SEO is complicated. There are so many factors to consider, and each component has to work just right to get your site where you want it to go.
But you do have control over many of those factors, and following the checklist below will help ensure your site is up to SEO speed in 2020.
On-Page SEO Checklist 2020
Enhance visibility with SEO-Friendly URLs
When creating your new page (or modifying an existing one), be sure to have an SEO-friendly URL that uses keyword phrases naturally while demonstrating what the page is about. This is good for both search engines (to assign SEO value) and users (to establish trust by making the URL understandable).
The key is to keep it simple, easy to read, and recognizable yet keyword rich as in Google search results, the keywords in permalink URL are bold which means they still carry some weight. Check the below examples and you be the judge.
Keyword Rich URL: www.avamia.com/on-page-seo/
Default URL: www.avamia.com/2020/01/04/?p=12
Here are a few tips you need to consider:
- Experiment using Keywords-only URLs consisting of up to 4 words only.
- Avoid default generated URLs.
- Use only one version of your URL to avoid confusion and make sure it’s indexable.
Title: Include Keywords
The title tag is the most important on-page SEO factor and we’ve seen pages ranking when used keywords properly in the title tag. Google’s algorithm places a lot of weight on the Title tag to identify what the web page is about and it not only shows on top of your browser but also in the SERP results.
That is why it is recommended to include the keyword you are trying to rank for, however, ensure to not only use keywords wisely but that the title is compelling. Use the principles of writing good headlines by writing title tags that are understandable, simple, and get right to the point.
Quick Tip: The closer you have the keyword at the beginning of the title, the more weight it carries in search engines
Meta descriptions are another important SEO factor to pay attention to. These are small snippets of text that describe a page’s content. Its purpose is to explain to search engines what a page is about.
It doesn’t matter if you are a startup or just a service provider in your area, you can use the meta description to feature your unique selling points. One thing you should make sure is to check that you don’t exceed the words limit and utilize the space effectively. For instance, Google allows only 150-170 characters for meta descriptions.
Like your title, you should try to make your meta description as click-worthy as possible. Moreover, Google often rewrites meta descriptions, however, it’s still a good idea to write a descriptive one and include your primary keyword.
Use Header Tags
No On-Site SEO checklist would be complete without addressing Header tags. H1 tags are meant for the headline and therefore your title should be wrapped around this tag. However don’t over-optimize your page by adding keywords to sub-headings which are H2, H3, and H4.
Clear headings act as a roadmap to help users navigate your content, and have the ability to help increase a user’s time spent on your site.
From an SEO standpoint, it represents an opportunity to maximize the number of times you can include your target keyword. Unlike H1’s, which are only used once per page, you can use multiple H2 tags throughout your page.
But remember, H2 tags still have to obey content laws: include the keyword only where it’s relevant and natural, and don’t include it in every H2 subhead.
As a rule of thumb, try to include your target keyword in every 3-4 subheadings.
Structured Data Markup
Giving search engines as much information as possible about your site and the information it offers can only enhance your performance, so it’s become key for pages that want to outrank their competition to use structured data markup (also known as rich snippets) to enhance their search engine listings.
Structured data can have a multitude of benefits, ranging from improved CTR in the SERPs to better SEO performance overall. Below is a screenshot from a search result on spaghetti sauce recipes. You can see the difference structured data makes when looking at the first two options, the third option and fourth.
The goal is to always keep search engines and users moving deeper into the site, so if you’re referencing specific pages or sources, be sure to link to them using anchor text that uses calls to action (e.g. “learn more”, “sign up now”, etc.) or keyword phrases naturally.
Moreover, it also ensures that web crawlers spend more time on your website, navigating from one page to another. This is useful in getting your web pages indexed.
Don’t overwhelm the user with links – keep it focused and only drive off the landing page when it makes sense.
Outbound links have their place in the world of SEO and it is believed that linking out to other sites in your industry for reference or citation has a positive effect on SEO.
But even more than the ranking factor, it is a relevancy signal that helps Google figure out your content, what it is about, and also shows that you are adding value for the readers by linking out to useful resources.
The purpose is to provide users with the research you’ve carried out for them, let them dig deeper into the content you are writing with research, evidence, and references, and earn you credibility points.
Important Tip: Make sure external links open to a new window.
Make sure your site is secure
Google stated a few years ago that SSL certificates would be a part of their algorithm and would be a ranking factor. Also, Google Chrome now labels websites with the dreaded “Not Secure” label. Switching to HTTPS will not only protect your site visitors’ data, but it also boosts your search engine ranking.
Keep in mind that when migrating from HTTP to HTTPS, you need to be careful not to forget about any mixed content or loose ends. Generally speaking, a site migration can also produce a lot of complexity, so just make sure to crawl your site to identify any errors.
Use Modifiers and LSI Keywords
Title modifiers like “best”, “top”, or the year (“2020”) can help you capture more long-tail organic search traffic. Adding in modifiers will help your page appear in more relevant searches and help Google’s algorithm better understand what the site is about. Not to mention, modifiers will often appear in voice searches.
