Want to improve organic traffic, drive leads and improve your position in search engine results? This SEO checklist can help.
Competing for top rankings in the search engines involves three elements:
- On-page – Optimizing and improving what is on your website pages.
- Off-page – Measuring and improving things are that are happening beyond your site, such as the number and quality of links coming into your site from other sites.
- Technical factors.
In this article, I’ll focus on No. 1 above – on-page optimization. The content on your site and the HTML behind your website pages are among the most accessible and controllable search engine optimization (SEO) elements, and they are a great starting point for your SEO efforts.
Your goal is to make every page on your site search-engine-friendly, with content and tools ready to further your business goals.
For optimization purposes, you should have one, or at most, two target keywords or phrases in mind per page. If you are trying to rank well for three or four keywords on a single page, it’s time to step back and consider breaking up the content onto several different pages so you can create page focus.
Now is also the time to get a good idea for where your site ranks on your chosen terms. If you are already on page one of Google search for your chosen term(s), leave the page alone, other than occasional updates to keep its content and/or resources relevant to site visitors.
Now that you’re ready to begin, the checklist below will guide you in creating the perfectly optimized page. No single factor on the checklist is make-or-break for getting your page to rank well, but they work in combination to raise your overall score (Google looks at more than 200 factors when it ranks a page).
Perfectly Optimized On-page SEO Checklist
- Content is high-quality, relevant, fresh and at least 500 words in length.
- Target search phrase is included in page headline.
- Target search phrase is included in at least one sub-headline.
- Target search phrase is repeated three to 10 times within body copy. Don’t over-do it, or the page may get downgraded as spam. Keep the reader in mind as you work with the target search phrase. Copy should always be reader-friendly.
- Page includes relevant images and/or graphics that help illustrate the target search phrase.
- Captions for images and/or graphics include the target search phrase.
- Content and/or tools and resources on the page are so good that visitors will want to share your link with others and post your link elsewhere.
- Location: If you are optimizing for specific country, state, city or regional names, be sure they are in your copy and perhaps in a page footer.
- No misspellings or poor grammar. Yes, the search engines downgrade for either.
- Inclusion of social media links and / or user discussion or reviews. Pages with active visitor interaction are scored higher than static pages.
Coding and Behind-the-Scenes Factors
- Include the target keyword/search phrase in the page URL if possible.
- Title tag: Every page should have an HTML title (enclosed in <title> </title> tags). The title copy should be unique, include the target keyword or target phrase, and must be 70 characters or less (any longer, and Google will truncate it anyway).
- Meta description tag: Even if the search engines don’t weigh a meta description in ranking a page, it is very important, because it is the marketing copy for your page. The meta description in the page head-tag set (enclosed in <meta name = “description” content=””> usually appears with your organic search listing, and induces readers to click through. The meta description tag should be no longer than 160 characters, and should include your target phrase.
- Image alt text: Use the target phrase in image alt text (embedded in the image tag as alt=”your keyword”)
- Links from copy: Use links to other pages on your site, or other resources judiciously. Links should be relevant to your page topic. The latest research shows Google may penalize any page containing more than 100 links, and we recommend stopping well short of that number, unless there is a good reason. A few internal links (to other pages on your site) are a positive, especially if they tie together similar topics. Internal links also help search engine bots navigate and categorize your site.
- Mobile: Make sure sites and pages intended for mobile devices are coded so that the search engines recognize them as mobile. This goes beyond the scope of this article, but keep it in mind as you work with your developer on a mobile site.
Following this on-page SEO checklist will result in a page that’s optimized for ranking well in search. It provides a foundation for other organic search improvement efforts.
Additional major factors, such as the authority of your site’s domain, and the number and authority of links coming into your page and your site will also play a big role in search ranking, which I’ll address in future articles.
While you can tackle many elements of the perfectly optimized page on your own (they should become part of your team’s standard operating procedures), you will find that professional help with keyword research, competitive research, content creation, page design, setup, and coding will dramatically accelerate the process. Contact us for a free initial consultation on your SEO project.