On-Page SEO Checklist: 14 Ways to Optimize Your Blog Posts for Google

On-Page SEO Checklist

There’s a lot that goes into ranking articles in Google. For starters, your content needs to be top notch. You also need to drive high quality and relevant backlinks to your post.

But here’s the thing…

Without proper on-page SEO, everything else goes down the drain.

You can write a killer piece of content and drive tons of backlinks to it, but if you’re targeting the wrong keywords, you could be missing out on floods of free traffic.

Before you publish any blog post, it’s important to run it through an on-page SEO checklist to make sure that everything is covered. Doing so increases the chances of your article ranking for relevant keywords.

In this article, I’ll discuss 14 steps to optimize your blog post for Google.

1. Write High Quality Content

This goes without saying, but it’s important that you write high quality content if you’re hoping to rank for keywords. All the on-page optimization in the world won’t help you if no one finds your content useful.

Google has a host of ranking factors that help them decide whether your page is high quality or not. If no one is linking to your content and your bounce rate is off the charts, there’s no way you’re going to rank for anything.

2. Ensure Your Site is Mobile-Friendly

If you’ve been keeping up with the latest tech news, then I’m sure you’ve heard all about “Mobilegeddon.” If not, Google recently announced that they’re going to start favouring mobile-friendly websites in their mobile search rankings.

With so many people browsing social media and reading content on their phones, it’s paramount that your site is responsive and delivers a good experience. Otherwise, you may be slapped by Google.

If you want to make sure your site won’t be penalized, you can use Google’s mobile friendly test tool.

Google mobile friendly test

3. Target One Main Keyword

Search algorithms have evolved considerably over time, but keywords and backlinks are still the backbone of search engine rankings. Targeting a keyword with high search volume and (preferably) low competition is critical for success.

To identify what keywords you should target, the best place to start is the Google Keyword planner. For this post, I knew I wanted to write about on-page SEO. When I typed this into the Google keyword planner, I saw that there was 3,600 average monthly searches. This is definitely something that was worth ranking for.

However, I noticed that ‘on-page SEO checklist’ had 480 monthly searches but the competition wasn’t as intense. As a result, I decided to target this keyword and write a comprehensive SEO checklist.

On-Page SEO Keywords

There’s a ton of information on keyword research that is beyond the scope of this post, but the important thing to note here is that if you want to rank in the search engines, you need to target one main keyword that actually has search volume.

4. Place Your Keyword Towards the Front of the Title (If Possible)

Notice where my keyword is in the title of this blog post? That’s right, at the beginning.

Depending on your title and your keyword, it might not be possible to put it directly at the starting off your title. However, the closer to the front the better.

5. Use a Short & Relevant URL

If you’re using WordPress to publish your blog posts, properly structuring your permalinks is very important. You always want to customize your URLs rather than using the defaults.

The best thing to do is to stick the keyword you’re targeting in the URL and leave everything else out. You want to avoid starting off the URL with dates and you’ll want to leave out conjunctions like ‘or’, ‘and’, ‘for’, etc…

SEO-friendly URL

6. Add ALT Tags to Your Images

Google has no idea what your image is about unless you tell it what your image is about. This is exactly what ALT tags are used for – to give a written description of your image that search engines can read. As you can imagine, this is critical for image heavy content.

Not only does adding ALT tags enable you to add more relevant keywords to your article, it can also help you rank in Google images, potentially sending additional traffic your way.

When adding multimedia into WordPress, always add the description of the image in the alt text.

Image Alt Text Description in WordPress

7. Optimize Your Meta Description

Your meta description isn’t exactly a ranking factor, but it’s important nonetheless. Your meta description is the text users will see beneath your headline in the search results.

If you want to grab readers’ attention and boost your click-through rates, it’s very important to have a solid meta description that will entice users to read your post.

If you’re using WordPress, I highly recommend the WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast. Once installed, you’ll be able to easily add your own meta description to your blog posts without digging through the HTML code.

Meta description

8. Use Proper Title & Heading Tags

You always want to make sure that the name of your article is included in your title tag. If you’ve installed the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast, it will do exactly this by default (and it will also add the name of your blog to the end of it).

Next, you want to ensure that the title of your post is wrapped in an H1 tag. This will be done automatically in WordPress as long as you don’t have a theme or plugin installed that overrides this behaviour.

