27 On-Page SEO Checklist for Top Search Engine Performance

Last Updated: April 24, 2023By

On-page Search Engine Optimization (SEO), commonly called on-page SEO or on-site SEO focuses on the structural and technical aspects of your website that can affect how your website ranks on the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). Because they are aspects of your website SEO which have to do with the web page itself, they are generally within the control of the website designer.

What is On-Page SEO?

Wikipedia defines on-page SEO commonly termed as “on-site SEO,” as the practice of optimizing web pages and content for the users and search engines to boost ranking and generate website traffic. It then follows that on-page SEO factors will relate to elements and attributes inside of a website. This will include content, speed, HTML, system, CSS, and internal links.

In modern website design, automated web building content management systems like WordPress takes care of HTML, system and CSS attributes in website design. These content management systems take care of all complex factors. The task, in most cases, will be to customize the content to match and relate with the website purpose and help Google and other search engines categorize the website.

The Importance of On-Page SEO

On-page SEO is very important for website performance because they affect search factors that play a role in how Google rank websites. The most significant reason you should take on-page SEO factors very seriously is because it is a ranking signal in the Google search engine algorithm.

It will help your website rank better when done right as it plays the major role of helping the search engines understand, recognize, and rank your content.

This is important not just for the overall ranking of your website but for individual pages. The major essence of on-page search engine optimization is to achieve overall performance for both individual pages and for the overall quality of your website. On-page SEO done well will also help to pull better and relevant traffic to your website. Increased traffic is a known signal to judge the quality of a website. When your website shows improvement in these quality signals, it tells Google you are doing something better and you are most likely delivering on the expectations of visitors and therefore deserve to be ranked better. This is because Google itself is interested in the quality of its search results and wants to deliver results that satisfy searcher intents.

Having said that, it is noteworthy that on-page factors alone do not satisfy the requirements for high ranking. In fact, quality is measured on a site-wide scale considering both on-page and other external factors like inbound links. A good combination of on-page and off-page factors can deliver excellent, incredible and desirable results for websites.

In this post, we focus on the on-page factors you should pay attention to, the most critical factors of on-page SEO that will boost your search engine performance.

Further reading:

Useful Tips and Tricks for WordPress SEO

SEO Tips For a Local Google My Business Page

Checklist of On-Page SEO Factors

1. Conduct keyword research

Keywords play a central role in On-page SEO and the starting point should be to determine the right and possibly the best keyword or key phrase for a particular page of content. The best keyword or phrase will be one that very well describes the content and focus of your page, a term or phrase that is well used by searchers and one that the website can adequately compete to rank for.

Further reading:

Email Marketing and the Trouble With Auto-Responders

2. Choose one primary keyword for your content.

Your content should be focused and have a targeted keyword. That will be the keyword you want to rank for with the content.

Also, try not to assign the primary keyword to another content. This is important to avoid a situation where your pages will compete with each other. It is commonly called keyword cannibalization – a situation where the same keywords appearing on different pages on the same website begins to compete with each other. This could cause the search engines not to rank any of the pages because it does not know which one is more important. A duplicate content checker can help you find competing pages on your website.

Try to get one keyword ranking for a particular page and do so for every piece of content.

3. Choose three to five related keywords for your content.

These are terms and phrases that are synonyms or used along with your primary keyword. For example, web hosting, emails and domain names are words that are used together. Choosing words that are semantically related to your primary keyword increases your chances of ranking better for keyword phrases. These keywords are in SEO terms referred to as LSI keywords or latent semantic indexing keywords. You will be able to determine the right combination of keywords for your content during your keyword research.

4. Draw up a content plan for your keyword.

This has to do with how you intend to use your keyword. Should it be an evergreen content or time-bound. For example, this post focuses on on-page SEO as its primary keyword. If we add a period to it, it means the analysis will focus on the referenced period. If we just leave it the way it is, it is evergreen and can be updated in future to match the changes to on-page SEO.

The way you use the keyword will determine how well it can support your marketing program and perform in the search engines. There is a simple guide you will find useful on how well to use your primary keyword to achieve better performance for the content..

  • Match the content to the keyword search intent. Words like “how to” are very good in this sense to create content that provides what the user would be looking for when they perform the search.
  • Decide where the content fits in your sales funnel. For example, you’ve got to decide if the keyword should be in the introductory section, the call to action or the product description. The placement could affect the click through and determine the results you can win out of it.
  • Create content that is better than currently ranking content. You will need to out-rank current content by creating content that could perform better than the currently ranking content. That will require a lot of research and dedication to content structure. One way to do this is to create content that is based on your research and original data, well organized and captures the critical elements searches look for. For example, if you are writing content on SEO, searchers want to know how the information can help them out-rank competitors.

 5. Include your primary keyword in the page title.

The page title is probably the most important element of on-page SEO. The title can go a long way in determining the click through rate. An attractive page title that incorporates your primary keyword is a good strategy. So, we recommend you write a title that is appealing to both search engines and audiences. Titles should flow naturally and not necessarily loaded with keywords.

6. Wrap the title in an H1 tag.

Because of its importance, wrapping up your page title in an H1 title tag tells the search engines that this is a very important element of the page and places some emphasis for the human user.

7. Write more than 1000 words of body content.

The emphasis on body content has risen following Google’s thin content algorithm update. It was once recommended that you publish pages with at least 300 words. But that would suggest to Google that you have not dealt with the topic extensively and so such content may find it hard to rank well.

