On-Page SEO Checklist
A beginners guide to SEO
Optimizing your web page for search can be a great way to increase the visibility of your page and draw more organic traffic, all for free. But in order to do this, you may need an on-page SEO checklist to help steer you in the right direction.
Except there’s just one thing. This list won’t just be exclusive to on-page SEO tactics. Because if you want your page to rank on the first page or even in the Top 3 local search pack on Google, you’ll inevitably need to dip your toe into some off-page tactics as well.
But no worries, we won’t go into too much technical detail here with everything here; and this should make a great starting point in your digital marketing journey if just getting started with SEO.
Let’s get started!
On-page SEO Overview
On-page SEO primarily involves making sure your content is keyword rich and that the content is formatted properly, with well-structured headings, titles, and meta descriptions.
Off-page SEO Overview
Off-page SEO involves building backlinks to your page, as well as creating a sitemap and ensuring a proper internal linking structure is in place. Additionally, optimizing the page URLs and making sure the page is fast-loading and mobile-friendly while using image alt-tags and schema markup where appropriate.
All of these elements are important for helping search engines identify, crawl, and index your web page, and will help improve your business’s visibility and search rankings.
In terms of backlinks, you can do this by guest blogging and building relationships with other websites that link to yours. You can also use a tool known as bright local to help you do this but in a slightly different way. Bright local allows you to list your business’s information on hundreds of authoritative directory websites.
On-Page SEO Checklist:
After performing keyword research for your industry and competitors, you can then come up with a seed list of keywords for your own company depending on what it is you sell or offer.
To help you do this you can use different keyword tools such as:
- Moz > Keyword Explorer Tool (Limited Free Uses – Premium version available)
- Google Trends (Free)
- Google ads > Keyword Planner (Free)
- The Hoth Tools (Free)
- Keywords Everywhere ($10 for 10,000 credits – One of my personal favorites)
- SEMRush (Limited free uses – then paid)
- Ahrefs > Keyword Explorer
Some of these are paid, but most of them are free for a period of time or together. And there’s more out there as well.
Once you’ve decided on a tool that works for you and your budget, and you’ve done your research and chosen your keyword of interest, we can begin optimizing our page. But which elements?
Although there is a lot to SEO in its entirety, this checklist should get you 90% of the way through the optimizations necessary to rank highly within search engines if executed well.
1. Optimize Your <meta title>
This is the title that appears on Google within the search results page.
Most web builders such as WordPress and Shopify allow you to edit this.
For this, make sure to:
- Include your keyword at the beginning
- Use hyphens or a separator between phrases and keywords
- mention your website (if you have room, not always necessary – but a good practice.)
- limit the length to 60 characters
For example: Let’s say we’ve done some research to optimize this article I’m writing for you now. As it turns out the long-tail keyword phrase “on-page SEO checklist” gets an average of 5,400 searches per month on Google. (Long-tail keywords contain 3 or more words – FYI.)
Since this keyword phrase might describe my article fairly well, let’s look at some examples of how I could write this up.
- On-Page SEO Checklist | How To Optimize a Web Page for SEO
- (58 characters + keyword phrase)
- How To Optimize a Web Page for SEO – MattDavisMarketing.com
- (59 characters + no specific keyword + website)
- On-Page SEO Checklist: How To Optimize a Web Page For SEO
- (58 characters + keyword Phrase)
- As you can see, either of these examples could potentially work. The third one is what I actually chose for this page because I think it looks better with a colon as opposed to a separator or hyphen.
- If you were to glance at the metadata for this page by right-clicking and then pressing “View Page Source” you would see that for this page I didn’t include the website name in my meta title because I ran out of characters, but I knew personally that I wanted both phrases mentioned: On-page SEO Checklist & How to optimize a web page for SEO.
- Usually, the hyphen is better when including the website, and the separator is best for including related or long-tail keywords.
- There could be several “right” answers for what makes the search engines tick based on the exact words the searcher uses and what content happens to be on your page. It’s one big word puzzle, in a sense. And can take some testing to see which variations of words put together have the largest impact on how well the page is ranked.
2. Optimize Your <meta description>
Your meta description will be seen directly below your meta title. On average, this should be between 120 and 145 characters, and include your keyword using natural language while describing your content.
For example, “On-Page SEO Checklist: Discovering the Major Factors Involved in Helping Your Content Rank on Google. Continue reading on MattDavisMarketing.”
- This description describes my article accurately while including my target keyword and is 141 characters
Below is a screenshot of what using one of these tools might look like when editing your meta title and description. (I’m using Yoast SEO.)
3. Optimize your <H1> header
Your H1 header is usually the first visible header on a page, although depending on how it’s done, that may not always be the case and sometimes the H1 isn’t necessarily visible.
What’s important is to know that the search engines are going to read the page in the order that you place the headings, H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, etc – and you don’t want to have more than one H1, H2, or H3 header.
Generally speaking, you want to try and place your keyword in the H1 spot. This may seem obvious since the H1 will be one of the first elements to be scanned and indexed by search crawlers. But placing your keyword in the H1 spot may not always be what you want to do, for readability purposes and depending on the way your content flows.
