Have you ever wondered on what page your website ranks? Is it on the first page or second or later? Do the searchers go beyond page two in their search results? And consequently, how many customers you are losing by having your website on 2nd or 3rd page?
Your website or blog has the potential to rank higher in search engines’ organic results by implementing on page SEO techniques.
Though both on-page SEO and off-page SEO are equally crucial for your website rankings, on-page SEO is a better place to start with, to bolster your search engine presence. Off-page SEO primarily focuses on your domain authority, reputation of your site and the number of backlinks your site has (i.e. the number of links directed to your website). Since generating backlinks takes much time and effort, let us focus today on the on-page SEO checklist.
Before jumping into the checklist, make sure your website is indexed by search engines. The first and better technique to check this is to use Google Webmaster Tool (you must first verify the ownership of your website to check the status).
Another procedure is to type site: domain.com in Google search. If you can find the pages of your website in the results, your site is indexed. If not, that means, your site is not indexed. Possible reasons for this could be non-submission of XML Sitemap to Google or blockage of your site by robots.txt file from being crawled.
ON-PAGE SEO TECHNIQUES
1. Title tag
Title tags tell search engines what the page is about on your website. Title tags should be unique for every page.
- Keep the ideal length of the title tag approximately to 55-65 characters
- Use a keyword in the title tag. The closer the keyword is to the beginning of the title tag, the more strength it has. To learn more about keywords and keyword research tools, check out our blog on keyword research tools.
- Use modifiers like ‘What is’, ‘Best’, ‘Guide’, [year], ‘How to’, ’10 Ways to’, ‘Cheap’ at the beginning of the title
- Always place title in <h1> tag
- Try to use this format for title -> Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand name
WordPress user can use Yoast SEO plugin, to preview the appearance of your site title and meta description in Google’s search results.
If you are not using WordPress, Title Tag preview tool from Moz is another great place to preview.
2. Meta Description tag
The Meta description is a crucial element that provides the gist or a brief description of the search page with keywords. Readers see this Meta Description under the title. Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) will highlight the keywords that the user searched for in the meta description, increasing the chances of the user clicking your website
- Write unique and relevant description for every page
- Aim for around 160 characters
3. URL/Permalink Structure
Uniform Resource Locator(URL) is the address of the web page
- Make the URLs short, self-explanatory and keyword rich
- Avoid using dates in the URL
- Always use hyphens (-). NO underscores (_) or capital letters in the URL
- Structure your URL using category, when you have a large number of pages on your website.
- Change the URL structure to be category name/post name, in Yoast SEO settings
Note: Do not change URLs for older blog posts. This may cause broken links since the actual web page is no longer be available.
4. Content Optimization
Content is one of the most important factors for on-page SEO.
Qualities of an optimized content
- Depth of the topic is vital to rank your page in SERPs and to encourage the readers to spend a longer time.
- Periodical review and updating of the content draws the attention of search engines that love renewed content.
- Keeping the important pages one click away from the homepage
- Every page should contain one <h1> tag which contains focused keyword for that page. Use <h2> tag for subheadings.
- Bold your focus keywords, highlight key points, use bullets/lists wherever appropriate
- Keywords – Maintain optimal keyword density in the content. Too many keywords will be considered as keyword stuffing and too less will make it difficult for search engines to comprehend your page’s topic.
- Keyword should appear in the first 100 words of the article. Use LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords in the post. They are synonyms to your keywords that search engines use to find the page’s relevancy.
- Social Sharing Buttons – Use social sharing buttons on the page. This helps readers to share your content easily which drives relevant traffic to your site and also a great way to secure backlinks naturally.
- Site Structure & Navigation – For a large website with hierarchically arranged pages, let the visitors know how far they are by making use of sidebars and breadcrumbs navigation.
5. Mobile friendly sites
With the number of mobile searches and browsing increasing every day, responsive and mobile friendly sites have become crucial for SEO. The amount of traffic delivered to mobile devices surpassed desktop in the recent years and will only continue to grow. Most of us have been focusing on making the desktop versions of our site faster, but with Google switching to ‘mobile-first’ index, we must essentially focus on mobile speed
- Check out this Google tool to see if your site is mobile-friendly
- Varvy’s Mobile SEO is another tool to check if your site is mobile friendly and other useful metrics
6. Outbound links
Outbound links are the links that direct you to another web page with relevant content and are important in the linking strategy
- It is recommended to have 2-3 outbound links for every 1000 words
7. Internal links
Internal links are the links to different pages on the same domain/website. They help navigate the website
- Use at least 2-3 internal links in your post
- Use proper anchor text that both readers and search engines understand and avoid generic text. For example – Use On-page SEO practices instead of Click Here
8. Speed Matters
Speed increases conversion. Site speed reflects how quickly a website responds to web requests. Google uses site speed as one of the factors in its algorithm to rank pages. Try to maintain the optimal page load speed between 2-3 seconds. Slow sites will have lasting negative effects on indexing and user experience. Here is an interesting infographic from Kissmetrics on the impact of page load time
WordPress plugins to speed up your website
- Host your website on a dedicated server that has the capacity to handle your site’s features and traffic.
