Search engine optimization in the early days (1996-1998) was purely on page optimization, with the merging of basic meta search engines that time all what people needed to do in order to rank well was making sure that their keyword is repeated several times in meta tags and page content, keyword density was a very popular term that time (a hot SEO topic was shall I make my keyword density 2% or 5%).
Google came later with Page Rank and inbound links concepts as a way to score pages and rank them, sure enough it did not take webmasters a long time to adapt with the new system, link building or what is known as off page optimization became the ultimate goal for most webmasters, the link model was proofing a huge success with Google, it was possible at some point to rank a blank page for competitive keywords using only links.
The link rash really destructed and still distrusting webmasters from paying more attention to their on page optimization, more SEO companies and webmasters spend a short one time efforts on optimizing their pages and move to start a contentious long run link building campaign, links are still more important than on page but resource/money wise links are not easy to be acquired, especially with Google applying lots of filters on links and its spam team is becoming very efficient in weeding out spammy low quality links, on page factor defiantly worth more attention especially for hyper competitive keywords.
What I am recommending here is not only one time basic on page optimization where you:
- Add your keywords to your title tags and meta tags
- Making sure all your content is crawlable and readable by search engine
- Making sure that there is adequate amount of keyword rich content on the page to enable search engines to analyse and theme the page
- Your internal navigation is passing page rank to the pages that are competing for the most competitive keywords
On page optimization can go further by trying different things on your page and track the impact of your changes on search engines’ result, with Google presenting Caffeine which almost immediately translate crawling data into scoring data there is no need to wait a long time to see the result of your changes, things that worth to be tested:
- Take some links from your navigation or your page, then add them back
- Change the structure of your page
- Rewrite the content on the page
- Increase or decrease keyword density
- Change internal linking
Test on page exactly the way you do it with conversion optimization (A-B test), find the best ranking formula and keep it, then try to replicate it for other pages on the site.
Finally remember to revisit your on page optimization once a while