For example, in this article, the “On-Page SEO Checklist”, which is my target keyword for this page, is my H1 header. This is ideal since the H1 header will be indexed first by the search engines, and will send a positive signal to Google that my page content aligns with my meta title and description.
But for whatever reason, if you didn’t want to use your target keyword in your H1 title, you’re at least somewhat covering your bases as long as your keyword is mentioned in one of the H1, H2, or H3 headers.
4. Optimize your <H2> header
Optimize this to include your target keyword (like mentioned above) or a related long-tail keyword if possible. You can also include the sub-category that the page falls under if there is one.
You may also have a bundle of related keywords that you’re trying to rank for, which is great because a page can rank for more than 1 keyword.
There are mixed reviews on this, and the general consensus seems to be that you can target between 10-15 keywords per page. Although a page can rank for many keywords, in my opinion, the person actually optimizing the page should only aim to target about (3-5) keywords per page, if that, in my opinion.
From my experience, that’s the reasonable number of keywords that be implemented without jumping through too many mental gymnastics trying to insert them all without sounding like a robot.
5. Include your target keyword throughout your body copy
Include your keyword at least once within the first 10% of your content. This signals to the search engines that your content is actually filled with information related to what you’re claiming to speak on.
When you’re writing a listicle or informative blog article, this won’t be hard to do because hopefully, you’ll be referencing your keyword through the content as necessary.
6. Ensure your content is roughly 600 characters
Generally speaking for on-page SEO, the more content, the better.
This means including 600 characters is the sweet spot where you want to be.
7. Add a high-quality image with keyword alt-text
Adding a high-quality image related to your content and adding your keyword as image alt-text.
The alt-text for the metadata screenshot above has the alt-text “on-page SEO checklist”, just as an example.
If possible, re-download the image and change the file name if possible using hyphens.
8. Add authoritative outbound links
Add related and applicable outbound links where applicable to authoritative sites. Make sure these open in a new tab. Any site ending in .gov, .edu, or .org will usually have higher domain authority, and although these links aren’t as valuable as inbound links coming into your site (backlinks), they still play a part in your rank factor and establishing your own domain authority.
For example, I added links that lead off my site to the keyword tools above in this article as a resource for you to check out on your own time later.
If your page is truly associated with these other pages and it makes sense to contextually link to them, then you’re good to go. Just be wary of adding too many links, as every link placed is an opportunity for your visitor to leave your site, even if it does help with SEO.
9. Add relevant internal links
There are two types of internal links:
- Navigational; such as sidebars, and menus
- Contextual; links that point to other content on your site
For example, when I write a post about backlinks soon, I will return and edit this article to make the word “backlinks” a hyperlink that leads to that blog post.
Since backlinks are considered off-page (a technique that doesn’t necessarily apply to the content directly on the page), they won’t be fully included here in our on-page SEO checklist (notice the use of my target keyword), but should still be considered as a part of any holistic approach to SEO overall.
As for the case of returning and editing the word backlinks to link to another article on my site, this will help inform the search engines that I have related content on this subject (SEO), which may aid in boosting my site’s domain authority overall. Domain authority is one of the top-ranking factors for Google.
10. Optimize your permalink (page URL)
Each page on your site should have a unique and structured URL, also known as the permalink.
As the name suggests, this is the permanent URL for your page, and Google considers it one of the top factors when deciding on how to index your page. If you can, include the page title or focus keyword within the URL of your page. Depending on the type of content you’re, this can be done differently.
For example, on a blog, modify the URL of the page to include the blog name or page title. If it’s for a product, include the product name or category followed by the product. Be sure to use hyphens for separating words, here, similar to the filename above.
You can also incorporate long-tail keywords and lower-competition keywords here.
All in all, try to avoid leaving the permalink to the one set by the CMS by default. Usually, this can be better structured to help inform the search engines of the content on the page, which will aid in the site being pushed further toward the top of the SERP.
You’ll also want to make sure that your page is added to your website’s sitemap. This is technically an off-page element of SEO and deserves its own separate article which I’ve linked to above. In short, an XML sitemap accurately informs the search engines of the URLs available on your website and how you want them crawled.
It can also inform the search engines of things such as:
- How many images each page contains
- When the page was last updated
- Any alternative languages that the page is available in
There you have it!
Now that you’ve optimized your on-page elements and maybe even modified some of the minor off-page elements, it will be much better suited for indexing and is much more likely to appear in the search results.
As mentioned before, there’s more to off-page and technical SEO it’s its entirety, and I’ll be posting some articles soon with more information.
Thank you for taking the time to read the new MDM blog!
After starting the site as a place to store some of my work during my time at digital marketing school, my goal for the MDM blog has slowly evolved for it to be not only a place for me to collect and categorize all of the marketing knowledge that’s been collecting dust in my digital notebook; but also as an active resource place for anyone in the digital marketing community who happens to stumble upon it.
Thanks again, and talk to you soon.