If you want to dominate the search rankings for terms relevant to your niche, you’ll need to learn how to master on-page SEO and off-page SEO. These two fields are like the Yin and Yang of search rankings. If you can master both of them, you’ll be unbeatable in the search results.
This guide will break down the fundamentals of on-page SEO. I’ll discuss why on-page SEO is important and the different things you’ll need to master. Finally, I’ll share a comprehensive on-page SEO checklist you can apply to improve your search rankings.
What is On-Page SEO?
On-page SEO refers to everything you do on your website to improve your search results. Fundamentally, it covers two things. Firstly, you need to ensure that your content is relevant to the search terms you are targeting. Secondly, it covers everything you can do to optimize the user experience when they are on your site.
Image Credit – Mangools
You can do a diverse range of things to optimize both the content and the user experience. Carrying out effective on-page SEO means that you will have to optimize aspects like page headlines, HTML tags, images, and written content.
Why is On-Page SEO Important?
Search engines are just a channel for funneling people to relevant websites that can fill their needs. People use a search engine because they have a need. They might want an answer to a question or want to buy a product or service.
Companies like Google are very good at servicing providing relevant results to their users. Their ability to provide the best organic results is key to the success of their business model.
As a website owner, or someone involved in managing a website, you need to ensure that your content, and website, provide a great experience for people who use a search engine like Google. Your ability to do this will help you dominate the search rankings. The following on-page SEO checklist will break down the important elements of on-page SEO.
The Comprehensive On-Page SEO Checklist
SEO is a procedural endeavor. You have to take a thorough, step-by-step approach. As such, I have compiled an SEO checklist to follow for every new piece of content you produce. Make sure you tick off each step before you hit publish.
Choose Primary and Secondary Keywords
Assuming you want your content to rank on Google, the first thing you need to do when creating a new piece of content is to consider what keyword to target. You need to pick search terms that people are using. I recommend using a tool like Keywords Everywhere, a Google Chrome extension, for the initial keyword research.
You can use Keywords Everywhere to see search result volumes in your browser. It’s a handy tool for checking search volumes.
When coming up with your keyword ideas, consider what your audience would find interesting. For example, if your audience includes non-tech-savvy individuals looking for general internet usage tips, an article on how to create a new Gmail account would be highly relevant.
You can use various SEO tools to estimate how many clicks a piece of content gets each month for your keyword. At Voila Norbert, we use Ahrefs for this type of advanced keyword research.
Here’s an example using the search term “on-page SEO guide.”
The great thing about a tool like Ahrefs is that it also provides you with an estimate of how many backlinks you’d need to get your content on the search results’ first page.
Pro tip: target high-volume, low-competition keywords (those with 1000+ searches per month and a competition score closer to 0 than 1). It’s relatively easy to rank for such terms.
Create Your Article Outline
When you’re done with keyword research, the next step is to create an outline for your content. You need to create an outline that aligns with search intent.
The easiest way to see what people are looking for is to review the content at the top of the search results. Check the first five results that appear on Google. Read the content and pay attention to the layout and the headings.
There are some great free tools you can use to get basic information about an article. One of my favorite tools is a Chrome extension called Detailed. The Detailed extension shows you information like the headings used in the article, word count, and other facts.
The tool provides a lot of valuable insights for pulling together a content brief.
A review of the search results is a great way to learn more about what people searching for your target keyword find interesting. After all, if the content didn’t offer any value, it wouldn’t be at the top of the search results.
Make sure that your content brief has:
- The headings for the content
- Questions that you need to answer
- An estimated word count
At the end of this exercise, you should have a brief for a piece of content that is as good as if not superior to the ranking content. When you have your brief, it’s time to start writing.
Start Writing Your Content
Creating your content is one of the most important parts of the whole creation process. You should create content that will engage your audience. I’m not going to share writing tips in this on-page SEO checklist.
