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Search Engine On Page Optimization Guide: Major Factors in On-page Website Optimization That Can Decide Your Site's Ranking on Search Results

On-page website optimization is as important as the off-page techniques, such as building links to your site and doing social media promotion. On-page search engine optimization includes these factors: content optimization, title and Meta description optimization, keyword research and analysis, outbound links, the HTML code of the website, internal link structure, update frequency, etc. We will see all of these factors in detail in this post.

The Blog Content Optimization

First and foremost thing in on-page website optimization is of course the content optimization. Google webmaster guidelines tells all webmasters to prepare content for readers, and not for search engines:
Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines. Don't deceive your users or present different content to search engines than you display to users, which is commonly referred to as "cloaking."
There is quite a bit of speculation floating in the blogosphere as to how to copywrite for SEO. People say Google looks for 2 % of keywords and Yahoo looks for 5 %. While the truth of these claims may be difficult to prove, it is known that content written targeting users tend to rank always better.

Certain factors that I suggest are these.

1. Content Written for Users Tend to Show More Related Terms

I found that if you write content for users, and not search engines, you tend to use several related terms and synonyms. When you write content for search engines, you tend to concentrate only on the targeted keyword. Some people just write a hundred-word crap article and put the targeted keyword twenty times on it, just for ranking high in search for that keyword. The result is almost always negative.

If you, on the contrary, write content keeping users in mind, you know you have to describe what you write and include a lot of related terms and synonyms. For instance, in this article about on-page optimization, I have to describe various factors that affect it. A search-engine-targeted post will look thus:
Learn Microsoft Word: Learning Microsoft (MS) Word can be difficult, but we make learning Microsoft Word easier by providing tips to format in Microsoft Word, publish in Word, and insert web content to MS Word software.

Search engines know well the terms related to a search query, and they do look for these words to estimate the quality of the page.

To understand this further, I did a small experiment. I Googled the term "purchase diamond ring" and I selected the first three results for analysis. I fired up the Metamend keyword density analyzer and researched the keyword density of each of these sites (which rank at first three positions for that query in Google; different regions may show different results): (purchase The Diamond Ring a novel; excluded from analysis)

[Now, you may ask why the page is showing up there. It is the link to a novel called The Diamond Ring. That page is there by most probably manual inclusion, as it doesn’t come up for the search term, ‘purchase a diamond ring’. It is excluded from my experiment.]

Here are the findings of keyword density analysis: I found diamond, rings, and ring in high concentration (5+ %) but the concentration of the word ‘purchase’ was too low (0.10%). But other words that I found in reasonable concentration include: shopping, cart, guarantee, warranty, testimonials, return policy, offers, designer, affordable, price, shipping, risk, registered, jewelry. All terms highly related to ‘purchase’. I found diamond and diamonds at high concentration of above 5 %. The words ring and rings are at low percentage below 1. The words related to ‘purchase’ I found are: buying, purchasing, purchase, discount coupons, comparison chart, checklists, jewelers, jewelry, price, stores, etc. Though all these words and the word ‘purchasing’ appeared in reasonable concentration, ‘purchase’ was still at a very low concentration. Keyword I found at high concentration are diamond, engagement ring, guide, diamonds, and buying. ‘Purchase’ is still not in high concentration. Other terms related to purchase in high concentration are: buy, huge selection, jewelry, purchasing, expensive, luxury, jeweler, offers, etc. Some of them are in low concentration.

What do we understand from these reviews? In all these results for this low-competitive query, we find the concentration of the word ‘purchase’ very low. But the concentration of diamond and ring are almost comparably high. But there are several words either related to or are synonyms of the word ‘purchase’ in all these websites in reasonably high concentration.

Also, there are words related to diamond and ring, such as engagement, wedding, etc., in high concentration. Though there are off-site and other on-site factors associated with it (particularly, for search term, ‘diamond ring’, only is ranking, so the effect of the word ‘purchase’ can be seen in this experiment), this substantially indicates the fact that related terms and synonyms can greatly affect the site’s rankings.

2. Content Written for Users Tend to Have Related Links

Another factor that can affect the quality of content is the presence of links to valuable resources and trusted websites. This is so with the case of content written for users. They will always have outbound links to popular related blog posts, and other high-ranking resources. Linking out to educational websites, blogs, etc., is very good for quality. Read this: Importance of linking out. Only bloggers who fear to pass their PageRank will stubbornly keep all their juice. That will only eventually hurt them. At the section below on outbound links you have more on this.

