Is On Page SEO Dead With Google?

Jan 24, 2012 • 9:15 am | comments (83) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google Ranking ChangesThere is an interesting thread taking place at WebmasterWorld.

In short, a very respected and senior member at the forums said he made on-page text changes to his pages about 10 days ago and those changes had zero impact on his Google rankings. He was wondering the value of on-page text and SEO have in 2012. He said, "I have always have this suspicion, that text on site is just for google to what its about, but almost zero value for rankings."

Maybe it will take more time, but Google already indexed his new content.

WebmasterWorld administrator said he is dead on - that on page text is less of a ranking factor these days and more of a relevancy factor. Read what Tedster wrote:

The way I see it, on-page text today is for the "relevance" part of the total algorithm. The whole algorithm is, in broad strokes, "relevance + connectedness + quality". After you've clearly stated the relevance of the page, then the rest of your ranking power comes from elsewhere.

I've added on-page bold tags with no effect. I've added or changed h1 elements with no effect. Not too long ago, those might well have done something, but that's not the game anymore.

And moving from a table layout to a CSS-P layout today might get you nowhere, too. It all depends how deeply complicated the table layout was, I think.

Is on-page SEO dead? Or is it a timing thing?

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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Alex Genadinik

01/24/2012 02:27 pm

Seems google is only interested in penalizing sites these days.


01/24/2012 02:28 pm

That's silly... of course its not a ranking factor, I thought SEO's had known this for ages!?

Phelps Kes

01/24/2012 02:29 pm

Any strategy that depends on on-page is destined for doom. You add a bold tag or an extra keyword then your competitor does the same and you're back to square one. For anything more than midly competitive keywords you need links. As long as the keyword appears on the page you will rank, somewhere, then it's a battle of links. The only time I get really concerned with on-page is when their might be a case of over-optimisation

Rob Abdul

01/24/2012 02:56 pm

Link-building and integration of social media especially the likes you receive are what appears to have an impact.

Barry Adams

01/24/2012 03:16 pm

Well of *course* on-page is just a relevancy signal. Hasn't that always been the case? 

Luke McGrath

01/24/2012 03:17 pm

On-page content still has a lot to say about the relevence of a page - one of the key ranking factors for information searches.  A well structured series of headings, symantically relevent keywords and a page that places content over ads will still do well. It's much more likely these days that your competitors have done the exact same thing so you will need to gather those links and social signals like never before.  But start with that logical base and prove your relevency to the crawlers and you'll be walking (if not running or flying).

Glenn Ferrell

01/24/2012 03:18 pm

I like the "relevance, connectedness, quality" categories. They make a great framework for grouping and discussing SEO elements with new clients.

Michael Thamm

01/24/2012 03:19 pm

It's all about links - but now it's more about what kind of links. Social and very topic specific and how that topic matches to your page. Much like a quality score for links.

Glenn Ferrell

01/24/2012 03:30 pm

I agree with Barry !  The number of factors being considered by Google may be expanding, but the value of on-page SEO also depends very much on the market in which you are engaged. For example, in small industry B2B, with very "niched" products, and SEO-challenged competitors, On-Page can be all you need.  The point is not to stand still -- to constantly be sniffing out changes in the algorithm, and adjusting strategies and tactics -- that's what makes SEO fun !


01/24/2012 03:49 pm

Interesting perspective. But not fleshed out. Dunno how good an SEO this "senior and respected" person is, but if he thinks on-page SEO is about tags (as the prior commenters also seem to believe) he's missing the point; on-page is much more about the third leg in that "relevance, connectedness, quality" triumverate. On-page still works. I know this for a fact because of the results we get doing on-page. Is it ENOUGH? No. But this point is getting seriously overstated.


01/24/2012 03:57 pm

I've seen some SERP gains from on-page changes recently


01/24/2012 04:13 pm



01/24/2012 04:18 pm

of course its a ranking factor.... If you  were to change all your 'On page' site content overnight to something totally different then you WILL drop rankings for it.  I see it everyday

Michael Thamm

01/24/2012 04:18 pm

I think all SEO professionals look at the process as: 1) Make sure site is working properly - no errors 2) Develop on page strategy 3) Develop linking strategy 4) Develop social strategy etc, Has to be a holistic approach, otherwise it's unbalanced and less than effective. Can only one create results - yes, but you are probably leaving money on the table.

