This guide includes a comprehensive list of on-page SEO factors.
Below, you’ll discover the top on-page SEO activities you need to focus on to ensure your content gets indexed and ranked properly for its target keywords in search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. By the end of this page, you’ll understand how specific on-page SEO elements affect the success of your content in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
You’ll also find a section with additional resources that go more in depth about these on-page optimization factors to help you create the best SEO strategy for your website.
Table of Contents
On-Page SEO Factors List
Keywords are one of the most essential elements of on-page SEO because they’re the words and phrases that people type into search engines to find the information they need.
For that reason, search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo rely on keywords to help understand the topic of your web pages. This enables search engine crawlers to properly categorize your content in the index so it can be returned as a result to users for relevant search queries.
The keywords you use also influence how you tackle other factors in this on-page SEO list, such as page titles, headers, meta descriptions, URL structure, image optimization, etc.
There are two types of keywords you want to focus on for on-page optimization:
The primary keyword is the main keyword you want to target on the page. It can be single word or multi-word phrase that accurately describes the core topic of the content. The primary keyword also has a higher search volume than the secondary keywords (explained next).
For example, this guide is targeting the primary keyword phrase “on-page SEO factors”.
Secondary keywords are keywords that are closely related to the primary keyword you’re targeting with on-page SEO. They’re often variations of the main keyword but have the same search intent. Secondary keywords can be any length and address the nuances and subtopics of the content.
For example, this guide is targeting the secondary keyword phrases “on-page SEO elements”, “on-page SEO activities”, and “on-page SEO components”.
2. Page Title
The page title (also referred to as the meta title tag) provides search engines with a more precise understanding of the subject matter, which helps to increase the relevancy of its results and ensure your page matches the correct search queries. Therefore, the page title is the most important on-page SEO parameter you should optimize for your target keywords.
It’s imperative that your page title tags contain the primary keyword as close to the beginning of this HTML field as possible to enhance the on-page SEO ranking signal. You also want to weave in one or more secondary keywords to help fill out the page title without repeating any overlapping words while also keeping it under 60 characters.
Additionally, well-optimized title tags also contain elements that compel search engine users to click through to the content from the SERPs.
For example, when crafting this on-page optimization list, the top-ranking competitor only listed 12 factors, so we made our list better by sharing 15 components you can focus on for on-page SEO with the hope that it will drive more clicks from the SERPs. See the image below for the optimized page title.
3. Meta Description
Under the page title of every search result is a few short sentences that explain what you’ll learn or achieve by clicking on that result. This is called the meta description, which is an essential on-page optimization factor for appeasing both search engines and search users.
When optimized with a captivating call to action that includes your primary keyword and one or more secondary keywords, the meta description will encourage users to click through to the content because it matches the search query they typed into Google, Yahoo, or Bing.
Behind the scenes, search engines use your meta description to gain even more context and understanding about your pages which will benefit you by way of improved rankings. Also, when the search query matches one of the keywords in the meta description, search engines will bold or highlight that text. See the example image below.
Now, keep in mind that Google and other search engines will not always display your custom meta description in the SERPs. If the algorithm systems determine that another piece of content on the page better matches the user’s query, then that text will be shown under your web page listing. However, that doesn’t mean your meta description is being ignored by the search engine crawlers when analyzing the page.
Therefore, you should always optimize this HTML field with your primary and secondary keywords so it reads in a natural way so that when search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing display it in the SERPs, the text makes people want to click on your listing. Also, keep it under 160 characters so the text doesn’t get truncated in the search engines.
4. URL Structure
Next up on this on-page SEO list is optimizing the URL structure to make it SEO-friendly.
The best URLs are ones that give both the visitor and search engines a clue about what the content on the page is about. If the text in the URL closely matches the article’s title that’s displayed in the SERPs, then it’s a good indication to the user and search engines that the page is a good match for the search query.
The easiest way to optimize the URL structure for your web pages is to put your primary keyword as an exact match phrase in the URL. For example, the URL for this guide is simply “/on-page-seo-factors/” because that’s the primary SEO keyword that’s being targeted.
