On Page SEO Techniques for WordPress in 2021

On page SEO techniques … I think this is the part where I tell you that “content is king” and if you create “high-quality content,” Google is going to love you and magically rocket your site to the top of the rankings without any additional effort on your part.

Unfortunately, in the real world, creating great content alone isn’t a ticket to the top of the SERPs – you also need to optimize that content using on page SEO techniques that you’re going to learn in this post.

According to a survey of SEO pros (originally done by HubSpot), most experts think on page SEO techniques account for about 25% of what impacts your spot in Google’s rankings. Not a lot, right?

Basically, on-page SEO provides the foundation upon which all of your other SEO techniques, like link building, grow. If you have a weak foundation, it’s going to be a lot harder for your off-page SEO efforts to take root.

So what goes into nailing your on page SEO?

On page SEO techniques to rank higher in Google

I’m going to divide it into four broad categories:

  • SEO titles and meta descriptions
  • Content
  • URLs
  • Site-wide tweaks

Let’s go through some do’s and don’ts to help you nail each category…

SEO titles and meta descriptions

When it comes to using content to improve the value of a webpage, it isn’t all about the copy on the page. There are also hidden HTML attributes and metadata blurbs you can add to the back end of a webpage to send useful signals to both search engines and users. An important part of those text snippets are SEO meta descriptions

What is An SEO Meta Description?

A meta description is a blurb of text that provides a brief description of a webpage. This text appears as a meta tag in a page’s HTML code. The HTML version of the text looks like this.
On Page SEO Techniques for WordPress in 2021

Text from SEO meta descriptions also appears on search engine results pages (SERPs). The blurb is a part of a larger snippet that also includes a:

  • Title Tag: A version of the page title that is added to the HTML. (This page title can be different from the headline that appears on the page.)
  • Slug: The URL for the page.

Together, the title tag, slug, and meta description create the snippet that appears on a search results page.

This snippet looks like this.

On Page SEO Techniques for WordPress in 2021

This copy also appears in a few other places associated with the webpage. The title tag appears in a web browser tab, and the title tag and meta description are often featured on social media posts that share the page.

This is how a page’s title and descriptions look when shared on Facebook.

On Page SEO Techniques for WordPress in 2021

Why Should You Use SEO Meta Descriptions?

While Google has said that meta descriptions are not a ranking factor, this content is still an important part of driving traffic and improving a page’s performance in search.

1. A meta description is like a mini ad for a webpage.

When SEO meta descriptions appear on SERPs and social media feeds, they act as a small promo for the webpage. The copy gives marketers an opportunity to promote the page and tell readers why they should click on it.

On Page SEO Techniques for WordPress in 2021

2. Defined meta descriptions look better in search results.

When you don’t tell search engines and social platforms which page description to use, they decide for themselves. This could result in an unflattering appearance for your page snippet. Text could be cut off, important details could be missing, and irrelevant page data could appear. Defining the text you want to use allows you to ensure the best, most relevant content appears.

In this example, you can see how distracting it is when the description is cut-off and incomplete.

On Page SEO Techniques for WordPress in 2021

3. Strategic meta descriptions increase click-through rates.

When properly optimized for audiences, meta descriptions receive more clicks. Make it clear in your meta description that the page offers the search intent of the keyword you’re trying to rank for. More users will choose the result because they can clearly see that it offers what they need.

4. Higher click-through rates increase search rankings.

While an SEO meta description won’t increase a page’s search rankings on its own, the results of a well-crafted meta description can boost a page’s rankings. When a link is frequently clicked on in search results, it sends signals to search engines telling them that the page is important and a good result that users prefer. This helps boost a page’s rankings in search results.

5. Meta descriptions can be a part of a larger rich snippet plan.

Search engine results aren’t restricted to displaying only a title, slug, and description. There are a variety of other tags (or schema) that can add bonus rich snippets to search engine results. They may be small details such as the data and extra links shown in the example below.

