Looking for the best practices when it comes to writing blog posts and publishing content on your website? Use this on-page SEO checklist to craft valuable content for your target audience and fully optimize your blog posts for Google rankings.
This is a complete SEO checklist for on-page SEO that covers a variety of page ranking factors. But first, let’s cover some groundwork.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization is a process that’s essential for boosting your Google rankings. Click here to learn more about SEO basics.
In this article, I’m going to link to tutorials on how to set up certain elements on your website on both WordPress and Squarespace.
Setting Up the SEO Groundwork
Before you worry about publishing new blog content every week, it’s important to set up your website for success. Your website’s core refers to some basic links like the homepage, about page, contact page, and it also refers to site speed, visibility, and user experience.
Create a site title
Your site title can include the name of your business and a very brief headline of what your site is about. The title should be 60 characters or less. The website title is what you see on your homepage tab and in the search results when you search for your site name.
Create a website description
Underneath the website title is the website description. This is like a brief tagline that you can use to tell what your website/business is about. The description should also be short so try to keep it less than 160 characters.
Add a browser icon
The browser icon is the small image that shows up in the browser tab next to any of your website links. Most websites use a simplified version of their business logo to use as the browser icon. It can also show up in search results and other places on the web.
The site title, site description, and browser icon can help with your brand awareness.
Set up the Google Search Console
The best way to see how Google understands your website is through the Google Search Console. You can use your Console account to see how search engine crawlers are analyzing your website.
Use these instructions to set up Google Search Console for your website.
Set Up Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a useful tool with all sorts of helpful information. You can use it to see how many visits your website receives, what your most popular content pieces are, and how visitors are finding your website.
How are instructions on how to set up a Google Analytics account.
Set Up Google my Business
Another way to increase visibility for your business and website is through a Google My Business account.
Note: If you operate a remote/virtual business and don’t feel comfortable sharing your business location, you certainly aren’t obligated to. It’s really a personal preference, however, you can set up your location to simply say the United States vs city and location.
Make sure you have the SSL certificate enabled for your website. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, and it’s basically a certificate that verifies your website and makes it secure. Google may penalize your site if the SSL is not active.
Create a custom 404 page
Setting up a custom 404 page is a great way to improve the user experience on your website. Some HTML coding is required if you are using WordPress. On Squarespace, you can create a new page and design it how you like, and then set it to be your 404 page in the settings.
Minimize Site Speeds
Site speed is a really important ranking factor for SEO. To keep each page from running slow, keep each page size under 5 MB. Limit the number of embedded items and keep image sizes under 500 KB.
As more and more people use mobile devices to access the internet off Wifi networks, site speeds are becoming more and more critical for higher rankings.
Related: 31 Ways to Increase Website Traffic
Before Publishing Blog Content
There are plenty of ways to optimize your blog posts for search engines, which is why I created this SEO checklist that you can download here.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you look for keywords.
When you’re doing keyword research, you can look directly on Google. Or you can invest in some SEO tools that include keyword research like Keyword Everywhere or Rank IQ.
Whatever route you choose, take a look at the search results. Are the top results self-published websites or are they top ranking sites like Wikipedia, Amazon, WebMD, or government websites?
If your site is smaller, then your competition should be other smaller, self-published sites. Avoid competing with large publications like WebMD.
While you’re collecting keywords, make sure you also make a list of frequently asked questions related to the topic you want to write about. More on this later.
An important aspect of finding keywords is determining what the intent is behind those searches. Ask yourself why are people making these searches?
There are four types of search intent: informational, navigational, transactional, commercial investigation.
Google’s algorithm is very smart and has started to understand emotions. That sounds really weird so here is an example of what I mean.
Determine and choose a focus keyword
When you’re doing keyword research, avoid this:
I’ve seen small business owners take Google searches literally. For example, I’ve seen photographers put the keyword “photographers near me” on their websites. They do this because if you start to type “Atlanta photographer” in the Google search bar, then a suggested term “near me” populates almost immediately. But what these photographers don’t realize is that Google isn’t determining first page results based on the exact search term “Atlanta photographers near me”.
Instead, the first page results are likely determined by Google My Business, Google reviews, and the inclusion of “Atlanta, Georgia” placed naturally in different areas on those photographers’ websites. In other words, Google can tell the location of the business based on the information you provide on your site.
