Raise your hands if you think on-page SEO is all about adding keywords to certain places on your website and that’s it.
Yes, optimizing your site for keywords is important. But what if I tell you there is more to on-page optimization than just optimizing keywords.
In this on-page SEO cheat sheet, I will be sharing easy and actionable tips that you can use to get more traffic from search engines.
Search engine optimization is a continuously evolving process. After every few months, Google releases algorithm updates to make sure the searchers have a positive searching experience by returning the best possible results for their queries.
These updates define
- How a website needs to be structured so that the visitors can benefit from the website
- Other external factors that impact the rankings on search engines.
With all these updates being rolled out, the on-page SEO techniques are pretty much still the same. But at times these techniques are not implemented correctly.
Actionable On-Page SEO Cheat Sheet
The recent updates released by Google have put more emphasis on user experience which means putting the user first and then thinking about the search engine bots.
Now, let’s start with the on-page optimization cheat sheet
1. Improving site speed
Nobody wants to visit a slow loading website. When it comes to user experience website page speed plays an important role.
But now things have changed page speed has become a ranking factor and when the information is easily available on your fingertips every second count.
If you don’t believe me, here is a case study by one of the fastest-growing social media site Pinterest.
According to Pinterest, when they reduced the wait times by 40%, the traffic from search engines and sign-ups increased by 15%.
Also, approximately half of the internet users expect your website to load under 2 seconds and a 1-second delay decreased customer satisfaction by 16%.
These researches clearly show how important is website loading times for ranking on search engines, improving the conversion rate and user experience. If it is not up to the mark, the users will go for other available options.
And you don’t want that.
How can you check site speed?
The site speed can be checked using the tool PageSpeed Insight. It is a free tool by Google that provides a score for the website loading times for both mobile and desktop.
Also, it provides you with information on which parts of your website need improvement and how can you improve them.
To check page speed using this tool, visit this link and enter your URL in the search box and click Analyze.
After you hit Analyze, you have to wait for a few seconds for the results to show up. The speed of your website will be measured on a scale of 1 to 100 for both mobile and desktop versions.
Also, if you scroll a little it will show you other valuable insights and suggestions to improve your website under the section opportunities and diagnostics.
Working on these suggestions will surely improve the loading time of your site.
But before you start working on this, keep in mind it is not necessary to achieve the perfect 100/100 score. What if your website looks and works better at 90/100.
Do not get caught up in this as over-optimization can also hamper the user experience. Also, working on some of these suggestions can impact the functionality or design of your website.
Make sure you take a back up before you start making any changes and keep a close eye on how these changes affect your website.
For backup, I highly recommend using the UpdraftPlus plugin. I personally use it.
You may like to read- How to install a WordPress plugin
Quick tips to Improve Page Speed
- One of the major factors that influence page speed is web hosting. Choose a service provider that has a proven track record and offers strong technical support. We highly recommend NOT going for free hosting packages.
- Using cache plugins such as WP-Rocket or W3 total cache. These plugins help store pages and posts from your website as static files that are served to the users when requested reducing the processing time and hence boosting the page speed.
- Removing unused themes and plugins. Why keep them if you don’t need them. These themes and plugins ake up space and also at times you may forget to update them regular basis which can compromise the security of your website.
- Using a content delivery network or CDN such as Cloudflare. If you are unfamiliar with CDN’s. CDN is a network of servers that are geographically distributed worldwide. The CDN takes a copy of your website and distributes it over its network and when the users make a request, the server nearest to their location completes the request and delivers the cached content.
- The next thing you can do is compress your images and we will be discussing this in detail later on in this article.
These are some of the easiest ways to improve loading times.
2. Mobile friendly or Responsive
Let’s start this topic with an interesting metric65% of all searches are mobile #geekyplug Click To Tweet
Let me take you back in time when mobile-friendly/ responsive was not a web standard. The desktop version was the only version available. If we talk about device compatibility, it was a special feature that was rarely implemented on any website. And because of this certain features did not work correctly on mobile devices.