On Page SEO Techniques for WordPress in 2021

Optimizing for other rich snippets is just one of the best practices you can use to highlight meta descriptions and improve the performance of a page in search.

Pro tip: Use our meta tag generator, this will help you

On Page SEO Techniques for WordPress in 2021

How to Create and Optimize SEO Meta Descriptions

Let’s review the best practices of creating rich snippets and look at a few meta description examples that put these practices to work.

Write a meta description for every webpage. As a best practice, create a meta description and title tag for every landing page and blog post you publish. If you haven’t followed this practice and already have hundreds of pages, start with the most important pages.

An easy way to create text snippets for WordPress is by using the Rank Math SEO Plugin. Once you install and activate the plugin, you gain access to a feature box that allows you to add a custom title tag, slug, and meta description.

On Page SEO Techniques for WordPress in 2021

Do not use duplicate SEO meta descriptions. Each meta description and page title you create should be unique. Do not use the same phrases or language for multiple rich snippets.

On Page SEO Techniques for WordPress in 2021

Write between 135 and 160 characters. The length of meta descriptions that display in search results change based on screen size, device type, and other technical factors, so there is no golden rule for how long SEO meta descriptions should be. But to fit within the most common range of length, write copy that is between 135 to 160 characters.

Include the page’s targeted keyword. Every webpage should include a targeted keyword that the page is intended to rank for. Perform keyword suggestion to find the best keyword, and then include that keyword in the SEO meta description.

Example: On Page SEO

On Page SEO Techniques for WordPress in 2021

# Suggest Queries
1 On Page Seo
2 On Page Seo Definition
3 On Page Seo Factors
4 On Page Seo Optimization
5 On Page Seo Checklist 2021
6 On Page Seo Techniques
7 On Page Seo 2021
8 On Page Seo Audit
9 On Page Seo And Off Page Seo
10 On Page Seo Grader

Search engines highlight terms in results when they match the user’s search phrasing by bolding the words. So when you incorporate words in your description that searchers are using, users will notice them more easily. As you can see in this example, the results for a search for “marketing” bolded the related terms.

Don’t use quotation marks. Because SEO meta descriptions are included in the HTML, you must be careful not to use characters that will break the HTML language. One of the characters that most commonly causes problems is a double quotation mark. Double quotation marks (“quote”) can cause problems in meta descriptions, so avoid using them. If you must use a quote, use a single quotation mark (‘quote’) instead.

On Page SEO Techniques for WordPress in 2021

Include value propositions. Give readers a reason to click on a link by explaining the benefits they will receive by visiting the page. Highlight the value they will get, the things they will learn, and the problems they will solve.

In this example, the publisher tells the reader how the post will help them (“consistently produce quality blog posts”). They also tell audiences that the post includes a template that provides additional value.

On Page SEO Techniques for WordPress in 2021

Maintain the active voice. Passive language, when the subject of the sentence is being acted upon, is boring and drab. Active language, when the subject of the sentence is taking action, is interesting and easy to visualize and understand. Therefore, an important content writing tip is to maintain the active voice as much as possible. Write meta descriptions in active voice to help engage readers and hold their attention.

Include a call to action. Treat your meta description as a piece of your customer’s journey and use language that guides users to take the next step. Include a call to action that encourages them to act.

On Page SEO Techniques for WordPress in 2021

Don’t try to trick the audience. While you should use your meta tag information to pull readers into your copy and encourage them to click to read, you must always do it in an ethical way. Never use misleading language, outrageous claims, or unrelated copy to promote your content or try to attract attention. Using incorrect statements to lead readers to your page will disappoint and push away readers, and can even negatively impact your SEO rankings.

If the content on a page does not match the page’s meta information, search engines may penalize the site. Plus, the high bounce rates that are created from users landing on the page and quickly clicking away can also send negative signals to search engines, telling them that it is a bad or useless page.

