Introduction:

SEO remains one of the best ways to increase Google page ranking and in turn the traffic (and revenue) of your business. Where does on-page SEO fit into this?

Perhaps best thought of as an assemblage of various different elements, on-page SEO is about taking every factor into consideration when trying to improve a page's search ranking position for specific targeted keywords.

There is a lot that goes into the fine-tuning of a page's SEO; from HTML tag optimization and proper formatting, to meta descriptions and image alt text, there is a lot to consider.

This checklist is built to make the process of on-page SEO as straightforward as possible so that for every new piece of content that needs to be optimized, your life is that little bit easier.

By the end of this checklist you'll have covered all the ground necessary for quality on-page optimization, and hopefully saved a good deal of time with it as well.

Let's get started.

Preparation:

Fill in basic information about page content

First up, let's get some basic information about the post down. Use the form fields in this task to record your keyword and other identifiers.

If you use a cloud project management tool like Trello, a database like Airtable, or anything connected to Zapier, you can feed in the form data you enter in this task automatically and save time on data entry.

HTML tags:

Check title tags are being used correctly

The title tag of any given page is one of the most important considerations for a good on-page SEO.

Generally, the closer the keyword is to the beginning of your title, the higher preference the search engine will give it. 

Check the steps below to be sure that you're getting the most out of your page title:

  • 1
    Check page HTML to make sure the H1 tag surrounds the post title
  • 2
    Check keyword is as close to beginning of the title phrase as possible
  • 3
    Make sure the H1 tag only appears once
  • 4
    Check subheading structure is formatted correctly

The diagram below illustrates how your HTML title tags should be structured, in order of importance, and without exception to the rule of progressive hierarchy:

Check H2 and H3 tags are being used correctly

Whilst header tags do extend to H4, H5, and H6, the H1, H2 and H3 tags are the ones which carry the most SEO value.

So, you need to make sure you're using them properly. We've already covered H1 (the title), so let's break down the remaining two header tags:

  • H2: this is your subheading; it will need to have similar (LSI) keywords to your H1 tag.
  • H3: this is the subheading for the H2 tag; the hierarchy continues in this pattern.

Simply put, tag hierarchy should be based on importance, with the same consideration for including keywords as early on as possible for maximum search engine clout.

  • 1
    Ensure related keywords are placed as early as possible in the H2 and H3 headings
  • 2
    Ensure H2 and H3 tags appear in order of importance
  • 3
    Make sure all headlines are grammatically correct and make sense

HTML descriptions:

Check alt text is properly formatted

Alternative image text, also known as an "alternative description", is a component used by search engine crawlers to better contextualize images on a webpage.

Alternative text is also used by screen reading software, to enable the visually impaired to access content they otherwise wouldn't be able to.

Ideally, alt text should be descriptive, but not over-saturated with keywords. 

Take this image for example:

The alt text might be the following:

<img src="swimming.png" alt="pig swimming"> 

This is somewhat descriptive, but there's room improvement:

<img src="swimming.png" alt="Pig swimming in clear water with seagull perched on head">

Obviously, this is a lot more descriptive. You could close your eyes, listen to that phrase and build a pretty clear picture in your head.

That said, you don't want to over-saturate things; this can be as bad as not including an alt text at all:

<img src="swimming.png" alt="pig water bird seagull head fish clear mammal swimming swim wet ocean sea birds drowning tranquil tropical island">

Follow the sub-checklist below and make sure all sub-tasks are checked off before you proceed. 

  • 1
    Keep the alt text below 125 characters
  • 2
    Include primary, secondary and LSI keywords
  • 3
    Remove filler words
  • 4
    Avoid over-saturating alt text with keywords

Check meta descriptions are properly formatted

Google will only show the first 320 characters of a page's meta description tag; anything else will be cut off and replaced by an ellipsis, signaling "read more".

This 320 character limit includes spaces, so you will need to fine-tune and strategize to get the most out of this feature.

If the information is available, the date the page was published will also appear as part of the 320 character limit, and this should be accounted for when writing the description.

A meta description as it appears on Google's Search Engine Results Page (SERP) will look something like this:

Apart from the character limit, there are a number of other factors that make for a well-performing meta description.

The following sub-tasks will help you stay on track; just check them off as you go.

  • 1
    Include primary, secondary and LSI keywords
  • 2
    Prioritize well-written copy over keyword stuffing
  • 3
    Ensure there are no duplicate meta descriptions between different pages
  • 4
    Check meta description does not exceed 320 characters
  • 5
    Consider trimming the meta description to 300 characters to factor in "published on" date

Optimization:

Optimize keyword usage

You've already made sure the keyword appears in the HTML tags, as well as alt text and meta descriptions; now it's time to really tighten up the ship and do whatever else you can to make sure keyword usage is fully optimized.

First off, there are a few relatively straightforward things you can do:

  • 1
    Include primary keyword within the first paragraph of the post
  • 2
    Include primary keyword in the filename of all images

Beyond this, consider long tail keywords. Making sure to include long tail keyword variants in a few strategic locations can really impact the overall SEO performance of a page. 

  • 1
    Include long tail keyword variants in at least one of your headers
  • 2
    Include long tail keyword variants at the beginning, middle, and end of your text body
  • 3
    Include the longdesc="" image tag for long tail keywords

Another important element that Google will use to determine page rank is the optimal use of LSI keywords.

