Ryan Sylvestre
Written By:
If you’re reading this blog post, you’re likely trying to improve your rankings in organic search with the goal of getting more qualified traffic to your school’s site. 

You’re in the right place! 

By the end of this blog post, you will have an understanding of:
  • What on-page SEO is
  • Why it’s so important
  • The different on-page elements you should pay close attention to
Here we outline 15 on-page elements and how you can optimize each one. 

What is on-page SEO?

Consider one of your recently published content pieces. Even if your content is a thorough guide on a topic with compelling graphics and value, content with poorly optimized on-page elements won’t rank high in search. 

Updating and testing different changes to these elements could help you improve your rankings from #30 to #1 for keywords you’re targeting—which is a massive ROI for very little work. 

With any SEO client, we always start off by auditing their most valuable pages title tags and meta descriptions. Why? Optimizing these can create some quick wins for any site because they are so powerful. This power is compounded each time you tackle and optimize a new on-page element.

SEO Basics for Educational Marketers

To get the most out of this article, we will briefly define some key SEO terms and how they apply to your school’s marketing and enrollment efforts.

  • Crawling: A discovery process where search engines use robots, or “crawlers” to find new and updated content.
  • Indexing: The process where a search engine organizes and stores online content in its database.
  • Backlinks: Where one website links to another through descriptive anchor text
  • Anchor text: The text that appears highlighted in a hyperlink text that can be clicked to open the target web page.
  • SERP: This stands for search engine results page.


Is On-Page SEO The Only Thing Holding Back Your Website? Find Out With Our 187 Point Self-Audit Checklist!

187 Point Self-Audit Checklist Complete this form and level up your SEO strategy.

 


15 Tips and Tricks

1. Title Tag

Your title tag is your first interaction with a searcher, so its importance cannot be overstated. Whenever I put myself in a searcher’s shoes, I always start with a search I think they’re going to do to try to find my content. If that returns a positive result, I’ll validate that idea with keyword research.

You want to include your targeted keyword in your title tag. The structure should look something like this: 

Targeted Keyword w/ Additional Context

Good title tag example.

Aim to have your title tags under 70 characters. This will ensure that your title doesn’t get truncated. Let’s just say my targeted keyword was “benefits of podcasting”, this might be an option for a title tag. 

12 Awesome Benefits of Podcasting for Business

It’s within the character count and gives the searcher additional context while differentiating myself from other pages found on the search results page.

If it wasn’t within the character count, it might look something like this: 

Lengthy title tag example

Avoid using your school’s name in your title tags. It may seem right to brand each page of your site with your school’s name, but Google’s algorithm will most likely remove the branding since it also appears in the URL.

Google Search Console report showcasing the effect of optimized title tags.

2. Meta Description

Your meta description will follow a lot of the same guidance as your title tag. You want to make sure to include your targeted keyword and maybe a secondary keyword as long as it doesn’t sound forced. Your meta description should give the searcher a concise summary of what they can expect by clicking through to your site. 

Generally, you want to keep your meta descriptions around 156 characters. Again, this is so it doesn’t get truncated. Consider the example above, if I’m targeting the keyword “benefits of podcasting” my meta description might look like this:

Good meta description example.

This meta description already starts to give the reader an insight as to the benefits businesses can have by starting a podcast. This meta description is specific, clear, and concise. It directly addresses the searcher's questions and should get them to click through to our page. 

If it wasn’t within the character count, it might look something like this:

Lengthy meta description example.

3. URL structure

Before publishing a new page or blog post, you want to make sure you have a clean URL. You want to make sure to include your targeted keyword within your URL so users can easily understand it. 

Here’s a short checklist of things you’ll want to keep in mind when writing your URLs:

  • The URL includes the targeted keyword
  • The URL is not cumbersome or overly long
  • The URL consists of lowercase letters
  • The URL includes dashes between words
  • The URL does not include underscores, spaces, or other characters

Adding this clarity also helps search engines understand the page more. The less friction search engines have when trying to understand the content on your page, the more reward you will get when it comes time to rank your content. 

4. Header Tags & Content Organization

When Google crawls and indexes your page, it looks at the different headers you have to try to get some context as to what your article or page is all about. Header tags are a helpful way of guiding search engines to better understand your content. 

Headers play an important role when it comes to structuring your content. An H1 traditionally is the title of your piece. Then as you address sub-topics or sub-ideas you would use the other header tags as a way of structuring the importance of the information.

Header and Content Structure

In the picture above, I’ve outlined how you should think about each header. Keep in mind, this is just one combination of how you can structure your content. Each topic you target will have its own winning structure, and testing different variations is how you can climb the ranks.

