An On-Page SEO Checklist That Will Help Improve Your Search Rankings
By Jon Wollenhaupt
On-page SEO refers to the practices that optimize the structure and content of your website to help it attain higher organic (nonpaid) search results in the major search engines, such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. While your website is being coded and developed, your Web programmer will address specific technical SEO practices related to the site’s architecture and HTML structure. These technical issues ensure that search engines can find, crawl, and index your site.
There are also many nontechnical on-page SEO practices that can also positively influence search engines and help improve your site’s search results. We have listed several of those practices in our On-Page SEO Checklist.
On-Page SEO Checklist
Are You Using Permalinks?
A permalink is a specific Web address that links to an individual Web page or blog post. This is important when you share a link to your blog article on social media because you want to be sure the people who follow the link land directly on that page and not on your main blog page. Your readers could have trouble finding the article they want to read if your newer blog entries have pushed it down. The last thing you want is to lose interested readers. Permalinks also allow readers of your blog to bookmark the pages they want to revisit. You should also think of permalinks as a way to ensure that the articles you work diligently to create don’t fade into oblivion.
In Addition to Your Focus Keyword, Are You Also Considering LSI Keywords?
Latent semantic indexing (LSI) keyword refers to related or synonymous keywords. LSI keywords should be an important part of your keyword strategy because, in addition to your focus keyword, the search engines will look for related keywords throughout your Web page or article. Google made LSI keywords an SEO ranking factor because they indicate a natural use of relevant, helpful language for the reader rather than awkwardly written, keyword-stuffed copy that attempts to trick its algorithm. Remember: Write content for humans, not machines. An easy way to start your LSI keyword search is to perform a search on your focus keyword and note the “Searches related to” terms that Google provides at the bottom of the search results page.
Are You Strategically Placing Your Focus Keyword?
Google is very intent on knowing that your content is legit and authoritative before it presents it to someone surfing the Web; it crawls, or scans, your page looking for indicators that it is a good fit for the searcher. Where you place your keywords helps Google know that your content is in fact a good resource to present (before other less relevant content) in search results. The most important focus keyword placements are in the following:
Article head: This is the most important heading because it contains your page’s H1 tag; therefore, it is given more weight by search engines and is used to tell readers what your Web page or blog article is about. In a customized WordPress website or blog, an H1 tag is automatically created when you type in your keyword and copy as shown in this screen shot:
H2 tags: These are your article’s title and subheads, but don’t think of these headings as simply formatting for your pages. Headings carry a lot of weight because search engines use them for categorization. In WordPress, you can create H2 tags for your subheads with a drop-down menu.
The first paragraph of your copy: This placement ensures the topic is immediately clear to the search engines.
Page URL: Your keyword must be in the Web address that points to your blog page.
Your content: Use natural language to attain repetition of your focus keyword in your copy. The optimal keyword density is between 1% and 3%. If you have a density of more than 4%, it could set off alarms at Google that you are keyword stuffing your content. Google doesn’t like it when you try to make an end run around their SEO guidelines and could penalize your website.
Metadescription: While not important to search engine rankings, metadescriptions are extremely important in gaining user click-through from search engine results Your metadescription’s concise copy of approximately 155 characters is your opportunity to grab the attention of a Web surfer who is searching for topics related to your keyword.
Alt tags: Alt tags describe to search engines the photos and images/graphics you insert into your Web pages. They do not have to provide a literal description of the image, but should provide reasonable context. This is important because alt tags also describe your images to site-impaired visitors.
Anchor text of your internal links: Anchor text is the visible, clickable text within a hyperlink. These internal links help guide visitors to additional content that interests them on your site. As visitors move, via internal links, from one article to other related content, it builds your content’s equity and credibility and creates what is called “link juice.” External links that point to your website are also very important in creating this SEO dynamic.
Are You Including Outbound Links in Your Blog Posts?
Outbound links are links inserted into your blog that point to another Web page. This linking helps position your core business activities and your service niche to the search engines, which helps them better understand who you are and to whom you are relevant. All of this helps build your online credibility and your SEO rankings.
Are You Engaged on Social Media?
You’ve worked hard to create your content. Why would you miss out on the opportunity to share it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, or other social networks? Social media traffic and signals correlate with improved search rankings. Social media participation is important because it helps create external sites to link to your content, which is an authority builder in the eyes of Google. Writing on the issue of increasing brand awareness on social media and its benefits, Forbes.com contributor Jayson DeMers states the following:
“This may seem like more of a branding advantage than a specific SEO advantage, but the SEO benefit is significant. Increasing your reputation on social media, through increased engagement and high-quality content syndication, will lead to increased online brand presence. That increased brand presence is going to lead to more branded searches on Google, and the more branded searches your brand receives, the higher it’s likely to rank for non-branded keywords. It’s a complicated relationship, but it begins with having a strong brand presence on social media and ends with greater search visibility across the board. There’s no specific way to improve your authority other than to give your audience a quality experience, but that’s where it all begins.
