You’re probably aware that Google considers over 200 different factors when deciding the sites that should rank highly in search engines. If you’re not – you do learn something new every day after all.
A huge part of Search Engine Optimisation in 2016 is on-page SEO. Wouldn’t it be great if someone had put together a 2016 on-page SEO checklist so that you could ensure you’d nailed each and every part of it? Umm…helloooooo.
The things you’re doing on your website can heavily influence your search rankings; regardless of how many backlinks or social shares you have.
Before you start looking for people to share your content, you should make sure that what you have on your site is optimised to its fullest potential.
There are so many things to consider that it can get extremely hard to keep track of what you’re doing well and what you’re doing not-so-well.
What I want you to do is stop and think for a second.
Do you want the next blog post you write to perform amazingly? Of course you do.
Then why don’t you give it the best opportunity to do so?
Here’s an idea for you…instead of blogging this week, improve the stuff you’ve already written. Seriously. It’s just one week and it’s SO worth it.
How many blog posts do you have already on your site, 10, 50, 200? It doesn’t matter. I guarantee that the majority of you will earn way more traffic over a year if you improve all of your previous posts on-page SEO rather than writing a new one this week.
Think about it, you might get 1,000 visits on your next post, and a further 500 throughout the year from organic search traffic.
By improving your previous posts, you might get – for example – 200 views more on each of them every month for the whole year. Even if you’ve only got 15 posts on your website, improving them in this way could generate your site 30,000 extra views over the year.
If you want the traffic on your site to be at a level that you crave then you absolutely need to follow this checklist to ensure that you’ve enhanced every aspect of what you’ve already got live.
Hopefully this information below will be of use, but I appreciate it’s a lot of information to digest.
Fortunately, I’ve created this cheat sheet for you to take away to help you remember it all:
Share this Image On Your Site
For more information on each area of this SEO cheat sheet, please keep reading.
On-Page SEO Guide: Written Tutorial
As the name of this subheading suggests, this section is focused on all of the on-site SEO changes you can make directly within your content.
– Title Tags
It all starts with a good title.
What defines a ‘good‘ title? Sometimes, I opt to use a different meta title to my post title. Why’s this?
I make my meta title – that’s what shows in the search engines – more SEO-focused, lets take my post about Comment Collection.
The main title of this post is ‘Dramatically Increase Your Engagement Levels with Ease’ as I feel this makes it more clickable and easier to share on social media, but I don’t think it’s the type of thing that people will be searching for.
Because I don’t think people will search for it – but they may search the name of the technique – my meta title for this post is ‘Comment Collection: How I Increased Engagement By 300%’.
They’re both about the main subject area – site engagement – but one is optimised for social and the other is optimised for search.
I don’t always do this; sometimes the post title fits right for both as it is, see Should I Turn Off My Blog Comments?
Your post title will have a <h1> tag assigned to it automatically if you’re using WordPress. You must make sure this is optimised for both keyword searches and for click-through-rate (CTR).
You should only have one <h1> per page or post on your website.
If you’ve done a roundup of the best animals on the planet, you might consider a <h1> along the lines of ‘The Top 55 Best Animals in the World’ and a meta title of ‘The Top 55 Best Animals in the World – CrazyAnimalBlogger456’.
You don’t want to waste any pixels within your meta title, and putting your brand in is a great way to increase your meta title length whilst increasing CTR.
Once you’ve got your main <h1> sorted, you’ll then need to break your post up into several subsections; utilise <h2> and <h3> subheadings as you do so for increased SEO visibility – this helps Google to see which sections of your post are more important.
This will also increase ease of use for the skim-reader (believe me, the majority of people will skim-read your posts whether you like it or not).
– Internal Links
Whilst you’re writing your posts, you should look to link to other posts you’ve written wherever possible, ensuring they’re still relevant.
Not only does this help users to discover more of your interesting content and help to keep them engaged on your site for longer, but it also helps Google to crawl and re-crawl posts that it may not have visited in a while.
Posts that haven’t been visited by the Googlebot for a reasonable period of time often start to decline in search rankings, so give it a reason to return by linking to it.
