Each facet of website SEO is a whole discipline in itself that’s worth taking the time to learn and master. However, of all of them, on-page SEO is arguable the one that is made up of the largest number of small elements that all contribute to the whole.
Because of this fact, it can be easy to miss a variety of on-page SEO opportunities if you try to “wing it.” The best way to get the most out of your on-page SEO is to create a comprehensive checklist that you can work through to make sure you get everything done in an efficient manner for all of your content.
That’s exactly why we created this ultimate guide to creating an on-page SEO checklist. If you take these tips to heart, you’ll never have to worry about whether you’re doing all you can when it comes to on-page SEO.
- What Exactly Is on-page SEO?
- So, Why Is on-page SEO Important?
- How to Create an on-page SEO Checklist
- Set Up Google Analytics to Track SEO Performance
- Track Your Primary Keyword Phrase
- Make Sure That Your Page(S) Is Crawlable and Indexable
- Identify the Right Keywords to Target
- Avoid Keyword Cannibalization
- Determine Whether Your Page Satisfies Search Intent
- Use Your Primary Keyword in the Page Title
- Craft Click-worthy Titles
- Use Your Primary Keyword in Your H1 Tag
- Optimize Your Meta-description
- Use the Primary Keyword in Your Url
- Use to-the-point Urls
- Use Your Primary Keyword in the First Sentence
- Don’t overuse your primary keyword
- Add Variations of Your Keyword
- Say It With Me, “Content Is King”
- Structure Your Content for “Scanability”
- Use Keyword Variations and LSIs in Your Headings
- Is Your Content Up to Date?
- Augment Your Content With Media (Images)
- Optimize Your Internal Links
- Implement Breadcrumbs for Your Pages
- Include External Links (Wisely)
- Use the No-follow Attribute for Paid Links
- Fixing Broken Links or Redirects
- Make Sure Your Content Is Mobile-responsive
- Why You Shouldn’t Rely on on-page SEO Alone
What Exactly Is on-page SEO?
Just so that we’re on the same page regarding what we will and will not cover, let’s quickly go over what exactly on-page SEO entails.
As the name suggests, on-page SEO involves optimizing the actual content on a specific web page. It’s different from on-site SEO, which involves optimizations that apply across your entire website, including technical SEO.
Much of this content is visible to visitors of your website, such as your title, headings, copy/blog/article text, keywords, etc. However, some of it is less visible, coming in the form of metadata. This includes the meta-title, meta-description, image title or alt attributes, and more.
On-page SEO tends to be unique for each page on your website. That’s because it’s largely about making the content of each page more attractive to search engines and relevant to search engine users’ search queries.
A lot of on-page SEO revolves around optimizing for a specific keyword or search phrase. That’s why each page has to be optimized for the exact keyword it’s targeting.
In broad strokes, on-page SEO involves:
- Keyword usage
- Internal and external links
- The actual content or copywriting
- Media content (images, video, etc.)
- User experience (UX) design
- And, optimizing for conversions or user journeys
So, Why Is on-page SEO Important?
You may have caught on to the importance of on-page SEO already. However, if not, here’s why it should be a high priority when optimizing your website for search engines:
- According to Google, content is king and will remain the most important search ranking factor.
- On-page content is the main way users get information from your website, so it’s important that it’s targeted and effective.
- As a result, it’s one of the main ways in which you build your brand and express your unique voice.
- It’s good for other important traffic metrics, such as time on page, bounce rate, etc.
- When done correctly, it helps you achieve your business goals, such as converting visitors into subscribers or customers.
How to Create an on-page SEO Checklist
Now that we’re all on the same page, it’s time to get into our ultimate on-page SEO checklist.
While you don’t necessarily have to follow each step in order, we recommend going through it step-by-step from top to bottom. This will help make sure you cover everything and will generally make the process go much smoother.
So, without further ado, let’s dig in:
1. Set Up Google Analytics to Track SEO Performance
There is no magic bullet when it comes to SEO and what may work for others may not work for you. The only way you will know is to get a baseline of your traffic to continuously compare the effects of changes. This will help you identify and keep what works and get rid of things that don’t work
Google Analytics is the premier tool to do this and it’s easy to set up, whether you’re using a custom-built site or a site built using a tool like WordPress. Amongst others, it allows you to track traffic volume, conversions, and other key metrics as well as how they change over time.
2. Track Your Primary Keyword Phrase
As mentioned, each page will likely be optimized for a specific keyword/phrase. However, the relevance, search volume, and popularity of keyphrases can change with time, especially due to factors like localization, personalization, etc.
By tracking the performance of specific keywords, you know when it’s time to shift your focus or double-down on keywords you’re already targeting.
There are plenty of keyword research tools that can help you do this, such as Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, and many more
3. Make Sure That Your Page(S) Is Crawlable and Indexable
Of course, to be able to list your page in the first place, search engines must be able to find it. It should also be easy for search engines to “scan” your page and find useful information when ranking it in SERPs.
You need to make sure that your Robots.txt file and no-index tags are set up correctly so your content is visible to search engines. Your site architecture and page hierarchy also need to make it easy for your pages to be found.
