Google’s ranking algorithm is continually evolving, how do you get it right with your on-page SEO strategy?
- On-page SEO is the process of optimizing your web pages and content for search engine crawlers
- It involves a lot of moving parts, so it’s easy to forget some elements or tweak them incorrectly
- This quick checklist will help you keep all the various on-page SEO elements on track
On-page SEO is basically a set of techniques and best practices for your web pages to make them more search-engine friendly and thus, boost your rankings.
Now, as you know, keywords are at the heart of nearly everything on-page SEO. But on-page optimization involves a lot of elements — not just keywords — so it’s easy to overlook some of them.
To make it easy for you to ensure all your pages are correctly optimized for the best possible rankings, here’s a handy checklist to tick off.
Review the URLs of all pages on your site to ensure they’re concise rather than long and complex. Shorter URLs tend to have better click-through rates and are more easily understood by search engine crawlers.
Include your page’s primary keyword in the URL, remove filler (aka stop) words like “the”, “for”, and “to”, and keep it under 60 characters.
Your website is likely brimming with images, and that’s a good thing as images contribute significantly to improving both user experience and rankings. They make your content more easy-to-consume, engaging, and memorable, and when optimized correctly, help you drive more traffic to your website.
To optimize your images for on-page SEO, here are a couple of things to ensure:
Image filename and alt text
Google bots can’t “see” images like humans. They need accompanying text to understand what the image is about. So, write a descriptive filename (“blue-running-shoes.jpg” instead of “82596173.jpg”) and alt text (which helps in case the image fails to load for some reason) for every image on your site, including keywords in both.
Alt text also helps make your website more accessible, as screen readers use the alt text to describe images to visually-challenged users. In fact, it’s prudent to test your website’s accessibility to ensure you don’t ever have to cough up big bucks for ADA lawsuit settlements.
Image file size
Page speed is a major ranking signal for both desktop and mobile searches, and bulky images slow down your site’s load speed. So make sure to compress all images to reduce their size — ideally under 70 kb.
Titles and meta descriptions
See to it that you’ve included your main keywords in the front of the title tags of all pages. Ensure the length of your title tags is under 60-65 characters and no longer than 70 characters, otherwise, it may get truncated in the SERPs.
Also, the title should be the only element wrapped in the H1 heading tag. In other words, only one H1 tag per page that’s reserved for the title.
For meta descriptions, just ensure you have written a keyword-rich and inviting meta description that is relevant to your user’s search intent. Keep it under 160 characters for all your pages. If you don’t, Google will pick some relevant text from the page and display it as the meta description in the SERP, which isn’t ideal for SEO.
Page load speed
Speed is a major ranking factor you just can’t afford to overlook. If your pages take anything over two to three seconds to load, your visitors will bounce to a competitor, and achieving first page rankings will remain a dream.
Thus, verify that:
- Code is optimized with minified CSS and JS
- There are no unnecessary redirects
- You have compressed all images
- You’ve enabled file compression and browser caching
- Server response time is optimal
Regularly review your site speed using PageSpeed Insights to find out the exact areas that can be improved.
Links – internal and external
Ensure you have a proper linking strategy that you always follow. Both internal and external links play a role in your on-page SEO.
Citing external sources and having outbound links is crucial for building credibility in the eyes of both Google crawlers and human visitors. However, make sure that you’re only linking back to high-quality websites and reliable sources.
Plus, ensure there are no broken (“404 not found”) links, as they hurt SEO and user experience. In case you may have a lot of site pages, it is best advised to create an engaging and easy-to-navigate 404 error page. This will help you retain site visitors and help them find relevant content/actions.
Make sure to strategically interlink pages and content on your website. This helps crawlers to better understand and rank your content for the right keywords.
Internal linking also helps to guide visitors to relevant pages and keep them engaged.
All your blog posts and website copy play a pivotal role in on-page optimization. Besides ensuring your target keywords are sprinkled judiciously and naturally throughout your content title, URL, subheadings, and paras. Here are a couple of things to get right.
Structure and readability
Verify the structure of content on all pages. Make sure you’ve used keyword-optimized headings and subheadings – H1, H2, H3, and so on, to build a logical hierarchy, which improves the readability and crawlability of your content.
Studies suggest that longer, in-depth posts perform better than shorter ones when it comes to Google rankings. So, strive to have a word count of 2,000+ words in every piece of content.
Comprehensive, long-form content will also serve your audience better as it likely answers all their questions about the topic so they don’t have to look for more reading resources.
Over to you
With each new update to its core algorithm, Google is fast shifting its focus on rewarding websites with the best user experience.
But nailing your on-page optimization which ties closely with UX will continue to help you achieve top rankings and stay there. And so, keep this checklist handy as you work on your SEO in 2021 and beyond.