- Regularly test your site speed. Remove duplicate content and deactivate unused plugins
- Backup your website before making any optimizations. Backwpup is one of the many WordPress plugins to back up
- WP-Optimize is an excellent WordPress database cleanup and optimization tool
- Caching or web cache is a temporary storage of web documents, images etc. to reduce bandwidth usage and server load. W3 Total Cache improves server performance by reducing the download times.
- Install Yoast SEO plugin to easily optimize your WordPress site for SEO
- Autoptimize is a plugin that is used to minify and compress HTML, JS, and CSS making your page light weight
- Having too many or poorly configured plugins will impact your site’s load time. Use P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) for figuring out the performance of the plugins on your website
- Check if compression is enabled for your site using Gzip test
- Load background images through external stylesheets so that when the text loads first, reader can browse through it while your image downloads in the background
- Use the following online tools to analyze the performance of web pages and follow their recommendations to improve speed
- Google Webmaster Tool -> Site performance
9. Optimize Images
Images, charts, and infographics encourage the readers to spend more time on the site and reduce bounce rates.
- EWWW Image Optimizer is a WordPress plugin that will automatically optimize your images as you upload them. It can also optimize images that are already uploaded and used on your site
- Download any free image editing tool to resize images. Example – paint.net
- Use the right keywords in the alt and title tags of the image separated with dashes (-)
Recommended Reading – Google’s guide to optimizing your images
10. Fix broken links with 301 redirect
- Screaming Frog is a plugin that you can download locally on your PC to find broken links, errors, crawl problems and to analyze on-site SEO
- Run the tool broken link checker to fix all the broken links on your website
11. XML Sitemap
A sitemap is an XML document that consists of list of all the pages/links on the web site accessible to crawlers or users
- Create an XML sitemap and submit it to Google and Bing Webmaster tools.
- Use XML-Sitemaps.com or Google XML Sitemap plugin for WordPress
Recommended Reading – Google’s tutorial on how to build a sitemap and make it available to Google
Robots.txt is a simple text file that tells which pages can or cannot be crawled by the search engine spiders. A complete robots.txt file is as simple as two lines with User-agent and Disallow. User-agent refers to the crawler or robot like Googlebot, Bingbot, msnbot etc.. Specify individual bots or use a wildcard asterisk (*) to refer to all bots. Disallow indicates which pages, directories or files the above-mentioned user-agent cannot access. A blank disallow means the bots can access the whole site and a ‘/’ means to block the whole server
To block all bots from the server
To allow all bots to access entire site
To block Googlebot from accessing certain files and allow another user-agent to access files
- Create a robots.txt file and submit it to Google and Bing Webmaster tools
- Always include robots.txt in your main directory or root domain
Recommended Reading – cheat sheet for robots.txt from Moz
13. Schema Markup
Schema markup is adding structured data to the web page to highlight useful information for search engines and users. The best part is, readers can view key information right in the search results.
The example page below uses markup for image, star ratings, reviews which make it look attractive and more interesting to the visitors rather than plain text.
Use Google’s Structured Data Markup to add structured markup to your web page. Here is the step-by-step procedure
- Go to Google’s Structured Data Markup, select a data type for your content and paste your site’s URL to start tagging
- Your page will be loaded on the left-hand side along with the data items on the right
- Highlight the text on your page and choose the appropriate tag from the drop-down list. Continue adding suitable elements to the markup list and click Create HTML
- Once you click Create HTML, you will have two options to choose for the markup, ‘Microdata’ or ‘JSON-LD’
Microdata uses HTML tags and attributes to define data
(You can use either one of these, JSON-LD is preferred)
- Download the generated HTML and copy and paste it to your source code
- Once you pasted the code, you can also preview how your page will look in Google search results
Schema Markup for WordPress
- WordPress users can easily install this plugin called All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets to give search engines only the important and precise information to display in search results. You can make them interactive with photos, star ratings, price, author etc. This makes a huge difference in the CTR (click through rates) and improve your rankings in search results
14. Canonical URL
rel=canonical is an HTML element that is used to prevent duplicate content issues. If you have several versions of the exact same content, for instance,
search engines do not know which content to render to the user. This is why you should use a canonical URL for every set of similar URLs to improve the SEO of your site.
Let us review this in detail using an example. Consider that the following two pages are exactly similar
- Pick one of the two pages which you think is the most important one or the one with most number of links or visitors. This will be the canonical version. Let us assume we picked the shortest URL to be the canonical URL
- Add a rel=canonical link in the <head> section of the non-canonical page, pointing to the canonical one as shown below
<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://example.com/wordpress/seo-plugin/”>
Now, the two URLs will count as one from a search engine’s perspective.
SEO Audit Tools
- SEMrush Site Audit Tool – This tool helps to find out the issues on your site and provide recommendations based on the priority of the issues. You will know what to fix first
- Woorank – Another easy to use SEO audit tool to verify on page SEO, backlinks, site performance, mobile friendliness and more
- Zadro Web SEO Auditor – Free tool that provides Page Authority and Domain Authority from Moz, page speed and many more technical metrics
- Google Search Console