In an attempt to mimic a more natural language association between content and metrics, Google will build an idea of a "topic match" for a particular page using data including the LSI keywords. Their assumption is that these LSI keywords would be seamlessly included in the content.

It's difficult to say exactly how many LSI keywords to include, and the idea of putting a number on that somewhat contradicts the concept of LSI keywords being "naturally occurring". Nonetheless, there is a useful (and free) tool from twinword you can use to get some inspiration for LSI keyword inclusion.

  • 1
    Include 5-8 LSI keywords

Optimize time-on-page

Including high-quality images, infographics, or videos that are relevant and complementary to your page content can make a huge difference in bounce rate, and ultimately how long users spend on your website. These factors, both user interaction metrics, are used by Google to determine page ranking, so optimizing user time-on-page shouldn't be overlooked.

For this task, make the following checks on your page content:

  • 1
    Relevant images
  • 2
    Engaging infographics
  • 3
    Video content
  • 4
    Make sure multimedia formatting is standardized

Optimize scannability

As well as adding high-quality multimedia content, you can also work on the text of your page. 

Here, it's best to cut the fat and make sure the prime content is laid out as clearly as possible. 

The simple fact is that people have short attention spans. Acknowledging this isn't about conceding that the content will never be read, but rather optimizing the content in such a way that encourages scannability in the hope that giving the reader access to this shortcut will entice them into deeper engagement with the content.

So, in optimizing your content for scannability, you should make sure to do the following:

  • 1
    Break text up into smaller paragraphs
  • 2
    Use headings and subheadings to break up text and make navigation easier
  • 3
    Remove filler words and phrases
  • 4
    Include bulleted lists
  • 5
    Use bold text to highlight key points

When optimizing for scannability, keep in mind the F-shaped reading pattern:

Optimize structured data markup for rich snippets

Rich snippets are a type of SERP feature that displays useful information such as review stars, aggregated ratings, and vote counts.

Simply put, rich snippets are added (marked up) in HTML using vocabularies from schema.org, of which there are many, for various different purposes.

Adding and optimizing structured data markup for your webpage can help to reduce bounce, and help your page rank by providing easier access to "quality" content.

Rich snippets are a type of SERP feature (and are different to "featured snippets").

The exact way you will implement structured data markup will depend on the kind of content you're creating, and luckily there is a WordPress tool called Schema App Structured Data for automatically generating a structured data markup of all of the content on your WordPress site.

And all of the structured data markup will be automatically generated for your page.

You can then use Google's Rich Results Test to see whether or not your page is currently eligible to display rich snippets (note: changes will sometimes take a few days to register on the Rich Results Test).

If you're still confused about rich snippets, check out this video from Google Webmasters for a short explanation:

Optimize page loading time

Maintaining a snappy website is a sure-fire way to keep your conversion rate high and your bounce rate low. Slow, sluggish websites can negatively impact user experience, and, of course, will have you penalized by Google's search robots.

Try the following to quickly assess how fast your page loads:

  • 1
    Clear your cache
  • 2
    Open the page up and note the load time

If the page is loading slowly, there are a number of things you can do to try and speed things up:

  • 1
    Enable browser caching
  • 2
    Optimize images (.JPEGs instead of .TIFFs)
  • 3
    Prioritize visible content
  • 4
    Get rid of unnecessary plugins

Check out our web optimization checklist pack for a deeper look at optimizing page load times.

Optimize URL structure

Ugly, poorly structured URLs can greatly affect your on-page SEO. The URL of a page holds far more SEO weight than meets the eye, in the form of keywords, standardized formatting, and proper structure.

Major search engines like Google place high importance on the following criteria when looking at how a URL will affect SEO performance. Check off each point in the sub-checklist below to be sure that your page URL meets all of the requirements.

  • 1
    Include keywords in the URL structure
  • 2
    Make sure URL is 100% readable
  • 3
    Replace underscores with hyphens
  • 4
    Ensure URL formatting is consistent

Final touches:

Prompt the reader to comment

A simple prompt to leave a comment can open the doors to a thriving and persistent (not to mention self-sustaining) content ecosystem, and can do wonders for your page ranking. 

It's no wonder why this is such a big deal; active comments sections help to keep your article relevant with constant streams of primary, LSI, and long tail keywords, as well as potential outbound links and the potential for organic social media growth. 

Including a compelling call to comment somewhere on the page is so easy, there really isn't a good reason why you would omit this step from your on-page SEO optimization process.

Check page works on mobile device

Current trends in what seems to be important for Google's ranking algorithm include a focus on mobile-friendly content.

The following sub-tasks should be checked off as you test your page on a mobile device.

  • 1
    Make sure all content is visible on mobile devices
  • 2
    Make sure page is optimized for mobile devices
  • 3
    Make sure all content is accessible from mobile devices

Review:

Prepare the on-page SEO changes for review

Using the form fields below, provide a URL to the page in question and describe the changes you've made to the on-page SEO.

Using the Members form field below, assign the individual who will approve the on-page SEO changes.

Approval: On-page SEO changes

Will be submitted for approval:
  • Prepare the on-page SEO changes for review
    Will be submitted

Sources:

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