Header tags can also present a good opportunity for incorporating secondary keywords into your page. You can also use clues from the SERP of your targeted keyword for clues on what to include. Let’s go back to our example search for “benefits of podcasting”. If you scroll all the way to the bottom of the search results page, you’ll see the following:

People Also Searched

This related search box can give you clues as to what secondary searches users are doing when they are thinking about this topic. You may also see a “People also asked” box. 

People Also Searched

Again, this is a good clue as to the types of things users are looking for or asking when exploring this idea. You might want to address some of these questions in your content, or include them as a header.

5. Alt Text

Image alt text is another way you can guide search engines to best understand your content. Additionally, optimized alt text can help you see a rise in image searches too. You want to be as clear as possible when including image alt text. Describe exactly what the image represents even if it’s self-explanatory.

Image alt text on a pie graph showcasing podcast consumption breakdown.

Consider the image above. The alt text reads “Podcasting Consumption Through App Pie Chart Breakdown”. I’m giving Google additional context as to what the image is displaying, this will help me rank for additional terms in image searches, positive accessibility considerations, and ability to add in secondary keywords. 

If you can, you’ll also want to keep your image files as descriptive as possible. While alt text is the primary focus, it can’t hurt to have a clean and clear image file description. 

Another reason to use clear, descriptive alt text? It’s crucial for readers who are visually impaired or who use a screen reader. Clear alt text can therefore help your website become more accessible.

6. Descriptive Anchor Text

Anchor text is the hyperlinked text you use to send a user to an additional resource. It gives search engines clues about the information you’re linking to in your blog post, whether that be an internal link or external. Again, these are a great way of including secondary keywords or leading your users down a certain path.

Descriptive anchor text example.

When you add a link in your content to another one of your internal resources, make sure the text you’re linking carries the right context for the page you are linking to. The anchor text should be clearly aligned with its target. For example, you wouldn’t want to link to the phrase “on-page SEO” and send someone to your inbound marketing services page; it wouldn’t make any sense. 

7. Internal Linking

Internal linking is the process of linking a piece of content to other pieces of content on your website. It creates multiple avenues for search engines and users to discover more of your content.

Internal Linking Crawl Map

While you always want to include internal links within your content, you don’t want to overload the page. You shouldn’t be linking to a page just because the anchor text speaks directly to that page. You should include it if it adds additional context to the topics you’re discussing. 

I would say you don’t want to include more than 10 internal links within an average blog post. Adding too many internal links can seem spammy and could turn-off your user. 

8. External Linking

External linking refers to the process of linking to an external resource—one not hosted on your site. It is a powerful tool, but you also want to use it sparingly. 

When linking to an external source, you’ll want to make sure that link opens in a new tab. This ensures your user always has a path back to your website because they never actually left. 

Linking to external websites allows you to bring in other expert opinions and ideas that help to enhance your content. I’d recommend putting no more than 3 external links in your content. When adding in these links, make sure you aren’t linking to any competing sites that are already ranking on the SERP of your targeted term. 

9. Backlinks

Backlinks have always been a hot-topic for the SEO world. Backlinks are arguably the most influential part of SEO. Technically, they aren’t really a part of on-page SEO, but they play such a big role in ranking that I couldn’t leave them out. 

Backlinks are an indication that your content is influential and authoritative enough that people are using it as a reference for their own work. The more backlinks your individual pages and domain as a whole get, the more influential your content is seen to be. Think of it like a cheat sheet that Google uses to understand whether or not it should trust you enough to rank you for a query. 

Just to be clear, buying links is bad. The best way to acquire backlinks is to write great, compelling content. Link building campaigns and email outreach can be an effective way of building up your backlink profile. 

10. Meaningful Content

While all of these on-page elements matter, the most important piece is writing content that actually helps the searcher accomplish a goal or find an answer to their problems. You should first write your content in a compelling and helpful way and then go back and edit for SEO. 

As you get more comfortable with this process, you’ll be able to do both simultaneously. You’ll be able to write compelling content while optimizing for the top spot in search results.  

11. E-A-T

The acronym E-A-T stands for expertise, authority, and trustworthiness, three factors that Google takes into account when it is deciding where to rank content. You can display each element of this acronym in how you write your content. 

For example, if you want to show expertise within your content, you might conduct your own research and incorporate that data into your blog post. Or, you might include a quote from an expert.

Authority can be tied to how often this work is cited in other works. (This goes back to the idea of acquiring backlinks.) 

