The On-Page SEO Checklist for 2018 Success

seo

When it comes to Google, on-page SEO is a must.  If you want to rank high, you need to have your house in order and Google has recommended certain ways to structure a website.

Anybody can just write stuff on their blog and cross their fingers and hope for organic traffic from the big guys.  If you’re reading this, you want to know what else you can do to get more traffic.  Traffic is the life blood of every website out there, afterall.

The thing you need to memorize is that this is not about tricking search engines.  This is about the search engines seeing that you have carefully prepared your site to give the best user experience.

When you’re on your phone searching, what are you looking for? Or more precisely what are you not looking for?

You want a site that gives you the information you’re looking for on an easy-to-read page, and does it quickly.  That is what Google wants to give you too.

Google has undergone many algorithm changes like Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird to do just that, give the user the very best pages at the top of page 1.  Moz has given a great overview of the history of these Google algorithm changes.   More or less Google’s goal has to weed out the thin pages help up artifically and bring the quality content to the top.  Always, always try to put forth your best quality work if you’re hoping to get to the top in Google and stay there.

When you’re talking Search Engine Optimization (SEO), there are actually 2 major categories

  • On-Site SEO
  • Off-Site SEO

In this post, we’ll be talking about on-site SEO.

On-site SEO is all of the technical details of your specific content.  You have complete control over this, and it’s how your page appears to the outside world.

You need to get this right or the next stage of SEO work is useless.

All of these things are just technical indicators of what will give the Google visitor a good experience.  You want Google to understand you are giving the very best experience in fact.  If you’re heading for top, you want these basic things in place.

Most of these things have been around for awhile and you likely have already read a fair amount of them.  The mobile side however you really want to read and pay attention to because more and more it’ll make a difference.

On-Page SEO Checklist

  • Website Loading Speed
  • Webpage Title
  • SEO Friendly URLs
  • Meta Description
  • h1 and h2 tags
  • Image Alt Tags
  • Quality Content
  • Target Keywords
  • LSI Keywords
  • Images and Multimedia
  • Mobile-Friendly
  • Internal Links
  • Outbound Links
  • Backlinks

Want to test if you’re mobile friendly before reading on?  Google Mobile-Ready Tester is  a really nice tool to see where you stand today.

Website Loading Speed

How fast your site loads is always important, and it’s only going to get more important.  This is where the new mobile-first ranking in Google is a big thing.  This is a new on-page SEO thing but even before this year it always made a difference.

I mean, how long do you wait for a site to load now before you hit the back button and give up?  Now imagine you’re out and about and on your phone with less bandwidth on top of that.

Google has specifically stated that starting in July 2018 page loading speed will become a ranking factor in mobile searches.

So what can you do to get your website loading faster?

Well, head over to Google Page Insights and test your page.  To get faster loading you’ll need things:

  • Get the above-the-fold content to load in as few trips to the server as possible
  • Images are optimized to be as small as possible
  • Information and images are loaded from fast servers (CDN)
  • Make your page smaller to load

on-page seo website loading speed

Infographic provided by Kissmetrics

Load the Page in the Least Possible Trips

Your webpage, even though it looks like one big thing, is actually made up of many smaller parts

You have the words, what you are saying.

You have the scripts and css styles that load to help make the respond and displays neat dynamic things.

You have each image

So if you have a page that has 5 images, 2 javascripts, and a css style page.  That means a visitor’s browser takes 9 requests from your server just to load and display the page. Not just 1.

Optimize Image Size

Make your images load faster for your visitors while saving you money!  Just compress down the images before you put them into play.

Use something like http://compressjpeg.com/. It’s easy drag-and-drop and it’s free.  I used this on the infographic above and saved 75% of the file size from the original.  When you’re talking going from 800 kb to under 200kb that’s huge.

On mobile the difference among many images can add up to many seconds making the difference between a visitor and someone that abandons the visit.

Server Images, Javascript, and CSS from a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

CDNs are on the main backbones of the internet and the content is mirror across their network so basically it serves it really fast, really cheap.

Google has a storage CDN in their cloud. Amazon has one.  Rackspace I like it well enough but their CDN is quite often use by spammers so you might get marked as having some association.  Google or Amazon and you should be good.

Google has their cloud pricing page so it’s easy to calculate out the cost.  It also saves your server to just send out the pages so for speed this is your best bet.  Generally it’s storage cost and network cost to send out the data.  Up to 1TB network usage is free and it’s 2.6 cents per GB.month of storage.

Remember to optimize your images like I said above to cut out a majority of the cost!

Make Your Pages Smaller

Make sure you are sending out compressed data.  I like to use to https://checkgzipcompression.com/ to check if compression is enabled on my sites.

If it’s not enabled, it gets a little more technical.  If you have support, you can ask your webhost to turn on compression in Apache.  It’s also possible to turn it on in PHP.  Either way a little off-topic and there are many many results in Google for it.

on-page seo compression enabled

So Website Speed was the big section and in 2018 mobile-friendly is a huge one.  I wanted to spend extra time on what is fairly new SEO topics to focus on.

So let’s hit the traditional stuff now.

Webpage Title

The title is very important to Google.  It is not THE metric and if you use your target keyword(s) into the title many times it won’t get you any extra favor with Google.  Actually, Google would likely give you a spam penalty.

Just use your keyword, closest to the beginning for the most weight, and add something afterwards to catch readers eyes in the Search Engine Results Pages(SERPs).

SEO Friendly URLs

Help both Google and your visitors.  Make your url easy to read.

