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What is on-page SEO?

Hey there I’m John Doherty and I’m the founder and CEO of Credo where we connect great companies with the best pre-vetted digital marketing firms.

Today we’re talking about on-page SEO. It’s a topic I get asked about a lot as a veteran SEO and something that a lot of people who we speak with who are thinking about doing SEO on their website don’t understand well enough to prioritize. And it doesn’t help that there are people saying on-page SEO doesn’t matter.

If this is you, then you’re feeling some frustrations. These include:

  • Not knowing where to start with on-page SEO
  • Not knowing who to listen to
  • Not knowing how to prioritize on-page SEO

You also feel that if you can solve this part of SEO, then you’ll actually be able to focus on a lot of other areas in your business to keep driving it forward.

Not having your on-page SEO squared away is like having a car with a beautiful interior, but an engine that is leaking oil. It might look good, but it’s not going to get you anywhere fast and no matter how much gas or oil you put into it, you’re just not going to get very far.

If this is you, then this video is going to unblock you. You’ll learn:

  • What on-page SEO is
  • How to audit your website pages so you can improve them
  • How proper on-page SEO can minimize the need for backlinks and other activities

Back in 2017 I was still doing SEO consulting with some larger companies. I was working with a large brand out of San Francisco that was recognized as an industry leader. Their SEO performance was lacking, so they brought me in.

After doing a full audit of their site, I found that many of their high volume search term pages were not structured properly for SEO. Within a few weeks we made that change to their template, and within 3 months we had doubled their organic traffic.

That won’t work for everyone, as this was an established brand with a lot of backlinks from other sites, but I’ve seen this happen more than just this one instance.

Today I’m going to share with you my five step framework for on-page SEO. These are, in my experience, the most impactful parts of on-page and on-site SEO.

Here’s my framework:

  • Meta tags. Every page on your site (except for maybe your About and Terms and Conditions pages) should have unique titles and meta description values that are informed by keyword research and then other content on the pages written around the target keyword phrase for that page.
  • Headings and subheadings. I come from a web development and writing background, which means that I always prioritize proper heading structure. Start with your H1 as your page’s title containing your main keyword phrase, then as you work down the page using H2s for main headings, H3s for subheadings, and so on. This helps the search engines determine the main points and focus of your page.
  • On-page content. The written content on your page should be addressing the main topic at hand, and be written naturally. To give yourself a better chance at ranking, do some research around topics related to your main topic to understand what you should mention on the page to help search engines deduce the topic you are talking about. For example, would you mention credit cards without mentioning Visa or Mastercard?
  • Vary your content. Multiple studies over the years have shown that pages with content containing lists, headings, images, and more rank better than pages with just text. Also, pages with only videos embedded usually do not rank well, so consider adding transcripts and other types of media to these pages.
  • Internal links. Search engines discover your site’s content through links, both internal and external. It’s easiest to control your internal links, so work to prioritize your most important pages with internal links from other pages and ideally your main navigation where it makes sense. The closer you can bring these to your homepage via links, the better.

It’s a common myth that “on-page SEO is dead” and “keywords don’t matter any more”. While it is true that a lot of the simple tricks that people used to use back in the day to rank sites don’t work anymore, it’s false to say that on-page SEO and keywords don’t matter anymore. How they work has changed, but it’s still an incredibly valuable part of SEO that when done correctly can make all of your other SEO efforts more effective.

If this was helpful to you and you’re looking to hire an SEO agency to help you out, make sure you first download our Busy executive’s guide to hiring a digital agency.