21 on-page SEO tactics that you cannot avoid 
Everyone wants to be on top of the search results, or at least on the first page. This doesn’t come easy.
It takes a lot of time and work to build a good search presence.
But let me tell you, if you follow these on-page SEO tactics that I’m going to list down here, you will see results.
This guide is mostly about doing on-page SEO with WordPress sites. But the same tactics can be applied to non-WordPress sites as well, but in a slightly different manner.
Okay, let’s get started.
On-page SEO first
If you really don’t know what on-page SEO is, it is any SEO activity that we do ‘on the website’. It is basically optimizing the pages on your website for a better search presence.
If you have a new website, once the pages are all set, try to complete all these on-page SEO activities first.
Let’s look at these hacks one by one.
1. Add an XML sitemap
If you want the search engine bots to find every page on your website, a sitemap is a must.
An XML sitemap contains all the important pages of a website and helps search engines to find the structure of these pages.
Sites without proper internal linking may not be crawled properly by search engines. But the presence of a sitemap solves the issue.
If you are on WordPress, the Yoast SEO plugin is a great tool that helps with creating sitemaps. This plugin automatically adds an XML sitemap to your website.
See the below steps to view your website’s XML sitemap on Yoast SEO plugin.
- Click on Yoast SEO options on the left in your WordPress dashboard
- Select General
- Select Features
- Find XML sitemaps option
- Turn it on
- Click on the question mark to view the sitemap (See the image below)
2. Add a robots.txt file
A robots.txt (case sensitive) file instructs search engines on how to crawl pages on a website.
It tells the search engine bots to crawl or not crawl certain parts of a website.
Here is the basic format.
User-agent: [user-agent name] Disallow: [URL string not to be crawled]
User-agent indicates the name of the bot. Googlebot in the case of Google.
Apart from allow or disallow, crawl delays can also be mentioned in a robots.txt file. The robots.txt file should be placed in a website’s top-level directory.
If your website has a page that you do not want search engines to crawl, you can disallow it on the robots.txt file. This is common in case of thank you pages or dedicated landing pages where you often offer a free giveaway download.
Adding robots.txt file is taken care by Yoast SEO plugin if you are on WordPress. Here is where you can find them.
- Go to Yoast SEO options on the left in your WordPress dashboard.
- Go to tools.
- Select file editor. File editor will show you a page where you can edit your robots.txt file.
You can read more about robots.txt file here.
3. Optimize the title tag
Title tag is what you see on the top of every browser window. It normally should contain the title of the web page, and most importantly the main keyword.
For example, if you want your page to rank for the keyword ‘Digital Marketing Agencies in Dubai’, it is essential that you have it in your title tag.
If you are using WordPress, you can optimize your title tag with the help of Yoast SEO plugin.
It will tell you the presence of your keyword in the title tag, its optimal length and will also show you a preview of how it looks in the search results.
Here’s a picture of the Yoast SEO plugin interface.
3. Optimize the meta description
Meta description is what you see below the title of the page in the search results. Just like the title tag, it is essential that you have the main keyword in your meta description.
The optimal length for a meta description is now less than 320 characters. The Yoast SEO plugin in WordPress will help you set up a meta description of the right length. (See image above)
5. Optimize URLs
Make your URLs simple and place your target keyword within.
Avoid long URLs and the ones with dates.
Check out the structure of this URL to an article on our website about Digital Marketing.
The target URL is www.digitug.com/digital-marketing
It simply conveys what the article is about and also contains the main keyword within the URL.
The format that you can follow is:
www.example.com/main-keyword (Sample URL)
Again if you are using WordPress, things are easier than before. You can directly edit the slug for every page or post. Also, you can alter the structure of the URL in permalink settings (Go to settings and choose permalink).
6. Use h1 tag for the main heading
You don’t have to be a pro in HTML to do SEO.
But some knowledge of HTML like the basic tags comes in handy.
There are tags available from h1 to h6 where h1 being the most important.
The best practice is to wrap the main heading in an h1 tag. Also, make sure there is only one h1 tag on a webpage.
