What is On-Page SEO? In a nutshell, it’s all of the things you can do to optimize each of your individual web pages to rank higher in SERP (search engine results page), which includes the content and HTML source code, among other things (which we will go into in more detail below). For comparison, off-page SEO refers to all the things you can do away from your website to raise your page’s rankings in search. This includes link building, influencer outreach, and content marketing, to name a few things.
When most people refer to SEO, on-page SEO is what they really mean, even though there are many other facets to SEO as a whole. In this article, we’ll give you a comprehensive guide to everything you need to get started with optimizing this critically important part of growing your business online.
Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo crawl through your pages to get a better understanding of what your shop is all about. When someone searches for a type of product that you’re selling, these search engines want to be sure that the potential customer is finding the right thing.
In fact, it’s pretty much impossible to have good search engine optimization and search results without having good on-page SEO.
Think of your on-page SEO like the organization of your physical shop or office. If you have products mislabeled and poorly organized, the shopper is going to have a poor experience and will be unlikely to purchase something, let alone return. But if you have your shelves properly labeled and well-organized, you’ll attract more visitors and your shoppers are going to love shopping there.
Search engines are like the advance scouts for shoppers before they go into your store. If Google discovers a poorly organized haphazard shopping experience, it’s unlikely that your shop will rank high in the search results.
In this guide, we’re going to first walk you the basics of optimizing your on-page SEO, and then we’ll dive into some of the more technical details to help you boost your page rankings in SERP.
In order to get started with your site’s on-page SEO, you’ll need to understand the concept of meta tags, snippets of text that describe a page’s content. These meta tags don’t appear as words on the page itself; they exist within the page’s source code. In a nutshell, Meta tags are little bits of content that help communicate directly with search engines to tell them what a web page is about. The most essential of these meta tags are your Page Title and Page Description.
Your site’s page title is the HTML <title> tag in the <head> of your page. Remember, this isn’t just a title on the actual “homepage” of your website, it’s actually not particularly visible to visitors to your website (it’s displayed on the top “tab” of your web browser. Here’s an example:
Even though your customers likely won’t notice it, it’s absolutely crucial for your SEO. Search engines will use your meta title for the link text for your search result. If you’re the owner of RicksKites.com but you don’t have your meta title set up correctly, not only will your customer likely be confused if they find your website via search, Google and other search engines will penalize you tremendously and your organic rankings when someone is searching for kite stores will suffer.
Here’s what a page title and description (we’ll get to that next) should look like in Google search results:
The keywords you use in your page titles – yes, you need to do this for every page on your site – are paramount here, as search engines will use them in organic rankings. If you have awesome page titles, you may rank well for multiple keywords to lead your ideal customers to you.
Here are the things you need to keep in mind in order to optimize your Shopify meta title for SERP. Your title must:
That’s right, you can’t copy and paste the same exact page title for multiple pages in your store. If pages with different content have the exact same meta title, they may be viewed by search engines as duplicates of one another… and therefore only one of them may be listed.
Be Descriptive of Your Page
Search engines are smart. They want your meta title to accurately describe the page the user will see after clicking on the link. That means you can’t just stuff your title with random keywords in the hopes that search engines will pick up your site in as many searches as possible. So craft a title that will specifically describe what the user is going to get when visiting your site.
Front Load Your Title With Keywords
Use the specific keywords you want to rank for as the first words in your title. In the example above, the Kraff Eye Institute front loaded their title with “Lasik Chicago” to rank for those keywords.
Contain Numerous Valuable Keywords
Put yourself in your target consumer’s shoes. Outside of searching for your actual brand name, what keywords would they use when searching for the kind of products you provide. Try to avoid using overly broad keywords, and make sure the words you’re using are ones people are actually typing into search engines. This is a bit of both an art and a science and might take some trial and error.
Be the Right Length
The right length for your page title somewhat depends on a number of factors, but as a general rule, it’s best to keep your title under 70 characters. That way you’ll avoid getting cut off by search engines with the dreaded ellipses (…), as they only display a snippet of your title. That being said, search engines do consider much more than 70 characters for ranking purposes, so this is by no means a hard and fast rule. If you’re able to thread the needle and avoid getting a word cut off while also utilizing more keywords via a longer title, it may pay off significantly.
Have One Per Page
Although you might be tempted, make sure there’s only one title in the head of each web page. Using multiple titles will either put you at risk of being ignored or of the search engine arbitrarily selecting one for you.
