On-Page SEO Checklist: How to Optimize for Search Engines
The higher you rank on the search engine results pages, the higher the likelihood of securing clicks from your target audience.
Current search algorithms, however, are as sophisticated and discerning when assigning search ranks as ever.
As part of your overall SEO strategy, effective on-page optimization has the power to improve your ranking and bring a pool of new traffic to your website.
Let’s dive deeper into why on-page optimization is important for both search engines and users and walk through a handy on-page SEO checklist.
What is On-Page SEO?
On-page SEO (or on-site SEO) is the process of optimizing page-specific elements of your website so that it ranks in search engines and brings traffic. It involves aligning specific keywords with on-page components such as title tags, headings, content, and internal links.
Why On-Page SEO Is Important
On-page SEO tells Google and other search engines all about your website. It helps search engines crawl and analyze your pages (and the content connected to them) so that they can identify whether a searcher’s query is relevant to your website.
In SEO for SaaS, optimizing your on-page elements also enables prospects to quickly and clearly understand what your page is about and what value they’d get.
How To Use This SEO Checklist
Following a checklist is arguably one of the best ways to organize your workflow, ensure tasks are thoroughly completed, and be more effective and efficient.
The practical 9-point guide below can be used to stay on top of your on-page activities, as well as an ongoing list of reminders of the most critical on-page optimization steps.
While you don’t need to implement everything on the on-page SEO checklist, do keep in mind that the more tips you incorporate, the more likely you are to get more traffic.
All things considered, optimizing on-site elements can feel overwhelming. If you need a little extra help implementing these steps, consider looking for a trustworthy SEO service that can support your digital efforts and help you do better search engine optimization.
9-Point On-Page SEO Checklist
Here are the 9 steps to follow to ensure that you are taking full advantage of the benefits on-page SEO has to offer.
1. Find the Keywords with the Right Intent
Because Google is prioritizing showing users high-quality content that solves their problems, search intent is a pivotal factor in your website’s ability to rank well. Today, instead of simply carrying the keyword the searcher typed in the search bar, your web pages need to address the issue that the user intended to solve.
To find out what a user’s intent is in a keyword, start by looking at the first page of results for that query.
For instance, titles that include words such as ‘how’, ‘ways to’, and ‘what is’ typically hint at an informational search intent. In that case, to satisfy the intent and rank competitively, your page should provide relevant content that thoroughly covers the subject and helps the visitor understand the issue.
2. Create a Short and Keyword-Optimised URL
As a general rule, your page URLs should be simple and easy to read by both users and search engines.
Consider this example:
Here, “hop.online” is the domain, “seo” is the directory for Hop Online’s SEO Blog, and “seo budget allocation for B2B SaaS companies” shows the path to that specific blog post.
To create SEO-friendly URLs, keep them short, avoid unnecessary words, and use no more than two keywords.
3. Tailor the Page Title & Meta Description
Website page titles play a significant role in on-site SEO – they summarize the content of the page and tell both users and search engines what they can find on it.
Meta descriptions, albeit not an official ranking factor, can influence whether a searcher clicks on your page, which makes them just as important when doing on-page SEO.
To rank for the proper intent, ensure each page title and meta description includes a focus keyword. That said, it’s also crucial to incorporate your keywords as naturally as possible and make sure they’re relevant to the page.
4. Use Your Keywords in H1 & H2 Tags
H1 and H2 headers serve two main purposes:
- helping you better organize your content for the reader
- allowing search engines to identify the most relevant parts of your content (based on search intent)
In your H1 and H2 tags, be sure to incorporate your most important keywords. As a rule of thumb, it is best to choose keywords different than the ones in your page title.
5. Include Synonyms and LSI Keywords in the Copy
LSI keywords and synonyms complement your main keyword and allow Google to better determine the relevancy of your pages. They further help maximize readability and avoid keyword stuffing.
One way to identify LSI keywords is by searching for your focus keyword in Google and scrolling down to “Related Searches” at the bottom of the page. This is a great way to source new ideas and enhance your copy.
6.Optimize Images with Alt Tags
Simply put, image alt-tags are SEO for images. They let search engines know what your images are about, allowing people to find your site through images, too.
When optimizing your images with alt-text, remember to make them specific and relevant to the overall page content, as well as incorporate keywords sparingly.
7. Don’t forget E-A-T Signals
The concept of E-A-T refers to three main signals – Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
E-A-T comes from Google’s Search Quality Rater guidelines and is one factor that the search engine uses to evaluate the overall quality of a page.
Although not a direct Google ranking factor, applying E-A-T standards to your content can increase your chances for search engine visibility and higher ranking.
To improve E-A-T, try and encourage more social proof (e.g. customer reviews), build more links, keep your content up-to-date, and get mentions on authoritative websites.
8. Use Internal Links
Internal links are hyperlinks to other pages on your website.
Here’s an example from HubSpot:
By sending visitors to other helpful pages on the site (the pricing page in the example above), the company keeps people around for longer and, consequently, indicates to Google and other search engines that their pages are relevant and helpful.
While it might be tempting to stuff the anchor text of your internal links with keywords, remember that your main goal here is to make it easy for users to navigate your site.
9. Use External Links
Linking to external pages may feel counterintuitive, however, including links to trustworthy sites is a great strategy for letting search engines know that your pages are credible and well-referenced.
Bonus Tip: Be Aware of Keyword Cannibalization
Keyword cannibalization happens when several pages on your website unintentionally target and compete for the same keyword. In turn, this may make it difficult for search engines like Google to discern which page to rank higher.
What this means is that sometimes Google might give a higher ranking to a page that you don’t mean to prioritize. At the same time, it may also drag down the rankings for all pages that target these keywords.
To prevent and eliminate keyword cannibalization, consider merging similar pages, altering the internal links (particularly those with keyword-dense anchor texts), and removing keywords (but only when you want to keep that specific content for other reasons and the keywords here aren’t critical).
On-Page SEO Tools
Having a go-to SEO toolkit can do wonders for your digital marketing efforts. With so many options available, though, choosing your essentials can be overpowering.
To get you started, here are some helpful tools you can begin using immediately to optimize your on-site SEO elements:
- Screaming Frog – enables you to map out redirects, find exact and near-duplicate content, and detect low content pages
- Google Search Console – lets you see reports on technical issues that need immediate repair and monitor your indexation levels to ensure you’re still properly visible in search results. You can also use it to uncover your top-performing and underperforming pages
- Ahrefs – allows you to analyze your keywords to make sure you’re focusing on the right topics, as well as analyze your backlink profile and explore different metrics for your site (and those of your competitors’)
Start Optimizing for Search Engines and Users
At the end of the day, on-page SEO enables search engines to connect the relevance of your pages to the keyword or query you’re aiming to rank for.
To get on your way to higher rankings, remember to create high-quality content around keywords and phrases that help bring value to your business and your (potential) customers.
In our blog, read more on how to interpret keyword difficulty scores and identify the keywords worth targeting.