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How to do on-page SEO: A guide for SMBs

Author: Lazarina Stoy

An image of author Lazarina Stoy accompanied by various search-related iconography, including some HTML, a link icon, and a jpeg icon

For small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), on-page SEO is absolutely essential because it’s the lever that site and business owners have direct control over to enhance their organic visibility. While other strategies do exist (and are largely complementary, like PPC or link building), they may not have the long-term ROI of on-page optimizations.


In addition, SMBs often have another distinct advantage over larger businesses: proximity to their target audience. Combining insights and feedback from customer relationships with on-page SEO best practices is something that all brands should do to maximize their online presence and serve potential customers in ways that competitors just aren’t.


In this guide, I’ll discuss three broad, effective strategies for implementing on-page SEO, what the strategies aim to achieve, and the specific tactics you can use to implement them for your SMB.


Table of contents:





Create content that addresses and fulfills user intent


Search intent refers to the intention a user has when they visit a search engine to perform a search (i.e., what they’re looking to achieve when they search a given keyword or phrase). Most search intents can be classified into one of four categories:


  • Informational queries

  • Transactional queries

  • Commercial evaluation queries

  • Navigational queries


So, why do you need to address search intent? There are multiple reasons:


Topical relevance

Search engines like Google use query matching (among many other factors) to determine which results to show. Previously, this meant that it was important to mention certain keywords on the site. Today, this notion has evolved into topic relevance and entity-relationship matching.


The words you use still matter, but it’s more important to write about a topic in both a coherent and competitive (to other content that exists out there) manner. To do this, focus on explaining the relationship between other related entities, while also aligning the language you use to the language your potential audience might be using.


In other words, this means creating content that’s relevant to your audience and answers the potential questions/pain points they may have, and meeting them where they’re at using language and perspectives that they’re already familiar with.

Search engine results page diversity

Search engines want to surface different types of content on the first page of search results (both in terms of content type and domains) so that users can always find what they are searching for quickly, even if their query is ambiguous or might be answered with multiple different search results.


This means that there is more competition for the top positions, and certain spots are “reserved.” For instance, definitions are often served by Oxford Languages or Wikipedia, reviews might be sourced from G2 or another review platform, and image or video packs might be a mainstay on search engine results pages (SERPs) for certain queries (e.g., informational searches).


A robust focus on search intent (in each page and piece of content) means that Google is more likely to prefer your site to address searches that match your content.


User experience

Addressing search intent also means offering a good user experience. If someone is searching for something and they find it on your website, this may signal to Google that your website offers a good experience that satisfies visitors.


Conversely, look out for short, non-descriptive pages and/or doorway pages, as these often lead users to jump quickly onto another page or go back to search—both of which signal poor user experience.


Tactics that can help you align with search intent

Now that you know why it’s important for your content to match the appropriate search intent, let’s talk about the tactics you can follow to ensure that they do.


Perform intent-driven keyword and topic research

Aligning search intent starts with keyword and topic research so that you know the intent search engines attribute to the keywords you’re targeting—after all, you’d be wasting your time if you wanted to rank an article about fixing iPhones for the query buy new iPhone, for example.

To get the most insight from your keyword research, you must have a complete understanding of your business’s/product’s unique selling points, but also how your audience searches for products (and whether there are any differences in how users might search for what you offer based on their language, location, or culture).


Instead of simply collecting keywords and targeting them based purely on search volume (for example), identify patterns in the way users might find your product and business at different stages of the user journey.


For instance, when buying an iPhone, people might first research product specifications, using informational search queries that contain the words “what” or “how” (e.g., how many MP iphone 13 pro max), while at a later stage, they might inquire about product comparisons and the commercial landscape (e.g., differences between iphone 13 and 14, best phone 2023), before finally searching for terms related to pricing, places to buy, or discounts.


Informational search examples


A screenshot of a Google search bar showing examples of informational searches, like "how many MP iphone 13 pro max," "iphone 14 pro max camera megapixels," etc.

Commercial search examples


A screenshot of a Google search bar showing examples of  commercial searches, like "iphone 14 vs samsung," "iphone 14 pro max vs samsung s22 ultra," etc.

Transactional search examples


A screenshot of a Google search bar showing examples of transactional searches, like "iphone 14 where to buy," "iphone 14 pro where to buy," etc.

