On-site SEO is the process of optimizing your website to rank well in search engines, like Google. It’s well known in the SEO community that there are 200+ factors Google takes into consideration when determining how to rank a website. That’s a lot to keep track of and try to understand. In this blog post, we have provided a detailed on-site SEO checklist you can use to properly review and optimize your website for the search engines.
Valuable On-Site SEO Resources
Before we explain how to do on-site SEO, we should first introduce you to some valuable resources that will help. Each tool listed below is free or has a free version available. Most of them are relatively easy to set up. And once they are set up, they require either no updates, or minimal updates for maintenance. The first thing you should do, if you want to routinely optimize your website, is get these resources set up.
1. Google Search Console
Google Search Console gives a picture of how your website appears in search engines. You’ll see how many pages come in the search results, crawling information, average search position, and other helpful details.
This information will also help you identify errors that may negatively impact your website performance. And Google Search Console will also enable you to submit a sitemap. This helps Google better understand how your website is put together.
2. Bing Webmaster Tools
It’s estimated 33% of all searches are done on Bing. Since the market share for Bing has been on an upward trend, you can use it to strengthen your brand. What’s more, this is an opportunity to utilize other features like Bing Link Explorer and SEO reports.
Bing Webmaster Tools helps you outline the issues on your website and identify recommend actions to take. When all the issues are addressed, a comprehensive report is generated.
3. Google Analytics
Google Analytics helps you see and understand the website traffic you have acquired. You can use it to determine which other websites sent people to your website. And just as important, you can see the bounce rate, time on site, page views and most popular pages or blog posts viewed within your website. If properly configured, you will even be able to see which pages generated leads or sales for your business.
For optimal results, you should connect your Google Search Console account with Google Analytics.
4. Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO helps you set up focus keywords. These are keywords that are particularly important for your business. You want Google to strongly associate these keywords with your website. For example, the focus of this blog post is “on-site SEO.” That’s certainly something we want to rank well for. Yoast SEO will help you set up your meta-descriptions and title tags as well [we will talk about this in more depth later], which is something missing from many unoptimized websites. This tool makes it easy for you to optimize a WordPress site. It also solves a lot of technical SEO issues you may not have been aware of. And because it follows industry trends, you can use this tool to keep your website optimization on point.
5. Google Autocomplete
Have you ever typed something into a Google search, and before you finished typing your keyword phrase, you saw some pre-filled searches? If so, you’d see you can just click the “autocomplete” Google search and hit “enter.” This is Google’s Autocomplete. And, if you’re looking for keywords, it’s a great free way to see what people are often searching. When you look for keywords, it’s usually recommended you identify long-tail keywords.
Long-tail keywords have low competition levels which make them easier to rank for. A long-tail keyword is a long-phrase that someone would type into a Google search. An example would be “what are the pros and cons of a keto diet?” This type of keyword is very specific, though it’s not searched as often as a short-tail keyword. An example of a short-tail keyword would be “keto diet.” A short-tail keyword is searched far more often, but it’s also much more challenging to rank well on Google for this type of keyword. Another point to consider is that long-tail keywords have high conversion rates. For example, a visitor searching for “keto diet supplements” is more likely to make a purchase than someone just searching for “keto diet”.
6. Keyword Planner Tool
Google’s Keyword Planner helps you find keywords and analyze them. With a bit of know-how, this tool can be extremely useful for SEO purposes. When you use the Google Keyword Planner, you can find the most relevant primary keywords with which to optimize your website. Keep in mind that using precise keywords will help you get better results.
Once you get a long list of keyword phrases, you should choose the most relevant keywords for your business. Be sure to look deeper into the keyword provided by Google Keyword Planner. You can see how often each keyword is searched and also see how difficult it will be to rank well for those keywords, in comparison to other keywords. Read our blog post titled 7 Tools to Use For Keyword Research to learn about other keyword research tools.
How to Implement On-Site SEO
The resources and tools mentioned above will help you get started with SEO. They will also help you measure success. Next, let’s take a look at how best to actually implement on-site SEO into your website.
