The On-Page SEO Checklist for 2018

On-Page SEO

On-page SEO is fundamental for ranking well in Google.

That’s why today I’m going to show you my personal step-by-step on-page SEO checklist.

But first:

What is On-Page SEO?

On-page SEO is the process of optimizing a single page on your website. This is not to be confused with on-site SEO, which is the process of optimizing an entire website. However, these two types of optimization are not mutually exclusive.

For example, an on-site optimization action like installing an SSL certificate is also a good on-page optimization action.

It’s also important mention the difference between on-page SEO vs. off-page SEO.

On-Page SEO vs. Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO is nothing more than another way to say link building. Link building (or “off-page SEO”) is the process of acquiring backlinks to your website.

While on-page SEO is the foundation you need to rank, you’ll usually need a substantial off-site SEO plan to acquire backlinks to your pages and website as a whole. It’s possible to rank without many backlinks, but in most cases, you’ll need them.

Now the next question is:

Why is On-Page SEO Important?

Most people with basic knowledge of SEO usually equate on-page SEO with just placing keywords on a page. There’s no denying that keywords are critical for on-page optimization, but there’s much more to the process.

As you’ll soon find out, on-page optimization includes:

  • keywords
  • copywriting
  • media
  • links
  • User Experience (UX)
  • and even conversions.

Understanding and executing all of these on-page SEO factors is important because it will determine how well your page will rank in Google.

What I’ll be showing isn’t just about rankings though.

This checklist will help you optimize your pages to the fullest extent, but it will also to help you increase dwell time, build rapport for your brand, and even drive conversions.

Let’s jump right in.

The Complete On-Page SEO Checklist

Now it’s time to show you how to do on-page SEO step-by-step. Just follow this checklist and you’ll achieve a perfectly optimized page.

Performance

1. Do you have Google Analytics tracking set up?

You need a way to measure the SEO performance of your page. Google Analytics is pretty hard to beat, but there are some decent alternatives like Clicky.

Just make sure you have a way to track organic search traffic and conversions.

Google Analytics Checker

You can use this tool to audit your Google Analytics set up.

2. Are you tracking your primary keyword phrase?

Tracking individual keywords isn’t as straightforward as it used to be because of localization, personalization, and other factors.

However, you should still be tracking your primary keyword just to make sure you’re on the right track.

I personally use Ahrefs to track keywords.

Here’s a video explaining how I use it to track performance:

Crawling & Indexing

3. Is your page crawlable?

You simply can’t rank if Google’s spiders can’t access your page. Your robots.txt file and “NoIndex” tags are two common culprits you need to look out for.

This tool is perfect for checking your page’s crawlability. Just enter your URL and click “Submit”.

Crawlability Check 1

Then the tool will show you everything that is or isn’t blocking search engine crawlers. You want to see a “200” status code. No news is good news when it comes to the other sections.

Crawlability Check 2

You can also use Screaming Frog SEO Spider to make sure your pages are crawler accessible. Just click the “Response Codes” tab and select “Blocked by Robots.txt”.

Response Codes

4. Is your page indexable?

Having a “crawlable” page is the first step to ranking in Google. The second step is making sure that your page actually gets indexed.

The best way to check if your page is properly indexed is to copy your URL and paste it into Google.

Naked URL Search

Established pages should show up. If they don’t, then you need to take some additional steps.

First, check of the page is using the “NoIndex” tag. Just click the “Directives” tab in Screaming Frog and select “Noindex” from the filter dropdown.

Noindex

If it passes that test, then you need to examine your site architecture.

Sometimes your page is buried too deep within your website and crawlers aren’t able to reach it. This issue is most common with e-commerce websites or larger websites.

To find out, click the “Site Architecture” tab in Screaming Frog and look under the “Crawl Depth” section.

Crawl Depth

You want your most of your pages to be no more than three clicks deep.

If your page pass both of those tests, then you should use the “Fetch as Google” tool.

Fetch as Google

The last way to get your page indexed is to acquire backlinks to it.

Now that you’re tracking performance, your page is crawabable, and your page is indexed, it’s time to optimize your page for your primary keyword.

Keywords

5. Are you targeting the right keyword?

Some people overestimate their ability to rank for certain keywords. You need to go through extensive keyword qualification and competitor analysis processes to ensure that you’re targeting the right keywords.

I won’t go too deep into it here, but here’s a 30,000-foot keyword qualification process you can use:

First, run your keyword through Ahrefs Keyword Explorer tool.

Keyword Difficultly Ahrefs

You can quickly eliminate keywords based on Keyword Difficulty (KD). For example, newer websites or websites that lack authority shouldn’t target keywords greater than  50 KD.

If your keyword passes the KD test, then you need to compare your website against the ranking competitors (on average).

Gather the following data points for each competitor and average them out:
  • DR, Backlinks, Total Linking Root Domains (export from Ahrefs Keyword Explorer)
  • Word count (this tool works well)

Now you have a roadmap of what you’ll need to do to compete for your target keyword phrase.

