Not sure how to optimize your blog posts and web pages? Our 2018 On-Page SEO Checklist can help you get a jump start.
As defined by the search engine optimization gurus at Moz, on-page SEO is “the practice of optimizing individual web pages to rank higher and earn more relevant traffic in search engines.” It involves optimizing both the technical and content-related elements of an individual web page for search.
If search engine optimization were an expedition, on-page SEO would be your survival kit. It alone doesn’t guarantee results but it helps. It’s also one of the easiest components of SEO to get right. That’s because, unlike off-page SEO tactics like link building, influencer outreach or digital PR, on-page SEO is within your control. Think of our on-page SEO checklist as an itinerary routing your success.
Start with the right technical framework
As a marketer, you may not be privy to all of the technical ins-and-outs of your website. Yet, at a minimum, you should be aware that the page speed, responsiveness, and URL structure can significantly impact on-page SEO. If you notice problems with any of the following, contact your webmaster or reach out to an agency who specializes in SEO and user experience design to make things right.
According to Google, the probability of bounce (visitors quickly leaving your page) increases 90% when page load times go from 1 to 5 seconds. When it comes to SEO, the more quickly your page loads, the better.
Mobile visits accounted for more than 50% of global internet traffic in 2017. If your webpage is not responsive, you may be frustrating large swaths of visitors.
The URL structure of your webpage should always be readable and relevant. Your URL should closely mirror your page title and include your primary keyword. It should also be free of punctuation or special characters with the exception of dashes and underscores which are characters that search engines do understand and are preferable to blank spaces between words.
Choose a primary keyword
Choose a primary keyword by identifying the topic that best represents your content. Ideally, you or your digital marketing agency has already performed keyword research to determine the keyword’s difficulty, volume, and search intent as it relates to your goals (if not, get in touch). You will use this keyword throughout your content and it should always be one of the first items to cross off of your on-page SEO checklist.
Make use of meta tags
Meta tags are essential to every on-page SEO checklist because they help to communicate to search engines what your page is all about. There are several kinds of tags to consider before you publish your next web page or blog post.
Title tags refer to the title of your page or blog post. Include your keyword in the page title and at the beginning where possible and limit the number of character to 60, the maximum character limit ordinarily displayed in Google search results.
Meta descriptions are found under your page title in search results and describe to visitors what they can expect to find. While they do not directly contribute to search engine optimization, they do support click-through. If users like the description, they will likely click the link to your page. Those clicks, as a result, can improve rankings in search results. Include a keyword here, too.
Heading tags are used in headings preceding different sections of content within your page. They signal to search engines that your content supports the keyword you hope to rank for. You will recognize them as H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, or H6 in your website HTML and in the content editing tools of most content management systems.
While you may want to include your primary keyword in one or two of your headings, don’t feel pressured to include it in every heading. This would likely be unnecessary and create a bad user experience which can, in turn, be detrimental to SEO. Where appropriate, use complementary phrases or secondary keywords in headings to support your primary keyword. This will give search engine algorithms a broader sense of the topics related to your primary keyword.
Don’t forget to hyperlink
Many marketers already understand that backlinks, also known as inbound links, are crucial to your off-page SEO strategy. However, outgoing links are an important part of your approach to on-page SEO. In fact, including external links to relevant content on authoritative sites has been shown to have a positive impact on rankings. Even hyperlinking to other pages within your own site can be useful in establishing site architecture and relevance which can positively affect your position in search results. Use relevant anchor text – the clickable text in a hyperlink – to link both to pages on your own site and authoritative websites that don’t share your domain.
Include graphics and multimedia
Relevant text is great for SEO but don’t neglect images, infographics, video, and podcasts. Visitors will appreciate the break in lengthy, text-heavy content which will affect if and how long they decide to stick around. Be sure to include keywords in your file names, titles, and image alt text which will help your page show in Google Images and also support website accessibility. Search engines value well-optimized images and people with disabilities do, too.
Write for humans not robots
While you should attempt to sprinkle keywords into your content, you should never do so to the extent that no actual person would want to read it. Well-written, engaging content extends the length of your web visitor’s stay which — you guessed it — benefits on-page SEO.
Just how many total words a page should contain is up for debate, but we tend to agree that more is better if only because pages and blog posts with more words typically offer a more comprehensive answer to your visitors’ search query. This will satisfy visitors and increase the time they spend on your page. Try to minimize thin posts and pages with fewer than 300 words.
Audit your experience
If you aren’t sure how your on-page SEO stacks up, try requesting an SEO audit to take the pulse of your search engine optimization efforts. A comprehensive audit will run the gamut from identifying keywords you should target to uncovering critical architectural issues hindering SEO.
In the end, search engine optimization is a journey, not a destination, but we hope this quick checklist will serve as a helpful travel companion.
Is there something more you’d like to see in our 2018 On-Page SEO Checklist? Let us know in the comments.
Marisa Meyers is an expert digital marketing strategist with 8 years’ experience and an unhealthy obsession with zombies. When she isn’t helping clients develop buyer personas, map customer journeys or otherwise navigate the complex world of digital marketing, you will find her binge watching all 6 seasons of the Walking Dead.