Read/Watch Time: (5 - 10 Minutes)
We get asked all the time for a checklist to specifically help companies with their ON-page SEO (vs. OFF-page, or off-site SEO).
There’s nothing worse for your website than spending hours creating great content only for nobody to ever see it or read it, because you didn’t take the time to ensure that search engines could find your page, crawl it and index it properly.
So I thought the best thing to do would be to cull together the best practices that we use at Biquitous when we either publish content ourselves or for our clients, and create a step-by-step blueprint that you can use immediately to make sure your own content is search engine friendly.
This short video will give you a handy 5-step on page SEO checklist to ensure that any content that you create is search engine friendly and has the highest chance to rank because you did everything in your power to make sure your content is ready to be crawled and indexed properly.
I originally created this video for the Retargeter blog.
(Quick note: For the best experience I recommend watching the short video, but all of the critical elements that you need to know are also in text format below the video along with copious amounts of screenshots.)
First Question: Does Your Content Suck?
So let’s start at the top.
Let’s say you’ve created a fantastic page, some great content, wonderful graphics, a great lead-in, and the page delivers awesome value to your readers…
Wait a minute…before we go any further, I need to ask you about your content.
You see, if your content stinks or you haven’t taken the time to ensure that what you are about to publish is something that you would recommend to your friends, family or colleagues, then stop what you are doing and make something that is!
The checklist I’m about to share with you assumes you’ve already crossed this threshold and your content is golden.
In the end, it doesn’t matter if your page is SEO friendly if the content on the page doesn’t compel others to share that content or pass it on.
Great Content? - Now You're Ready!
So, let’s assume you’ve done your homework, and what you are about to release to the world is stellar content.
I’m also going to assume that you know what specific keywords you want to rank for in the process of creating this great content.
So now what?
Well, now you need to make sure you’ve optimized your page properly so that search engines can index your page and others can find it.
So without further ado, here’s our 5-step On-Page SEO Checklist that we use at Biquitous to ensure that all the content you create has the best chance possible to rank highly in the search engines.
#1 Is the Title of Your Post:
Sounds simple right?
Wrong! The title of your post is THE most critical on-page ranking factor, so you better spend some time to make sure it’s done right.
Here are some quick tips to ensure that happens:
- Make sure the title tag is written for humans first. So, while it’s important that you incorporate your main keyword phrase in your title, it’s more important that human beings feel compelled to click on it and share it with others.
- Then make sure that your title tag includes elements that search engines are looking for. Use your main keyword phrase that you are trying to rank for – usually a group of 2-4 words, rather than 1 generic word – in the title in a natural way.
Try and put your most important keywords towards the beginning of the title.
- Finally, make sure that your title is less than 70 characters in length, although this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Sometimes depending on the content, you’ll need to make your title longer than 70 characters, but as a general rule, try to keep it below this number.
One final bonus tip about the title: make sure your URL matches the title with hyphens separating each word, stripping out words such as “and, the, but", etc. This will add a little bit of extra SEO juice to your article.
An example title for an article about “diamond studded dog collars” would be:
“The Most Opulent Diamond Studded Dog Collars Revealed”
That title is 51 characters long, includes the main keyword phrase naturally, and draws the user in by promising a fantastic article on the most opulent diamond studded dog collars ever created.
The URL will then look something like this:
Shorten your URL by removing words if it is too long and remember that in addition to helping the search engines categorize your page better, users also look at the URL in search results. The shorter and cleaner it is, the better your potential to rank higher and get more visitors.
#2 Is the Description META Tag of Your Post:
The description tag is not specifically used by search engines as a ranking factor –in fact most completely ignore it – but it IS used by human beings to decide if they want to click through and visit your website and shows up on search engine results pages below the title of your page.
