On Page SEO - what is it and how to analyse it

Google's algorithms are evolving all the time. Back in the day you could "stuff" your page with a bunch of keywords you wanted to rank for and that alone would help to improve your rankings. This was of course very open to manipulation.

Back in 2016 we had HummingbirdRank Brainsemantic search and many other nifty technologies - Google has evolved far beyond just looking if you have a keyword in your Title or not.

And besides, we've all noticed that pages often rank on the front page of Google without even having the target keyword mentioned anywhere in their content.

So does this mean you should no longer worry about optimizing your page for a specific keyword and just let Google figure out what your page is all about?

Well, we have studied the correlations of different on page SEO factors with Google rankings across 2 Million random keyword searches and even though correlation is not causation, the takeaways are very interesting in a lot of cases.

What is “On Page SEO”?

“On page SEO” refers to a set of web page optimization best practices that you can apply to the pages of your website in order to improve their ranking in search engine results.

The majority of on page SEO advice that can be seen around the web revolves around using the exact match keyword that you want to rank for in a few "strategic" places of your page: Title, H1, meta description, content etc.

But this kind of advice is actually outdated, because in 2016 Google is sophisticated enough to understand synonyms (and overall relevance of the page), meaning you no longer have to obsess about exact match keyword usage.

When people who are fairly new to SEO are picking a keyword to rank for, they might look at the SERP and see that none of the top10 pages has a "perfect" on page SEO for this exact keyword:

On Page SEO

Isn't this a great opportunity to rank with their own "perfectly optimized" page?

I'm afraid it's not.

The fact that these pages don't have your exact match keyword in a bunch of "strategic" places, doesn't mean that they are not relevant to the search query.

According to our data, the usage of exact match keyword in Title, URL, H1 or even within the actual content of the page doesn't have a significant correlation with Google rankings.

If we were to study "partial match" keyword usage, synonyms and "LSI keywords" (which we're about to) - the results would most likely be different.

But "on page SEO" doesn't end with using the keyword you want to rank for in the content of your page, right?

It also implies quite a few "general" optimizations that should make your page better in the eyes of search engines (and searchers), such as:

  • page load speed;
  • usage of https;
  • length of your content;
  • outgoing links to quality sites;
  • etc.

So let's take a look at the correlations of all these on page SEO factors and compare them to backlink factors:

How "On Page SEO" Factors Correlate With Google Rank

On Page SEO Factors

At this point I'd like to mention one more time that correlation is not causation.

These correlations show you the common traits of the pages that tend to rank well, but they do not necessarily imply that these pages rank well because of these traits.

Correlation is measured on a scale from -1 to 1 with "0" meaning "no correlation at all". And as you can see, all the most popular on page SEO factors that we studied hardly reach 0.1 mark.

You can clearly see that on page SEO factors that revolve around using an exact match keyword in "strategic" places of your page showed a very small correlation.


Like the info so far? Read the whole article on ahrefs blog

Thank you ahrefs for the content (text and images are property of Ahrefs Pte Ltd).