Companies today are working around the clock to create content that delivers answers to customers. Creating content is one thing, but getting it in front of your 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 items on this checklist, and your content will be optimized for maximum visibility.
Now, open up a spreadsheet, bust out your virtual (or actual) clipboard, click that ballpoint pen a few times to put you in the mood, and start checking off boxes.
☑ URL Structure
A simplified URL structure is your first, best action item. It’s relatively easy to implement, and its 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.
- Only use relevant keywords, and remove unnecessary parameters “/” and underscores “_”.
- Ensure keywords are separated with hyphens “-”.
☑ Page Title & Title Tags
Your title is the first thing readers and search engines use to evaluate your content.
- Remove the 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 most important on-page titles.
Your H1 should include the most important keywords for that piece of content. To make sure it does, be sure to align the copy of all H1 headlines with the content of the content’s URL and Meta tags.
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 easy and comprehensive by using Conductor Explorer.
When creating content, writers must create an introduction that adds sufficient context keeping user intent in mind. Don’t “bury the lede” as journalists say — make the content engaging from the first paragraph. Your readers should know exactly where they’re headed in the first five seconds.
Above all, avoid keyword stuffing! Google and other search companies have spent billions of dollars to catch and punish keyword stuffers.
Finally, avoid duplicate content and duplicate portals. Duplicative content is a signal for plagiarism or laziness to Google, and it’s punished accordingly. Create unique content for every page. It might seem to cost more in the short term, but in the long term, you’ll see your content rise to the top of every SERP.
☑ Speed Optimization
Site speed, especially for mobile, is a key determinant 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 we mentioned in the checkbox above, PDFs can’t be redirected and need to 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 Site Map with these steps:
- Provide a full list of URLs that contain 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 actually reflect what you’re trying to sell? Find out by building content around keyword research.
Identify your main topic by keyword then build a list of relevant and related terms around similar meanings before writing.
☑ Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions are both a first signal to search engines and also often the text displayed below your link on a SERP. Optimize them with the following techniques:
- Use contextual copy in your description and make sure that 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 we said above, duplicate content is a punishable offense in Google’s algorithm. If you are using UTM codes to track content across channels and you haven’t created a canonical URL for that content, you may be indexing many dupes and needlessly lowering your rankings.
As a part of your content audit, 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 <head> 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 pictures.
Whatever kind of image you use, make sure to name it using alt attributes. File names get 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 throughout 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!)