6. Have you already targeted this keyword?

Keyword cannibalization (when multiple pages target the same primary keyword phrase) is something you need to keep tabs on.

Here’s an example:

Keyword Cannibalization Example

Avoiding this issue at the onset should be a priority for every SEO campaign.

Trust me… It’s a nightmare working through large scale keyword cannibalization issues.

Here’s what you need to know:
  • Target one primary keyword per page and then focus on creating (and updating) that one page.
  • Don’t create or optimize another page for the same primary keyword.

I should mention the hub and spoke model though.

You can target closely related keywords if the intent is different.

For example, on Gotch SEO, I have a blog post about how to do an SEO audit (informational intent) and then I have a page targeting “SEO audit service” (transactional intent). These keyword phrases are closely related, but have much different intent.

Here’s a visual from Jimmy Daly:

Hub and Spoke Content Strategy

Just make sure you don’t get this model twisted and think you should start pumping out thin pages around your primary page/keyword.

7. Does your page satisfy search intent?

If you’ve been following my work or you’re a member of Gotch SEO Academy, then I know you’re sick of me talking about this. But the truth is, it’s so incredibly important and it’s something that a lot of websites get wrong.

There are 4 primary categories of search intent:
  1. Informational – “how to get backlinks”
  2. Transactional – “buy backlinks”
  3. Comparison – “Moz vs. Ahrefs”
  4. Navigational – “Gotch SEO”

Understanding the intent behind your target keyword should dictate how you structure your page.

For example, if you’re targeting a keyword phrase that has informational intent (how to __), then that page should educate and attempt to build rapport.

Most searchers are not ready to buy when searching informational keywords.

ToFu MoFu BoFu

Source

They’re likely at the beginning of the customer journey. You need to be cognizant of that and structure your page as an educational resource.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to push the prospect to the next stage in the buying cycle, but you need to take baby steps. Lead magnets are my go-to CTA for searchers at this stage.

8. Is your primary keyword in the title?

While SEOs don’t agree on everything, most would have a hard time disputing that your primary keyword should be in your page’s title tag. If you do anything on this checklist, make sure your target keyword is in the title.

title tag HTML

But if on-page SEO was as simple as placing your keyword in the title, then there would be a lot more successful SEOs.

Here’s the truth:

That’s a bare minimum on-page SEO action.

To take your title tag optimization up another notch, you need to improve its clickability.

9. Is your title click worthy?

Google uses the words in your title tag to understand what your page is about. But there’s another side of title tags you need to understand:

Click Through Rate (CTR).

You can find your website’s SERP CTR performance in Google Search Console when you click on “Performance”:

CTR Performance

It’s critical that you make your title as eye-catching and click worthy as possible.

In fact:

Increasing your SERP CTR is one of the easiest ways to get more organic search traffic without creating any new content.

10. Can you add modifiers to your title?

Title modifiers like “best”, “top”, or the year (“2018”) can help you capture more long-tail organic search traffic.

Title modifier example

11. Have you used all your title tag real estate?

Titles can be as long as 65 characters before being truncated in Google’s SERPs.

Truncated Title Google

You should take full advantage of this character real estate.

Make sure your keyword is towards the front of the title, but after that, you should use all the copywriting techniques you can to entice searchers to click on your result.

You can use Screaming Frog to find all titles under or over 65 characters when you click “Page Titles” and click the “Filter” dropdown.

SFSS - Title Tag Over 65 Characters

12. Is your page title wrapped in an H1 tag?

Every page on your website should have an H1 tag. You can use Screaming Frog SEO Spider to find what pages don’t currently have H1s.

Just click the “H1” tab and select “Missing H1s” from the “Filter” dropdown.

Missing H1 Tag

Now the question is:

Can you have multiple H1s on a page (and how does that impact SEO performance)? The answer is yes, but it would a very rare circumstance when I would even consider doing it.

13. Is your primary keyword in the meta description?

Google often rewrites meta descriptions, but it’s a still good idea to write a descriptive one that includes your primary keyword.

For example, Google replaced my meta description for my guide about 301 redirects with the first couple sentences of my content:

Meta Description Rewritten

14. Is your meta description click worthy?

Like your title, you should try to make your meta description as clickworthy as possible.

Here’s a helpful guide.

15. Is your primary keyword in the URL?

In my experience, pages that have the primary keyword in the URL tend to perform better. Google also claims that having your keyword in the URL is very small ranking factor.

16. Is your URL structure lean?

There’s some evidence that shorter URLs perform better, but it’s likely a small factor.

URL length SEO

Source

The main reason for shortening your URLs is for UX. That’s because long URLs are hard to remember and difficult to share.

With that said, there really are no benefits of having long URLs. So, cut all the fat off your URLs and leave only your target keyword phrases.

17. Is your primary keyword in the first sentence?

It’s extremely challenging to test micro on-page SEO factors such as placing your keyword phrase in the first sentence, but it’s something I’ve always personally done.

