Viola Eva, Flow SEO

What is the difference between correlational SEO and regular on-page SEO?

April 25, 2019

By Viola Eva, SEO Consultant, Flow SEO

On-page SEO is often perceived as the ugly duckling of SEO.

It’s the process of optimizing ranking factors directly on your website. Those beautiful and powerful sisters (backlinks) are often stealing on-page SEO’s spotlight, which is perceived as a repetitive, boring, must-do task. However, more recently, on-page SEO is rising in popularity with underground SEOs of all hat colors.

How come optimizing page titles and H1 is suddenly exciting again?

In this article, we’ll cover the difference between normal on-page SEO and the correlational SEO of today. In fact, 2019 is the right time to show your content some love with next level on-page SEO.

Viola Eva correlational SEO

On-page SEO: The good ol’ days

Within minutes, most SEO crawlers (think Screaming Frog, Sitebulb, ahrefs, etc.) deliver meaningful insights on the status of the optimization of your website.

Today, most of them have appealing interfaces, and they’ll tell you where your on-page SEO is deficient. Common metrics include:

  • Missing, duplicate or page titles that are too long
  • Missing, duplicate or meta descriptions that are too long
  • Missing or duplicate H1s
  • … many more

You export the list of recommendations and pass it on to your team.

If you’re a respectable SEO, you’ve done keyword mapping before and have matched your target pages with a target keyword and supporting keyword variations. Now, your team is updating the deficient ranking signals. This is still SEO best practice, because as much as on-page SEO is boring, it works. There is hardly any SEO who would argue on the power of page title, URL and H1. Adding your target keyword always works.

If you are not optimizing those factors, you are simply missing out on powerful SEO opportunities.

In the good old days, you would also go in and sprinkle your main keyword across the content. Some people believed in keyword density (percentage of keyword in total text) and adjusted accordingly. If you push your website through the crawler again, green boxes appear. Everyone is happy.

Correlational SEO in 2019

Most crawlers will review a hard-coded set of ranking factors. The creators basically choose which factors should be included and no matter which target page you are crawling, you will receive the same list of ranking factors to review. Whilst our SEO experience tells us that headlines are an important ranking factor, we don’t know exactly how they should be optimized for our specific target page in order to outperform the top-ranking pages.

The recommendations of most crawlers do not factor in competition and their status of optimization. This is where correlational SEO hits the stage. Modern tools for correlational SEO (CORA, Page Optimizer Pro, SurferSEO, Clearscope) allow you to compare your target page against high-ranking competitors. The insights from these tools are not based on a simple traffic light system (done/ not done) but on a relative comparison to those pages that are successfully ranking on page 1.

You will learn to update the keyword count in the body of the text because that is what the websites on page 1 are doing. The ranking factor “search terms in body tag” correlates with their position on page 1. Suddenly, you are optimizing not just any ranking factor, but those that are statistically relevant to appearing on page 1.

This is why on-page SEO is suddenly sexy again — because it is easy to implement, but it can give you a real competitive advantage. With this mindset shift, you will learn how to use your target keyword, keyword variations and context keywords (LSI) based on the performance of the top websites. You will learn how to optimize to be competitive.

In terms of implementation, there is not a big difference towards the checklists of regular crawlers, but it is a huge mindset shift in terms of building strategies. We now make 100-percent data-driven decisions and pick those on-page factors from those which are proven to move the needle.

Time to rise and shine, on-page SEO!


Correlational SEO


Viola spoke about the “The Holy Trinity – SEO Science, Correlational SEO and Algorithmic Content Analysis” at UnGagged London 2019.
Keep an eye out for her next speaking slot at UnGagged in 2020!


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