The Netsetter: SEO Writing Tip #3: Rock Your On-Page SEO

In the first installment in this series on SEO writing, we talked two things: why you need to be conscious of the keywords implicit in the topic of your article, and why you need to target that topic’s main keyword in your title tag. In the second installment, we talked about the meta description tag (not what most people refer to as the “meta tag”, which usually describes the tag for meta keywords). This time around, we’ll go over some on-page SEO factors that are too minor to discuss individually, but are collectively important to implement. We’ll also go over their relationship to off-page factors.

It bears repeating that the real leverage in SEO entails keyword anchored backlinks—off-page SEO. By “keyword anchored backlinks”, I mean links from other sites whose highlighted text contains the keywords that tell Google and other search engines what the linked page is about.

But on-page SEO still matters for a couple of reasons. The unique keywords on your page tell Google’s spiders where the page fits in the search engine’s taxonomy of topic categories, which you can see in the All Categories sidebar of the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. So if a subheading on your page contained the keyword, “power of attorney forms”, then once the page was crawled, it would get indexed under “Law & Government Products » Power of Attorney Forms”, assuming it gets indexed. Being crawled and being indexed don’t go hand-in-hand. Getting indexed requires links from pages that have been indexed.

On-page factors also influence what people choose for anchor text when creating a link. One of the reasons the title tag is a powerful on-page element is that bloggers and webmasters will link to an article using the entire title for the anchor text, and if the title is or has the keyword, it creates a keyword anchored backlink. If an article’s title is “How to Get Out of Debt”, and it’s linked to from another site in the sentence, “Jane Johnson discusses the ins and outs of credit scoring in her post, ‘How to Get Out of Debt‘”, it’s a much more relevant link than if the linking article had chosen “discusses” as the anchor text.

On-Page SEO Factors

No two SEOs agree on which on-page SEO factors are the lynchpins. One keyword research and competitive analysis tool I’m fond of using, Market Samurai, only shows four on-page factors: the title tag, the URL, the meta description and the header tags. If I were the author of this tool, I would expand the list.


There are certainly more than the six on-page factors I mention below, and some even have more weight, but the Critical Six are the elements that are always under your control each time you write a post.

The Exact Match Domain Vogue

An example of an element that has more weight but less flexibility is your domain name. In the last two years, the so-called exact match domain (EMD) has become all the rage. An EMD is a .com, .net or .org domain name that matches the keyword in its exact order, with no characters before, after or in between, such as for the keyword “purple ferret sweaters”. With an EMD, it’s possible in many cases to outrank competing pages with vastly more links, but the effect diminishes in more competitive niches, where authority sites still carry more weight.

While people obsess over EMDs, you may find that, despite your keyword research, the keyword you’ve dominated doesn’t convert as well in practice as keyword tools would lead you to believe. You also can’t get an EMD for most of the keywords you want, since the pool of untapped EMDs is diminishing every day. I personally think it’s a mistake in most cases to build you’re entire platform around an exact match domain name, unless the keyword has proven that it actually gets traffic that converts.

The Critical Six

So what on-page SEO factors are consistently under your control?

The title tag. I’ve discussed this plenty, so I’ll let the first part in this series speak for itself.

The meta description tag. Discussed in the second part, so no need to cover it again here.

The URL. Ideally, your keyword is in the domain name; otherwise it should be in the permalink—the URL with a custom file name at end. In WordPress, the permalink editor is located under the title field in the Edit Post panel. While you can’t edit the domain name or category, you can edit the file name (i.e. the name of the page).

The best practice is to remove any autopopulated words in the permalink that aren’t keywords, which minimizes keyword dilution. So if the post title is “6 Ways to Get Out of Debt”, and the keyword is “get out of debt”, than the default permalink, ““, should be trimmed to ““.

Header tags. These are the <h1> (post title), <h2> (section heading) and <h3> (subheading) elements on the page. Having your keyword in a header tag isn’t as critical as the elements listed above, but it does help Googlebot determine the relevance of the page if it’s there. Whether or not it makes a big difference, keyword relevant header tags are low-hanging fruit that are too easy to not exploit.

Post tags. I used to think that Google ignored post tags, and preferred Categories, until I saw how many of my tag pages outranked my post pages. Make no mistake: Google likes tags, so use them liberally. Instead of treating tags like categories, where you’re trying to create the most appropriate organizational slots for a post, just add 3-10 of the most related keywords to your post. Use the Google Keyword Tool, sorting by Relevance, and use the topmost keywords for your tags.

Occasionally you’ll see keywords in tool that don’t flow grammatically, like “mesothelioma asbestos lung cancer”, since searchers know they’re querying a computer, not a human. While it would be awkward to put these keywords in the article text, they can still appear on the page if you add them as tags.

Article text. Make sure your keyword appears in the article at least once. Use the keyword whenever it fits naturally, but as long as it’s there once, that’s enough. If you outsource your article writing, instruct the writers to use the keyword once, since most outsourcers who write keyword articles are usually encouraged to repeat a keyword throughout the article, which is not only unnecessary, but excessive keyword density for short articles (500 words and under). For extra credit, see if you can work the keywords from your post tags into the article, but only do this if you find it easy to do.

Backlinking to Your Keywords

How you get backlinks is a heady topic I’ll leave for another time, except for briefly mentioning the two main methods:

  • Writing content that’s good enough for others to want to link to
  • Submitting content on other sites with backlinks to your page

WorkAwesome is popular enough that we don’t have to worry about posting content on other sites to get links. We just have to be focused on choosing the right keywords, which is a skill that doesn’t occur naturally to most contributing writers.