Keyword in First Sentence

To me, if you want Google’s algorithms to truly understand what your page is about, then you need to make it abundantly clear. Naturally placing your target keyword phrase in the first sentence is a perfect way to achieve that goal.

18. Is your keyword density too aggressive relative to your competitors?

Many argue that you shouldn’t pay attention to keyword density. I agree for the most part.

You should write your content in the most natural way possible and the density should work its way out.

However, it doesn’t hurt to check the competition to identify the average keyword density for your target keyword phrase.

Just use this tool to gather the keyword density for each competitor and then average it out.

Keyword Density

Then just compare your current density to that average. If you’re creating an entirely new page, then create the content first and then adjust.

Just keep in mind:

Keyword placement is way more important than density.

19. Have you added variations of your primary keyword into the copy?

It’s smart to structure your pages around one primary keyword. However, you should also try to rank that page for all the closely-related variations as well.

One of my favorite ways to find these variations is to use Ahrefs Keyword Explorer.

Just enter your primary keyword phrase and then click on “Also rank for”:

Also rank for Ahrefs

20. Have you added synonyms (LSI keywords) of your primary keyword into the copy?

Google’s Hummingbird algorithm is designed to rank pages based on themes, not just keywords. While it’s important to structure your page around your primary keyword, you also need to interweave other relevant synonyms and topics around it.

If you examine my “backlinks” guide, you’ll see this in action. Every single section on that page was deliberate.

Content Topics

I simply pulled all the ideas from Answer the Public and other keyword tools. In short, your page should be answering every question and solving every problem around your target keyword phase.

Answer the Public Content Ideas

Just be careful not to intermingle different intents. For example, that’s why I created a separate page for keyword phrase “buy backlinks” instead of just placing that section in my guide.

My backlinks guide has Informational intent, while “buy backlinks” has Transaction intent.

Content

21. Is your page different & better than your competitors?

Unique is better than long. Every page on your website (that you want to rank) needs to bring something new and fresh to the table.

Always approach your content from the angle of “How are we going to make this page different than what currently exists (while adding more value)?”

This is much easier when you’re competing for Informational queries.

But how do you make your page unique when you’re competing for Transactional queries like “Los Angeles criminal lawyer”?

First, you need to:

Leverage the content that is unique to your brand.

That’s going to be testimonials, case studies, and results. That should be the focal point of every effective local page because you’re trying to persuade searchers to become a lead. You achieve that by having overwhelming social proof and establishing your brand’s authority.

Second:

Your page’s UX/UI needs to be better than your competitors.

Fortunately, on the local level, most businesses aren’t willing to invest in design. That means there’s a strategic advantage if you do.

The other big factor that most local businesses ignore is UX.

Pages targeting transactional queries should be built for conversions (goal completions). That means forms should be above the fold and CTAs should be prominent.

Thirdly, most local businesses aren’t willing to invest time or money into video production, graphic design, or quality photography.

You should invest in multimedia if you’re serious about ranking.

I’ve personally invested $22,433 in just video editing alone. It’s worth it.

Video Editing Cost

My last recommendation is to educate.
  • Can you add an FAQ to the page that makes a searcher more likely to become a lead?
  • Can you give them accurate, unbiased educational information that will help them make an informed decision?

Helping searchers and adding value builds goodwill, which builds trust for your brand. Trust is the key to high conversions.

22. Is your copy free of spelling and grammatical errors?

Use tools like Grammarly to find spelling and grammatical errors. Google isn’t fond of spelling and grammatical errors based on what they said in their Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines:

Grammar and Spelling Search Quality

It also wouldn’t hurt to hire a proofreader or editor to go through your pages.

23. Is your copy longer (on average) than your competitors?

There’s some correlation that pages with more words tend to perform better than Google.

Length of Content

Source

It’s just really important not to take this out of context. Your copy needs to be well-crafted and thought out. Writing several thousands words of fluff content won’t do much.

As I mentioned in the previous check, your page/copy needs to be radically different than your competitors. Not just longer.

Use this tool or Screaming Frog to see how long your competitor’s content is.

24. Is your copy written well?

Some SEOs forget that not all writing is created equally. Just because you wrote 2,000 words doesn’t mean it’s good. Writing is a skill and some people are further along than others.

You really only have two options:
  1. Spend thousands of hours writing and reading to improve your ability.
  2. Hire someone who already has the skill.

If you aren’t a great writer, but don’t have the budget to hire, then write the content and have an editor go through to improve it.

25. Is your copy scannable?

Internet users scan before they read. That’s why your content needs to use all the methods available to improve the scanability of your page.

This is particularly important for text-heavy pages like blog posts/articles.

You’ll need to use your best judgement to give this check a pass or fail, but here’s a simple two step process.

  1. First, scan your target page that you want to optimize.
  2. Then, asses whether or not a reader can get an understanding of what the page is about without reading the entire thing.

26. Is your copy written for an 8th grader?

There are target markets that warrant advanced writing and content, but they are the minority.

Your content should be written to be understood and actionable.