– Outbound Links
Why oh WHY do people insist on not linking externally?!
This is often the policy of blogs and websites that have some grasp of SEO, but don’t quite know the whole shebang.
If you’re linking to relevant, high quality posts and articles within your blogs, Google can see that you’re a more reputable site. After all, you’re crediting other high quality sources like a pro.
Not only this, but you’re actually providing great benefit to your readers. You’re not going to lose them by linking away from your site.
If your audience know that you’ll provide them with other great information whenever they need it, why wouldn’t they keep coming back? They’re getting two (or more) bits of information for the effort of just visiting your site.
– Broken links
Finally with links, you need to make sure you don’t have any broken or dead ones on your pages.
You can use crawlers such as Screaming Frog to analyse every page on your website and point you in the direction of any broken URLs that you may have.
Once you have a list of dead links from Screaming Frog, you can remove or update them wherever possible to in order to show the search engines (and your users) that you stay on top of your content by continuing to cite relevant information.
– Image size reduction
Reduce the size of your images in order to reduce the speed at which your pages load.
This is something typically overlooked by those that are looking to cut corners – aren’t we all sometimes? – but you should be doing everything you can to speed up your site.
Page load time is so important for SEO in 2016.
Images are one of the largest files on your website and you can easily reduce the size of them by using plugins such as WP Smush.it or EWWW Image Optimizer.
Quite often, these image compression plugins allow you to reduce the size of your files by up to 90%! If only dieting was that easy…
– Image alt tags
Staying on the theme of images, you need to ensure your pictures have descriptive alt tags.
I know you’re always ignoring them. Don’t try and deny it.
It takes 5 seconds to write something descriptive about your image and it allows Google to understand what the image is all about. This helps you rank more highly as a result whilst even giving you a boost in image search too.
If you’re struggling to come up with a descriptive alt tag, hopefully an example will help you.
Let’s say you’ve got a picture of a dog with a bow on its head.
My amazingly technical alt tag for this image?
“Dog with a bow on its head” – tricky stuff, huh?
– Semantic Keywords
Ever heard of Latest Semantic Indexing (LSI)?
It sounds complex, but it just looks at the words on your page and understands – through mathematical formulas – the relationships between them and the context they’re used in.
What does this mean to you?
As Google gets smarter by the day, it understands that certain words can mean different things.
Long gone are the days of keyword stuffing or even achieving keyword density – ignore what your SEO WordPress plugin is telling you; you don’t need to include your keyword a certain amount of times on a page.
In 2016 on-page SEO, it’s all about semanticity.
For example, in this post, I’d like to rank for the term on-page SEO checklist. Back in the day, I’d have needed to spam this term hundreds of time throughout this post. This isn’t the case in 2016; once in the title and a couple of times in your whole article is more than enough.
However, what I do need to do is think of semantic variations of my target keyphrase – what other words are related to on-page SEO? Of course, good keyword research helps with this:
- SEO checklist
- On-page SEO 2016
- On-page SEO best practices
- Onsite SEO
There are tonnes of different ways to say most words, mix it up a bit; variation is more enjoyable for a reader and Google knows this.
– Word Count
Stop writing low quality, 500 word blog posts. Pandas crave thin blog posts.
If you want to establish yourself, both in Google and with a loyal audience, it’s all about long-form content.
This doesn’t mean you have to keep writing and writing to hit a certain word count. Not by a long shot.
If you’ve written a 950 word article that is seriously high quality, will be widely appreciated and couldn’t be bettered by anyone else, then feel free to publish it.
However, I tend to find that all of my posts are at least 1,500 words long. The more the better, typically.
– Social Buttons
Make it easy for users to share your content by installing social buttons on your post.
I use Cresta Social Sharing Counter Pro as I think it looks a lot nicer than other similar plugins.
Showing the volume of shares on your posts is a great way to tempt other readers into sharing, too! It’s all about that social proof, yo.
If users are amplifying your content and getting it in front of more eyes, you’re increasing your chances of picking up links – as well as tonnes of other benefits of boosted exposure.
– Duplicate Content
Ensure you don’t have duplicate content anywhere on your site.
