The ultimate on-page SEO optimization checklist

Among the three main Search Engine Optimization (SEO) subtypes, on-page SEO typically garners the most discussion among digital marketers. Off-page and technical SEO remain valuable, by all means, and they will remain SEO mainstays for years to come. However, the on-page subtype directly caters to what the user immediately sees. It thus includes a wealth of practices that inform content quality, the undisputed king of SEO, inciting more user engagement. We at Digital Dot have always attested to its value, so in this article, we’d like to provide you with the ultimate on-page SEO optimization checklist.

Why is on-page SEO optimization so important?

The practical reasons outlined just above aside, on-page SEO occupies a very notable position within Google’s ranking criteria. To elaborate, let us cite FirstPageSage’s research on the weight of Google’s ranking factors:

A graph on Google ranking factors by FirstPageSage.

 

As you can see, all three SEO subtypes have proper representation here. However, on-page SEO caters to many primary ones, such as:

  • Content quality (26%)
  • Keywords in meta title tags (17%)
  • User engagement (11%)

Moreover, it largely informs many secondary ones, whose sum is no less notable:

  • Internal links (5%)
  • Mobile-friendliness (4%)
  • Page speed (3%)
  • Schema markup (1%)
  • Keywords in URL (1%)
  • Keywords in H1 tags (1%)

Combined, those factors account for another 15% of one’s final SEO score. In brief, then, on-page SEO optimization can absolutely not be overlooked; it is a core pillar of strong strategies by professional SEO consultants.

On-page SEO optimization checklist

With this context in mind, let us now craft our checklist.

Please note, this checklist is Google-centric due to its dominance; SEO on other search engines may differ quite substantially. Users will likely appreciate such optimizations equally, but each search engine has its own priorities.

#1 Heading SEO optimization

Starting from the top of your page, your heading (H1) is the first thing users see on search engine pages. For users, it offers a compelling reason to click on your page. For Google, it gives an initial context on your page’s subject.

Heading checklist

  • Add your primary keywords – Remember to add your primary keywords or synonyms to your heading.
  • Keep it brief and concise – Mind Google’s display limit; ideally, you should keep it between 50 and 70 characters.
  • Describe your content – Descriptive headings contextualize content for Google, and assure it that content matches the users’ search intent.

That said, remember that H1s carry far less weight than meta title tags.

#2 Meta title and description SEO optimization

The two terms, “titles/headings” and “meta titles” do see interchangeable use, but don’t quite describe the same thing. The above FirstPageSage chart should demonstrate this.

In brief, your H1 headings don’t constitute meta titles; that’s what WordPress’s “tagline” field and Yoast’s “SEO title” field are for. It’s here where you absolutely need relevant keywords as well as synergy with your meta descriptions beneath them.

Meta title and description checklist

  • Add your keywords to both – Keywords in meta title tags are now the second biggest SEO ranking factor; you absolutely need them.
  • Keep both brief – Mind the length of both to ensure they remain readable; placing your keywords closer to the start also helps immensely.
  • Keep both unique – Avoid “canned” meta titles and descriptions; neither Google nor users appreciate this practice.

For a visual example, consider the following by Propelrr:

A Google search result for a query on SEO guides.

Should you search for a “guide to understanding SEO”, it is this synergy that will likely convince you to click.

#3 Subheading SEO optimization

Past your H1s, your subheadings (H2s and onward) help divide your content into scannable, readable sections. Readability benefits for users aside, subheadings also further contextualize content for Google.

Subheading checklist

  • Follow a logical structure – Subheadings need to flow logically and enhance your content’s value; H3s should only follow H2s, and so forth.
  • Keep them brief and substantive – Long subheadings may have adverse readability effects, and Google recommends using subheadings sparingly and meaningfully.
  • Use your keywords – Much like how this article does, using keywords in subheadings further assures both Google and users of your content’s subject and value.

For an example in action, consider this very article again. The introduction, main body, and conclusion all come under H2s. Each subtopic under the main H2 comes under an H3 and each checklist section under a subsequent H4. They all briefly summarize their content, while using relevant keywords to convey this.

