On Page Search Engine Optimisation IS Dead

Is there any real need for on page optimisation anymore? All of my research on the SERPS seems to be pointing in 1 direction and that is, when it comes to high rankings for competitive terms only your link profile really matters.

After all Google is still ranking number 2 for the keyword “caffeine” even though all it does is slap it in the title tag and has a shed load of links, the result is only relevant to somebody searching for it from an internet marketing background, those wanting information on a mild drug are going to be disappointed.

Anyway, as well as examples like the above and ongoing comments in the SEO industry about ‘how headings are no longer of value’ I decided to carry out a little research myself.

The research was based on the heading tags h1 – h4 and on general keyword density. Like with so many of the other tests I perform this one was based on 25 search terms and the top 8 results were examined.

Headings Optimisation

I guess the first place to start is with the headings, it is an area I also believe has lost most of its value but let’s peak at the results before coming to a conclusion.

For those of you who aren’t sure how headings are supposed to work with SEO, basically it is taught that you should use your keyword in them to build relevance h1 holding the most weight and decreasing accordingly to h6.

The first test was simple, ranking pages 1-8 were tested to see if they had optimised their heading tags for the target keyword.

A score was given to each heading optimised on each site h1 = 8 h2 = 6 etc… The ranking position with the highest score had obviously better optimised headings.

heading optimisation graph

As you can see from the graph the blue line represents the true ranking order and the red line is how it would rank if rankings were based on optimised headings.

There are massive differences here and even though this is correlation and not causation I still feel it is a strong indication that headings are not quite as valuable as one may think.

If you look at the below chart;

headings optimisation chart

62.5% of pages on the first page have the h1 optimised for the target keyword, however 0% have the h4 optimised.

I can also confirm that 15% of the pages tested had not optimised any headings.

The only thing we can take from this is that if you are going to optimise your headings, stick to h1 and h2 the rest seem to be irrelevant but don’t expect it to work miracles for your rankings because it won’t.

Keyword Density

In this test the same 25 pages were checked for keyword density rates against the target phrase. The percentages were taken and the below chart shows the results.

keyword density chart

Even I was surprised at these results, when re ranked the sites there was almost a complete reverse with the lowest ranking sites having the highest keyword density.

So what does this mean??

Keep things to a natural level use the keyword naturally but don’t feel under pressure to use it in every paragraph because it clearly does not matter.

Where does this leave on page optimisation?

Well what can I say?

First of all there is a lot more to on page search engine optimisation other than keyword issues;

– Crawlability
– Internal Linking
– Sitemaps
– Click Paths
– Code to Content Ratio


However in my opinion the days of stressing over keyword density, keyword proximity or prominence are over along with heading optimisation, it just is not as powerful as it once was.

The only place to worry about your keywords, in my opinion, is in your title tag, outbound links and obviously try and get it in the content a couple of times. Apart from that the jobs a good one.

There are obviously a few areas I didn’t touch on;

– How does this apply to longtail keywords?
– Does keyword position matter? Top, bottom, sidebar, footer
– I also did not take into account image alt attributes

These are all posts for another time. So quit worrying about how many times you’ve stuffed your keyword into your content and start building some links 🙂