When looking at search results for your store online, a paragraph will show up after the title. This is the meta description. In more technical terms, if you’re looking at the <head> of your webpage html, the description is the <meta name=”description” content=””/> HTML tag in the <head> of a webpage. These descriptions will also show up when sharing your website on social platforms. For reference again, here’s what a meta description looks like:
There are a number of things to think about when optimizing your description, but most of all, you want to make it compelling. After all, you want potential clients to really want to click on your link if they stumble across your site in search results! This is your “elevator pitch” to users. If it’s just a jumbled description over-stuffed with keywords, you may end up driving people away rather than reeling them in.
In addition to that, there are several other on-page SEO factors to keep in mind with regards to your page descriptions. Your descriptions must:
Again, just like meta titles, you cannot use the same meta descriptions for multiple pages.
Describe the Page
Make sure your description accurately portrays the content on that SPECIFIC page, not the entire site.
Contain Good Keywords
While not one of the top-ranking factors, including good keywords in your description, is important, mainly for the reason that the keywords and phrases will turn bold if they match what the user is looking for. This will very likely increase your click-through rate and get more shoppers onto your Shopify site.
As a general rule, keep your descriptions within 160 characters, because that is when most search engines will cut off your text.
No More Than One Per Page
Yes, the same rules apply as per your page title. You may be tempted to stuff multiple descriptions in your page <head>, but it will likely backfire on you.
If you want to get more in-depth with your meta tags optimization, here are all the meta tags that Google uses to rank your page:
When it comes to making your page more appealing to potential customers and improving your SEO, it may sound cliche, but “content is king” still holds true. But when it comes to the content you generate, via blog posts, landing pages, and frankly every page on your website, there are some best practices to keep in mind for on-page SEO.
Using HTML headline tags – H1, H2, H3, and so on – throughout your content is sort of like creating mini title tags for search engines to crawl throughout your site. These headlines help Google understand the structure of your page.
You’ll need to create headlines and subheadlines (such as there are within this article, for example) that include the keywords that you’d like your page to rank for. These headings will, of course, also improve the quality and clarity of your site, making it as easy to understand for your visitors and potential clients as possible.
As for what kind of headings to use, it’s best to do some extensive keyword research for your industry and include strategic keywords as much as possible.
Properly designed pages have a clear structure that helps viewers read the content, and understanding the proper text structure is also important for SEO. Just like people scan text in a certain way, so do Google and other search engines. And as time goes on, these search engines are getting more and more sophisticated and continuing to learn more about language. That means that if you organize and structure your content exceptionally well, Google will likely value your content more.
In addition to the above-mentioned headings and subheadings, your content should contain short, clear paragraphs with clearly descriptive first sentences about what the content is about. Utilizing bullet items, italics, and boldface text (where applicable) can also be effective.
This one is very simple but very effective. All you need to do is incorporate your target keyword within the first 100 words of text on your site. Google puts more weight on keywords that show up early on in your site, so utilizing your desired keywords easy on can have a big impact.
You also may want to consider LSI keywords, otherwise known as “Latent Semantic Indexing.” In practical terms, this refers to other related and similar keywords someone may use to search for the keywords you’re trying to rank for. For example, LSI keywords related to the keyword “car” may be “automobile,” “road,” “driving,” “tires,” etc.
Internal linking can make a huge difference for your SEO. In essence, you’ll want to link from higher-authority pages on your website to other pages on your site that need a boost. You can use software like Ahrefs to determine which of your pages have the highest authority, and then link to the other pages, using hyperlinked applicable keywords, throughout your page.
Another significant factor in boosting your on-page SEO is your URL itself, as the keywords found within a URL are used to rank your page. Keep in mind, this goes not just for your domain name, but every page on your site.
In order to optimize the SEO-friendliness of your URLs, your URL should:
This may be obvious, but make sure the URL you choose for a page contains keywords that apply to that page specifically
Separate Words With Dashes
Rather than smushing all the words together, be sure to separate words with dashes (-) and not underscores (_).
Mobile users account for roughly 50% of all internet users worldwide, which means it’s critically important to make your website as mobile-friendly as possible. Most website builders – WordPress, Shopify, Wix, Squarespace, etc. – have tools to help you optimize your site for mobile, but if you have a completely customized site, this can be a little trickier. In addition to using responsive web design to optimize the overall look of your site on mobile (and for that matter all platforms), some of the factors to consider for your mobile design include:
Don’t Use PopUps on Mobile
While you may be tempted to use them to gather as much data as possible, mobile popups are supremely annoying. They’ll lead to higher bounce rates on your site, which will damage your SEO.
Design For a Hefty Finger
Nobody likes tiny, impossible-to-click buttons on mobile. On the other hand, buttons that are too large can create issues with scrolling and frustrate your visitors. Try to find a happy medium.
Don’t Use Flash
Flash may not be available on certain phones, so it’s best to avoid using this plugin and stick to HTML5 if you want to create special effects on your site.