1. Include the Keyword In Your URL
A great URL will often include the most important keyword for your business. For example, our URL is www.jjlyonsmarketing.com. You can see we included “marketing” in there. Sometimes this isn’t very practical or easy to do. But, this is certainly something to consider when you purchase your domain.
Once you purchase the domain, consider making pages that strategically use keywords in the URL. For example, the URL for this blog post is https://www.jjlyonsmarketing.com/your-on-site-seo-checklist/. You’ll notice “on-site-SEO” shows up. Having the keyword for the blog post, inserted into the URL, is helpful for SEO.
Also, if you’re targeting a specific city, feel free to add that city in the URL, along with the keyword. That can certainly help too.
2. Include the Keyword Throughout Your Text
In addition to having the keyword in the URL, you also want to include it throughout your blog post or page. To get really technical, you want the keyword to show up in about 1-2% of your text. Yoast SEO will help you get the right keyword density.
Not only do you want to have a good keyword density, but you should be strategic about the placement of the keywords. Ideally, you should include the keyword in the first 150 words of your page or blog post. It should also be in at least one of your headers, and it should definitely be in your title. And keep in mind that a header isn’t necessarily the same thing as large bold text. The header actually needs to be marked up in the HTML as a header. Most content management software for websites includes the option to change the font style. In WordPress, there is an option to change from “paragraph” text to “header” text.
More on Headers
Speaking of headers, there are different types. The first header is called an H1 header. This is essentially the ultimate header and is what your title will use. Almost all pages and blog posts should use only one H1 header. Then, the next header should be an H2 header. If you want to use subheadings throughout the page or post, they should be H3 or smaller. Also, make sure you use the headers in this hierarchy. For example, maybe you think the H1 and H2 headers are too big and don’t look attractive. You may be tempted to use an H3 header instead, for better aesthetics. But, that’s not a good idea from an on-site SEO standpoint. Instead, use the correct headers, but have your developer edit the style of the header, so it actually looks good.
By the way, this next header you’re about to see is an H3 header.
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3. Slightly More Technical Keyword Placement
In the last point, we shared some fairly straightforward locations for your keywords to be included in. But, there are a couple of other sections you should also pay attention to.
Alt Text [By the Way, this is an H4 header]
First, make sure you include the keyword in the image alt text. Have you ever seen a website, or an email, where there should be an image, but instead there was a little X? Sometimes the X is red. If that web page or email used alt text, instead of seeing an X you would see actual words that are describing the image. This alt text describes what the images are about. And if someone who is blind uses a screen reader, it will actually read the alt text to the individual, so they know there is an image in that location and what the image is about. In fact, including alt text is now a factor for having an ADA compliant website. Website owners who fail to do this can actually be sued.
“Alt text” stands for alternative text. Specifically, text to be shown as an alternative to showing the image. And, this is something search engines read. Make a point to have a relevant image on your website that includes the keyword the page or blog post is focused on.
By the way, in the image next to this paragraph you’ll see a piece of paper with a checklist of SEO related items. The alt text we attached to that image, is “On-site SEO Checklist.”
Meta Title And Meta Description
When you’re looking for something in a Google search, you’ll type in your keywords. Then, you’ll see a list of various websites you can click on. Each website on the list will include a title and a description. Feel free to search something on Google right now, to see what we mean, then come back to this blog post. The title for each website in the search results is blue. You’ll also see a more detailed description of the page. That description is in black font.
By default, Google will typically display what it thinks is the most relevant title for your page, and will generally use the beginning of the page text as the description. However, you can specifically tell Google what you want to display as the blue title and the black description. And as you can probably guess, you should include the keyword phrase in the title and also in the description. This is important and is often overlooked in unoptimized websites. Again, if you have a WordPress website, Yoast SEO can help you get the meta title and description properly configured.