Unlike today the text was too small, to read anything you had to zoom in and if you want to navigate you had to zoom out. Navigation was a big problem. Also, images didn’t scale as per screen size.
And the result was unhappy and frustrated users.
Here is an image to show you the difference between a mobile-friendly and non-mobile friendly website.
You can easily point out the difference and can imagine how difficult it was for the users back in the day.
But now everything has changed, to improve the quality of mobile searches and provide priority to device-friendly websites in the mobile search results, Google released a mobile-friendly algorithm update popularly known as Mobilegeddon.
After this update, websites that were mobile-friendly or responsive received a ranking boost while others saw a dip in the rankings.
Later on, a survey of over 20,000 URLs was conducted that showed the share of non-mobile friendly URL’s dropped by 21% on SERPS
In the current scenario, it is next to impossible to find or rank a non-mobile compatible website as it is a web standard. With the number of smartphone users increasing, mobile searches on an all-time high and Google constantly releasing updates for mobile to optimize searches, it is important not to overlook this.
How can you check if your website is mobile-friendly
Just like the PageSpeed insight tool, Google has a tool to check if your website is mobile-friendly or not. You can use this link to take the test.
To perform this test visit the link above and enter your URL in the search box and press Run Test. In a few seconds, it will let you know if your website is mobile compatible or not.
On the left, you can see it says the page is mobile friendly and on the right, it shows how it renders on the device.
Also, you can find information related to mobile usability via the Google Search console. This report lets you know which property on your page has problems when viewed on mobile devices.
You can see in the image above current the website has it has no mobile usability errors. In case, there are errors you can see the reports by clicking on Open reports. It will show you all the errors.
You can read more about these reports and how to fix the error here.
3. Nailing the Title and Description
When you are searching for something on the web. What is the first thing you see on the search engine results page?
Out of both of these tags, the title tells the user as well as the search engines what the page is about whereas description is the summary of the page.
As we have previously discussed the importance of user experience when it comes to SEO. This is where the description helps.
The description is the snippet of your page on the results page that tells the users or searchers what your page is about.
On quite a few occasions, Google can also automatically fetch a snippet from your page directly depending on the query searched by the user.
But it is still recommended to add the description as it can influence the CTR of the page which can impact rankings.
Optimizing Title tag for SEO
First things first, the title of your page is the first impression of your webpage to the people. It can be found in 3 places.
- On the search engine results page, it is the bold clickable heading. The title also plays a huge role in increasing CTR. It should contain your main keyword, needs to be short yet descriptive and also it should be intriguing enough so that people click.
- The next place you can find the title is on the browser tab. This title helps differentiate your website from others if multiple tabs are opened
- The last place you can find the title of your webpage is on the social media platforms when your post or page is shared.
The above image is a screenshot from twitter and you can see the title is displayed right below the featured image.
Now the next question is
How to create SEO optimized Title
- The first thing you need to take care of when creating an SEO optimized title is the length of the title. Try to keep the title to a max length of 65 characters else the extra part will be replaced by “….”
- At all costs avoid keyword stuffing. There is a fine line between optimization and over-optimization. For example, the title of this page is ” The Ultimate On-Page SEO Cheat Sheet- Best Optimization Practices “. What if I add the phrase “on-page” a few more times.
Would you read an article with such a heading? I don’t think so. Now if you ask me why. The answer is simple the title is meaningless and looks spammy. Remember in the beginning we discussed the title is your first impression and you don’t want it to look spammed.
- Stay away from using the same titles again and again. For instance, you have created a page with the title “Buy cheap laptops” and after some time you accidentally use this title again. What this does is it creates confusion and the users will not be able to distinguish between the pages.
Even if the content is unique search engine bots may think it is duplicate content. The solution to this problem is simple. If you have multiple pages with similar pages such as laptops as we have discussed above.
You can add the name of the product followed by the category and your brand name and it will create the unique title you need.