Michael Martinez

01/24/2012 04:40 pm

He appears to not understand that just because you see a page in Google's cache doesn't mean that the index has fully integrated everything you see.  The fact he is referring to Google Toolbar PR at all reveals this "senior" member is pretty naive. The long tail would die if on-page optimization stopped working.


01/24/2012 04:42 pm

Barry and everyone else: 99.99% of Pandalised sites need to buy traffic from adwords to recover. Very few can gain traffic otherwise. I was told by a Googler that if you got hit you are at zero, you only escape if Google changes something or if you get a massive traffic increase.. Traffic needs to be good, not bounce off really quick. So adwords is perfect for you and Google. Panda was done to payback advertisers, but to avoid embarrassments Google also helped very popular /viral sites. The rest needs adwords, unless you can viral.

Karachi SEO

01/24/2012 04:48 pm

On page does not matter, it's false that Google can analyse  content that way that Amit Singhal says. If your content is 100% unique and talks about something no one ever has, of course u will rank but normal sites are not like that. You need to spend money$ to become a brand and Google will rank you. Google corporate has problem because Pay Per Click prices went down 8%, more sites penalized so price increases when they advertise. 


01/24/2012 04:59 pm

Well, in recent weeks I have been making on page changes, reviewing content etc. and have picked up new keywords and improved overall traffic. Maybe the site just has not been reviewed fully yet? Seems very odd and suggest content no longer matters! 

Ted Goas

01/24/2012 05:02 pm

As a front-end developer, I agree that on-page SEO is pretty weak overall compared to the other off-page signals mentioned by other comments thus far. But some tags referenced in the short article above are misrepresented. Bold Tags <b> tags denote bold, <strong> tags denote importance. While both tags are visually bolded, <b> does not denote importance and is not a ranking factor. Tables vs. P's Improving semantics and hierarchy is good practice, but SE's won't rank <div> and <p> based layouts any higher. <table>s are a bit slower speed wise, but even though speed is a small ranking factor this change likely won't produce any impact unless done on a massive scale. No matter how complicated a <table> is.

John Britsios

01/24/2012 05:14 pm

I think it is too funny that a forums senior member considers as on-page SEO optimization updating parts of a page content primarily or exclusively based on  visual or other semantical elements. I think he might would like to have a read of the new Google patent On- and off page SEO cannot work without each other. End of story.

Michael J. Kovis

01/24/2012 05:30 pm

The quality of discussion within that thread is very poor, along with a few of the comments I have read here... Is on-page SEO dead?  Heck no.  Is it nearly as strong as it once was?  Of course not. Case in point, I recently initiated a content audit of a website I manage.  By using data collected in Google Analytics I pinpointed the pages I needed to address first.  I immediately noticed I had one blog article that ranked very well for the target key terms that another web page on the site should have been ranking for.  It was receiving a ton of traffic, but had extremely high bounce and exit rates.  Very problematic as it was out ranking the other page on this domain. I started with editing the blog title to help differentiate from the other page.  Then edited the meta description and made some changes to the content where it was really needed for readability purposes.  I also added in some extra links to help the on-page SEO of my other competing webpage and to help with the user experience. After one week both pages were ranking (and still continue to rank) at #1 and #2 respectively.  Exit and bounces rates have dropped significantly as well.  The competition for this keyword may only be around 45-50%, but this shows that on-page SEO is still very effective. The forum OP's scenario is far to vague to really ascertain what exactly is going on.  Were his edits targeting the appropriate keywords?  Maybe his off-page SEO is what is bringing him down.  Who knows...


01/24/2012 06:24 pm

Like Mike said, Tedster is a loser. He stopped being relevant after Florida Update but still  sings the same old tune and defends Google all the time. I still post there sometimes but I wish they had an ignore list option.

Ryan Jones

01/24/2012 06:37 pm

On page factors are definitely considered when ranking - and very strongly (heck, look at title tags for example) For those saying "on-page" is a relevancy signal. Don't you think Google would want to rank pages based upon the strength of that relevancy signal? It seems to me that users would prefer the "most relevant" pages ranked higher. Things like switching from tables to css and adding bold tags won't provide that ranking boost on their own - but combined with many other signals they can matter.  You've got to look at the forest, not the trees.

Michael J. Kovis

01/24/2012 07:09 pm

/applause Well said Ryan.

The Internet

01/24/2012 09:49 pm

It's a bit disturbing how many people in this thread appear to have no idea what they're talking about.


01/25/2012 04:25 am

I am SEO Link-Building Expert. Recently I was work on one website that website onpage meta descritption and google search description is showing different when i search name of url one google search it shows different meta description  but other search engine shows properly on their search result as i put on  website. why Google Search result show different description which is not mention on website anywhere. 

