Optimising your web pages for search engines isn’t the sexiest job in the world, but it’s crucial to rank in Google and hopefully get organic traffic. This is where on-page SEO comes into play.
After all, SEO isn’t about tricking Google – it’s about structuring your content so that search engine bots can more easily read and index your website.
So here we have provided A Complete On-Page SEO Checklist that goes over everything you need to know about on-page SEO. We will cover everything from using keywords in your headers and sub headers, to keeping your content focused and targeted.
There are so many elements of on-page SEO that it’s not easy to remember them all – luckily for you, we cover the most important ones here! Let’s dive in!
What is On-Page SEO?
On-page SEO, also known as on-site SEO, is the act of optimising the elements of a web page for both the search engines and web visitors. Along with posting high-quality, relevant content, you want to optimise the page’s keyword distribution, HTML, internal linking structure, meta data, images and more.
On-page SEO must not be confused with off-page SEO. On-page optimisation relies on the actual content of the page, which means the website owner has full control over it.
Off-page SEO refers to optimisation efforts that happen off of your website. Think of strategies like backlinking, guest posting, social promotion, and more.
Because on-page optimisation occurs on other pages of your website, or with other external websites, you have no control over it.
Why Is On-Page SEO Important?
The whole point of optimising your website for on-page SEO is to help improve your search rankings for the specific keywords you want to rank for. Google’s mission is (and has always been) to deliver the most accurate, relevant, and valuable information to its users.
So when someone enters a query, Google shows the best result depending on the most relevant web pages available.
For example, let’s say your website is about pets. Your web pages would therefore need to have relevant keywords like pet breeds, pet food, grooming, etc., to help Google know more about your website and how valuable your content is to users.
Simply stuffing keywords in your content won’t cut it though. You must always add value by presenting the best answer to the searcher’s query.
On-Page SEO Checklist
Having explained how important on-page SEO is to ranking, it’s now a good time to optimise your content. The actionable tips in the following sections will ensure that every page of your website is optimised for humans and search engines, so you can achieve the results you want:
Optimising Your URLs
Your URL tells Google what your page is all about. Moreover, a properly structured, SEO-friendly URL can increase your organic CTR.
URLs built for SEO will usually abide by two search engine ranking factors as follows:
Primary keyword appears in the URL
You want to include your primary keyword in your URL. Keyword-rich URLs communicate to Google what your content is about and increase your chances of ranking well. Similarly, users are more likely to click through to your website if the URL appears relevant to them.
URL is short and descriptive
Shorter URLs tend to rank best in Google for two reasons. First, short and concise URLs help users to know exactly what to expect from the webpage, hence higher click through rates.
Search engine crawlers also benefit from short URLs. As well as adding clarity to a page, short URLs require less time to crawl.
However, just because a URL should be short doesn’t mean it should include only your keyword. If necessary, you can add an extra word or two to your URL.
While at it though, make sure you do away with any unnecessary words like “the and it”. A properly structured URL will typically have a maximum of 2 folders.
Incorporate Your Keyword in the Title Tag
Google uses title tags to determine what the main topic of the webpage is. Title tags are also what people see when considering visiting your website.
That is why your title tag should include your keyword to tell search engines what the page is about. Where to place your keyword in the title also matters a great deal.
Front-loading your keyword in your title tag is a highly recommended on-page SEO practice. The closer your keyword is to the front of the title, the more favour you gain in search engines.
When writing your title tag, pay attention to the number of characters that search engines display as snippets. Google only shows the first 60 characters, so be as brief and meaningful as possible.
Also come up with a compelling title tag that meets the search intent and entices people to click. Good title tags are simple, understandable, and straight to the point. You can use the Yoast plugin to create different title tag variations that will suit search engines and readers.
Optimise Your Meta Descriptions
Meta description is a short, one or two sentence summary of your page that appears under the title tag in SERPs. This description gives readers a concise overview of the content of your webpage.
Worth mentioning is that the meta description is not a ranking factor for search engines. But it greatly influences a user’s decision to click, which can help drive up your organic CTR.
