On-Page Optimization Methods Still Valid in 2013

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SEO can be divided broadly into on-page and off-page optimization techniques. Simply put, on-page optimization is concerned with everything that can be done to boost your ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs) on the webpage itself.

Off-page optimization deals with aspects that take place elsewhere such as the quality and relevance (though not these days the sheer numeric volume) of your back-links. An effective SEO campaign will usually take both into account, but the importance of complete on-page optimization cannot be overstated.


‘The keyword is king’ used to be the mantra of most SEO campaigns. Choosing the correct keywords is still crucial. They are, after all, the phrases that people use when searching for a site, but nowadays less can be more.

The recent Penguin update to Google’s search algorithm dealt with keyword stuffing amongst other issues. Keyword repetition, if done within reasonable parameters, is not considered a black hat technique, but its efficacy is certainly debatable.

After years of debate concerning the optimum keyword density (if you were paying attention you might have noticed people throwing extremely precise figures such as 3.5 percent or 4.2 percent), Google’s Head of Webspam Matt Cutts claimed that it didn’t matter half as much as many people think.

“The first time you mention a word, you know, ‘Hey, that’s pretty interesting. It’s about that word.’ The next time you mention that word, ‘Oh, okay. It’s still about that word.’ And once you start to mention it a whole lot, it really doesn’t help that much more. There’s diminishing returns,” Cutts explained earlier this year.

More recently he revealed that:

“We have an entire team at Google called the Synonyms Team, and their job is to sort of realize that car and automobile are the same thing.”

The key with keywords in content, it seems, is to choose them wisely and use them as naturally as possible. There are, however, a few places where you should make sure your most important keywords appear. Keywords should generally be placed near the top of the page and at the beginning of paragraphs.


When search engines analyze your site, they pay particular attention to what lies between the HTML heading tags, especially <H1>, <H2>, and <H3>. In other words, titles and subtitles are important positions for keywords.

Don’t just use the heading tags on your first or main page. For every page on your website you should have a <h1> or <h2>or <h3> that has that page’s main keyword within it.

You can also double up on your subtitle SEO efforts by also including them in a contents list of clickable links. Don’t, however, make your titles too long or convoluted. Keep them simple and to the point.


The URL of the webpage can be one of the most important factors of on-page optimization. Changing URLs retrospectively can be problematic so it’s important to get this right from the start. Including important, relevant keywords in the URL can give you a small, but perhaps, crucial rankings boost, and both Google and Yahoo will display the portions of your URL that match the search term entered in bold in the SERPs. This can serve to catch a human eye even if you are not at the top of the SERPs for that particular search term.

Avoid overly dynamic URLs as these can be off-putting in the search results. All of your URLs should be set up in a logical way that gives an idea to what the user can expect from the content of the page.

If, for example, you saw www.domain.com/index.php?12345/ then it would be almost impossible for you to guess what that page was about. On the other hand, www.domain.com/dog-leads/ is almost certainly going to be about dog leads. 

Meta Tags 

Meta tags are used to instruct search engines on how a particular webpage should be indexed. Optimizing your title tag and the description meta tag can be useful in providing additional information to the search engines but using the keyword meta tag can do more harm than good. 

The exception to this is the news_keywords meta tag that Google announced in September. This is only for Google News-accredited clients however and pertains only to news stories. If this isn’t you, steer clear of the keyword meta tag.

The nature of SEO has changed over time, but its purpose is still the same. Increasing your chances of a high SERPS ranking and the additional traffic this can generate can only be a good thing. On-page optimization is one of the most important tools in achieving this and can be well worth the time and effort.

Christian Arno
Christian Arno is the founder of Lingo24, a global translation company. Launched in 2001, Lingo24 now has over 200 employees spanning three continents and clients in over sixty countries. In the past twelve months, they have translated over forty million words for businesses in every industry sector, including the likes of MTV, World Bank and American Express. Follow Lingo24 on Twitter: @Lingo24.
Christian Arno
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  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/seo-training-workshops Nick Stamoulis

    For me, the Meta description isn’t about SEO nearly as much as it is about the user experience. The Meta description is what shows up in the SERPs for a particular page on your site and it has to convince someone to bother to click through. There are video clips, maps, other websites, product searches and more all competing for the click of a searcher–you have to take every opportunity to help your link stand out.

    • http://www.outsource-force.com/ Jae Rustia

      but it still plays a major part in getting traffic, on a users point of view i would still read the description of a search result before clicking it, im not the type who would click a map or a video clip if its not something im looking for, anyway as you said it all depends on what someone is searching, and yes we MUST take all opportunities for that single cllick.

  • http://www.mytrialreviews.com Sorina

    I find the following very interesting: “Don’t just use the heading tags on your first or main page” – why is that?

    • http://www.davidsmithseo.com David

      Put simply… Because you should not expect all your traffic to come to your internal pages from your homepage.

      If you want your internal pages to be indexed and rank well in Google, you need to optimise each one of those pages the same way as you did with the homepage.

