On-Page Optimization Checklist: A Foolproof Guide To Optimizing Your Content
So, you’re doing your best to make sure all your content is perfectly optimized for search engines, but you’re not sure if you’re doing all the right things.
Does that sound about right?
Google’s algorithms rely on 200 unique signals to rank content. Trying to cater to each and every one of these signals is next to impossible, and most of them are out of your control. What you do have full control over are the on-page signals Google looks for when crawling your content. If you’re not sure your content is hitting all of them, that’s what this post is going to help you with.
At the end of this post you’ll have a foolproof checklist of all the on-page signals your content needs to have to be perfectly optimized for Google.
Start By Narrowing Down Your Keyword Focus
When writing your post it’s important not to try to optimize it for too many keywords at once. Focus on 1-2 keywords per post at most.
This is important because Google may actually penalize your post if it looks like you’re trying to stuff it with too many keywords. Not to mention it makes for better content if you keep your posts focused on one or two main points.
If you need some help narrowing down your keyword focus I have provided some very basic keyword research tips in this post. I would also recommend checking out this fantastic slide deck on producing content ideas for your blog or website :
Once you have one or two keywords to focus on and a goal to work towards, you can begin optimizing your content right from the beginning.
Use Keywords In Your Title
Create the title for your post with your keywords in mind. If it doesn’t look too awkward, I recommend including the exact keyword at the beginning of the title.
For example, if your focus keyword was ‘SEO on-page optimization’, your title would look something similar to the title I used for this post.
Let’s be clear that your keyword isn’t your title, because that would make for a pretty boring headline that very few people would want to read. It’s just a starting point for creating your title.
It is recommended that you keep your title under 70 characters because that’s what Google can comfortably display in its search results. However, titles longer than 70 characters actually get more clicks when they’re shared on other platforms, like social media.
So I wouldn’t worry too much if your title ends up being over 70 characters, just try to include your focus keyword somewhere near the beginning so it’s one of the first things Google sees.
Make Your URL SEO-Friendly
When publishing a post, the URL, or permalink, for that post is automatically generated based on the post’s title unless you manually edit it.
I strongly suggest manually editing your post’s URL to display only your target keyword. On most blogging platforms the option to edit the permalink is usually available somewhere near the top where you input the title.
For example, this is how it looks on WordPress:
Now that you have the title and URL perfectly optimized it’s time to start optimizing the body of your content.
Optimizing The Body Of Your Content
Here are some tips for optimizing the body of your content.
Start by including your focus keyword within the first 100 characters of text. This helps to emphasize that your content is about that keyword.
As you write your content, disperse your keyword naturally throughout the text. Include it at a normal pace so that it’s not off-putting for readers and doesn’t raise any red flags that your content is too spammy.
A rule of thumb I try to follow is to include the keyword no more than 3 times per 1000 words of text. I also recommend reading the entire piece of content over a couple of times before publishing to make sure it doesn’t feel like the keyword is mentioned too frequently. If it passes the human test it will pass the search engine test.
Another thing you should do in the body of your content is include your keyword at least once in a sub-header, which helps to further emphasize to Google what the focus of the page is about.
Link To Other Pages
Include internal links as well as outbound links in your content.
If you have written about another topic that is mentioned in your post, you should link to where you have written about it in the past. This helps keep readers on your site, as well as demonstrates to search engines that the content you’re linking is relevant and authoritative about a particular subject.
In addition to linking to your own content, link to content on other authoritative sites. This is another relevancy signal for Google, studies show linking to authority sites can boost a page’s rank in Google.
Include Well-Optimized Images
Not only does including images make content more engaging for the reader, it helps with SEO as well.
Include images that help tell the story of your content but keep in mind search engines don’t read images, they read alt-text.
Alt-text helps search engines better understand the meaning of the image and what it represents. Search engines don’t understand what an image is without the alt-text to explain it.
If you use WordPress as your blogging platform, you can easily add alt-text to your images by going to Media > Library and clicking the Edit button underneath an image.
Look for the field that says “Alternative Text.” This is where you will describe the image using your focus keyword.
Optimize Meta Titles And Descriptions
When your content is completed and optimized thoroughly, before publishing it make sure your meta titles and descriptions are optimized with your target keyword. The meta title and description of a post is the bit of information you see about a page in Google’s search results. It generates automatically unless you manually set it to display exactly what you want.
I recommend manually inputting your meta title and description because you can’t always rely on Google and other search engines to display the correct information. If you’re using WordPress I recommend installing the plugin SEO by Yoast. Among the plethora of features it includes, one of the things it does very well is allow you to optimize the meta title and description of each post. Once you have the plugin installed, at the bottom of each post you will see a box that looks like this:
Let’s keep it simple now, the only fields you need to worry about are the ones that say “SEO Title” and “Meta Description”
The SEO Title field should just include the title of your post, which at this point will already be optimized with your focus keyword.
The Meta Description field should include the focus keyword you are trying to rank for, but make sure to write this section with the searcher in mind. Don’t write it just for search engines.
Your meta description gives searches the information they need to decide whether or not your content is what they’re looking for, so provide the best description you can.
With all of this now in place, your content should be fully optimized and ready to publish!
Your final SEO on-page optimization checklist should look something like this:
- Narrow down your target keyword
- Use keyword at the beginning of your title
- Edit the URL to include just the keyword
- Include keyword in first 100 characters of text
- Include keyword in sub-heading
- Disperse keyword naturally throughout content (no more than 3 times per 1000 words).
- Include internal and outbound links in content
- Use images and optimize them for target keyword
- Optimize meta titles and descriptions
These are the bare minimum requirements every page should meet before being published if you want to reap the maximum SEO benefits.
If you have any other questions about how your content should be optimized, please leave a comment and I’d be happy to help you out.