So, you’re looking for a complete on-page SEO checklist.
You’ve scoured countless blogs and watched YouTube videos until your eyes bled.
And if you’re honest, you wish you hadn’t.
Because it’s confusing.
One blog tells you to “optimize site speed” while another tells you it’s all about keyword research and content strategy.
Right now, you feel a hemorrhage coming on.
And worst of all, you haven’t actually done anything.
You’ve read blogs and watched videos until you’re nearly blind, but you haven’t done a single thing to optimize your site and push it higher up on those stubborn SERPs.
If this is you, I’ve got you.
In this blog, I’ll keep things super simple.
Yup: it’s not a blog for tech nerds. It’s a blog for everyday people like you and me, who simply want to rank higher on Google and earn more site visitors.
In it, I’ll show you:
What on-page SEO really is
Why on-page SEO matters
A simple 6-point on-page SEO checklist
Ready to dive right in?
What Is On-Page SEO?
To better understand what on-page SEO is, it’s a good idea to think of SEO as a tree.
(Image suggestion: SEO tree with branches labeled for technical SEO, on-page SEO, etc.)
You see, SEO is like a tree with many branches.
Each branch represents a specific part of search engine optimization.
Now, I don’t want to confuse you, so I won’t go into the nitty-gritty of the SEO tree.
But here are four of its most important branches (and what they stand for):
Content optimization. Content optimization refers to the practice of ensuring your content is valuable and digestible to your audience. This includes writing high-quality blogs, presenting your content so it’s easy on the eyes, skipping the jargon and heavy language, and so on. It also includes keyword research and writing content that satisfies your visitors’ search intent.
On-page SEO. On-page SEO refers to the practice of checking that your individual web pages are fully optimized before publication. This includes keyword placements in H1s, H2s, and H3s, customizing your URLs, resizing your images, and so on.
Off-page SEO. Off-page SEO refers to optimization that largely takes place outside your site. This includes backlinks, social shares, and so on. (As you can guess, this type of SEO is not directly in your control.)
Technical SEO. Technical SEO, as you can guess from the term, refers to techy stuff like optimizing site speed, making your site mobile-ready, and so on.
In this blog, we won’t bother with content optimization, off-page SEO, and technical SEO.
After all, this is a blog about on-page SEO, right?
The problem with other blogs is that they take the overlap between all the branches of the SEO tree too seriously.
They add in elements from this branch and that, afraid that you’ll miss out on something and never make it to page #1 of Google.
For me, that’s unnecessary.
All I’ll do here is provide you with a simple, no-nonsense on-page SEO checklist so you can tick off all those boxes before clicking “publish” on any one of your pages.
With on-page SEO, it’s really that simple.
But before we go on to the checklist, let’s quickly go into…
Why Is On-Page SEO Important?
On-page SEO is important because it helps Google understand your web page better. By scrutinizing your title tags, URL, and other factors, Google can come up with a clearer idea of what your page is about and whether it’ll satisfy people’s search intent.
Clear as mud?
Picture the process this way.
Google’s spiders land on your site and read your H1, H2s, and H3s.
Now, let’s say one of your H2s looks like this.
As you can see, the primary keyword “how much money can I make with affiliate marketing” is in there.
This quickly tells Google that this blog could potentially fulfill the query of a searcher who wants to know how much money he can make with affiliate marketing.
Sure, that’s just one piece of the puzzle.
But put together, all the pieces of on-page SEO work to signal to Google that “Hey, this is the blog that will satisfy readers. So rank me higher in the SERPs!”
(That’s why on-page SEO is super important.)
On-Page SEO Checklist: 6 Steps to Success
Now you know what on-page SEO is and why it’s uber important.
So let’s dive right into our on-page SEO checklist.
Remember, keep this checklist with you at all times, especially when you’re about to publish a new web page.
On-Page SEO Checklist Item #1: Add Your Primary Keyword in the Right Places
Readability trumps SEO every single time.
That doesn’t mean you should slack off and forget to add your primary keyword where it matters the most.
To help you, here are six places you should add your primary keyword.
Your H1 and Title Tag
Your title tag and H1 tell both Google and your readers what your blog is about.
I mean, you wouldn’t give your story the title “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” if it’s a story about Cinderella.
Sadly, a ton of writers get too creative with their titles.
I mean, sure.
Copyblogger has been around for so long, and they’ve amassed a huge following of loyal fans.
So they can get away with creatively vague titles like that.
But for the average blogger, it’s best to stick with a direct, primary-keyword-at-the-beginning title like this:
Here are two rules to keep in mind when placing your keyword in your title:
Make sure to plant your keyword as close to the beginning of your title as you can. So instead of “The Most Wonderful Guide to Affiliate Marketing” you can try “Affiliate Marketing: The Complete Guide” instead.
Your title tag and H1 can be different, but make sure to add your primary keyword in both of them.
Here’s an example of a blog that has a different title tag and H1, but contains the primary keyword at the beginning of both.
The title tag…
Your H2s and H3s
Google is smart.
It won’t stop at your title tag and H1 when trying to determine if your blog matches people’s search intent.
It’ll go deeper and explore your H2s and H3s.
So make sure you plant your primary keyword there as well.
Of course, don’t be spammy and unnatural.
Never force a keyword where it simply doesn’t make sense.
But the more times you can add your primary keyword into your subheadings, the better.
You’re a creative, and it won’t be hard for you to strategize a way to naturally and beautifully plant them in there.