So that being said, here are some quick guidelines for creating a great description that compels a user to click through to your page, and inadvertently, also raises the SEO profile of your page:
- First, repeat the main keywords that are in your title in your description in a natural way. You can and should also include like-minded or similar keywords if appropriate
- Then, within your description you should include a compelling call to action. In other words, entice the person searching for that topic to click through to your page. Use language that tells the reader what to do, or promises something of value once they get to your page. You can use subtle phrasing or words like “Click Here” or “Watch a Video” depending on your specific content
- Finally, keep the description under 160 characters, and ideally less than 140 characters in length for several reasons: First, search engines will cut off your description at 160 characters, and second, most social media websites will only display the first 140 characters of your description when users share your content
So an example of a great description for an article about “diamond studded dog collars” would be something like:
“Diamond studded dog collars aren’t for every dog owner. But if you’re into pampering your canine, this post shares the very best collars money can buy.”
By the way, that’s 151 characters.
It contains the keywords of the article, and includes a natural and subtle call to action promising the user what they’ll find if they click on that link.
# 3 Is Ensuring You Include Alternate Text and Titles For All Images:
Users that are either visually impaired or have image loading turned off in their browsers will see a box with words where your image was supposed to be.
(Hover over this image to see the "Title" text in action)
In addition, search engines use this information to understand more about your page and what your images are about.
So, make sure that each image on your page includes a distinct “Alternate text” description that includes some of your keywords and similar phrases, and a “Title” that also describes the image and is different than your Alt text.
In our example above, say we had an image of a diamond studded dog collar.
We would make the image’s Alternate text say something like:
“Image of a diamond studded dog collar”
and the Title say something like:
“Diamond Studded Dog Collar On A Black Dog”
#4 Is “Keyword Consolidation”:
All this means is that when you’ve written your article you need to run through it and make sure that the main keywords you want to rank for as well as similar phrases, are used naturally throughout your article.
The reason that this isn’t #1 on the list is because all the search engines put a much lower priority on this than they used to, and if you overdo it, you will get penalized for keyword stuffing.
So while important, I don’t want you to get fixated on inserting a certain number of keywords, or counting the number of times a word shows up on your page.
Some things you should tidy up include:
- Ensuring that your main keyword phrase is used at least 1 time in your post, preferably near the beginning of the page
- Ensuring that related words and phrases are also used throughout the page in a NATURAL way
- Ensuring that at least some of your sub-headers (sometimes known as H1 through H6 tags) for sections within the page contain those phrases
Again, I don’t want you to get fixated on this, which is why I put this next to last, but it is something you should at least make sure is done to some extent for congruency.
But don’t overdo it, or you will be penalized!
#5 Is External Links:
An often overlooked strategy for higher rankings is by making sure that you link to related and valuable pages both on your own website as well as trusted and authoritative external websites.
Google will take your page more seriously, give you a higher authority, and improve your rankings over time, if you link to other websites that are similar to yours that provide value to your readers and better context or further reading related to your content.
Here are some quick rules of thumb for doing this correctly:
- You should provide a link to another resource about every 300-400 words if appropriate. Depending on the nature of the page or content, you will either have more or less. That’s ok, this is just a rule of thumb so that you don’t write an entire page with absolutely no links to other pages on it
- Make sure you link to pages on your own website, as well as those of outside sources
- When you link to those pages, make sure you use description rich anchor text and a title to help both your users and search engines understand the context of the link
So an example using our “diamond studded dog collars” from before would be to link to another page on your site that talks about “diamond studded dog leashes” and has that phrase as the anchor text:
or something like “great resources for dog collars” that links to an outside authoritative website about dog collars:
This lets search engines know that you are helping your users find more relevant content about the topic of your page.
So, there you have it.
A complete 5 step on-page SEO checklist to optimize your pages BEFORE you hit the “publish” button on any content you create on your website.
If you follow this system, I guarantee that you’ll get much better results from your content generating initiatives on a consistent basis.
If you’ve got anything to add that you think I missed or is vital (I tried to be concise and direct without going into minutiae) please leave a comment below.