Web Applications Development

01/25/2012 05:06 am

On page does not issue, it's incorrect that Search engines can evaluate  articles that way that Amit Singhal says. If your articles is 100% exclusive and shares about something no one ever has, of course u will status but typical websites are not like that.


01/25/2012 06:10 am

On page SEO is not dead.  Without on page seo u can't get good ranking when u are targeting for keywords in competition.   Everything depends on site strength,  age factor, keyword based domain and the relevance factor.  On page factors are still there but the think is that in which manner you are actually projecting your site in search engines and to the user. On page will newer die as its the 1st step towards ranking.  Just need to focus on the industry, social activity and the structure of the website with deep analysis.


01/25/2012 06:36 am

but my question is why that website shows different description on Google search? which i m not mention on on-page meta?

Chairman Ali

01/25/2012 06:48 am

Wow! that was an amazing resource you just shared John. the discussion should have been over then.

Haseeb Najam

01/25/2012 07:40 am

well then one word is enough for relevance....why not add only one word on page if onpage text is dead :)


01/25/2012 08:35 am

Onpage SEO is not dead! It's just that Google now gives more priority to Offpage factors for ranking sites. But still Onpage SEO is very very important.


01/25/2012 08:42 am

Timing and patience. I have sites that rank just as well as my sites without h1 and bold tags. Those nitty gritty alterations for the sake of trying to get a page to rank higher is just a waste of time. It's the kind of 'advice' you give someone if you want them to waste theirs. Focus on keyword density and actual relevance instead. On page will never die.

Rob Abdul

01/25/2012 09:20 am

I hear what you're saying bro!


01/25/2012 09:33 am

as i am applying same thing one of my most popular website in terms of web page content, i am also not getting any response after update fresh content on targeted web page, although in terms of meta info when i am updating it....i am getting response on my targeted keywords for the particular page...... So Is On Page SEO Dead With Google?... i am not agree with it, there can be so many reasons according to keywords competition.

mobile application testing

01/25/2012 10:33 am

Well i have also updated the Mete Settings of My Website but Still not Get any Desired Result After 10 Days! The Ranking of the site is not showed any major Flux! But in My Opinion it is a very early to determine On Page Effect! Google Takes Time To Determine the Meta Settings, Page Content, Authority Links as well as Inbound Links!

Dubai Freehold Property

01/25/2012 11:01 am

On web page SEO is not deceased.  Without on web page seo u can't get good standing when u are focusing on for key terms in competition.   Everything will depend on site strength,  age element, search phrase based website and the importance element.

Kelvin Jones

01/25/2012 11:47 am

Not dead by a long-chalk. I always explain the whole thing with a narrative (if that's the right word). - Google see's a link in some text about banana milkshake, the words link and its clear what the content relates to. Without any alien words such as coke, fizzy, cement etc... the link is strong (along with other factors affecting a sites quality/authority). - Google follows that link then validates a page against what it would expects to find. The titling has banana milkshake the meta's are relevant and the content is rich, fresh and on-topic. As long as you don't insert alien content, or ruin the content by pushing ads or unrelated links then this will sit well.Effectively Google has to follow links forever to ensure that you aren't building a link wheel of relevant posts, sites and pages. If you aren't and you stay on-topic, get links from social sources then you shouldn't have any problems. Everything is connected and Google needs to ascertain a balance to generate the rankings.It's always about the content... and how your content and other peoples content interact. Without content there isn't an internet, just a load of one-liners and pictures.

Peter Morris

01/25/2012 11:49 am

To me, on page SEO is about making sure that Google can categorize your content properly so that they get an accurate idea of what your site is about. But the whole idea of their algorithm is to rank sites with authority. On page SEO doesn't create authority, but it does help Google to understand what they should rank you for when you do gain enough authority. Try adding Adsense to poorly optimized blog post. See the irrelevant ads that get served on the page, and then tell me onpage SEO isn't worth doing any more...

Blake Denman

01/25/2012 12:17 pm

Interesting.  But this would also defeat the purpose of Panda.  I don't agree that it is dead, however I do agree it's factors in ranking is not nearly as dominant as it once was.

SEO New York

01/25/2012 01:27 pm

nopes, I dont think onpage is dead, Google already took off the KEYWORDS META from its theorem, and Google, already planned to decrease the value of link building, now only left is onpage, yes GOOGLE PANDA is already related content which can be said as onpage, so still Google replying on onpage and ofcourse link building for now... There were some updates GOOGLE LAYOUT ALGORITHM, so might be that have made some effect on the website....