Support meta descriptions with strong page titles. Unlike meta descriptions, meta title tags do have an impact on SEO rankings. This SEO content also plays an important role in catching the attention of searcher and readers. So to support your meta descriptions, you also need to use a strong meta page title:

  • Use the keyword but don’t overuse it.
  • Place the keyword near the front of the title.
  • Focus on readers, not just search engines.
  • Show benefits and value.
  • Include your brand name when relevant.
  • Write 50 to 60 characters.
  • Write unique page titles for each page.

As with meta descriptions, you should not use duplicate title tags for any of your pages. For help with identifying existing pages on your site that may have title tag problems, go back to the Moz pro. View the portion of the report that identifies pages with missing or duplicate meta title tags.

Don’t worry about meta keywords. Like a meta title and description, meta keywords are terms that are tagged and placed in a page’s HTML. But unlike titles and descriptions, meta keywords have very little impact on the value of the page for search engines or users. Major search engines have publically stated that these hidden terms are not ranking factors. Also, meta tag keywords are not visible to users, so don’t exert energy adding these extra terms to your pages.

Use different rich snippets for Facebook and Twitter. Social media platforms typically use a page’s defined meta description as the blurb for their featured posts. But you can adjust this. By using a tool like the Yoast SEO plugin, you can change the text that will appear when the page or post is shared through social media.

This gives you more options for customizing your page data to best fit the platforms it is shared on.

On Page SEO Techniques for WordPress in 2021

Optimize for other rich snippets when you can. If other schema markups are relevant to the content on your page, add structured data to your page to improve the look of your search engine results listings. This is useful if your page features reviews, recipes, products, event information, and videos.

Double-check your work. Once you add metadata to your post to optimize it for SERPs, check to make sure you hit all of the best practices. Use Rank Marh On-Page SEO Analysis to scan your page. The report highlights any errors that exist on a page as they relate to overall on-site SEO. It also includes a section specifically for SERP appearance.

On Page SEO Techniques for WordPress in 2021

Pro tip: The tools you need meta tag optimization

SEO Content

Once you optimize your SEO title and meta description, it’s time to move on to the meat of these on page SEO techniques – your content.

Here are the do’s and don’ts to optimize your content itself…

Include your target keyword multiple times

The days of stuffing your content with keywords are long gone, but it’s still important to include your target keyword multiple times in your content.

So what’s the perfect keyword density for your content? Well, Google is always careful to point out that there’s no ideal keyword density, with John Mueller of Google stating that “Keyword density, in general, is something I wouldn’t focus on. Search engines have kind of moved on from there.”

However, most webmasters and SEO’s would probably disagree with John’s statement.

In general, for your average piece of ~1,000-1,500 content, you probably want to include your keyword somewhere around ~5-7 times.

In addition to including those keywords in the body of your content, you should also try to add your keyword to one of your <h2> headings.

Finally, don’t go overboard and stuff your keyword in as many times as possible. After a certain point, adding more exact match keywords isn’t going to help you, and it might even hurt you if you go too crazy.

Thankfully, you don’t have to worry too much about striking the right number of keyword mentions. SEO plugins like Rank Math SEO will let you know what the keyword density of your content is.

On Page SEO Techniques for WordPress in 2021

Check keyword density, this really helps you create content and focus on keywords

Include your keyword in the first 100 words

While you want to sprinkle your keyword throughout your content, it’s especially important to include your keyword at least once near the beginning. Specifically, within the first ~100 words.

Beyond helping with search engines, doing this also helps human visitors understand that your content is going to deliver on what you promised in your SEO title.

This early mention of your target keyword should come fairly naturally. After all, if your content really is about what you’re promising in the headline then mentioning the keyword shouldn’t be a challenge, right?

Include related keywords

Over the years, Google has gotten a lot smarter about understanding the topic of a piece of content. Now, in addition to including your target keyword, Google also wants to see keywords related to your main topic/keyword.

People often call these LSI keywords.

Now, if you’re writing good content and avoiding keyword stuffing, you’re naturally going to include a lot of related keywords and synonyms.