Finally, you want to make sure that all of your subheadings are wrapped in H2 tags. When you’re writing out your post, select *Heading 2* in the visual editor.

H2 Heading Tags

9. Add in Related Keywords (AKA Latent Semantic Indexing Keywords)

Back in the early days of Google, the goal was to stuff your keyword in the post as many times as possible. Thankfully, these days are long gone.

What you do want to make sure is that you’ve sprinkled in some related keywords into your post. Using related keywords reinforces what your content is actually about, and will help you rank for your main keyword.

The easiest way to find related keywords is to run a search on your main keyword. If you scroll to the bottom of the search, Google will provide you with related searches:

Google Related Searches

10. Write Long Form Content

As I mentioned in a previous post, long form content has been statistically proven to get shared more than shorter-form content. It’s no surprise that long form content ranks better in search engines too.

Average content length vs Google ranks

If you think about it, this only makes sense. Longer articles have way more opportunity to provide value than a 500 word article. If you’re looking to rank for a highly competitive keyword, you should be aiming for well over 1,000 words.

11. Link Internally to Your Other Articles

When relevant, you should be linking to previous articles written on your site. This won’t really help your current post rank higher, but it will spread some link juice across the rest of your site, and potentially prop up some of your other articles.

Not only can internal linking help boost the rankings of other articles, it will also improve the link architecture of your site. This makes it easier for Google to crawl your site and ensures that your posts are getting properly indexed.

12. Link Out to Relevant Articles

Back in the day, people used to be scared to link out to other articles because they didn’t want to dilute their link juice. Today though, this is a terrible strategy.

Not only should you be linking to your own internal pages, but you should also be linking out to other relevant articles. Doing so only reinforces to Google that your information is valuable and trustworthy.

It also reinforces the messaging of your post. If you’re writing about conversion rate optimization and you’re linking out to case studies of people boosting their conversion rates, it helps boost the relevancy and chances of ranking for those keywords.

If you’re looking for articles to link out to, usually a simple Google search will suffice. Or, you can enter your topic in BuzzSumo and look at some of the best performing articles to reference.

BuzzSumo relevant articles

13. Keep Load Speed in Check

Google’s main priority is to deliver quality and relevant search results to its users. One of the things that can frustrate users is a slow site. For this reason, Google began incorporating side speed in search rankings several years ago.

The easiest way to speed up your site is to upgrade your hosting. The difference between a shared hosting plan and a dedicated host can be quite significant. If your business can afford it, this is something to consider.

A more advanced step would be to use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) which will speed up the delivery of your content. If you’re adding a ton of images in your blog posts, this might be key. At a minimum, you should be optimizing your images for load times by keeping image sizes in check, and compressing them if need be.

Finally, if you want to get really technical, you can minify your HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

14. Correct Your Spelling & Grammar Mistakes

Believe it or not, poor grammar and spelling can actually affect the ranking of your post. So before you hit publish, make sure to proof-read it sufficiently.

If possible, get a second pair of eyes to look over your post. Whenever I get someone to read over my posts, they almost always spot errors that I missed the first time around.

Conclusion

There you have it! 14 ways to optimize your blog posts for Google. Follow this SEO checklist and I’m confident you’ll see positive results.

About the author: Christopher is the co-founder of Snappa – the fastest way to create graphics. Get started for free.

  • Sunil K Chaira May 20, 2015, 4:11 pm

    On page optimization is must for a website because without optimizing our On page SEO it is very difficult to rank on some better positions in SERP.

  • Cindy June 18, 2015, 1:04 am

    Hello i just wanted to make a comment in regards to all the SEO and better google ranking etc etc. It seems that Google either ignores some really good websites out there and favours others. I own a small Ottawa business of which no matter what i do, how much i blog, how optimized my site is etc etc. and i just finished running it through Buzzsumo and my website comes up with content and shares and seo consistently as top in the Ottawa area. YET, there is one company who consistently comes first no matter what word, words, or variation of them you type in the search their website ALWAYS comes up first no matter what. What i’ve learned over the past month having taken upon myself to investigate this backlinking stuff google now wants us all to do. This particular website is linked to over 75 websites/domains of which have nothing to do with the topic or keywords of the business. It’s kind of like your website here snappia has backlinks to a cheesebun.com or even a gun registry domain in the U.S. Why has google not caught on to this and why are they allowed to do this. Google says they pay attention to these bad practices and that anyone who is caught will be penalized and possibily have their website put down until they resolve the issue of removing the backlinks and proving it to google. Yet this individual website has been in the number one position because of the backlinks for over 6months. They have not blogged anything since 2012, as opposed to our website is updated with a fresh new blog everyweek. We have the most likes on facebook for our same business topic, the most pinterest followers yet they don’t even have a pinterest account. We have many twitter followers who share and favorite our tweets, and they have never bothered to even post anything to their Google Plus page ever yet, we post 3 times a day on all our social networks.

