6 Ultimate On-Page Search Engine Optimization Tips

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These on-page search engine optimization tips will assist you in setting up your pages with the appropriate title and meta tags, headers, text elements and alt attributes.

1. Title Tag

The Title tag is used to define the title of a web page, with the Title tag placed between the <head> and </head> tags in the html of the page. Search engines will recognize the Title tag as the title of the page. Each page should have its own distinct Title tag.


  • The Title will be displayed within the browser at the top of the browser window or tab.
  • When a user searches for a specific word or phrase, Google will return a link to the website, and the Title tag will be displayed as the anchor text for the website link.
  • The text in the Title tag is one of the most important relevancy factors influencing search engine ranking algorithms.
  • Using your most important keywords or keyphrases in the Title tag will have a dramatic effect upon your page’s ranking for those keywords.

Take Aways:
It is recommended that you keep your Title short, preferably between 10 and 64 characters, 70, at most. Over 70 will not contribute any weight as part of the document.

Use of irrelevant words (not found on the page) in your Title will dilute the impact on your targeted keywords. Use of irrelevant words can also trigger the spam filters of the search engines. Place your most targeted keyword phrases as early as possible in the Title. Try to minimize the use of stop words, such as a, an, of, on, etc., as they consume character count and offer no value.

2. Description Meta Tag

Used to provide a brief description of a Web page, the Description meta tag should clearly describe the purpose of the page, for both the user and the search engines.

  • The importance of the Description tag as an element of the ranking algorithm has decreased significantly over recent years, but some search engines may still support this tag.
  • The search engines will often display the Description along with the Title in the SERPS (search engine results pages).

The maximum length of a displayed description varies between search engines, so wherever possible, try to place your most important keywords early in your Description tag, in case the search engine truncates the results.

Keep your Description between 50 and 149 characters, including spaces, whenever possible. Google will display 154 characters, but other search engines display less. Longer descriptions are of little value, as most search engines place little to no importance on this tag.

In extreme circumstances, the Description can be as long as 200 characters (including spaces), but understand that there is a high probability of truncation. As is the case with the Title, the use of irrelevant words can trigger the search engines’ spam filters. Avoid adding text that is not found within the visible text of the page.

Description Meta tags are not intended for the search engines, they exist for human users. Therefore, the text should be written to attract the user and convert them to a buyer, achieving the best ROI for your SEO efforts.

3. Keywords Meta Tag

This tag lists the words or phrases that are descriptive of, and found within the contents of the page. This tag provides some additional text for crawler-based search engines. However because of frequent attempts to abuse their systems, most search engines now ignore this tag.

Note: Of all the major crawler-based search engines, only Inktomi currently supports the Keywords Meta tag.

Similar to the Meta Description tag, there is a limit to the number of captured characters within the Keywords Meta tag. Keep the tag to between 4 and 8 keywords or keyphrases, separated by commas.

Syntax: Keyword1,Keyword2,Keyword3,Keyword4

All keywords listed in the Keywords Meta Tag should appear at least once in your content (body), or they may be considered to be irrelevant spam. You should also avoid repetitions, to prevent penalization by the search engines for keyword “stuffing”. The most important keywords should be listed first, to increase their prominence for the search engines that still consider this tag in their determination of your pages’ rankings.

Side Note: Approximately a year ago, Yahoo was still considering the keywords meta tag. While that may have changed, it will do no harm to use this tag, provided you don’t abuse it.

Attention! If you are utilizing XHTML+RDFa (which is recommended), you should not use the keywords meta tag. Opt instead, for the implementation of “Common Tags”.

Yahoo! Announces the “Common Tag” and why is it better: Like The Meta Keywords Tag, But Even Better.

4. Heading Tags (H1-H6)

Syntax: <h1>Keyword1 in the Heading</h1>, <h2>Keyword2 in the Heading </h2>, etc.

The “Header tag” is nothing more than a headline of the page, so it should be kept short. 45 characters, including spaces, is a good target.

Each page should have a clearly defined <h1> header tag, to identify the primary subject of the page to both the user and the search engine. Be sure to use the primary search phrase you are targeting within this tag.

Note: It is important that the primary keyword is located in the first heading tag on the page, regardless of its type. Placing the keyword early in the header tag will increase its prominence.

