On-Page SEO Checklist for Beginners – 19 Smart Strategies (2021)

On-page SEO is one of the most essential factors for organic traffic. Without it, your pages have no foundation for Google to rank them.

In this post, you are going to learn 19 powerful on-page SEO guide for 2021.

I’m not talking about building more backlinks or publish more content. Instead, I’m going to show you strategies that’ll work for any website, especially for beginners.

Follow this complete guide and find out the steps you should take for optimizing your content so that Google understands your content better.

The Contents

  • 1. Make Your URLs Neat, Short and User-Friendly
  • 2. Optimize your Site Structure
  • 3. Use Of Heading Tags
  • 4. Write a Compelling and CTR Optimized Headline
  • 5. Include & Optimize Images
  • 6. Optimize Your Title and Meta Description for SERPs
  • 7. Anchor text Internal Linking That is Content Driven
  • 8. Minimize Broken Links, Soft 404 & Broken Redirects
  • 9. Keep a Proper Keyword Density
  • 10. Use LSI keywords
  • 11. Increase Your Content-Length (Word Count)
  • 12. Secure Your Website (Move to HTTPS)
  • 13. Make Your Website Fast
  • 14. Mobile Optimization
  • 15. Add Structured Data
  • 16. Use Outbound Links
  • 17. Increase Social Signal
  • 18. Remove Thin Content
  • 19. Optimize Robots.txt

1. Make Your URLs Neat, Short and User-Friendly

The very first thing is link structure optimization. Changing links or the URLs of your posts will give you an edge over those who don’t.

The more your URLs are longer, the harder it will be to understand the user and the search engine crawlers. Keep it simple and easy to understand.

Untidy URLs look like “www.bforbloggers.com/2020/06/seo/seo-checklist-for-2020-to-boost”.

It’s long and can not be easily memorized, let alone be guessed.

A better version of this, which we call SEO friendly, is “www.bforbloggers.com/seo-checklist.”

This needs to be done in a two-step process. One is set and forget, while others need to be done every time you write a post.

Here’s how you do that:

Go to your WordPress dashboard and click on your settings tab. Go to permalinks and change it to post name. This will make all your URLs look good.

That was the first part. Next, every time you write a new blog post, or a page, or if you post a video, podcast, remembers to do this:

Under the title, There is the permalink setting. This needs to be optimized, and we need to do three things:

  • Remove Stop Words
  • Include your focus keyword
  • Remove numbers & extra characters (keep it short)

The main thing you need to do is keeping it short. The slug of your URL should be as quick as possible. Consider adding your target keyword and leave it as it is.

Since the post you write will be updated shortly and still be relevant, there’s no need to add a number.

Quick Note: Permalinks setting is a part of On-site SEO. However, without doing this, achieving SEO friendly URLs is not so smooth and consistent.

2. Optimize your Site Structure

One of the very few attention-getting parts is the structure of your website. Most of the popular WordPress themes like Genesis are mobile-friendly, and they look just perfect. Better navigation is bound to increase the time spent by a user.

However, not every theme is SEO friendly. While your page is a part of your website’s theme, it is not very hard to understand; it plays a significant role.

Having an SEO optimized theme is essential, and its main qualities are:

  1. Pre-added Schema.org support
  2. Proper format of post title with the H1 tag
  3. Clean code for faster performance (Speed is an SEO ranking factor)
  4. Precise site navigation
  5. SEO friendly design

Various free themes are already using the latest schema and other SEO standards, so no worries about getting broke!.

Tip from experience: When you change a theme, make sure the new one you are using looks precisely the same as it looks in live browsers. Sometimes cache versions are a piece of code that can ruin the user experience. This may affect your rankings for your site being not-so-user-friendly.

3. Use Of Heading Tags

Make sure the theme you are adding your post and page titles into H1 HTML tags. Using the improper structure of headings once is not so bad, and while using them, the proper way is pretty good. Here’s a video by Matt Cutts which explains the topic pretty well:

YouTube video

To inspect if your theme is using your post title in H1 tags, go to any of your blog posts, copy the title, right-click your mouse anywhere on the screen and click on the view source code. Then press CTRL+F and enter the blog post title. You’ll end up seeing something like this:

 

The following post title is wrapped between H1 tags. If you saw an H2 tag instead, you can either change your theme and choose a better one or simply add a line of PHP code. Simply  Open includes, go to helper-post-format.php, then find this code on line 52:

$heading = is_singular() ? "h1" : "h2";

Replace the above one with

$heading = is_singular() ? "h1" : "h1";

This will change the title tag of your posts from H2 to H1. You’re all set. One thing you need to keep an eye on is multiple H1 tags placement. If you find many H1 tags in your page’s source code, make sure to change it into something else.

