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On Page SEO Checklist: Complete List Of Factors For Site Optimization

If you want to rank your website, then you need to get your on-page optimization and link building down to a science.

As simple as it sounds, however, mastering both aspects of SEO is a complex process.

But first off, you should have a general idea on how to optimize your site pages. You probably haven’t memorized what those ranking factors are, which is fine.

That’s why, in this blog post, I delve deep into on-page SEO so you know how to build the foundation of a website that search engines love.

More importantly, I have compiled a list of on page SEO factors that all your pages must observe.

I discuss why they are important for search engines and how you can easily implement them on your pages.

 

On Page SEO Checklist for Dominating Google

If you want to skip this post and download a copy of the checklist, click here. Use it as a reference when optimizing your pages.

Without further ado, below is the on page SEO checklist that your site will need to improve its search engine rankings:

Can Google crawl your site pages?

Making your site pages easy for search spiders to find is the most important thing to do for your SEO campaign. There’s no point in going through the checklist if you can’t get this done.

For starters, you need to know the difference between crawlability and indexability.

You can determine whether search spiders can crawl your site pages.

However, once crawled, it is no longer up to you if the pages will be indexed.

Once they are, its algorithm will determine whether you will rank on SERPs and for which terms.

And if you optimize your content for a target keyword (more on this later), then you can expect to rank high for that search query.

In the meantime, you should focus your attention on how to get Google to crawl your pages. Below are things you must perform:

Are the important pages on your site set to “index?”

By default, Google can crawl all your pages unless specified on your back end.

You can toggle your site’s crawl ability in your robots.txt file. It tells search spiders which pages in your site that they can’t crawl and index.

neil patel robots txt

In this robots.txt example, the site is preventing the spiders from crawling the comments on the site.

From the file, you can also block search spiders if you want to privatize your website for now. This is ideal if the website is currently undergoing construction or if it’s the staging version and you don’t want Google to tag its pages as duplicate content.

Also, there are web pages that you may want to tag as noindex. Examples of such are privacy policy, terms and conditions, as well as categories and tags.

Setting them to noindex conserves your crawl budget so spiders can crawl other important pages on your site.

The screenshot of the robots.txt above is an example of a website that search spiders can crawl. To access this, go to website.com/robots.txt (replace website.com with your domain URL).

You can edit your robots.txt by logging into your control panel or using a FTP client.

However, if you’re using WordPress, you can install a plugin like Rank Math that allows you to make changes on your robots.txt from your dashboard.

edit robots txt using rankmath

Is your site optimized for mobile-first indexing?

Due to the prominence of mobile devices, it makes sense for Google to shift to mobile-first indexing. Its spiders crawl and index site pages based on how they render on mobile view.

If the site has mobile viewing issues, then Google will brings the ranking of the pages down on organic search, regardless of the site’s quality.

To determine if your site has problems when viewed on mobile device, enter its URL on Google’s Mobile Friendly Test. The tool informs if the site you entered is indeed mobile friendly.

google mobile friendly test

If your site failed the test, then the first thing you must do is implement a responsive design. This helps your website adapt to the screen size of the mobile device where the user is viewing your site.

If you’re using CMS like WordPress or Joomla, most of the designs available nowadays are responsive. All you need to do is upload them from your dashboard to your site and apply the changes.

However, if your site is hard-coded in HTML, you will need help from a professional designer.

Once your site’s design is responsive, run the test again to confirm.

 

Does your site have 40x client error pages?

The last thing you want your visitors to see on your site is an error page. This causes them to bounce away from your site and choose your competitor instead.

The same thing almost applies to search engines. If one of your pages ranking for a keyword suddenly returns an error page, then Google will bring its ranking down. This will keep happening until it is deindexed unless you do something about it.

It is very easy to miss out on these errors unless you monitor the statuses of your web pages or regularly run a website audit.

Using a tool like Screaming Frog, you can deep dive into your site to see pages that are broken for whatever reason.

40x status code on screaming frog

Run an audit and click on the “Response Codes” tab to see pages with a 404 status.

Once you have a list of error pages in your site, fix them so they load properly. You must do this manually since the solution depends on the client error of the page. You may need help from a developer to remedy the situation.

If the page is no longer accessible or was deleted, you can redirect the lost URL to an existing one in your site. This way, you get to retain visitors and keep the link juice of your site circulating.

You can do this by creating a redirect from cPanel.

manage redirects from cpanel

If you’re already using the Rank Math plugin on WordPress, you can create the redirects from there.

redirection rankmath

Is your site secure?

The security of your visitors is something that you should take seriously.

