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On-page Optimization

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On-page optimization is: “The process of refining the content and structure of a website, so that it will be indexed and ranked by search engines by means of keywords, new content, meta tags, and other site reports.”

Basically, on-page optimization looks at all the on-page components you can improve across each webpage of your site.

Meta titles

First, let’s look at meta titles or as they’re sometimes called, page titles.

A meta title is the main text that describes a webpage and is one of the first things that search bots crawl when they are analyzing page content.

Meta titles can appear in two places. You will see them on:

  • Page headings in your search browser
  • Search engine results pages within the search listings

The keywords you use in your meta title are crucial, as they are the main cues that search engines use to understand the content of the page.

A well-structured meta title:

  • Uses all the important, relevant keywords
  • Is the right length
  • Is well spaced
  • Is descriptive
  • Includes the brand name at the end rather than at the beginning

SEO best practices – meta titles

There are a number of best practices that you need to follow when writing meta titles for your site:

  • The meta title needs to be unique for every page of your site. If you have a duplicate title across a number of pages, the search engines won’t know which page contains the most important content or which page to index.
  • The title needs to be keyword-rich, and contain keywords of high value and search volume.
  • The title needs to be within 65 characters. Even though titles are actually measured in pixels, 65 characters is a good gauge of how long they should be. If you go above 65 characters, you risk part of your title being truncated, which will make it less legible.
  • It is important to structure the page title, so that the keyword you’re optimizing the page for appears at the beginning of the title. Often, you will see a brand or company name at the start of a page title, but it’s better to have the keywords first, followed by a description of what’s on-page, and then the brand name at the end.

Meta descriptions

Meta descriptions sit just below the meta title on search engine results pages. They are used to preview the content of a given webpage. While not important to search engine rankings, meta descriptions are an extremely important factor in gaining user click-through from search engine results pages.

A well-structured meta description gives users an insight into the type of content they can expect on a webpage, and encourages them to click.

SEO best practices – meta descriptions

Here are some best practices for writing meta descriptions:

  • As with meta titles, it is important that descriptions are unique and that there are no duplicates across the site. Search engines struggle with duplicate content.
  • Keep within the character limit. Meta descriptions ideally need to be between 70 and 160 characters in length.
  • Meta descriptions should be keyword-rich and ideally should include a call-to-action.

URL structure

URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator and, much like the postal address of your house, a URL is the address of a webpage. Each page has its own unique URL, which is how your computer locates the webpage that you are trying to find.

URL structure is another important component to consider in providing a better user experience to your customers. As the URL is displayed on the search engine results page as part of the search result snippet, users will be more likely to click on a URL structure that is readable and relevant.


This URL follows a structured approach, listing relevant keywords: www.example.com/mens/shirts/short-sleeved/shirts

This URL displays an internal method of sorting pages, which would be confusing to a user: www.example.com/pageid=2/productid=46

The first URL is far more likely to get a click.

SEO best practices – URL structure

In terms of best practices for URL structure, URLs should:

  • Contain target keywords, to reassure users that the page content is relevant to what they are searching for.
  • Be as concise as possible. Long URLs can be difficult to read and confusing. Short URLs have a much stronger click-through rate than overly long URLs.
  • Use hyphens to separate words for improved readability.
  • Use a breadcrumb structure, to help users understand that they will be visiting a page more deeply linked through the site. An example of a breadcrumb structure is /mens/shirts/short-sleeved/shirts.

Heading elements

Another aspect of on-page optimization is header, or H1, tags. You should have a Heading or H1 title for each page. Headers allow you to quickly display to a user what is on the page and also allow you to separate on-page content.

It may not add any additional SEO value to the page, but having at least a H1 enables search engines to understand the structure of what is on the page.

The heading should act as a further reinforcement for what the page content is about.

SEO best practices – heading elements

In terms of best practice for header tags, it’s important to:

  • Have only one H1 tag on each page
  • Avoid duplication of H1 tags
  • Use H2 or descending header tags to further categorize or separate page content

Image tags

Search engine crawlers are unable to crawl or understand images when they crawl the content of a page. As a result, it’s very important to add alt tags to each image on your site.

The purpose of an alt tag is to provide a description of an image that a search bot can read and understand.

For example, a search bot can’t read the image of a tree, but it can read and understand the alt text, alt=‘tree’ and so knows how to index and potentially serve this image.

The reason alt tags are important is that they provide text for users who can’t see images in their browsers, or for visually impaired users. They also potentially allow the images on your pages to rank in image search results.

SEO best practices – image tags

With site images, you should:

  • Upload and store all images to a central location or folder on your site.
  • Ensure the file name you give the image is descriptive and keyword-rich. The file name can give Google clues about the subject matter of the image.
  • Include image names and locations in an image sitemap.
  • For alt text, use descriptive yet easy-to-read phrases or sentences. Include your focus keyword and variations of your focus keyword within alt text.

Anchor text

Anchor text, also known as a hyperlink, is the clickable text that links one webpage to another. Anchor text links can be from a page within your website to another page or to an exterior site linking to you.

Using anchor text for internal links can increase the number of pages that a user visits each time they come to your website, which improves site engagement and reduces bounce rate.

SEO best practices – anchor text

When using anchor text:

  • Avoid linking general text like ‘here’ or ‘click here’
  • Use keywords that describe the destination page that you are linking to
  • Be careful not to flood a webpage with links, to the point that it affects the legibility of the page

SEO best practices – page content

The content of your page can take many forms: it could be text-based, image-based, video-based, or an infographic. Ideally, a webpage will be a combination of all of these. When thinking about the content of your webpage, remember:

  • Quality is more important than quantity. You don’t want to flood users with content. Instead, try to create well-structured pages that are visually appealing and informative.
  • A general rule of thumb is that there should be a minimum of 400 words on each individual page.
  • All of the content should be unique. If there is similar content on different pages, it may appear as duplicate content and search engines can have difficulty identifying which page is of higher importance.
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Shane Lyons

Shane Lyons is head of Search & Analytics at Mediaworks, an award-winning media and communications agency. He has been working in Digital both in Ireland and abroad for the last 8 years and now specializes in SEO and Analytics.

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