As an example, check out how we did it in this blog.
Here’s a preview of one of our H3s:
In Your Introduction
In any story, the first words are the most important.
Google thinks so too.
That’s why you need to plant your primary keyword in the first 100-150 words of your blog.
Again, be sure not to sound spammy.
Do it naturally.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should ditch your creativity and start every blog like that.
In the example below, the primary keyword shows up a bit lower down in the introduction, but still within the first 100 words.
If you absolutely can’t find a place for your primary keyword in the first 100-150 words (and I really can’t imagine why), you can settle for placing it after your H1 and before your first H2.
In Your Meta Description
Your meta description can make or break your web page’s success.
(Really, it can.)
That’s because readers are indecisive.
And stingy with their time.
So if your meta description is “meh,” visitors will probably shrug and skip you, thinking your blog won’t be worth their time.
But if your meta description looks like this…
…now we’re talking.
And notice this: the primary keyword “copywriting tips” shows up at the very beginning of the meta description.
This communicates to readers exactly what the blog is about (and that it won’t waste their precious time).
Note: meta descriptions aren’t an official ranking factor. However, they influence whether or not people click on your blog, which is a ranking factor.
In Your URL
Which URL looks better to you?
Or this one?
It’s the second one, right?
Google thinks so too.
Because first of all, the second one is shorter.
And more importantly, it’s got the primary keyword in it.
So when ticking off those on-page SEO boxes, make sure:
Your meta description contains your primary keyword
Your meta description is as short as you can make it
Your Images’ File Names and Alt Text
Yes, Google is smart.
But it isn’t human, which means it has severe limitations.
One of these limitations is the inability to see pictures.
So no matter how many photos of your tomato omelet you insert into your page, Google won’t know you’re talking about tomato omelets.
Unless, of course, you add your keyword to your image alt text and file name.
When you do, you won’t only be telling Google what’s in your images, but you’ll also get the chance to appear on Google’s image search tab.
A double benefit, if you ask me!
On-Page SEO Checklist Item #2: Add Your Secondary Keywords to Your H2s and H3s
Using secondary keywords in your subheaders helps you rank for related keywords that your audience is searching for.
So, whenever you can, use variations of your primary keywords in your H2s and H3s.
For example, if your primary keyword is “how to start a blog,” you can use:
How to launch a blog
Launching a blog
Starting a blog
And so on
Another thing you can do is include long-tail keywords in the “people also ask” section of Google as your H2s and H3s.
If this sounds hard, consider doing a Q&A section at the end of your blog.
On-Page SEO Checklist Item #3: Avoid Keyword Cannibalization
When you have too many similar keywords spread out across your website, Google gets confused about which page you want to rank over the others.
So it goes ahead and makes a decision.
It ranks one page higher, even though this page isn’t the one you want to rank high on the SERPs.
To avoid that, make sure you add variety to your keywords.
Don’t target too many keywords that are too similar to each other.
And before you publish that brand new web page, check to see if another one of your pages isn’t already ranking for the same keyword you’re targeting.
If it is, it’s worth it to take some time to tweak your keywords up a bit to avoid keyword cannibalization..
On-Page SEO Checklist Item #4: Resize Your Images
Ever been on that website which didn’t have any images?
Or rather, it did have images, but since they took an eternity to load you didn’t even see them.
Hint: you don’t want that to be your website.
So instead of forcing those huge images into your web pages, take time to resize them.
A good rule of thumb is to keep your images between 100 and 300 kb.
On-Page SEO Checklist Item #5: Add High-Quality Links into Your Content
Without high-quality links, your content simply won’t make it online.
That’s because links are like spider webs that help Google’s web crawlers get to you.
Links also help the bots understand what your content is about through their connection to other content.
Here are two types of links you should add to every piece of content you publish:
Internal links. These are links to other pages on your website. As a good rule of thumb, most of your links should lead to your site’s cornerstone content.
External links. These are links to other high-quality sites. It’s a great idea to add at least 5-8 external links to your content.
Check out this example of what an internal link looks like in a blog post.
And this example of what an external link looks like in a blog post.
On-Page SEO Checklist Item #6: No Follow Your Affiliate Links
As an affiliate marketer, almost nothing is as important as your affiliate links.
I mean, they’re what make you money, right?
That said, you need to be sure your affiliate links aren’t bringing your rankings down.
Because yes, ranking and traffic also make you money.
So, how do you do this?
No follow your affiliate links, so they don’t spill link juice and cause you to lose your coveted high ranking spots on Google’s SERPs.
On-Page SEO: It’s Really Not that Confusing
I know, I know.
There are a ton of blogs and videos about on-page SEO out there that make you feel like you’re hemorrhaging.
They go on and on about the overlap between the branches in the SEO tree.
Some even include stuff from technical and off-page SEO into the mix…
…until your head is spinning like a merry-go-round.
And honestly, all this information overload is getting you nowhere.
You’re standing there with your jaw open, with no idea what to do.
Let me tell you this.
On-page SEO really isn’t that confusing.
It’s simply about helping Google understand your web pages better, so it knows how and where to rank you.
With small tweaks to your URLs, headings, meta title and description, and links, you’ll be on your way to never again publishing a single blog that’s not optimized for on-page SEO.
So, go ahead.
Bookmark this blog, so the next time you sit there, your hand hovering tentatively over the “publish” button…
…you know which boxes you have to tick before you send your web page out into the world.