Companies today work around the clock to create content that provides answers to customers. Creating content is one thing, but bringing it to customers when they need it most is another. That’s where on-page SEO comes in.
On-Page SEO refers to the practice of optimizing your web pages to improve your visibility. Follow the points on this checklist, and your content will be optimized for maximum visibility.
Now open a spreadsheet, bust out your virtual or actual clipboard, click that ballpoint pen a few times to get in the mood, and start ticking boxes.
☑ URL Structure
A simplified URL structure is your first, best action item. It is relatively easy to implement and almost as important in helping users navigate your site as it is helpful to search algos.
Here are the rules:
- Keep URLs short. When a reader finds you on search, they should be able to tell from the URL what’s in the content.
- Use only relevant keywords and remove unnecessary parameters “/” and underscores “_.”
- Make sure keywords are separated by hyphens “-.”
☑ Page Title & Title Tags
Your title is the first thing readers and search engines use to evaluate your content.
- Remove noise from your title tags by keeping them under 512 pixels and 55 characters.
- Be sure to use unique contextual copy that includes primary keywords, brand terms and list the country (where space allows).
- Use separator “|” or “–” to separate brand terms.
☑ H1 and Headings Text emphasis
Content creators should use the H1 tag only once and only for the most important on-page titles.
Your H1 should contain the most important keywords for that piece of content. To ensure that this is the case, make sure that the copy of all H1 headings matches the content of the URL and meta tags of the content.
To highlight important terms, use bold, strong and italics in the heading.
☑ Content Guideline
At this point, it should go without saying that your content should incorporate target keywords and their semantic variations where relevant. Make your research simple and comprehensive by using Conductor Explorer.
When creating content, authors must create an introduction that provides enough context while keeping an eye on the intent of the user. Don’t bury the lede” as journalists say — make the content compelling from the first paragraph onwards. Your readers should know exactly where they are going in the first five seconds.
Above all, avoid keyword stuffing! Google and other search engines have spent billions of dollars to catch and punish keyword stuffers.
Finally, avoid duplicate content and duplicate portals. Duplicate content is a signal of plagiarism or laziness to Google and will be punished accordingly. Create unique content for every page. It may seem to cost more in the short term, but in the long run you will see your content rise to the top of every SERP.
☑ Speed Optimization
Site speed, especially for mobile devices, is a critical factor for SERP rank. Optimize HTML size and implement caching across your site.
Use Google’s Page Speed Insights tool to see how fast your site is and how much work needs to be done to improve it.
☑ Retiring/Redirecting Pages
Backlinks are the lifeblood of a ranking site, and dead links are zombies that want to eat your domain authority. To avoid this gruesome fate, ensure permanent 301 redirects and temporary 302s are used where appropriate.
As mentioned above, PDFs cannot be redirected and must be decommissioned.
☑ SEO Housekeeping
Updating your robots.txt file should be washing your hands while humming “happy birthday to you” – frequent and thorough. Use it to update exclusion rules and your XML sitemap with these steps:
- Provide a complete list of URLs containing an XML declaration
- Specify namespace Rich snippet and schema data for all pages
- Include for products where possible
This Google tutorial on structured data is a must read.
☑ Target Keywords
Does your content really represent what you’re trying to sell? Find out by creating content around keyword research.
Identify your main topic by keywords and then create a list of relevant and related terms around similar meanings before you write.
☑ Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions are both a first signal to search engines and often the text that appears under your link on a SERP. Optimize them using the following techniques:
- Use contextual copy in your description and make sure that the copy is less than 920 pixels and 155 characters.
- Put unique content in each tag.
- If you have a call to action, make sure it is clear and direct.
- Remove non-alphanumeric characters.
- Include primary relevant keywords and avoid keyword stuffing!
As mentioned above, duplicate content is a punishable offense in Google’s algorithm. If you use UTM codes to track content across channels, and you have not created a canonical URL for that content, you may be indexing many dupes and unnecessarily lowering your rankings.
As part of your content check, mark up the original — canonical — page and other variants with a “rel= canonical’ tag to indicate that it is your preferred URL and list the canonical URLs on your sitemap. Specify the canonical link within the tag. More info is available at Google’s Consolidate Duplicate URLs help page.
Images are key to creating high quality content. The gold standard is to use only original images, graphics and photographs, but stock photos can be useful, especially if you have a lot of pages that need images.
Regardless of the type of image you’re using, make sure to name it using alt attributes. File names are indexed, so make them keyword rich, separated by hyphens and less than 100 characters. Most importantly, make sure your images are less than 100 KB in size and compressed to load fast on mobile web apps.
☑ Managing Links
When managing links, be consistent and minimize similar content across your site. Be sure to use keyword-rich descriptions as opposed to generic “click here” CTAs. Create helpful link titles and aim to link from the body content of other pages. Remember interlinking is your friend! That said, Avoid using footer links if they do not add value. Link stuffing is almost as bad as keyword stuffing. (But not as good as turkey stuffing!)