If someone can’t understand what you’re talking about or how to implement what you’re suggesting then there’s a problem.

Some experts forget that no one cares how much you know or how much experience you have. It’s believed that we as humans are inherently self-interested. WE want to know how you are going to help US.

That’s why crafting your content so that it reads at an 8th grade level or below is so effective. It makes your content easier to understand, easier to take action on, and makes you more relatable.

Hemingway Writer

You can use Hemingway Writer to make your content easier to understand. More importantly, study the best direct response copywriters of all time like David Oglivy, Dan Kennedy, or Frank Kern and you’ll see that simple writing wins.

27. Is your copy engaging?

Writing at an 8th grade level or lower is the first step to writing engaging copy. The second step is to actually be engaging when you write.

People need to consume your content before they take action.

That’s why all of these tactics in this copywriting sections are so important.

From an SEO perspective, if searchers are engaging and digesting your content, that is a positive signal for your page. It will increase dwell time and if you’ve done a good job, the searcher may complete another action such as sharing your page, visiting another page, subscribing to your list, becoming a lead, or even purchasing one of your products.

Now the question is:

How do you make your copy more engaging?
  1. First, write to one reader by using pronouns such as “you” and “yours”.
  2. Second, interweave relevant stories to illustrate points.
  3. Lastly, actually know what you’re talking about. While it’s easy to fake expertise online, most readers sniff out BS.

28. Does your copy use short paragraphs?

Long paragraphs are like kryptonite for Internet users. Massive blocks of text are one of the most repelling things you’ll encounter online.

Keep your paragraphs short and scannable.

I wouldn’t go beyond three sentences per paragraph.

I know this isn’t what your English teacher taught you, but they’ve likely never sold anything on the Internet.

29. Are your headings structured logically?

Using logical page structure won’t have a profound effect on your performance, but it’s still a good practice.

Heading Structure HTML

Every page should have an H1 tag and then you follow it with H2, H3, H4, etc.

30. Is your copy using descriptive headings?

I learned the concept of descriptive headings from Frank Kern. In short, a reader should be able to scan your headings and understand what the content is about. Kern refers to this as “headings that tell a story”.

Frank Kern Page Structure

He also mentions that readers almost always scan content before they commit to reading the entire thing. That’s why descriptive headings are so important.

31. Have you used keyword variations, LSIs, or synonyms in your headings?

Your H1 tag can be similar to your title tag, but your other headings should include variations of your primary keyword, LSIs, and synonyms.

Answer the Public is perfect for this.

32. Is your copy using bullet points and numbered lists?

Use bullet points and numbered lists as frequently as you can.

Bullet Points

This will break up your content and make it easier for readers to “commit” to digesting it.

33. Is your copy “fresh”?

You should review your copy at least biannually or annually to make sure it’s still accurate. Keeping your content accurate and current is critical for pleasing Google’s algorithms.

This concept is mentioned countless times in Google’s Search Engine Evaluator Guidelines.

Outdated Content SEO

There’s also a better ROI when you improving existing assets as opposed to creating new assets.

Images

34. Does your page have as many or more images than your competitors?

Unique images make your page more interesting and engaging. You should aim to have at least many unique images as your competitors or more.

35. Are your images unique to your website?

Like writing, not all images are created equally. Always strive to have UNIQUE images and graphics on your page.

This may require hiring a graphic designer or photographer, but it’s a worthwhile investment because it will improve the quality/appeal of your page.

Plus, it’ll improve your brand’s perception if you put in that extra effort.

36. Are your images high-quality?

Getting unique images is the first step. The second step is making sure they’re actually good.

Hire a professional to take pictures or create graphics.

Businesses love to cut corners to “save money”, but in the long-run, it doesn’t actually save you money because low-quality pictures/graphics hurt your brand’s perception.

37. Are you using the right image format?

Deciding between PNG, JPEG, or GIF won’t have a massive effect on SEO performance, but it can help with page loading speed.

PNG is the highest quality out of the three. That means it will likely take the longest to fully load. I recommend reading this guide to get a better understanding of these files types.

Don’t worry, it’s not a life or death decision.

Default to PNG and JPEG because they’re the most common.

38. Are your images sized appropriately?

Your images should be sized and uploaded as the size they’ll appear as on your page. This prevents image downsizing, which will help improve your page’s loading speed.

39. Are your images compressed?

Using high-quality images is super important, but you also need to make sure they’re optimizing for loading speed.

Images are often one of the biggest culprits of slowing loading pages. Compressing your images is the key to preventing this issue.

Compressing Image

Tools like OptimizeZilla are perfect because it will show you the image compression side-by-side. That way you don’t jeopardize image quality, but you’re also optimizing for loading speed.

40. Do your images have descriptive file names?

Google recommends using descriptive file names for images.

What does that mean?

It means you should save your images based on the contents of the image.

For example, if your picture is of a 12-week old male great pyrenees, then your file name should be: https://www.website.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/12-week-male-great-pyrenees.png

This will help with your image search performance. Just don’t go overboard and keyword stuff your files.

