How to nail your on-page SEO: A step-by-step guide

  • Sara Moccand-Sayegh

Learn about On-page SEO and which elements of your web page are important to increase your online visibility. Let's start!

On-page SEO is much more than title tags, meta descriptions and valuable content. Here is my actionable guide for digital marketers. I am an SEO Specialist and teamed up with one of my colleagues – a Content Marketing Specialist – for this article. Have fun reading it.

On-page SEO is about creating relevant signals to let search engines know what your page is about.

There are no IT skills needed to implement on-page recommendations as most CMS have an extension for it. For example, if you use WordPress, download the Yoast SEO plugin, or add the Metatag module to Drupal.

On-Page SEO: Hypothetical case study

How to create those relevant signals? Let’s take the example of a florist. StarFlo is located in Lausanne and Zurich, Switzerland. StarFlo has a website in three languages (French, German and English). The flower shop decided to create a specific product page for wedding, in English. A product page is designed to provide information to users about a product and/or a service.

Find relevant keywords with the right search intent

The first step is to define keywords with the highest potential. The goal is to select words, which help to increase the ranking of the wedding product page.
Here are some examples of keywords (non-exhaustive list):

  • “wedding flowers lausanne”
  • “wedding flowers zurich”
  • “wedding table decorations”
  • “wedding bouquet”
  • “rose bouquet bridal”
  • “winter wedding flowers”
  • “wedding floral packages”
  • “orchid wedding bouquet”
  • “wedding flowers shop”

We will take the monthly volume of English keywords in Switzerland into consideration, because we are focusing on a flower shop located in Lausanne and Zurich whose product page is in English.

According to the image below, “wedding table decorations” and “wedding bouquet” have a higher volume (column Search) and a low difficulty score (column KD). Therefore, it could probably make sense to use those keywords. However, you need to investigate further.

If you check Google search results for the keyword “wedding table decorations”, you see a lot of images coming from Pinterest. People who are looking for “wedding table decorations” are looking for ideas and inspiration. As a result, “Wedding table decoration” might be a great blog post topic. As FloStar wants to create a product page, we suggest using “wedding flower shop” as a primary keyword, even if this keyword has a lower volume than “wedding table decorations”. The intent of the people searching “wedding flowers shop” is to buy wedding flowers. The intent of the new product page of FloStar is to sell wedding flowers. Therefore the goal is to align both the intent of the target public and the intent of the product page with this keyword.
Once you have the keywords, optimize the content of the page

On-page SEO structural elements

Title tags, H1, H2, and images are part of the on-page structural elements that communicate with search engines

Title tag best practices: clear and easy to understand

The title tag, is the page title and must contain the keyword in less than 60 characters (600 pixels). Ideally, the title tag is unambiguous and easy to understand. You define the title tag individually for each page.

For example:

Wedding flowers shop in Zurich & Lausanne | StarFlo

You do not need to end your title tag with your brand name. However, it helps to build awareness, even without raising the volume of clicks.

Meta description best practices: a short description with a call to action

The meta description describes the content of a page and appears in the search results. The purpose of the meta description is to help the user choose the right page among the results in Google Search. It must be clear, short and engaging. You have 160 characters at your disposal.

We recommend finishing your meta description with a clear call-to-action. Use a verb to describe what you want your target audience to do.

For example:

StarFlo is a flower shop located in Lausanne & Zurich which designs traditional & modern wedding flower arrangements. See our unique wedding creations.

SEO URL’s best practices

The URL is the address of your website. Its name describes both the content of the page and encompasses the page in the overall site map. The URL should contain the keyword and be short.
The structure of the URL is usually governed by rules in the CMS you are using.
Examples for StarFlo landing page about wedding flowers:
✔︎ https://starflo.ch/wedding-flowers
✘ https://starflo.ch/node/357

Use secondary keywords to reinforce the semantic of your page

Startflow wants to be listed top for “wedding flower shop” and “Lausanne”. You can help this page improve its ranking by also using secondary keywords. Secondary keywords are keywords that relate to your primary keyword.

Ask yourself: what questions are your target audience looking to answer by searching for these keywords? What valuable information can you provide to help them?
Your text content must offer added value for your target audience. To ensure this, create a list of topics. In the case of StarFLo, you can include secondary keywords such as “wedding bouquet” and “wedding table decorations”. It may seem odd that the keyword used as the primary keyword has a lower volume than the secondary keywords, but it makes sense in this context. Because these secondary keywords reinforce the semantic of the page.

In the “wedding bouquet” section, you can give some examples of “Bridesmaid bouquets”, “Bridal bouquets” and “Maid of Honor bouquets”, as well as other services or products related to the proposed bouquets.

SEO H1 & H2 tags best practices: structure the text with several titles

A structured text with titles and subtitles is easier to read. Furthermore, titles support your organic referencing as they are considered strong signals by search engines. Start by defining your titles H1 and H2. Use only one H1. Your titles should be clear and descriptive. Avoid generic or thematic titles.