    • http://www.vizergy.com Billy

      I would say it is because you don’t only want the home page ranking. Any page that has terms you are focusing on is going to need on page optimization, so heading tags should be used on the inner pages as well. This wouldn’t only help you rank for the desired term but it will help ensure that the correct page of your website ranks for said term – rather than just having the home page rank for everything which forces the visitor to dig for the info they want… which they wont do, they will just click the back button thus skyrocketing your bounce rate etc…

  • http://www.rankwatch.com Sahil

    Hey Christian! That’s really a simple and good content on the basics of on-site. I still do think that site architecture and usability should also be considered as part of on-site optimization and they should also be given equal importance. Its all about getting user to the site and making him spend more time on the site for him to know more about a site for the maximum benefits. Good internal linking, redirections, image optimization etc. all do play a major role.

  • sammy

    Hi nice run down of things to do. However we had Sujan Patel yesterday write about filling in your meta keywords and description regardless. I understand SEO is not an exact science but these are 2 very contradictory positions.

    • http://www.davidsmithseo.com David

      As you say, SEO isn’t an exact science. It’s about testing what works and what doesn’t work.

      Put simply, do you think the 5 minutes of brainstorming keywords to use in your keyword meta tag is time well spent?
      Or do you think you should spend those 5 minutes polishing up your on-page content and making sure it’s the best you can make it?

      After all, the content is what visitors read, not keywords hidden in the source code… Just my 2 cents 🙂

  • https://plus.google.com/112778079887835867843 Darko

    On-page SEO will never die – that’s for sure. In near future, I expect more importance on relevancy and other content factors.

  • http://www.rankya.com.au/ rankyacomau

    Thanks Christian, these on page optimization techniques will always work, because they are the core of good website design and also within Google guidelines. And I will also agree with Nick to a point to say “meta description has three important aspects”
    1: as Christian said “useful in providing additional information to the search engines”
    2: as Nick has said “use experience”
    3rd point is, creating this meta directive in such a way that it combines these two points together for greatest return, both in form of SEO and also user experience and click through rate.

  • http://www.seointelbiz.com manohar thakur

    What about The keyword disturbing(3%-7%) in the article ?

  • Neil

    I think this is a great article. I might have added img title and alts because when well constructed they help ‘confirm’ what the page is about.
    Also, I tend to agree with Darlo that on-page will over time become more and more important.

  • http://www.pastlifeconnection.com Minal

    Hey, is it true that “keyword meta tag ” shouldn’t be used? If that is so, how do we let the search engine know which are the keywords on that page?

  • http://www.ely-website-seo.co.uk Neil

    Hello Minal,
    It is not that they should not be used, some designers and seo specialist still make a point of including keywords, especially if there is a common mis-spelling for one of the content keywords – too many ‘keywords’!! It is just that Google stopped using keywords a few years ago, preferring to draw evidence of the page subject matter from other elements of the page, particularly the content, headings and titling.
    So, by all means add keywords but don’t expect the main search engines to utilise them.

  • http://www.threenetworks.com/ Yogesh

    50% ranking get throgh the onpage optimization. if do proper according to thins.

  • Indian songs

    Yes onpage SEO is very important ,almost all what is required is being posted here although there are few more things you could add.

    1. make sure the images you are using in your page contains a “alt text” and that text should have a relevancy to your keywords.
    2.Always check your website keywords density before doing SEO for your site, Cause if you already have few good keywords in process its good to start working on them instead of starting a keyword from the begining.
    3.Use your keywords in paragraphs and Cloud tags. Your cloud tags should change automatically on everypage.

  • http://www.inceptionsystem.com Adi Milan

    The information was cool..
    But I have still confusions that how many key words and how many times should come in a page..

    means.. if I am using 2 key words in my web page then according to seo rules they should be 3 to 5 times in 100 words. So I guess that the two key words come 4 times each means total 8 key words in 100 worded blog or page..

    Did I guessed right ?

  • Vishal G Kamath

    I guess google bot now a days ignores keywords and is concentrating more on description meta tag. So I think description should be more relevent to the site and that particular page.

    By the way, good post. Thanks and Cheers!!!!

  • Barbara Varovsky

    Thanks for the post Christian, really useful info.

    I got a question concerning the optimum keyword density, if you don’t mind.

    I optimize my content with the help of Website Auditor (from SEO PowerSuite). The software calculates keyword density based on what my top competitors have – thus I can imitate their onpage optimization technique and outrank them.

    Is it a good idea to calculate keyword density this way?

    • Max Shone

      I use WebSite Auditor too and faced no issues so far. I think it’s a good idea not just for outranking your competitors but also in order not to overoptimize.

  • Mikeski

    I would like ask if you have an idea about the situation of my site. about these two urls of my sites if these really matter to be counted as duplicate content. like ( site/category/title-of-post ) and ( site/blog/title-of-post )
    Actually these are of the same posts but different urls since the other one is the link from category and the other one is the direct link directly from the blog post. some of my keywords ranked in search engine and the URL ranked is (site/category) and not the target URL like the home page. but recently the last google penguin update my keywords went down and some of them are not in top 100. is it possible that the cause is my onpage optimziation because the category of my blog is “INDEX” or allowed google to index the category of my blog.