2021 On-Page SEO Guide.

Every year a new guide on on-page SEO is written, and it always starts off with “SEO has changed” and continues with the same old tactics.

If you expect to rank in 2021, you have got to have a quality website with something to offer your user. Google has made it so SEO tactics of before are no longer recognized, and rankings now are based on quality, merit, social proof, and authority. The way we go about learning search engine optimization is a little different than the average SEO tutorial, so stay with us.

At the cornerstone of any SEO campaign is on-page SEO. This guide is a comprehensive tutorial to learning on-page SEO, meaning it requires a great detail of technical SEO experience already. Yes, it will cover all of the basics such as title tags and meta descriptions, but we will also delve into some of the more technical aspects of on-page SEO such as structured data, rel=canoncial, and JavaScript.

June 2021 Update – Updates reflecting new developments in Core Web Vitals, Schema implementation and recent algorithm updates.

January 2020 Update – Undergoing major revamp of our on-page guide. Redoing a lot of the screenshots, many of the old illustrations were based on the old Search Console. Updating a lot of information based on Google’s own updates as well as our tactics.

December 2019 10th Update – Added E-A-T & YMYL section. We update this guide on a constant basis, at least once per week. Just this past week we’ve removed stale / outdated information and added over 3000 words to our on-page SEO guide. As of January 2020 we are currently working on updating our section on meta descriptions since Google made this massive adjustment essentially doubling the length of meta descriptions in the SERPs.

Table of Contents – On-Page SEO Guide

Our WordPress speed optimization guide is quite possibly one of the most thorough guides on improving the load time of WordPress websites. Since approximately 41% of websites currently online use WordPress, chances are good that you’re either currently using WordPress or might be considering it. Out of the box however, the load speed of WordPress is not optimal. This section is geared towards intermediate users, i.e. you are not a beginner you definitely know your way around WordPress, you know HTML but not an expert. We’ve gone way above and beyond the obvious, including sections such as:

  • pre-fetching and pre-rendering
  • domain sharing
  • database optimization
  • caching
  • compression
  • and more!

We started hearing about E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) and YMYL (Your Money Or Your Life) in 2015 when Google launched their latest version of the Google Quality Rater guidelines. Since then, a lot has happened. Google has essentially baked E-A-T and YMYL into the core algorihm and it is now considered “must have” knowledge.

  • expertise
  • authority
  • trust
  • Your Money or Your Life type of sites
  • how it all fits together
  • some solid examples

Many SEO’s believe that they are optimizing their images, but don’t realize they are missing the boat entirely. In our guide to image optimization for SEO we outline the most essential tactics for image optimization. Image optimization isn’t just inserting an alt tag, there are over a dozen more factors when it comes to image optimization!

  • image alts and description tags
  • image size
  • organizing your images
  • image format
  • Google Images

For many SEO’s internal linking is a random act carried out throughout their day. Professional SEO’s know that internal linking is a very deliberate strategy that can change the entire direction of a website. Aspects of internal linking include:

  • internal links for navigation
  • using widgets like “related posts”
  • finding your most inner-linked pages using Google Search Console
  • and more!

Some say internal linking is one of the most important aspects of on-page SEO, and we believe that as well!

The robots.txt file and the meta robots tag both act as traffic signals for search engine crawlers. Get to know them, and you can begin to understand how crawlers such as Googlebot move throughout your website.

  • Robots.txt formatting
  • What is robots.txt
  • the meta robots tag
  • meta robots tag parameters

If you are an SEO and don’t know about servers, then it is time to go back to basics. At the very least we recommend having a basic understanding of the points contained within this guide.

  • server status codes
  • 404’s, 301’s and more
  • hosting and CDN’s
  • subdomains and subfolders

Having an optimized URL structure and permalinks is mandatory in the 2020version of SEO. Both humans and robots don’t want to read gibberish URL’s and parameters. In this guide we show you how to make your URL’s more user friendly, and how to optimize them for SEO.

  • relative vs absolute URL’s
  • URL’s in the SERPs
  • wording / keywords in URLs
  • breadcrumbs
  • redirects

Just updated! As of this past December Google made a major change to the SERPs and how they display their own descriptions. At the core of any SEO campaign are meta descriptions. In this section we’ll teach you what they are, how to write them, how to measure them and so much more. In 2020 meta descriptions have grown in importance now more than ever. While they aren’t officially a ranking factor, they play a huge part in SEO with the fact that Google has been known to use them within the search engine results page.

  • meta description length
  • meta description best practices
  • are meta descriptions a ranking signal?
  • examples of meta descriptions

Like meta descriptions, title tags are a core part of any SEO campaign. In addition to teaching you how to write them and optimize for SEO, we’ll show you some real world examples as well. Title tags are not only an important part of on page search engine optimization, they are extremely important part of user experience as well.

  • title tag lengths
  • examples of title tags
  • bulk title tag analysis
  • title tag optimization

Learn more about how headings or “h tags” play a role in on-page SEO and how to properly implement them without going overboard. More than any other style of text, the H tag stands out the most, learn to use them to your advantage.