4. Write a Compelling and CTR Optimized Headline

Below a video which explains why you need to optimize your post headlines for maximum click-through rates and user attention:

YouTube video

Here, Matt Cutts is giving a strong signal to what we know as “RankBrain.” RankBrain, the “machine-learning” artificial intelligence algorithm, is used by Google to analyze how the user interacts and reacts to a site it refers to.

This may include CTR, bounce rate and Pogo-sticking, and other metrics as well.

One of the most prominent signals to your website’s quality is how often it is clicked when shown on Google SERPs.

If your impressions are strong, but no one is clicking on your posts, there’s something wrong, and Google may not like that at all. After all, it wants to give the best results to its users.

So, optimizing your title strategically by including numbers, Brackets, and, most importantly, adding the focus keyword into it (preferably at the beginning) will help in boosting the CTR.

5. Include & Optimize Images

Include Images in every post you write. Make your posts interactive by adding appropriate graphs, charts, videos, and GIFs, but make sure you do not overdo it. Images need to be representative of what you write about.

Source: SEOmoz

The above graph shows relevant images have a direct impact on how a page will rank. Google has known to promote pages with one image over those who didn’t have it at all.

Anyways, using images is crucial for both user experience and SEO.

The next step after adding an image to your pages is speed optimization and helping Google image crawlers in understanding the context of the image. You can do the following ways, Its simple:

  1. Install an image compression plugin
  2. Add an alt text to every image on your post/pages.

Using an online tool like Shortpixel and EWWW image optimizer, you can compress your images without degrading their quality. This will ensure a faster-loading speed of your pages.

To add alt text to your image, I have a detailed tutorial on adding alt text to images you can follow to automate this process.

Alt tags are used by search engine bots to know about what this image is showing to the user, and by adding them into your images, you are actually helping them better understand your content.

This will help you get more traffic from Google image search.

Pro tip – Images that have hyphens as a separator in their alt tags perform better than those with underscores.

6. Optimize Your Title and Meta Description for SERPs

Want a boost in your click-through rate and impress RankBrain? You need to write an attractive meta description and SERP optimized title, but what does that mean anyway?

A title with more than 70 characters is like to be shown with an ellipsis at the end, and it looks something like this:

Notice how it eats up the rest of the title.

To make sure this doesn’t happen to your titles, you need to keep it close to 60-65 Characters. You can remove the separator and blog title from your SEO title if you need more space, Simply edit with [tooltip style=”cluetip” position=”north” shadow=”no” rounded=”no” size=”default” content=”Yoast is an SEO plugin for WordPress” behavior=”hover” close=”no”]Yoast plugin[/tooltip] and remove:

%%sep%% %%sitename%%

Doing so, you’ll get more extra space to write your title.

The same thing goes for meta descriptions as well. This is the first piece of content a user will see when your posts are shared or shown on Google SERPs. To make the most out of it, give a clear description of what a user will get through your content. It should not be deceptive but creative.

Always Include your focus keyword in your title and meta description.

7. Anchor text Internal Linking That is Content Driven

One of the most underlooked factors is internal linking. If you are having a hard time getting more backlinks, make sure you make the most out of your inner pages by connecting them.

In every post you write, make sure to include at least 3-5 internal links to some of the most relevant pages, not just any. For a blog post, you write in the SEO category, try to link some of your good content on SEO. This will show Google and other search engines that your interest is in SEO and that you have similar content.

Do not use the same, single text anchor to link to a particular post or page multiple times. Always link to words that are two to three characters long, or else Google will penalize you.

Use the content-driven internal link building. Try to link one of your best content to other content with similar content. Avoid linking to thin content or irrelevant content.

Internal links help search engine spiders better crawl your whole site and your blog’s content.

Head over to the post to learn how to automate your internal linking the right way.

8. Minimize Broken Links, Soft 404 & Broken Redirects

Once you start writing blog posts, over time, when you have 100 or more posts to manage, some links you mention in them may get broken, which means they may show a 404 error when clicked. Having

A few 404 pages are okay, but having many of them is really bad for your UX, server, and SEO.