The body content itself should use keyword phrases naturally several times throughout, as well as utilize contextual variations. This is also known as LSI (Latent semantic indexing), this means synonyms and closed variant keywords which Google uses to better determine the page’s relevancy.
Increase the Length of the Content
CONTENT IS KING! We’ve heard this again and again. However, what does it mean exactly?
Your content is the bread and butter of your site, and will ultimately have the biggest impact on where your page ends up in the SERPs. Specifically, for a modern SEO content checklist, you need to be focusing on long-form content.
It has been observed that long-form content (2000 words or more) generally outperforms short-form content (1200 words or less). However, you should prioritize relevance, consistency, and quality over length.
If you’re using images on your pages, be sure that they are relevant to the topic (an image that’s not connected to your content can drive up bounce rate), are attractive, and are using relevant alt text and captions.
Here are a few tips you need to consider:
- Rename your images with a descriptive name as it is crucial for Image SEO. For example – Nike-air-max-blue-2014.jpg
- Optimize ALT Text when uploading images, these are text alternative to images which Google reads to learn about the image. As a matter of fact, using alt tags is probably the best way for your eCommerce products to show up in Google image and web search because search engines read ALT text.
- Reduce the size of your image file. By scaling down large image files, you can increase page speed, which is crucial for SEO. Pages that take longer to spool often suffer a high bounce rate due to the swift departure of eager visitors seeking an immediate solution.
To make the most of your videos they must be properly optimized. Here are a few tips if you want your video to be easily understood and indexed;
- Video Title – Same with your page titles, this should be short, engaging, and include your target keyword.
- Include a full description – This should accurately describe the topic of your video and what your viewers can expect to see. That means multiple paragraphs, not just a few sentences. Make sure to include your target keyword and any secondary keywords.
- Choose a relevant thumbnail image – This could be the deciding factor (even more than your title) in whether or not someone watches your video. Make sure you choose one that fits your topic.
- Relevancy – Don’t just throw a video for the sake of it. Make sure it’s relevant to the rest of your content.
- Use subtitles if possible – Videos are often watched with the sound off, so help your viewers out by including subtitles if your platform allows.
Write Quality Content
Uhmm, CONTENT IS KING!? again? Can’t stress this enough.
The truth is, Google has no direct way of determining the quality of content but metrics like time spent on site, repeat visitors, bookmarks and shares. Therefore, make sure that your content is free of spelling and grammatical errors and readable to boost those metrics. It also needs to engage and keep people on the page.
Add Social Media Sharing Buttons
Make it easy for people to share your content. Social sharing buttons encourage the distribution of your content across multiple platforms, which can send signals to search engines that your content is valuable and worth noticing.
Additionally, it creates additional touchpoints with your brand, which can result in greater brand recognition, traffic, and improved sentiment (hey, it’s easier for people to like you if they can find you!).
Trust us: SEO + Social Media = a perfect match.
Increase Site Speed
The faster your site loads, the friendlier it is to your users. You’ll often find better on-page user metrics with a fast site, plus there’s a correlation with having a fast website and good rankings.
Site speed can occasionally be limited to your platform, but if you’re not sure how to optimize your speed, start off first by investigating your load time with a tool and then contacting your hosting provider. From there, you can look at ways to make your site faster within the parameters of your platform.
Check your site speed now by using Google’s PageSpeed Insights!
Responsive design enables a page to adapt its layout according to whatever device a user is browsing on, making for an easier to navigate and more attractive user experience.
Search engines have already noted that responsive design will only enhance your site’s SEO performance, but perhaps more importantly, you’ll find increased time on site.
Check if your site is mobile-friendly by using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test!
Is the font too small? Is the font too difficult to read?
Believe it or not, these factors play into SEO more than you’d think. Be sure that your content is able to engage and be easily read, otherwise, you may see a high bounce rate, which can signal to search engines that your page isn’t offering value.
Is your content well organized? Can a reader easily skim and get the general idea of what you’re trying to convey? While it may be tempting to write a dissertation on your product, keep things trim and well organized so that someone reading quickly can still gain insight.
Add FAQ section and answer common questions
Position 0 – these are the results that appear at the very top of the SERP and are pulled from websites that provide a very specific answer to a user’s search query. This is also called a featured snippet.
It makes sense that to compete for the coveted position, your page should provide clear answers to the questions your audience is most likely to have. These are often pulled from FAQ sections, so it’s a great idea to include one in each relevant post. Just remember, facts and stats change with the times, so screen them often to make sure all data is current.
Set up Google Analytics and Google Search Console
A powerful on-page SEO checklist is a necessity for website owners. It lays the foundation of your SEO strategy and helps your website climb up the SERPs ladder. Relevant keywords and high-quality content are the most important aspects of on-page SEO.
With this checklist of essentials, optimizing for on-page SEO can be easier for you. Now the trick is to blend these tactics with your off-site strategy for SEO Success.