3. Simplicity of Language

This should be read along with the guidelines in keyword research and analysis. If you have a simple language, it will be for search engine bots to find your site, since your users will be querying mostly simple terms. So, adjust your vocabulary and grammar for simplicity.

Also, it is known that search engines prefer language without mistakes. You know well that Google can find out spelling and grammar errors to an appreciable extent. If you have a lot of them, it normally flags low quality and will naturally be ranked lower.

4. Size of the Content Pages

Page size is also a very important consideration in SEO. You can reduce the text content, optimize size of images, and reduce number of home page posts to reduce the overall page size of the home page. Here, you have the SEOCentro tool to check various factors regarding SEO, including the page size. Though a web page size less than 100 KB is acceptable, it is recommended to keep it below 20KB. So, the lower the size the better it is.

For better image optimization, use JPEG compression, if you don’t mind small drop in quality. If you need perfect quality and low size, I suggest you save your pictures in PNG format. Don’t use BMP format for pictures.

Title and Meta Description Tags

The title tag of your page holds great importance in deciding the topic of the page. Hence it will help your page rank higher if you have a keyword-optimized title. Have one or two of your main keywords on the title. Related descriptive keywords will make sense to search engines. Example: “How to Rank High in Search Results?” will make more sense than “How to Rank High?”

And if you are using my tweak for Blogger, it calls for descriptive title tags.

Another factor is the Meta tag. Though its effect is almost nil in search rankings, a Meta description may appear in search result page and will help the users know if the site is what they need or not. You can use my tweak in Blogger to enable individual Meta description for each post (see below). This is important since Google Webmaster Tools may flag duplicate Meta tags.

Here is information on how to add Meta description to your Blogger blogs, by Peter Chen. Read it along with my trick on how to add unique Meta description to each post.

Other Meta tags you can add are keyword tag and Robots Meta tag.

Keyword Research and Analysis

In one of the recent posts I wrote here, I had notified on the importance of keyword research. Since Google dance is going on, you cannot get more than a fixed average number of visitors any month even if you build a lot of links (staying below the spam level). However, keyword research can really help you get more traffic if you optimize for hot keywords. For that, use tools like Google Keywords and Google Trends.

Google Keywords Tool gives you an estimate of how many times a query was searched in a particular month. It also shows a green competition scale that tells you the difficulty to rank for that search query.

One important tip: There is a misconception that the total number of search results given by Google for a particular query is the competition for that query. This is untrue. You can’t know how much competition you have for a search term form SERPs (search engine result pages).

Google Trends can give you an estimate of how hot a particular keyword is. This tool can really help you if you publish news stories associated to your niche. Another important tool, perhaps more important than even trends is the Google Insights. It gives you exactly how hot a keyword is for a specified period, with geographical interest. Make sure you use these tools for keyword research and analysis.

Google Insights showing statistics for 'creative writing':
Google Insights tool showing the relevance of creative writing

Outbound Links From Your Pages

How important are outbound links from your pages? Several people believe that outbound links are like holes in a teacup. The more you have, the faster your traffic drains. This is not true. Outbound links to quality resources help you in two ways: First, your site will have a generally high user experience. Second, there is a search engine benefit. Links to relevant high quality resources is an indication of the page’s quality. So, the more highly relevant outbound links you have, the better it is for higher search ranking. Just make sure you don’t have more than 100 links on any page.

Even Google Webmaster Central blog’s recent announcement on link strategies (linked earlier) underlines this fact. So, make it a point to link out to other websites.

Remember, I advised you to link to ‘quality’ resources. Not to link farms, MFA sites, highly irrelevant sites (link to drug sales website from a creative writing blog). That will hurt your rankings.

