SEO: On-Page Optimization Guide

The purpose of this guide is to share insights from extensive hands-on experimenting, and is not necessarily a definitive guide of EXACTLY what to do. Similar to how there is more than one way to eat a Reece’s – there are many ways to go about optimizing your webpages, but this guide will help you better understand all the different elements that come into play and how they function together.

Normally, your website/page will rank somewhere in the top 100 with just content and few or no links. The lower your competition, the higher you should rank with just proper on-page SEO.

If you are not ranking well for easy keywords, then your site/page is probably being filtered due to poor keyword density.

Luckily, this usually can be fixed by simply adjusting site structure and keyword usage.

Before we get started, let’s check out these quotes from Matt Cutts, former Head of Web Spam at Google:

“Probably the ranking signal that SEOs worry about, that they shouldn’t really be worried about, is probably keyword density. You know, you continue to see people who are a little new to SEO come and say, ‘What should my keyword density be?’, and you know, focusing at that level of detail is not as helpful as compared to reading it aloud, seeing if it makes sense, showing it to people, seeing if it makes sense, having natural copy that doesn’t sound artificial or stilted, that’s the sort of thing that I would concentrate on rather than my keyword density should be ‘this’.”
-2012

“The first time we see word on the page, count it a little bit more. The next time, ok a little more, but not a ton more. And then, after a while, we say, ‘You know what? We’ve seen this word. Maybe this page is about this topic.’, but that doesn’t really help you to keep repeating that keyword over and over and over again. And, in fact, at some point we might view that as keyword stuffing and then the page would actually do less well, not as well as just a moderate number of mentions of a particular piece of text.”
-2014

Keyword density is the most important on-page SEO factor, and ignoring it is not really an option (despite what Mr. Cutts would want you to believe).

According to the latter quote, 0% keyword density will not rank for anything, and 50% density will not rank for anything.
Therefore, there must be a range of density that performs best.

With that being said, every site is different so we will dive into why density requirements vary from site to site.



On-page keyword density and link anchor text go hand in hand. They work together to optimize a page for a certain keyword or keywords. If you have low on-page density, then you can get away with having more exact match anchor texts, and vice-versa. Exact match anchors also multiply the power of your on-page keywords, basically intensifying their power.

Since you cannot always control the anchor texts that you receive from other sites, it is important to be ready and able to adjust your on-page density.

On the other hand, you could also build more authoritative links to overcome a penalty, which is what most SEOs do. However, it’s often easier/faster/safer to just adjust on-page density.

Reminder:
Right out of the box, WordPress will often over-optimize your site. All the default tags, widgets, categories, and menus will make you end up with a dangerously high keyword density.

It may not seem like a big deal, but even injecting your keyword 2 or 3 extra times can tip your page over the edge. Tweaking the default settings can often help stabilize rankings over the long-term.

    Keyword Densities Guide:

  • One-word keyword: 0.8%-1.1%

  • Two-word keyword: 0.7%-1%

  • Three-word keyword: 0.5%-0.7%

(There are a couple free tools out there that will determine your keyword density for a certain page.)

Rule of thumb: If it’s not broke, then don’t fix it!

If you’re already ranking somewhere on the first page, do not tweak your on-page. Instead, focus on building more quality links.

On-Page Elements:
Various parts of the page provide different degrees of optimization. For example, using your keyword in the body of your text is not as powerful as using it in the H1 or title.

Title:
The title is going to be your strongest optimizer. The more words you have in the title, the more diluted it becomes. If your page is receiving too much exact match anchors, then consider switching the title to a LSI related term.

H1:
The H1 tag is going to be your second strongest optimizer. Similar to the title, the optimization power can be diluted by adding words. Also, if your page is receiving too much exact match anchors you can change your H1 tag to an LSI related term. Another option is to just remove the H1 altogether. Sometimes your WordPress template will automatically inject a H1 tag, so diluting it will be your only option.

Slug:
The “slug” is the URL of your article, and this is the third strongest optimizer. If you’re still having problems with being over-optimized, you can also alter the slug.
However, it is NOT a good idea to change your URL after the page has been indexed. Sometimes it is better to just use an LSI term in the URL from the get-go.

Bold, Italics, and Hyperlinks:
These are also forms of optimization. If you bold a keyword, it is like you’re using that word twice, and same goes for italics and hyperlinks.

Modifiers:
With the addition of an adjective to a keyword, this “modified” keyword is no longer the same as the root keyword. For example, “dart board” is not the same as “best dart board”.
A rule of thumb is to use an unmodified version of the exact keyword you want to rank for in the title and H1 tag.

The pages of your website work together, with a sort of synergy, that can either propel the over-all rankings of your site, or drag them down.
If one or more pages is not optimized correctly, it can act like dead weight to the rest of your site.

This is especially apparent when you’ve properly interlinked your pages.
When all pages are well-balanced, they extend positive energy from page to page, and bring better rankings.

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Catherine Ponomarenko

Director of Managed Services at Drive Digital Group

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