On-Page SEO Checklist for Success
SEO is one of the most important and underrated digital strategies for a website. Who doesn’t want free organic traffic coming to their website? In order to achieve Page 1 rankings and optimize your SEO strategy for valuable keywords that will bring qualified traffic to your site, we have outlined an SEO Checklist for success:
- Keyword Research
- Meta Data
- On-Page Content
- Images – Size & Alt Text
- Internal Linking
- External Links
- Technical SEO
Although there are many elements and strategies to SEO, by following this checklist created by our digital marketing agency, you are bound to see rankings improve. Within two to three months of implementing these strategies, you can expect to see results from organic traffic.
Why is an SEO Checklist So Important?
Search Engine Optimization, since its inception, has been constantly evolving. With what seems like monthly algorithm updates and highly debated (and ambiguous) John Mueller tweets, the strategies that allowed you to rank your website #1 on the search results yesterday, may simply not work today. This is why having a comprehensive and up-to-date SEO checklist interwoven into the fundamentals of your SEO strategy is an absolute necessity for today’s success in the SEO landscape.
If you were looking for a comprehensive (yet concise) SEO checklist made by experts who are battling in the SEO trenches every day, then you have come to the right place.
Hitting all elements on your SEO checklist is a balancing act of optimizing for the search engines while providing the best possible user experience possible. After all, the goal of search engines is to give users the best answer for their query. Before we get into the specifics, like any craftsman, you need the proper tools of the trade in order to become an SEO expert.
What are Valuable SEO Tools?
There are a plethora of SEO tools on the market, and every SEO will have their go-to tools. For us, there are a few must-have SEO tools to audit and refine any SEO strategy.
- Screaming Frog – a cornerstone tool for every SEO, Screaming Frog allows you to crawl your website as the search engines would to identify issues that could impact performance. From success codes (can the pages be found and indexed) to duplicate content to metadata, Screaming Frog is a must-have technical SEO tool.
- SEMRush or Ahrefs – whether you choose SEMRush or Ahrefs it comes to preference but these are two powerful and useful SEO tools worth the investment. While there are pros and cons to each, both can help you uncover valuable insights from keywords to backlinks and more. One of the most valuable features is competitor insights. Whether you want to dive into how your competitors are ranking or how many backlinks they have, both tools can help you do so.
- Pro-tip: traffic estimates in these tools are just that, estimates. Always rely on first traffic party data (ie Google Analytics) when possible.
- Google Analytics & Google Search Console (GSC) – the goal of any SEO strategy should be to drive qualified traffic to the website. In order to assess if you’re hitting this goal, you need analytics and data.
- Google Analytics helps you understand what channels (SEO or Paid) are driving traffic, to where on the site (what pages people go to from the search result), and how users are converting (if goals are set up correctly).
- GSC allows you to monitor how your site performs in the search results from what queries (keywords) are driving clicks and impressions. Google Search Console has been constantly adding new features. Some of Google Search Console’s latest additions are insights into how various types of rich snippets are performing.
- Google Trends – helps you understand trends impacting your website’s performance (positively or negatively). For example, not sure why website traffic is declining but keyword rankings have stayed the same? Perhaps there is not as much interest in the product or service you provide.
- SEO Meta 1 Click – our favorite, free SEO tool. There are countless free SEO tools that allow you to easily check metadata but SEO Meta 1 Click is one of the most robust by far. Not only can you easily view the metadata, but also header structure, images including image optimization opportunities, and more.
- Google My Business (GMB) – if you run a local business, GMB is one of the most important local SEO tools you need. Key steps to helping your business show up in the coveted map results include: making sure you’ve claimed your business, confirming the information is correct, and optimizing your profile based on Local SEO best practices. (There are a few more steps involved, but GMB will help you get started).
- Bright Local – a great tool for Local SEO from building citations to tracking local keyword rankings. With 4 major data aggregators and a plethora of directories to choose from, Bright Local makes building citations in bulk manageable.
- Local Viking – is a great tool for local SEO keyword reporting. One of the difficulties of local SEO is that keyword reports vary so much depending on the searcher’s location. Local Viking uses “geogrids” which overlay your local SEO rankings onto a map to help visualize how your rankings are doing, based on where the search is being conducted from.
SEO Checklist for Success
Now that you have the tools for SEO, are you ready to create a successful SEO strategy? Here’s our detailed SEO Checklist for success:
#1. Keyword Research
The goal of keyword research is to find which keywords and phrases you want to target and optimize for. To do so, it’s important to understand search intent, making sure that you are targeting the right keywords based on the purpose of the page.
What is Search Intent?