“For the most part, these are staple elements of a successful social media marketing campaign, and as with most SEO strategies, it comes down to one basic principle: the better experience you give your users, the higher you’re going to rank in Google. Understanding the root causes for social media’s effects on SEO can help you better direct and manage your campaign, ultimately giving your users a better experience, and opening the widest possible channel for new potential customers to find your brand.”
Are You Using Video to Engage Your Visitors?
For just about any type of business, video is a great way to position your brand, explain your service offerings, and provide customer testimonials. Video also engages your audience and provides an alternative to written content. The more your visitors are engaged with the content on your website, the more likely they are to sign up for newsletters or request more information. Research shows that video bolsters SEO by:
- Improving search engine results page rank
- Increasing click-through rates
- Creating quality backlinks
- Lowering bounce rates
- An aimClear study shows that search results with video have a “41% higher click-through rate than plain text.”
- Because Google’s search algorithm recognizes quality content over keyword optimization, it prioritizes video search results.
Have You Installed Location Breadcrumbs On Your Website?
Location breadcrumbs trace the path a visitor followed through the different pages and layers of your website, which allows followers to visit pages that present complementary topics and content.
Why are breadcrumbs important to on-page SEO? In addition to the user benefits they provide, breadcrumbs create a number of advantages related to the way search engines respond (positively) to your content and to the structure of your website. As a search engine crawls your site, it is trying to understand how content is related. Breadcrumbs create little bridges between complementary and associated content that lives on various levels and pages. In a natural way, they help search engines make sense of your site as a larger organic entity that is vastly connected, internally and externally, on the Web. The better Google et al. understand who you are and the value you bring to Web searches, the better your search results will be. Therefore, in a poetic sense, your goal with breadcrumbs, as with all your on-page SEO efforts, is to tickle an algorithm’s technical aesthetic fancy. Imagine Google cooing as it crawls your website.
Has Your Website Been Designed to Adapt Dynamically to Mobile Devices?
Responsive design enables your website to always provide visitors with an optimal user experience by reformatting pages dynamically to adjust to whatever type of device is being used for a Web search or direct access — desktop, laptop, or mobile device. This dynamic reformatting maintains the integrity of factors such as click versus touch, resolution, and navigation. But why is this important for on-page SEO? Besides the most frequently repeated answer, “Because Google says so,” there is some underlying logic here. If a Web surfer using a smartphone finds your mobile website to be a jumbled mess in which content is difficult or impossible to find, they will leave instantly. In fact, every visitor will flee your site in a nanosecond, meaning the bounce rate for your mobile site will soar into the stratosphere. Google will notice this and determine that your site is not providing users with helpful content or a user-friendly experience. Once it determines this, it will flush your search results down into the realm of the unfindable. Do we need to scare you further? The fact is, you cannot ignore responsive design, and without it your SEO efforts will stumble badly.
Are Your Blog Posts of Sufficient Length to Be Considered Authoritative by Search Engines?
When it comes to blog post length, the online marketing world is composed of two camps: Those who believe in short, concise posts of 200-250 words posted daily and those who believe, for SEO purposes, that length matters. In an article on Forbes.com, contributor John Rampton makes the case for long-form blogging:
“Why would someone sit down and write so many words? Because it’s good for SEO. Actually. It’s excellent for SEO. And, isn’t that kind of a good thing for any content marketing campaign? Don’t worry, there’s research to back that claim up.
“According to some incredibly detailed research from serpIQ, the top 10 results from Google all have a minimum of at least 2,000. The reason? Because Googlebot, Google’s Web crawler, looks at every piece of content on a page, such as words, titles and whatever other information you’ve shared. So, when you have post that has like 1,500 words you have more flexibility with keywords, meaning that you’re not limited to one or two specific keywords. Instead, you can include a lot more of keywords that may not be specific, but are still relevant to your theme. This works because Google just doesn’t provide exact results, but results that are related to the subject.
“Speaking of the SEO and length connection, it has also been discovered that longer posts increase your chances of gaining quality backlinks. Again. That’s kind of a big deal.
“Another perk of longer blog posts is the coveted ‘shareability’ issue. It has been found that posts which contain more than 1,500 words gained 68.1% more tweets and 22.6% more Facebook likes. In other words, the longer the post, the more it will get shared. And, when posts are shared, this means that they become more interactive. My longer posts on Entrepreneurship typically get triple the interaction over my shorter ones. Usually, longer posts spark more conversations with reader comments, which is a great way to reach out and connect with your audience.”