41. Do all of your images have descriptive and accurate tag descriptions?

Google’s spider’s use ALT tags to understand what an image is about.

ALT Tag Example

You should always use descriptive ALT tags for every image on your page.

Video

42. Does your page have video content?

Video is one of the preferred mediums of content consumption online. It’s also one of the best ways to engage searchers and keep them on your page for longer, which is a positive user signal.

I highly recommend investing in video even if your competitors aren’t.

43. Are the videos relevant to page/primary keyword?

Like your images and copy, the video needs to be hyper relevant to the page’s content.

44. Are the videos unique to your brand?

Yes, you can go to YouTube and embed any video on your page, but this isn’t the best long-term strategy. You should be creating your own unique videos because it’s a great way to improve your brand’s perception.

It’s also another way to grow your brand’s presence on the second biggest search engine, YouTube.

45. Are the videos high-quality and valuable?

Video content is incredibly effective on many different fronts when it’s high-quality and valuable. Your aim should be to create the best video content you can.

But there’s a challenge:

You need to be decently engaging and articulate when that camera turns on. This takes time and practice.

So, either you need to put in the hours to become more engaging or you need a team member who can represent your brand on video.

I won’t get too deep into creating video because it’s outside the scope of this guide, but one huge recommendation I have is to script out your content.

46. Is the video content responsive?

Your video should be easily viewable on all devices. YouTube, Vimeo, and Wistia videos are designed to be responsive, but sometimes custom-built websites can cause problems.

Use this tool to test your video responsiveness. If your video isn’t responsive, you’ll need to optimize your design. In the meantime, you can use this tool to make the videos responsive.

47. Are the videos hosted on the right platform?

Deciding where to host your videos is important from both an SEO and business perspective.

From an SEO perspective, YouTube is king because it’s the biggest video search engine by far. That’s why hosting your videos on YouTube and then embedding them on your keyword-targeted page can have a duel effect.

Meaning, you can rank in both Google and YouTube to drive maximum visibility. But if you have no interest in building a YouTube channel, then you can host your videos anywhere and still get all the benefits.

48. Are the videos optimized?

Your video’s title should match the keyword your page is targeting. For example, my anchor text guide features a video about “anchor text”.

Relevant Video

Links

49. Does your page have internal links?

Internal links are a powerful way to build your site’s authority, improve your site’s crawability and indexability, and help you rank other important pages on your site.

50. Are your internal links using descriptive anchor text?

Unlike external links, your internal links SHOULD use keyword-rich anchor text.

Internal Link Example

One thing I love to do is run my competitors through Screaming Frog SEO Spider to get an idea of their internal link anchor profile.

51. Are your internal links optimized based on first link priority?

The big factor you need to keep in mind is first link priority. This mean that Google’s algorithm likely only “counts” the first link/anchor text on a page.

That’s the main reason why I typically avoid placing pages I’m trying to rank in the navigation.

52. Does the page have breadcrumbs?

Breadcrumbs are useful for large or e-com websites. You just need to keep in mind the first link priority principle.

Internal Links Breadcrumbs

Especially if you’re trying to rank your category pages.

53. Are you internal links useful?

Injecting internal links for the sole purpose of ranking isn’t a great idea.

Remember that goal of your page is to please the user.

Every internal link should serve a purpose or help the user in some way. In general, as long as you’re linking to relevant and valuable pages, then you’ll be good to go.

54. Are all your internal links using preferred URLs?

Moving to new domains, changing URLs or installing SSL certificates can cause URLs to change. The end result is a redirect chain.

Redirect Chain

Redirect chains force link equity to pass through a buffer and may actually slow your page’s speed if there are excessive redirects.

Fix Redirect Chains

You should audit your internal links to make sure they’re using your preferred URLs.

55. Does your page have external links?

Linking out to relevant and trusted resources builds the trust of your page.

56. Are all affiliate, sponsored, or paid links using a “NoFollow” tag?

Google states in its webmaster guidelines that all paid links should have the NoFollow tag. A NoFollow tag is suppose to prevent PageRank from flowing through the link.

57. Do all your external links set to open in a new window?

Your goal should be to keep users on your site as long as possible. That’s why you should make sure all external links open in a new window.

Open External Links in New Window

I know this is a minor issue, but you wouldn’t believe how often I find it in audits.

58. Does your page have broken links?

Broken links hurt user experience and need to be tackled on a frequent basis. You should audit your page and site every quarter to identify and fix broken links.

Screaming Frog SEO Spider is my favorite tool for accomplishing this goal.

Just click on “Response Codes”, then click the filter dropdown select “Client (4xx)”, and click “Inlinks” to find all your broken links.

Find broken links Screaming Frog

59. Are all your links clearly links?

Sometimes web design and UX can clash. Deciding how to style links is often one of those challenging. I’m in the camp that links should always be underline and should be a different color than the body text.

Hyperlink example

Links are meant to be clicked on.

