The digital marketer’s complete SEO guide to on-page optimisation

SEO is a critical part of any online business’ marketing strategy. And as every firm today needs to have a web presence, no organisation can afford to neglect this aspect of its operations.

Introducing on-page SEO

While there are several types of SEO, one area that should be a particular focus is on-page optimisation. This involves improving the content of your own website in order to rank higher in search engines and increase your chances of being discovered by customers.

Done right, on-page SEO offers both the opportunity for some quick wins and sets the foundation for a long-term strategy you can use to continually improve your marketing reach and relevance. What’s more, as it’s all done on pages you own, you have full control over it, which isn’t always the case with other types of online marketing.

However, actually putting this into practice takes time and expertise – and it’s about a lot more than simply having the right keywords on your page. Good on-page SEO encompasses copy, media content, tile tags, metadata, linking, schema markup and more.

If this all sounds a little overwhelming, it pays to have a specialist digital marketing partner on hand who can guide you through the process.

What is on-page optimisation in SEO?

The first step needs to be ensuring you have a full idea of what on-page optimisation is, as well as what it isn’t. Many people still assume that it involves keywording your site to match the search terms that will be used by prospective customers. 

But there’s much more to it than that, and if any one element is lacking in your strategy, you won’t see the expected results. So let’s start with the basics by making certain you’re aware of how on-page optimisation works and how it differs from other forms of SEO.

What are the three types of SEO optimisation?

There are three essential types of SEO you need to be using if you want to stand the best chance of your website getting noticed. They each have their own role to play, and they’re all complementary to each other. This means you can’t simply pick and choose which one to focus on – you need to be doing all three to have an impact. They are:

  • On-page optimisation – The topic of this article, this refers to everything you do on your own website to improve visibility. Keywording, correct use of tagging for all titles and subheadings, URL optimisation, internal and external linking and metadata are all elements that need to be considered as part of an on-page optimisation strategy.
  • Off-page optimisation – The main counterpart to on-page, this covers everything done outside your site to increase SEO performance. In the past, this mainly revolved around link building, but today it incorporates guest content, social media marketing, forum posting, podcasts, influencer marketing, local SEO and more.
  • Technical SEO –  The nuts and bolts of making sure Google and other search engines can find your site, categorise it correctly and evaluate it as high-quality. This involves activities such as making sure your site is easily navigable, does not have any dead links, loads quickly and is responsive to whichever device visitors are using, among other activities.

What is the difference between on-site and off-site SEO?

As noted above, on-site and off-site SEO have very different focuses, which means each needs to be tackled in its own way. But both must be part of a comprehensive SEO strategy, so it pays to understand the role each plays in boosting the performance of your website.

One way of thinking about the difference between the two is to look at it in terms of relevance and ranking. A strong on-page optimisation strategy is primarily used to make sure Google understands the content of your site and how relevant it is to its users. This gives you the best chance of appearing in results for your top-priority keywords.

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Off-page optimisation, meanwhile, is more about establishing the authority of your site and how it’s viewed by others. This is why elements such as influencer and social media marketing can be such powerful tools, as they ensure your brand is being talked about by the right people.

What are the key elements of on-page optimisation?

As noted above, on-page optimisation is a multifaceted strategy with several elements. All of these contribute to a page that ranks for the right terms in search results, as Google and its competitors favour websites that have high levels of trust and authority. But on-page optimisation is about much more than having the right keywords to make sure your site can be found by people using search engines.

What are the five most important on-page optimisation factors?

There are many different ideas about which elements are most important, and in what order they function as a ranking factor. As Google keeps the details of its search algorithms close to its chest, some differences in opinion are understandable, but in general, everyone agrees on these five factors that no on-page optimisation strategy can do without.

1. Quality content

First and foremost, you should ensure that whatever content you have on your page is something visitors will want to read (or look at, or listen to). The old adage that content is king still holds true and it translates directly into higher search engine rankings.

Google search uses a system known as E-A-T to evaluate content quality, standing for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Therefore, your content must be unique, clear, engaging and answer whatever queries your visitors have. Tools such as keyword research and social listening can give be a great starting point for understanding what will be of interest to your audience.

2. Correctly formatted headings

An enticing title for your page is vital for both search engines and readers. Having the most relevant keyword included is a must, but it should also stand out and be attractive to readers The same goes for all the subheadings within the copy of the page.

