SEO Checklist: A Simple Guide to On-Page SEO
"I recently gave two presentations to a group of 20 lawyers and other professionals about how to write for Google. They were great at getting new content out regularly, however their articles were not enabling their SEO goals. Those presentations inspired me to repurpose the content into a simple SEO checklist that anyone can follow, marketer or not!"
Here you’ll find an easy-to-digest guide containing the basic principles of on-page SEO. These tips are designed for:
i) people who have assumed the responsibilities of a marketer although they are not marketers by profession and,
ii) senior managers and directors who are not marketers, but could benefit from basic knowledge of SEO when hiring, appointing suppliers or reporting to the board
What is on-page SEO?
On-page SEO is one of many techniques that marketers implement to improve rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs). Essentially, on-page SEO refers to the changes we can make to the length, structure and legibility of an article. The objective of those tweaks is to satisfy and comply with Google’s algorithms or set of “rules”.
However, this is not as straightforward as it may seem. The criteria that content must meet to ensure it appears on the first page of Google is incredibly complex. There are thousands of factors that affect how well content performs. As such, this SEO checklist and other guidance you will find online can only provide the foundations for getting it right.
The SEO Checklist: Optimizing your content
Your keyword encompasses the main topic of your article. For example, the keywords of this blog post are ‘SEO Checklist’ and ‘On-page SEO’. It is important to note that the way you use keywords can affect your rank in search engines. Here are a few actionable keyword techniques you can use to improve your rankings:
- Include your main keyword in the title of your article
- Your main keyword should also appear in the URL
- Make sure the keyword is in your opening paragraph
- Use your keyword 5 to 10 times throughout an article
- Ensure keywords are evenly spread throughout the content
- Include your keyword in a subheading
- Don’t forget to include it in your meta data too!
#TopTips – Focus on just one or two keywords. Use a keyword you haven’t already used before. Make sure you check keyword search volumes before writing to identify the most suitable terms to target for SEO.
2. Length of Text
The length of your title, URL, sentences, paragraphs, and the length of the article in its entirety, affect on-page SEO. The general rule of thumb is the shorter your sentences the better. However, in contrast the longer your article the better. Here are some simple ways that you can optimize your written content:
- Your page title should ideally contain 5 to 10 words or around 50 characters
- Typically, your URL will mirror the page title and so it will probably be the same length. However, bear in mind the shorter your URL the better!
- Keep your sentences as short and concise as possible – work to a maximum of 20 words per sentence
- Be sure to use plenty of paragraphs. Always start a new paragraph when you introduce a new idea and aim for a maximum of 200 words
- SEO company Yoast, the creator of a popular SEO plugin, recommends a minimum of 300 words per web page. However, data suggests that Google rewards long-form content in SERPs and articles of 1,000 words or more perform better
#TopTip – While the emphasis here is on the quantity of words, the quality cannot be overlooked.
3. Quality over Quantity
As mentioned is my latest video ‘SEO – A Beginner’s Guide – Part 1’, the quality of your content is increasingly important. This is because the volume of content shared online is astronomical, as such Google’s sophisticated algorithms weed out the crap. Google’s bots can measure numerous interrelated factors about your on-page SEO in the process of ranking your content. The overarching principles to consider are; how well it is written, how easy it is to read, and how valuable it is to a reader.
Here are a few easy ways to ensure your content is fit for Google and easy to digest:
- Use natural language that flows well – write as though you are speaking
- Include lots of transitional words and phrases such as however, therefore, as a result, because, also, and finally
- Structure and format your content using paragraphs, subheadings, bullet points and numbered points
- Avoid using the passive voice. A simple way to correct this is to identify the subject doing the action. For example, the sentence ‘It was suggested that we write more than 1,000 words per article’ uses the passive voice. However, if we identify the subject we can transform the sentence into the active voice. The sentence would then read ‘Rachel from dareko marketing suggests that we write more than 1,000 words per article'.
4. Link Building
Historically, link building had more weight in SEO efforts and was very popular. However, some people adopted black hat strategies to manipulate Google’s algorithms. This allowed unqualified content to reach top SERPs. As such it devalued the strategy and Google had to reconfigure the algorithms. Google released the Penguin update which merits websites on the quality of their backlinks, and will also penalise your website for poor quality links.
Here are a few easy ways to implement good practice link building:
- Create internal links from one of your web pages to another. For example, in section 3 of this article I have a link to another page containing content on the same topic
- Create outbound links, also known as resource links, to other relevant and reputable websites. For example, in this article I have a link to Yoast as they also share content about SEO
- Seek opportunities to gain backlinks from other reputable and trustworthy websites that are relevant to your own
In the opening to this SEO Checklist I explained that on-page SEO is just one of several SEO techniques that, when used together, generate the best results. As such, these tips form just one piece of the puzzle!
For more insights, tips and guidance on SEO connect with me on Twitter!