Going off this point, I also want to encourage you to avoid keywords that are not grammatically correct or spelled correctly. For example, “banana bread vegan” may have a higher search volume than “vegan banana bread”. But that doesn’t mean your recipe title should be Banana Bread Vegan.
And finally, I want you to be aware of LSI keywords. LSI stands for Latent Semantic Indexing. Nowadays Google understands semantic relationships between words, meaning that the Google crawlers can understand what your blog posts are about without relying 100% on the exact keywords.
How many words should a blog post have to improve Google rankings? There is a lot of debate on how many words should be in your blog posts. One SEO study from April 2020 revealed that the average Google first page result contains 1,447 words. But should you write that much in every single blog post?
Consider this quote directly from Google: “Content should be factually accurate, clearly written, and comprehensive.” I take this to mean that your content should bring value. Answer FAQs, provide video tutorials and images and be thorough in your research.
Don’t strive for high word counts just for the sake of it, especially if it makes your blog post “thinned out” with weak content.
If you use Yoast, they recommend that every post or page on your site should contain a minimum of 300 words.
FYI, cornerstone content is the “core” of what your site is about. These can be how to’s, tutorials, or comprehensive studies.
According to Search Engine Journal, there isn’t an ideal word count that will improve your chances of rankings. Instead, “It should be as long as it is needed to help convey the message of the page and allow users to complete their desired actions on that page.”
With that being said, create content that your audience can learn from. Share new content consistently that you think your audience will love! Keep them coming back for more and the web traffic will follow!
Write Valuable Content
While you write your content, keep high quality content in mind.
Use active voice instead of passive voice whenever possible.
Keep your paragraphs and sentences relatively short so that your content is “skimmable”, especially for mobile users. Try to keep sentences less than 20 words long, and paragraphs should be 2-3 sentences long.
Also, use a fair amount of transition words. It provides a connection for your readers to understand how all your points and topics link together.
Here are a few examples of transition words:
- For example
- After that
- In conclusion
One way to make your content high quality and contain useful information is by answering common questions that people ask. When you answer these FAQs within your blog posts, you can increase the chances of showing up in featured snippets.
It’s also easier to include relevant keywords in your content when you genuinely answer these questions.
As you’re writing, make sure that you avoid keyword stuffing. Your keywords should appear naturally in your text.
Create H1 Tag / Page Title
The title of your blog post or page is also known as the page title. In the coding of your site, this title should be set as the H1 tag.
You can make sure your blog posts have the H1 tag by going through the HTML code.
Add Subheadings to Break Up Content
Break up your content with subheadings. These will also be known as an H2 tag or H3 tag. Include your primary keyword in at least one subheading.
Create SEO Title
The SEO title is the page title that shows up in Google search results. If you don’t set this up, in most cases, Google will pull the page title. However, you have the opportunity to tweak the SEO title to include more keywords.
Write Meta Description
Ensure each page on your site has a unique SEO description. The text should be short and readable (50-300 characters), and describe the content of the page. You can also add SEO descriptions to individual blog posts, products, and events.
URL Slug / Page Link
If you’re blogging, choose how your blog post URLs are automatically created. While you can choose any options that fit your needs, we recommend you always include the post’s title.
Internal links are links that navigate to other pages on your own website.
In turn, external links navigate to any other website on the internet.
Link to other high-quality websites. Set those outbound links to “open in new tab.” This can improve your blog’s bounce rate because it can keep visitors on your website for longer periods of time.
Before you upload graphics to your website, there are a few steps to take to fully optimize your website. For stock images, I use JPG images because they are smaller files.
If you’re sharing infographics or images that show a step-by-step process, I use PNG images because I want them to be top quality.
Once the image files are compressed, rename the graphics with the primary keyword.
After you add graphics to your blog post, write alt text for each image.
Proofread Your Work
Double-check your content for plagiarism and avoid duplicate content on your own website.
After You Publish New Blog Content
After you publish new website content, just know that the work isn’t quite finished yet. Now it’s time to finish your content marketing by publishing your work on social media and link building.
On-Page SEO Checklist
Here you can download my free printable SEO checklist which can help you improve your search results. This checklist is easy to download and print so you can easily optimize your content in future blog posts!