We recommend publishing content of up to 2000 – 2400 words. Well detailed post signals authority and in-depth coverage and Google loves that too. As a rule, take that more detailed posts will have a stronger probability of ranking.

8. Write original and high quality content.

It is not a good practice to copy content from your website or other sources to make up and publish on your website. That will represent duplicate content and a sharp practice intended to deceive the search engines.

Ensure that your content is of high quality. Search engines can understand the quality of content by the amount of time spent reading it, the number of shares and positive reviews, the click-through rate and the number of external links to the page.

Do keep in mind that search engines love original content as they enrich their database with useful content. So, publishing high quality fresh content is like giving good food to the search engines and when you supply rich and original content, the search engines love it and will reward you with better ranking as a source for good content for users.

Ensure that your content is in-depth, valuable, useful and addressing the topic in detail with answers to the questions searchers may ask. It will go a long way to affect how the search engines treat and rank the content.

9. Write for easy understanding.

Search engines do not define quality by the technicality of the writing. You do not need to write like you are presenting a college level research paper. No matter how well crafted your content can be, if it does not attract the reader and keep them on the page, it is of little value and would not get a good grade from the search engines.

Your content should use common terminology (not complex industry jargon) with short sentences and paragraphs that are explicit enough to understand and draw readers’ attention. In short, the content should be useful to your readers and should be read to attract all categories of readers.

10. Add the primary keyword to create a 2-3% keyword density.

This is a bit of a technical side. The good news is that there is character counter software out there that can help you check the density of a keyword and help you get the right density that optimizes your page.

Using your primary keywords throughout your page can help search engines recognize the main theme of your content. The best practice is to use the term two to three times per 100 words to create a 2-3% keyword density. Try to avoid going over this limit to avoid keyword stuffing issues.

11. Use each related keyword at least once in the body.

It is recommended that related keywords should be used in the body of your page at least once. Possibly, this can be used within the first two paragraphs. But spread them throughout the body if you will be including up to five keywords.

Keep in mind that you must write naturally while doing this. Do not force it. The post should flow naturally.

12. Make your content scannable.

Write contents that a quick glance will give the reader some substantial understanding of what the content is about. Both human readers and search engines like content that is easy to peruse and understand. Here is a quick guide that can be helpful in making your content scannable.

  • Break content into sections with descriptive subheadings.
  • Use bullet points for lists of information.
  • Use bold formatting to highlight important points.

13. Wrap subheadings in an H2-H6 tag.

Header tags can be used to place emphasis on headings and both human readers and the search engines understand that very well. Use these tags to help search engines identify the subheadings in your content.

14. Have your primary keyword in at least one subheading.

It is important to have your primary keyword in at least one sub heading. It is better to have about three headings but let flow naturally.

15. Use the primary keyword in the first and last paragraph of the content.

Show search engines that the page is closely related to the topic mentioning the primary keyword near the beginning of your first paragraph and within your final paragraph.

16. Add relevant internal links using targeted anchor text.

Internal links help search engines link to other website content using anchor texts. It’s important to build internal links to improve the structure of your website and help readers visit related content. Search engines love the flow just as the human readers.

17. Add relevant links to high-quality sites.

As part of your internal link building strategy, also add relevant links from other authority sites. It helps the search engines associate your website. When you link to quality sites, it tell search engines you value quality and so also are you rated. Be cautious when using external links and check to be sure you are not linking to a spammy site even if it contains useful resources.

18. Set outbound links to open a new page.

This is good for user experience and Google is very much interested in how users relate with your page. Setting external links to open in a new window ensures that you can view other resources without closing the original page from where you clicked the external link. This can also apply to internal links but could be optional in dealing with internal links.

19. Add at least one image.

Make your content more attractive, interesting to readers and show search engines that the content is valuable by adding at least one image to the page.

20. Add the primary keyword to the image file name.

This is one area where webmasters make mistakes. It is a good practice to name your image with a phrase or word that includes your primary keyword.

21. Add the primary keyword to the image title.

After your image is uploaded and you give it a title by way of an alternate text, also add the primary keyword to one of the image alternate text.

22. Optimize your image properly.

Basically, ensure the image size fits the page properly and the image is optimized for the web. There are lots of free tools that can help you with this.

23. Write an SEO-friendly URL that includes the primary keyword.

Use your primary keyword in your URL. Where possible, edit the URL to remove stop words. Keep your title short, not exceeding 55 characters,, the optimum had been between 41-50 characters. Avoid adding any stop words, special characters, or unnecessary words in the permalink.

24. Add an optimized meta description.

Google has said that it does not use the meta description in ranking websites. However, a well crafted meta description still plays a role in helping Google understand the purpose of your website and that can help its classification.

A meta description therefore should be written to support the meta title. It helps search engines understand the content and is displayed on SERPs. An optimized meta description should be around 120 characters. You may want to write as much as 250 characters, but something you can’t guarantee is that Google will display all the characters. So, the shorter the better. Ensure you do not write descriptions lower than 70 characters.

25. Add structured data markup.

Adding structured data markup or schema to your page helps search engines recognize specific categories of copy within your content. This can boost SEO as well as rich search results.  

26. Add social sharing links.

Help people share your content with ease by adding social sharing buttons. Remember that the more shares a content gets is a signal for quality.

27. Proofread your content.

Check your content for errors and accuracy before publishing. Make sure you have done the right thing. Remember that the performance of every content you post can affect the overall performance of your website

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