Instead of ThinkBigReview.com/2018-03-01/category/post-title

Isn’t ThinkBigReview.com/post-title much better?

And both of those are still way better than ThinkBigReview.com/?p=123

Meta Description

Traditionally you’ve had 160 characters to give a nice description to search engines that they display with your search result.  Don’t forget your focus keyword!

Now as of early December 2017, Google is actually displaying 320 characters in their snippet which has traditionally been the meta description.

So make sure your first paragraph is good as that may very well be your snippet in the search results.

H1 and H2 Tags

These are important to help show search engines the structure of your webpage.  Make sure your title is in h1 tags.  WordPress does this automatically for you.

You want to then use h2 tags around your important points.  This is a great place to have your focus keyword show up.  This is more of a technical point of on-page SEO but it’s still important to remember the basics.

Image Alt Tags

Be sure to put the alt tags on all of your images.  This helps Google to understand what the image is there for.  Here is Google’s view of the alt tag on images.

It helps Google understand how it ties into your content which can only help you.  For vision impaired it makes a big difference.  Only good, no bad.  Simple to do.

Quality Content

This one I didn’t put as high on the list but it is the most important item on the list.  If you don’t have quality content, then you will not naturally grow and even if you rank in the results it’s only a matter of time before you fall back off of the list.

Focus on quality content that answers questions and provides value and it will naturally get backlinks as well.

It’s almost a given that on-page SEO involves quality content that educates your visitors but a little reminder never hurts.

Not too much else to say really on this one.  Just write good complete content.  Not that 200-300 words type of content. Aim for 1000+ words and you’ll be providing lots of content and it’s the first step to great rankings.

Target Keywords

This one is very important too. You want to target keywords that you can rank for.

All of the on-page SEO in the world is a waste if you’re not going to pull real traffic even in the #1 spot.

You want to target keywords that have low enough competition that you can rank but enough volume that you get traffic.

Ranking for obscure keywords that nobody looks for isn’t going to help you any.

There are so many tools out there that make this so much easier to make sure your work is not going to waste.  Long Tail Pro is one of those tools that costs a few bucks but it makes sure you’re building in the right spot.

LSI Keywords

LSI…what is that?

Latent Semantic Indexing, or LSI, are supplement keywords associated with a main keyword.  When you search in Google and near the bottom it says Searches Related to…  Well, that’s LSI keywords.

Google knows some keywords are related to others.  Using these here and there gives more keys to Google about the content and gives you an advantage.  Read up on my Long Tail Pro post linked in the Target Keywords section to see how all of this works.

on-page seo lsi keywords example

Images and Multimedia

Having images and multimedia like videos in your content is another one of those quality content signals for Google.  It’s also what Google and Bing are looking for.

Search for something you like in Google and look at the first 3 results pages.  It’s almost guaranteed that there are relevant images and videos.

This doesn’t mean 100 images will launch you to position #1 but if you’re aiming to be among the best you need to bring the best.  This is one of more simple but effect on-page SEO methods.

Mobile-Friendly (Responsive)

With the recent mobile-first indexing, it’s become even more important that your page looks good on all devices.

It has to be easy to read in a nice font size, and the links need to be far enough from each other to click the links with a finger.

If you’re using WordPress, many of the themes are Responsive so just choose wisely and this isn’t a large effort.

Internal Links

There are two major reasons you want to use internal links wherever it works in logically.

  • Helps search engine spiders find your content easier
  • Spreads the link juice
  • Popular posts help get natural traffic for your other pages

The more pages on your site, the more you want readers of one post to know and use relevant posts you have done.

Just make sure it fits naturally and makes sense.  It enhances both pages that way.  These don’t count as much as external links but Google also gets less bent out of shape over the anchor texts.

External Linking

All normal posts and pages link to outside pages.  They are usually to authority sites.

Many people don’t want to post out for fear of losing link juice but the fact of the matter is most quality content pages do link out.  This is how you want to have your page viewed.

So link out to authority sites when it fits.  Link out to useful pages.  Just make sure they’re not spammy pages obviously.

And don’t worry about the nofollow thing.  Why would you be linking anyways with a nofollow.  It looks unnatural.

Backlinks

Once you get the on-page SEO in order, you’ll focus on backlinks.

I won’t go into the details here but in a followup post.  Suffice to say, Just don’t spam!

Here are some quick tips to help in the meantime:

  • If you see a blog post with tons of comments that are like 5 words and a backlink, don’t put your link there.  Bad neighborhood.
  • Don’t put a backlink everywhere with the same anchor text hoping that you’ll jump right past everyone.
  • Don’t use automated tools.  Remember, always go for quality.  You want to keep your ranking for quite awhile.
  • Don’t pay one of those cheap fiverr backlinks places.  That spam will sink your good efforts most of the time.

The general rule of thumb is you want the link to your site associated with a quality site.

Now, Google does not want you doing too many things that appear artificial.  However from an older Matt Cutts (Google)  post, participating in blog and forums and just having your name linking back should be ok since you’re helping things out and not trying to artifically inject your backlink around the web.

Conclusion

On-page SEO is nothing new and it’s actually fairly simple.  Most of it is a checklist and the variables are what keywords you are going for and how much time you have to make quality content.

If you take one thing from this post, take this: quality.

Quality content, quality images, quality links.  You are looking to educate your users and share your wisdom.

Start your pages with getting all of your on-page SEO in order.  Get your pages the very best they can be, and then it’s much easier for other sites to recommend your page via backlinks.

Put forth the effort and it will pay off.

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