Once you identify your keywords and group them based on possible user intent, you will be better equipped to create content that is aligned with the desired user experience—and have a clearer understanding of which intent buckets are more prominent for your products and service.


When doing intent-driven keyword research, avoid dismissing keywords entirely based on search volume alone (or other metrics that third-party tools might provide). Instead, focus on the user, their experience, and the user journey. As an SMB owner, you might find greater success targeting longer, niche keywords instead of competing for short, ambiguous queries with search volumes in the hundreds of thousands.


Address all entities and concepts that might help the digital user journey

In addition to researching for keywords and topics to center your content around, strive to explain the entities that make up the subject matter and the relationships between them. These are important as they often are used by audiences to make purchase decisions.


For instance, a person would not purchase a car without an understanding of the major concepts that form the basis of this decision, such as the different types of cars available, the different types of fuel that power cars, concepts such as manual or automatic controls, and even different finance options.


A prospect might have information about all of these things before starting the purchasing journey, however, their knowledge might be limited or they might not know enough to make a decision. Here is where the website, its pages, content, and organization, should act as a digital salesperson to help with the educational component and enhance the decision-making process.


Similarly, if you sell a service or product, ensure the content you create addresses all potential questions users might have about it.


Organize your site to facilitate visitors’ search intent

This could mean a few different things, but mainly it pertains to leading users to their next intended step (which is ideally closer to converting). Here are some examples:


  • Inviting them to learn more about a topic by suggesting a related post

  • Prompting them to learn more about your services after inquiring about your brand

  • Showing related products after they’ve expressed interest in purchasing something from your site


This can also be approached from the opposite direction: Are there any potential blockers that might cause prospective customers to abandon their journey? Anything from subpar site security to questionable grammar to a lack of diverse product images could hold back your business—it’s up to you to identify and remedy those issues.


Continuously collect and analyze first-party data for insights

Utilize your first-party data sources (e.g., feedback forms, customer service conversations, user research, etc.) to create content, pages, and experiences that align with the needs of your users. Below are some other examples of data sources you can use to satisfy your existing or target customers:


  • YouTube and/or TikTok comments can help you discover new blog post ideas.

  • Forums and discussions in online community groups can help you understand how users speak about products like yours.

  • Amazon (or other platforms’) reviews of your product (or products like it) can help you understand your audience’s main pain points, which you can address when discussing your product on your site (following the necessary improvements, of course).


Create content that is easy to comprehend for both users and search engines


Creating content that positively impacts your business isn’t just about what you know and what the audience is searching for—it’s also about how you present it. Let’s now discuss some basic considerations to help out both search engines and potential customers.


The fundamentals of site discovery

In order to show up in search results, your site must first be crawlable and indexable (i.e., visible to search engines). This will indicate to search engines that the site can be crawled and included in their index.


A screenshot of the option to allow search engines to index a site on Wix, reading “let search engines index your site” showing a blue checkmark.
The option to allow search engines to index a site on Wix.


After ensuring crawlability and indexability, the next step is to create page structures that enable search engines to easily comprehend the content and match it to user queries.


How to structure content for easy consumption

At a bare minimum, this means ensuring that each page has a consistent and easily digestible heading structure, including:


  • A title that cohesively explains what the content is about

  • An H1 heading that expands on or contextualizes the title to help indicate the page’s purpose

  • H2-H6 headings that indicate the hierarchy of the different page sections and the content within them, enabling skim-ability for high-intent users


At a more advanced level, this includes ensuring that content is written in the language that audiences use to discover your business. This involves both writing and adapting content to the way your target customers express themselves, but also researching and validating your brand voice with both these groups.


At an expert level, this involves adding structured data, which search engines use to contextualize your pages. Adding different types of structured data (depending on your page or content type) can make it easier for Google to understand what your pages, products, and your website are about. It will also help your site appear in rich results in Google Search, which can help improve the click-through rate by making the result more enticing to click on.


Tactics that can facilitate easier content comprehension

Here it is important to understand that your aim as an SMB is to maximize the opportunity for user engagement on the site, whilst also providing the ability for users to consume only what they need.


The strategies below will help you do just that.