All too common are sites that require you to input your information. And if the site is not secure, there’s a big chance that hackers can steal information from the page and use it for their own good.

unsecure site example

To remedy the situation, you must switch your website to HTTPS or security hypertext transfer protocol.

The difference with this one over the regular HTTP is the former will encrypt the data on your page. This way, visitors can enter their information with confidence that their data won’t be stolen.

From an SEO standpoint, an HTTPS website will enjoy a slight bump in search rankings.

To do this, you must secure an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate for your site. Most certifications are free with your web hosting via Let’s Encrypt. If not, you have to purchase it from certificate authorities like SSL.com.

buy ssl certificates ssl dot com

Setting them up is a pain if you’re not familiar with cPanel. If so, it’s better to delegate this task to someone who knows his or her way around SSL certificate installation.

Are your site pages structured in an organized manner?

When analyzing a website’s on-page SEO, you have to understand how it is set up.

Basically, the composition of your site has to make sense. And by constructing it in a logical manner, search spiders will crawl and index its pages with relative ease.

To learn how to evaluate your site architecture, below are questions you must ask yourself:

Can people read its URLs?

One of the main ranking factors is by including your target keyword on your page’s URL. This helps Google spiders identify the topic of the page (assuming that you optimized its content for the keyword – more on this later).

For new sites, you must set up the URLs so you can edit it to include your target keyword before publishing.

If not, then your page would have a URL similar to this: website.com/p=?123

The process of changing your URL structure depends on the CMS you’re using. For WordPress users, follow the steps below:

Go to Settings > Permalinks from the left sidebar of the dashboard.

By default, the Settings are in Plain. But you need to change that to show actual words on the page’s URL.

permalink settings on wordpress

Change it with any of the other choices. This also allows you to edit the URL before publishing.

Do your pages link to other pages in your site?

Internal links may seem trivial to the uninitiated. Basically, you just place a link in your page to another page in your site.

However, if done right for SEO, you can help your site achieve higher rankings and organic traffic!

For starters, internal linking helps you circulate website authority across your other pages.

If you have a page ranking on top of organic search, you might want to link out to other pages from it. This way, you help funnel down the authority to your less popular pages and help improve their performance on organic search.

Spencer Haws built 108 links across his affiliate sites and saw most of the pages reach a significant increase in ranking on Google.

There are many ways to do this for your site. You can use Screaming Frog to identify pages on your site without internal links and edit each to include a couple.

Once you crawl a website, go to the Internal tab and browse through the pages.

At the bottom window, click on the Inlinks to see the page’s internal links.

screaming frog inlinks

If there are no entries in the Inlinks tab, then you need to edit the page and manually add them.

For WordPress users, a much more convenient way of rolling out an internal linking strategy is by using Link Whisper. Not only did Spencer use it for running his case study on internal links above, he also owns it!

To use Link Whisper, install the plugin then go to Link Whisper > Report on the left sidebar.

Then click on the Links reports tab to show you the pages in your site with internal and outbound links.

internal links report link whisper

Click on the Outbound internal links to reorder the pages from ascending order. The table will show you pages with the least to no internal links so you know what to prioritize first.

Click on the page to add internal links. Then scroll down the page to see link suggestions provided by the plugin.

link whisper link suggestions

Do you have pages that have no inbound links?

It is common for sites to have orphaned pages or those without any links pointing to them.

While it is possible for these pages to rank on Google, the fact that they don’t have inbound links makes the process longer and more difficult.

By linking out to these pages, you can help expedite the crawling and indexing process. If the pages are already ranking on Google, linking out to these pages would further boost their rankings.

First, you need to use a tool that will figure out the orphaned pages for you. Aside from Screaming Frog, Website Auditor by SEO Powersuite is up for the task.

Open the software and run an audit on your site. Once done, go to Site Structure > Pages, click on All Pages tab and reorder the pages with internal and outbound pages by clicking on Links to Pages column.

links to pages seo powersuite

From here, find pages where you can link to the orphaned pages based on the data presented by the tool.

Are the pages organized into categories?

it is crucial that you link out to topically relevant pages. In fact, it is best if you premeditate the process by creating support pages for your target page.

For example, if your page is about smart watches, then you should link out to pages that discuss the different types of smart watches from various brands. If you don’t have pages like this on your site, then it’s best if you can create them at the soonest.

Bruce Clay calls this process siloing. By interlinking pages discussing the same topic, you boost your website’s relevancy to the topic.

And because you publish lots of high-quality content about the subject, Google sees you as an authority about the topic. Thus, you can rank your pages higher on organic search for their keywords.