Jeff Yablon

01/25/2012 02:08 pm

Michael, I ALWAYS feel like we're leaving $ on the table. Sometimes, I'm OK with that. But let me be more specific: I wasn't saying that on-page is the be-all-and-end-all; merely that assuming it's been deprecated to the point that this thread and Barry's article imply/state is either naive or the sign of SEO practitioners who are better at pontificating than they are at SEO. Or as the old saying goes, "those who can't do, teach". So let's give gym teachers a break and follow that with "those who can't teach, teach SEO"   ;-)


01/25/2012 02:38 pm

Saying on page SEO is dead is a bit like saying content is dead. On page SEO has changed, it's now about maximising the potential achieved by other measures such as link building. There is also what I like to call structural SEO to consider as well. This is what most of the work is about when dealing with big and old sites. It's sorting out all the 302 redirects, 404 pages, redirect chains, duplicate pages, etc etc etc. These can make a difference on a site wide basis. So it's not all about offsite yet :)


01/25/2012 03:16 pm

Its funny because if you search Google for "On Page SEO"  this actual post in on first page. Which clearly indicates that on-page-seo in not dead. Everyone's comments are mostly and the H1 on this post make the case. So there is your answer.

Rob Abdul

01/25/2012 03:28 pm

Mo like I said yesterday " Link-building and integration of social media especially the likes you receive" Disqus comments in this case " are what appears to have an impact ".             


01/25/2012 05:12 pm

I disagree that ON Page SEO is dead. Recently I re-designed a website and optimized it and within 2 weeks it was showing up for keywords it never had done before and the site had no previous link building done to it. So on page SEO is  not dead as far as my results go! 

Miguel Salcido

01/25/2012 07:29 pm

On page SEO is and always will be important, but it has diminished as a ranking factor because it is easy for everyone to replicate. On page SEO has mostly become commoditized, outside if really technical site structure and code analysis that is. This is why you see SEO SaaS becoming the way most companies are going (SEOmoz, SEObook, Conductor, Covario, BrightEdge, etc.). Can on-page SEO make a huge difference, hell yea, but usually only on very large authority sites that had been muffing things on-page for a while. And there are still lots of those out there! But most sites don't see a huge lift from correcting on-page SEO. However, if all things were equal between two sites (link profile, authority, etc) then it "could" actually come down to on-page factors like titles, alt, H tags, copy, internal linking, etc.


01/25/2012 08:52 pm

It's not dead, but has certainly been diminished.  And links -- do they count as much as they once did?  I'm beginning to wonder about all of the other 200+ signals...

Marketing Quotes

01/26/2012 11:36 am

I think this has been the case for some time now; it is less about 'content is king' and more about relevant inbound links


01/26/2012 11:41 am

You really think so? I am not sure if one person's report of "no change" after altering a website is reason to suggest that Google has suddenly put all emphasis on links and ignored content.  Wasn't there a site content quality update last year?

Michael J. Kovis

01/26/2012 04:07 pm

Really?  Got any proof of that? To me, your comment is completely speculative without any basis of fact to back it up.  One could almost that assume you have absolutely no clue what you are talking about.  Especially when you use a phrase like "Content is King" completely out of context while comparing it to obtaining more relevant inbound links.......

Door Handles

01/27/2012 05:30 pm

I don't fully agree with this. I do however feel that the days of spamming a web page and having bad links and getting good rankings have come to an end!

Ronnie Kirchner

01/28/2012 01:21 am

It would not surprise me if their algorithms continue to evolve with complexity looking at the whole big picture.  "relevance + connectedness + quality" as Barry stated. On page SEO will never "go away" but in regards to ranking, Google continues to tweak their algorithm in weighing in all aspects.


01/29/2012 12:46 pm

I'd have to say that this observation was at a bad time for observing changes like that. I made no on site changes to several sites and some went up and one started screaming because the other sites were pushing ads up too high. On page SEO is not dead by a long shot but you have to do better than cleaning up a messy page or cleaning code.

Hawree Hawree

01/29/2012 08:46 pm

have any idea about google pr updates of 2012??