Set your content to be visible for search engines

Ensure that all public-facing content (more on this below) is published and set to enable search engines to crawl and index it. Check that your sitemap is active and reflects all the pages on your website (or otherwise, does not contain broken pages, redirected pages, or other status pages besides live pages), and is accessible via the URL: domain name + “/sitemap.xml” (e.g., https://www.mywixwebsite.com/sitemap.xml)


You should also verify that your robots.txt file is accessible via the URL: domain name + “/robots.txt” (e.g., www.mywixwebsite.com/robots.txt). You can use your robots.txt file to block pages that you don’t want to show up in the search results (like a “thank you” page or your entire site if it’s under construction, for example), but you’ll also need to ensure there are no live links on the site to sections that have not been published to avoid errors or a bad user experience.


Improve user engagement from the SERPs

Use a keyword-rich, descriptive, and enticing title to encourage clicks to your site. Your meta descriptions should communicate value and promote action from the search results.


To get more potential visibility from the content you’re already creating, add structured data to your pages (where suitable) to enable your content to appear as a rich result on relevant SERPs.


A screenshot of a Google search result—the result is a Petco category page, showing multiple product images and an FAQ section.
An example of a rich result for a category page, including multiple product images and an FAQ section.

Whenever appropriate, add images to your pages, as these can also be displayed in search (e.g., in author pages or blog posts). Whenever you add images (not simply decorative graphics or icons), ensure that they are compressed before uploading them, and add alt text and descriptive captions to reflect the contents of the image.


Organize content coherently

Your titles should be based on the primary purpose of the content/page. If a page you’re publishing is primarily a tutorial, but it has a conceptual introduction, try to write a task-based title instead (for instance, “How to select the right SUV” is probably more aligned with your target audience than the more ambiguous “Selecting the right SUV”). Likewise, section headings are also written based on the type of content in that section.


As a basic hygiene check to avoid duplication, make sure that there is no repetition between the title and headings. And, when writing titles and/or headings, avoid using the -ing verb forms as the first word where possible (words like “billing” or “pricing” are exceptions to this).



  • Write headings and titles in sentence case.

  • Delete numbers in headings that indicate a sequence of sections.

  • Use punctuation in headings sparingly.

  • When using an abbreviation in a heading or title, spell out the abbreviation in the first paragraph that follows the heading or title.

  • Finally, make sure there are no empty headings or headings with no associated content beneath them.


Remember, heading tags are used to structure content hierarchically. To change the visual formatting of a heading, it’s better to use CSS than a heading level that doesn’t fit the hierarchy. Don’t make up your own formatting for headings. There are also no skipped levels of the heading hierarchy. For example, H3 heading tags should only go under an H2 heading tag (or follow other H3 tags if it’s a list). H2 through H6 tags should similarly be used to structure the rest of the content and correspond to the semantic structure of the page (as this formatting is used for more than visual purposes).


Additionally, including links within headings is not a good practice, as this can easily be confused as a style applied to a heading instead of a link, so avoid placing links in the heading text.


To assist users with specific intentions, consider adding a table of contents (where appropriate) to aid quicker content discovery and a better user experience.


And to maximize conversions, ensure that all call-to-actions are clear and strong, prompting the user to take the desired action—whether that’s signing up to a newsletter, downloading a resource, buying a product, or signing up for a service.


Link to authoritative sources and other topically relevant content on your website


Links don’t just take you from one page to another—with the right execution, they can guide your users, add authority to your content, and help search engines discover your pages. Let’s take a closer look at how links can support all these goals.


User experience improvements

Linking to authoritative sources within your own content allows you to cite the claims you are making within your copy. This is important as it highlights that your content is informed by trustworthy, credible, and authoritative sources.


Despite popular belief that Google uses outbound link quality as a metric to determine rankings or that there’s a magic number of authoritative outbound links required to gain more traffic, these claims are not substantiated by Google. Instead, Google spokespeople emphasize that such links, when appropriately used throughout the content, can improve the user experience by informing the audience of other resources that may be relevant to their search intent. In its guidance on creating helpful content, Google also advises creating content that “presents information in a trustworthy way, with clear sourcing, evidence of expertise, and background information about the author or the publishing site.”


Discovery improvements for relevant pages and queries on your site

Linking to other relevant content on your site means that you are enabling visitors to discover more of your pages that are relevant to their interests, which could lead to engaging with new blog posts, products, and/or services.


Internal linking also helps Google (and other search engines) discover new pages and new ways that these pages can be served to users via the text you use to link to the content (referred to as anchor text). These links also help indicate the relative importance of pages on your site by distributing link equity. Besides the anchor text, the surrounding text can also be used for hints on what potential queries the linked page can be matched against.