While the principle sounds simple enough, implementation of siloing on your site can be complicated. There are different approach you must consider and set of rules or guidelines you should follow.

However, this post at Authority Hacker sums up everything you need to know about siloing today.

siloing example from authority hacker

An example of a silo structure from the Authority Hacker post.

Below are points you must consider when organizing your content into silos:

  1. Test between which siliong method you should take: grouping (pages organized according to category) or isolation (pages don’t link to other pages outside the silo)
  2. Simplify your web architecture – don’t bog it down with multiple subcategories. Doing so makes it more difficult for search spiders to find these pages, even if they are in a silo structure.

Are you using meta tags?

Meta tags are snippets of code helps describe to search spiders what the page is all about. They also tell search engines how to show your page on SERPs.

Below are the basic meta tags that you need to work on to help improve your site’s SEO.

Do your pages have title tags?

If your pages show up on Google search, their title tags is the most visible of them all.

As a ranking factor, including your respective keywords in the title can help rank them higher on organic search.

The title tag also work on a user level. By writing a compelling title compared to the rest, you can generate more clicks and visitors regardless of where your page appears on SERPs.

Generally, the title you write for your pages or blog posts is the one that search engines pulls up to appear on search pages.

However, it is possible to show a different title on SERPs other than the actual title of the page.

Using Rank Math on WordPress, click on the Rank Math on the upper right button of the screen (the one with the page’s aggregated score).

From here, you will open the Preview Snippet Editor.

rankmath preview snippet editor

If you don’t enter anything here, the plugin will pull out the title of the post.

Did you add meta descriptions in your pages?

Unlike title tags, meta descriptions don’t have much weight as an SEO factor. And, unlike before, the meta description of your web page changes depending on the search query entered by users.

Nonetheless, they can help improve the click-through rate of your page for your target keyword.

You can do this by writing a descriptive and compelling description of the post to maximize CTR to your page regardless of its position in SERPs.

Using Rank Math again, go to the Preview Snippet Viewer and scroll down to see the text box for the meta description.

rank math meta description

Did you tweak the meta robots of the page?

We already discussed robots.txt above. It dictates the rules that robots must observe when crawling your website.

However, you can set your pages to index and noindex manually. This way, you don’t have to edit the file every time you want to change the index setting of the pages.

Once again, using Rank Math, click on the Rank Math button then click on the wrench icon to expand the Advanced section. From here, you can tweak the page’s meta robots.

rank math advanced meta robots

Is your content SEO-friendly?

At the heart of every high-ranking website is great content. In fact, you don’t need to create lots of content to rank for your keywords.

It’s possible to drive thousands of organic website traffic with only a handful of pages.

It’s just a matter of creating content deliberately. This means that each piece you write and publish on your site serves the purpose of attracting more traffic to your site.

To achieve this goal, you must follow the steps below:

Do you know the intent of the keywords you’re targeting?

It’s no longer enough to rank on Google just by stuffing keywords in your content at every chance you get.

Nowadays you have to focus on why people are searching for the word or phrase on search engines.

That said, you shouldn’t conduct keyword research with the absolute goal of finding search phrases with the most monthly search queries.

From here, you must create your content based on what they want to learn from it.

Therefore, before researching for your keywords, you must know the different types of keyword intent, which you will see below:

  1. Navigational – Most navigational searches contain the brand name, which means that people already know your business. However, they want to know an aspect about your brand that they can’t find (or is hard to find) on your site, ex. coca cola products, coca cola careers, coca cola history, etc.
  2. Informational – People search for the keyword to gather more information about it. Perfect examples of informational keywords come in the form of questions, i.e. what is love, why do stars have colors, how is acid rain produced, etc. They come in the form of long tail keywords or with at least four words in its search phrase.
  3. Transactional – Users search for these keywords when they are about to make a purchase but are still gathering data to make an informed decision. The most common examples of transaction keywords possess the words “buy,” “best,” “cheapest,” and “comparison,” among others.
  4. Commercial – With commercial keywords, people are ready to buy a product by searching for the best deals online. Some search phrases for this keyword intent include the words “discount,” “coupon,” “where to buy,” and “free shipping.”

By identifying the intent of the keywords you’re optimizing for, you can align the message of your content. This way, you provide the information users are looking for when they stumble upon your site from search results.

For example, if you are optimizing for “best running shoes,” list down the shoes that are perfect for runners and explain why. There’s no need to explain what running shoes are for, their benefits, and other details that the users may already know.

To check user intent on your site, you need to manually comb through your pages and run through the content. You may consider editing the post to align it with the keyword or replace the current keyword with one that fits the content better.

Do you have published content that could be considered “thin?”