Header tags are an important parameter for on-page SEO because they help search engine crawlers understand the main topics and subtopics of the content for indexing and ranking in the SERPS as well as make web pages more user-friendly, readable, and accessible.
The header tags in HTML consist of the H1 to H6 elements. In a proper HTML document structure, the H1 header defines the main topic for the page while the H2 subheaders divide up the subtopics for the content. H3 subheaders go under the related H2 tag to break up the section even further (if necessary) and so on down the line with the header levels (e.g., H4s under H3s and H5s under H6s).
H1 heading optimization consists of using the primary SEO keyword and as many secondary keywords as possible without overlapping similar terms. The easiest way to optimize this on-page SEO factor is to make it an exact duplicate of the page title (mentioned in #2 of this guide).
The H2 subheadings are an important element of on-page SEO because search engines analyze the text within the H2 tags to understand the subtopics of the page to index and rank it for relevant queries.
As explained in our other guide on H2 tag optimization, your primary keyword and secondary keywords in their own H2 subheadings can help improve the on-page optimization factors for those queries.
For example, if you’re targeting three SEO keywords on the page—one primary keyword and two secondary keywords—then you should have at least three H2 tags on the page with each keyword assigned to one of those H2 subheaders while keeping the text readable and natural for the user.
Unlike the previous two types of headings, the H3 tag doesn’t carry a significant amount of weight in terms of on-page search engine performance. H3 tags are a third-level header, which causes search engine crawlers to treat keywords in these HTML locations with less importance because they don’t reflect the main topic of the page.
However, it’s still a good on-page SEO practice to optimize the H3 tags by including partial match keyword phrases, keyword variations, synonyms, and semantically-related words to boost the topical relevance of the content.
Just be careful not to add the same exact match keywords in the H3 subheaders that you’re using in the H1 and H2 headers to avoid over-optimization. H3 tags should be only used for describing the subtopics of the associated H2 subheaders, which is why having the same keywords you’re targeting for on-page SEO in the H3 subheadings could result in an over-optimization penalty.
6. Body Text
Another key on-page SEO component is the use of keywords in the body text of the content. Google’s own documentation on How Search Works even stresses the importance of this optimization factor by stating: “The most basic signal that information is relevant is when content contains the same keywords as your search query.”
Therefore, you should add your primary and secondary keywords to the following locations on the page to improve the on-page SEO signals for Google’s search engine algorithm:
- Introduction: One time each within the first 100 words.
- Body Content: 2-3 times spread throughout the copy.
- Summary: One time each within the last 100 words on the page.
7. Image Optimization
Images are another element of on-page SEO that can help improve organic visibility and traffic for your website in two ways:
- Optimized images enhance keyword prominence which is a core factor for on-page SEO and can help boost rankings for the target page.
- Optimized images give your visual assets important context that search engines like Google need to rank images and graphics for relevant search queries in Google Images. This can produce additional organic traffic.
There are three key places for image optimization:
- ALT Text: You can insert your keywords (one per image) to improve the topical relevance of the content. As explained in our image ALT text optimization guide, you want to make sure to describe the image accurately while also including your target keyword phrases. The ALT text information is used by screen readers to help people with disabilities understand the context of the image. So you don’t just want to stuff your keywords in this HTML field without proper context for the user.
- Filename: You can put the target SEO keyword in the image filename for added SEO value. Just use dashes between the words like this: keyword-phrase.jpg.
- Image Meta Information: If you use an image editing software like Photoshop, you can manipulate the meta information that’s attached to the image. You can optimize the image’s meta title, description, and keyword tags for search engine spiders to crawl and use for indexing in the Image Search database.
8. Internal Links
Internal links are hyperlinks that link the various pages of your website together. And the anchor text of internal links is used by search engine crawlers to understand the context of the target page (i.e., making them a key component for on-page SEO).
Many SEO case studies have been conducted that show how properly optimized internal link anchor text leads to higher rankings in Google for the target SEO keywords. Plus, Google has also confirmed that the more internal links a page has, the more important you’re signaling that content is for the user, so it should be weighted higher for relevant search queries.
