Better type that URL in fast! It’s gettin’ ready to take off!

What about URLs? What, are they fancy, too?

Yes. All parts of your OnPage SEO are “fancy,” if we’re honest. They should all have genuine consideration for each particular aspect of OnPage, and yes, that includes your URL.

Let’s drop the first truthbomb: the categorical hierarchy of your URL matters. One of the most common issues that can wreck a URL portion of OnPage SEO is a nonsensical hierarchy or directory. The hierarchy, as reflected in the URL, should feature a clear, logical path to where your page exists.

Good URL: fda.gov/news/august-2018/new-drug-developed
Bad URL: example.org/title/245jtl988b

See how the good URL has a natural flow and how without even reading the article, the title and hierarchy has clued you in that this page is 1. news, 2. from August 2018, and 3. about a new drug that was developed.

Alt Text for Images

Frame with old paper and photos on wooden background.

That’s quite a few opportunities for alt text.

Next up, alt text. If you’re unfamiliar, alt text (alternative text) is an HTML property for image tags. If the image does not show up or when the image is hovered over, alt text appears and (should) indicate what the image is. In an image tag, alt text looks like this:

<img src=“tree.jpg” alt=“Tall palm tree leaning over clear ocean waves”> 

Alt text is commonly managed by editors such as WordPress and are automatically included as a blank to fill-in when said image is added to the gallery.

Ultimately, functional alt text that fundamentally describes what’s going on in the image is helpful to readers, including those with accessibility needs.

This former predominantly accessible trait has also become a manner of ranking, as well. The context provided by alt text is now also how crawlers properly index images.

Alt Text: A Correct How-To

To accurately use alt text, here are some quick considerations to bear in mind as you set up your images or image tags.

Whether included in your img src tags or if automatically coded into your HTML by your CMS management editor, your alt text should consider the following:

  • Blank alt tabs help no one. Use them, fill them out.
  • A phrase tends to be more helpful than a word or two. Again, “Tall palm tree leaning over clear ocean waves” is more helpful than “tree” for (what we consider) fairly obvious reasons.
  • If you’re having problems, think about the search query you’d identify with that image if you were using an image search. If you’re looking at a snowglobe, identifying that the snowglobe is shaped like cheese and says “Wisconsin” is relevant to your alt text. Instead of using “snowglobe,” consider “Wisconsin cheese-shaped snowglobe” or “Wisconsin cheese snowglobe.”
  • While phrases tend to serve as the go-to, still keep phrases short. 125 characters generally functions as the cut off point for a lot of screen readers, so do your best to keep it at 125 or below while remaining concise in your description.
  • If you need more than 125 characters, use longdesc. Longdesc, or long description, is another tag that can be used in an img src tag and allows accommodation of descriptions for more complex images. Example: 
    <img src=”tree.jpg” alt=”Tall palm tree leaning over clear ocean waves” longdesc=”Tall palm tree leaning over clear water while long-haired person in beach chair hands glass to companion in chair beside them”>
  • Keyword stuffing is right out. Keyword stuffing in alt text used to appear rather often, even for white hat SEO deployers. Only put the keyword in if the keyword is absolutely the best description of the image.
  • No “image of” in the description. No need to add “Picture of” “Image of” or any of the likes to the beginning of your alt text descriptions. In fact, they aren’t only not needed; they should straight up not get used.

Better OnPage SEO: An Attack Plan

Side view of a man imagining to be a super hero looking aspired.

Get that cape on, we’ve got a kickass plan for you.

Now that we’ve provided a foundation of what OnPage consists of let’s dig our heels into the mud a bit more. We’ve explored the main factors that contribute to successful OnPage, but how can we optimize these even further to boost rankings?

Lucky for you, we’ve got another list:

  1. Truly understand the vital four OnPage factors. Read about them, know why they have the considerations they do. Reread, if you need to. After you’ve latched onto their purpose and how they’re used in ranking, you’ll find it easier to rationally make valuable OnPage decisions without having to fight through tutorials to find what you information you need.
  2. Understand that those four aren’t the only OnPage factors. As briefly mentioned, OnPage simply refers to what is written into your code and content. OffPage SEO is how you work to build your brand name. Other minor aspects of OnPage include site performance, anchor text, your HTML tags, keyword density, and more. (If you keep an eye out, we’ll next be releasing a guide to the lesser OnPage SEO considerations.)
  3. Keep your site user-friendly. Just like with SEO & UX, UX creates an environment where SEO can thrive. User-friendliness lends itself beautifully to a naturally stronger OnPage SEO. While user-friendliness tends to serve as a different type of SEO, OnPage and usability work hand-in-hand to provide well-rounded SEO.
  4. Make quality your number one priority. Whether the quality of the blog you’ve written or the quality of your site’s copy, ensure that no matter what, quality is your primary responsibility.

OnPage creates an opportunity for your page to speak for itself before it’s even loaded. Whether a crisp URL or in refreshing, fulfilling content, crawlers and algorithms will bring you the best page based on OnPage SEO. If you want to find yourself featured near the top of a SERP, make sure your OnPage is OnPoint.

OnPage: Not OnPoint?

If you’re having difficulty aligning your content with the demands of OnPage SEO, contact us. We’re SEO professionals with cumulative decades of experience in the field. If you’re having trouble, we’ve got you. Get in touch, and we’ll dominate your industry!

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