Always monitor broken links and broken redirects once a week. When you find one, immediately fix it. You may use a broken link checker WordPress plugin or screaming frog for regular checkups. When you need to do this on a large scale, you can use the screaming frog.

When you redirect a URL to another one, make sure to test it beforehand. This will also help you reduce the bounce rate and increase user engagement.

Go ahead to your Google search console. Click on this link to go straight to your 404 error information page in the search console. Click on the “not found tab” here. It will show you all your 404 errors like this:

It’s going to take time to fix all of the errors, but it helps like heaven. Download all of your 404 error URLs and use a 301 redirect to send the traffic to a relevant page instead of showing them a dead one.

This will also show you all of the soft 404 error pages, which show a 200 error instead.

9. Keep a Proper Keyword Density

Pages with a high keyword density are not so easy to read. It is something you can easily go wrong with.

There’s nothing like an ideal keyword density for a page, but anything between 1% to 2.5% can be considered good, while you need to make sure you are using the LSI and semantic keywords in your content.

Here’s what Matt Cutts has indicated as an ideal keyword density of a page:

YouTube video

Yoast SEO makes it easier to maintain the keyword density. Simply install it, and every time you write a post after that, Yoast will show you the repetition frequency (keyword density) of whatever focus keyword you set.

In comparison to word count, Yoast analyses the number of time keywords is mentioned in the article and, based on results, shows you its density.

That is pretty neat and simple. Let us move to LSI and semantic keywords, which help Google better understand your content and rank it for multiple keywords.

10. Use LSI keywords

LSI or latent semantic keywords are the synonyms of a seed keyword you target. One of the very famous and easy to understand example is about the word “Apple.”

Apple is a fruit as well as a huge & famous brand too.

When you search the word “Apple reviews” into google, how does Google’s algorithm understands the difference between an article on Apple product reviews and an apple fruit basket review (If someone has done that)?

It uses LSI keywords to understand the primary purpose and genre of your content. This was a huge addition to Google’s algorithm and is known as the Hummingbird update.

In this case, LSI keywords for Apple product review may be “iPhone,” “iPod,” “Processor,” “Battery Backup,” and other similar keywords. Also, note that Google uses semantic keywords to show better results to its users that are diversified.

When you search for Apple review on Google, Google may show you comparisons, Pros-cons, and detailed analysis as well. All of which helps you get better results.

I love two simple ways to find LSI keywords to use in my content:

  1. Using LSIGraph tool
  2. Using Google Suggestions and Keyword planner tool

Simply go to LSIGraph and enter your focus keyword (the seed keyword). In a moment, the tool will show you more than 10 different semantic keywords to use.

Use your common sense and pick no more than two to three LSI keywords.

Similarly, Google keyword planner shows you other relevant keywords to include in your content.

Adding too many LSI keywords would make your content look terrible and won’t do anything. Be smart and select the few, most relevant semantic keywords to add to your content.

11. Increase Your Content-Length (Word Count)

The data, specifically the graph above, shows you the average content length of the top 10 search results on Google SERPs. The data shows that the average word count for these results was between 2400 – 2500 words. You don’t want to be exact here, but I prefer to write posts at least 1700 – 2000 words.

Make sure you elaborate on your content where it needs to be. If you write a post that has 5000+ words but gives no value to the readers, It simply doesn’t work.

If you are writing on a general topic, 500 words will do the work. But tutorials, How-to, guides, etc., need to be written as a resource that solves users’ problems. If you are creating lots of content that are low quality and cover the same topic, again and again, You may get penalized by Google’s Panda update.

The final factor will be your content quality. Write what’s necessary, and avoid useless expressions.

12. Secure Your Website (Move to HTTPS)

Whether you handle sensitive data or not, you should always make your site secured by moving it to HTTPS with a secured socket layer (SSL) certificate.

Google says it’s the future of the web. Indeed it is. The more you work on the security of your users’ data, the more trust you’ll gain.

Also note, SSL is one of the official ranking factors for Google.

Starting from the mid-2018, Google chrome browser will start to show a “not secure” label rather than a notification icon in its search bar.

That way, more users will see that the website they are visiting is secure or not.

Moving to HTTPS from HTTP is simple. Most of the quality web hosts now include a free SSL certificate in their plans.