Submitting content to other sites generally means one of two things: writing guest posts, or article marketing. Article marketing involves publishing content on article directories like EzineArticles, GoArticles and Buzzle. This content gets syndicated, meaning that others sites are allowed to copy and post your articles, which contain your links. In exchage for the free content they get, you get one or two backlinks per article, multiplied by however many sites post the article.

If you’re not a rockstar blogger, and you have to get links in this labor intensive fashion, you’ll need to be as tactical about the keywords in your links as you are about the keywords on the page you’re linking to. A simple guideline is that any keywords you’re targeting on the page should have at least one backlink from your guest posts or directory articles. If all of your keywords are in the post tags, as they should be, you’ll have a list of what to use as anchor text.

Assuming you get two links per article (whether it’s for an article directory or a blog), one keyword anchored backlink should go to the post you’re trying to promote. 20-50% of your post-directed links should use your primary keyword for the anchor text, and the rest should be the other keywords you want the post to rank for. The other link can either go to your site’s home page, to build its PageRank and keyword authority, or to another relevant post that you’re trying to promote; and it should use the same ratio of anchor text.

Should you link to the home page?

Unless there’s content on the home page that needs the links, you’re probably better off pointing your extra links to another post. Home pages are important to humans for navigational purposes, but, contrary to popular belief, they have no inherent significance to Google, other than the fact that they get more organic links than most other pages on a site.

PageRank applies to pages, not sites, which is why you’ll usually see (using a tool like the Google Toolbar) a higher PageRank on a site’s home page than any other page on the site. So while WorkAwesome has a PR6 home page, it’s not a “PageRank 6 site”, which is a misnomer. There are no “PageRank 6 sites”, but people use a home page as a congealed representation of a site’s authority.

So much for not talking about backlinking! To make a long story short, make sure that any keywords you care about are not only on the page, but also appear as the anchor text in your backlinks.

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Andre Kibbe currently works as a content analyst for Internet Brands. He can be found on Twitter: @andrekibbe


  1. tcdesign on the 30th October

    Thanks for the great articles Andre! I’ve really learned a lot reading your SEO articles.

    I have a question about the title. In the previous article you recommended to only use the title for posts in WordPress rather then using the post title + the site name. So, I went ahead and removed the site name from my post title and regenerated my site-map. But, a couple of days later I noticed that google just added my site title back to the posts links. So before an indexed post would be displayed as “A cool Post Title I My Site Name”, but now it’s displayed as “A cool Post Title – My Site Name”.

    So my question is, is there anyway to make sure Google shows my indexed posts with just the title or is there nothing I can do about Google adding the “- Site Name” to the end of the titles?

    Thanks for your help :)

    • Andre Kibbe on the 1st November

      @tcdesign: Did you make the change in the All in One SEO Plugin Options page, so that the Post Title Format field only contains “%post_title%” (with the “Rewrite Titles” option checked)–as opposed to editing your post titles in the form at the bottom of the Edit Post panel?

    • tcdesign on the 1st November

      Andre, thanks for your help. Yes, I did change the post title to only show %post_title% in the AIOS plugin and the rewrite titles option is checked as well.

      Some of my titles are rather short, so do you think google just adds the site name to the title then? I did read some posts in the google forum and people said if Google adds the site name then there’s nothing you can do about it :( So think I’ll just change it back to Post Title | Site Names as it looks better.

      And Andre, I have a request for you. Could you write another SEO article on what permalink structure to use? I’m really confused on what structure to use as some people say you should start your permalinks with a number for performance reasons, while others say you should just use the post title. Also, I’m confused about using an extension like .html at the end.

      Thanks for your help and looking forward to your next posts!

  2. Andre Kibbe on the 1st November

    I don’t think Google’s adding it. What theme are you using? Some themes, like Thesis, duplicate some of AIOS’ functionality, in which case you have to go into the theme’s settings if they’re overriding the plugins’.

    I’m not sure if I know “best” permalink structure. All I ever use is select Custom Structure in WordPress’ Permalink Settings and use the “/%category%/%postname%/” definition, so I never have to deal with file extensions. As far as starting permalinks with a number, I’ve never done that, but I can’t imagine why it would yield any advantage. Whenever possible, I just like having nothing but my keyword in the permalink. I don’t really know much more about permalink optimization that would warrant a whole blog post.

    • tcdesign on the 6th November

      I’m using the Gallery Pro theme which is based on thematic so I think it’s the theme. I’ve contacted the author so hope to get the title fixed soon.

      And thanks for the tips on the permalink. I’m just going to use /%category%/%postname%/ or /%postname%/. And Worpress recommends you use a number first in your permalink structure since you’re site loads faster. When you don’t start your permalink with a number (post id, year, etc) WordPress has to check if the link being loaded is a page or a post, so that’s why they don’t recommend using it. But, I think that’s only an issue when you have a huge site.

      Anyway, thanks for your help and looking forward to your next post :)

  3. Blue Fire Media on the 8th November

    Solid SEO advice. It really seems that a keyword rich URL is a huge factor in ranking. I have seen many times when a good keyword phrased URL with borderline spam content outranks other well optimized sites that are authorities in that industry.

  4. Kamal Kishor on the 29th February

    Keyword density is one of the important point which we have to concern while writing an article. Keeping keyword density low as 1-3% wouldn’t beneficent and keeping it high as 10-15% will definitely effect the fluency and structure, So in My Vision Keeping it around 5-8% will get the job done.

  5. Arpita Singh on the 27th November

    1. Planning is essential. Especially when you’re an online marketer. That is why you need a content calendar. Creating one enables you to plan and visualize all writing activity for the year. 2. Creating detailed outlines for your articles, blog posts, and web copy in advance does several things for you. 3. Write for your audience first. These are the 3 tips which are quite important for SEO writing.

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