What is On Page SEO?

On page SEO is essentially optimising the pages of your website so that they achieve higher rankings on Google. Higher rankings mean more traffic which means more potential leads, so it is a pretty important part of your online marketing strategy.

On Page SEO goes far beyond just making sure your keywords are listed on your website.  Google now looks at everything from the number of 404s you have to the mobile responsiveness of your website.  Failure to ensure that all these areas are covered will result in poor search engine ranking.

Why Is On Page SEO Important?

Search engines do not understand websites like humans do, so it is very important that marketers give Google a few clues as to what a web page is all about.  A few years ago, this comprised of stuffing a page full of keywords that you would want to rank for.

However, Google has come a long way since then, and now has a very complex indexing protocol that is carefully kept hidden from the general public.  While Google doesn’t reveal the specifics about its search algorithm, over the years people have been able to gradually understand how it works from observations, interviews, research papers and more.

Crucial On Page Signals

There are a few basic on page signals that you have sorted right from the outset.  These are the essentials, and without them you will struggle to rank even on the first few SERP pages of Google.


Keywords were one of the original ranking signals that Google used to index web pages, and today that still one of the most basic forms of on page SEO. Keywords should be used strategically within the content of a webpage, and care should be taken so as not too overuse keywords as this is considered spamming.


Keywords are important; however it is unlikely that you will rank at the top of page one for a search query with keyword placement alone.  For that, you are going to have to ensure that you have a few other more important signals.


Google knows that everyone searches for things differently, and they all use slightly different phrases and language to do so.  Because of this they pay very close attention to synonyms and have generated vast databases of synonyms and close variants for millions of phrases.

This allows them to match content to search phrases even when the searcher uses different words than the ones in your text. An example would be cat pics, which can also mean cat photos, pictures of cats, cat pictures etc.

keyword synonyms

For SEO, this means using a wide variety of phrases and making the content as natural as possible with semantic variation in the text.

Page Segmentation

Just as important as the words themselves is where we place the words on a page. Every web page is made up of different parts – headers, footers, sidebars, main body and more.  We know that Google places more importance on the words that are in more relevant sections of the HTML.

keyword segments

Page segmentation becomes increasingly complicated as we move towards mobile device responsiveness, as often some parts of web pages are hidden on mobile.  Now with Google’s mobile-first indexing, it is increasingly important to prioritise content in visible areas.

Semantic Distance

Semantic distance is the distance in the text between phrases, and is refers to the relationships between different words.  If a search engine sees ‘husky’ and ‘dog breeds’ close together in a body of text, it takes this as an indicator that they are related.

semantic distance

Phrases that are in the same paragraph are considered semantically closer than phrases separated in bodies of text, and lists are also considered equally related to each other.

Phrase-Based Indexing and Co-Occurrence

Search engines also index pages based on complete phrases, and rank those pages according to the relevance of these phrases.  This process is called phrase-based indexing.

co-occurence seo

Googles knows that certain phrases tend to predict other phrases, like when you search for something that is related to something else.  A good example would be the phrase ‘Boris Johnson’ co-occuring with phrases like ‘politics’ or ‘brexit’. A page that contains these related terms is more likely to be relevant and will add to its ranking factors.

Keeping It Natural

At the end of the day, one of the best ways we can better our on page SEO factors is creating content that reads properly and is not trying to trick Google.  The best marketers know that we have to work with Google, and essentially just give it a helping hand so that it knows what your content is all about.

Remember that it is not just all about how search engines see your content, most importantly it is about your potential customers.  You can drive all the traffic you want to your website but if it doesn’t look natural and provide value to them then they will go elsewhere and all you will end up with is an increased bounce rate.

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