Additionally, having a good mix of internal links on the page encourages visitors to stay on your website for longer periods of time, which is a positive user experience signal that search engine algorithms consider when ranking your site in the SERPs.
A basic on-page SEO strategy to follow for internal linking is to pick the top 3-5 keywords you want the target page to rank for in Google, Yahoo, and Bing, and then rotate through those keywords as you build internal links to the content. Preferably, you want at least 5-10 internal links at a bare minimum pointing to the page to help boost the internal on-page SEO factor for keyword relevancy.
9. External Links
External links are another important element to add to your on-page SEO list when updating old content or writing new content you want to rank higher in the search engines.
By linking externally to high-quality, credible, and trustworthy content on other domains, your web page will also be seen as credible and trustworthy. Not only do search engines like Google want to know your content is well-referenced, but your website visitors do, too.
Essentially, there are good and bad link neighborhoods on the Internet. And good sites link to other good sites. Therefore, you should make sure your website is part of the good link neighborhood by linking externally to other good sites throughout your content for improved on-page SEO signals.
10. Schema Markup
Schema Markup (also referred to as Structured Data Markup) is HTML code that provides search engines with more information about the content to help improve organic visibility with enhanced rich results such as star ratings, rich cards, product listings, business contact details, etc.
By adding relevant Structured Data Markup to the HTML code, you can quickly improve the chances of your content obtaining those enhanced listing features.
You can use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper to get started tagging sections of your site to take advantage of these on-page SEO parameters. This tool will automatically create the markup for you in JSON-LD or Microdata to quickly copy and paste into your article’s HTML source code for immediate SEO benefits.
11. Search Intent
Search intent is a term used to describe the purpose of an online search. Contemporary SEO strategies revolve around understanding the motivation behind a query and matching the searcher’s expectations on the web page. If there’s a mismatch between the search intent and the content, then it will affect the rankings in the SERPs.
The concept of search intent for on-page SEO has been around since 2013 when Google introduced the Hummingbird algorithm update. Google Hummingbird works by matching search results to user queries by parsing intent. This means Google’s algorithm systems can understand the true intent behind users’ searches as opposed to just returning results based solely on keyword frequency.
For example, a web page won’t rank for the search term “dog beds” just by stuffing the keyword phrase multiple times in the content. The page must also include on-page elements that match the user search intent, such as a list of dog beds to purchase, images of the beds, current prices, hyperlinks to purchase each bed, and key information users expect to see like specifications and materials used in the dog beds.
Essentially, there are four types of user search intent, and your web page must include the right type of content and be structured in a way that matches that intent while also being optimized for its target keywords with on-page SEO elements:
- Informational Intent: The user is looking for general information on a particular topic.
- Navigational Intent: The user is looking for a specific website, web page, product, service, or business to visit or contact.
- Transactional Intent: The user is looking to buy something or complete a specific action.
- Commercial Intent: The user is looking to compare products or services before making a purchase.
12. Content Quality
Content quality is another important factor of on-page SEO because it demonstrates your credibility and authority on the topic. Search engines like Google use algorithms to determine the quality of content on a website by analyzing signals such as topical depth, helpfulness, readability, and user engagement.
Using content optimization techniques like structuring your articles using header tags, making sure it meets user search intent, and linking externally out to high-quality websites is a great place to start when it comes to ensuring you’re putting the absolute best content out onto the web.
But those are not the only quality-related on-page SEO ranking factors that can influence your keyword positions in the search results.
Other parameters include:
- How quickly users get the information they want on the page. Don’t bury the most important information, forcing visitors to scroll more than necessary.
- How comprehensive the content is at meeting the user’s needs. You should cover every concern or question they may have about the topic.
- How clear and concise the content is. Remove unnecessary wordiness and fluff; word count is not a ranking factor.
- The standard of the writing itself. Pages littered with spelling and grammar mistakes don’t inspire confidence and can result in users leaving your site, increasing bounce rates and harming your rankings.
E-E-A-T is an acronym that stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trust which is a set of website evaluation standards that comes from Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.
E-E-A-T signals are part of the ranking algorithm systems that Google uses to rank pages for certain queries that require demonstrable credibility in those core areas.