Standard rules apply for the structure of HTML pages. Written in a document-like fashion, they should include:

  • Title
  • Major heading, describing the main purpose of the section.
  • Subheadings, highlighting the key points of each subsection.

Many search engines rank the words found in headings higher than the words found in the body text of the document. Some search engines will also incorporate keywords by looking at all the heading tags on a page.

Don’t try to stuff your heading tag with too many keywords, or words that are not relevant to the content in the body. Having multiple <h1> tags on the same page may cause you to be subjected to a penalty by the search engines, as it may be seen in the same light as “keyword stuffing“.

It is certainly appropriate to have multiple headlines appearing on a page, like <h2>,<h3>, etc., provided they follow a hierarchical order. The <h1> should be the first heading tag, followed by the <h2>, then the <h3>, and so on.

5. Phrase Elements

Use the semantical tags <STRONG> and <EM> tags for targeted keywords within the visible content of your pages, but sparingly. Those tags are alternatives to the <B> and <I> tags, which can also be used, but are for visual presentation purposes only.

6. Alt Attributes

Resist the temptation to stuff your alt. attributes with keywords. Keyword density is no longer as important as it once was, and doing so could subject you to penalties.

A tutorial for how-to: Alt Attribute & Image Search Engine Optimization (please rate it and add your comment there).

I hope my search engine optimization tips are helpful to you.

John Britsios
Founder and Chief Information Officer (CIO) of SEO Workers and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Webnauts Net, a qualified UX & Semantic Search Consultant, specializing in Semantic, Forensic & Technical Predictive Search Engine Optimization, Content Marketing, Web Content Accessibility, Usability Testing, Social Semantic Web based Responsive Web Design & Ecommerce Development, UX & Funnel Optimization, Conversion Rate Optimization.
John Britsios
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  • ravi juneja

    thx for this post

  • http://twitter.com/danielhpavey Daniel Pavey

    Good post, thanks… Always nice to revisit these key optimization tips!

  • http://www.webhostinglogic.com/web-marketing/web-marketing-home.html Seo Guru

    Impressive tips you have for onsite optimization. You got it all covered. Many people still consider the keyword density though as I often read a lot of articles stuffed with keywords thus making the article look like a mess.

  • Brent

    Hi John,
    Great summary – very clear. I'm not sure what you're feelings on this are, but I would add that the company/product name should be part of the title on the home page, but should not usually be the first or only keyword in the title. Just my two cent . . . thanks for the great article.

  • http://www.sporkmarketing.com Jason Lancaster

    Sorry, but I think the only one that matters is the title tag. Data from SEOMoz’s most recent indexing shows that keywords in header tags, bolded text, etc. have little or no impact.

    Of course, the meta tags have no direct search value – only the description tag matters, and only because it’s *sometimes* shown as the official page summary in Google results.

    I think the SEO community tends to forget that most websites aren’t built by SEOs…if Google and Bing really paid attention to these elements, that would put most websites at a severe disadvantage. Therefore, these tips should be taken with a grain of salt – except, of course, for the title tag.

    • Webnauts

      I do not understand why people follow blind SEOMoz blindly. They are a nice company, but there are many evidence-based facts that not everything they claim is accurate or correct. Sorry.

      And if web sites are not build by SEOs, does that mean that designers do not use diverse HTML elements? If that is the case, they are simply self proclaimed designers and not professionals.

  • Lyndsay Walker

    Hmm, I hate to be critical but I have a couple of issues.

    1) Meta descriptions – this tag doesn't offer any SEO advantage, so it's not really an on-page element. It is very important for encouraging clickthrough though and should always be used for that purpose.

    2) Meta keywords – You mention of Yahoo MAYBE still using it is irrelevant now that Bing is powering Yahoo's search results 🙂

    • http://www.seoworkers.com Webnauts

      Lnydsay about the meta description it is important that the description clearly describes the purpose of the page, because its not just for the search engines, but mainly for humans to read.

      This can provide potential visitors very relevant information that probably will not be displayed in the snippet otherwise, and can increase the CTR from the search engine results.

      Isn’t CTR a task of an SEO?

      About the keywords I said MAYBE. And I said that a best option would be using the CTAGS instead.

