This Post Was Updated Nov 2015
You may not be able to control how many people choose to share your content, but there are many ways to secure attention from the search engines by following the basics of on-page SEO. These time-honored traditions have been proven effective, despite whatever trends come and go. Here is a checklist we use here at Mod Girl Marketing to make sure all our clients’ content is ready for prime time.
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On-Page SEO Checklist: 11 Steps To SEO Success
1. Title Tags
The Yoast WordPress SEO plugin allows for title tags of 65 characters, including spaces. We like to make the title tags slightly different than our main titles, including one main keyword. Each webpage or blog post contains a unique keyword variation to avoid “keyword stuffing,” which is frowned upon by search engines. We want each post to look natural. Most importantly, we aim for titles that are easy to read and catchy, rather than titles that just try to cram in as many keywords as possible. We also prefer to include the name of the blog in each title to give clients maximum name brand exposure.
Check out SEOMofo’s Snippet Optimizer tool and preview your title, description, and URL in Google before your content goes live.
2. Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions tell the search engines what your page is about in 156 characters or less. We always write an original description that will show up in search engine entries so people will be enticed to click and read the full article. Some companies just let the first paragraph show up by default. While this does work, we prefer to have a well-crafted, 156-character summary that includes one or two main keywords and isn’t cut off for space constraints.
It’s important to note that Google shows what it feels is the most ‘relevant’ description for your readers. You might fill out an SEO-friendly meta description, but Google may instead decide to show a phrase from your article as the description. Google search results are now very personalized and if a user types in something that is relevant to your post, but your meta description may not mention it, Google will pull a segment from your article and display that as the description. Please keep this in mind when developing your content.
3. Header Tags
H1, H2 and H3 tags break up reading for audiences, but also get a second glance from search engines when they contain carefully-chosen keywords. You’ll want to use only one H1 tag, but the others may be used multiple times (like we did here) if you want a uniform look in terms of font and size on your sub-headings. Also, keep in mind that each subsequent heading diminishes in importance, so you may not want to work your way down to H4, H5, and H6 tags.
This is H2
This is H3
This is H4
This is H5
This is H6
Keep in mind that each website has unique ways of displaying header tags. Many WordPress themes have settings to customize the look of header tags or the theme has built-in formatting. The header tags listed above may show completely different on your website.
4. Content Creation
Since Google’s Panda update, unique content has been the focus of any decent SEO company. After all, a search engine is only as good as its published results. Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines are looking for quality content that:
– Answers users’ questions
– Provides well-written sentences with superb grammar
– Does not copy directly from other articles found online, except for use of attributed quotes (sparingly)
– Contains enough “meat and potatoes” — meaning some longer posts with 500 to 2,000 words
– Uses different keyword phrases & variations, rather than the same word over & over again within an article
– Links to outside sources, whenever applicable
5. Multimedia Use – Image Optimization
We believe in using high-quality infographics, images, videos and other compelling media with each article. We include 1-3 pieces of media with each client article, so it maximizes reach in alternative search engines like YouTube or Google Images. Each piece of media offers opportunities for including keywords, titles and descriptions that can bring more readers to your content, blog, or website.
Make sure you fill out the alt AND title tag when optimizing your images.
6. URL Structure
Search engines prefer user-friendly URLs. In the past, you could skate by with an automatically-assigned URL structure that was usually something like modgirlmarketing.com/index.php?post=3524. However, we are finding that using hyphens and more simplified directories helps reduce crawl errors and improves search ten-fold. So a better, customized permalink for this article may be something like: modgirlmarketing.com/on-page-seo-checklist.
The canonical tag is a quick answer to duplicate content and indexing issues. Moz’s Rand Fishkin called the use of canonicalization “the biggest change to SEO best practices since the emergence of Sitemaps.” Google’s Matt Cutts defines canonicalization as “the process of picking the best URL when there are several choices.” For instance, there may be four pages on your site with different content that appear the same to searchers, such as: www.example.com, Example.com, www.example.com/index.html and Example.com/home.asp. Matt Cutts adds, “When Google ‘canonicalizes’ a URL, we try to pick the URL that seems like the best representative from that set.” Setting a canonical URL tag attribute is similar to setting up a 301 redirect in that it lets search engines know which related pages to consider as one, but it allows you to still track visitors to each unique URL location. A 301 redirect is still warranted when you want to redirect pages across different domains, but within a page, a canonical URL tag may suit your needs just fine. The end results of including canonical tags are: improved rankings, a boost in traffic, and increased relevancy.
8. Crawl Error Resolution
WordPress Webmaster Tools can help you identify any crawl errors — and resolve them too. Sometimes plugins like Yoast — that should be our friends — end up causing these errors inadvertently. Other errors are caused by people who have attempted to link to your site, but mistype the URL. Worse yet, users with automated CMS can end up creating multiple improper links. Google claims this shouldn’t matter, but we keep our redirects limited just in case.
9. Search Engine Blocks
Check your Robots.txt file to make sure no important pages are being blocked from search engine spiders. Any instances of pages or posts with “Disallow” included in the verbiage may pose a problem. We generally block admin panels and low-quality pages that we don’t want search engines indexing, but all main webpages and blogs should be allowed in the index.
10. Mobile Responsiveness
These days, many people are accessing websites from mobile devices, so you will definitely want a fast-loading mobile version of your site if you don’t have one already. For instance, when one digital marketing firm launched a more mobile-friendly design, they found that traffic from mobiles went up by 74.6% on tablets and 3,019% on smartphones. Best of all, conversions from these devices went up by 213%!
11. Page Speed
Although last on our list, page speed is extremely important, and plays a role in more than just SEO. Today’s content surfer is less patient than ever. Studies have shown that 75% of search engine users won’t revisit a page that takes longer than 4 seconds to load! Google’s Page Speed Insights tool can be very helpful. We aim to have all pages above 90% efficiency. We monitor bounce rates for evidence that people are leaving because the pages load too slowly. We can improve your site’s speed by compressing images, using a Content Delivery Network, reducing plugin load, or switching hosts.
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