Sometimes Google will display your meta description, but about 2/3 of the time, it will generate an excerpt from the content and show it in the SERP. All in all, an optimised meta description can help your pages rank better.
The following are a few useful tips to write an optimised meta description:
- Build up on the title: Add descriptions that couldn’t fit in the title.
- Compelling and informative: Address the reader directly using an active voice.
- Include your keyword: Your meta description should include your target keyword and LSI keywords.
- Be clear and brief: Limit your meta description to the recommended 160 characters.
Add Your Keyword and Its Synonyms in Header Tags
Header tags are HTML elements <H1>, <H2>, <H3>, and so forth. These tags are super useful in that they help organise your content for improved readability. By adding H tags, you’re also helping search engines distinguish what section of your content is most relevant and valuable, depending on search intent.
You want to add the keyword in the H1. The title and the H1 don’t have to be the same. You can sprinkle some semantic keyword variations to provide more contextual data.
Remember to put your most important keywords in H2, H3, and H4 tags too. Your keyword, synonyms, and semantic keyword variations should go to these additional header tags.
While at it, make sure the keywords are sprinkled naturally in the heads and subheads. You want these keywords to add to the flow of the page in a compelling and engaging manner.
Write Unique, User-Focused Content and Structure
Search engines hate duplicate content. If Google detects the exact same content across multiple sites, only one of those pages will rank for the target keyword.
Your content shouldn’t just be unique but also focused on user experience. This means how your blog content is laid out and formatted is important.
Here are a few tips to help you create content that search engines love:
A compelling introduction
Your first paragraph has to be compelling. The introduction of your content should help you connect with the reader, establish trust, and reassure them that there’s a solution to their pain point.
Keyword appears in the first 100-150 words
Search engines place more weight on the first few sentences of your webpage. Therefore, make sure to use your keyword once in the first 100-150 words of your page.
The text includes keyword variations
Aim to distribute your primary keywords and their variations throughout the text. Adding related keyword entities for context helps answer search queries in detail.
According to recent studies, the attention span of an average reader is only eight seconds. With that in mind, you should aim to help users find the answer to their questions as fast and distraction-free as possible.
The layout of your content also needs to be easy to navigate and read. User-focused content and structure should contain:
- No big vocabularies
- Text broken up into short sentences and paragraphs
- Lots of white space
- Easy to read subheadings
- Bullet points, bold text, etc. for readability
A Strong Linking Structure
Implementing a strong linking structure can help boost your search rankings. Internal links and external links are two types of links used in on-page SEO.
An internal link is a link that sends a user to another webpage within the same domain. Search engines crawl and assess websites based on the internal linking structure.
If there’s no correlation between your webpages, Google may treat this as a negative user experience, and you risk losing your rankings.
So, make sure your page has at least one internal link pointing to it. Use relevant keywords as your anchor text so that each page transitions smoothly to the next.
External links, or backlinks, are links from one website pointing towards another. You want to link to external pages with high domain authority (DA).
Google considers your pages as more trustworthy if it detects links from websites with high DA. An on-page SEO best practice is to link out to at least three high-quality domains.
Optimise Your Images
If there are any images on your pages, make sure you optimise them properly. Optimising your images can increase the page loading speed, which has a positive impact on the user experience.
Ideally, images that are less than 70kb are ideal. You can manually optimise your images using Photoshop or online tools like Image Resizer. Alternatively, you can install the appropriate WordPress plugins including Imagify to automate the process.
You should also rename your images using descriptive alt text tags to help search engines figure out what they’re about. Because search engines can’t interpret every image with 100% accuracy, having a good description is crucial and helps with image SEO.
Wrapping it Up
There are many more techniques, concepts, and strategies involved in on-page SEO, but this checklist is an excellent place to start.
Remember, you need to blend the on-page optimisation techniques on this checklist with your off-page SEO strategy to reap maximum benefits from your SEO efforts.
Finally, on-page SEO is an ongoing process. Even as you implement the tips above, keep monitoring your website’s performance in search engines so you can make the right tweaks for SEO success.