A Beginner's Guide to On-Site SEO (with a 10-Step On-Site SEO Checklist).

Jun 12, 2023
White Sofa overlayed with blog post title Everything You Need To Know About On-Page SEO

I think you know by now that if you want your dream clients to find you on the internet, you need search engines like Google to put you on the first page of their search results.

But while creating top-quality content is essential in getting Google interested in what you've got to say, there are a few more steps you need to take to make sure your content is actually seen by the people who count.

I've talked you through what elements of Technical SEO will help you get featured on Page One, but today I want to tell you all about another pillar of Search Engine Optimisation, and that is On-Page SEO or On-Site SEO, which is all about packaging your website's pages up so Google, and your website visitors spend as much time on your site as possible, which is a significant ranking factor for SEO.

Treat this article as your beginner's guide to On-Site SEO and work through the 10-step checklist so you can make a start getting your on-site SEO in order so let's get stuck in!

Step 1: Create High-Quality Content

Is Your Page Satisfying Search Intent?

When it comes to optimising your website to improve its search engine ranking, it's important to consider the different types of users you may be targeting.

Depending on the type of visitors your site draws in, you may need to focus more or less on specific aspects of content optimisation.

Are your potential readers looking for a page that is...

  • Informational - Are your readers looking for answers?
  • Navigational - Are they navigating to a specific page on your site?
  • Commercial - Do they want to compare products and services before buying?
  • Transactional – Are they ready to buy and just want to make the purchase?

What is your reader's search intent? Are they looking for information or how-to guides? Are they looking to compare products and read reviews, or are they ready to buy?

Whatever they're looking for, you need to deliver valuable content.

Quality content that satisfies searcher intent is the starting point for all your on-page SEO.

Are You Really Adding Value?

Make sure your content genuinely adds value. Look at what other people have created on the subject you're writing on and see where you can add something that will be helpful.

Is there a checklist you can create? Can you help people see things from another angle? Are there gaps in other articles that will be helpful to your readers if you can fill them?

What can you add to the conversation that will help your readers? Match user intent, and you'll be off to a great start.

And How About Your Word Count?

Three of the most influential SEO agencies each did some in-depth research into what the best word count was for a blog, and they came up with some really interesting numbers.

  • Yoast said your blog should be over 1000 words.
  • Search Engine Journal said you should write 1900 words.
  • And after analysing 11.8 million blog posts, Backlinko came up with 1447 words.

Now, those numbers are more relevant to blog posts, which we'll be talking about soon, but still, your website's pages need to have a decent word count of around 1000 words.

Google needs at least 300 words on a page or a blog post to understand your content, so if it's not 300+, you're unlikely to rank.

And if you're an ecomm business with lots of product pages, you don't need 1000-word product descriptions.

Look out for a blog from me soon, which will tell you all about optimising your product pages to improve your search engine rankings.

Step Two: Seed Your Primary Keyword

Every page or post needs a primary or main keyword, so Google knows what your page is about.

Why don't you read the blog I wrote if you're ready to get started with finding the right keywords for your business?

Once you've found your primary or target keyword and you've decided what page you'll be using it for, make sure you include your keyword in the title of your website page.

You also need to use your target keyword in the first paragraph of your content and the last paragraph.

Try and use it in one of your subheadings too.

But be careful of keyword stuffing. Using your target keyword 2-3 times is probably enough.

The long and short of it is to make sure it's there but make it sound natural.

Your Keyword Seeding Checklist

Make sure you put your primary keyword in:

  • Your page title
  • The first paragraph of your page copy
  • The last paragraph of your page copy
  • A subheading, if relevant

Step Three: Think About Heading Hierarchy 

Your headings are something Google pays attention to.

But what are they, and what do you need to do with them?

First, make sure your main title is formatted using the H1 title format. And only use the H1 format once in each piece of content.

Any subheadings should be formatted in H2 font, and the title of any lists or points you make below those subheadings should be formatted using H3s.

It's all about keeping the structure of your blog or your page logical and easy to read for visitors to your site. It also makes life better for Google's bots.

They'll find it easier to navigate your content and to serve up to people who'd benefit from reading your blog.

