Are you looking for a quick checklist of on-page SEO techniques? You’ve come to the right place. This short list is your one-stop guide to on-page optimization, providing step-by-step instructions for optimising the most important components of your page.
What Is On-Page SEO?
On-page SEO is the process of optimising elements on your website to better rank in search engines and drive traffic. This involves optimising content elements like site copy, keywords, and relevant topics, as well as HTML elements like your page titles, headings, image alt-text, and meta descriptions. Structural or architectural elements like page URLs and internal linking should also be considered.
Why Should You Conduct On-Page SEO Audits?
Before writers publish their work, they have editors and proofreaders go over their work first to spot typos, factual errors, or any inconsistencies in their writing. Doing an on-page SEO audit is kind of the same thing. The process helps you identify potential issues in your website – issues that could compromise your ranking on search engines and your site’s overall user experience.
Remember, you’ll want search engines to easily find and rank your site so that more people actually know it exists. At the same time, you want to make sure your site content is engaging enough for users to stay on and explore.
Our Comprehensive On-Page SEO Checklist
1. Page Content
The first item on your checklist? Optimising page content. There are many ways to go about this, but one of – if not the most – important steps is finding the right keywords for your page.
Look for keywords that are:
- Relevant to the overall theme or topic of the content: Relevant keywords are those that describe your website, brand, services, products, etc.
- Among the top search terms of your target market: These are keywords with high search volume and align with your intent (e.g. purchase, education, etc.).
- Within the competitive power of your website: Competitive power is a measure of your site’s ability to rank for competitive keywords. Higher competitive power means a higher likelihood of beating your competitors for specific keywords.
Here are some keyword research tools to get you started:
- Google Search Console
- Ahrefs Keyword Explorer
- Moz Keyword Explorer
2. Page Titles
Also called title tags, page titles are incredibly important to your SEO strategy because they help site visitors know what to expect on your webpage. They also tell search engines whether your page is relevant to someone’s search. With all this in mind, you have to make sure your title tags are accurate and relevant to your page’s content.
Where do title tags appear? You can usually find these on your browser tab, on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), and on other websites that link to your page.
When optimising your page titles, keep the following practices in mind:
- Use the focus keyword for your page in your title. Don’t overstuff page titles with keywords – try to weave in the keyword as naturally as you can. Remember, search engines have gotten much smarter these days and can penalize content that seems overstuffed with keywords.
- Relevance and accuracy are of utmost importance. Make sure title tags accurately represent your page’s content.
- Don’t use all caps. Nobody likes to be shouted at.
- As per Google’s suggestion, keep title tags at under or approximately 60 characters. Otherwise, you risk your titles getting cut off on the SERP. You can get away with up to 78 characters on mobile.
- Incorporate your brand name into your titles.
Headings (also called header tags) provide structure to your text and allow readers to easily scan your content to get a feel of what to expect.
Headings don’t have as big of an effect on your SEO as, say, your page titles or meta descriptions. But if you get your headings right, you can keep readers on your page for a longer time and minimise your bounce rate. Bounce rate reflects the percentage of visitors that exit your page without interacting with anything on it, like clicking links or filling forms. When pages have a high bounce rate, search engines will assume that your page isn’t interesting to searchers, and will bump you down on the rankings.
So how can you optimise your headings?
- Use headings to create a hierarchy on your page. There are six HTML Header levels ranging from H1 (the largest header) to H6 (the smallest). The H1 tag is used for the page title, and H2s usually stand for the chapter titles. Then, you can use H3s through H6 to break up your chapters into subsections.
- Only use one H1 tag per page. It’s true that you can use multiple H1s in a page – Google even said so. But using multiple H1 headings may confuse search engines and readers.
- Consistency is key. Keep capitalisation consistent throughout your pages. For example, if you use title case for one heading, stick with that format from start to finish. Be sure to maintain the hierarchy of your headers as well. If you want to break up text under an H2 heading, don’t go straight to H5.
- Add relevant keywords to your headings. The operative word here is “relevant”. Don’t overstuff your headers with irrelevant or repetitive keywords!
4. Meta Descriptions
A meta description is a short summary of what your page is about. These usually appear in search results under the page’s title. A well-written meta description can influence searchers to click on your page, while a bad one can lead searchers to scroll right past you on the search engines.