Value is the currency of content.

If it doesn’t help users in any shape or form, then it’s considered as thin content.

An example of this content type of those found in content farms like ezinearticles.com.

Almost all the articles published in these sites are fluff – they contain neither actionable items nor unique insights.

In this case, determining whether your content is thin or not is qualitative. However, pages with thin content share common attributes that you can easily spot a mile away. Below are some of them:

  1. Less than 400 words. While fewer words don’t automatically make the page useless, having more words to elaborate the content wouldn’t hurt either.
  2. No links (outbound or inbound)
  3. No images
  4. Not ranking for keywords
  5. Not getting traffic (according to Google Analytics)

If any of your pages tick all the boxes above, there’s a pretty good chance that you need to beef them up a little.

Also, a quick look at what your top competitors are doing with their content should give you an idea on how you should approach your strategy. They may be doing out-of-the-box tactics, allowing them to create useful content that you can replicate.

Ultimately, your content needs to espouse the EAT concept from Google’s Search Quality Standards.

EAT stands for expertise, authority, and trust.

To be fair, E-A-T is not a ranking factor and doesn’t have a score that grades pages. Instead, consider this concept as more of a guideline when writing your content.

After all, you can’t build all three overnight. It takes months and years to learn until you’re considered an expert and produce authoritative content to gain the trust of your audience.

Therefore, you need to keep churning out content on a regular that is easy to read and jam-packed with value.

Do you have duplicate content in your site?

Duplicate content refers to identical blocks of text within your site or across different domains.

Having the same set of text on your website is not inherently bad. For example, having the same content on different pages of the same domain is common among e-commerce websites.

You can easily solve this via canonicalization. By indicating which among the pages is the one you want Google to index, the spiders won’t get confused anymore as to which page must index.

Using Rank Math, go to the page where you want to enter the canonical URL, click on the Rank Math button then Advanced settings (wrench icon).

Scroll down to see the Canonical URL text box:

rank math canonical url

The only time when duplicate content becomes harmful to your site is when you use unoriginal articles to manipulate search engines.

While it’s common practice among marketers to spin content to pass it off as unique in the eyes of spiders, it remains better to create content from the ground up. This way, you avoid potential issues down the line which could cause your rankings to drop.

Now, even if you did write a unique piece, it is still possible to have blocks of your content similar with another article.

To avoid this problem, always run your content using Copyscape or Quetext. Both allow you to see phrases or sentences that are duplicate.

quetext

Are your images optimized?

Visual content like images and infographics is a great way to break the monotony of content in a page.

However, visuals become a nuisance if they take time to load on your page.

If your images are over 100kb, then you should find a way to compress them without compromising their quality. By optimizing the file size of your site’s images, you make your pages load faster and keep your visitors from leaving.

The ShortPixel WordPress plugin makes image optimization easy for you. After installing, it automatically compresses the images to ensure that they are optimized before anyone sees them.

Also, the plugin regularly optimizes the other images in your site so you don’t have to manually compress them one by one.

short pixel bulk optimization

Another aspect of optimizing your images is the use of alt tags.

Since search spiders can’t read images, they rely on their alt text to tell them what they are about.

Aside from describing in detail what the images show, you can include your keyword here for good measure.

It’s best to do this manually to ensure that the alt tags are unique to the image.

Click on Media > Library to access images and other uploaded files in your site.

Then click on the image where you want to add an alt text.

wordpress attachment details

Now, if you have thousands of images in your site’s folder, you won’t have time to fix each one of them. Instead, you may use a plugin like Image Attributes Pro that will automatically generate the alt tags for you with the correct keyword in it.

Are you linking out to third-party sites?

You’d think that external links are bad because they point visitors away from your site. Also, they help let website authority escape from your site to another domain.

However, when used correctly, external links are actually beneficial to your site’s SEO.

For starters, they help give search spiders context about the topic of your site. This has been proven by a case study ran by Reboot Online Marketing Ltd. They created two dummy sites optimized for gibberish terms. The first site has external links while the other one doesn’t.

Not surprisingly, the one with external links ranked higher for the term!

reboot online case study

Therefore, linking to contextually relevant and authoritative pages from another site is not a bad idea at all.

Just make sure to limit the outbound links and you should be good to go.

Do you have the right structured data for your pages?

Aside from the meta tags and the content, structured data help provide additional context about your page to search spiders.

The benefit of having structured data on all your pages is they will have featured snippets once they rank on SERPs.

baked salmon recipe - Google Search

For example, if you search for recipes, you will see a featured snippet like the one above. The pages have a star rating, which is the score given by visitors about the recipe, and a custom image of the finished product.