User Experience (UX)

60. Does your page load in less than 3 seconds?

Page speed is the one of the most important UX factors. Not only can improving your page’s loading speed help SEO performance, but it’s also a good business initiative.

I recommend using both Pingdom and GTMetrix to optimize your website loading speed.

61. Is your page responsive and mobile friendly?

The majority of all web searches will be conducted on mobile devices in the near future. That’s why there’s no debate that your website needs to be mobile friendly.

Test your page using this tool to make sure the experience is optimal on all devices.

62. Does your website have an SSL certificate installed?

Google stated a few years ago that SSL certificates would be a part of their algorithm and would be ranking factor. Also, Google Chrome now labels websites with the dreaded “Not Secure” label.

Not Secure

This is a big deterrent for users and having this label could hurt your both your search engine performance and business.

Installing an SSL certificate is a site-wide initiate, but it’s a good idea to make sure your target page is properly secured.

Use this tool to test your page’s security and SSL certificate installation.

SSL Certificate Test

63. Is your font type legible and easy to read on all devices?

This is a given, but your font type should be easy to read. Some of the easiest fonts to read are Open Sans, Montserrat, and Playfair Display.

“Although many books define the purpose of typography as enhancing the readability of the written word, one of design’s most humane functions is, in actuality, to help readers avoid reading.” ~ Ellen Lupton

64. Is your font size large enough to easily read on all devices?

Having large, readable font is super important on mobile. Users shouldn’t have to pinch to zoom to read your text.

Check this guide out to learn more about optimizing font sizes as well.

65. Does your page use aggressive interstitials?

Google has stated that their algorithm will demote pages with aggressive interstitial pop ups.

Interstitial Example

I don’t blame them because they’re pretty annoying.

If you’re going to use them, then only load them when a user visits a second or third page on your website. I would avoid loading them on mobile altogether though (unless it’s a slide-down or slide up that can be easily closed).

66. Does your page have aggressive ad placements?

One element that Google’s Panda original algorithm targeted was aggressive ad placements coupled with thin content. Some businesses livelihood depends on ad revenue, but some take it too far.

Aggressive Ad Placements

If you want to continue performing well in Google, then you need to think about the user first.

Does jamming ads in their face help them achieve a goal or solve a problem that they were searching for? Every SEO-driven page should be built to serve the user first. Get that part squared away and then think about how to place ads in a way that doesn’t disrupt the user’s experience.

Local

67. Is your address prominently displayed?

If you’re trying to rank your page in the local pack, then your address needs to be displayed. It doesn’t need to be above the fold, but it should at least be in the body of the content or in the footer.

NAP

Just be careful with placing the address in the footer if you have multiple locations. That’s because most footers will be displayed site-wide, which means your address will be displayed on every page.

This isn’t an issue if you have one location. However, if you have multiple locations, then you should only display the address one the relevant location page.

Structured Data

68. Is your address using structured data?

Google claims that structured data isn’t a part of their algorithm. Whether that’s true is tough to say. But I believe implementing structured data correctly can only have a positive impact on your page’s performance.

Local Schema

At the very minimum, wrap your address with structured data to help Google’s algorithm better understand your page and business.

69. Is your page using structured data?

Local businesses will likely benefit from using structured data, but it has so many other uses as well. The good news is that many Content Management Systems (CMS) have structured data built-in and it will do basic markup.

This Schema plugin works perfectly for WordPress.

70. Is the structured data set up correctly?

You to make sure your structured data is setup correctly once you’ve implemented it.

Structured Markup Issues

The best tool to use is Google’s Structured Data Testing tool.

YMYL & E-A-T

71. Are you giving health, financial or legal advice?

Many believe Google’s algorithm update on August 1, 2018 (the “Medic” update) targeted “Your Money, Your Life” (YMYL) types of websites and pages.

In short, any websites offering health, financial, or legal advice will be under greater scrutiny going forward.

The main reason is because incorrect, unproven, or inaccurate information in these spaces can actually hurt a person.

Google only wants to rank pages that have accurate information in their search engine. This is incredibly apparent based on how they score pages in their Search Engine Rater’s guidelines. With that said, make sure your page’s content is accurate (no matter what niche you’re in).

72. Does your page have the appropriate disclaimers?

All health, financial, and legal advice should be accompanied by appropriate disclaimers. This not only protects your business, but it’s also a signal of trust for your page.

73. Does your page list and link to all sources of information?

Plagiarism can get you kicked out of college. However, on the Internet, anyone can steal, copy, and distribute your content and ideas. Sure, it sucks, but you don’t need to be like the scum of the Internet.

Instead, when you get information from another page (that you didn’t previously have knowledge of), you should link to that page.

First, it’s ethical and a common courtesy to do so. Lastly, it makes your page far more trustworthy (both for users and search engines).

74. Does your blog content have a visible author?

Every informational page like blog posts should have a visible author.

Author

Hiding your identity was a common practice back in the early blogging days (Ramsay Taplin). But these days it will probably hurt more than help when it comes to your SEO performance.