4. Identify the Right Keywords to Target
Unfortunately, finding the best keyword to target is not as simple as dreaming up an idea for an article or page and then using the most obvious phrase that comes to mind to rank for.
There are a number of factors to consider:
- Is the target keyword/phrase relevant/popular/trending?
- How difficult is it to rank for this keyword?
- What long-tail/short-tail variations of the keyword are best to target?
Even though it’s tempting to simply optimize for the most popular keyword by search volume, this is not always feasible. Your competitors will likely also want to rank for this keyword, making it tough to actually rank highly.
You need to balance the competitiveness of a keyword with your domain reputation and keyword popularity.
Luckily, there are many keyword research tools that can help you find and analyze keywords. Ahrefs is probably one of the best and most popular.
5. Avoid Keyword Cannibalization
Many people think that you can rank higher for a keyword by using multiple pages to target it. Sadly, that’s not the case. In fact, the opposite can happen whereby your pages out-compete each other for a keyword. This process is what’s called keyword cannibalization.
Each page should only target one, unique primary keyword. It’s better to keep modifying and updating the same page targeting a keyword than creating brand new content to try and rank for the same keyword. However, it is possible to target closely related keywords with different intent.
For example, you can target the same keyword on different pages if the one is merely an informative article and the other is for actually selling the product you were discussing.
6. Determine Whether Your Page Satisfies Search Intent
Aside from optimizing for a specific keyphrase, you also need to capture visitor intent. This is trying to align your content with what the visitor is looking to do on that page. There are four broad categories:
- Information – providing information, usually with the hopes of earning organic backlinks or educating visitors.
- Transactional – content aimed at PPC advertising or converting users into customers.
- Comparison – helping users decide between two different things in the same category.
- Navigational – guiding users onwards to specific content or information.
You should tailor these queries to where in the customer journey you want to target a visitor. For example, a user that’s looking for more information on a product is likely not yet ready to buy.
7. Use Your Primary Keyword in the Page Title
For keyword optimization, it’s important that you use the primary keyword (or a close variation) in your page title at least once. This is one of the first things that signify to both search engines and visitors that they are on the right track.
Important! Don’t confuse the page title with your main heading. While they may be similar, the page title is what shows in the browser tab and search listing for your page while the main heading is the title users see at the top of your page content.
8. Craft Click-worthy Titles
Also, as one of the first things, potential visitors see, your title needs to tempt them to click on it. Your title is one of the most important things to influence CTR on SERPs. It should be informative, attractive, engaging, and make visitors want more.
A title analyzer tool, like the one provided with Yoast SEO can provide you with guidelines to create click-worthy titles. However, here are a few basics:
- Make sure you use all 65 characters for your SERP titles
- Use high CTR modifiers, like “top,” “ultimate,” the relevant year (“2021”, for example), etc.
- Use high-CTR article types like top # lists, how-to guides, etc.
9. Use Your Primary Keyword in Your H1 Tag
The H1 tag is where the main heading of your page is located. This should also incorporate your primary keyword as well as be closely related to your page title so that visitors know they’re where they’re supposed to be. It’s also one of the first elements analyzed by Google when determining page relevancy.
10. Optimize Your Meta-description
A meta-description is a short description of the content of your page in roughly 150 characters. You should use your primary keyphrase in this description. It should also be informative and catchy as it will show up in your SERP listing. Just like your title, it should be as click-worth as possible.
11. Use the Primary Keyword in Your Url
Google has confirmed that they also look for the keyphrase in your URL, although it’s a less important factor than using it elsewhere. However, it also helps reassure visitors that the content is relevant. Regardless, it’s a free bit of extra SEO you should take advantage of.
12. Use to-the-point Urls
There is some evidence that shorter URLs tend to perform better in SERPs, although it’s not a crucial factor. That being said, shorter URLs make managing your websites easier and is more attractive to visitors, improving the UX.
13. Use Your Primary Keyword in the First Sentence
Just like before, using the primary keyword in the first sentence helps establish relevance. It will also show up in blog category or listing pages which can help your CTR for specific pages.
14. Don’t overuse your primary keyword
You should use your primary keyword and multiple variations thereof throughout your page content. However, doing it too much is what’s called “keyword stuffing” and can even be penalized by Google. You should try to achieve a similar keyword density to your competitors while using them as naturally as possible in your text.
15. Add Variations of Your Keyword
While you should most of the effort into optimizing for your primary keyword, you can also get value out of closely related keywords and phrases. This will open up more ranking opportunities for your content and attract a wider pool of visitors.
Most keyword research tools will also recommend related keywords to you. LSI keywords is another type of variation you should use which involves using synonyms of keywords in your text.
16. Say It With Me, “Content Is King”
According to Google, the quality of your content is the single most important factor in its search ranking algorithm. This is why most SEOs can agree on the mantra that “content is king.”
While there is no magic recipe for crafting great content, you should always aim to answer “yes” to all these questions:
- Is your content unique from that of your competitors?
- Is your content true to your brand identity/voice?
- Do you use correct grammar and spelling?
- Does your content give visitors what they need? For example, is it relevant, informative, or entertaining?