A normal h1 tag will look like this:
<h1> Here goes the heading </h1>
In a WordPress visual editor, it is very convenient to give heading tags. You can opt for an h1 tag for the main heading and an h2 for the subheading and so on.
7. Add alt tags for images
For any image on your website, two things are a must.
Title and alt tag.
If you are using a WordPress site, it is quite easy to set these up in the media library.
Check out this example below:
If you have an article that talks about Digital Marketing, you can give the title ‘Digital Marketing’ to the featured image (main image) on that page.
Make the below changes for better optimization (example)
Image File Name: Digital Marketing.png
Title: Digital Marketing
Alt Text: Digital-Marketing
It is always a good practice to use a hyphen (-) to separate words in an alt text.
Alt Texts are meant for search engine bots. When a search engine bot crawls your website, it sees only the code. Giving alt texts for images will help these bots identify what an image is about. This will certainly keep your web pages better optimized for rankings.
8. Check page loading speed with PSI and GT Metrix
Google ranks pages that load fast. So it is important to check your website for its loading time and speed.
Page Speed Insights from Google and GT Metrix are two very effective tools to find out how your website is performing in terms of loading time and speed.
Find the below links
These two tools will assign your website a performance score based on your site’s particulars. And the best part is these tools will give you a set of recommendations on exactly what you can improve to maximize your page’s loading speed.
9. Compress images
The tools mentioned above will tell you if you have got images that are of a large size on your website.
However, it is important to compress your images for better loading speed.
You can use this tool called Optimizilla for compressing images without losing quality.
You can also use Adobe Photoshop’s save for web option to reduce file size considerably.
Then for the WordPress users, there are plugins available to compress images that are already present on your website. But we would suggest manually compressing images that are already on your site.
Just find images that are of large size, compress them manually and upload again. Also, if you are uploading a new image, make sure it is of a minimum size using the tool mentioned above.
10. Leverage browser caching
This is a major step to speed up your website.
Why rely on browser caching?
Because it reduces website loading time for repeat visitors. Normally whenever a user visits your website, the browser will have to download all the files of your website from the server. This might take longer if your website has large files such as images.
Here’s where browser caching can help. It will store some of your website files on the browser (on a user’s first visit) and will be served to repeat visitors without loading them from the server. This considerably improves loading time.
Browser caching can be enabled on WordPress sites by simply using some plugins. The most recommended plugins are;
- WP Super Cache
- W3 Total Cache
But there are some instances where your hosting provider doesn’t support these plugins. If you are using GoDaddy managed WordPress hosting, it doesn’t allow you to use browser caching plugins. Instead, the hosting itself provides caching for your website (most managed WordPress hosting providers have this feature).
GoDaddy managed WordPress hosting also has a flush cache option on the WordPress dashboard that will help you clear cache by the click of a button.
11. Minify scripts
Again, as loading speed of your website is going to affect your rankings, it is essential that we go for all the tried and tested methods to speed up.
Now if you own a WordPress site, things are again easy. You can use these plugins given below to minify scripts on your site.
- W3 Total Cache (which we mentioned above for browser caching)
12. Make your website responsive
Having a responsive website is a must if you want to rank on search results. As more of the traffic is moving to mobile and other portable devices, responsive websites will invite more traffic.
Check your website for responsiveness on various screens. If you have a developer, ask him to ensure responsiveness for multiple devices.
If you are using a WordPress site, most of the themes these days are already responsive. So that makes your job a lot easier.
Even then there will be minor tweaks to be done if you are using plugins like Slider Revolution for setting up sliders on your homepage.
13. Build internal links
Internal links on your website will affect your rankings positively. It will pass on link equity from your pages that rank well to other pages within your website.
It is always a good idea to link out to other posts within your blog. You can also use various anchor texts to the same content. Again, it is a better practice to insert links within a readable piece of content.
14. Give outbound links
We all know backlinks are important.
At the same time, outbound links are important too.
We can link out to other authoritative sites from content on our website. If you are publishing a new blog, you can link out to other authoritative content on the same topic.
It is a better practice to give outbound links inside content with various anchor texts.
While linking out, we must ensure the authority of the sites that we are linking to. If you aren’t really sure about the authority of a site, rel=nofollow tags should be used.