  • H tags relevance in SEO
  • H tag optimization
  • h1 through h6

Quite possibly one of the hottest topics right now in SEO is structured data and schema markup. Since the onset of Google’s Knowledge Graph SEO’s around the globe have been in a frenzy marking up their websites with semantic markup. In this section of our on-page tutorial guide we’ll give you the basics and how to get started using structured data in your website.

With the introduction of JSON-LD, the new kid on the schema markup block SEO’s now have the ability to embed structured data into a website, without having to “attach” it to a particular website.

  • json-ld vs microdata
  • what is structured data?
  • other types of structured data e.g. OGP and Twitter Cards

SEO is all about backlinks, right? Backlinks, backlinks, backlinks! Well, anchor text is the human readable part of a link, and is oh-so-essential in any on-page SEO strategy. Get to know and love anchor text and it will love you back.

Anchor text is not only a primary element of SEO, but also a secondary as well. For instance anchor text plays a huge part in keyword prominence, internal linking, and more!

  • over optimization of anchor text
  • analyzing anchor text
  • anchor text distribution
  • rel=nofollow and anchor text

Blogging plays such an important role in SEO we dedicated an entire section all to itself. In this section we’ll show you how to get started with blogging and how to optimize your blog for search engine friendliness. There are many different ways to blog, examples include:

  • general updates about your company
  • posting newsletters
  • fun facts about your industry
  • articles about your industry
  • and more!

The mobile revolution is here, and SEO plays a major part in it, but it’s not enough just to have a mobile or responsive website. You’ll learn how to optimize your responsive website for SEO, common SEO pitfalls and how responsive and mobile websites work. Google doesn’t often come out and say “this is a ranking factor” but in 2016 Google stated that having a mobile friendly website may in fact give you a boost in the search engine rankings. With that, we must pay close attention to this!

  • responsive vs mobile friendly
  • common mistakes
  • mobile index

We won’t bore you with cliches like “content is king” but instead dive right into how content will help your SEO efforts and how to avoid common pitfalls that might cause a Google algorithm adjustment or penalty. Content plays a vital role in on-page SEO, it is base for which all SEO depends on. Content can come in the form of pure text, images, videos, and more.

  • types of content
  • quality over quantity
  • Google Panda
  • content formats

One of the first things we look at when optimizing a new website is how fast it loads. This is another aspect of SEO that Google has publicly confirmed is a factor when it ranks websites, so with that it should not be ignored. Page speed and moreover site speed as a whole is one of the most important factors of on-page SEO that we focus on as an agency. Many times we’ll spend days optimizing a website for speed.

  • page speed vs website speed
  • analyzing your website
  • gzip compression
  • reducing requests

Close your eyes and what is the first word that comes to mind when I say SEO. Was it “keywords?” If so your just like most other SEO’s, and rightfully so! It is a huge part of on-page SEO and a lot to take in, so grab a coffee and get comfortable.

  • keyword proximity
  • keyword density
  • keyword prominence

One of the few actually confirmed ranking factors, Google recently announced that having an HTTPS enabled website could in fact boost your rankings in the search engines. But it’s not that simple, there are a few on-page SEO caveats you should know as an SEO.

  • HTTPS / SSL as a ranking factor
  • SSL and on-page factors
  • common mistakes

Choosing a domain name is a near permanent decision, and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Learn more about domain names and SEO, EMD’s, new gTLD’s and so much more. While having a good domain name won’t make or break your entire SEO strategy, it could help move things along in other ways.

  • exact match domains
  • moving domains
  • gTLD’s

While social media is another way to generate traffic in and of itself, it also plays a vital role in search engine optimization. In this section we’ll learn how to use social media to your advantage and the role it plays in SEO.

  • social sharing
  • social reputation
  • social media and on-page SEO

Another mandatory aspect of on-page SEO that all aspiring SEO’s should learn is HTML, CSS and JavaScript. These are the building blocks of the web, and an essential part of search engine optimization.

  • validated HTML / CSS JavaScript and Googlebot

The rel=canonical tag is a simple solution to the very complex problem of duplicate content within a website framework. In this section we’ll talk about how to implement it, when to implement it and some common pitfalls.

  • the definition of rel=canonical
  • cross domain canonicalization
  • canonical HTTP headers

Learn more about the role that advertisements play in SEO and how you can minimize the risk of being penalized by Google. Advertisements are a huge part of the web and part of Google’s business model, but there is a fine line to walk when implementing ads on your website. In this section we talk more about embedding ads in your site, and how that plays a role in on-page SEO.

  • advertising and on-page SEO
  • ads and Google rankings
  • Google Panda

An XML sitemap can help create a map for Google to follow when crawling your website. Learn the difference between an XML sitemap and a website sitemap, and why we recommend having both for your website.

  • XML sitemaps vs website sitemaps
  • Google Search Console
  • Image and Video Sitemaps