It’s important to realize that content doesn’t just mean text, but the overall structure, design, and UX of your page. Google also tends to value long-form content more, although you need to make sure that you’re not just using filler language to hit a certain word count.
17. Structure Your Content for “Scanability”
Often, a visitor doesn’t need to read every word of your content to answer their most important question(s). Sometimes, they are only looking for a specific section, paragraph, or even sentence.
Your content needs to be structured in a way that it’s easy to scan and identify key pieces of information. This means using a correct heading hierarchy, keeping paragraphs short and to the point, and having a good design.
Of course, your headings should also be descriptive so users will know what information is under them. This is because many readers first scan headings before they decide whether to actually read the content. Your headings should tell a story of their own.
Lastly, bullet points or numbered lists are great for breaking up walls of text and making your content more scannable.
18. Use Keyword Variations and LSIs in Your Headings
Just like before, using keywords and synonyms in your headings helps signal relevancy to both search engines and page visitors.
19. Is Your Content Up to Date?
If the information in your content is outdated, it’s less valuable or relevant to search engines and users alike. To avoid keyword cannibalization while keeping your content up-to-date and accurate, you can simply update the information when it changes.
For example, you can change a “top SEO tips for 2020” list to a “top SEO tips for 2021” list and make some changes to the content where needed.
As a bonus, it’s much more efficient to update content than to create new content from scratch.
20. Augment Your Content With Media (Images)
Using images and media in your content is important for a number of reasons:
- It makes your content more valuable
- It makes your pages more attractive/improves UX
- It makes your content more unique
- You can optimize images for Google image search
However, you shouldn’t just use images for images’ sake. Bad or generic graphics can put off users and come across as cheap. Too many images/videos can also slow down your page performance and lead to a bad user experience.
If you do use images or video, you should make sure that they’re as unique, optimized, responsive, and relevant as possible.
21. Optimize Your Internal Links
Search engines like Google analyze and follow links in order to crawl and index websites. Using descriptive anchor texts gives search engines more information to go on. It helps them rank the current page according to related topics and helps give visibility to your other pages.
Furthermore, it’s believed that Google only checks your first link when determining page rank. With that in mind, you should apply the first-priority principle to your links and use the highest-value, most relevant link as the first one in your text.
Remember that every internal link should serve a purpose and be genuinely helpful to the user. Just spamming random links to try and improve bounce rates is not a good practice.
22. Implement Breadcrumbs for Your Pages
Breadcrumbs not only look neat, but they are important navigational tools for users. Nowadays, they can even be used as additional information for Rich Snippets in Google Search.
23. Include External Links (Wisely)
You might be worried that external links navigate users off your pages. While that’s true in a sense, they also help improve the value of your content. Linking to high-DR domains builds trust for your own pages as well.
24. Use the No-follow Attribute for Paid Links
The “no-follow” attribute is used by Google to determine whether it should take a link into account when determining page rank. To prevent abuse, Google does not look kindly on using paid-for links for link-building.
So, you should always tag sponsored or appropriate links appropriately to avoid any penalties.
25. Fixing Broken Links or Redirects
As you grow your site, it’s natural that some links may get compromised in the process. You should use tools to find broken links or unnecessary redirects and fix them to maximize your page rank.
26. Make Sure Your Content Is Mobile-responsive
Not everyone accesses your website from a desktop computer. In fact, the majority of internet traffic now comes from mobile devices. That means that your content needs to be appropriate for all kinds of devices with different screen sizes and orientations.
Google even has a tool to test whether your site is mobile-friendly. You need to make sure that all aspects of your pages, from navigation to content to images and video to the overall design work correctly on as many devices as possible.
Why You Shouldn’t Rely on on-page SEO Alone
As you can see, on-page SEO is one of the main ways that search engines can determine the relevancy of your pages in relation to user search queries. However, it doesn’t give Google much to go on in terms of how much to trust your content and authority.
This is where various other SEO techniques come in. And, when it comes to building your domain authority, there’s no more potent weapon than link-building.
Why? Because Google sees backlinks from external domains to your website pages as a word-of-mouth recommendation for your content. After all, someone else decided that your content was worth it to include an external link to it in their content.
Unfortunately, while it’s easy to learn and implement most on-page SEO techniques yourself, link-building is not so easy. You have to research relevant, high-DA sites and then carry out outreach campaigns to try and land link-building opportunities.
You can save yourself a lot of hassle by working with a professional link-building service like Uprankly. As their primary focus, Uprankly has the necessary experience and skills to identify, nurture, and carry out high-value link-building campaigns.
This frees you up to focus on creating high-quality and SEO-optimized content as well as focus on building your brand
In the pursuit of SERP dominance, you can’t afford to let any opportunities to get more rank slip you by. That’s why it’s important to formalize and make a habit out of implementing good, on-page SEO practices.
The good thing about on-page SEO is that it’s completely under your control. While it may look like a lot to learn, it gets easier with time. Armed with this ultimate checklist, you’re already halfway there and will become an on-page SEO expert in no time.
Are you still treating SEO and content marketing as two separate strategies? While they both deserve to be taken seriously, they are actually two heads of the same coin.
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