4. Use Internal and External Links
Links are third-party votes for your website. They signal to Google that your site is quality. Every time you publish new content, you should link internally to other pages on your site. Be sure the links you create are to relevant and related websites or pages. For example, three sentences ago we linked to a blog post that talks about backlinks and why they are valuable. That’s relevant and good. If we had linked to our blog post about using an integrated marketing communications strategy, that wouldn’t be nearly as relevant or beneficial.
External links are also a significant ranking factor. Try and link to other related websites that are respectable and address whatever it is you’re writing about. For example, the next link we include is linking to Search Engine Land, which is a highly reputable and well-established website in the SEO industry.
Two more quick points about links… Don’t forget to fix broken links too, as they can hurt your on-site SEO. Also, having quality backlinks are still among the top ranking factors for your website. So, be sure to work on acquiring backlinks from other strong websites. However, this isn’t something we should include in our on-site SEO checklist. This is an off-site SEO point. But, here’s a link so you can read more about where to get backlinks: https://jjlyonsmarketing.com/where-to-get-off-site-seo-backlinks-from/.
5. Ensure Your Site is Mobile-Friendly
In today’s digital world, more people are using smartphones. When your site is mobile-friendly, it will rank better than when it’s not mobile-friendly. To ensure you have a responsive website, you should create a design that aligns well on the screen, regardless of what type of mobile device is being used. This goes for phones and also for tablets.
Additionally, mobile-friendly website are more likely to generate leads and sales than website that are not. This is because these sites are easier for the user to navigate and it’s more likely the visitor will stay on your website until the lead or sale is made.
6. Have a Fast Website
Make sure the HTML coding is clean and your website speed is fast. There are countless ways a website developer can build a website. This is similar to students writing a paper on a specific topic. An entire class can write a paper on “What I’ll Do This Summer” and each paper will be written completely differently, even though the outcome is the same. It’s a paper on what the student will do during the summer. In the same way, websites can be built very differently, depending on the developer and how to write the coding.
It’s important the coding is clean and well done. This can impact your website performance. And, just like it can be difficult to read a poorly written paper, it can also be difficult for a poorly developed website to load quickly. So, for user experience and also for SEO purposes, make sure your website is well-coded and loads as quickly as possible. As a side note, a slow website isn’t always slow because the coding is poorly done. There are various factors that can make a website run slowly. These factors may have nothing to do with the developer. If you have a slow website, you may want to read our blog post titled “10 Reasons Why Websites Load Slowly”.
7. Create Amazing Content
Quality content is part of the modern-day SEO strategy. There are a number of strategies you can use to create great content. Here are a few popular concepts to consider looking into:
- Some SEO professionals say the best way to create amazing content is to use the skyscraper technique.
- Another way to create amazing content is to create something called pillar content.
- Creating content that centers around SEO Semantics is yet another excellent way to create content for your website.
If you follow the on-site SEO guidelines presented in this blog post, and you incorporate concepts from the three bullets above, your content should do quite well.
8. Secure Your Site with HTTPS
Some websites start with “HTTPS” at the beginning of the URL. Others start with “HTTP.” The difference is that the HTTPS version is a more secure website.
According to a recent survey, more than 80% of users abandon the site when they find it’s insecure. Why should you move to HTTPS? It provides protection, authentication, data integrity and encryption to your website. And, it makes your website more trustworthy. Not only that, but it also helps with your on-site SEO.
If your website is not secure, then it will say HTTP at the beginning of the URL. If this is the situation with your website, then the solution is to purchase an SSL certificate. There are various SSL certificate options available for purchase by most website hosting companies. They typically cost around $75 per year. Some hosting companies or packages will even include an SSL certificate by default. But this isn’t a guarantee and you should definitely look into purchasing an SSL certificate if you haven’t already.
The Bottom Line
If you want to drive more traffic to your site or reach a wider audience, then it’s a very wise move to rank well in search engines like Google. Be sure to consider the above on-site SEO factors to get your website where you want it to be.
We realize SEO, both on-site and off-site, can take a lot of time and technical knowledge. If you need help with your website rankings, let us know. You can connect with us through the contact form below.