You can improve the on-page SEO signals for E-E-A-T by focusing on these elements:
- Using original photos, videos, and audio files.
- Using the first-person point of view.
- Including an author byline and/or bio box with a link to a full author bio.
- Adding credentials for authors.
- Explaining how a particular person, place, or thing compares to similar items or people.
- Making sure the content is accurate based on information stored in the Knowledge Graph.
- Keeping content fresh and kept up-to-date. (Include the published date and time.)
- Having transparent contact details.
- Including prominent links to the privacy, refund, and terms of service type pages.
- Using a secure version of the HTTP protocol that uses the SSL/TLS protocol for encryption and authentication (i.e., HTTPS).
14. Mobile Responsiveness
Mobile responsiveness is an extremely important factor for on-page SEO because search engines like Google now use mobile-first indexing, which is a process that predominantly uses the mobile version of website content for indexing and ranking in the SERPs.
Therefore, you want to ensure that your website content is mobile-friendly by following modern responsive design practices:
- Elements have proper CSS breakpoints based on common mobile screen sizes.
- On-page content should be easily readable on mobile devices.
- Images should be compressed and optimized for mobile screens.
- Tap targets (e.g., links and buttons) should be easy to click on with a thumb.
- Obtrusive pop-ups should be removed from the mobile experience.
As you can see in the image below, the web pages for this example site are optimized for mobile SEO because the content meets the above on-page SEO criteria for mobile-friendliness.
15. Page Speed
When it comes to on-page SEO ranking factors, page speed is a critical parameter that can impact user experience, and ultimately, the keyword positions for your website in the SERPs.
Whether viewed on a mobile device or desktop, your website must load quickly to ensure visitors stay engaged and satisfied with their experience. Google’s algorithm, in particular, prioritizes user experience based on a set of page experience factors called Core Web Vitals.
As stated in the Page Experience documentation, “Google’s core ranking systems look to reward content that provides a good page experience.” Therefore, if your web page loads slowly or haphazardly, it’s likely that visitors will have a poor experience, which the algorithm ranking systems assess for keyword ranking positions.
The top on-page SEO activities you should focus your efforts on to improve Core Web Vital scores include LCP, FIP, and CLS, which can be measured using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
LCP measures page loading speed and marks the point at which the majority of the page content has been downloaded. You can improve this metric by:
- Optimizing images with compression and using a content delivery network (CDN) for your website.
- Lazy loading of non-critical resources until they are needed.
- Using a fast web host.
First Input Delay (FIP)
FIP quantifies the speed of the first initial engagement a user can have with a page. You can improve this on-page SEO metric by:
- Using browser caching.
- Using a fast web host.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
CLS measures the amount of layout shift on the visible content of the page (i.e. the visual stability as the page loads and is scrolled through). You can improve this page speed experience metric by:
- Always include width and height size attributes on images and video elements.
- Specific dimensions for ads and iframes.
- Host and preload fonts on your web server or switch to using only system fonts.
- Add the font-display:swap property to your font’s CSS to ensure the layout doesn’t shift due to a flash of invisible text (FOIT).
- Do not dynamically inject content on the page.
Learn More About On-Page SEO
The links below explain more about on-page SEO and how to use it correctly for search engine optimization. Use these resources to improve your knowledge of the subject.
- What Is On-Page SEO?
- How to Do On-Page SEO
- On-Page SEO Checklist & Template
- Best On-Page SEO Checker & Analysis Tools
- Free On-Page SEO Checker Tools
- On-Page SEO vs Off-Page SEO
- On-Page SEO vs Technical SEO
On-Page SEO Factors Summary
We hope you enjoyed this list of the top on-page SEO factors.
As you discovered, there are certain essential on-page SEO activities you need to focus on to help search engines understand your website content and how it relates to user queries. And by optimizing the most important on-page SEO elements listed in this guide, you can improve your website’s keyword rankings and visibility in the SERPs to attract more organic traffic.
The Editorial Staff at SEO Chatter is a team of search engine optimization and digital marketing experts led by Stephen Hockman with more than 15 years of experience in search engine marketing. We publish guides on the fundamentals of SEO for beginner marketers.