Onpage optimization (AKA on-page SEO) refers to all measures that can be taken directly within the website in order to improve its position in the search rankings. Examples of this include measures to optimize the content or improve the meta description and title tags. Conversely, off-page SEO refers to links and other signals.
Analysis and Monitoring as Prerequisites for Onpage Optimization
Effective onpage optimization requires a combination of several factors. Two key things to have in place if you intend to improve your performance in a structured way are analysis and regular monitoring. There is little benefit in optimizing the structure or content of a website if the process isn’t geared towards achieving goals and isn’t built on a detailed assessment of the underlying issues.
In extreme cases, optimization measures that aren’t based on a solid, evidence-based plan can have the opposite effect to that desired – potentially harming the stability of keyword rankings or creating a drop in conversion rates.
Elements of Onpage Optimization
There is no standard, universally-recognized workflow for onpage optimization. However, analysis and measures for implementation should be as comprehensive as possible, to ensure that every opportunity is exploited for improving search engine rankings (or other KPIs).
Even if there is no simple step-by-step guide to improving the onpage aspects of websites, the following list attempts to cover the majority of the most common elements, sorted into four main areas:
1. Technical optimization
There are three main technical components of a website that can be optimized:
1.1. Server speed:
As website load times are considered by search engines as part of their evaluation for ranking purposes, speeding up server response times is an important part of onpage optimization.
1.2. Source code:
An efficient source code can contribute to improved website performance. Superfluous functions or code sections can often be removed or other elements can be consolidated to make it easier for the Googlebot to index the site.
1.3. IP addresses:
These can be used to find out if, for example, you have a Bad Neighborhood issue. Ideally, you should always have a unique IP address for each web project. This signals to Google and other search engines that the website is unique.
Content, in this context, doesn’t only refer to visible on-screen elements like texts and images. It also includes elements that are initially invisible, such as alt-tags or meta information.
For a long time, text optimization was conducted on the basis of keyword density. This approach has now been superseded, firstly by weighting terms using WDF*IDF tools and – at the next level – by applying topic cluster analyses to proof terms and relevant terms. The aim of text optimization should always be to create a text that is not only built around one keyword, but that covers term combinations and entire keyword clouds in the best way possible. This is how to ensure that the content describes a topic in the most accurate and holistic way it can. Today, it is no longer enough to optimize texts solely to meet the needs of search engines.
2.2. Structural text elements:
This covers the use of paragraphs or bullet-point lists, h- heading tags and bolding or italicizing individual text elements or words.
All images are important content elements that can be optimized. They can help to increase the relevance of the content and well-optimized images can rank on their own in Google’s image search. At the same time, they can increase how attractive a website appears to users. Appealing image galleries can also increase the time users spend on the site. File names of graphics are one part of image optimization.
Much of what applies to images also applies to videos. SEOs and webmasters should pay particular attention to ensuring that audiovisual content offered on their pages can actually be viewed by users.
Meta titles, as a page element relevant for rankings, and meta descriptions, as an indirect factor that impacts the CTR (Click-Through Rate) in the search engine results pages, are two important components of onpage optimization. Even if they are not immediately visible to users, they are still considered part of the content because they should be optimized closely alongside the texts and images. This helps to ensure that there is close correspondence between the keywords and topics covered in the content and those used in the meta tags.
3. Internal links and structure
Internal linking can be used to guide a bot’s visit to your domain and also to optimize navigation for real users.
3.1. Logical structure and crawl depth:
The aim here is to carefully structure menus and to ensure that a website hierarchy contains no more than four levels. The fewer levels there are, the more quickly a bot is able to reach and crawl all sub-pages.
3.2. Internal linking:
This determines how link juice is managed and distributed around a domain and can help increase the relevance of a sub-page regarding a particular keyword. A good sitemap is one of the most important onpage SEO basics there is, and highly relevant, both for users trying to navigate around the domain and for search engine crawlers.
Ways of avoiding duplicate content include the appropriate use of existing canonical tags and/or assigning pages with a noindex attribute.
3.4. URL structure:
This aspect involves checking whether search-engine-friendly URLs are being used and whether the existing URLs are logically related to one another. URL length can also be looked at as part of onpage optimization.
Pages that don’t contain any particularly useful content and can be considered meaningless for the Google index, should be tagged with the robots metatag “noindex”, which will prevent them being included in the search results.
4.1. Mobile optimization:
This means adapting a website’s desktop content so that it can be easily accessed and viewed on mobile devices like smartphones or tablet computers.
4.2. File sizes:
Images or graphics that are too large can drastically increase the load time of a page. As part of their onpage optimization, SEOs and graphic designers should keep file sizes as small as possible.
Specific page elements should be used to stimulate a user action by encouraging interaction with the website. More information on onpage (and offpage) optimization can be found in our Searchmetrics Ranking Factors studies.
Learn now to optimize your on-page content and page elements to rank for Universal and Extended Search elements.