Rather, what I want to discuss is how to optimize your content for search engines.
Google and other search engines use natural language processing to analyze your content. That analysis, which considers search intent, helps the algorithm decide where that content should rank in the search results. It’s a complex topic that is difficult to understand.
There are some great tools to help you write SEO optimized content. Examples of such tools include Surfer SEO, Clearscope, and Frase.
The tools I listed above all work in much the same way. They review the content that is ranking for a keyword, identify the important words and phrases, and then provide you suggestions regarding suggested keyword density, Flesch reading score, and other factors.
Essentially, they are fancy versions of Yoast, an SEO plugin you’ll no doubt be familiar with if you use WordPress. Below is a screenshot of the user interface for Frase.
Most of the large publications, especially in the marketing niche, already use these tools. For example, I know that the editorial teams at G2 and BigCommerce are using Clearscope. To remain competitive, I strongly recommend you copy them.
Optimize Your Images For SEO
The first thing you need to do with your images is to make the image size smaller. Reducing the image size will improve your page load speeds. Different image formats suit specific purposes. JPEG is great for pictures with lots of colors, such as photographs, while PNG is best for uncomplicated images such as simple logos.
Google’s crawlers cannot “see” an image like a human. Instead of an image, the crawler sees lines of code. You can right-click on an image, and click “inspect” to see what a crawler views if you’re ever interested.
You should take steps to optimize images for search results.
Add image titles, captions, and alt tags. Alt tags are snippets of text that describe an image’s content and should contain your chosen keywords. For example, let’s imagine your chosen keyphrase for a piece of content was “blue dress.” Your alt text for an image might read something like “a smiling young woman wearing a blue dress.” These descriptions help Google paint a better idea of how relevant your image is to the web page’s content and users’ search intent.
Link Between Posts & to Authority Sites
It’s important to add internal and external links to all your content. The links need to offer value and use appropriate anchor text. You want people to click on the content, and use those links to navigate your site. Importantly, the links you use also form a part of your website architecture.
The Gif above provides a nice overview of the benefits of internal linking. Interlinking is great for both human users, as it helps them to find more relevant content and products. Your internal links help Google’s crawlers to index your site effectively.
In addition to internal links that spread your Page Rank across your site, you should add external links to your content. The external links should always be to relevant authoritative resources. Adding external links to irrelevant sources can result in your site receiving a Google penalty.
Meta Tags Optimization
Meta tags are the snippets of content that appear in the search results. By optimizing your meta headline and meta descriptions, you gain control over what appears on Google. The default meta descriptions that Google creates don’t make you want to click on a link.
Using a tool like Yoast, you can easily suggest a suitable meta headline and meta description for your content. The better the headline, and the description, the higher the chance people click on your result.
Structured Data Markup
Schema markups are used to add additional information to a search result. For example, with structured data markup, you can add rating stars to your search results or make images appear alongside your content in the search results.
Review sites use the rating schema all the time. Schema markups can help make your content stand out in the search results.
Schema markups won’t be suitable for all of your content. However, there will be times when you want to add schema markup. You can add schema markup to your content easily with plugins.
SEO can be a long, arduous process even for seasoned, experienced digital gurus. It is my sincere hope that by using this on-page SEO checklist as a guide, you too can overhaul your website to win in your niche.
Compared to AdWords or Facebook Ads, for instance, SEO is more labor-intensive. You’ll have to be ready to strategize and then enact, test, and fine-tune those strategies over time to really get the most organic visibility to your site.
Slow but steady progress is standard in SEO, and as such, do not be discouraged by the absence of instant results. It is not a quick win and requires continual hard work and investment.
Here’s to seeing your site climb those search rankings!
This guide is written by our regular contributor Owen Baker is a content marketer for Voila Norbert, an online Email verification tool. He has spent most of the last decade working online for a range of marketing companies. When he’s not busy writing, you can find him in the kitchen mastering new dishes.