#4 Content and length SEO optimization

On to your overall content, heading breakdowns aside, your content itself will spearhead your SEO. Google values length, depth, and authoritativeness quite highly, and so do users. For the latter, it directly informs their user behavior – and thus fuels your user engagement metrics.

Of course, your overall content quality will largely depend on your means, industry, content marketing strategies, and more. Thus, our on-page SEO optimization checklist will strictly focus on universal on-page optimization practices.

Content and length checklist

  • Mind content length – The best-ranking content typically ranges between 1,000 and 3,000 words. You may experiment outside these numbers, but depth does require length to answer your users’ questions and match their intent.
  • Enrich your content – Use media, like images and videos, to enrich your content. This both makes content more readable and adds value.
  • Add meaningful links – Similarly, meaningful contextual links also further enrich your content. This practice has a few distinct benefits, which we will cover next.

As regards all three, consider how this article meets them. Would it be equally informative and valuable if it were shorter? Would it be as clear without visual examples and relevant citations? Most probably not.

#5 URL SEO optimization

Now, link and URL optimizations also carry significance. URLs are likely less so, but internal links ranked sixth (5%) in importance above. Combined, the two further enhance your content for both users and search engines.

So, let’s begin with URLs before proceeding to internal links.

URL checklist

  • Keep your URLs user-friendly – Avoid unreadable characters wherever possible, and try to reflect your pages’ content in you URLs through keywords.
  • Punctuate your URLs correctly – Remember to always use hyphens to separate words within your URLs, instead of underscores, spaces, and similar characters.
  • Keep your URLs consistent – As with all SEO matters, consistency is key. Pick a logical structure for your URLs and maintain it across your pages.

Remember, URLs by themselves don’t carry much weight for search engines. They do for users, however, and Google does value user engagement that follows.

#6 Internal link SEO optimization

With your URLs in order, you may now put internal links to use. Internal links both add value for users and help Google contextualize your content, as well as crawl it more efficiently.

As regards the latter, simply consider how a tight internal link structure makes your website Googlebot-friendly.

Internal link checklist

  • Add internal links contextually – Offer links that add value in relation to what your users are reading. Doing so will also help nudge them along your sales funnel more organically.
  • Mind your links’ anchor text – Your links’ anchor texts will also contextualize your linked content for Google and users. Try to use keywords and synonyms within your anchor texts.
  • Use internal links to avoid orphaned pages – Finally, remember to use internal links to ensure each page within your website is linked to another. This tightens the user journey and ensures faster website crawlability.

For a visual example of proper internal link structure, DiggityMarketing offers the following handy illustration:

An illustration of a proper website structure.

While the exact structure will depend on your website, it is this type of robustness that will elevate your content.

#7 Image SEO optimization

Finally, we may conclude with image optimizations. This famous set of practices polishes your content further, inciting more user engagement. As it does, it may also yield more traffic through Google Image Searches.

Perhaps most notably, image optimizations also directly affect loading speed and accessibility, yielding even more SEO benefits.

Image checklist

  • Use images, but do so contextually – Remember to use images strategically, either to break down large chunks of text or to illustrate your points.
  • Perfect your image titles and add alt text – Add your keywords to image titles to increase their chances of appearing in Google Image searches. As you do, add descriptive alt tags that will show if images fail to load so users still derive value.
  • Compress your images – Finally, compress your images to ensure fast loading speeds. Ideally, you should keep image file sizes lower than 100kB without compromising quality.

For examples of the above in action, consider this article and all research we cited thus far. In virtually all cases, images provided value and a visual point of reference without slowing pages down. It is this end result that on-page SEO optimization seeks to achieve.

Conclusion

In summary, on-page SEO optimization hinges on contextualizing and enriching content for both Google and human visitors. It initially does so through carefully crafted headings, keyword-rich meta titles, and strategic subheadings. It then expands to content itself, from length to depth and from formatting to internal links with proper URLs. Finally, it caters to images for additional value and more opportunities for traffic, while keeping loading speeds intact.

Hopefully, this on-page SEO optimization checklist ticked all those boxes itself, to effectively offer you value and actionable insights. Of course, there are plenty of other SEO trends to keep track of and focus on.

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