But if you want to be thorough, you can use a tool like LSIGraph to generate a list of related keywords and try to include as many of those as possible in your content.

Include relevant internal links

Building backlinks to your site from other websites is one of the most important off-page SEO factors. But other websites are not the only source of contextual links – you can also build links from your own site.

Including internal links in your content accomplishes two things:

  • It gives Google context about the content of the destination page, even if Google doesn’t apply as much weight as it would to a link from a high-authority external site.
  • It keeps visitors on your website and reduces your bounce rate, which provides additional signals to Google about the quality of your content.

 Don’t … forget about images

With all this focus on text content and keywords, it’s easy to forget about other types of content. Namely, images.

On average, pages with at least one image significantly outperformed pages without any images in Google, and more than 97% of all results on the first page in Google feature at least one image.

When you add an image, make sure to add the alt text as well – this can help your images rank in Google Images.

You can set alt texts in the WordPress UI when adding an image to the page, like so:

On Page SEO Techniques for WordPress in 2021

Add structured data/schema markup

Structured data, often referred to as schema markup, helps you get rich snippets in Google’s search results. Here’s an example of what such a snippet can look like:

On Page SEO Techniques for WordPress in 2021

While structured data won’t help you rank higher by itself, there is data that suggests getting rich snippets can boost your organic CTR in Google’s search results. Additionally, John Mueller of Google has hinted that Google might use structured data as a ranking factor at some point in the future.


In WordPress, you can edit the URL slug of any piece of content on your site. Do that from the Permalink section in the Document sidebar in the WordPress editor:

On Page SEO Techniques for WordPress in 2021

Here’s how to take advantage of those settings and optimize your URLs:

Do … include your keyword in your URL slug

Including your target keyword in your content’s URL is important for two reasons:

  1. Google uses the words in your URL as a ranking factor, so using your keyword helps Google understand that it should rank your content for that keyword.
  2. URLs that include a keyword in them have a 45% higher organic CTR than those without, perhaps because it signals to humans that the content matches what they’re looking for.

Do … keep your URLs short and sweet

Keep your URLs short and to the point – about 3-5 words if possible.

Why? Because there’s a clear correlation between shorter URLs and higher rankings.

On average, the URL from a site in the first position was 50 characters total, while the average for sites in the tenth position was over 62 characters, with a clear trend in between:

On Page SEO Techniques for WordPress in 2021

In practice, this means that your URL should just generally be your target keyword and maybe a modifier – nothing else.

Don’t … change your URL slugs willy-nilly

Once you choose your URL slug, it’s important not to change it carelessly in the future. If you change a URL without taking proper precautions, you’ll lose all your rankings for that page as well as the internal and external links that you’ve built to that page.

Site-wide optimizations for improved SEO

Finally, there are some general site-wide improvements/decisions that can improve your site’s on page SEO.

Do … make sure your site loads wicked fast

Since 2018, your site’s speed is a ranking factor in both Google’s desktop and mobile results.

So if you don’t want all the other on page SEO techniques in this post to go to waste, you need to make sure your site loads fast. Or at least has respectable page load times, even if it’s not “wicked” fast.

Learning how to speed up your site requires a whole post of its own, so check out our full guide on how to speed up WordPress.

Do … use an SEO plugin to help you remember everything

Finally, remembering all of these on page SEO techniques for each piece of content can be tough.

If you want some assistance to help you optimize your content’s on-page SEO, you can use a WordPress SEO plugin like Rank Math SEO.

Rank Math SEO’s analysis feature will help you implement many of the tactics we’ve discussed in this post, like including your keyword in your SEO title, optimizing your keyword density, adding images and alt text, and more:

On Page SEO Techniques for WordPress in 2021

Implement these on page SEO techniques today

On-page SEO is not enough to rank your site by itself. But if you implement these handful of on page SEO techniques we talked about above, you’ll set your content up with a strong foundation to rank in Google.


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