Simply choose a better hosting that can handle your needs that include your data’s speed and safety. Never rely on a bad web host just for the sake of a few dollars.

I use HTTPS here on BforBloggers too. I use Kinsta hosting with Stackpath CDN to secure all of my visitors’ data, just in case you are eager to know.

13. Make Your Website Fast

Google also started to use page speed as a ranking signal. Since it directly impacts user experience and bounce rate, you need to reduce the loading time of your web pages.

This will help in better traffic retention and conversions as well. Google’s RankBrain follows and learns how users interact with your website, and if it takes ages to load, they will flee to never come back again.

It’s easy to do, but it will take a little bit of time. Let me show you how it is done:

  1. Go to Google Pagespeed Insights and Enter your URL
  2. Look at the suggestions the tools give
  3. Each of the plugins listed in this post will solve the specific problem mentioned by Google Pagespeed Insights

To furthermore optimize your WordPress blog, follow this guide.

14. Mobile Optimization

Right from 2015, Google confirmed, mobile searches have kept on increasing, and that increment seems to never stop. Making your responsive so that it can fit in all screen sizes can make a huge difference in your rankings and user experience.

You can use any of the themes that are based on responsive design.

Being responsive means you don’t have to maintain two separate themes for mobile and desktop. Instead, the theme changes its size, and all of the content shrink without affecting the quality and usability.

Use Google’s mobile-friendly tester tool to check whether your pages are mobile-friendly or not. You can also use Varvy SEO tools to get complete performance data of your pages in a single report.

15. Add Structured Data

Structured data have very much improved the overall user experience on Google. Rich snippets help users to understand the whole purpose and outcome of your content in summary.

It tells Google how to accurately interpret your pages.

No report points to a direct relation between rankings and structured data. However, rich snippets have proven to increase CTR, which impacts your overall SEO.

Similarly, Google uses structured data to better understand your content and its purpose. On SERPs, it shows a summary and goes beyond by displaying price, ratings, or if it’s a recipe, a time duration, level, and much more.

Structured data can be easily implemented on your pages and content by using proper schema.org code. It becomes more simple when you use WordPress because you use a plugin for adding schema rich snippets.

16. Use Outbound Links

Outbound links help with better user experience and connections between content marketers. Believe me, not only it helps Google better correlate with your content, but It also helps to build a chain for web benefit.

You want backlinks, but you are unwilling to give them to people. Is that fair?

Of course not. When you link to a site, and when that site links to another, this repetitive process creates a chain of connected similar content over the web. This way, more users can find better content quickly and efficiently.

Make a habit of adding at least one outbound link per article. Also, make sure you are linking to relevant and genuine content. Optimize your outbound links to open in a new tab and make sure your affiliate links are “Nofollow.”

17. Increase Social Signal

Social shares are a strong ranking signal when it comes to content level SEO. It gives search engines a hint of people enjoying your content.

Users won’t share what they won’t like, so simply getting more shares is a useful signal for more engagement.

Use share buttons on your posts and pages.

Adding a share button will definitely trigger more users’ attention. All you need to do is make it very easier for anyone to share your content, and floating social icons are just perfect.

18. Remove Thin Content

Thin content is something you want your visitors to see, but search engines don’t.

You may have a post that needs to be only 200 words long (a post that may inform something specifically to your readers). However, search engines may not show these in SERPs.

WHY?

Because they don’t add value. So, Instead of writing content that’s way too short, add it into a pre-existing post and make it more in-depth.

19. Optimize Robots.txt

 

Robots.txt can be used to block Google bot from unnecessary indexing the parts of your website. This saves you from thin content issues if used wisely.

This will let Google bot scan your site’s essential pages, which you want to rank on SERPs.

Learn how to create an SEO optimized robots.txt file for your blog.

All of the strategies, when teamed up, will genuinely help you get better rankings.

Make sure you are following each tip along with the other. Practicing one while neglecting others won’t help that much.

At the end of the day, you need to make sure the content you publish satisfies the user intent. After all, that’s what Google wants. Keep your writing style natural and make your content epic.

Building backlinks are important, but it takes time. Meanwhile, doing proper SEO will gradually make your content get higher rankings without waiting for years to come.

What is the purpose of your content? What difference can it make? Ask yourself these questions next time you write a post.

Share your favorite on-page SEO tip in the comments section below.

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