On-Page SEO Checklist: The Definitive Guide to On-Page SEO in 2016

On-Page SEO guide

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:

An infographic about on-page SEO

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

In-Content Optimisation

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.

Crediting established sites like Wikipedia or industry experts like Backlinko is doing things the right way.

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.

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About Luke Jordan
I craft posts to help you get more traffic - both through SEO & through the quality of your content. Founder of Intergeek, influencer of the future, idiot of the present. My Google+

39 Comments

  1. Thank you very much for the guide but i haven’t understand two things –
    first, LSI
    second, Bounce rate
    Can you explain about these things??
    Thanks,
    Vickie

  2. Luke,

    Thank you so much for this great blog. I’m an SEO newbie and I swear, sometimes all I want to do is pull my hair out! Ugh.

    I feel like I spend hours on something with very little positive outcome. After reading this, I started messing around in WP and came across tons of things I can fix.

    One question, if I use a photo more than once within my website/blog, does Google consider that duplicate content? Also, you mentioned to not be afraid to use the ‘Alt Text’ in WP. How can I utilized the caption and description columns to benefit my SEO?

    Thank you! I look forward to any and all help I can get.

  3. it’s very usefull article. sometimes i forgot to check internal link and put it on the article.

    Is there any plugin for wordpress that can suggest to writer to automatically give link suggestion.

    thank you

  4. Great post on page optimization and definitely this post is worth to read for any beginner blogger to increase their blog rank

  5. Hi Luke
    Thanks for providing a wonderful seo check list. I am new into blogging world. I am learning lovely tips every day. Earlier, I didn’t know the usage of seo post title and catchy post title. Now, I am using this wonderful feature for my last few post.
    Through page speed insights of google, I came to know about the errors. But, it was too complex for me to rectify the errors. Can you please shed some light on this topic
    I also invite you to my blog also. Your thoughts and suggestions are always welcome with open arms.

    • Hi Yatin,

      Nice to meet you! Glad to see you on the site, I’m happy you found the post useful and you’re now putting tips into action.

      Unfortunately, I’m not too smart with the technical/coding side of things myself either, if there’s a problem I usually just look around for a plugin to fix things 🙂 for things in Pagespeed Insights like caching, compression etc. there are always good plugins available.

      Good luck with growing your blog!

      All the best,

      Luke

  6. Hello Luke,
    You made a great check list. So, at last conclusion is that if you want to rank #1 you better make sure you create a site that deserves to be there. This post will turned really helpful for SEO beginners. I love to share this post on my social networks.

  7. Everything in this article is really useful. I knew the basics but I need to take a look at our tags on WordPress I’m pretty sure they’re indexed and I need to change that. (The link you included in the paragraph about tags doesn’t seem to want to open though).

    I also used to have 2 titles (a social media friendly attention grabbing one on the blog and an SEO one for google). I did it using Yoast but recently the plugin just replaces my blog title with the SEO title. I looked around for a solution but nothing really seems to work. Are you also using Yoast’s plugin? (if anyone has a solution for that I’m listening).

    • Aurelie,

      First – lovely name!

      Thanks for the compliments regarding the article, they mean a lot 🙂

      I’d definitely look into de-indexing your tags. I’ve just double checked the link and it’s working for me, give it another go and let me know if it’s still not working for you and I’ll look into it further.

      I do use Yoast to modify my meta information, I have no issues on that front so I’m not sure I can give you an answer to solve that, sorry.

      Hope the implementation of this checklist goes well!

      Luke

      • The link is working now. It happens sometimes and my browser just refuses to open a link I have no idea why. I managed to unindex tag and category pages anyway. That’s one thing done, few more to go 🙂

        About Yoast plugin I’ll keep looking I guess. I think it’s something with our own code and how blog titles are defined.

        I was just going through the checklist again and looked at the last point. Do you have any security plugins you’d recommend to fight malicious content?

        • Glad to hear it!

