On-Page SEO Checklist: 7 Best Practices to Give Your Content The Head Start It Deserves

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On-Page SEO Checklist

Are you looking for an on-page SEO checklist to use for your blog posts and landing pages?

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:

  1. Login to WordPress
  2. Run their content through an on-page SEO checker like Yoast or Webtexttool
  3. Work diligently to ensure the are only green traffic lights - even if that means their content suffers.

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 (coming soon). 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.

On-Page SEO Checklist: Best Practices to Give Your Content a Head Start

1. Page Title / Meta Title

Arguably the most important element on the page. Your page title or meta title, 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.

Page and Meta Title Best Practices

  • Keep your page title between 50 and 70 characters long or 920 px wide (whichever is shorter)
  • Add your target keyword near the beginning of your page title tag
  • Wrap your page title in <H1> HTML tags

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.

Inspect Element Page Title - On-Page SEO Checklist

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.

2. Meta Description

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.

However, a poorly written meta description that isn’t congruent with the content people see when they click through, will lead to high bounce rates, low dwell times and lower rankings.

Meta-Description Best Practices

  • Write your meta descriptions as if you’re writing an advert for your local newspaper
  • Use a call-to-action near the end to increase your click-through rate
  • Maintain congruence between meta descriptions and your landing page to increase dwell time
  • Keep your meta descriptions to a maximum of 160 characters, to prevent text from appearing truncated

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.

Fieldboom long meta description - On-page SEO Checklist

3. Header Tags

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.

Header Tag Best Practices

  • Include your target keyword in at least one sub-heading within your content
  • Use H2 tags for large sections and place your target keyword where appropriate
  • Use H3 tags to create sub-sections within your larger sections

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?

4. Bulleted Lists, Bold and Italics

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.

Other Ways to Improve Page Readability and the User Experience

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.

5. Image Optimisation

Optimising your images for SEO can often be an afterthought for many websites. Here’s a few pointers to get your started.

Image Alt-text

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.

Image Size Compression

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 slower 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.

Another way to increase page speed is to install Instant Page. It’s a small piece of Javascript code that enables your internal pages to load incredibly quickly.

6. Internal and External Linking

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 (except this one), 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.

Key Takeaways

  • Create pillar pages like this one and link to all relevant pages
  • Within your smaller “spoke” pages, create internal links to your pillar pages
  • Add external links to authority sources like research sites, surveys and industry insights to help search engines see your content as an authoritative piece.

7. Synonyms and LSI Keywords

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.

Some SEOs believe that LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) is a waste of time and not worth optimising your content for.

But I disagree.

Vehemently.

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.

LSI Keyword Best Practices

  • Use Webtexttool or Clearscope as part of your seo toolkit to identify topical content gaps between your pages and your competitors
  • Spread a few related terms and synonyms on your page where relevant

On-Page SEO Checklist Recap

To recap, here’s the anatomy of a perfectly optimised page for search engines and users alike:

  1. Page Title / Meta Title: Wrap <H1> tags around your page title.
  2. Meta-description: Write descriptive copy that encourages users to click-through
  3. URL: Use short, clean, SEO-friendly URLs with your keyword present
  4. Header Tags: Use a range of header tags (H2 to H6) to provide a natural flow to your pages
  5. Word Count: Write as many words that’s necessary to help your audience complete their objective. This could be 500 or 5,000. Longer isn't always better. Comprehensiveness is better.
  6. Multimedia: Use a mixture of images, audio and video to increase engagement and dwell time.
  7. Images: Use a CDN and image compressor to speed page load speed. Also make use of the alt-text attribute
  8. Linking: Link to relevant internal and external pages to create a web of interconnected resources for your users.
  9. Topic Relevancy: Identify topical opportunities to include in your content by researching top competing pages

That's it!

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.

About the Author
David is the Founder of Grow Hack Scale, a growth marketing company that teaches and implements fast-growth product marketing strategies across the entire funnel for organisations with products that make the world a better place.