This on-page SEO checklist (including recommendations directly from Google) will help you structure web pages so visitors and search engines can read and rank the page better.
- Title Tag – Put Target Keyword At The Start
- Meta Description – Target Keyword in meta description
- Put Page Heading in H1 Tag
- First Sentence or Introduction
- Internal Links
- Outbound Links
- Above the fold
- Spelling and reading level
- Page Speed
- Image Alt Tags
- Related Pages or Products
- Call to Action
Title Tag – Put Target Keyword At The Start
Put your target keyword towards the start of your page title as per the example below.
A formula that I like to use is
Keyword + User Intent + Outcome
In this example,
- The target keyword is “seo copy”
- The user intent after analysing the top pages is ‘how to write seo copy”
- And the outcome the user wants is higher rankings and clicks
And in the page you are reading
- The target keyword is “on page seo checklist”
- The user intent is a checklist to follow as you produce a web page
- The outcome of using a checklist should better rankings and usability
With more emphasis being put on mobile rankings, your page title can only use so many characters.
I write my page title out in a tool called Test Page Title & Meta Description Visibility.
As you can see, 519 to 578 pixels is an acceptable length.
Then when I preview the page title in Yoast for mobile results, this length looks ideal.
Here’s an example of a page title on a mobile phone where I currently rank at position 4.
Finally, when using characters such as | and – and your company name, you aren’t maximising the page title opportunity for searchers or search engines.
Meta Description – Target Keyword in meta description
The meta description is a few lines of text just below the page title.
The meta description is an extended version of the page title.
I copy the page title into the meta description box and add a call to action towards the end.
Use the preview box in Yoast or the test tool to maximise the space.
Here’s the desktop view.
Here’s the mobile view.
I was also shocked to discover that Google rewrites over 62% of meta descriptions.
Here’s an example showing how Google rewrote my meta description.
Every page on a website has a URL to identify it from other pages uniquely.
Ideally, you should include your primary keyword or phrase in the URL
Of all the on-page ranking factors, the URL is one of the strongest, according to research by Brian Dean and Ahrefs.
Just be careful with URL’s in WordPress as they use your page header by default.
So save your page or page as a draft and then edit the URL slug.
Put Page Heading in H1 Tag
Place your main keyword into the page heading wrapped in an H1 tag.
Although, according to a study of 2 million keywords by Ahrefs, around 85% of top-ranking pages don’t have their keyword in the H1 tag. (ahrefs.com)
First Sentence or Introduction
The first sentence of the introduction to your page should include your target keyword.
I use the meta description that I wrote as the first sentence on a page most of the time.
Putting your keyword in the first sentence reassures the site visitor that they have landed on the page they clicked on.
This can help combat the back button being hit and increase the time spent on your page; dwell time.
After the first sentence, put the most important details about the page first.
If you are producing a data study page, you will include the key findings.
Many content creators use the BLUF technique (Bottom Line Up Front) at the start of a page.
Here’s my checklist of the content component.
People don’t read web pages the way they read a book.
They scan and skim through a page, looking for areas or pieces of content that grab their attention.
Put your own pages into Hotjar to track the mouse and scrolling movements.
Subheadings to use H2 tags
For me, the easiest way to write website content is to produce an outline of my page using sections.
These sections, ideally, use H2 headers.
Using these sub-headers enables you to write faster and your writing to flow easier for the reader.
H2 and H3 headers are also cues that help the visitors who are skimming and scanning your page.
Subheadings can also be scrapped by Google and appear as rich snippets in the search results.
Here’s an example of a featured snippet using the headers of a page.
And in this example, Google displays the subheadings of my page right underneath my meta description.
You aren’t writing a book when you create a web page.
Don’t group several sentences into a block; that’s hard to read.
Use a short sentence in one line.
After the full stop, use another line.
The stylesheet that controls my typography has large spaces between each sentence and paragraph.
Again this makes scanning and reading web pages easier.
Bullet Points and numbered lists
Use bullet points or numbered lists to break up the monotony of headers and paragraph text.
Additionally, these features can also help your page acquire rich or featured snippets.