- Make sure you add your brand name in the Title. It is a prime branding spot to get your name out there. We add the brand name at the end of the title. When you add your brand name on several pages or posts it may look repetitive. To avoid this you can separate the title from the brand name using a delimiter such as a hyphen, colon or pipe.
- Craft crystal clear headlines. Just by looking at your title people should get an idea about the contents of the webpage. You can do this is by adding your keyword to the beginning of the title. At times, this may not be possible. In that case, what you can do try to place your keyword as close as possible to the beginning.
These tips will help you craft perfect Title tags for your pages. Now, to get an idea of how engaging your headline can be you can use a Headline analyzer tool such as Sharethrough Headline Analyzer. It is a free tool and I use it.
Optimizing the Meta description
Moving forward, as we have previously discussed the description is a summary of your webpage and it gives a context to your page. You can find the meta description is displayed in 2 places.
- On the search engine results page below the title of the webpage. But sometimes Google can also fetch a description from the body of the page as well as they think it can answer the query better.
Above is a screenshot from the guidelines released by Google. Also, it is important to know in September 2009 Google released an update that stated the Meta description is not a ranking factor but it is used in snippets on SERPs.
However, the meta description acts as an advertisement for your page on the results page and needs to be taken seriously. If written correctly keeping the user intent in mind, can help boost the CTR which impacts the rankings. Here is what Google had to say on this.
The next question is What does a meta description look like on the results page.
- Also, you can find the descriptions on some social media platforms such as Twitter and Pinterest. You can only find the description on Pinterest, if you have implemented Pinterest Rich Pins and the open graph description is the same as the meta description. But remember both of these descriptions are different and you have to customize your OG description to be the same as meta.
Here is how it looks on Twitter
How to optimize the Meta Description
- Just like the title, the first thing you need to do is optimize the length of the description. Keep the length up to 165 characters or the extra part will be replaced by “….”
- Add your main keyword in the description and stay away from stuffing or else it will look spammed.
- Keep the user intent in mind while crafting the description. Briefly and accurately describe the contents of the page so that people get an idea of what to expect. A user-centric approach will help drive more clicks.
- Do not use the same description for multiple pages as it is not very helpful. Consider the example of a food blog that has a few pages about chicken recipes and baking. What if the description on most of these pages will be the same. Not very helpful right. Also, if descriptions are not high quality more accurate descriptions will be taken from the page itself as we have mentioned before. A waste of time and effort.
Word of advice– I agree meta descriptions do not impact the rankings directly. But that part of the organic listing is a prime real estate for the advertisement for your page and you cannot rely on bots to fill it for you.
4. Adding Structured Data
Often while searching for something you come across organic snippets that have much more information on them that the normal ones.
To understand this we searched Google for the phrase “Spinach Dip Recipe” and found 2 different types of snippets.
- The normal snippet that contains the Title, URL, description, and date.
- A rich snippet that contains all the elements of the regular snippet and some additional information about the recipe such as the image, ratings, reviews, cooking time and calories.
The difference between these two results is the implementation of structured data. The first result is using Article markup whereas the second result is using the Recipe markup.
Now, let me ask you a question. Which one of these results will you click if you are looking for this recipe?
I think most people will go with the second option because
- It offers more information about the recipe
- Stand out from the rest of the results
Before we dive deeper into this topic, let’s first understand
What is structured data?
Structured data is made up of 2 words “Structured” + “Data”. As the name suggests structured data helps search engine classify content by providing relevant data.
It is a standardized code format that tells the search engine what the page is about by providing explicit clues.
Let’s take the above example again we searched for a spinach dip recipe and found 2 types of snippets. One was a regular listing while the other was a rich snippet
You can see the rich snippet has all the information related or relevant to the recipe or let me rephrase it and say, it has details that describe a recipe.
When the search engine bots crawl this code, it instantly tells them that this particular page is about a recipe. What this means is your website is easy to crawl or can be categorized and understood by the search engines.