Step Four: Customise Your URL Slug

Your slug, or URL slug, is the name of your blog or website page. URL stands for unique reference locator and is essentially your page's exact mailing address.

It's important that you edit your URL slug so that it's something your visitors understand and that includes your primary keyword.

But please, if you have already published your page, don't edit your URL slug unless you're happy to set up redirects.

If you have lots of pages that don't have SEO-friendly URLs, and you're not confident setting up redirects, then use this step as something to do going forward when you're creating new pages.

Step Five: Add Title Tags and Meta Descriptions

Whilst we're talking about that odd-looking section at the bottom of your page, your SEO section, you need to fill out your Title Tags and Meta Descriptions.

Annoyingly, these are called different things depending on what platform you're using for your website, but they all do the same thing, i.e. set out what shows up in the search results for that page.

Here are some pointers for each

Title Tags

  • Keep them within the character count suggested—usually around 60 characters.
  • Include your primary keyword
  • Make them engaging and interesting

Meta Descriptions

  • Keep them within the character count suggested. Usually, around 160 characters
  • Include your primary keyword
  • Make them engaging and interesting

Step Six: Fill out your image alt-text

A super simple but important tip for improving your SEO is filling out your image alt tags or image alt-text boxes.

Whenever you use an image on one of your pages, tag it in the image alt-text box.

Make sure you describe the image you are using but don't stuff your keywords!

Google will know what you're up to!

Google loves it because it improves searchability and it's also improving accessibility, so get those image alt-text boxes filled!

Step Seven: Make sure you've got some great internal links

Links are super important for SEO, but there are two types you need to know about.

First, we'll look at internal links.

Internal Links

You need to make sure your website is super easy to navigate, both by your visitors and by Google's spiders.

So, avoid "orphan" pages. These are where they are no links to that page from anywhere else on your website. Include a link to another related page on your site to make sure your readers and the bots don't get lost.

Step Eight: Use External Links to Respected Websites

An external link links out to someone else's website or some content they've created.

External links are important because they improve your visitor's experience and build trust with your audience.

Google themselves say, "Adding links to authoritative external sources is a great way to provide value to your users."

So, ensure you include links to authoritative, trustworthy websites in your niche.

Step Nine: Check your page speed.

Google is super hot on Page Speed right now. They want the user experience to be the best possible, so they will reward websites with the fastest page speeds and penalise the laggards whose clunky sites frustrate their searchers.

So, you must do everything possible to improve your page speed.

Here are some tips for improving your page speed:

  • Don't use fancy graphics or huge videos.
  • Never use Flash
  • Use low-resolution images on your website and blogs. Always go with a jpeg whenever you can.
  • Keep redirects to a minimum.
  • Try to compress your image files if they are above 200KB.

Here are some good image compression sites I use

Kraken - Has a great free version.

Squoosh - Gives even better compression than resizing app - but it's not quite as handy.

GT Metrix - Does the optimisation work for you if you have the paid version

Tiny Jpeg - Can compress up to 20 images at a time

Tiny PNG - Uses lossy compression

GT Metrix is a great free resource for checking your page loading times. 

Or you can visit PageSpeed Insights.

Step Ten: Keep Your Website Healthy

The way your site is built is really important, and just like looking after your home, looking after your site is something you need to do regularly.

For starters, make sure you've got a site map all set up for your website and make sure your site is secure and uses SSL certificates.

You need to make sure your pages are properly linked together and ensure you've got no broken links to create the best user experience possible for visitors.

And, perhaps most importantly, at the moment, make sure your site is mobile-friendly.

Over half of all website traffic now comes from us when we're on our phones, and funnily enough, Google knows all about this and expects you to ensure your mobile user's experience is as good as when they're accessing your site from anywhere else.

You can check to see if your site is mobile user-friendly by going straight to the horses' mouth and using Google's mobile-friendly test or by doing an SEO audit using tools like Ahrefs, Semrush or Ubersuggest.

Your Beginners Guide To On-Site SEO

How did you find this article? Are you going to get started with your On-Page SEO? Which of the steps are you going to start with?

Or where are you stuck? If you need any help, drop me an email or leave me a comment, and I'll get back to you with an answer.

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