Search intent understands the why behind a user’s query. For example – are users searching for an answer to a question? Or are they looking for a potential product to purchase? Knowing the purpose behind a user’s search will determine the types of keywords to search for. In some cases, a relevant keyword might have a lower monthly search volume, but the search intent is so strong that it helps to drive more qualified traffic to the site.
Different Types of Keywords – Informational vs. Transactional
While there are many different types of search intent and keyword clues that can indicate the “why” behind a user’s search, the two primary types of search intent Power Digital generally focuses on are informational and transactional search queries. The type of search intent should determine the keywords to look for as well as which type of landing page and content would make the most sense to target for organic growth.
Informational search intent refers to users that are looking for more information, especially making searches to find an answer to their question. These searches are informative and instructive; examples of informational searches include “how to make french press coffee,” “french press coffee recipes,” “what is french press coffee.” For these informational keywords, it would make the most sense to target these keywords on an information-focused landing page or blog post.
Transactional search intent refers to users that are actively looking to make a purchase. These searches are action-oriented, and should be targeted on product pages, collection pages, or other transactional landing pages for users to buy, download, sign up, or register. Examples of transactional keywords include “buy french press coffee” or “french press coffee collection.”
Once you determine the type of keywords to target, keyword research is an important step in creating a foundation for your organic search strategy. To find keywords, we recommend utilizing helpful SEO tools such as SEMRush, Ahrefs, and Keyword Planner to find keywords that people may be searching for to land on your page. It’s also a good idea to take a look at what top competitors are ranking for to better understand the overall search landscape and find related keywords with additional targeting opportunity.
#2. Meta Data
Metadata plays a key role in describing what your website is about. It also helps search engines understand how to rank your page within the search results. In this way, it’s important to optimize metadata using SEO best practices, while still being mindful of user experience. To do so, make sure the metadata is rich with keywords, while still being conversion-focused. Overall, when it comes to optimizing metadata information, Power Digital utilizes SEO best practices to optimize title tags, meta descriptions, and H1s.
Title tags are critical to organic rankings. When optimizing for organic growth, be sure to include the target keyword within the title tag as well as a branded component to let users know whose page they’re about to click on. Also, avoid keyword stuffing and be mindful of character limits. We recommend keeping your title tag below 80 characters to make sure none of the text is cut off.
Although meta descriptions do not directly impact organic rankings, they can impact user experience and click-through rates to your site. Meta descriptions provide users a brief glimpse of what your page is about, so make sure the information is interesting and click-worthy. We recommend including your targeted keywords within the meta description as these keywords show up bolded within the search results. This bolded text can help your search result stand out from others, especially since it relates back to the user’s initial search. Other helpful practices include utilizing a catchy CTA (such as: shop now, read more, discover, explore, etc.) or unique selling proposition in the description. For example, if your brand offers free shipping or special deals, be sure to let users know! This info can help incentivize users to click and learn more.
#3. On Page-Content
When talking about an SEO checklist, having high-quality content on the page should be at the top of the list. Content is one of the most important ranking factors, and thus a necessary element of your SEO strategy. It is crucial that the content is high-quality, written with the targeted keywords in mind, flows naturally, and isn’t “keyword stuffy.” This can look different for blog articles, collection pages and even landing pages.
Blog content is probably one of the more obvious ways to improve your Content Marketing & SEO strategies to grow organic traffic. To support your SEO efforts, blog content that you choose to publish on your site should be backed by keyword research and data. When writing content for blog articles, it’s important to include relevant keyword topics and semantic terms that are related to the overall subject. It’s also important that the blog article has an organized header structure (H1, H2, H3, etc) or numbered and bulleted lists if applicable. This content marketing strategy not only makes your article more digestible to your readers, but also organizes the content for the search engines.
Collection Page & Landing Page Content
On the other hand, content on collection pages and landing pages might look a bit different. When you are doing your keyword research, you might find that there are keywords that have a strong monthly search volume that warrant creating landing pages strategically for SEO. In other cases, you might already have the collection or landing page created, it simply needs supporting content added to it.
Whether you prefer to add your content to the top of the page or the bottom of the page, you want to keep the user experience in mind, while also including the relevant content needed for the search engines. This can look a bit different depending on the industry. For some eCommerce websites, the content explains the USPs of the brand and the specific collection while optimizing for the targeted keyword. For other eCommerce sites, the content might be held within the FAQs at the bottom of the page.
The bottom line is that on-page content is an important ranking factor for your targeted keywords. No matter where you choose to place your content, the important thing is that you have content on your pages that is optimized for the targeted keywords. It’s also important that the content flows naturally and that you don’t include the target keyword every chance you get (as this is referred to as keyword stuffing and can result in search penalties). By adding content to your pages, chances are you might start to see keyword ranking improvement within 1-2 months of implementing the content.