Best practices for effective links

First of all, avoid generic anchor text. Everything in the realm of “read more,” “learn more,” and “click here,” will not serve your search engine visibility goals. Ensure all linking text is descriptive of the link destination and provides enough context for the user.


This is true for both internal and outbound links, as both should strive for wording that describes the destination page.


In terms of link settings, below are some quick best practices to follow:


  • Ensure there are no links pointing to redirected or 404 pages.

  • Set all internal links using the “follow” link setting.

  • When linking internally, set links to open in the same window. When linking externally, set links to open in a new window. This enables improved user engagement tracking for internal link interactions, while also providing a better user experience for those that click on external links as they can always quickly come back to your site by returning to the original tab in their browser.


SEO tools to help with your on-page optimizations


Here is a selected collection of tools I use to do on-page optimizations, keyword research, and other enhancements, suitable for people with little or no prior experience in SEO and for SMB owners.


For intent-driven keyword and opportunity research, you can use any SEO platform like Semrush, Ahrefs, etc. They come at a heavier monthly cost, but can help with a wide array of SEO research and opportunity identification tasks. There are also free alternatives for identifying relevant keywords, such as:



To identify the structured data that your competitors are using, try the Ryte Structured data helper browser extension. To speed up the process of creating the structured data for your website, use a structured data generator (e.g., by ClassySchema or Merkle).


For creating content briefs, there are multiple tools to choose from, depending on your budget. Paid options include tools like Keyword Insights, but to get started for free, test Contenteum’s content generator (which is based on the URLs and titles ranking within the SERP) or Dashword’s AI-powered content generator.


A screenshot of an outline created by Dashword for the topic “which is the best dog collar for a husky,” with H2 headings “What are the best dog collars for huskies?” “How to measure your dog for a new leash or collar,” “How to make a dog choke collar safer” etc.
A screenshot of an outline created by Dashword.

If you just want to conduct a quick spot check of existing content, you can use a tool like the SEO Pro Extension for Chrome to get an overview of the title tag, meta description, canonical tag, word count, headers, links, and so on.


If you're a Wix site owner, you can use the built-in SEO Assistant to ensure that you've already optimized aspects of on-page SEO (like headers, alt text, structured data, meta description, and more) before you publish your blog post.


How to measure the value of your on-page enhancements


How can you determine whether your strategies are having an impact? Here аre metrics you might want to monitor to ensure that the tactics you’ve implemented are serving search engines, your visitors, and your business.


Organic keywords and traffic

Review the keywords your site is ranking for and ensure that they are aligned with your target keywords, topics, and entities. Consider whether these are also aligned with your business proposition and whether they help further your company’s goals.


User engagement

Review metrics like:


  • Average time on page

  • Bounce rate

  • Exit rate

  • Average number of pages per session

  • Average session duration

  • Etc.


Improvements in all of these (with a decrease in bounce rate) are a good indicator of intent alignment and effective site architecture.


Site engagement events

Review metrics such as:


  • Page scroll

  • Button clicks

  • On-page events (shopping, browsing, social follows, etc.)


Improvements here indicate that the experience on the page is enticing for users and content is organized in a way that promotes engagement.


Search performance

If you’ve added structured data to some of your pages, you can also monitor for improvements in clicks and click-through rate, as well as overall search visibility (namely in the Rich Results and Enhancement reports in Google Search Console).


Key takeaways


Greater search visibility often correlates to greater revenue for your business. Although there are many tactics that can help you get more visibility in the SERPs, on-page SEO elements are the ones that are under your direct control.


While I’ve discussed many considerations in this article, it’s important to see the forest for the trees. In short:


  • Create content that addresses and fulfills your audience’s search intent

  • Make that content easy to comprehend for both users and search engines

  • Link to relevant content internally and authoritative content externally


By focusing on these three areas, you’ll make your site more user-friendly for potential customers and more easily understood for search engines.


 

Lazarina Stoy

Lazarina is an organic marketing consultant specializing in SEO, CRO, and data science. She's worked with countless teams in B2B, SaaS, and big tech to improve their organic positioning. As an advocate of SEO automation, Lazarina speaks on webinars and at conferences and creates helpful resources for fellow SEOs to kick off their data science journey. Twitter | Linkedin

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