On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

This is a complete guide to on-page SEO in 2021.

In this new guide on-page SEO in 2021 you’ll learn:

  • How to optimize your content
  • How to create SEO-friendly URLs
  • How to write titles and descriptions
  • Lots more

Let’s get started.

On-Page SEO Basics

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

What is On-Page SEO?

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.

2. Content

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.

2.1. Text:

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.

2.3. Graphics:

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.

2.4. Videos:

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.

2.5. Meta-tags:

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.

3.3. Canonization:

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.

3.5. Focus:

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. Design

A major factor in web design today is usability. Complex graphics (e.g. using Flash) are often replaced with more simple alternatives in order to increase the functionality of the page. The same can apply to other elements like JavaScript applications.

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.

4.3. Call-to-Action:

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 JasaSEO.be Ranking Factors studies.

Why is On-Page SEO Important?

Does traditional on-page SEO still make a difference in 2021?


In fact, Google’s own “How Search Works” report states that:

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

Even though Google is MUCH smarter than it was back in the day, they still use old school stuff (like looking for a specific keyword on your page).

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

And there’s data to back this up.

Our analysis of 1M Google search results found a correlation between keyword-rich title tags and first page rankings.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

There’s more to on-page SEO than cramming keywords into your page’s HTML.

To rank your content in 2021, you also need to optimize your content for:

  • User experience
  • Bounce Rate and Dwell Time
  • Search Intent
  • Page loading speed
  • Click-through-rate

Optimize Your Content for SEO

Now that you’ve seen why on-page SEO still matters, it’s time to start optimizing your content.

Here you’re going to learn:

  1. How much content is required per page.
  2. How much content YOU need to optimize your specific webpage.
  3. How to look at competitors’ pages to help you optimize your own.
  4. Keyword Frequency
  5. Use External (Outbound) Links

1. How Many Keywords Per Page?

In general, write each web page around one primary keyword phrase and up to two secondary keyword phrases.

Focused content yields stronger keyword relevance. It also satisfies visitors because the page delivers what they searched for.

Site-wide, you may have hundreds or thousands of active keywords assigned to different pages. Your keyword list can grow as your website grows, as long as you have enough content to support your relevance to each keyword.

Always be careful not to overuse, or “stuff,” keywords on a page, write for users naturally and go for quality.

Just also incorporate keywords and related words strategically throughout the page. This helps search engines identify what your page is worthy of ranking for

2. How Much Content is “Enough” for a Keyword?

To rank for a keyword, how much text do you need per page? And how many pages do you need?

Well, the answer varies. Each page needs enough original text content to compete. The right amount will depend on what’s normal for that keyword.

For example, if all the top-ranking pages have 1000 words, then you’ll also need at least 1000 words of text.

Competition aside, here are some general SEO recommendations for page length:

  • Research pages: 500 to 600 words minimum per page
  • Ecommerce pages: 300 words minimum (shopping pages tend to have lots of product pictures)
  • Blog posts:​ 200 words minimum per post, but probably much more

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

As for how many pages will establish your relevance, you’ll need to match your competitors’ amount of content about that keyword.

The next sections give you an idea of what to expect.

Non-competitive keywords don’t require as much content.

Non-competitive keywords generally aren’t searched a lot. One relevant, high-quality content page about the keyword might be enough to rank if the keyword falls within your overall site themes.

Competitive keywords are tougher battles.

For competitive keywords, you’ll need a landing page plus some subpages to support your site’s subject relevance. Here are brief descriptions:

  • Landing pages are where you want people to “land” when they come from a SERP. A landing page should offer keyword-focused content. It should give ​searchers what they expected to find ​and provide a good first impression of your site.
  • Subpages link to/from the landing page and support its subject relevance. A subpage can be a blog post, article, video, or other that contains detailed, related content.

Brand terms and your brand’s main keywords might be easier to rank for.

Some keywords naturally appear across many pages, strengthening your relevance site-wide.