Using nofollow tags will not pass link equity to the site you are linking out to. If you haven’t used a nofollow tag on a link, it will stay as dofollow. That means it is going to pass on link equity and affect the rankings of the target page.
Normally we can manually edit the links in the code and add rel=nofollow tags on to the link. But this could be time-consuming and a little confusing if you have multiple links on a page.
Now if your site runs on WordPress there is an easy way to add rel=nofollow tags to your outbound links.
There is a plugin called Title and Nofollow for Links by Flector.
We find this plugin super convenient as it adds a checkbox in the edit link window in the WordPress dashboard.
You can check or uncheck this box depending on whether you want a link to be nofollow or dofollow. By checking the tick box, it automatically adds the rel=nofollow attribute to any link from your site.
15. Presence of keyword in content
Previously people used to overly stuff keywords into their content to attain better rankings. But things are not that easy today, if you do keyword stuffing intensely on your web pages, you may end up getting penalized by Google.
But again, it is good to have your keywords sprinkled over your content moderately. Placing your keyword within the first 100 words of your content affects your rankings positively.
16. Long form content ranks well
Yes, you read it right.
You have to write long and in-depth articles to rank well.
There will be tonnes of 1000 words articles on a random topic on the web. But if you really want to stand out, you will have to do thorough research and come up with detailed articles.
Blog posts and articles with more than 2000 words rank considerably well. But make sure you aren’t purposely stretching your content for length with irrelevant sections and text.
The key is, write in-depth content that add value to the readers.
17. Make your title catchy
Apart from all the technical stuff, optimizing your content is a great way to drive traffic.
Always give your blog posts a title that will attract readers.
You can use words like free, review, easy, step by step, quick etc. to attract readers. Also, it is a good practice to use parentheses at the end of your title citing an additional benefit or value.
E.g. How to do on-page SEO in your WordPress site [step by step guide]
The parentheses here at the end of the title convey exactly what the article contains and also add value to the reader.
Another tactic is to use numbers at the beginning of the title.
E.g. 10 proven ways to drive traffic on to your website
Adding numbers to your title makes it catchy and drives more traffic to your site.
18. Use LSI keywords
LSI stands for Latent Semantic Indexing. It is a mathematical method used to determine the relationship between terms and concepts in content.
Let’s see how that helps us.
You would have noticed a bunch of search terms shown at the bottom of the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) that are related to what you have searched.
These are LSI keywords.
They are super valuable and if you add them moderately in your content that will affect your rankings positively.
It is suggested that you compliment your main keyword with two LSI keywords. LSI keywords may also be used in your meta description to boost rankings.
There are some great tools available on the web to help you identify LSI keywords.
Check out these two tools below.
19. Publish quality content
This is the best strategy you can ever have.
If you have quality content, people will keep coming back to you.
That will lead to fewer bounce rates, increased dwell time, more page views and eventually better rankings.
The uniqueness of your content is also a big factor. When you become a trusted source of information, you will see your rankings going up.
20. Use social sharing buttons
This will help people to share your content on social media channels. Social media is a great way to reach more potential audience.
If your website runs on WordPress, adding social sharing buttons is no brainer. You can just install one of those social sharing plugins and enable it right away.
Here are some of the free social sharing plugins.
- Easy Social Sharing by Theme Grill
- Simple Social Buttons by WP Brigade
They will help you get it done.
21. Add an SSL certificate to your site
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, it literally changes http into https, which is more secure.
SSL certificates were used only for sites with payment gateways and transactions in the earlier days.
But now Google has made it a parameter to decide rankings of websites. So you better have one on your website.
Browsers like chrome already show a warning saying ‘connection not secure’ on websites without an SSL certificate.
See the difference here.
This is how it looks without an SSL certificate.
And with an SSL certificate, things will look much better.
I think that covers all the ‘must-do’ on-page SEO tactics for your website. Once you have done all these, you can slowly move to other off-page SEO activities like social shares.
A perfectly optimized page is halfway through on its SEO journey. But the results are going to take time and you also need to publish more content consistently to gain rankings.
Hope you find these tactics useful. Do you have any comments or feedback?
Let me know in the comments section.
See you soon