75. Is the author credible and qualified to write about the topic?

E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) has been a big topic since the August 1st Google update.

Some debate whether it’s a ranking factor or not. Debating is fun (and usually a waste of time), but I don’t think it matters either way.

A qualified person should be writing your content. This policy can only benefit your business and SEO performance.

Think about it:

What page is more valuable?
  • Page A, which is written by someone who has years of experience in X industry.
  • Or, Page B, which was written by some jack-of-all-trades-writer you hired off UpWork.

It makes logical sense that Google is going to value content written by someone who has the qualifications to write about whatever topic it is.

76. Does every blog post have a detailed author box/bio?

I believe every blog post should have an author box (or something similar) and detailed bio of the author.

Author Box

The bio should explain why the author is qualified to write about the topic.

77. Does each author have a dedicated and detailed author page?

This isn’t entirely necessary, but I think it’s worth the effort. It just adds another level of trust to your content.

Author Page

The author bio at the bottom of each post is a short description of the writer’s qualifications, but the author page is a more detailed description along with links to social media profiles and other articles.

Goal Completions

78. Does the page have a clear call-to-action (CTA)?

Some believe that Google puts weight onto goal completions. A “goal completion” is the action that the user is supposed to take your page. This will largely depend on the intent of the target keyword phrase.

CTA

For example, if your page ranks for “St Louis personal injury lawyer”, two appropriate goal completions would be contact form submissions and phone calls. It’s probably very hard for Google to get this data, but it’s a good business objective.

Every page on your website should have a Call-to-Action (CTA).

As I mentioned, your CTA will depend on the intent of the target keyword. If it’s a product page, then your CTA will be sales-driven. If it’s Top of the Funnel (ToFu), informational content, then your CTA may be as simple as asking the user to share your page or leave a blog comment.

79. Is the page shareable?

Social media sharing buttons should be prominently displayed on informational content because it’s more likely to be shared (if it’s good).

Sumome Share

Make it as easy as possible for the user to share your content.

I personally use SumoMe for most of my websites, but there are many other good options out there.

Design & User Interface (UI)

80. Is the website design modern and updated?

Some websites need serious facelifts. It’s a good investment to continually upgrade your site’s design to keep it modern. Striking a balance between design and UX is critical from an SEO perspective. Take it seriously!

That’s All!

Phew… that was a lot to think about and write. I hope this on-page SEO checklist helped you learn how optimize your pages better so both your users and Google loves them.

Have some questions? Leave a comment below because I respond to every single one.

If you got value from this checklist, would you mind sharing it with your colleagues? I would be so grateful. Thanks for reading!

SEO 101 Course

About the Author

Author
Nathan Gotch

Nathan Gotch is the founder and SEO director at Gotch SEO. Listen in to our new podcast, The SEO Life or watch some of our actionable SEO training videos on YouTube!

Comments

  1. WOW! Even though I have spent many many hours reading and implementing best practices for on-page SEO, I still found a few things here that did not know. Thank you so much Nathan for sharing your expertise/experience with us in this excellent how-to guide.

  2. Hi Gotch,

    Thanks for you great blog post! I’ve learnt alot about Onpage SEO from your content. You taught me to optimize my website for people, instead of robots.

    I totally agree with you about website speed when it comes to Onpage SEO. It’s one of Google ranking factors. I’m running a Magento e-commerce website and speed takes an important role for UX. Loe speed website = people don’t like = no sales = no conversion = Fail. Is it true?

    So, i can add some useful information for your blog post about speed optimization in Magento. I’m using an extension for Magento called Full Page Cache by BSSCommerce. If WordPress has W3 Total Cache, Magento has Full Page Cache, too. They’re must-use cache tools.

  3. I read many articles on SEO strategies but most of the articles mention theories only. It becomes difficult to understand or predict the actual problem or problem solving technique only from theory points. But Nathan explained all his articles with examples which he faced in his experience. These examples really clarifies all doubts and gives a apparent idea regarding SEO. Thanks Nathan to reveal such a experienced knowledge.

  4. This article is very good! one of my questions, why the category and tags do not need to be indexed? there were found only tag that does not need to be indexed and the categories to be indexed?

      1. Hi Nathan, interesting read – pleased to say I reckon my on page is pretty good 🙂
        I’m still in 2 minds about the duplicate content issue on wordpress category pages (though definitely noindex tags!). I think category pages are of great use for visitors, bringing together useful info. I have some category pages on my site that are indexed, rank well, bring in visitors, have page rank and authority, despite a number of online tools warning me about duplicate content. I do try and have 300-400 words at the top of each category page, so I guess that must be helping reduce the duplication issue. Being in the travel niche, I know most of my competitors also have category pages bringing together trips and tours to various destinations, so perhaps it’s just a case of us all having some kind of duplication. Now, if I was starting over I would noindex them from the start but I’m reluctant to remove them from the index now. I guess the best way to have a category page now is to manually produce one and get that indexed and ranked.
        Right, I’m off to read the rest of your site!