Meta descriptions also appear when pages are shared on social media, so they can help you get click-throughs even outside of search engines. Remember, click-through rate is important to search engines. The more clicks you get to your page, the better your chances of moving up the ranks. So a good meta description is crucial to your SEO strategy.
Here are 4 tips for writing an effective meta description:
- Keep it short and sweet. Google will sometimes show longer metas. But generally, the golden rule is to keep meta descriptions at 155 characters (120 characters if you want to get more clicks from mobile users). That way, you won’t risk having your meta cut short. Powerful and snappy writing is important here.
- Use call-to-actions. Think of your meta as a sales pitch to searchers, except you’re “selling” your webpage. You want your meta description to entice people to click on your link. Don’t write passively. Instead, give readers a reason to leave the search and go to your page.
- Include your primary keyword. If a search term matches with a keyword in your meta description, Google may highlight the text in bold, making your page more visible and interesting to searchers.
- Don’t be generic. There will be dozens of pages out there similar to yours, all proposing the same kind of content. Generic metas just make your page fade into the background with the rest of them.
5. Page URLs
A URL, also called a link, is your page’s unique address. Optimising your URLs is important because they’re literally the link between your site users and your content. URL structure affects both user experience and page ranking.
Here are 4 ways to optimise your URLs:
- Use HTTPS. HTTPS websites are safer and more trustworthy because they use SSL or Secure Sockets Layer protocol to encrypt communications to block attackers from stealing users’ data. This is especially important if your page requires users to input personal details like their number, address, or credit card information. If a user sees you’re using HTTPS, they are more inclined to stay on and trust your website.
- Use one to two relevant keywords. Just like with the other page components, it’s important you don’t overstuff your URL with too many keywords. Otherwise, search engines might just read it as spam.
- Separate words with hyphens. You can’t use spaces to separate words in URLs, but that doesn’t mean you can just squish all the words together. That gives you a long, unintelligible, and unremarkable URL. Instead, separate your words with hyphens.
- Remove stop words (and other unnecessary words). Stop words are common words like articles and prepositions that search engines tend to ignore. You want to keep your URLs short and simple, so remove unnecessary words where you can.
6. Image Alt-text
Alt-text describes the contents of a photo. This is especially useful for visually impaired users who rely on screen readers. In place of viewing an image, they have a screen reader dictate the image description out loud to them. That way, they still get the visual context of your webpage. Sites also display alt-text when image files can’t load. So even if your user has a poor internet connection, they can still get an idea of what your image was supposed to be.
Many SEO beginners tend to overlook image alt-text. But aside from making your page more accessible, alt-text also helps improve your rank in Google Images. According to Ahrefs, Google Images makes up 20.45% of all online searches, making it the second-largest search engine in the world.
Here are some tips for adding image alt-text:
- Be specific. You want both users and search engines to get the picture, so to speak, even if they can’t actually see the picture. Be as descriptive as you can.
- Write naturally. Don’t use alt-text to overload your image with keywords. Instead, write your alt-text as if you’re describing your image to someone who can’t see.
- Keep it short. The recommended character count is 125 characters or less.
- Don’t state that it’s a picture. Screen readers and search engines can tell when they’re reading an image, so you don’t need to waste your character count on “Image of…:”.
7. Internal Linking
Internal links are hyperlinks that bring you to other useful pages within your website or domain. External links, on the other hand, bring you out to other websites.
Internal linking is important to your SEO strategy because it keeps users on your website longer, telling search engines that your site is valuable to searchers. It also makes it easier for search engines to crawl and index your pages.
When optimising internal links, make sure to tick the following boxes:
- Link to high-priority pages. Want certain pages to rank higher on search engines? Link to these pages from other important pages. Link authority matters to search engines like Google. This means that pages that are linked to authoritative web pages have a higher value.
- Get rid of all broken links. A broken link is a link that leads to a page that no longer exists or redirects to another URL. Broken links ruin the overall user experience, so make a full sweep of links before sending your webpage out into the ether.
- Look out for orphan pages. Orphan pages are web pages that have no links pointing to them. This can render a page virtually invisible to search engines and users.
The Bottom Line
We hope this comprehensive checklist has helped you to better understand what on-page SEO is and why it’s so important. Remember, the goal of any SEO audit should be to improve your website’s overall user experience and performance in search engine rankings.