          The others may take a bit longer to work through, but it’s so worth it. Once everything is worked through, you can make sure your following correct on-page SEO procedures going forward 🙂

          I’d recommend trying All In One WP Security and Firewall – I’m not sure why I didn’t include examples in the post. I’ll get round to including them ASAP! Thanks for the poke in the right direction, unintentionally or otherwise.

          All the best,

          Luke

  8. Amazing post and you have written almost everything except Structured Data. Other than this and few other technical aspects this article is so much complete. I am going to count this as a resource for Onpage SEO training for my learners. Hope to see the next post on the same topic with more advanced details. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hey Soumya,

      Thanks for this feedback. I’ll definitely come up with an advanced part 2 of this in the future!

      Glad to see that you’ll be using this to train your SEO newbies 🙂

      All the best,

      Luke

  9. Hey Luke,

    Ah, SEO! Yeah, I’m not big on SEO and it’s kind of a long story. Of course with each post I do my title, my keywords and my meta description just so that if people want to find me in the search engines they will. They do so I know I’m doing something right but Google and I have a love/hate relationship so I started focusing more on referral traffic a few years back and it’s yet to let me down.

    I don’t want to get on Google’s bad side although I still never am able to please them no matter what I do. This list is still good to have though and I thank you for taking the time to put it together. It’s something we all should know, including me.

    Great share and I’ll be sure to pass it around as well.

    ~Adrienne

    • Hey Adrienne,

      SEO is hard work and to really please Google it’s a full time job, but there are still lots of things we can be doing to get as big a piece of the search engine pie as we can.

      Focusing on getting referral traffic can help with your SEO! If you’re guest posting on a few awesome sites, you’re going to attract some readers from there and Google will be able to see that you’ve got a high quality, highly relevant link pointing to your site. Double bonus!

      Thanks for sharing it 🙂 enjoy what’s left of your week!

      Luke

  10. Hi Luke,

    Thanks for your multiple SEO suggestions… and perhaps more importantly, the explanations behind them.

    I was unaware of the Google PageSpeed Insights page – the link you have shared above will most certainly make things a little easier for me. Running my website through this has revealed a couple of very simple solutions to increase my page speed, which, in turn, may help with getting some more of Google’s love.

    Thanks heaps and piles and lots !!

    Matthew

    • Matthew,

      Heaps and piles AND lots? Wow, I’ve never received such a level of appreciation before!

      Google actually have a load of lesser-known tools that are super helpful, like the PageSpeed Insights and the Mobile-Friendly checker, but also more too (they’re for another post I guess).

      Page speed is a direct benefit to SEO, but it also offers tonnes of indirect benefits too. Faster website = happier users = reduced bounce rate and more repeat visitors = 47* brownie points from Google.

      *Approx

      All the best,

      Luke

  11. Great post here Luke! It really narrowed things down in a simple way. Doing on-page SEO is definitely critical. Once that step is done, things are a lot easier to deal with. Thanks for sharing this. Keep it up!

    • Thanks Pj,

      I’ll try to – thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment here at Intergeek. Hope to see you on the site again some time soon!

      All the best,

      Luke

  12. Hi Luke,

    I have some homework to do after reading this post! I thank you for this wonderful check list and read it with a sigh because I need to go over so many things. But that’s great because you brought to light so many things I have been doing wrong, or not eve aware of.
    I’m bookmarking this post to treasure it and will take it one step at a time so my blog won’t be corrupted.
    Thank you so very much!
    -Donna

    • Hey Donna,

      I always feel like that when reading the blogs of others, so I’m glad I’m finally starting to pick up the trend of unintentionally giving out homework 🙂

      Working through each point one-by-one is a great way to ensure nothing gets messed up, although you’re only likely to come across any problems when installing or messing around with plugins.

      The best things to start with are internal, external and broken links, along with mobile responsiveness and site speed – because your content isn’t changing too much, you won’t see any temporary drop in traffic.

      I can assure you (and anyone) that if you work through this list and optimise effectively, you’ll start to see significant results down the line.

      Wishing you all the best with implementing these techniques!