  5. A lot of information here, Nathan!
    Every blogger should keep this in mind when creating new content.

    Apart of on-page SEO, we also need to consider off-page SEO.
    Google still loves links! 😉

    Thanks for sharing, Nathan.
    Have an awesome week.

  6. Good post – with certain clients it’s especially important to find some easy wins like this to really get the ball rolling and show some results without a lot of effort. It can pave the way for getting the more difficult but certainly no less important changes implemented.

  7. hello once again nathan 🙂 i have a question regarding duplicate pages
    i recently installed SSL and now my urls are in https and i think it was a successful installation and redirection since i am redirected to https anyway my question is this

    google serp already index my website and the title is “ArnoldTheMighty.Com – I am the chosen one not you”

    when i have my SSL installed i decided to use different slogan so my title now is “ArnoldTheMighty.Com – I am not just a random guy”

    after a few weeks google index my https website but the http version is still there now im getting duplicate home 2 different version http and https do you think its ok and not worry about that?

    i also have 2 other pages that is index and signal a duplicate since they are the same but having different http and https 🙁

    thanks
    arnold

  8. Hey Gotch, thanks for another great article. I do have a question. It’s on duplicate content. Most of my articles are unique (or so I thought lol) I either wrote them or had someone write and i fixed. I plugged my site into siteliner tool u posted. For what it would scan my site is coming up %5 duplicate content. Also, my blog page where my last five posts are going coming up %55 duplicate content. Then I clicked on it to see what the tool stated as duplicate. I’m sure it’s the headlines, some content but very little, tags at bottom but it’s also highlighting all my links to social media at bottom etc. For the headlines and tags I’m basically reengineering what someone else is doing on the internet to rank for keywords in my niche. So my headlines are kind of the same but not exact. Does that make a difference in Google’s eyes if Headlines are close. I know when something happens in the news or people in the same niche ranking for similar keywords most are posting same type of headlines etc. My articles are getting indexed and some are on page 2 and 3 and I haven’t really started building links to them yet. That’s basically on page that’s ranking them a bit. But after reading this article and plugging in to your tool I don’t want to do all this work then I have problems down the road. Do you have any suggestions?

    Also on H1 and H2 I see you only put H1 one or two times. How many H2 and H3’s do you suggest? I usually put 1 or 2 H1 and 4 or 5 H2.

    Thanks, and I am really looking forward to hearing back.

    1. Hey Jimmy,

      Thanks for the comment. I wouldn’t stress too much about title similarities. Duplicate content only becomes an issue when entire pages are duplicates. Not only a few words.

      1. Thanks for quick reply. Was stressing a bit about that because of my last ten articles posted. Do you pay much attention to google sandbox? I have never been there but I plugged in my site today and it is saying it’s possible I’m in the sandbox. I check webmaster tools and few other things doesn’t seem to be a problem any place else. Thanks.

  9. Completely agree with you on this. On-page seo is not limited to the old school stuff. It’s about how good and valuable content you give to your readers. Today readers for more intelligent and look for content that are new, good and more detailed. The power of social media has thus enhanced the use of valuable content for good seo signal.

  10. Hey Nathan,
    Great article. Full of amazing advice I’m implementing on my own website. I have a blog on my website. On the blog page it shows snippets of the blog articles. When I put my website into Siteliner it tells me that this is duplicate content. Should I be telling the Meta Robots that this is a No follow page to avoid duplicate content?

    Thanks!

  11. Great article.
    You mention IMG extensions. Are keywords in the IMG URL considered part of the density (i.e. should they be included in the 1-3%)?

  12. Hello.
    You say that all content should be unique, but what about Terms and Privacy? I see many sites in top10 have not unique content here. Also I hear that Google allow not unique content for this pages. I not sure that this is true but looks like this is controversial moment. What your opinion about unique content for Terms, Privacy pages?

    1. Hey Den,

      Thanks for the comment. Terms of service and other necessary pages don’t need unique content. In fact, noindexing those types of pages is a good idea

  13. Hi Nathan,Thanks for the great tips! I’m new to online marketing, and this is really helpful! Since getting started, I’ve been bombarded by “spin writers” and such to create a TON of content quickly, but you seem to say that these search engines have become sophisticated enough to determine when your content is crap. Am I understanding that right?

  14. Clearly structured article on how to reach success in SEO. Performing all points is possible to achieve the top – this isn’t magic, just a hard work. I like using LSI words that you describe in point 20 to get new ideas for content. Usually, I use K-meta tool for this.
    Thank you for such a great article!

  15. Nathan, your content is just amazing!! I’m from Brazil and I’m SEO Consultant and I constantly come here to see what’s new. By the way… I bought your Audit SEO Template (unfortunately I couldn’t find the link to share) It’s totally worthy!! Thanks

  16. This is truly a well researched and written article, Nathan. I learned a tonne of things from your article. Thank you so much for such an informative article. Knowing what I now know from this gold mine of an article I will certainly do my SEO on my site with more confidence. Keep up the good work.

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