The Ultimate On-Page SEO Checklist for 2021
Looking for an easy to navigate comprehensive on-page SEO checklist to boost your website traffic? Your search ends here.
From the traditional white hat SEO facts to the latest SEO updates, this article has all that you need to take care of while putting a solid on-page SEO strategy and execution in place for your web content.
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of on-page SEO, let’s quickly wrap up the basics. Hang on, did we tell you that before even considering working on SEO, you’d need to do keyword research for your web content? Well, keyword research is the starting point of any SEO strategy, and here’s how you can do it.
Once you have your keyword research in place, you’re ready to SEO your content the right way. But to optimize your on-page SEO, it’s imperative that you understand what on-page SEO means and why it matters.
On-Page SEO: Why should you care about it?
As the name suggests, on-page SEO refers to all the techniques and practices that you use on your website to optimize it to rank better on search engines. Mind you, that not only includes best practices that you apply to your website content but also those you apply to your website HTML. Every element that you add within your page a.k.a your website comes under on-page SEO as opposed to external links and elements that you optimize in off-page SEO.
When working on SEO, on-page is what you have more control over and can start from day one. As and when you create content for your website, you can keep optimizing it for SEO, unlike backlinking that you can only do once you have a decent amount of content on your website that external sources can link back to.
More importantly, on-page SEO is where you work on the keywords you want to rank for. The most popular search engine, our dear friend, Google, itself lays emphasis on keyword optimization and you can do that only through a strong on-page SEO strategy and execution.
The Complete On-Page SEO Checklist For 2021
1. Meta Title
The title of your page is the first thing Google matches to a search query. So, your page title should include the keyword you want to rank for. For instance, we want this article to rank for ‘on-page SEO checklist’, hence the title. And not just us, you’d find this in every similar article.
It is often recommended that you keep the keyword at the beginning of the title because, after approximately 60 characters, Google will crop your title out. So, the sooner your keyword comes in the article, the better it is.
That being said, it is okay if your keyword comes after a couple of words. You need not beat yourself up trying to find the perfect title that starts with your keyword. As long as it’s in the first 40 characters, your SEO would be fine.
2. Meta Description
Meta description is the preview text you see right under the title for your search results. Just like the title, the meta description should also be indicative of the content on your page so it should have the keywords that you’ve selected.
Ideally, your meta description should be approximately 155-160 characters so that it’s displayed entirely in the search result.
3. Heading and Subheading
If you think that your reader is going to read every line in your website content, you’re sadly mistaken. They may choose to read it eventually, but when someone lands on your website, they scan your content. They look at the headings, subheadings, text in bold and bullet points, to judge whether your content is relevant and then they look deeper. You’d be surprised to know that even bots behave in a similar manner. It is your headings that tell these bots which is the right keyword to rank for.
So, you’d have to put your long-tail keywords in headings and allot H1 and H2 tags to them to convey their hierarchy to website crawlers. In fact, you can use tools like SEO Site Checkup to see whether or not your website content has adequate heading tags that are being recognized by bots. We tried the heading tag test there for one of our articles and here’s what it showed in the image
4. Alt Text
Ever wondered how Google shows image-based results? Are Google bots able to scan your image and understand it?
Not really. You have to tell them what the image is about to ensure that your image is displayed as an image search result. You can do this by adding ‘alt text’ or ‘alt tag’ to your image, which is essentially the alternative text that describes what the image is about.
Ideally, you should try to put in the alt text as something that includes your keyword or is closely related to it. It further helps in solidifying your on-page SEO for that keyword.
5. Inbound and Outbound Linking
Before you confuse this with the off-page SEO linking that we talked about earlier, let’s make it clear for you. Off-page SEO is about ‘backlinking’. That means it covers the links of websites that are linking back to your website content.
On-page is SEO is about inbound and outbound linking. If you notice, at the beginning of this article, we linked to one of our earlier articles about keyword research. That’s content we own and is hosted on our domain, so it is inbound linking. However, while talking about why on-page SEO matters, we linked to a Google article talking about how search engines work. When you link to a website outside your website/domain, that’s outbound linking.
Both of these links help Google and other search engines in deciding the credibility and quality of your content, so you must not forget to add them. Tools like VisioSpark can help you in keeping tabs on your external and internal links. However, if you are using a content management system like WordPress, you can monitor these links for each of your webpages directly on the platform.
6. Website Load Speed
Did you know that 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less? As a matter of fact, 40% of users would abandon your website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. Google wants to provide its users with the best experience they can get. So, if your website takes too long to load, Google would prefer not to rank it high on its search results.
Not just that, to help you know that your page is doing fine in terms of page speed, Google also has its PageSpeed Insights tool which not only analyzes your page speed but also gives suggestions to boost it.
Some of the common ways to boost your page speed are to avoid redirects and optimize media content like images and videos to web-friendly sizes.
Video content is gaining popularity in recent times, so while you should try to add more video content on your website, always ensure that it does not hamper your page speed. It is best to always use video in MP4 format and compress it using tools like HandBrake that reduce the file size without compromising on the quality.
7. Website Responsiveness and AMP
It’s no news that 70% of web traffic comes from mobile devices. So, Google now ranks your website based on its mobile version. That’s known as mobile-first indexing. Whenever you design your website, you must make sure that the images, the headings, and the layout stays intact when viewed on mobile devices. Not just that, your website should be easy to navigate on mobile devices. Using elements like the Hamburger menu (the three lines that present on the top right corner to load the menu), responsive headings, and images under 100 kb can help with mobile optimization.
You can even check whether or not your website is optimized well for mobile devices by taking Google’s mobile-friendly test.
Additionally, you should also have pages in AMP format that load almost instantly on mobile. You can actually take the AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) test by Google to know whether your mobile-specific pages are in the AMP version or not.
8. SSL certificate
Have you ever come across the error that says “Your connection is not private” while trying to visit a website? (see the image)
You see this because the site you’re trying to access does not have an SSL certificate. An SSL certificate takes you from HTTP to HTTPS which allows secure connections from a web server to a browser. As of July 2018, Google has enforced SSL requirements by flagging sites without SSL as unsafe in Chrome. Not just that, Google openly prioritizes SSL certified websites, so it’s a must-have in your on-page SEO checklist.
9. Keep up with Google updates: LSI Keywords and Schema
Back in 2013, Google launched an algorithm update, Hummingbird, one of the most prominent Google Algorithm updates of all time. In that, Google started LSI or Latent Semantic Indexing. That meant it would look for LSI keywords– words and phrases that had a high degree of correlation to the target topic in the search query. For instance, if you’re talking about cars, then LSI keywords might be automobile, engine, road, tires, vehicle, and automatic transmission. So, Google would rank you higher if you have more LSI keywords in your content.
Similarly, Google also started displaying snippets answering questions related to the search queries. To rank as an answer to those questions, you need Schema Markup. Not just that, you’d find secondary links under main website links on search results. Those too are generated through Schema. Google uses it to display richer results like this image.
10. Error Monitoring
Lastly, while you may have spent time applying all the best practices from our on-page SEO checklist, to ensure nothing gets missed out, you must regularly monitor your website on Google Search Console and tools like SiteLiner. These help you keep tabs on duplicate content, broken links, and other SEO issues that can hamper your website’s rankings.
Over To You
The more boxes you tick off from this on-page SEO checklist, the better your search engine rankings will be. All said and done, SEO is an ongoing practice. While this SEO checklist will definitely help you in laying a strong SEO foundation, we encourage you to stay up-to-date with the latest algorithm updates and SEO practices that come in the market as technology evolves.
Keep an eye on our blog for the latest SEO updates!