For example, our website is packed with resources on “search marketing” and “SEO.” Our main service descriptions and our brand name “JasaSEO.be” appear on almost every page.

Even though your site naturally uses your brand and main keywords throughout, each term still needs its own focused landing page. That way, the search engine knows where to send searchers looking for you by name

Compare Keyword Usage on Competing Pages

As you’re writing the title, meta description, and other elements critical to your webpage optimization, you may find it helpful to compare what your top competitors have written.

Use our Moz pro. You’ll be able to read the all-important title tag, meta tags, and H1 heading tag for many pages all at once, as well as whether the page has a rel=”canonical” tag.

Also read: Best Tips for a Successful Content Marketing Strategy

Keyword Frequency

Keyword Frequency is just like it sounds: It’s how many times your keyword appears in your content.

Google may deny that using the same keyword multiple times helps. But SEO pros with experience will tell you that it definitely works.

Think about it this way:

Imagine that you have a page that Google THINKS is about a specific keyword. But that keyword only appears once on the page.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

How confident can they be that the page is about that keyword? Not very.

On the other hand, if the page mentions the keyword 10 times, Google can be more confident about that page’s topic.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

To be clear:

This isn’t about keyword stuffing or anything like that.

It’s simply mentioning your target keyword a few times to confirm to Google that your page really is about that topic.

Use External (Outbound) Links

External links to related pages helps Google figure out your page’s topic. It also shows Google that your page is a hub of quality info.

And this isn’t just a theory. The folks at Reboot Online ran an experiment to see if external links helped improve rankings.

They created 10 new websites. Half of the websites linked out to authority sites (like Oxford University). The other half had no external links.

And the websites with external links outranked the sites without them.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

Also read: Outbound Links: Why Is It Important for SEO in 2021?

Optimize Your URLs for SEO

Your URL structure is an underrated part of on-page SEO.

Yes, Google recently started to use weird versions of URLs in the search results.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

But even then, the terms that you use in your URL show up here. Plus, URLs in the mobile and desktop SERPs are now above the title tag.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

So I’d say that your URL is actually more important now than before.

With that, here’s how to create SEO-friendly URLs:

  1. Make your URLs short
  2. Include a keyword in every URL

Optimize Title and Description Tags

In this article you’ll learn how to optimize your title and meta descriptions for SEO.

According to Google, title tags still “help a lot” with your rankings.

So they’re worth optimizing.

And it’s the same story with your description. Google may not use your description to understand the content on your page, but searchers use it to figure out which result to click on.

So if you want to write SEO-friendly title tags and descriptions, this article is for you.

Front-load Your Title tag

In my opinion, your title tag is the most important on-page SEO factor.

That’s because your title tag gives search engines a high-level overview of what your page is all about.

In my experience, the closer the keyword is to the beginning of the title tag, the more weight it has with search engines.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

Your keyword doesn’t necessarily have to be in the very beginning of your title. It doesn’t always make sense to do that.

But the closer your title is to the front of your title tag, the better.

Use Title Tag Modifiers

Using modifiers like “best”, “guide”, “checklist”, “fast” and “review” can help you rank for long tail versions of your target keyword.

For example, our guide to learning SEO includes the modifiers “New” and “guide”.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

That way, we can rank for long tail versions of “learn SEO” like “learn SEO guide”.

You can even be more strategic than this.

I added the title tag modifier “for SEO” in this list of keyword research tools.

Use Unique, Keyword-Rich Meta Descriptions

Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide states that:

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

And Google recently recommended that you write your own meta descriptions.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

(Even though Google can override them with their own snippet)

That’s because a good meta description helps your result stand out, which can boost your organic CTR.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

You also want to include your keyword once in your description.


Because Google bolds terms that match the person’s query.

Write SEO Content

Now it’s time to publish content that deserves to rank #1.

This process goes well beyond using keywords on your page.

