10 Step On-page SEO Checklist

This article originally appeared on MichaelWinchester.com

Here are the first 10 steps in my on-page checklist for proper search engine optimization.

I use this for all my clients.

While some of these steps in the On-Page SEO Checklist may seem trivial or unimportant on their own, the use of all of the steps in unison is where the real power lies. These are the basics, start here and expand. SEO is ever-evolving, and what worked yesterday may earn you a manual action today. The goal is to stay within Google’s guidelines for search and get your page ranking.

1. Identify your keywords and long-tailed keywords:

Finding your keywords can be as easy as knowing your niche and what words, terms, and phrases are used to find websites like yours in search (for more info on what keywords are, click here). There are several great keyword research tools on the web, both free and paid, if you need a little help. For our purposes today, I suggest you get to know your way around Word Tracker and The Hoth; both have FREE services that will get you started. Long-tailed keywords can be a little trickier to identify. However, Google takes care of some of this for you with their Google Suggest in the search box. Start your search, and Google will show a list of suggestions for your search. These are searches that other people have made looking for similar information. See image

Using Google to identify long-tailed keywords

2. Include your keywords in your page title

Now that you have your keywords, it’s to put them to use, and your page titling is the first step. For example, if your page sells bulk black t-shirts, your URL should be something like https://your-domain.com/bulk-black-t-shirt-sales. This is a great time to really dive into those Google suggestions and keyword research from step 1 to ensure your page titles jive with what is being searched for.

3. Write unique and specific page title and description meta utilizing keyword

The importance of the page title and description to SERP (search engine result page) can not be overstated. This is the Text and Links that will show up in the SERP and shared social media posts. This text will ultimately determine whether or not the potential visitor clicks on your link. The goal here is to be very informative without overdoing the typical sales jargon viewed as potential spam. Use your keywords, and stick to the recommended amount of characters for each tag. The title tag should be around 70 characters, and the description tag should be around 160.

4. Properly format page headings using descriptive and keyword-rich sentences

Header tag formatting is important as it helps to tell the search bots what your page is about. The header tags tell the bot the importance of the information contained. While you could wrap everything in H1, utilizing the other header tags is proper formatting. While this doesn’t really make too much of an impact on SEO, every indicator you can optimize should be. Also, make sure to include your keywords in H1, H2, or H3 tags.

5. Use keyword within 100 words of the first paragraph

Search engines place the most importance on the first 100 to 150 words of on-page copy. Using your keywords (or long-tailed keywords) within the first 100 words, you are showing Google and the other search bots that your page is indeed about your keyword helping you rank higher.

By linking out to authoritative web pages, you show Google and the other search bots that your content is well researched and can be trusted. It’s important to link to sites that are not your direct competition but directly relevant to your webpage.

By using internal links to your own content, you are showing Google and the other search bots that you have more relevant and authoritative information on the topic of your webpage. Reinforcing your own content is another small step toward overall webpage optimization success.

8. Ensure all images are properly titled and have keyword-rich alt and description tags

It is good practice to use a short image description rather than the standard default image title given by a camera or smart device; this helps Google and the other search bots better understand your image related to your website. So if your image description is titled standard-black-tshirt.jpg and you sell t-shirts on your website, you will rank better than if your image is titled IMG_2456.jpg. The same goes for audio, video, and document names.

9. Ensure NAP (Name Address and Phone) are consistent

Your business Name, Address, and Phone Number (known in SEO circles as your NAP) need to be consistent. Not just on your webpage but on every online directory, listing, and social media account you have control over. If your phone number is formatted (555) 555-5555, it needs to be that way across all listings and accounts. Same for business name formatting and street address formatting, down to the dashes and periods. Really. Search bots use this information to help verify your legitimacy as a business. It is crucial. Even the smallest deviation can be seen as a red flag and downrank your page.

10. Optimize Images for fastest load time

Page load time has become a deciding factor in Google’s algorithm for search, and images are one of the most detrimental factors for page load times. By optimizing your images for the intended display size and then compressing them, you can cut page load times down by more than half. If a page loads slow potential customers may end up going elsewhere. There are plenty of tools to optimize images after they have been uploaded to your website; however you can often get better results manually optimizing them. That is also a great time to title your images on export properly.

Follow these steps, and you will be well on your way to having a better-optimized website. For a site audit or other consultation, Contact Mike.

Author: Michael Winchester

Website developer, field recordist, instrument builder. My background is largely based in design for the music industry; websites, micro-sites, and apparel. With that experience, I bring a fresh approach to corporate and construction-related web projects looking to stand apart from the competition. My goal is to help clients better understand different aspects of SEO and website development; I write short, easy-to-digest articles on search engine optimization and website performance-related topics.In my free time, I enjoy field recording, sound design, and building unusual musical instruments.Michael Winchester is a website developer and search engine consultant in Southern California. Michael Winchester Design | (562)283-5688