#4. Images – Sizes & ALT Text
Image Formatting & Sizes
When adding images to your content, it is important to make sure to adhere to best practices for image formatting and sizes. These best practices will help the look and feel of your content, as well as the performance of the page. The format and size of images can have a big impact on the speed with which a website page will load on a user’s browser, as well as how efficiently Google is able to understand and index the page. Common image formats include PNG’s, JPG’s, and Gif’s.
Although image size is an area where there is much more to dive into, a quick rule of thumb is to understand the aspect ratio of the image you are uploading. Here is a quick guide for different pixel amounts for common aspect ratios1:
Image ALT Text
It is also important to add image ALT text to the images you are uploading. Google uses image ALT text to help the visually impaired understand what an image is portraying without the use of screen readers. Knowing this, always be sure to accurately describe the image in a short and succinct way. Image ALT text is also a good way to add in relevant keywords to support your SEO efforts. Just be sure to do so in a natural way that helps give more context to the image description.
#5. Internal Linking
Another important element to be sure and focus on for your on-page strategy, is the strategic use of optimized internal linking. Internal links will serve to boost the page’s copy in a two-pronged approach. It will help your page from a keyword ranking standpoint, and a user-flow standpoint simultaneously.
Internal Linking Keyword Improvements
Utilizing targeted anchor text for your internal links will help garner improved keyword rankings to the page you are linking to. What does that mean specifically? It means that you should place the link on a main keyword or keyword phrase that is already ranking on the page you are linking to (AKA the destination page). This will give that destination page a boost to the keyword(s) you place the link on.
To better understand this concept, here is a quick hypothetical example;
If you are setting up a link on a blog post discussing “grain-free dog food options for older dogs,” you may want to include a link to your website’s /adult-dog-food page. If the adult dog food page is ranking for the keyword set “grain free dog food,” then you would place the link from the blog post on that exact keyword set, sending traffic to the adult dog food page. Google will see these two pages as being topically related, and reward the destination page with an improved keyword rank for the “grain free dog food” keyword set.
Internal Linking User Flow Improvements
Google’s algorithm updates often include strategies to improve the user experience. In this way, taking that same user-centric approach with your internal linking strategy should also help you find SEO success. A good way to think about this, is to simply ask yourself the question of “would you as a user, feel satisfied exiting the page you are currently on, to land on the page being linked to?” You should always add internal links to relevant pages so that you can foster growth in the user’s journey on your website. Internal links are a great way to direct users farther down the marketing funnel in subtle ways, while reinforcing what they are currently engaged with from a content or topical perspective.
#6. External Links
External links or backlinks are one of the top two ranking factors confirmed by Google. Backlinks are essentially votes of trust for your site and the key is quality over quantity as not all links are created equal. As such, it doesn’t matter if you have thousands of backlinks but they’re all from spammy websites. Additionally, you want a backlink profile that is diverse – meaning links should not only come from a few sites. After all, if your website is producing good quality content, other sites will naturally link to your website.
As part of the SEO checklist, assess the site’s backlink profile. (Ahrefs is a great tool for assessing your site’s backlink profile and those of competitors). The goal is to have a strong backlink profile which means you have a large percentage of high-quality backlinks – links from authoritative websites. For example, a link from the New York Times which is highly authoritative and trusted will carry more weight than a link from Jo’s blog. However, if Jo is a vet and seen as an established expert on dog nutrition and links to your dog treat website, it’s highly relevant and passes more value (also known as link equity).
#7. Technical SEO
Essentially, a Technical SEO analysis looks at your site to assess if it is easy for search engines to find pages and information on your site? For example, if your site has a lot of pages that are not linked to any other page, search engines will likely have a hard time finding all of these pages. This is an issue because these pages can have a lot of valuable information but if they’re not easy to find, the search engine robot is going to move on, meaning they won’t get seen or indexed (shown in the search results) and not drive website traffic. After all, there are millions of websites and only so much time search engines can spend on your website (this is known as your crawl budget). As such, it’s critical to make sure that your website has a strong technical foundation.
SEO Best Practices for Long-Term Success
Successful long term SEO requires a defined strategy but also allows for flexibility for when the checklist items change. SEO success is a moving target and the teams that can consistently hit the target are always scanning for the newest information available and trying new strategies while still keeping in mind seo basics. The most reassuring fact about the target is that we all know the bullseye – provide the most relevant and best user experience possible. Keep that in mind when crossing off the above SEO checklist items and you’re bound to be heading in the right direction!
Wondering how your site stands when compared to the SEO checklist? Let our SEO company conduct a complementary SEO audit! Learn more.