    Sorry for the long winded but i’m so frustrated with all the hard work yet GOOGLE really does not follow any of it’s preaching to put it into practice. There are many of us who have the same local ottawa business the competition is fierce but when google doesn’t give a chance to any of us other than this other website how are any of us to stay alive.
    Your thoughts, opinions would be appreciated. The frustration level is high and i want to contact google but feel as tho it will fall on deaf ears. cause they really just dont care.
    Thank you for taking the time to read this and i hope to get some opinion 🙂

  • Chris at Snappa.com June 18, 2015, 8:11 am

    Hi Cindy,

    It can certainly be frustrating when we’re publishing great content yet our competitors rank ahead of us. Having said that, there are a few things to keep in mind:

    Domain age is an important factor. When I started my previous business, it took us almost 3-4 months just to appear in the first few pages of google. Then it took us about another year to climb up to the third spot for our target keyword despite having great content and lots of backlinks. Sometimes it just takes time. If your competitor hasn’t published any new content since 2012, I’m guessing they’ve probably been around a long time before that.

    Publishing fresh new content won’t automatically increase your rankings. If no one is linking to it and your content is thin (under 1,000 words), it probably won’t do much. The better strategy today is to publish very in-depth articles less often and spending a lot more time promoting it. Here’s a good recap of why publishing ‘good unique content’ is not good enough: https://moz.com/blog/why-good-unique-content-needs-to-die-whiteboard-friday

    My advice to you would be to publish less often and instead publish truly amazing content and spend more time promoting it. If your content is 10x better than the top results, you will surely start ranking for those keywords. There are also some very good SEO strategies on http://backlinko.com that you might want to look into. You just need to keep at it!

    PS. I’m also from Ottawa 🙂

  • Cindy June 18, 2015, 2:08 pm

    Thanks for taking the time Chris appreciate it. I guess being patient is very frustrating. Thanks for the links i shall check into them.

  • Eclipse Micro Markets October 27, 2015, 11:15 am

    Good solid fundamentals of On Site SEO right here. I just heard Chris speak at an Ottawa marketing meet up and he knows his stuff. http://www.meetup.com/ottawa-marketing/events/225671586/ – I’m already testing Snappa to create images for a client and implementing a click to tweet strategy into their blog & social.

    This on page SEO checklist is great. If It’s cool I’d just add to this post by recommending to embed a YouTube Video on the page that has your target keyword phrase in the title of the Video. It doesn’t even need to be a video owned by you; just have your keywords in the title and high views if possible. The video embed counts as a link to an external site, to a contextually relevant piece of content, that is hosted on an authority site owned by Google.

    For finding LSI and semantically related keywords I check out ubersuggest. Combining long tail LSI keywords in mutiple H3 subheadlines plus embedding a related video can give a good boost to rankings.

    Hey what CDN do you use Chris? I’ve got W3 Total Cache standard on client’s WordPress sites. I’m Thinking about testing CloudFlare or Max CDN. I need to work on site speed.

  • Christopher Gimmer October 27, 2015, 1:46 pm

    Great tips, thanks so much for sharing.

    We’re using CloudFlare.

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  • wedo econsult September 12, 2018, 6:29 am

    Nice post! Excellent information on On-page checklist. I have seen several blogs but the information present on the blog really looks very informative. Since, we are a startup agency this information really useful and presented in a good manner. It’s great list on-page. I am not aware of LSI keywords and some more information. After reading the blog I have learnt lot of Information. Thanks once again for sharing. By the way I will share on My social media site’s.

  • Sofor Ali June 8, 2019, 12:37 am

    Such an amazing guide about On-Page SEO.
    Thanks for sharing.

    It’s really valuable and will help me to optimize my future blog posts.

  • Nick Le June 17, 2019, 10:40 am

    Awesome! Good luck!

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    Thankyou for sharing such a nice article and your knowledge with us.

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