If you scroll down the ranking pages, you will also add additional information about the food such as calories and the time it’ll take for you to complete the recipe.

baked salmon recipe - organic search

For job posting, you will see something like this:

programmer job posting california - Google Search

As you can see, the structured data will depend on the kind of content you have on your site. That’s why it’s important to identify them so you can help your pages stand out from the rest.

To do this, you need to add schema markups on your site pages.

Go to Google Structured Data Markup Helper to choose the data type and the URL of the page where you will use the schema markup.

Structured Data Markup Helper

Next, you need to fill in the blanks in the template to populate the data that Google will use to show on SERPs.

Structured Data Markup Helper step 2

Once done, create the HTML for this and run it using the Structured Data Testing Tool to correct issues if there are any.

Structured Data Markup Helper step 3

Finally, add the HTML of the schema markup into the page’s source code.

For WordPress users, SEO plugins like Schema Pro allow you to streamline the process of adding structured data in your pages.

User Experience

Getting visitors from Google search is just half the battle. The other half deals with getting them to perform your desired action.

However, more often than not, some leave your site instead for a variety of reasons. This means that not all of your visitors will read your post, join your email list, or become your customer!

Therefore, your goal at this point is to improve the user’s overall experience of browsing your website to increase conversions.

To do that, you need to identify first the reasons why they leave your page. Below are a few:

Does your site load fast enough?

Page speed is a very crucial factor of on-page optimization, both for visitors and search spiders.

Regarding the former, more than a quarter of your visitors leave your page if it loads for over six seconds.

how page speed affects user behavior

To maximize your organic traffic, you must speed up your site’s loading time to keep your visitors around long enough for them to convert.

Because if not, and from the perspective of search engines, your site will drop in ranking if you don’t make your site load faster!

By turning page speed as an SEO factor, Google encourages site owners to tweak their pages and make them user-friendlier.

To do this, you need to know how fast your website loads and the reasons that are keeping it from loading faster.

Using Google PageSpeed Insights ought to do the trick.

PageSpeed Insights

From here, you will see your aggregate score and the issues you must address to improve your score.

Most of the problems you will find here require coding knowledge. So, you need to consult with a professional developer or programmer to implement the suggestions by the tool.

However, you can fix some of the errors using a caching tool for WordPress.

Among the many caching plugins to choose from, WP Rocket rises to the top of the best one yet.

wp rocket

Aside from website caching, the plugin also optimizes your HTML, Javascript, and CSS files, optimizes your database, and lazyloads your images, to name a few.

BONUS: Are your pages converting?

To be clear, conversion rate optimization has little to do with search engine optimization. The ability of your page to convert is not an SEO factor and won’t be for a foreseeable future.

However, it’s still worth talking about it here. There’s no point in doing on-site SEO if your pages serve no purpose as far as conversion goes.

Conversion rate optimization is the practice of improving your conversion rates. To do this, your page must have a clear call to action or CTA.

Most CTAs come in the form of a button or form placed in the content.

cta example

However, keep in mind that, just because you have these elements on your page, it doesn’t automatically mean that visitors will click or fill them out.

There are various variables that explain why this is the case. And through conversion rate optimization, you can determine what those are.

For example, where you place your CTAs and their appearance play a critical role in its ability to conversion.

But you won’t be able to pinpoint what those exact factors are if you don’t use heatmapping tools like CrazyEgg.

It shows the user activity on your website and how they interact with your page’s layout and the different elements in it.

crazy egg

The tool marks the most clicked sections on your page in red. And if your CTA is far away from these sections, it’s time to consider moving it there to get more engagement from it.

Another example of using heatmapping tools is to see from which part of the page where half of your readers leave.

crazy egg scroll popularity

If half of the visitors leave above the fold, then you need to find ways to encourage them to scroll deeper on your page to minimize bounce rate. Also, you should consider moving your CTAs before the part where most of your visitors leave to maximize your conversions.

Conclusion

As you can see, on-page SEO is chock-full of rules and regulations you must follow so search engines can effectively crawl and rank your pages.

Let’s face it: there’s no way around on-page SEO. It can be a grueling process even if you use tools to automate the process and especially if you have a large site.

But the great thing about it is you can always tweak your pages to follow the best practices.

By referring to this post for making your existing web pages more optimized, you can unleash the full potential of your site’s organic rankings!

And while there’s a lot to unpack in this blog post, the checklist should simplify things for you. As mentioned, use it to observe on-page SEO across all pages in your site.

Download the copy of the checklist here!

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Craig Campbell

I am a Glasgow based SEO expert who has been doing SEO for 18 years.

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