Did you know you’re more likely to have duplicate content on your site than you think?
This doesn’t just apply to copying or slightly amending text from other websites, it can be content that appears on multiple pages on your own site too.
If you use tags on your WordPress posts, your article will appear under every single one of those tag pages unless you de-index tags using your robots.txt file. This sounds confusing, but it’s simple enough to do.
If you prevent the search engines from indexing pages that have duplicate content on them, such as your tag pages and search results pages, you’ll reduce the risk of your content being devalued.
Behind the Scenes Optimisation
As well as the stuff you can see directly on the page, there are other ‘on-page’ factors that you can’t see.
I like to refer to this as ‘behind the scenes’ on-page optimisation.
– URL Structure
Okay, not strictly behind the scenes, but your URL structure is an important part of getting your posts to appear more highly within Google.
On Intergeek, I opt for a permalink structure of domain.co.uk/post-name.
Some blogs opt for domain.com/blog/date/post-name, this is fine.
E-Commerce shops might want to consider going for something like domain.com/category/subcategory/product-name.
You need keywords in your URL and you also want it to be in a structure that allows Google to determine your site hierarchy (for example, with the E-Commerce store it can tell that the main category is the most important page, followed by the subcategory and the product page).
What you absolutely have to avoid as a blog or website is having something like domain.com/p=133 or something completely random that means nothing to you, the user or to search engines.
– Site Speed
I touched upon this a little earlier in this post when I mentioned image compression.
You absolutely have to do everything to speed up your website.
Not only is it important for Google rankings, but it’s essential for keeping visitors on and returning to your website.
Did you know that Amazon’s conversion rate halves when the website slows down by just 1 second?
Yeah, it’s that important.
Compress your images, use a plugin for cache like WP Super Cache, improve your web host, have someone take a look at your code…there are loads of things you can do to speed up your website; test it using Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
You’ll notice you get a mobile score and a desktop score, mobile will often be a slightly lower score.
You should aim to get a score of at least 75/100 on each, although it can be tricky (Google.com’s own speeds are only 90 for desktop and 78 for mobile).
– Mobile Responsiveness
Use another one of Google’s tools to check if your website earns the ‘Mobile-Friendly’ tag in the search results; the Mobile-Friendly Test.
If your site isn’t currently mobile-friendly then you need to sort that. Like…yesterday.
Make this your top priority, and then page speed.
Mobile traffic accounts for around half of all internet usage these days, and Google is going to be penalising sites that don’t adhere to new web standards.
Warnings have already been sent out to thousands of webmasters about their sites not being mobile-friendly, a storm is brewing on that front.
Sites that aren’t mobile-friendly are already seeing decreased visibility in search engines on mobile, and without the mobile-friendly tag click-through-rates will drop too (further decreasing ranking ability).
Get yourself a new theme that phone and tablet users are going to love browsing.
Extra Enhancement Considerations
There are a couple of things that I don’t think fit into either of the above categories, so I’ve classed them as the not-so-catchy ‘extra enhancement considerations’, because why not?
– Bounce Rate/Usability
If you haven’t yet heard people banging on about UX – the User eXperience – where have you been for the past couple of years?
If you aren’t doing your utmost to keep visitors on your website then not only are you missing out on potential loyal subscribers, but you’ll also start to look suspicious in the eyes of Google.
If people are finding your content useful but leaving the site without taking a look around or engaging in any way, search engines are going to assume that your content is low quality.
Improving a user’s experience on the site through cleaner layout, simple navigation, interesting images and more can help to reduce bounce rate and keep visitors interested at the same time.
Keep your visitors happy and you’ll keep Google happy at the same time.
– Malicious Content
If you have malicious content on your site such as malware or viruses – you may not even know its there – you are going to be dropped like you’re hot from Google’s search results.
To prevent this, you can install security plugins to prevent bots and hackers getting into your website and injecting it with all kinds of nastiness.
Leave Your Comments Below
That’s all for the 2016 on-site SEO techniques that you need to know.
If you have any comments to make, please leave them in the comments below.
Spotted something I’ve missed? Let me know!
As always, I’ll get back to each and every one of you that gets in touch.