      Or did I miss something?

      • Lyndsay Walker

        I would say CTR is a metric of SEO, not a task. And I'm definitely not diminishing the importance of the meta description tag, I'm simply saying it doesn't belong in this article as it is not a ranking factor.

        And yes I know you said maybe about the keywords… but I was referring to the inclusion of Yahoo's search algorithm when such a thing no longer exists. 🙂

    • http://www.seoworkers.com Webnauts

      Bing is powering Yahoo!’s search results? I was just reading something else here: http://www.bing.com/community/blogs/search/archive/2010/08/24/exciting-news-from-bing-and-yahoo.aspx

      Did I really misunderstand something?

    • http://www.seoworkers.com Webnauts

      Lyndsay isn’t CTR included in the tasks of an SEO? If not, isn’t the tag helping the engines to generate relevant and quality snippets?

      And you said that Bing is powering Yahoo!’s search results? If I did not miss something here http://www.bing.com/community/blogs/search/archive/2010/08/24/exciting-news-from-bing-and-yahoo.aspx I must disagree. 🙂

    • http://www.seoworkers.com Webnauts

      Well if meta descriptions doesn’t offer any SEO advantage, it sure does for SXO: http://sphinn.com/story/157785 🙂

      To your point 2 I would like to add here http://www.ysearchblog.com/2010/08/17/news-about-our-searchmonkey-program/ (also read the replies).

  • Gloux

    Sorry but the meta part of this post rendered the article useless.

    • http://www.seoworkers.com Webnauts

      Can you please be more specific? Don't you use meta descriptions on your site? If not can you explain why not? About the keywords meta tag I talked about their alternative which are CTAGs and which Yahoo, Google and Bing supports. So to be honest I do not believe you read the article, but only the comments of Lindsay. If I am wrong, then please clarify.


  • http://www.joydeepdeb.com/ Joydeep

    Hi John,

    Good one, I would also like to add Anchor Text [a href=”#”]Keyword Phrases[/a].

    Meta keywords are not much useful nowadays as all major search engines (Google, Bing, yahoo) ignore it.

  • http://www.seop.com/ search engine optimization

    Alt Attributes is either not used or stuff with keywords. An alt attribute should have a descriptive text for your image that includes your keyword appropriate for the image or on the content itself where the image can be seen.

  • Ian

    Good post! I agree with the post and not the comments passed above. I agree that Google and Bing have said they pay no attention to meta tags. However if the meta tags you're using match up with the content on the page then I think that they use them.
    There is no doubt I've worked on a few projects where this has been the case.
    If your tags don't align with your conent do you blame Google for not using them? Besides they are SO easily abused, I'd also say I don't look at them…

    Makes sense doesn't it?

  • http://leslie@justasmalltowngirl.us Leslie McLellan

    Very informative post – thank you so much. Just now trying to figure out SEO after having someone else do it for me so this was very timely for me!

  • http://dillon-smith.com Dillon

    A very useful summary of the most important on-page SEO tips.

  • http://www.strategic-online-marketing.co.za Glynn Rieckhoff

    A great article, and also a good one to bookmark as it can come in handy when you forget the limits of characters for Titles etc. Thanks

  • http://joel-grant.myopenid.com/ Joel

    This is a great overview and consistent with what I've read in other places. It may seem fundamental to some – but I am amazed at the number of people who still don't have these basics down. Or know these things, but don't take the time to actually incorporate them in their site, thinking that they really don't make that big a difference.

  • ChiefAlchemist

    Thanks. A couple things if you don't mind…

    – FWIW, I would have left keywords out. They don't matter. Let's stop perpetuating the myth already 🙂
    – Can you confrim #5? Is strong really given SEO preference over bold? Or vice versa? I understand they matter but this is the first time I'm reading one is better than the order (for SEO).

    @Lyndsay – Yes and no. But I'd have to say I'm with John. Description is “SEO” in that what good is doing the SEO dirty work if the description fails to grab attention and get the click? Isn't that *the* SEO prize?

    • Webnauts

      I did not say that strong is given SEO preference over bold, or vice versa. The bold tags are purely for visual presentation and strong tags are to add emphasis to particular words or phrases.

