SEO Checklist: Drive Traffic with Perfectly Optimized Pages

Kelly Strattonby Kelly Stratton

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.


  • Dave

    Helpful checklist! Question: How many times should I mention the keyword in the page copy and headlines?

  • Fred at Altitude

    Good question, Dave. As the experts at SEOmoz say: “use your keywords naturally and strategically.” This means once in the title tag, once in the meta description tag, once prominently near the top of the page, 2 – 3 times naturally in the body copy. There are examples of perfectly sound and readable pages with 10 or more keyword mentions, especially if the copy is longer (600 words plus) and they are firmly in context. The days of “keyword stuffing” – dumping 50 keywords at the bottom of the page are over, however and this type of thing is usually penalized.

  • Tasia

    How about for e-commerce / store pages?

  • Fred at Altitude

    Tasia, for e-commerce and store pages, the SEO checklist above is still relevant for the most part. Most store pages don’t have 500-plus words of copy, but they have other features that can be used to optimize search. Use a customer reviews utility if available. Use schema to help the search engines categorize your store items. Use social media buttons if you have a good social media presence. Use embedded video. All of these things will add SEO punch to store pages.

  • Michael

    How important are the social links – likes, retweets, linkedin shares etc.

  • Phil Norton

    I have always wondered how important is having a domain name with keywords that are being searched, for instance, if someone Googles “whitetail deer”, would the domain name whitetaildeer.com be more likely to come up in the search results.
    And what if that domain name is not the actual URL, for instance, is simply redirected from the domain registrar to a website directory.
    So, can I improve my SEO by creating a webhosting account and URL by that same name and changing the DNS settings Domain Name Servers from the domain registrar to the webhosting server?
    (Sorry if my terminology is confusing). Thanks!

    • Fred at Altitude

      Phil – What you are describing is an “exact match domain” (EMD). EMDs used to carry a lot of weight in ranking, but the consensus among experts who study these things is that the power of EMDs diminished quite a bit over the past year or so as the search algorithms were improved. I agree with that assessment. I’ll be addressing this type of technique in my next post, which covers off-page ranking factors.

  • Fred at Altitude

    Michael – Social links are very important in the perfectly optimized page. Not so much for on-page SEO, but for what they can do for you in off-page signals. Make it easy for readers to endorse your article via Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn. See the example on this page. I’ll be going into this in more depth in my next post, which covers off-page optimization.

  • waqar

    Great very useful post for on page seo thanks Fred.

  • Patrick

    It’s a tough balancing act, for sure. I would always be inclined to write more for the reader than the search engines and it seems Google is starting to favour this approach more and more.

  • Charlie Solano

    Nowadays Content is King and if your content is quality content and if you have optimized your pages well half battle is won by you.

  • Scott Casey

    Fred,

    I got a lot from this! Nice post with new info that I was NOT aware of such as the caption of an image plus the image itself though I wonder how Google uses spiders to assess what an images shows and how to judge its relevancy to the keyword phrase

    Also the ‘Interaction Factor’ which would also give you increased time on site

    Good content: This is the first I’ve heard of 500 words as the new limit. A few years ago heard of a jump from 250 to 300 but have not stumbled across anything new on this until now, but my research time is limited.

    The ‘Description’ is the “… marketing copy for your (web) page” I try to pound this home to people that you are competing with 9 other results plus paid ads but the idea of taking 10 or even 15 minutes to craft an enticing, teasing description for a web page that can be up there for 5 or more years doesn’t seem like a good investment to them.

    My example: If That Blog Post Appears JUST 100 Times On The First Page Of A Search Results Returned Each Year For 5 Years That Is 500 People You Could Possibly Get To Visit Your Site!

    15 Minutes = 900 Seconds | 900 seconds / 500 People = 1.8 Seconds Of Your Time And Effort PER PERSON!

    Only thing I would add is for subheadings use the ‘h2′ tag over just making it bold as the ‘h2′ is supposed to give it a little more weight

    I am surprised you lead with ‘Good Content’ as that scares most people off. They want an automated software program that gives them a $5,000 check in the mailbox each week.

    Also I do disagree with the ‘Alt’ tag as my info says that is ignored like the meta keywords from stuffing there as well

    Thanks! Scott

    • Altitude Marketing

      Scott – Thanks for the insights. I agree with your comments on using the H2 tag. Regarding “good content” – we’re finding that is becoming the cost of entry into good SEO results and we see it working out in the SERP wilds. Google’s updates are succeeding to some extent in weeding out spam content, and they are looking at things like bounce rate and time on page.
      Fred

  • Ajay Joshi

    Great article. Was looking, though, for some mention of tag to get local ranking. Any tips on how to use it properly in cases where the business has multiple office? Should it be used for all offices?

    • Fred at Altitude

      Ajay – Good question. Ranking well for localized terms is very attainable for most businesses. Companies seeking to rank for regional terms need to do something very basic and simple: Use the town, state, county, regional names (for us, it’s the Lehigh Valley) in your website copy and also in a page footer. It’s surprising how often we get asked “Why doesn’t my site rank for (town X)” when (town X) appears on the website only on the contact us page! Also consider regional terms in the context of the other SEO checklist techniques, such as headlines and meta copy.
      Your point about multiple locations is an important one. This is where your team needs to first sit down and do a strategy session: What geos do you want to emphasize and in what hierarchy? Take that blueprint and develop your SEO plan. In many cases, it’s a good idea to do regional-office-specific content pages to get traction.

  • http://www.aquademica.se/mogel/ Mögel

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