Well, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article we detail the core on-page SEO tasks you need to perform to give your content the best chance of survival.
This post will also include the content optimisation processes we use to rank hundreds of pages highly on search engines.
Because content optimisation and SEO are not the same thing.
But before we get into it I want to be very clear.
You don't need to cover all the bases in order to rank well.
Too many SEOs are overly concerned about ensuring their page is optimised for SEO.
Their process typically looks like this:
Working in this way won’t help your SEO. In fact, it could do more harm.
After all, search engines are getting smarter everyday.
You don’t need to ferociously shoe-horn your target keyword and synonyms in all the places SEO experts tell you to do.
Google and other major search engines can tell what your content is about, without you have to do extra work or run the risk of being penalised for over-optimisation.
Now with that out of the way, here’s our on-page SEO checklist for you to download (no-optin). Simply make a copy of this document and use it to your heart’s content.
If you want to learn how to best take advantage of each factor within the checklist, continue reading below.
Arguably the most important element on the page. Your page title, meta title or title tag, is the title you want search engines to display when people search for queries related to your content, product or service.
It gives search engines an “at-a-glance” impression of what your page is about.
You can check your page title in wrapped in the relevant tag by opening up your browser’s development console. Navigate to your title element and check to ensure it is H1.
If you use a CMS or platform that doesn’t provide SEO features natively, consider using Webtexttool. It provides a “live” on-page SEO checklist with suggestions on your content during the writing process.
My favourite feature is the G-Doc plugin, so you can write the perfectly optimised piece on the first draft.
Much like your page title, meta descriptions are displayed in search engine results when users search for queries related to your content.
The meta description is a short description about a page that tells users what they will achieve by consuming a piece of content.
Note the term “users”, in the paragraph above. Don’t make the mistake of plugging your keyword in the meta description tag if it doesn’t read well, makes sense or is a false promise.
After all, meta descriptions are not an SEO ranking factor.
There a many instances, where Google in particular will ignore your meta-description and pull text directly from your content to form your meta-description. In these special cases, your meta-description can contain more than 300 characters for select queries.
Header tags are small pieces of HTML code used to tell search engines how important each section of page is to you.
Header tags range in importance from H1 to H6. With H1 tags being the most important, and H6 being the least important.
They were originally designed to help the end user see which sections of a page were most important to them and to provide a natural flow to a document.
Here’s an example of how we're using header tags to optimise and structure this article you’re reading now.
H1 / Title Tag: On-Page SEO and Content Optimization Checklist
H2 Tag: On-Page SEO Checklist: Best Practices to Give Your Content a Head Start
H3 Tag: Header Tags
H4 Tag: Header Tag Best Practices
Get the idea?
Using bulleted lists is not an on-page SEO ranking factor, but it helps make your content easier to read.
Rather than using colons and semicolons to write a list of items, a bulleted list comes in handy.
It’s all about the end user experience.
The easier your content is to scan and read, the more time users will spend on your page.
This will lead to higher conversions, lower bounces and more sales.
Whilst bulleted lists, bold and italicized text doesn’t have a direct impact on your SEO - it’s clear that it plays a supporting role in your website’s ability to retain users.
After all the goal of SEO shouldn’t be to rank #1 for as many keywords as possible, but rather to deliver the best reading experience for users. By doing that, your rankings will improve.
Optimising your images for SEO can often be an afterthought for many websites. Here’s a few pointers to get your started.
The alt text attribute was originally an accessibility feature implemented by search engines to help individuals learn more about an image if they couldn’t see it.
Whilst it has been used and abused by SEOs, it’s a great way to describe to search engines what your image is actually about.
Here’s the alt-text for an image on this page: “meta description example on-page-seo-checklist”.
Whilst you can't see the image, the alt text attribute gives you a clear idea of what the image is about.
Page speed is an important SEO ranking factor you can’t afford to ignore. Many websites use and need large images which increases the time it takes for their pages to load.
The longer your page takes to load, the lower your dwell time and in turn your rankings will be.
Combat this by running all your images through an image size compressor like ShortPixel.
Having a good internal linking strategy is essential to helping your pages climb the pecking order in search.
Research shows that search engines rank pages, not just on search query relevance, but topical relevance as well.
For example, let’s say you’re trying to rank a page for “on-page seo checklist”. You’ve followed the steps we’ve outlined in this post, yet you’re still struggling to break into the first page.
This is partly because your page is living on an island.
Google can find it, but they won’t be able to rank it properly without receiving the right signals.
These signals are links.
And in the SEO space, links act like votes telling search engines which pages are relevant, accurate and worthy of attention.
Using the same example, if you created an internal link from another resource within our SEO hub to this post, it’ll rank better.
We could talk forever about internal links and the role they play in SEO, but that’s for another day.
As stressed earlier, search engines rank pages not websites (though your domain’s authority counts). And those web pages are ranked, by taking over 200 different factors into consideration.
One of these factors is topic relevance.
In short, the more relevant your page and website is for a particular topic, the more likely you are to rank well for your target keywords.
But I disagree.
Whenever I research the top 10 pages for a search query, the same groups of phrases and topics come up again and again.
This is in fact a competitor analysis exercise, and tools such as Webtexttool and Clearscope, make this easy.
A content menu is essentially a list of navigational links which work like a table of contents, or chapters in a book.
Its core purpose is to help the reader find and consume the information that's most relevant or applicable to them.
Having a content menu itself doesn't provide immediate boosts to SEO rankings. However, if formatted correctly, the links within can appear in search engine results as sitelinks, resulting in additional clickthroughs.
Most importantly, the benefits it provides to the end user; such as finding information quicker, has an indirect, invaluable impact on SEO.
After all, nobody has time to read 3,000 words of content in order to achieve their goal. (depending on the user and search query in question.)
See the floating menu on the right-hand side of this page? (If you're on desktop). That's a content menu.
Here's also an example of how search engines index these links.
Research continues to show a positive correlation between the top 10 search results for a given query and word count. Essentially, the results which rank on the first page of Google have an average of 1,890 words.
However, this doesn't mean that every piece of content you produce needs to be long.
Here's our thoughts on word count and the role it plays with on-page SEO. Originally published here.
Good SEO is a lot like good acting. Success isn’t determined by how many lines you get, but rather by the impact your lines have on your audience. Take a look at the search results for “Organic Traffic” and “What is Organic Traffic?”.
Omniconvert ranks in both the coveted featured snippets and #1 spot for these terms. According to Ahrefs, their page generates over 900 visits a month.
With just 120 words.
Now, they also have some very strong backlinks which helps this page rank so well. But the primary reason why it’s gained and retained its spot for so long is because it’s useful to the searcher.
My point is, there’s no need to focus hopelessly on SEO research which analyse the average word count of top ranking pages.
Instead, focus on making your website and content as useful as possible.
Be so good they can’t ignore you. Whether it takes 100 words or 10,000 doesn’t really matter.
To recap, here’s the anatomy of a perfectly optimised page for search engines and users alike:
Now that you know how to optimise a page for SEO, let’s match you with an SEO freelancer, consultant or agency to optimise all your pages at scale.