Here is an example:

  • H1: StarFlo, wedding flower shop specialized in nuptial floral design in Lausanne, Zurich & the surrounding area
  • H2: Outstanding wedding table decorations created by our wedding flower specialist in Lausanne & Zurich
  • H2: Wedding bouquet for the bride in Lausanne & Zurich
  • H2: Best seasonal flowers for your wedding

On-page content best practices: Write a text longer than 300 words

Keep in mind these three key points when you write your text:

  • Anything under 300 words is considered thin content.
  • Make sure that your primary keyword is part of the first 100 words in your text.
  • Structure your text with titles and subtitles to help your readers. Moreover, as said above H1 & H2 are strong signals

Images & videos best practices: Define file names, alt-texts and captions

Search engines don’t scan the content of a video or an image (yet). Search engines scan the content of file names, alt-texts and captions only.
Define a meaningful alt-text for each image and video. The alt-text should include your keyword in the file name. Google can then grasp what the image shows. Remember that you wish the website to load fast, so you may compress images.

SEO Internal linking best practices: create a thematic universe within your website using internal links

When writing your text, try to create links to other pages on your website. You can add links in the text or in teasers to race attention on more (or related) topics.

From a content point of view, when you link pages of your own website, you add value to your target audience as their attention is drawn to other pages of interest. Furthermore, the audience may stay longer on your website. Moreover, creating links gives the search engine a better understanding of the website and creates a thematic universe. Topics within such a universe will be preferred by search engines. Thematic universes help Google determine the importance of a page.

From an SEO point of view, internal linking is very important. Because it implies a transfer of authority between pages. A website with high domain authority will appear higher in the search engine results. Usually, homepages have the highest authority. In the case of StarFLo, you could add a hyperlink that connects the homepage to the wedding page. We also recommend adding hyperlinks between pages. For instance, you are writing about winter wedding flowers on your wedding page, and you have a dedicated page about seasonal bouquets. You could add a hyperlink from the wedding page to the seasonal flower page.

The result: the homepage will transfer the authority to the wedding page and the wedding page to the seasonal flower page. For each transfer of authority, there will be a slight dumping factor. This means that if a page has an authority of 10 when it links to another page, the authority transferred will be for example 8.5.

Outbound links Best practices: add relevant content

Link your content to external sources, when it makes sense. For example, StartFlo provided the floral decorations for a wedding in the Lausanne Cathedral. You can add a link to the website of Lausanne’s Cathedral while mentioning.

Bonus: write SEO-optimized blog posts with strong keywords

After publishing your product page, create more entry points to your website. For example, you can write blog posts about your main subject using powerful keywords.

Answer the needs of your readers

When we did the keyword research for StarFlo, we identified a list of topics connected to the main topic. As a reminder, when we were looking at wedding flowers, we discovered that people were very interested in wedding table decorations. We also noticed that people looked for different kinds of bouquets (types of flowers, etc.). You could, for instance, create a page about winter wedding flowers and use these related keywords on it. This strategy helps to define blog post topics.

On the winter wedding flowers page, you could describe the local flowers available in the winter months, the flowers that go best together, etc.

In this case, each of your pages should focus on a different keyword. If two pages are optimized for the same keyword, they compete with each other.

Prioritize your writing according to your business

Once you have a list of topics, it’s good practice not to start writing all at once. We recommend creating an editorial plan. Be honest with yourself: how many hours per week can you dedicate to writing? How long do you need to write a 500-word article? How long do you need to find or create suitable images?

Start with the strongest keywords and the topic with the highest priority for your business.

Here is an example of prioritization:

  • “Wedding table decoration”
  • “Wedding bouquet”
  • “Winter wedding flowers”
  • “Winter wedding floral packages”

If you start writing in September and the branding guidelines of your shop include ‘local’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘proximity’. You will, therefore, write about “Winter wedding flowers” first.

You decide to focus on:

  • “Winter wedding flowers”
  • “Winter wedding floral packages”

As a wrap-up, we prepared the checklist below for you.

Checklist

  • Main keyword is defined
  • Topic brings value to the target public
  • Meta Description and Title Page are written and contain the keyword
  • URL contains the keyword
  • H1 contains the keyword, at the beginning, if possible
  • Text contains a keyword density of 3%
  • Introduction and last paragraph have a particularly high keyword density
  • File names of photos and videos contain the keyword
  • Alt-Text of photos and videos contain the keyword
  • Photo captions contain the keyword
  • Page contains links to other pages on the site
  • Page contains links to valuable external resources

What’s next

On-page SEO is an important part of SEO. However, it’s not the only aspect. Technical SEO has also a tremendous impact. We work on a hands-on blog post about technical SEO. Reach out to us if you wish to be notified when our guide will be ready! Moreover, don’t miss our next SEO/ content meet-up taking place on the 26th of September. We are going to explain how to perform a keyword research. Contact our content expert if you want to be part of the meet up.

If you want to have a personalized workshop about on-page SEO or just want to increase your ranking on Google contact our SEO team:
for English, German and French.


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