      My tip is to create user-oriented web sites and you will have success with search engines.

      • ChiefAlchemist

        Hi John. Thanks for the reply. Not to parse words but

        “Those tags are alternatives to the and tags, which can also be used, but are for visual presentation purposes only”

        I'd like to suggest you might want to clarify that paragraph a bit. When you say “presentation purposes only” in the present context that more than implies “and not an attribute that helps with SEO “. Can you see how the wording isn't communicating the idea.

        “It's not what you say, it's what they here” 🙂

        And yes, the best site is a site that's written and optimized for humans, not the search engines. SEO can not fix crap IA, UI, UX, etc.

        The irony is, the search engines are trying to be human and the humans building sites are trying to be robots. lol

        Again, good post. Thanks.

  • Ian | SEO Brisbane

    It's good to see that people like you practice good solid SEO tactics. I've read posts that still recommend key word stuffing as a good tactic, very old school. Google places has now become an important aspect of the work we all do to.

  • http://www.pressbox.cz Veletrh

    Hi, good post, but I find it a bit less helpful. It doesn't actually highlights what the really important things should be – I mean it should talk more about the headings, title and other stuff that work somehow, less about the meta tags, alt and other things, that don't matter as much these days. But for the beginning, nice and clear, thanks.

  • http://www.webcreationuk.com/advancedseo.htm SEO in UK

    Awesome post John, thanks a bunch for sharing those tips!

  • http://twitter.com/RealEstateOwned Real Estate Owned

    It seems pretty basic nowadays to do the things you mention. It would all happen as your writing your post and before you publish. Yes it would seem but there are still a great many number of people who still don't cover the basics. It's no wonder they don't understand the more complex steps.

  • http://webbroi.com Casey

    Stumbled upon this from HubSpot and good content as usual.

  • http://www.qaguild.com/ Quality Assurance Service

    Very Impressive One. You covered all On-Page optimization techniques. Well managed.

  • http://www.dogculture.net Jason

    How do you feel about content refresh? I have been reading that its good to do cotent refresh at least once a week but I was wondering how many characters should be replaced?

    • Webnauts

      I do not understand. What characters should be replaced?

  • http://www.2stroke.co.za Charlie

    Great post John – where do you get the figure that a title must be max 70 characters (assume that includes spaces)? Am I correct in interpreting your comment that if you go over 70 char, you get no value at all, or is it just the characters which are in position 70+ that don't get value?

    Another – unrelated – question regarding inlinks. Do the search engines give value for every inlink from a site, or does only the first link give link juice, or is link juice diluted the more links you have? In other words, say a magazine has written 100 stories about me – each on its own page. All link to my website. Do I get full benefit from all links?

    • Webnauts

      Max 70 characters including spaces. Above that everything will be ignored.

  • http://www.directorysubmissionservices.net Nick

    It's good to see that people like you practice good solid SEO tactics. I've read posts that still recommend key word stuffing as a good tactic.thanks for sharing ..

  • meenam009

    Good post John, thanks for sharing…….
    But you missed adding about keyword rich URL's .
    keyword rich URL's work better than Meta-data, i feel

    • Webnauts

      If you have noticed from the tutorial title, I only added 6 tips. I did not cover all on-page optimization factor. And I would advise to be careful with the keywords rich URLs. Check this video of Matt Cutts, Head of Google's spam team: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=971qGsTPs8M

  • http://twitter.com/meandorcro Goran Vesenjak

    How important are keywords inside the domain? Where would you put that on your list?

  • SarahMac

    Great article. Thanks so much for taking the time to cover the code aspect of SEO starting from the very beginning with <title> and tags. I remember my media studies teacher teaching us to fill our pages with keywords. Times have changed even in my 29 years on this planet. </title>

  • http://facebook.com/sachin9sharma Sachin Sharma

    Description Meta Tags are much important coz they create eye catching Snippets in Google Search. This is truly a part of SEO and If you are not using it, you are loosing something.

    I prefer coloring of keywords then Bold or Italic, it creates good looks and catches users’ attention.

  • http://peterzmijewski.com keyword removed

    It is really very tough task to provide all information on On page optimization. I am impressed with the useful tips you have provided on on page activity. Very nice post.