Also as we have previously discussed how these factors are meant to boost the user experience. So when you compare the 2 snippets, the second snippet is more detailed and provides much more information to the people. This creates a positive user experience and will help improve the CTR as well.
And in turn, boosting the rankings.
However, implementing structured data will not give you a direct ranking boost. But like we have discussed above there are a lot of positives that come out of implementing it which does impact the rankings and give you the edge over your competition.
With that said, Recipe and Article are not the only types of markup. There are other types of structured data and some of the commonly used ones other than Article and Recipe are Book, reviews, movies, and products.
You can find the complete list here.
How to add structured data to your website
Now that you know how adding structured data or schema markup helps your webpage. And the number of elements and data it adds to your page on SERPS, you may think to implement this you need to be a technical person.
Yes, it involves a bit of coding but you don’t have to do it. If you are a WordPress user there are plugins available that can help you implement the type of schema you need.
All you have to do is download and install a WordPress plugin. Configure it as per your requirements and the plugin will take care of the rest. This makes the process so much easier.
Here are the plugins we recommend
- RankMath– Complete SEO plugin and is free to use
- WP Review– Supports 14 types of Rich snippets
- Tasty Recipes– Helps create amazing recipe cards and best for food bloggers
After implementing structured data, the next is
How to check if the structured data is applied correctly
To check if you have correctly applied the structured data, you can use the free structured data testing tool. All you need to do is visit the link above and enter your website and click Run Test
When you click Run Test, it will show you the code on the left and structure data properties that you have implemented on the right.
As you can see in the screenshot above there is an error and a warning. Now what you need to do is click the property with the error or warning and it will show you what are the details that you are missing. In this case, it was missing the featured image.
To fix this we need to just add the image and run the test again to see if everything is applied correctly. You can read more about the Structured data guidelines here.
5. ContentWrite for the users and not the search engines Click To Tweet
You may have heard this quote frequently and it pretty much summarizes everything we will be discussing here.
Officially confirmed by Google, content is one of the top 3 ranking factors.
In the mid-2000s organic results were dominated by the sites using the same keyword in every third line. In other words, most of the time the websites that were ranking had spammy content that offered little to no value to users and was written solely to please the search engine bots. There were almost no rules and regulations when it came to SEO.
But the times have changed now, today the content is written to provide value to the people by keeping the user intent in mind.
With the release of algorithm updates such as Google Panda and Hummingbird, Google has put a lot of emphasis on the quality of content and user experience.
What is Google Panda
Google Panda is a major algorithmic update launched in February 2011. The purpose of this update was to provide people with the best possible answers to their queries as quickly as possible.
This update was designed to give a boost to high-quality websites that offer unique and informative content and penalize the low-quality ones.
This update affected almost 12% of the search results which is huge.
Which type of websites are considered low quality
- Websites with little to no content that offers no real value to the users and running too many ads.
- Pages that have similar content with little to no variation and also repetitive keyword usage or stuffing.
- Websites that scrape content from other websites.
- Sites designed solely for the purpose of providing backlinks to other websites.
- Websites that produce high amounts of content that lack in-depth information and are full of language errors.
- Websites with misleading information. For instance, you are looking for information on various luxury cars and you come across a website that has an amazing title. But when you click on the link you find no related information.
What is Google Hummingbird
Google Hummingbird is the update after which the core search engine model shifted from being reliant on a few keywords to understanding the user intent.
Unlike the Panda and Penguin, Hummingbird was based on rewarding the websites rather than penalizing them. This was a major change that focused on the conversational system of search or semantic search.
Today one of the ways to perform a search on your mobile devices is by using the voice search functionality. The foundation of this feature was Hummingbird.
To understand the concept of Hummingbird, let’s say you want to find a Japanese restaurant near you. Now what happened earlier was the search engine would go on and find matches using certain keywords. And return results that may or may not be what you are looking for as the keywords used were not specific.
There are chances that the search may have shown top restaurants from the country “Japan” itself or a restaurant that is popular for serving Japanese food but is not near to your location.