Bold and Italic
Whilst not essential, bold and italic can help draw the reader’s attention to words, phrases, quotes or testimonials.
Table of Contents and Passage Interference
Adding a table of contents can help you rank particular sections of a page in the search results.
This feature is handy on long-form content articles; read more about table of contents here.
You can quickly check the word count of the top-ranking pages using a tool such as Thruuu.
Content length matters for certain page results such as guides, how-to articles and so on, but the word count for e-commerce collection pages shall be much lower.
Keyword frequency is the number of times your main keyword appears in your page content.
For example, I’m planning to produce an SEO plan template, and I don’t need to mention the target keyword at all in the article.
More important is to serve the user’s intention on your page by writing your answer naturally.
Relevant, up to date content
One of my top pages was created by identifying competing out of date pages.
I discovered people searching for “how to advertise locally”, and the top page was a few years old.
I also realised that their content and page advice was very outdated.
So I created a more relevant and up to date guide.
Now there may come a time when my page content becomes out of date.
Look at the date when you published an article.
Use Ahrefs organic keyword tool to look for keywords and pages that have declined over the past 6 months.
The primary purpose of your page is to serve the user’s intent.
The intent for the query “SEO plan template” is to deliver a template someone can use to plan an SEO campaign.
However, within the page, you may also have to answer particular questions related to the intent.
Here’s an example.
When I finally decide to start writing, I must provide a template, but I also need to answer a few questions throughout the article.
Not many people like to read rows and rows of text and headings.
You should break up your page with :
- relevant images
- diagrams or
Not only do these assets aid the reader, but they can also help you earn links to your page.
Links help the search engine connect and understand pages.
I wrote this page and mentioned “top of funnel keywords.”
It may have made sense to link to a page I had already written about this subject.
I’ve added the internal link using anchor text that indicates a relevant page to the reader and the search engines.
Using the Ahrefs link opportunities feature will help you identify internal link opportunities and could help boost the organic rankings of particular pages and keywords.
A link to an external website can help Google understand the page’s context, especially for complex or mixed intent subjects.
For example, there are 2 towns in the UK called Troon.
If I mentioned and linked out to the golf courses in Troon, then Google would know my page is about Troon in Scotland, not Troon in the southeast of England.
Above the fold
According to the Google UX playbooks, your page should have the following information above the fold of the browser (as indicated by the arrow in the screenshot)
- Consolidated menu in a hamburger style format
- Display page header, category title or product name
- Clear descriptive call to action above the fold of the browser.
- The first sentence is clearly visible.
Google’s UX Playbooks also recommend removing revolving carousels and image sliders from the top of your pages.
Spelling and reading level
Try and keep the reading level of your page as close as possible to a basic level.
That’s easy for me as I speak and write very plainly.
However, you would have a higher reading level than other sites for more complex and technical subjects.
You can use the reading level feature within Yoast to check.
Google has previously said that page loading speed is an SEO ranking signal.
You can improve your site’s loading speed by:
- Using a faster web hosts
- Using a faster theme eg: Generate Press
- Using speed performance tool such as WP Rocket (WordPress only)
- Optimising your page images
This should be a given that your website uses HTTPS.
Image Alt Tags
Add your target keyword to the alt tag of your images.
This can help you rank better for images and shopping search queries.
Also, consider using your keywords in the file name of the image you are using on your web page.
Adding schema markup can help search engines to understand your content better.
For example, your page may be a property listing page.
You can define the page type and signal to the search engines what the content is about.
Related Pages or Products
Nice to have, but not essential is to link to related pages or products.
Call to Action
And last but not least, have a call to action on your page.
As Seth Godin wrote in his book, Knock Knock, there are only 4 things that can happen at the moment after someone sees a page :
- Click the back button
- Clicks and goes to the link you want them to go to
- Clicks and buys
- Clicks and fills in a form
And above all, do not interrupt the reading experience with pop-ups, push notifications or other distractions.
I trust this on-page SEO checklist, along with illustrated examples, was helpful, and I hope you’ll download and implement some of these points on your next page.