Dirty Seagull

02/02/2012 01:54 pm

I dont think its dead, I think it is constantly changing. SEO may be merging into other facets of digital marketing


02/08/2012 07:07 pm

I don't think it is dead by any means. Google will still grab content that is relevant to a search term to be shown in the search results. Yes i know it is relevance but that could also be a ranking factor especially for the long tail. Also as well all know that when a website is updated google likes it and they will also pertain to rankings. Add me to your google +


02/10/2012 08:59 pm

Others took the opposing view that the great majority of users at that time were performing integer-intensive tasks like word-processing, spreadsheeting and web browsing, and the substantially lower cost of the PR-rated processors allowed the user to afford a higher-spec part in any case.

Cassandra Dawson

02/10/2012 10:16 pm

From what I've seen OPSEO doesn't work as well on websites that aren't popular.


02/22/2012 04:58 pm

 be grateful...they make you look good without trying.


02/22/2012 05:05 pm

I wonder if the "senior and respected person" referred to is Jason Calacanis  -


02/25/2012 03:37 pm

i don't think on page is not useful when it comes to ranking a site. maybe right choice of keyword and good off page strategy are the keys. today, google panda is more focus on the content.


03/30/2012 05:52 am

No, It's not possible on page optimization dead  for google.


04/10/2012 09:50 am

I totally agreed about the previous post, on page optimization is one big factor in website marketing and obviously it's not getting dead by Google because this types of optimization is really great things in the field of seo. 

Wordpress Development India

04/16/2012 06:53 am

According to me On page is most requiring part of  SEO. 

SEO Australia

04/23/2012 05:04 pm

I dont think its dead, I think it is constantly changing. SEO may be merging into other facets of digital marketing

Clayton Alan Curtis

04/23/2012 08:54 pm

Certainly it's dead. I have several lead-gen websites I've experimented with, yanking all "keyword-laden" text, img alt, headers etc and still ranking well for a fairly competitive  term for one of the pages. It astounded me that I was still #2 for the term even after a fresh index. Don't waste your time overvaluing on-site factors. 

Orange County SEO

04/27/2012 11:07 pm

Because of this content it would even assist to retain the ranking of your own website. You need also to do not forget that unless link building has not been watched and done right your web sites will eventually be a spam site and declined at any online search engine site and be removed at the index of any search engine. 


04/28/2012 04:08 am

I found that my webpage dropped right off mid June 2011.  I've been testing Google over the last 6 months and i've found Google takes in your 1st paragraph (in my case 1st week of every month) of your webpage and that's what is used in there search engine.... It is important that in that 1st 2 lines you make reasonably sensable sentence that is relevant to your business that people search for -always. In Jan 2012 I started using important relevent words in my 1st paragraph and Walla!! I was up there on the 1st relevant page albeit not once but anywhere from 1 - 5 times. I was almost an embarrassing difference. Check it out...enter Houseboats, Mannum, Kayak and there I am Cloud9. TTFN 

Local Seo Company

05/22/2012 06:52 pm

I don't fully agree with this. I do however feel that the days of spamming a web page and having bad links and getting good rankings have come to an end!

Interworks One

05/27/2012 06:17 am

I don't fully agree with this. I do however feel that the days of spamming a web page and having bad links and getting good rankings have come to an end!


06/05/2012 07:59 pm

I think SEO in general is a dying process. You can only fool the search engines for so long. They are getting smarter and better at detecting unnatural events/links

SEO companies Edmonton

06/13/2012 09:48 pm

Yes I am with you on that and just need to stay on track.

seo backlink building

06/17/2012 03:35 pm

Yes this is very powerful for those that take action.

backlinks strategy

06/17/2012 04:24 pm

This is so true and really should get more media attention.


10/06/2012 09:38 pm

I completely disagree with anyone here that says on page seo is dead or has no impact. I've been doing seo / sem for 12+ years. I have sites that I did 10 years ago without ANY updates since then and no link building and they're still ranking on 1st page of se's. I recently launched a site in a very highly competitive niche in real estate with lots of big players with no link building effort or anything else AT ALL "yet" and have 15K pages indexed and 100's or more keywords ranking on first page and 1st spot. Unless you're doing experiments on a completely controlled environment which I don't think most people are.. then the answers you think you get are wrong :)

Google Analytics

03/31/2013 05:59 am

It is still useful and powerful nowadays. People are still using this kind of technique for they enjoy the effectiveness that it brings.

Dallas SEO

05/03/2013 08:20 am

I do think it is still very effective.

San Diego SEO

05/03/2013 08:50 am

A lot of people should be taught this.

Phoenix SEO

05/03/2013 09:30 am

It shows what a good strategy can do.

kizi 2

05/09/2013 02:34 am

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