This was due to the fact that search engines will only focus on keywords such as “Japanese restaurant” and provide you with the best possible results.
After this update, the search engine could interpret the intent which in this case is a “Japanese restaurant near your place”. And when you provide the location, it will show you the details of all the restaurants serving Japanese food that are near to your place.
What this means is emphasis was shifted to Context rather than focusing on certain words present on the page. Natural language queries were given more importance instead of a few words.
Things to keep in mind while creating content
Content is the foundation of SEO. If your content lacks value, no SEO strategy can help you out.
- As I have mentioned before, create content by keeping the user’s point of view in mind. Before you start writing anything do comprehensive research on the topic. Find what others are offering and what they are missing. This will help you create a structure for your piece.
- Avoid writing shallow articles. Posts with 300-500 words do not make the cut. Try to provide value to the user by sharing in-depth information with them. Articles with 1000+ words tend to do well on search engines.
- Share your personal experience. It is one of the most valuable assets you have. Not only does it add a unique touch. But also helps in building trust and a personal connection with the people.
- Use images, infographics, and videos to increase the visual appeal of the article. No one wants to read a block of text with no rich media. It also helps increase engagement.
- The next thing you can do to improve your content is to update the old pages. Search engines love fresh content. In regards to this Google released an algorithm known as the Freshness update in November 2011.
This update was focused on giving priority to fresher and more recent content on the Search engine’s result page. Let’s understand the purpose of this update with an example.
If a global sporting event such as the FIFA World Cup is happening and you being a football fan want to see how your favorite team is performing. Now when you perform the search, you get the results from the previous years.
Are these results of any use to you? I don’t think so.
Is it a positive user experience for you? Again the answer is No
To overcome this, Google released this update. Now when you search for the FIFA World Cup it will return the most recent results.
What are the different types of websites that most likely require fresh content
- Recent events or Trending topics– These are the topics that are currently happening. The websites that publish content in the field of entertainment, technology, politics, business, and many more related topics need to update or post new content consistently.
- Recurring Events– Events that take place regularly. These events can be annual conferences, elections or sports-related events. Sites that cover and publish articles on such events also need constant updates.
- General Topics- There are other topics as well that may require updates but not that frequently. For instance, if you have a blog that offers advice on creating websites, in this case, your blog may not require an update that frequently. You only need to update the old content when there are some major updates in the technology or guidelines.
Did you knowFrequent website updating is considered to be an important SEO tactic by 34% of marketers. Click To Tweet
What can you do to increase the freshness of the website
If you publish content related to current affairs, important events, sports or news, consider adding and updating content very frequently on your website.
In other scenarios where the changes are not this frequent, make sure you update the website whenever there is a new metric or information available. Search through the older pages and update accordingly
Remember, content is the most valued item on the website. Create content that delivers value. Ultimately, they are the ones who will be engaging
Bots have no significance when compared to human engagement.
6. Optimizing Images
When you visit any major search engine such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, and others, you will find a separate tab for image searches.
This shows images are not only an important visual component of the web page but also a vital asset that can be used for generating traffic.
Did you know?
Search engines can only read the content in the text form and cannot understand the images. Although, the SEO process and technology have evolved search engines still can’t interpret images.
And for this purpose, the search engines rely on an attribute called Alt text.
What is Image optimization
Image optimization is the process of compress the images without losing the quality and making them readable for search engines.
At times image optimization is overlooked which can affect the speed of the website and like I have mentioned before it is a waste of a traffic generating resource.
With the help of Image optimization, you can increase the chances of the images showing up on image searches and this can help boost the traffic.
Benefits of Image optimization
- Increase in website load speed– Websites rely on visual media such as images to make it look appealing and increase engagement. These images are of high quality and have a large file size. If you use these images directly on your website, it can adversely affect the load time. Compressing the images will help increase the load times.
- Magic of Alt text– Alt text is also known as alternate text. It is an HTML attribute that lets the search engine know what the image is about. In case the image fails to load it provides a small description in its place. Also, This text is used by screen readers for visually impaired to make your content more accessible to them.
