On Page SEO: The Complete Tutorial for Beginners (2021)

Environment setup

  1. Set up your WordPress.org site and install the Yoast SEO plugin (see how to do this here).
  2. Make sure you have performed your keyword research and mapping. This will help you find the most relevant keywords, so that you keep your content high-quality and helpful for users. If you haven’t done your keyword research yet, you can take our free SEO mini-course to learn how get your SEO strategy rock-solid for the next 12 months.

Before starting: pre-optimization steps

  1. Based on your keyword research and mapping spreadsheet, select the keyword and searcher intent you want to use for the page or blog post you want to optimize. Remember: in general, you want to make sure each page targets only one searcher intent (or a “bucket” in the keyword mapping spreadsheet you have worked on).
  • For the purpose of this blog article, we will be going through an example blog post that’s being optimized for “red emojis”.
  1. Write the content of the page or blog post without optimizing it for the target keyword. I did this a lot when I first started writing for Search Engine Optimization, but it’s a lot better to write the content without worrying about the optimization process or the keywords you need to use. This way, you will be able to produce content that’s more natural, focused on the users, rather than the search engines.

Optimize the meta data

The meta tags on each of your pages and blog posts are just as important as the content itself – so you should first make sure to optimize it before moving on to optimizing the content.

  1. Start by optimizing the page title with your chosen keyword.

a) When you’re in the “Edit Post” section of your WordPress site, scroll down to the “Yoast SEO” bar (you will find it right after the box that allows you to paste/ edit the content). Click on it if the bar is not expanded.

b) Click on “Edit Snippet” to expand the editable metadata boxes.

c) Optimize the title in the “SEO title” box. Here’s how to do this:

  • Click on the “SEO title” box
  • Enter your desired SEO title (including your target keyword).
  • Remember to keep it under 65 characters – otherwise, Google will truncate it when displaying it in SERPs. This will consequently lower your CTR.
  • Yoast will help you determine if the SEO title is too long. As long as the bar underneath the “SEO title” box is green, you haven’t exceeded the 65-character limit. If the bar gets orange, you have exceeded this limit (or the title is much too short, as you can see in the caption below).
  • Run your title through CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to check its attractiveness.
    • Rankings are not just influenced by keywords. The CTR on your search result is an important ranking factor, so this step will help you write attractive and compelling titles.
    • Aim for a score above 70 on CoSchedule’s Headline analyzer, but don’t stress or obsess over it—it’s an automated tool and you should only use it as an indicator.
  1. Optimize the URL slug:
  • Keep it as short as possible (4 words at most—it makes it easy to understand and remember by users, but it also improves your CTR.)
  • Also, try to include the keyword in the URL as well—it will definitely help with the on-page optimization.
  • If your page has already been published for a while, do not change the URL, especially if it’s already ranking in the SERPs or if other pages already link to it. Doing this would mean you are migrating your URL and it’s best to avoid it in most cases.
  1. Optimize the meta description
  • Include the target keyword in this description.
  • Remember, the meta description should be under 230 characters—anything above that will be truncated by Google in the SERPs.
  • Same as with the page titles, keywords are not everything. Your meta description should be compelling and tell readers exactly what information will be provided on the page.
  • While meta descriptions don’t have a direct impact on rankings, they will increase the click-through rate and that is a ranking factor.
  • This walkthrough is covering on-page optimization for a page on your site, however meta descriptions are important on other platforms as well. For example, the description you write on a video uploaded to YouTube is also what’s used for the meta description of that video.


Once you’re done with this section (or any of the following ones), don’t forget to mark it as done on the free SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) that accompanies this blog post (if you haven’t downloaded it yet, get it here):

Optimize the page content

Now that you have optimized the meta data supporting your page or blog post, it’s time to move on to optimizing the actual content on it.

Here are the steps you need to follow to do this:

  1. Try to include the keyword in the h1 heading, but do not force this. Again, it is far better to publish natural (rather than keyword-stuffed) content.
  • Make sure your page or blog post has an h1, but remember that there should be only one h1, and it should be above the fold. Typically, your h1 will be the actual title of the blog post or page.
  • Same as with the meta tags optimization, focus on creating an attractive, compelling h1, rather than something that feels built exclusively for Google’s crawlers.
  • You can use the CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to analyze your headline.
  1. Optimize the content in the body of the page.
  • Try to include your target keyword in the first 100 words of the page or blog post.
  • In general, avoid including the exact target keyword more than 3-4 times/page.
  • Add other keywords from the same keyword bucket in the body of your content. This will help Google contextualize your page or blog article, so that it shows it to users searching for the information you provide.
  • Try to add synonyms to your target keyword as well. This is an excellent move not only because it will help Google contextualize your content, but also because it will help you avoid using the exact target keyword too many times.
  • Include LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords too. These keywords are semantically related to your target keyword. To find more LSI keywords, go to https://lsigraph.com, enter your target keyword and pick the most relevant suggestions to include in the body of your page content.


  1. Optimize the images.

a) Rename the image you want to upload into your page or blog title with a descriptive name. For example, “img17348.png” is not a descriptive name, but “red-emojis.jpg” is a descriptive name.

  • Always use the “-” sign to split the words in the image names.
  • To rename a file, download to your computer, right-click it, choose “Rename” from the drop-down menu, write the new name, then press “Enter”, and re-upload to WordPress.
  • DON’T include keywords in the file name unless they are actually relevant for your content.

b) Include descriptive ALT tag for each of the images you upload into your page or blog post.

  • Within the media selection view in WordPress, select the image you want to edit, you will see a series of fields in the right side of the window.Scroll to the “Alt text” field and enter it.
  • Make sure your ALT text is relevant and descriptive. For instance, “image 17348” is not a descriptive ALT text, but “beautiful red emojis” is.
  • Again, do not try to include keywords in the ALT text if they are not relevant.
  • Adding ALT text to your images will also improve accessibility. For instance, this feature can be used by screen-reading software applications for the blind or visually impaired.
  1. Do some internal linking (adding links to other pages within your domain).
  • Try to include at least 2 or 3 links to relevant related content that’s already published on your site.
  • To do this, select the words you want to create a link on, click on the “Insert/Edit link button”, and paste the URL you want to link to.
  1. Include external links, to other domains.
  • Try to link to authoritative sources of information or pages that are already ranking very well on the search results for your target keyword.
  • To add an external link, follow the same steps as described above for internal links.

That’s it! If you have completed all of these steps, your on-page optimization is done. Together with your technical optimization and off-page optimization, your on-page optimization will help search engines better understand your content, pushing it higher into the Search Engine Result Pages for your target keywords.

If you want to do this periodically or have a member of your team to do it, download and use the free SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) that accompanies this blog post here.

Once you’ve got your pages good to go and you are seeing results, use our template to create a simple SEO report that shows how your new on-page SEO expertise has improved the site.

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