Page speed is absolutely critical, especially for mobile users because of hardware and connectivity issues – not to mention most users’ extremely short attention spans. The best ways to improve your page speed is by moving to a faster host, removing as many third-party scripts as you can, and reducing your page’s total size.
Structured data typically refers to something called “Schema” or schema.org, which is a result of a collaborative effort between Google, Bing, Yandex, and Yahoo! to help publishers provide the most useful information to search engines to enhance the rich snippets which appear beneath the page title in search results. A great tool to add structured data to your site is Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper.
Optimizing your images for SEO something you may never have thought about, but it makes a big difference for SEO. Here are the factors you need to consider when optimizing your images.
An Alt Tag, in simple terms, is an alternate description of an image on your site. A viewer can only see it if they hover their mouse over the image or if they’re using special software for the visually-impaired.
These Alt Tags are used by search engines for two things – the ranking of the image itself in the “image search” and the ranking of the page the image is on.
Here are the things you need to keep in mind in order to optimize your Shopify image alt tags for SERP. Your title must:
As you can tell, this is a common theme. Just as with meta tags and titles, do not copy and past your alt tags for every photo.
Aside from the SEO value it provides, the alt tags do serve a beneficial function for the visually-impaired. Make sure your alt tag describes the photo accurately.
Contain Good Keywords
As long as it works within your description, using beneficial keywords for your brand and industry is key here.
Be No More Than a Sentence in Length
Write naturally, using commas, but keep it to a sentence length at most.
Image size optimization is a little bit of a double-edged sword. You want your images to be high-res so that they look great on your Shopify site, but if your image files are too big, your site will load too slowly. As a general rule, it’s best to keep your image size below 70kb.
Before you even upload your image to Shopify, you should change the file name of the image to something SEO-friendly. You cannot change the file name of the image once it has been uploaded, so you’ll need to delete and re-upload any images on your site with non-descriptive file names. Remember, in a file name, you cannot use spaces between words, so use dashes (-) instead.
Position zero is a term that refers to the “featured snippet” block at the top of the search results page. Originally called “quick answers,” position zero is an attempt to quickly answer a users’ query. It’s also going to be more important in the future as voice search becomes more widely used, as Google uses these featured snippets for its “one true answers” responses to voice queries. While you used to benefit from having two results in search results – both the featured snippet and the #1 position – Google has decided to “declutter” search results by only including position zero results within the featured snippet.
Here’s an example of a “position zero” search result:
As you can see, the ithemes.com answer has achieved the coveted position zero, which lends it a huge advantage in click-through rate and visibility.
How do you get position zero? The results are generated organically, so if you really nail all the other on-page SEO essentials, you’ll have an improved chance of ranking in position zero for your desired keyword(s). A few key things play a role in which content is used, including:
First Page Results
You don’t need to be in position one to get chosen as the featured snippet, but it’s essential to be in the first 5 results for a specific search.
The information on your site has to be the correct answer to the question, and the information on your page must be relevant to the search term as a whole.
If your answer is correctly and usefully formatted, Google will be more likely to display it.
Voice search, while still not nearly as popular as Google or Bing, is continually getting more popular and will be especially important for local businesses in the near future. For a definitive guide on voice optimization for Google, click here.
If you really want more traffic, however, it’s going to take more than just basic on-page SEO to make a huge difference. It’s far more powerful to take a multi-channel approach by integrating other channels such as social, PPC (aka Google Ads), forums, outside referrals, and even email to pull potential clients to your site. Think of all of these ways users can access your site like a giant funnel. By taking an integrated approach, you’ll be able to draw more traffic to your site, therefore benefitting your organic rankings in the long run. For example, Organifi, a growing superfood supplement brand, epitomizes this approach perfectly. Take a look at their traffic results from SimilarWeb:
As you can see, they have a pretty diverse source of traffic, which is contributing in a holistic way to their growth – and improving their organic SEO as a result.
You can use this page as an effective primer for optimizing your on-page SEO, and following these instructions will certainly help you in the search rankings. But if you’re either short on time, ready to take your business to another level, or both, our team of experts at Comrade Digital Marketing can make sure all of these best practices are implemented while helping you stay on top of the ever-evolving competitive landscape of SEO. Contact us to schedule a consultation to find out how we can help your organic search rankings (and much more) to skyrocket your business growth.
Do you want a marketing plan that fits your individual needs? Let us craft a strategy that drives results to your company based on your objectives.
Please fill out the form to the right, and we will contact you within one business day for a free initial consultation.
Unlock a full potential of your website. See which gaps in your marketing don’t allow your organization to scale. Get a complimentary, no obligation marketing performance review.