- Enhancing User experience– As we all know, no webpage is complete without visual media, in this case, its images. It improves the overall appearance of the site and increases engagement. Now, if you optimize the images, you will have a website that loads quickly and has relevant images that fit any screen size. And this all contributes to amazing user experience.
A website that offers great content that is visually pleasing has great user-experience and loads fast tends to get visitors regularly and improves the returning rate.
How to optimize images – Best Practices
- Image resizing– Most of the time the images you use on your website are either downloaded from websites that provide free stock images or are created using the online image creation website such as Canva or Picmonkey.
When you download the images, there is a chance that these images can be either small in dimension or can be too large. If the images are small then it may not be able to cover the desired area properly and if it is large then you may not be able to get the correct output in certain parts of your website.
To resize images you use tools like pic resize or upload them to either Canva or Picmonkey as these tools have pre-defined dimensions. All you need to do is select your desired dimension or you can also create a custom dimension. Upload the image and resize it.
- Compressing Images– Like we have discussed above high-quality images are very heavy. Due to the large size, these images take-up space and put a load on the server. What this does is increase the load time.
The solution to this problem is image compression. Be it you are using a stock image or you have created one make sure you compress the image before uploading.
If you are thinking, compressing will impact the quality of the image by making it pixelated or distorted.
I understand your concerns are absolutely correct. But to compress images there are tools available that will not affect the image at all. Here are the tools we recommend
- Adding Alt text– As we have previously discussed, Alt text is also known as Alternate text and it as an HTML attribute that gives context to the image. When it fails to load, the text displayed instead will be the Alt text. It is used by screen readers to read out text for the visually impaired. Also, it helps the search engines know what the image is about and index it.
Here is the syntax
<img src="example.jpg" alt="alt-text" />
As Alt-text is a small description of the image, try to make it as close as possible to describe the image. Make sure it is not misleading.
How to add Alt text to images in WordPress
Adding Alt text to images is pretty simple if you are uploading a new image after the upload is complete, on the right you will see a box that says Alt text. All you need to do is add a small description and click insert into post. It will add the image to the post or page and Alt text to image.
Now, if you want to add alt text to an existing image, what you need to do is go Media >> Select the image >> it will open in a pop-up box and on the right, you will see a box that says Alternative text or Alt text. Add the text and it will automatically save it.
And that’s it you have successfully added alt text to the images on your website.
Using these tips will not only improve the rankings but the optimized images will be easily indexed in the image searches
7. URL Optimization
Creating an SEO friendly URL can get you an edge over your competition in rankings. An optimized URL tells the people and the search engines about the content of the page.
Consider it as a very brief description.
Here is how an SEO friendly URL looks like
In the above example, you can easily see and gather from the structure what the page is all about.
Benefits of URL Optimization
- It improves the user experience by giving a hint to the people and search engines about the web page
- Optimized links can be shared anywhere and these URLs are human-readable and can give you an idea of what to expect after clicking the link.
- It can act as a ranking factor. When you add a relevant keyword to the URL structure it can improve its visibility on search engines.
Best practices for Optimizing URL structure
- Keep the URLs short, simple and easy to understand so that both humans and search engines can easily understand.
- Use hyphens instead of underscores, spaces and other special characters as it increases the readability and certain special characters serve different purposes in a URL.
- It is recommended to use lower case letters only.
- Include your focus keyword in the URL but do not add too many keywords. Also, do not make the URL too long.
SEO is all about getting the basics right and creating a strong foundation to work on.
As you can see in this on-page optimization checklist we have only discussed factors that are related to the website structure and how to optimize them to create the best user-experience keeping in mind the guidelines.
A user-centric approach should be followed from the beginning and it doesn’t matter if it is a new page or post you are creating or its a completely new website.
I hope this article will help you optimize your site. Do let us know in the comment section
- According to you what on-page factors are a must to work on
- If you are new optimize these factors and share the results
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