However, the content alone isn’t enough. It’s essential that your titles are tagged correctly so that search engines recognise them as headings and can display them correctly. A H1 tag for the title and H2 and H3 HTML tagging are essential in flagging their importance to search engines, for example.

3. Title tags

Not to be confused with your on-page headings, the title tag is the name of the page as seen by Google and on your browser. It’s what appears as a clickable headline and snippet in SERPs, as well as on sharable content such as social media links. It still needs to be eye-catching and relevant to your target audience, but should also be a concise and accurate description of the page’s content, contain your target keyword and ideally be no more than 60 characters to avoid being cut off in search results.

4. Internal linking

How each page connects with the rest of your site also matters. Search engines love good internal linking because it makes it easy for visitors to navigate the site, connect related topics and provide a good user experience. However, it’s not all about where you’re linking to on your site, but also how you’re linking.

To perform effectively as SEO, internal links need to be well-optimised. A link that says ‘click here for more info’ doesn’t tell Google or any other search engine anything about what the destination page is about. Therefore, anchor text needs to feature target keywords and make sure it’s linking to relevant content that helps your visitors continue their journey and benefits both the page the anchor link sits on and the destination page. 

What’s more, by creating clusters of interlinked content on your site, you can also help build your authority as a knowledgeable, trustworthy resource.

5. Keywording

Finally, it’s also important that the content on your page uses the correct keywords at a suitable density. Keywording is no longer the be-all and end-all of appearing highly in search results, but this doesn’t mean it can be overlooked. Using the right keywords in the right places on the page tells search engines what the page is about.

This needs to be backed up with data. Good keyword research is essential to understanding what terms you need to be including on your site to attract the right visitors – and these may not also be the terms you expect. Knowing what longtail terms users are looking for can also help with content ideation and campaign strategy, as well as identify gaps in what both you and your competitors are doing.

Optimising your visual content

It’s easy to focus on the written copy of your pages when working to improve on-site optimisation, but the visual elements must not be overlooked either. Images, informative graphics, animated gifs and video content aren’t just there to provide a more engaging experience for users – they are also great for SEO provided you optimise them effectively.

The first step in this is to make sure all visual content is tagged properly. This includes ensuring your target keyword is included in both the filename and the alt text, as well as the caption for imagery.


You also shouldn’t overlook the meta description. To be properly optimised for SEO, this should contain a concise description of exactly what the image contains, and how it relates to the rest of the page’s content. For example, ‘man reading a tablet’ doesn’t tell Google a lot about how to categorise an image, but ‘smartly-dressed marketing professionals reviewing chart data on a tablet’ does. This is essential if search engines are to correctly understand what visual content is about as so far, they still rely on text descriptions when displaying results.

It’s also important to ensure large media content is not having an adverse effect on page loading speeds or readability on mobile devices. There is some crossover with technical SEO when focusing on this, highlighting how the various elements of optimisation must work together to get results.

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What are the merits of meta description tags?

Meta descriptions play a vital role in your on-page SEO, as they are often the first content a prospective visitor to your website will see. Put simply, this refers to the brief snippets or summaries of your page’s content that search engine users will see under the page title.

Whereas many elements of on-page SEO are about making your site look as attractive as possible to search engines, this element of your page helps ensure people will actually click through. It’s no use appearing on page one of Google’s SERPs if the image of your site that users are presented with is bland and uninformative.

Therefore, as well as a targeted keyword, you need to make sure your meta descriptions offer a clear summary of your site and a compelling reason for a user to click on the link – and this is not easy to achieve in 150 characters or less.

Why is on-page optimisation important?

As noted above, on-page SEO is vital for boosting your brand’s visibility in Google search. It ensures your website appears to the most relevant users in the most prominent position. But beyond this, it’s also vital that you’re directly addressing the needs of potential visitors and answering the specific questions they have.

Why is it important to know the search intent?

Good on-page optimisation is about much more than matching keywords to what users are typing into their search bar. It’s also crucial to know the intent behind the search so you can adapt your pages accordingly. Google is constantly refining its algorithms to put people first and better understand what answers people expect, and how this relates to the specific search terms they use, so you need to be doing the same.

For example, if someone Googles “cheap flights”, what is their intent? In this case, they’re likely to be doing research and looking to compare options and find the best deal, rather than be on the lookout for a specific page or brand, and this will impact the type of result the search engine provides.