Trustworthiness takes into account your site as a whole. Can people reach out to you? Is your domain secure? Do you have a privacy policy? 

Building up a positive E-A-T reputation can take some time, but consistency and persistence will serve you well. 

12. Speed

The speed of your website also plays a big role in your ranking abilities. Why would Google rank your content higher if someone else’s is just as good as yours, but loads faster? People are looking for the answer to their problems as fast as they can because they have an immediate need. 

There are many, many potential pathways for improving the speed of your website. Some options that can have a quick impact include things like compressing CSS, optimizing HTML, deferring unused JavaScripts and optimizing images are all things you should take into consideration when optimizing for speed. 

13. Image Dimensions/Image Size

Adding dimensions to your images will help reduce “layout shifts” as users switch from their phone to a tablet or computer. This will ensure a common user experience across platforms by reducing the movement of images.

Another solution for layout shifts is to use vector based image formats, such as .SVG or .AI. Vector based image formats are useful for images that need to cover a wide array of sizes, such as logos. They allow you to resize, reshape, and rescale the image infinitely without losing image quality.

Image size is another common issue among website pages. A large image size scaled down may cause a longer page load time, while a small image scaled up may impact user experience.

Using the correct image sizes is crucial for SEO and the user’s overall experience on your site.

14. Keyword Research

Keyword research helps you match the searcher’s query in SERP to content within your article. When conducting keyword research, it’s important to analyze the relevance, authority, and volume of the targeted keyword. 

Google will rank content based on relevance, so when your content matches the searcher’s intent, your article will start to rank for that keyword.

Google will also give more weight to sources that are more trustworthy and authoritative. You can increase your domain’s authority by providing helpful information that will help earn you backlinks.

Search volume is how many people enter that query, usually per month according to most SEO tools. You may rank #1 for a keyword, but if no one searches for it then you won’t get any traffic to your site.

15. Mobile-Friendliness

Mobile phones are the most popular way users browse the internet, so ensuring that your pages are also optimized for a mobile user experience is key.

Having a mobile friendly website helps your school reach a wider audience and keep prospective students/parents on your page through seamless cross-device integration.

To analyze your page’s mobile experience, use the same steps we listed above to access Google’s Lighthouse—but in the device settings select mobile. You’ll receive a list of items that can help you optimize your website’s mobile experience.

How to Audit Your Page for SEO Issues 

On-page SEO is something we focus on the most with our SEO clients, and for a simple reason: It’s important. 

An SEO audit is a crucial step before beginning any other SEO work because it identifies issues within the website, and sets a benchmark for the success of future SEO optimizations.

An easy first step to an SEO audit you can do on your own, is using Google’s “Lighthouse” tool within the developer tools section in Google Chrome.

To open Lighthouse, press CTRL+Shift+J (Option+Shift+J on Mac) to open Developer Tools, then click on the Lighthouse tab in the top navigation bar.

A view of the Lighthouse report navigation menu.
Click “Analyze Page Load” and enable all audit categories.

Click “Run audit” and after 30-60 seconds, you should be given a full report on the page you’ve selected.

How to Prioritize Optimization Edits

While there are a lot of different factors to consider when optimizing your website pages, here are four things you should prioritize that can help you make a big difference with minimal work. 

1. Title Tag/Meta Description

These two elements serve a similar purpose. Having a title tag and meta description  that are informative and relevant to the content on the page is very important for a page's authority and trustworthiness.

2. Website Speed

Website speed is crucial for inviting and retaining new users to your school’s website. If your website’s loading speed isn’t fast enough, users won’t think twice about leaving the page to find another school similar to yours.

3. Meaningful Content

Meaningful content doesn’t only resonate with the user, but it will help you rank higher in search results if your content is helpful and informative enough.

4. Internal Linking

Linking to different pages within your website from a variety of internal sources is important because it will help crawlers determine your page’s authority and ease of access.

Take Control of Your Website’s SEO

Our team of analysts can give you a full, holistic view of what is holding your website back from ranking higher and getting more traffic. We can give you a full plan of what you should be tackling first in order to get quick traffic and SEO wins. 

We blend the use of the industry’s top tools with our consultants’ trained eyes to uncover a comprehensive list of your website’s issues—both large and small. We then prepare a detailed document that outlines each issue, why it matters, and how you should fix it.

We hope you found this blog helpful, and that you gained the fundamental skills of on-page SEO. If you’d like to get a head-start on optimizing your website’s SEO elements by yourself, consider downloading our 187-Point SEO Audit Checklist!

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