To rank your content in 2021, your content needs to be:

  • Unique
  • Super valuable
  • Optimized for search intent

And in this article I’ll show you how to make sure that your SEO content checks all of these 3 boxes.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

Unique Content

When I say “unique”, I’m not just talking about duplicate content.

I mean publishing something that doesn’t just regurgitate the same stuff that’s already out there.

In other words: content that brings something new to the table.

That something new can be:

  • A new tip or strategy
  • A better list of curated resources
  • Strong design and UX
  • New case study
  • Streamlined step-by-step process

For example, this SEO checklist post ranks #1 in Google for the keyword “SEO checklist”.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

Do you think I rank #1 because I used my keyword a bunch of times?

That definitely helped. But for a competitive term like this, using keywords isn’t enough.

My page ranks #1 because it’s unique.

Sure, it has tips and strategies that you can find anywhere:

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

Valuable Content

Publishing something that’s unique is a good starting point.

But it’s not enough.

According to Hosting Facts, 4 million blog posts come out every single day.

So for your content to stand out and get noticed, it needs to be SUPER valuable.

Here are a few ways that you can make your SEO content insanely valuable:

  • Add details: Images, screenshots, and steps makes it easy for someone to put your content into practice.
  • Crisp writing: Strong copywriting will make your content more engaging.
  • Updated material: Brand new strategies, steps and examples go a long way.
  • Expert authors: Most content is written by people that have never done the thing they’re telling you to do. Content from someone with first-hand experience is almost always more valuable than something written by a random freelance writer.

The main thing that makes my SEO checklist post so valuable is the checklist itself.
It starts off with beginner-friendly stuff.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

And gets more advanced as you work your way through it.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

Along the way, you get a ton of specific details:

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

Content That Satisfies Search Intent

Unique, valuable content can get you to the first page of Google.

But if you want to stay there, your page has to satisfy Search Intent.

In other words:

Your page has to be EXACTLY what a Google searcher wants.

Otherwise, your page will likely be buried on the 3rd page.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

This is a mistake that I had to learn the hard way.

Optimize for CTR

Your organic click through rate is important for two reasons:

First, CTR is (probably) a Google ranking factor.

Second, increasing your CTR can drive more traffic to your site.

In this article I’ll show you four practical ways that you can improve your organic CTR.

Use “Question Title Tags”

Last year we analyzed 5 million Google search results to figure out why certain pages get clicked on over others and one of our most surprising findings was that question-based title tags have an above-average CTR.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

So whenever it makes sense, I recommend testing titles tags that have a question.

Fill In Missing Meta Descriptions

I talked about meta descriptions way back in Article 1.

Specifically, I pointed out that you want your descriptions to be super compelling.

But you don’t need to write an amazing description 100% of the time. Just HAVING a meta description might be enough.

In fact, we found that pages with a meta description got approximately 6% more clicks vs. pages with a missing meta description.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

I recommend doing an SEO audit on your site to find pages that don’t have a meta description. Then, add in descriptions for pages that need them.

Use Review or FAQ Schema

Schema doesn’t directly help your SEO.

But using certain types of Schema can hook you up with you Rich Snippets.

And Rich Snippets CAN help you get more clicks.

Two of the best types of Schema for getting Rich Snippets are review Schema:

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

I recommend, if you need to increase your ranking on Google, buy this backlink service

And FAQ Schema:

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

You can double check if you have your Schema set up correctly using the Structured Data Testing Tool.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

Add Some Emotion to Your Title Tags

Our CTR study found that emotional titles got clicked on 7% more often vs. titles that didn’t have a strong emotional sentiment.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

We also discovered that emotionally-charged “Power Words” decreased click through rate by 12%.

What gives?

Well, people are attracted to titles that pack an emotional punch… to a point.

If a title goes overboard, it looks like clickbait.

And they’ll click on another result that looks less spammy.

Bottom Line: Write title tags with some emotion. But avoid terms like “insane” and “powerful” that can make your title look like clickbait.