In general, there are four types of search intent. These are:


This covers users who want to learn more about a product, concept or service. It favours educational pages, such as how tos, guides and factual content, rather than those heavily geared towards conversions.


This is defined as when users have a particular destination in mind. For example, if they want to visit a certain company, but may not know the exact direct URL. This is where it is vital to have branded content.


These searches have a clear purpose in mind, usually when people are ready to make a purchase or sign up for a service. These are characterised by searchers knowing exactly what they want and looking to complete the process as quickly as possible.


Sometimes seen as a mix of informational and transactional, commercial searches include those who want to make a purchase, but are seeking more details about the various options. They may eventually make a transaction, but often need more convincing to push them further down the sales funnel.

Understanding these different approaches is vital in optimising your on-page content for each type of user. Individuals at the awareness stage who are still performing top-level research will have very different search patterns than those who are ready to buy, so it’s crucial your site is able to serve them both to appear highly in SERPs.

Why does quality content matter?

Regardless of the type of content you’re offering, quality must never be overlooked. It doesn’t matter if it’s a blog post, an instructional landing page or an in-depth report, if the content itself isn’t relevant, engaging and informative to read, people won’t stick around. Less time on page means fewer chances to convert browsers into buyers – but it also feeds back into your SEO.

Lower dwell times (not to be confused with bounce rate) indicate that the page didn’t match what the user was searching for. It could be that they didn’t think the content was relevant or didn’t answer their initial query, or just that they found it boring.

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Either way, it’s unlikely these visitors will be back, and this harms your brand’s reputation as well as its SEO, as Google takes note of metrics like this.

Another key aspect of optimisation to be aware of is where you get your traffic from. Being able to diversify your sources of visitors to include social shares, referrals and recommendations in addition to search traffic is great for boosting your overall SEO, as it shows people are responding well to your brand. Again, this won’t happen without high-quality content that engages readers as well as search engine robots.

What are good examples of on-page optimisation?

Now that you know what on-page optimisation is and why it matters, the next question becomes ‘how do you do it well?’. Getting this aspect of your site right isn’t easy. It takes time, patience and expertise, which is why many businesses turn to a digital marketing agency with experience in content marketing to get it right.

However, whether you’re going it alone or working with a partner, there are a few key factors that you’ll need to keep in mind at all times. Once you’ve done your keyword research, learned about your audience and decided what type of content will best engage them, what will you need to do to put the principles of on-page optimisation into practice?

What is the optimal keyword density?

While it’s far from the only factor in a well-optimised page today, good keywording still matters. If you get this wrong – and especially if you overstuff your page with too many keywords – Google will heavily penalise your page in its results. Therefore, you need to maintain a fine balance between ensuring all your relevant primary keywords are present and correct and not going too far.

Keyword density refers to the number of keywords on your page, compared to its overall length. It’s pretty easy to work out – you simply divide the number of keywords by the total number of words on the page, then multiply it by 100 to get a percentage. So if you have a 1,000-word page, for example, and your primary keyword is used ten times, this gives you a keyword density of one per cent.

There are no fixed rules for getting keyword density right, as the number will depend on various factors including the length of the page and the type of content, but typically, it’s good practice to keep density to less than two per cent. However, in many cases, this should be viewed as an upper limit, and to stand the best chance of impressing search engines, a density of around 0.5 to 0.8 per cent is usually ideal.

Having the right number of internal links is also important. Again, you don’t want to have too many, as this will start to make your page appear spammy, as well as provide a less enjoyable reading experience for visitors.

Generally, every new piece of content you publish should contain at least two to three good internal links. By ‘good’, we mean links to authoritative, relevant pages within the same cluster of topics. Every link should have a reason to exist; to help users continue their journey, build a clear structure and show search engines which topics you think are most relevant.

Google’s John Mueller elaborated on this in 2021, explaining why filling your page with links isn’t a good idea. He said:

“If you do dilute the value of your site structure by having so many internal links that we don’t see a structure anymore, then that does make it harder for us to understand what you think is important on your website.”

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These are just some of the elements you’ll need to include if you’re to make your on-page optimisation efforts a success. There’s a lot to think about, so going it alone can be a challenging and stressful option. Fortunately, we’re here to help. 

By teaming up with an experienced partner like Axonn, you can take advantage of our expertise to ensure that all your digital marketing efforts – from on-page SEO to technical evaluations and content creation – are working in harmony to enhance your brand and put you directly in front of your future customers.