      Luke

  13. Hey Luke, good job on this. You practically nailed most of the things that you readers need to know. 🙂

    • Thanks Dennis! “Most things” – what have I missed? I’ll include ’em right away 🙂 I should probably mention image file names…

      • LOL! Yeah! That helps! 🙂

        Add a mention for using static pages that google look for, official social properties in the code, optional breadcrumb usage, what they need for local onpage and schema for the knowledgegraph. Probably some more I cant think of right now.

        Enjoy the weekend!

        • Thanks Dennis! I think this needs an ‘advanced’ part 2 or extension. I didn’t realise the fear those 3 letters (SEO) struck in a typical blogger until I wrote this.

          As it’s dubbed a ‘complete’ guide, I guess I have to go and include those now. Will include you as a contributor 🙂

          Luke

  14. Awesome checklist, Luke! Andrea Beltrami’s G+ post steered me over here, and will certainly use your tips!

    • Thanks James, glad to hear someone is going to use them! Trust me, the results will come for those that put the effort in 🙂

      Speak soon,

      Luke

  15. DAMN YOU and you’re jedi mind tricks that are penetrating that hard shell around my noggin. OK, I’ve known I need to create more optimized meta titles for my posts and have been putting it off by convincing myself it’s no biggie. NOW, I’m sure that I need to do it…uh, like now. I suppose a thank you is in order but it’s delivered with an over dramatic sigh and head hang.

    Great jedi post, Luke! Off to go find the force…

    • Andrea, I can’t believe you’ve dropped numerous Star Wars references without the obvious ‘Luke’ related line (the thousandth time hearing a joke is the funniest after all).

      It’s not just meta tags! There’s so much more to action, and this is just the on-page stuff – there’s a reason SEO keeps some of us in a job full-time!

      Just think about all of the tips on here that you (and we all) want to ignore. 90%+ of people WILL ignore them. The ones that put the work in will rise to the top.

      Thanks for stopping by my sista from another mista!

  16. how about short content ?
    are this bad for SEO ?
    and what semantic keywords ?

    • Rumah,

      Short content CAN be good for SEO, but rarely. It’s often viewed by Google as ‘thin’.

      It’s typically much better for SEO to create longer pieces that help people out.

      Semantic keywords are just variations of using the same keyword over and over. Instead of trying to cram in the same keywords constantly, vary them wherever possible.

      If you wanted to rank for the term ‘best cases’ then on your best cases page you could say things like ‘top covers’, ‘best protective cases’, ‘most popular sleeves’ and loads more. Hope this helps!

      All the best,

      Luke

  17. Hi Luke,

    This is my first time here. I found your blog from comment on Ryan Biddulph’s blog. Nice to meet you. 🙂

    This is a great checklist. Not only checklist, but you also can explain everything nicely. Thanks for that.

    Indeed, on-page SEO is important for our website. Well, I think, we can not create a content without doing on-page on it. It will make our content more visible to readers and search engines. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing, Luke.
    Thanks for contributing to my learning curve as well!

    Regards,
    Nanda

    • Nanda,

      It’s great to meet you! Glad to see you made the trip over from the luxurious islands of Ryan’s blog 🙂 – it’s not so sunny over here, unfortunately.

      Happy to contribute to your learning curve and glad you liked the checklist, hope to see you around here again soon.

      All the best,

      Luke

  18. can u give me tips for making seo for my site .

    • Hi Sanjay,

      If you use the checklist provided in this post, you should be able to optimise your website effectively for SEO. After that, build high quality links through outreach and networking 🙂

      All the best,

      Luke

  19. Honestly gret and unique only yu can come up with that idea.i find that one another blog il knw they stole it from here.and you title!!!they make me wana click on them

  20. nice..so i like your images.what photo editing to tool do u use apart from photoshop?

    • Thanks Richard, but I’m rather ashamed of the images I use! I’m not a designer by any means.

      I mostly use Canva, a free online editing tool. It’s simple, but can sometimes do some nice things on there – I bet you could do better than me!

      Luke

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