Add the Current Year to Title and Description

Here’s an example of what I mean.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

Adding the year to your title and description won’t make or break your CTR.

But in my experience, it does help… especially for content that can go out of date really quickly.

For example, someone searching for “Seneca philosophy” doesn’t need something that came out last month.

But for a keyword like “How to Build Backlinks”, people want to make sure they’re about to read something current.

And adding the year to your title and description makes it clear that your content is up-to-date.

On-Page UX Signals

In this article seo I’ll show you how to optimize your content for “UX Signals”.

(In other words, how Google searchers interact with your content).

Does Google really pay attention to Dwell Time, Bounce Rate and other user interaction signals?


In fact, Google’s “How Search Works” says that, to help them rank the best results, they “use aggregated and anonymized interaction data to assess whether search results are relevant to queries”.

Now it’s time to show you how to make sure that your content keeps Google searchers on your page.

Push Content Above the Fold

When someone lands on your site from Google, they want their answer FAST.

Which is why you want to avoid massive images above the fold, like this:

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

nstead put your headline and introduction front-and-center.

Chunk Your Content

In a perfect world visitors would read every word on your page.

But we don’t live in a perfect world

Which is why you want to make your content super easy to skim.

This is something I spent A LOT of time on here at jasaseo.be.

I use a ton of H2 subheadings.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

Internal Linking

Internal linking is HUGE for SEO.

Specifically, you want to link from high-authority pages on your site to pages that need a boost.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

First, use an SEO tool like Ahrefs to bring up the pages on your site with the most link authority.

Write Comprehensive Content

Google wants to show their users content that gives them EVERYTHING they want on a single page.

In other words: comprehensive content.

And if your post covers an entire topic, it has a higher chance of ranking

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

And one of the easiest ways to make sure that Google sees your content as complete?

LSI keywords are synonyms that Google uses to determine a page’s relevancy.

I don’t go nuts about LSI keywords because I usually write REALLY long content.

(Long content increases the odds that you’ll naturally use LSI keywords).

But if you want to make 100% sure that you’re using LSI keywords, search for your keyword in Google and scroll down to the “Searches Related to…” area at the bottom of the page:

.On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

And toss any that make sense into your post.

Boost Your Page Speed

Google has stated on the record that page loading speed is an SEO ranking signal (and they recently made PageSpeed even MORE important).

According to our analysis of 5.2 million websites, you can improve your site’s loading speed by moving to a faster host.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

Removing as many third party scripts as you can.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

Removing as many third party scripts as you can.On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

Image Optimization

You want to give every image on your site a descriptive filename and alt text.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

This helps Google (and visually-impaired users) understand what each image is showing.

And if it makes sense, make one image optimized around your target keyword. So use a filename that includes your target keyword (for example, on-page-seo-chart.png). And use that same keyword as part of your image alt tags.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

Another reason to optimize your images for SEO: it gives search engines another clue of what your page is about… which can help it rank higher.

Put another way: when Google sees a page with pictures of “blue widgets” and “green widgets” it tells them: “this page is about widgets”.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

Rank Your Content In Featured Snippets

Ranking in a Featured Snippet can make a HUGE difference in your CTR.

The only catch?

According to this industry study, you need to already be on the first page to have any shot of getting a Featured Snippet.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

Which means you need to find first page results that have a Featured Snippet AND you rank for.

To find them whip open Ahrefs, Moz or whatever SEO software that you use.

And find pages from your site that rank on the first page of Google.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

Then, filter for keywords that have a Featured Snippet already.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

Then, look at the Featured Snippet in Google for each of those terms.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

Voice Search SEO

Voice search is growing SUPER fast.

And the best way to optimize your content for voice search?

Create FAQ pages.

Our voice search SEO study found that Google loves to pull voice search results from FAQ pages.

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021


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On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021

On-Page SEO: The Definitive Guide 2021


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