Dangling Pages

Dangling page/link is a word first used in Google patent application. It is described as a page that has no outbound link to any other page. So, Google doesn’t know how to distribute the PageRank of such pages. So what they do is:
Dangling links are simply links that point to any page with no outgoing links. They affect the model because it is not clear where their weight should be distributed, and there are a large number of them. Often these dangling links are simply pages that we have not downloaded yet……….Because dangling links do not affect the ranking of any other page directly, we simply remove them from the system until all the PageRanks are calculated. After all the PageRanks are calculated they can be added back in without affecting things significantly.
This is from Google’s original PageRank paper by Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

So, a dangling page is an SEO dead-end. And a dangling link is a link pointing to such a page. It is best that you avoid dangling pages on your site. Here are two resources that I found that further explain this:

SEO Linking Gotchas Even Pros Make by Andy Beard
Remove Dangling Pages by DailySEOBlog of Mani Karthik

The conclusion is: Link out to popular, high quality, relevant resources to well distribute your PageRank and gain trust.

The HTML Code Optimization

I won’t suggest that you have strict W3C valid website code. Even web companies Google don’t have such highly valid pages. You will know that Microsoft has almost 180 errors on the home page and Google, almost 60. You can find out how many errors and warnings your pages generate through the W3C validator tool.

Though a validating code is not a strict search engine optimization requirement, there are plenty of reasons to have validating code.

  • The display of the website will be correct in most browsers
  • Search bots will find it easy to access and index your pages
  • The overall page size will be highly optimized when you remove non-validating error tags

These reasons are enough for you to edit the template and make it validate. For Blogger bloggers, you can find the guide to template validation for W3C Validation here. For normal self-hosted blogges, I suggest using WordPress. It is a perfect W3C Strict CMS (Content Management System) that can rank very well in search results.

Validation Tips

  • Make sure you close all your tags properly
  • Make sure you validate every blog post you make. There always are alt tags you missed, extra tags inserted by your CMS that may not validate, etc.
  • Every time you add a new gadget, widget, or plug-in, check if the code is validating.

Image Code Optimization

For images, always make sure that you have the alt tag specified. This tag is required for the <img> element to validate. Also, it helps in ranking higher for image searches, since search engines look at the alt tag to find information about the image. You can optionally also have an image title tag. So, a perfect image element should be thus:

<img src="image source" alt="alternate description" title="title of the image"/>

Matt Cutts on Image Alt Tags:

Internal Link Structure

The overall structure of the internal links is another important consideration for better SEO. As I said earlier, you shouldn’t have dangling pages on your site anymore. For this, you can always find pages that do not link to any other page, and update them to link to other relevant pages within your site and outside. You can read this article on internal link building and traffic growth to know more. Also, this tactic helps a lot in making your low-traffic internal pages rank higher.

Frequency of Update of the Blog

How often do you update your blog? Recent Google blog search patent update I happened to read takes update frequency as a ‘negative aspect’. Which is a little confusing to me. But I have found that pages that are updated regularly rank well in search results.

However, do you think updating blog a hundred and fifty times every month helps? That may be flagged as spam if done abruptly. But blogs like TechCrunch and the Huffington Post make more posts than that monthly. It is not regarded as spam, because they grew to a trusted level gradually and they still post very high quality content. So, post with a fixed frequency and build it up as the blog grows: one post a day, then two, three, and so on. However, there are certain points to know about post frequency, as described by Eric Kintz.


This discussion wraps up several important things about on-page search engine optimization. The most important aspect of blogging is providing useful content to users, not search engines. So, whenever you do that, you naturally rank high in search results. Your comments are much awaited. If you need any clarifications, please post them.

Related Resource:

SEO Advice: Writing Useful Articles That Users Will Love by Matt Cutts

Copyright © Lenin Nair 2008


  1. "Great topic & it has covered several points regarding
    search engine optimization. But I got a question, do you think onpage factors or offpage factors play a bigger role for SEO? Please advise"

  2. Both of them are equally important for a website.

  3. Great in-depth article, fully utilizing the techniques you're trying to teach. The time you've obviously put into your research and presentation comes across very well. Thank you!

  4. I feel that this is really very nice and informative post which provide lot of useful information about SEO. I really like this.

  5. Great information. I got lucky and found your site from a random Google search. Fortunately for me, this topic just happens to be something that I've been trying to find more info on for research purpose. Keep us the great and thanks a lot.

  6. Thanks for informative post. I am pleased sure this post has helped me save many hours of browsing other similar posts just to find what I was looking for. Just I want to say: Thank you!

  7. This post is most helpful. A lot are struggling with this concept especially newbies. This clarifies how important on page optimization is to their website.


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